50mm 1.8 - Thrifty Fifty

Posted by Las Vegas Photoshoot Locations under
Hands down, one of my favorite lenses.

Cheap: ($125 new, $75-$100 used)
Sharp: Click the image to the left for a closer look.

Definitely worth skipping out on a few Starbucks for.

Sit down, relax, and enjoy the review. There's pretty girls, and some nuggets of good, solid information.

So many people will downplay this lens. Some call it junk, a piece of crap plastic toy, or other such nonsense. Is it the best lens on the planet? No, it's not. But for the price, It's absolutely worth picking up. And let's face it, if you're reading this blog, chances are you're not about to go out and buy an EF 70-200 2.8L IS II for $2500 (if you are, send me a few bucks while you're at it. :)

I got my first DSLR in 2009. I was working at Circuit City when it went under, and got my hands on a Canon XTi and a kinda broken 28-135 4-5.6 (autofocus didn't work) for next to nothing. Due to the AF not working, I wanted a new lens. The EF 50 1.8 II was suggested to me. I happened to have $100, so I bought it. It has hardly left my camera since.

Build Quality: Okay, yeah... this is the biggest issue many have with this lens. It's made of plastic, with a plastic mount, and weighs about as much as a deck of cards. If I hear one more person say they're afraid it's going to break, I'm going to scream. I've had mine for a few years now, it hasn't broken... I guess I need to juggle cameras more, or perhaps drop it a few times? It's not a tank, that much isn't rocket surgery, but treat it well, and it will treat you well in return.

Sharpness: For the work I do, overall sharpness is overrated. Yes, I love being able to see individual hairs when shooting beauty with an EF 100 2.8 macro. Do I need that much sharpness though? What I care about is corner to corner sharpness (something my 28-135 lacks, who wants to buy me a 24-105 f/4L?) and enough sharpness to get me crisp prints. Seeing as most of my clients print at 11x14 or smaller, most consumer lenses do just fine, especially this one. As you can see by the above image, it's pretty crisp, even when zoomed in. And cause I'm such a nice guy, here's another:

Other fancy lens things: Chromatic Abberation has been pretty much nonexistent in my experience with the lens, I may have seen a little bit of purple fringe once, but I've never really noticed any at all, even when zoomed to 400% for retouching. Lens flare is good, I've had a $5 ebay hood on it for ages, and again, have never noticed any sort of unintentional lens flare (when I wanted it, it looked nice.) Bokeh is something I've heard mixed stories about. Some like it, and others don't. For my shooting style, it doesn't really matter, since I'm shooting at f/5.6-f/8+ all the time, but from what I've seen, it looks nice to me. Nothing like an 85 1.2L, but hell, for 1/20 the cost, I'll deal with less creamy bokeh.

Final Verdict: Get it. I'll probably eventually move up to the 50mm 1.4 (more solid construction) but this little "toy" will continue to make me money while I wait.

And... since I'm such a nice guy, here's another closeup:

Please note that all these tests and examples are not super scientific, simply images, and then a close-up, cropped version of the same image. It's not exact 100% crops, just something to give an example.

For those interested, the models are: Andrea, Surena, Kitty.


On March 27, 2011 at 11:19 PM , Scott said...

This lens not only became my favorite: it changed the way I shoot and understand light.
I was lucky to find a make one version that has a metal mount and scale window, missing from the mkII. I believe the glass is different, but thats for another thread.
It shot beautiful on my first body, a 10D, and opened up the potential of that body. I still keep it on my 50D, as well as the plethora of old, vintage glass that I have modified to shoot manually.
again, good for another thread.
but relevant here...because being able to use what you have is the essence of being an artist.

great site.

On March 27, 2011 at 11:55 PM , Photography on a Budget said...

Thanks, Scott. The lens hardly leaves my camera as well. And I agree with the older lenses. I'm picking up a few M42 mount lenses to do a review on those, $20-$30 for a lens is fantastic.