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Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

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391 1195097 Dec 21, 2016
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92% of reviewers $321.55
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Standard lens featuring superb quality and portability. Two high-refraction lens elements and new Gaussian optics eliminate astigmatism and suppress astigmatic difference. Crisp images with little flare are obtained even at the maximum aperture.

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 50mm 1:1.4
Lens Construction: 7 elements in 6 groups
Diagonal Angle of View: 46
Focus Adjustment: Overall linear extension system with USM
Closest Focusing Distance: 0.45m / 1.5 ft.
Filter Size: 58mm
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 2.9" x 2.0", 10.2 oz. / 73.8 x 50.5mm, 290g


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Registered: Jul 30, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 20
Review Date: Jul 7, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: lightweight, sharp from f/2.5, Price is right for the quality
A bit soft at full aperture

Hi all,

I'm mostly doing travel and wildlife photography. For me, the quality/weight ratio is truly important. Portrait is not my speciality but occasionally, to complete a coverage by some people living in the environment I'm documenting, I like to take candid portraits with just the ambient light.

Here are the cons and pros of the lens.

+ Light as a feather, but still, not ridiculous as the 50mm f/1.8.
+ Build quality is decent. I've been several times testing a 50 f/1.8 and not only I found it super soft, but I was also really disappointed with the awful build quality (but still decent for 80$...), it is almost impossible to manual focus with the f/1.8 version.
+ Image quality is good, even though it could be better for a 350$ lens.
+ Autofocus is fine, I do have been able to focus in difficult lighting conditions. At least it's better than say, a EF-S 17-85mm.

- I would like it to be sharper. That's actually why I finally switched to the 85mm f/1.2 II which is a LOT sharper but also a LOT heavier.
- No weather sealing.

So I'm personally waiting for a version II of this lens since I recently sold my 85mm f/1.2. If I really needed a lens for portraiture I wouldn't hesitate and buy a used version of this lens, it just can't a bad choice.

If you need sample of pictures took with the 50mm (and with many other lenses), just check my blog and gallery:

Photo shoot in Paris, only with the 50mm f/1.4:

All the best !

Jul 7, 2010
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Registered: Nov 20, 2008
Location: Germany
Posts: 1162
Review Date: Jun 29, 2010 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

Pros: Good enough optical quality Better than EF 50/1.8 II plastics fantastics
Mechanics to fragile Much plastics

Many users have a defective focussing unit, should be no problem as long one use a bajonett mount hood all the time.
Some have damaged the focussing unit when they transport the lens with extended tube (not infinity focus). Use of filters could probably damage the AF too.

Since I have cnverted a Minolta Rokkor my copy of the EF 50/1.4 is only a backup, or is few cases I nees AF.

Jun 29, 2010
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Registered: Feb 25, 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 109
Review Date: Jun 16, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $370.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very good sharpness at 1.4, excellent sharpness stopped down. Good weight, size. USM - quick and silent AF. Accurate AF. Price is right.
Hood is not included and aftermarket ES-71II is ridiculously expensive for what it is. Focus ring is undamped. Element extends beyond barrel with focus. Bokeh can sometimes be a little nervous.

I thought long and hard about this one. I've heard the hype about the Sigma and strongly considered it. I used the Nikon mount on my previous camera and loved it's bokeh but hated the unreliability. This is what finally tipped me towards trying the Canon for my 5dMkII.

I have read many reviews regarding softness at f/1.4 - 2.0. I might have lucked out with an exceptional copy, because this lens has great sharpness at f/1.4 - essentially equivalent to my 85mm at 1.8. Perhaps that means my 85mm is suboptimal, but at any rate, the 50mm 1.4 is as sharp at f/1.4 as I could want it. At f/1.4 I don't even care about corner sharpness, because it doesn't really matter to me at that aperture, so I have no comment there. Bottom line - center sharpness is excellent.

Bokeh on this lens is perfectly fine - 1.4 on a full frame is always a beautiful thing. There are times when the OOF elements could be a little creamier - this is where the Sigma particularly excels. That said, I would rate the bokeh as good to very good - probably equivalent to the Nikon 50mm 1.4G. I have no complaints in this department, but in terms of optical qualities, bokeh is probably the least impressive characteristic of this lens.

Color is good. It's very natural, perhaps not as saturated as some Ls I've used.

Build quality is merely ok. It has USM which is nice and the AF is fast, accurate and reliable. I don't like how the front element extends proud of the main barrel, so I bought the ES-71II bayonet hood. This is a nice little hood, but costs a ridiculous $36.00. The focus ring is not damped, so it's a little gritty feeling and not as pleasant as it could be.

