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Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

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The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a peerless new standard lens featuring an ultra-large aperture for a narrow depth of field and soft background blur so loved by photographers everywhere. The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is suitable for any shooting situation; its lens coating and construction are optimized to minimize the ghosting and flare that frequently occurs when lenses are used with digital cameras. This high-performance, weather-resistant lens delivers all the superb image resolution and contrast you expect in a Canon L Series Lens.


Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 50mm f/1.2

Lens Construction: 8 elements in 6 groups

Diagonal Angle of View: 46 (with full-frame cameras)

Focus Adjustment: AF with full-time manual

Closest Focusing Distance: 1.48 ft. / 0.45m

Filter Size: 72mm

Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 3.4 in. x 2.6 in./85.4mm x 65.5mm 19.2 oz./545g (lens only)


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Registered: Dec 6, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 1753
Review Date: Sep 25, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,599.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp @ f1.2, well made, great bokeh, low-light shooting without flash.
Subtantial weight for a 50mm, DOF awareness

This lens silences all the concerns of Canon's other 50's. The f1.2L is wonderfully made... exudes confidence, and features USM, better flare control, beautiful bokeh, and precision manual focus control. It's quick, quiet, and does the job in low-light. Indoors this lens can be used with candle light (FF @ f1.2 w/1600 ISO).

I think this lens is a slight modification of the one first released in Dec. 2006. I believe Canon quietly corrected any back-focus issues the following year just as they did with the 24-105 f4L IS (flare) when it was first introduced. I found no problems with AF or back-focus on this version when tested on a tripod. Luckily we didn't have to go through a "II" version and a subsequent price increase to correct this mistake.

The f1.2L becomes a project until you get used to using razor-thin DOF. There isn't much room for operator error as I found out. Using the multiple focus points on the 5D seemed to make matters worse. I recommend using only the center focus point. I tested the f1.2L against the 50 f2.5 compact macro and found that the macro has a slight edge (@100% crop) when both are focused accurately, but macro, or super close-up photography is not the strength of the f1.2L, although it's not half bad when pushing the limits of the DOF scale.

The big concern with this 50mm seems to be the price. Yeah, I balked at it too, but there really is no quality, alternative f1.2 that works effectively with the Canon system. Sure, you can hook up a Sigma or an old Olympus manual version, but they all have their drawbacks in the focus/metering department, and none of them are all that great until stopped down a bit.

Can you do without this lens? Absolutely. The f1.4 version @ f2 is fine and probably fulfills the needs of most photographers ...and it will save you lots of money. I chose the 50 f1.2 because I like the quickness of shooting without flash. I am tired of waisting time setting up speedlites on brackets or lightstands for mundane subject family shots at Christmas. :-) The f1.2L is the closest thing to freedom from all that.

Sep 25, 2009
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Registered: Sep 23, 2009
Location: Indonesia
Posts: 0
Review Date: Sep 23, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,600.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Very sharp, reasonable weight, f/1.2

When I first bought this lens I was disappointed with the result. It seems there's some backfocus. It was until I play around with AF microadjustment then I never look back. This lens is now mounted on my 5D Mark II about 90% of the time.

For you guys who are experiencing soft or backfocus, visit

Sep 23, 2009
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Registered: Sep 11, 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 2
Review Date: Sep 11, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: image quality
price and focusing

I used this lens for low light photography. I sold it. I don't regret.

Nowadays I use 35mmL along with a 85mmL. Theses are much better. The 35mmL is even better on a crop frame body, I am not kidding.

Focusing is not as good as the 35mm L. I had a lot of blurry images.

You can see a few pictures in the portfolio for the engagements section:

Buy the 35mm L.

Sep 11, 2009
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Registered: Aug 9, 2009
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Aug 27, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,199.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, Fast, Bokeh
Price but then you get what you pay for

Well this lense blows my 24-70mm away for sharpness. I put this on my 1ds mkIII and was blown with the image I got. I think this will be my prime for weddings its so good. I know many people got the lense with a back focus issue but mines fine and I would really recommend this lense to anybody. I,m sure this will make me money!

Aug 27, 2009
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Registered: Aug 22, 2009
Location: Norway
Posts: 0
Review Date: Aug 22, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image quality; colour, sharpness

I was very sceptical when I purchased it, after reading all the bad reviews.

