In an effort to put off doing my work a little bit longer I’d like to do one more blog post comparing the three main 50mm lenses in the canon lineup. I owned the 50mm f/1.8, but recently sold it and upgraded to the f1.4. I have also had the opportunity to shoot a few weddings on the 50mm f/1.2L lens. Here are a few notes on each. This is not scientific or extensive, just my impressions after spending a decent amount of time shooting with each.
50mm 1.8: Optically awesome and the best bargain out there in terms of glass. I really loved this lens. The only downsides was the focus ring. It is located right near the front of the lens and is very small. Pulling focus was a pain, rack focusing was shaky and using a follow focus was not even worth the effort. The lens also feels pretty fragile.
50mm 1.4: This lens costs ~3x more than the 1.8, but the build quality and focus ring alone have made the upgrade worthwhile for me. Optically i can’t see any difference between this lens and the 1.8. The focus ring is much larger though, and it feels much more substantial. I also really prefer the 1.4 when it comes to bokeh, it looks a bit cleaner than the 1.8.
50mm 1.2: The color and contrast of this lens seems to really pop. It also appears to be a bit sharper than the previous two lenses and the bokeh is very impressive. The focus ring seems to move a little bit slower than the 1.4, but that could just be the fact that I am used to the feel of my 1.4. The first time shooting with this lens I thought that it could be my next big purchase (this was before I tried the 1.4).
Final thoughts: If you are starting out don’t even hesitate, buy the 1.8. It is a great value and is a HUGE upgrade over whatever kit lens may have come with your camera. If you feel the need down the road, upgrade to the 1.4, but know why you are upgrading. DO NOT upgrade thinking that more money will mean substantially better glass. Like I said, optically the 1.8 and 1.4 are almost identical to the naked eye. If you decide to break the bank and spoil yourself with the 1.2L you better be getting paid top dollar for your video work. The 1.8 and 1.4 are both great values and I honestly feel either would be the right lens for 99% of you who are reading this post. In my last post I gushed about the L lenses, but I am confident I will be sticking with my 1.4 for the long haul. The differences between the 1.4 and the 1.2L are, in my opinion, not enough to justify the price difference.
P.S. Rent some lenses and see which ones you like before you bite the bullet and buy one. The cost to rent lenses is definitely worthwhile when the alternative is purchasing a $1000+ lens on a whim that ends up sitting in your camera bag or up for sale for a fraction of what you payed for it.