Canon 50mm f1.8 vs Canon 50mm f1.4

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by hjoseph7, Apr 24, 2022.

  1. Today, or maybe tomorrow if I find some time, I'm going to try to solve the mystery of which lens is better optically, the Canon 50mm f1.8 ($75), or the Canon 50mm f1.4 ($329).

    I had these lenses for a while, getting close to 20 years now, but lately I rarely use them since my 'L' series zoom lenses stay parked on my camera 99% of the time. Both lenses get great reviews online, with some caveats. Some people swear one lens over the other, but I never took the time to compare both lenses head-to -head.

    The 50mm f1.8 was one of my first AF Canon lenses, I think it came with my camera, or I purchased it with the remaining money I had in my pocket at the time. I never thought much of that lens and was eagerly anticipating the day when I could afford to replace it. At first I only I used it to take some test shots and to do some exposure assignments when I was in school.

    It wasn't until one day I decided to take it to an Event due to its small size, that I noticed that it took some great pictures !. I thought I was seeing things, so I snapped a couple of more shots and was pleasantly impressed. This cheap looking all plastic lens was a Gem in hiding.

    It wasn't until I dropped it from about 2 feet on a rug and the MF/AF switched popped out, that I decided to get the more robust and expensive 50mm f1.4. After sticking the MF/AF switch back on the lens with 'Crazy Glue, it mostly stayed on the shelf collecting dust until now.

    I felt more confident taking the 50mm f1.4 out since it was a level above when it came to build quality. However If I remember correctly, the 50mm f1.4 took some great pictures, but it didn't have that WOW factor like the f1.8 did !

    Maybe I was expecting too much from this new lens considering it cost 3 times as much ? Or maybe it just wasn't as good as the f1.8 ? I sincerely don't know ?Today I'm going to test both lenses in real-life situations to put my mind at ease. I'll keep you posted...
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2022
    Mark Keefer and ajkocu like this.
  2. The 50mm f/1.8 is a fine lens with not quite the "bokeh" you'd prefer. The f/1.4 50mm is a classic. Depending on what you're doing, both are excellent. If you're planning on "available darkness" shots, obviously the f/1.4 has some edge, but at a cost.

    Just remember, 3X cost hardly ever translates into 3X the "quality" ;)
    Mark Keefer likes this.
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    One difference, which is significant for me, is the even number of aperture blades in the F/1.4: all the F1.8 lenses have an odd number of blades.

    Odd vs. Even blades, can be relevant for those who use Starbursts as an optical feature in their images.


    EF 50/1.4 on an EOS 5D Series

  4. nestly, I do not see any major differences between both lenses ! Canon colors are spot-on as usual so no problems there. Sharpness, contrast, saturation, flare control, focusing speed, detail, CA, purple fringing, distortion all seem to be about the same. There does seem to be a little bit more contrast or brilliance in some of the pictures taken with the 50mm f1.8 which might explain the "Wow" factor I experienced earlier. Also, the 50mm f1.4 seems to show a little less CA than the f1.8 . I attached some pictures below, but did not label them to show you how minor the differences between both lenses really are. The camera was set to 'P' mode so there are small differences in the aperture/shutter speed settings, but not by much. Keep in mind that the 50mm f1.4 costs 3 times as much as the f1.8..

    Oops pictures 3&4 are the same, not sure what happened ??

    IMG_2045.JPG IMG_2046.JPG IMG_2059.JPG IMG_2059.JPG IMG_2059.JPG IMG_2060.JPG IMG_2061.JPG IMG_2062.JPG

    Last edited: Apr 27, 2022
    ajkocu likes this.
  5. If there is a more material difference, I would expect to see it at F1.8, and in corner resolution. Stopped down to f2.8 and beyond, the differences should be very small. The EF f1.8 mk II has rather unflattering OOF highlights when shooting at f1.8 close up. I believe the STM and RF versions have been improved. Mostly out of the EF system, but still have a working EF f1.8mk II and a few devices that it will mount on.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2022
  6. Try the bokeh comparison too, day and night wide open. Shoot wide open with subject approximately 8 feet from camera and flowers in distant background or at night have lights in distant background. See how the bokeh looks. Do the lights look like circles, footballs? It's not a huge deal for me, but it would be interesting to see the bokeh comparison, pleasing bokeh. Also the depth of field comparison. Eyes sharp, nose to ears sharp or how sharp wide open. Look for chromatic aberration too.
    Brian Murphy and ajkocu like this.
  7. I have not tested extensively yet. I just went out and took a couple of snap-shots. But yeah I need to test the Bokeh as well as the corners, light fall-off, DOF etc. etc...
    So far though, if you are on a budget, you can't go wrong with the f1.8.
    Mark Keefer and ajkocu like this.
  8. I didn't buy the 1.8 since I had the f/2.5 compact macro early on. I just recently bought the 50mm f/1.4 and am really happy with it. The one test I did on tripod inside shows good corner sharpness starting at f/5.6. It looks gloomy outside now so this might be a good day to do a comparison test between the two!
  9. Looking forward to seeing your test shots and review.
  10. With a given sensor, DOF is primarily a function of distance to the subject and secondarily focal length. FL has only very small effects on DOF, contrary to popular thinking, although it does affect the balance of DOF front / back. See for example So if you shoot exactly the same thing in the same way, there shouldn't be a difference in DOF.

    However, to do these tests, you need to be shooting in full manual mode or aperture priority. If you shoot in P or some other automated mode and the camera changes the aperture setting, you will get differences caused by that, not by the differences between the two lenses themselves.
  11. My recent purchase of the STM 50 f1.8 did not turn out well. The lens was pretty good optically but on the Canon 5DIV the focusing was just plain unreliable. Sometimes hitting focus sometimes not. I got rid of it with delight. The 50mm f1.4 I had previously was excellent and although frequently criticized for poor image quality at f1.4, I found it satisfactory with a bit of contrast tweaking in post. Currently I have the Tamron 45 f1.8 which is in a different league to either lens from f1.8-2.8, although focusing also not perfect (but better than the STM). I plan to use it on a Canon mirrorless, when I can be bothered to get one.

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