Canon 50mm 1.8 vs 1.2

Canon 50mm 1.8 vs 1.2 24-85mm Bokeh L Prime Zoom - Rob Moses PhotographyThis photo was shot with Canon 5D mark ii & Canon 24-85mm @85mm & f/4.5

I did a little comparison between 2 of my favourite lenses, the Canon 50mm 1.8 mark i & the 50L. With a price differnce of at least $1500, the case one can make to buy the 50L can only be made by absolutely NEEDing that f1.2 for shooting low light. You can not buy the Canon 50mm 1.8 mark 1 in stores any more, but you should be able to find a used one for around $150 to $200. The Canon 50mm 1.2 L series lens on the other hand can be found in most camera stores for around $1619. before taxes.

For this test I shot with a Canon 5D mark ii on a Manfrotto tripod. The photos were shot on my deck in the shade. The first shot to the last shot was done in under 2 minutes and the light outside never changed in that time frame. None of the pictures have any sharpening and are basically straight out of the camera except for a little S curve in Lightroom. I shot the all the photos with a little exposure compensation on the bright side.

Here is what the set up looked like.

Canon 5D mark ii 2 50mm 50L 1.2 - DSLR SLR film, tripod bokeh 50 1.4 EF FD Ricoh manfrotto - Rob Moses PhotographyThis photos was shot with a Samsung NX100 with a Canon FD 50mm 1.4 manual focus lens.

Bellow are the full frame samples of f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4 & f/8. After the whole frame shots you will find some 100% crops.

50mm 1.8 @ f/1.8

50mm 1.8 @ f/1.8

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.8

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.8

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

50mm 1.8 @ f/2.8

50mm 1.8 @ f/2.8

50mm 1.2 @ f/2.8

50mm 1.2 @ f/2.8

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

50mm 1.8 @ f/4

50mm 1.8 @ f/4

50mm 1.2 @ f/4

50mm 1.2 @ f/4

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

50mm 1.8 @ f/8

50mm 1.8 @ f/8

50mm 1.2 @ f/8

50mm 1.2 @ f/8

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The pictures bellow are 100% crops. The focus point was the same for every picture.

Canon 50mm 1.8 @ f/1.8

Canon 50mm 1.8 @ f/1.8 (100% crop)

Canon 50mm 1.2 @ f/1.8

Canon 50mm 1.2 @ f/1.8 (100% crop)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

50mm 1.8 @ f/2.8

50mm 1.8 @ f/2.8

50mm 1.2 @ f/2.8

50mm 1.2 @ f/2.8

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

50mm 1.8 @ f/4 (100% crop)

50mm 1.8 @ f/4 (100% crop)

50mm 1.2 @ f/4 (100% crop)

50mm 1.2 @ f/4 (100% crop)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

50mm 1.8 @ f/8 (100% crop)

50mm 1.8 @ f/8 (100% crop)

50mm 1.2 @ f/8 (100% crop)

50mm 1.2 @ f/8 (100% crop)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Just to finish off the post I thought I would add the 50L f/1.4 & f/1.2 shots.

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.4

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.4

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.2

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.2

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.4

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.4

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.2

50mm 1.2 @ f/1.2

That’s it! Hope you enjoyed that. I’d say if your not shooting super low light and can live with out f1.2 you really wont miss much with the Canon 50mm 1.8 mark i. You can get the mark ii for around $120, but the build quality is terrible and the auto focus is not as accurate as with the mark i, however it is still a great lens.