Being a happy amateur, it did take some time learning to use it (and I still have my fair share of misses), but the "hits" are just beautiful pictures.

The 50L "creates" light, the pictures have more vivid colours than what's there in real life, and the pictures are tack sharp from around f/1.8.

I have not noticed any backfocus issues on my 5D.

For me personally this focal length is perfect for most situations. Paired with my 135L, I feel equipped for everything.

It's well built, but not too big and heavy.

The price in my country is... too high. Despite that, I don't regret upgrading from the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4.

The 50L helps me to be a better photographer. I love it!

Aug 22, 2009
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Registered: Aug 19, 2009
Location: Austria
Posts: 6
Review Date: Aug 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: speed, bokeh, build quality
none so far

i purchased this lens only recently, and after an afternoon-long testing on my 5d for immediatly viewable results i put the 50 f/1.2 on my eos 1v - and that is where it will stay for a long time now. this just is a wonderful lens and works perfectly in combination with the 1v. forget about the canon/sigma 50 f/1.4... none of the above work as smoothly and precisely as the 1.2; to me (besides the 35 f/1.4) it is is the perfect working tool, especially for my street and night shots.
if you have any doubts about this lens, erase them by just grabbing one and starting shooting.

Aug 19, 2009
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Registered: Aug 10, 2005
Location: Indonesia
Posts: 28
Review Date: Aug 2, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Bokeh, build, sharpness
Price, Focus shift ( easily correctable)

The Bokeh is really smooth. Wide open the sharpness is less than that of the 85L, but it's comparable to my 35L.
A little bit of pp in photoshop will fix it though
Shooting at MWD wide open is really hard with this lens, since, the DOF is really thin.
The focus shift issue is there, if you use the centre AF point. But since, I almost always use the outer AF point, It's not a big deal for me.
If you use the centre AF point often, you might be disapointed with this lens.

Aug 2, 2009
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Derek Stanton
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Registered: Mar 3, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 5
Review Date: Jul 24, 2009 Recommend? no | Price paid: $1,399.00

Pros: Build quality. Speed (aperture). Bokeh. Good/Reasonable sharpness at 1.2, but ONLY if you can calibrate it with your specific camera.
AF speed. Size/weight. Cost. I have no idea if it will work with my film cameras, as they can't be optimized/calibrated to this lens. Inconsistent focus. Either good at near range OR infinity, but probably not both.

"Too much ignorant bad hype about this lens.
Probably initial copies from Canon were more problematic, as I've tested 3 copies in 8 months before ending up with this one, which was significantly better than all others. I would be reluctant to buy it if I didn't have MF adjustment on my camera."

The "bad hype" is not "ignorant." It's actually pretty well-informed. And, you're contradicting yourself by then admitting early copies might have been more problematic and that you had to try 3-4 copies to get one that worked. That's not the mark of a successful product.

There seem to be a few different reasons why there's so much conflicting information/ratings/reviews on this lens.
Maybe early performance was different.
There IS significant sample variation.
Later Canon bodies have lens calibration features that enable the lens to work more closely to spec.
There is sample variation, as well, in the 50/1.4, with which most people compare the 50L

None of those factors has anything to do with "ignorance." They're simply sets of conditions that affect individual consumers.

So, my 'review?' I'm not going to post a review, as i've only today received this lens. My comments, however, are related to my current experience versus the experience i had when i tried three different copies upon the lens' release.

I bought the 50L about a month after it was introduced. My camera at that time was the 5D (v.1). The first lens just plain was awful on that camera. I returned it, and tried two others. The second performed exactly the same as the first. Neither could focus accurately at 1.2 - 1.4. Can't remember if it was a front- or back-focusing issue. The third lens, though, finally DID focus accurately. Problem was, it was still softer than my old 50/1.4 Canon. I returned the third lens, as well. Just couldn't justify that kind of cost for a lens that was 'crippled' as far as sharpness was concerned, versus the older, cheaper lens i already owned. So, that was that.

At the beginning of 2009, i bought the 5DMkII.

I subsequently bought the Sigma 50/1.4. I wanted better bokeh than the Canon 50/1.4 and better performance from 1.4-2. The Canon suffers from halation effects wide open. The Sigma was pretty good, but i also had to try two samples to get a good one, and even then, it was only optimal after i dialed in the lens calibration feature. The Sigma was about as sharp as my trusted Canon 50/1.4, but with markedly better bokeh.