Overall, I'm very happy with this lens. The IQ, on the whole, is great. Sharpness is excellent and I'm loving the images I'm getting with this lens and the 5d2.

Highly recommended.

Jun 16, 2010
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Registered: Jun 6, 2003
Location: Denmark
Posts: 13
Review Date: Jun 14, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Superb sharp at 2.0 Makes a really nice soft image at Fstop 1.4 On my ASP-H sensor (1.3) its a good small portrait lens Newer leaves my camerabody Because its a prime it will make you think alot more about how you shoot pictures (composition and so on) Nice colours, and bokem
The manuel fokus ring has a bad felling to it, compared to other no L Canon like the 100mm macro 2.8 and 85mm

If one is in the market after a 50mm 1.2, please do not buy before you try this on out first - its almost as sharp, weights much less, cheap - and works fine for most projects.

Im so happy with the performance this gives me. A new version with a better USM fokus funktion and fokus ring is the only thing about the build quality that so be improved, picturevise it should be emproved so it outperformes the newer Sigma 50mm 1.4.

Try it and buy it you wont regret it.

Jun 14, 2010
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Registered: Jun 13, 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 1
Review Date: Jun 14, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Large aperture, Light
Weak AF quality, build quality.

It's a 50mm f1.4... it's sharp enough at f1.4. Gets better at f2 and keeps getting better as one stops down. It's sharper then any zoom for sure.

It's nice and light, but that's because it's mostly plastic. The build quality leaves something to be desired, it feels like a nice consumer zoom, better then the kit 18-55, but not even close to L glass.

Paired with my 5D MKII, this lens works wonders in the dark, IF you can get it to focus. The AF on anything but the center point is hit or miss in the dark. The lens often misses focus and then freezes, I have to put the lens in MF, move the focus ring around, put it back in AF and then it'll work. Absolutely unacceptable. The AF tracking is slow and can't be trusted.

Apart from expecting better build quality for a $350 50mm, I would expect top notch AF as it needs to be accurate at f1.4... it isn't accurate and freezes when it can't lock focus.

Maybe it's just my copy, but it was disapointing. It's the only lens that will alow me to shoot in such low light, but I'm constantly frustrated at it's shortcomings.

For accurate AF in hard situations (dance, concerts, show, indoor events) I ditched the 5D MkII and the 50mm altogether, and use my Nikon gear when I need to shoot under hard conditions. The 5D MkII and 50mm are great for slow paced studio, portraits and photojournalism, but I'll take something else for dance performances and concerts...

Jun 14, 2010
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Registered: Apr 6, 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 140
Review Date: May 23, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp, Great IQ, Affordable, AF A+, works in low lighting

Even though I don't have much use for 50mm I still love using this little lens. I've almost gotten rid of all my canon lens and I'm still resistant on selling this little jewel. This lens is perfecting for shooting indoors and low lighted areas. This is the sharpest AF I have come across, and even made my 17-40L look rather soft.

I may add to my 50mm arsenal when I finally upgrade bodies, but I don't think I will ever get rid of this useful lens. One of the only lens that actually exceeded my expectations and one of the best value for the quality of image it produces.

May 23, 2010
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Mike Mahoney
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Registered: Mar 8, 2004
Location: Canada
Posts: 5454
Review Date: May 15, 2010 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 5 

Pros: Light weight, small size, relatively low cost.
Poor IQ until F2.8 which kind of makes such a fast lens pointless.

My 24-70 2.8 has better IQ at 50mm and 2.8.

Wide open the 50 1.4 is soft with purple fringing as bad as I've seen in any lens, and really does not clean up or get sharp until 2.0. So what's the point of having a 1.4 aperture lens if the IQ is so poor that you need to stop down to 2.0 or smaller until it looks acceptable?

AF is not bad, but is not on par with Canon's other older design lenses such as the 85 1.8. Time for Canon to do a tune-up on this lens.

I was looking for a fast standard focal length lens that offered IQ at least as good as my 24-70 2.8. And I'm still looking.

May 15, 2010
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Registered: Oct 7, 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 12
Review Date: Apr 24, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp, fast, cheap compared to other HQ lenses
you have to learn how to use it... :)

This is a very good lens for the money!
You can buy the 50mm 1.2 for $1500 but you will be disappointed with the 50mm 1.2 after using this one. I don't think the 1.2 is worth $1200 extra.

