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  Reviews by: Derek Stanton  

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Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

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.