But, i began seeing 'nice' images from Canon 50Ls, and thought i should try again, now that i could calibrate the camera+lens combo. I hoped that feature would get the lens to work well, and/or that later-manufactured products had been somehow 'fixed.' So, having set up the 50L with the 5D2, i'm keeping the 50L. It's still not perfect. It seems you can only optimize it at either near or infinity.... Since i want to use it for 'people,' i've calibrated it that way, but the lens is still not as good (consistently) at infinity as the other two 50s. With that, i can deal.

What kind of 'rating' is valid for this thing? I don't really feel it's fair to assess it that way. Anyone saying it's a 9 or 10 lens, but also acknowledging the issues isn't really being objective. A rating that high suggests there can be nothing better. A low rating may be accurate for That Particular Reviewer with His Particular Equipment, but is it an accurate assessment of This Particular Item?

I have no overall rating. It really depends on YOU. For me, only time will tell if it's worth the price difference over the Sigma.
Build quality rating is 8-9. The manual focus ring could be better, compared to old manual focus lenses, but compared to AF lenses, it's pretty nice.
Re: Price - well, again, against what are we comparing it? I just paid $1150 for a manual focus Voigtlander 50mm f1.1. The Canon has AF, but is (slightly) slower. I suppose the price makes sense. But, i also have a Nikkor 50/1.2 AI-S, which i bought new for about $700. Same speed, but also without AF. I'll not complain about the 50L's price, but i wish it were closer to $1250. With that, i'd have felt much better about it.

Jul 24, 2009
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Registered: Jul 1, 2008
Location: Romania
Posts: 174
Review Date: Jul 14, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Amazing colors/contrast, extraordinary look of OOF areas, excellent build, practicality.
A little soft from 1.2 to 1.8.

The focus shift (visible mostly at MFD between 2.8 and 4) is there but you have to learn to deal with it. A lot of other 50s and various other lenses have it. It's nothing extraordinary. It's a design trade off for that incredible look of the OOF areas. It is so much better than the 85 and even a little better than the 135 in that department, for my taste. Only the 200 2 IS creates more spectacular background blur , for me Smile.
It is a lot easier to handhold and focus in poor light than the 85 L. I prefer it's colors/contrast to the 35 L, and also I prefer it for close portraits in tight/crowded spaces.
I just wish it was sharper between 1.2 and 1.6 (1.8), even though I will not hesitate to shoot it there, if needed.
Too much ignorant bad hype about this lens.
Probably initial copies from Canon were more problematic, as I've tested 3 copies in 8 months before ending up with this one, which was significantly better than all others. I would be reluctant to buy it if I didn't have MF adjustment on my camera Smile. Well, after discovering this feature on my late 1d3 I will not buy another AF camera without it, as it makes all my AF lenses look so much better Smile.

Jul 14, 2009
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Registered: Sep 7, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 25
Review Date: Jul 13, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,374.95 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Bought it love it yum! Great color and contrast, fast focus, the answer to my 85 F1.2 woes.
not negative but wish the lens cap was like the 85mm F1.2's

Still working on the confidence at F1.2 but will see about micro calibration on the Mark 3 when it gets back from Mack Camera Repair for a dead sensor. too bad the 5d doesn't have micro adjustment. That is one reason to buy Canon cameras after 2008-2009.

Jul 13, 2009
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Registered: Dec 3, 2005
Location: Canada
Posts: 1011
Review Date: Jun 24, 2009 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: Great build, great bokeh, best 50mm Canon make, looks sexy and works very well with the 5D2.
The shallow DOF makes it a bit of a learning curve to use at first. The silly reviews some people have made on it.

I originally gave a review of this lens on my 20D in Feb 2008. I have a 5D2 and the two make a very happy couple.

This lens is well built, fast and just a great bit of kit.

Because of the extreme negative chatter and the unfathomable low numbers some have given this lens I continually pixel peep and use the MA function to check it.
The lens is fine.
Although focussing is more accurate using live view MF at 10x on lens charts, if you want to mess around with lens charts.
I found the factory settings to be the best on my 5D2 and the 50L.