I use it primarily as a portrait lens, and it excels at that. The 50mm 1.4 is very sharp from 2.0!

How about the 50mm 1.8? Is it worth the upgrade from the nifty fifty 1.8? To tell you the truth it is worth is to upgrade. There is not much price difference but the quality of the 1.4 is much better.

You can see tons of sample images on my website:
Some of them are so good I even put them on the main page.

Of course, prime lenses are not quite as flexible as zooms. If you don't like running and moving around, well, than this lens is not for you...

I hope it helps!

Apr 24, 2010
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Registered: Dec 11, 2009
Location: United States
Posts: 603
Review Date: Apr 12, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: reasonable price, ok autofocus (but not modern usm quick), usable 1.4-2.0, tack sharp good past 2.8
Supposed fragile build quality (mines been ok almost two years)

Many people complain about the poor build quality and less than modern autofocus system. Mine works great on my 5D11, and it did not need dialing in with micro-adjust. People also complain about poor optical quality @ F 1.4 and F 2.0. I have compared it to alt lenses 50mm F 1.4 Takumar, 50mm F 1.4 Zeiss C/Y, 50mm F 1.7 Zeiss C/Y, and 50mm F 2.0 44-2 Helios. Of these, only the 50mm F 1.7 Zeiss C/Y noticeably outdid it in all areas using F 1.7, F 2.0 and F 2.8. Past F 2.8 it is a good as any of them, better than the Helios by far.

The Takumar appeared to be a bit sharper wide open than the Canon (edges a bit crisper), but has a warmer color rendering, and the Canon actually has more contrast than the Takumar wide open (which is a bit of a contradiction because normally the lens with more contrast will appear to be sharper) My copy of the Zeiss 1.4 to MY eyes was no better at wide apertures, my Helios is far worse @F 2.0.

Based on my experience, it has behaved ok with none of the internet ballyhooed focusing problems of the Sigmalux, or the 50mm F 1.2L lens. Considering I acquired it for free as part of a deal when I sold all my film equipment to fund my digital system, I cannot complain about it at all. When the day comes the micro usm motor fails, I will probably start using my Takumar all the time, rather than replacing it:)

Apr 12, 2010
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Registered: Apr 10, 2010
Location: Canada
Posts: 0
Review Date: Apr 10, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Not much. Sharp images at f3.5 and smaller
Very bad IQ with lots of CA between f1.4 and f2.8

A very dissapointing lens if you buy it for the fast apertures. At f1.4 it is not very sharp and what makes the images really bad, in my opinion, is the very visible purple cast in the out-of-focus areas. The IQ is very bad until about f4.0.

I bought this lens thinking that it would produce images similar or better to those of the 24-70L and with the advantage of the extra stops. I was wrong.

What is the point of buying a fast prime if the pictures are very bad at the fast apertures?

My 50mm f1.8 does about the same or better.
Do yourself a favour and don't buy this lens or buy the f1.8 which is about the same but a lot cheaper.

Apr 10, 2010
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Registered: Apr 10, 2003
Location: France
Posts: 22
Review Date: Mar 14, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: small/lightweigth, 1.4, fast AF, sharp , 50mm is a magic focal,
build quality (rattles), no internal focusing, focus ring is loose, very soft until f2.8, color/contrast definitely not as good as L lenses.

You cannot go wrong with this lens, but it will always be a mixed feeling: Optically it is good, but only when stopped down a bit, and mechanically it works fine (fast AF for such an old design) but the lens itself feels like c...p in your hand: shake it and you can almost think it is a maracas.

what i really don't like about the lens is the fact that it extends when focusing, and because it feels so fragile, I am always afraid to break the focus mechanism. The bokeh could be better, but that's what makes it different from an L lens ... along with the price ... Compared to the sigma, it is small and weight nothing.

Overall, not a love-lens, but it will always do the job. And 50 mm is such a nice focal to work at!

Mar 14, 2010
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Registered: Mar 3, 2010
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 5, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: f/1.4, great bokeh, light, price
soft wide open, plastic feeling

I have this lens for a year now and really love it. Some say it's now a really useful focal length on a crop censor, but that's not my feeling, great for portraits and as an low light lens.

A little bit soft when full open, but great depth of field and bokeh. And when stopped down, above f/2.8 is really sharp and great image quality.

The built quality is good but it feels a little bit plastic, but after a year of use no problem of wearing out or scratching.

