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Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Aug 26, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Maximum aperture, build quality, image quality, size, weight... pretty much everything. Even the price is reasonable.
Maybe not 3 times better than the 50mm 1.8, to justify 3 times the cost

I've had this lens for a little over two years and I love it. On my film body it is a perfect walk-around lens, and it is an ideal portrait lens on my 20d. I've been consistently impressed with the image quality. It is built very well, just shy of the L-quality that I've reserved the "10" rating for. I couldn't be happier.

The question, I guess, is if I'm that much happier than I'd have been with the 50/1.8, at a third of the price. The build quality, certainly, is vastly better. The extra half stop is nice... not essential, but nice. I haven't shot with the 50/1.8, so I couldn't compare IQ, but I couldn't ask for much more from the 1.4. Some users have need for quiet autofocus, so the USM is another advantage for those users. In the end, I'm glad I spring for this lens, but as good as I hear the 1.8 is, I think there's a case to be made either way.

As a final note, I have the hood and normally use it, but I haven't noticed a huge benefit on this lens, unlike my 28/1.8 where the hood has made a huge difference. I'm all in favor of hoods, but if you're budget-strapped and on the fence, you can probably get by without it most of the time.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

Review Date: Aug 26, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Great substitute for a 50mm prime on cropped sensors, 1.8 maximum aperture, image quality is great if you're not shooting charts in a lab
Possible build quality issue

I've had this lens for 18 months, after I added it to my 16-35/2.8, 50/1.4, and 100/2.0 because I missed my old film days of walking around the city with a 50mm prime. On my 20d it was perfect for that job, and quickly became my most-used lens. With the hood (a must-buy on this one), I've never seen a bit of flare and sharpness has always been up to snuff. I was always impressed with the image quality, and I certainly got pictures that my 16-35 (because of max aperture) or my 50 (because of focal length) would never have gotten me. Plus, it is small and light, which is a plus.If you bring your SLR to parties or indoor events, this is perhaps the best lens you can buy for the job, short of the 24/1.4L. I've loved my 18 months.

But a problem has been developing for the last 6 months, and finally came to a head today. The front assembly of my lens, from the focusing ring forward to the front element, has become dislodged. Not entirely disconnected (yet), but loose enough to screw up focus and move around changing the entire image... much like movements on a large format camera... shifting the frame without a perspective shift. At any rate, I'm getting it repaired and expect all to be well, but my friend, who grabbed this lens because of my high praise, had the exact same issue (and luckily saw it developing early and fixed it on the last day of his warranty). No other reviews have mentioned it, and in fact this lens is often praised for its build quality, but the lenses that I've owned longer exhibit none of this and this one had become a disaster. It might be an isolated problem, but because the only two I've ever held in my hands both had the same problem, I'm keen to believe there's something going on. Handle this lens gently!

One final note, both my friend and I use the hood with this lens, and both of us store the lens with the hood on backwards. We do the same with our 50mm/1.4 lenses without the same problem, but I am wondering if the issue has something to do with the frequent tension involved in attaching and detaching the hood. Just speculation.