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Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro

Review Date: Dec 29, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Not expensive; small and lightweight; no need for a hood; excellent sharpness; "natural" color rendition
Feels somewhat fragile; no 1:1 magnification; manual focus can be tricky; slow AF

A light, small and unobtrusive lens, even when fully extended, the 50 mm f/2.5 Compact Macro is one of the oldest Canon EF lenses available; the archaic design makes the lens feel somewhat fragile - though not as "plasticky" as the 50 mm f/1.8 II - and features a small manual focus ring that can work fine on, say, the 35 mm f/2, but is difficult to use properly with a macro lens, made for shots where accurate focusing is critical. Should you want to use AF, you will need to be patient, since it is slow and prone to hunting, especially at shorter distances.

However, when you manage to close the lens as much as possible to get your main subject in focus, the results are surely worth your efforts. The ability of the lens to reveal the details, even very small ones, is truly amazing; excellent microcontrast and natural (i.e. not too saturated, but neither "washed") color rendition are the strong points of the lens. Moreover, the optical elements are deeply set inside the lens body, making the use of a hood not necessary.

The 50 mm f/2.5 Compact Macro is a recommendable choice if you do not take a lot of macro shots and/or your main use for such a lens is to shoot flowers, plants, coins, stamps or still-life scenes. Yes, it is not able to give a full 1:1 magnification ratio, but the optical quality, light weight and low cost of the lens can make up for that. Surely it could be used for portraits, architecture and art, but the 50 mm f/1.4 is a better lens for similar needs, due to its richer color rendition and great "boke".

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Dec 6, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent sharpness; great colour rendition; small and lightweight; not expensive
Can't think of any... Well, it could benefit from a Ring USM instead of the Micro USM, but that's really nitpicking in my opinion.

This is indeed a fine lens for its price. Images come out very sharp and detailed from about f/2.8 on, but even when taken at full aperture they don't look too fuzzy - especially in the centre and providing you get the focus right. Colors are rich and saturated; the lens yields neither cool nor warm casts of any sort. Pictures look also free from distortions. Weighing only 290g the lens is light, easy to carry and definitely not intimidating, making it a great choice for head-and-shoulder or full figure portraits, especially on a full-frame camera. Minimum focus distance is 45 cm, which is more than adequate for a lens giving this angle of view.

Yes, the Micro USM is not as fast as the Ring USM, and not as accurate (especially in low light), but it's still better than AFD; moreover, the lens allows full-time manual focusing if you feel the need of using it.

Of all the 50 mm Canon lenses, this is the one with the better quality-price ratio; I recommend this one over the f/1.8 because of the extra stop - more than once that 1.4 setting allowed me to take pictures where other lenses simply couldn't -, better build - the f/1.8 feels like a toy lens in comparison -, better focusing and better overall sharpness and colour rendition. Really a gem of a lens!

Canon EF 35mm f/2

Review Date: Dec 2, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp; lightweight; gives more than acceptable results when used wide open; accurate color rendition; great quality-price ratio
AFD motor is not as fast as USM; noticeable vignetting until f/4

35mm is my favorite focal lenght, it is the one I find myself using most of the time. This lens does an excellent job in providing images while not costing you an arm and a leg.

The first, and best, feature of this lens is its sharpness. The detail resolution is simply amazing. Even when used wide open and with scarce available light, the lens manages to capture images which are more than adequate as far as technical quality is concerned. On a full frame camera the edges and corners begin to come out as sharp as the center at about f/4. Color rendition is accurate and does not sway on either the cool or the warm side. The lens is small, unobtrusive and weights a mere 210g.

The weaknesses of the lens are the old-style AFD autofocus system - accurate, but obviously not as fast as USM, while not being, to my ears, nowhere near as loud and annoying as other people seem to believe - and a noticeable vignetting at the widest apertures, until f/4.

However, given all the good points of the lens, and considering its price, I cannot but recommend this lens to anyone!

Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM

Review Date: Nov 30, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Compact and relatively light, negligible chromatic aberrations, pretty sturdy, good control of distortion, fast and accurate AF, good resistance to flare
On full frame, image corners and edges are way softer than the center until about f/8

I purchased this one used on Ebay since I needed a wider lens for inside shots and the 28mm end of my Tamron 28-75 was sometimes too tight even on my 5D.

The lens does not take a lot of space in my bag(s) and weights only 405g. It is pretty well build, it feels quite solid. No chromatic aberrations can be seen throughout the pictures, even in high contrast situations like broad daylight; some slight red/green shift is to be noticed but only in the corners and only at wider apertures - this is, in my opinion, the best feature of the lens.

AF is fast and accurate in all situations. To my experience, no flare problems to report despite the wide angle of the lens. Color rendition is slightly on the warm side, but if you shoot in RAW you can correct that later if you don't like it.

On the other hand, image corners and edges are noticeably softer than the center, until you stop down the lens to f/8 or so, but being a wide and affordable lens, I can easily turn a blind eye on that! Overall sharpness, although good, is not great; it is however what I would expect from a lens in this focal length and price range.

The lens does its job well, and while not being exceptionally good in any aspect, the sum of its qualities make it a recommendable choice if you need such a wide angle of view.