Ive tried the Canon 1.4 and this is a better all around lens. Sure the 1.4 is a lot cheaper but thats reflected in the build quality. This lens just feels right and Im a big fan of the 50mm perspective on full frame. On a crop, this lens doesnt shine.

On sharpness, at F1.2 its not as sharp as my other lenses at F2.8 and F4. (Nah, talk about stating the obvious!)
Those expecting a lens at 1.2 to be as sharp as an L zoom at 2.8 have unrealistic expectations and should spend $6000 on a Leica MF lens instead of polluting the results for this lens review with 3 and 4 or 6. Silly marks indeed.

At F1.6-1.8 its a lot sharper and it gives a kind of dreamy look at 1.2-1.4, great for portraits of people who are not looking for every crinkle and crease to be displayed.

F2 up its well sharp. The bokeh is just beautiful and this lens spends the most time on my 5D2, edging out my L zooms. Plus it looks very nice, (shallow of me eh?).

The average mark should be 9+ if the 1.4 gets a 9.
This is the best 50mm Canon make and its worth a 10. Some people need to stop being silly.

Jun 24, 2009
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Registered: Dec 10, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 216
Review Date: Jun 22, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Build quality and L weather seal. Colors and contrast are oustanding. Small and light for a fast L Lens. focus is is fast and quiet. Able to focus in almost complete darkness. This an my 5D2 is ultimate combo for natural light and walk-around shooting.
Image rendition was soft wide open in the begining until I calibrated my 5D2 with the micro adjustment for this lens. Then it was spot on wide open at any distance :)

As far as the canon ef 50L, I didn’t think it would be as sharp wide open as my 85L, but hoped I would get a decent copy since I’ve read a lot of reviews that it had focus shifts and very soft at f/1.2.

Well, it was soft wide open but colors and contrast was great and focused much faster and quieter then the 85L. focus speed was similar to the 135L.

I was going to return it and just keep my canon ef 50 f/1.4 until I started playing with the micro adjustment feature on my 5D2. And to my excitement, this thing started being spot on and super sharp @ 1.2 at any distance. I ended up having to adjust the focus +17 since it was front focusing.

I’ve read others had to adjust it at around +15. But when I put it on my 1DIIN with no micro adjustment feature it was back to average sharpness @ 1.2, but colors and contrast were very L quality. Made me regret selling my 1DIII with the micro adjustment feature for the IIN.

Anyway, I tested some of my other lens and the most were pretty spot on like, my 135L and 70-200IS. I’m not sure why canon chose to have it off so much, but I guess it’s part of the design.

In the end, I’m very happy with the 50L as long as the camera has the micro adjustment; coming close to the 85L wide open with the micro adjustment.

It will probably stay on my 5D2 90% of the time as my walk-around lens. Oh, it’s one of the smallest L lens I’ve owned and fairly light for an L. Smaller then the 24L, 35L and the front barrel doesn’t move forward when focusing making it more weather resistant when using a filter.

I wonder how many of my other medicre fast lenses would have been a great lenses with the micro adjustment...hmmmm

Below is a 50L sample taken @ f/1.2 Raw. No sharpening done, just curves adjustment for shadows and hightlights.

Jun 22, 2009
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Registered: May 21, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 256
Review Date: Jun 5, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: High build quality, sharp, lovely bokeh, excellent color rendition -- I love the way it draws.
Some CA at widest apertures. To be expected at this speed. Nothing worth worrying about.

Fortunately for me, I didn't listen much to the critics of the uberfast 50/1.2 L and bought one for myself soon after they hit the market. I realized, as I should think others would, that this is a nearly no-risk investment. Buy it new and simply return if not satisfactory. Buy it used, and you'll sell it for very close to what you paid for it (and somtimes more).

I also own the Canon 85/1.2 II L and the Canon 135/2 L. The 50/1.2 L ranks amongst my favorite primes across all my camera systems, including Leica M, Leica R and Contax Zeiss.

The build quality is superb. It instills confidence when shooting.

I have had about a 98% success rate at AF accuracy on both my 5D and 40D, even shooting wide open. I have not experienced focus shift issues. Autofocus speed is relatively fast, much better than the 85/1.2 II.