Thanks for stopping by, Rob

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37 Comments

  1. Very worthwhile article, Rob. I can personally attest to the usefulness of the f/1.8 model. This past march, I covered an event at a local sports dome that included a lot of fast-moving kids and somewhat dicey lighting. The wide aperture of this inexpensive lens allowed me to get very fast shutter speeds without having to bump the ISO up to absurd levels. Plus the picture quality was very pleasing. So I agree with you: the f/1.8 model will get you good results. To be honest I’m somewhat dubious that even most pros will need something so close to the “holy grail” of f/1. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    Reply

    1. Sorry I thought I replied to this comment! Anyhow, I’d go with the clean mark 1 if I was you. I only say that because I find the 1.4 has harsh barrel distortion and can be quite distracting. However, if that kind of thing does not bother you, then get the 1.4 🙂

      Reply

  2. I gave my Mark 1 to a colleague expecting the Mark II to be better. Oops. Months later he had lost interest in photography and sold everything at a yard sale. The focusing on the Mark II feels so “chunky”…but it’s still a great lens for the price. Thanks for the comparisons.

    Reply

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    Reply

  4. Excellent comparison, Rob. I’m a huge advocate of Canon’s cheaper lenses; the 50/1.8 being one of my favorite lenses before I stopped using it in favour of the 40/2.8! I truly wish people just starting out with Canon gear or photography in general would read articles like this. The crops really demonstrate the similarities of these 50’s and goes to show you that you can get great results with non-L glass. Am I against the higher end lenses? Not at all. I have several L’s, but also believe a great picture doesn’t always require one!

    Reply

    1. Thank you very much Mike! I couldn’t have said it better my self and I couldn’t agree more! The Canon 50mm 1.8 is still one of my favourite lenses! The mark i that is though haha. That mark ii takes great pictures, but it’s just too flimsy for my linking. I have not tried the 40mm 2.8. It’s pretty good hey? How’s the bokeh? Any links to a good picture you took with it?

      Reply

  5. I hear you on the Mark II. Brutal construction!
    As for the 40/2.8 – it’s fantastic and is on my camera most of the time. Many of my recent images including several of the Cuba, Hong Kong and Thailand photos and some of my Winnipeg portraits were taken with that lens. For the price, the bokeh is quite good. Focus is kind of slow and it’s only 2.8, but those “negatives” were not a deal breaker for me.

    Reply

  6. I can count on 3 fingers all the photos I have ever taken that I can use with zero depth of field… shot at f1.8 or 1.4, 1.2.
    BUT using these fast lenses sure help the camera focus in low light… If you are using a “lesser” camera body with poor focusing (20d,30d,40d,50d,60d,5d,5dmkii,any rebel, etc.) you will need all the help you can get. After I switched to 1Ds bodies most of my focus problems in low light went away. The 1Dx model is awesome.

    Reply

  7. This is only comparison in macro world. Take the same test in normal world, when the photo object is more than 5 meters from camera.

    Reply

  8. Technical experiments are fun when they help you to learn the limitations and potentials of the equipment that you’re using. I try to keep it simple with 2 zooms and a 50mm 1.8 that I never use.

    Reply

    1. Ya for sure! Ya that’s probably a good thing to keep a simple kit. I try to keep my kit light these days so I’m using primes more than I ever have, which is easy for me because I love the 50mm far more than any other lens haha.

      Reply

  9. Wow, Thanks for this Rob. This is a really interesting article. Sure the build quality on a 1.2 is probably better and the glass probably is too but when you consider that a 1.4 is close to 3 times the price of a 1.8 and a 1.2 is 3 times the price of a 1.4 the build quality is almost immaterial when you consider you could buy at least 10 1.8’s for the price of a 1.2.

    In the 100% cropped shots the focus on the 1.2 is a little more precise but I think it is hard to see where an enthusiastic amateur would need this level of precision. Even when I shoot at gigs F2.8 is adequate so I think a 1.8 will be adequate for my purposes.
    Thanks again

    Reply

  10. A great little article, just recently added the mark ii to my kit bag and it’s a great addition despite being a bit ‘cheap’ in appearance…it does what it says on the tin…so to speak! Will definitely look out for a secondhand mark i – just because :-)!

    Reply

    1. Hey, sorry I some how missed your comment Lisa. I just so happen to pop by this old post to see this comment now lol. Anyhow, hope you kept using your 50 and hopefully found your self a mark i :).

      Reply

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