Here are a few samples of the 50mm, first on my EOS 50D, later on my EOS 7D:

The price is very good, it was my first quality glass I could afford and after that I only buy quality lenses because now I know what I'm missing.

Mar 5, 2010
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Registered: Feb 11, 2010
Location: Sweden
Posts: 4222
Review Date: Feb 11, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: fast, sharp when stopped down, neutral bokeh
awkward focal length for crop sensor, neutral bokeh

This is not a bad lens, but it is my least favorite prime lens. The problem is that the focal length isn't very useful on a 7D with a 1.6x crop. On the wide end I have a more useful 30 mm/1.4 and on the tele end the I have the much better 85mm/1.8.

It's not very sharp wide open, but I don't personally mind that too much. It gets sharp at f2. There is no denying that it's fast wide open.

The bokeh is neutral which is both a good and a bad thing. It allows you more controlled backgrounds but at the same time it's rather boring.

Build quality is what you expect from a mid-range Canon lens - not all that brilliant.

I don't regret buying it and I do use it on occasion, but as I said, not my favorite lens.

Feb 11, 2010
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Registered: Nov 17, 2008
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 1
Review Date: Feb 4, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $349.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, Color, contrast, price, light weight, bokeh
doesn't come with a lens hood. somewhat plasticky

For those of you who are considering upgrading from the 50mm f/1.8, DO IT! For the price, this lens is amazing, and at identical settings, it compares with the 24-70mm L series lens. I use this lens with a 50D. I had the 50mm 1.8 and compared the two, and the quality is definitely noticable. Color and contrast are much better. Image sharpness is much better as well. The bokeh (or the part of the picture that is out of focus) is beautiful and you will notice teh difference from the 1.8 counterpart. It makes your backgrounds a bit more creamy and appealing to the eye. The 1.8 creates these weird octagonal shapes if you zoom in to pixel peep. It looks a bit more choppy. But the 1.4 is smooth. However, I rarely ever open it up all the way to 1.4. It produces soft edges when I do. I'd say anywhere from 2.8 and up is pretty good. Anything lower than that is too soft for me. But long story short, if you're wondering wether or not the upgrade from the 1.8 is worth it, IT IS. That's if you're at least somewhat serious about photography and want to boost your image details. Otherwise, just stick with the 1.8.

Feb 4, 2010
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Igor N
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Registered: May 30, 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 4
Review Date: Jan 24, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: price, weight, f1.4
plastic, performance below f2.8, flaring

I recently posted a short video review of this lens. See

Jan 24, 2010
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Lance Couture
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Registered: Aug 7, 2007
Location: Canada
Posts: 2159
Review Date: Jan 12, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: IQ is excellent, good price, accurate AF
IQ can be poor at very wide apertures (halation/CA's - read below), bokeh is nervous with busy backgrounds.

I have owned this lens for nearly three years, but I didnt start using it regularly until I bought my 1D2 and 5D some time ago.

I have used it on a 30D, 1D Mark II, and 5D, so I have a very good feel as to how this lens performs.

On the 30D, it is it an odd-ball focal length, and I was never really comfortable using it. The focus was reasonably accurate wide-open, and it is a solid performer. Bokeh with the crop can be a little unsettling.

On my 1D II, this lens took on a new life, and I really fell in love with this lens about two years ago when I started using it to take pictures of my (then) new-born son. Again, not an entirely "natural" FL, but the AF on this lens with my 1D2 was dead-on under all conditions. The AF of the 1D2 really made this lens sing under any condition.

On my 5D, well, this is my lens of choice, 90% of the time. The AF accuracy suffers a little, but the IQ is outstanding for such an inexpensive lens.

The achilles heel of this lens is the wicked halation and horrid CA's at 1.4, but this is only *under very harsh light* where there are very high contrast borders.

Under most other lighting conditions, the CA's (mostly purple and green fringing) and halation are non-existent at 1.4 and are all but gone by 1.8.

Bokeh on this lens is quite good, but I have found the bokeh to be quite nervous with a busy background, so one must take care to really watch your background while shooting with this lens. This condition is made worse with a crop, in my experience.

My copy of this lens is very sharp at 1.4 and eye-bleedingly sharp by f/1.8 to f/2.2.

All-in-all, I love this lens, but I do wish it had USM. If it did, it would be damn-near perfect, imo. However, as it stands, I would recommend this to anyone looking for an AF 50mm for their Canon body. It's a winner.

Jan 12, 2010
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Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
391 1195097 Dec 21, 2016
Recommended By Average Price
92% of reviewers $321.55
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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