I have always enjoyed the 50mm focal length over my 30 years of photography. On the 40D, it has an EFL of 65mm, which is also nice for portraiture or isolating subjects.

The 50/1.2 is light enough for me to carry as a walk-around lens. The 85/1.2 II and the 135/2 are a much bigger effort to lug about.

If you are finding yourself undecided on whether to go with the 50/1.2, be done with the overanalysis paralaysis, grab one and start shooting.

Jun 5, 2009
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Registered: Apr 29, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 2042
Review Date: May 18, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,450.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image quality, smooth creamy bokeh.
Bulky lens hood. Although much better than most Canon AF lenses, manual focus is a bit mushy.

I've been very hesitant to buy this lens, perhaps from reading too many of the early internut reviews. With a 5d Mk2, this is a beautiful combination, balancing as nicely as any EOS camera/lens combination can. No autofocusing problems, minimal focusing adjustment needed (+1). There appears to be a bit of focus shift, but that is common-place for ultrafast lenses, and it hasn't created any real world problems. Wide open images are nice and crisp in the focus plane, with great bokeh.

I wish Canon lens had a better feel for manual focusing; this lens is certainly better than the 50/1.4, and the 85/1.2L in that regard, but manual focusing is still "squishy".

Folks complain about the price, but coming from the Leica system, this thing is cheap for the performance you get.

May 18, 2009
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Registered: May 11, 2009
Location: Denmark
Posts: 0
Review Date: May 11, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,800.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Bokeh, sharpnes even at 1,2 - and just the general feel of the images
Oddly camera hostile/friendly...

This is my first FM review - just wanted to give share my experiences with this lens.

Bought this lens to replace my 1,4 after having read more or less all available reviews online.

Obviously many people have experienced massive focusing issues, but I decided to risk it and hope for a good copy.

But the lens quickly showed serious issues on my 1Dsmk2. It brought it on a couple of jobs but quickly experienced all of the described focus issues. On my 1Dsmk2 it is simply unusable.

On my old 1Ds it performed better but still with a 'failure focusing rate' of above 20-30%.

I've spend a substantial amount of time driving back and forth to the local Canon repair shop. They have tried to adjust my camera, the lens and to calibrate the two to each other. Without any success.

So how can I possibly have rated this lens a 10 you may ask? The answer is Canon 5Dmk2.

These two pieces of gear appear to be the best friends in the world.

I've not encountered one episode of focus failure with this set (at least not caused by the gear - the shallow depth of field is obviously challenging to work with).

The lens have gone from being problem child #1 in my bag to being my preferred portrait lens. I've hardly used my 85 1,2L since I bought the 50mil - it's that good! I enjoy the shorter working distance to the subjects + the ability to use the lens for other things than portraits. The 85 1,2L is IMO a far more specialised lens.

To potential buyers: Do not buy this lens if you do not have a chance to test it thoroughly on your camera. You may end up with an expensive hunk of glass providing you with a constant source of remorse and grief.

On the other hand, if the two get along - you will have yourself one of the best portrait lenses available + a lens which is very versatile and usable for other things than portraits (at least on FF).


May 11, 2009
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Registered: Apr 5, 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 20
Review Date: May 3, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Everything, especially the manual focus.
Price, possibly weight.

I hesitated forking over, over a grand, when I had a perfectly solid 50mm f1.4 lens, but after a dozen shots, I wish I bought this lens sooner.

The image quality is great and I've experienced none of the back focusing issues mentioned elsewhere. The best, and most frequently overlooked aspect of this lens is not the IQ but the ability to manual focus. The dampening in the ring is phenomenal. My 1.4 is hardly usable in comparison because there is so much play in the focus ring (i.e. if you pass the point of focus, there's some play before you actually start moving the lens again). That in conjunction with the narrower DOF, make focusing more precise through the view finder.

Besides the obvious downside of price, this lens is significantly heavier than the 1.4 to the point where I don't typically carry it around while playing with my two kids (just too much stuff along with the diaper bag, stuffed animal, blah, blah, blah ...).

I was debating this lens versus updating my Canon 5D. I've shot with the 5D II and while it's a great camera, I'm glad I invested in a lens that will maintain its value for many years to come.

May 3, 2009
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Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
182 354687 Jan 11, 2017
Recommended By Average Price
81% of reviewers $1,399.44
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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