DPReview tests the Canon 50mm f/1.4

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by mark u, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. As part of their series of test of competing primes with similar specification:


    http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/canon_50_1p4_c16/
     
  2. I found the review to be rather poor and critical of a great lens, probably my favorite lens in my camera bag. To characterize this lens, or any lens (other than a true L Canon lens) as soft at f/1.4, is absurd. What does the reviewer expect for a non-L lens? I think the reviewer spends too much time testing a lens in a controlled lab environment, and not inthe field.
     
  3. Why is it absurd to "characterize" the lens as soft at 1.4? It is. How else could he characterize it.

    The review doesn't seem overly critical of the lens. It is a fairly accurate description of the lens. It misses two salient points about the lens:

    Its hybrid focus mechanism seems poorly designed and often fails - leaving the lens unable to be manually focused.

    The lens struggles to focus in low light. The slower 50/1.8 achieves focus lock much more reliably - possibly due to the slower autofocus. As someone who shoots in low light all the time this was a deal breaker.
     
  4. I use this lens quite a bit, formerly on cropped sensor and currently on full-frame, and I feel that the review is quite accurate
    - and in the end positive. This lens is most certainly soft at f/1.4 (though certainly usable there), much better from f/2 on,
    and extremely sharp at smaller apertures.

    It is an excellent lens for may purposes, but it isn't a perfect lens. Haven't met _that_ lens yet... ;-)
     
  5. Steve,

    You must have an amazing copy of the Canon EF 50mm F1.4

    I have tried no less then 6 of the lenses and they all were exactly like the lens fromt the test. Very soft, chromatic abberations, poor contrast and otehr weakness from F1.4 to at least F2 or 2.2 The lens is great beyond F2 or F2.2
    The flaws from F1.4 to F2.2 make the Canon 50mm F1.4 of little use to me.

    The DPreview review is accurate for the Canon 50mm F1.4 lenses I have seen. I gave mine to a friend a bought a Sigma 50mm F1.4. It is fastastic from F1.4 on.

    Maybe Canon will re-design the 50mm F1.4 someday, since the Sigma is so much better.
     
  6. Note: My testing of the Canon 50mm F1.4 was on full frame with a 5D.
     
  7. By the way,Paul G, I do have an amazing copy of the 50mm f/1.4. It is soft wide open at f/1.4, like any other non-L
    lens, as most people and camera manufacturers expect them to perform.

    When I said the dpreview.com writeup is absurd to criticize the softness of this lens at f/1.4, I am referring to the
    reviewer's expectation that the lens should ideally sharper at f/1.4. Again, this is not the L version, so what does the
    reviewer expect to find at f/1.4? Ever heard the adage "F/8 and be there"? A wide open lens is not going to give you
    the best sharpness any more than cranking the aperture down to f/22 or beyond, when the tendencies inherent
    with "circles of confusion" emerge. It is somewhere in the mid-point of the aperture range that generally produces
    the best image quality. Therefore, I stand by my comment that the dpreview.com summary of this particular Canon
    lens unfairly criticizes the sharpness when shot wide open.
     
  8. I have the 50mm f1.8. I didn't know it was such a great lens until one day I took it to a Museum and that's about one of the only lenses I had that would not raise eyebrows. My only gripe is that the focusing ring is barely visible and the plasticky build does not encourage rough handling. The 1.4 would be a great replacement. It's allway good to have a very fast lens such as a 1.4 in your bag, beleive me.
     
  9. It's' only an "unfair criticism" if the lens is NOT soft when shot wide open. It is soft, and the criticism is perfectly legitimate.

    The fact that a lens is or is not an L is utterly irrelevant to a test of how it performs and the conclusions that can be drawn. Just the facts, Ma'm. Just give me the facts.
     
  10. Mine takes purty pictures; I don't need it to take any tests.
     
  11. DPReview's opinion is clearly influenced by having tested the new Sigma, which being a modern design, complete with ring HSM clearly does outperform the Canon at wider apertures in many ways, including being much sharper. Sigma's launch statements made clear they optimised for wide open performance, paying a lot of attention to minimising coma and vignetting. The Canon f/1.4 is excellent when stopped down (better than any of the Canon zooms that include 50mm perhaps with the exception of flare performance in my view). I'm already seeing people with room for both these lenses for their differing strengths - although the Sigma provides a wake-up call to Canon that more modern top notch primes may appear.
     
  12. Don't foget that the Sigma is $500, while the Canon is $325. Given that no Sigma lens is more expessive than the equivalent Canon lens, that would probably point to a revised Canon 50/1.4 with ring USM having a price in the $650 region. That's getting a bit expensive and may be the reason Canon haven't yet updated the 50/1.4. Perhaps they think they can sell more twice as many lenses at $325 as they could if it was updated and cost $650.

    Describing a lens as "soft" wide open has different meanings to different people. To the sharpness crazed it means the lens is useless. The those concerned with the image, it may not that big a deal. I shoot my 50/1.8 wide open all the time, especially for portrait work. The image quality is excellent. On a resolution test chart I suppose you might call it soft (certainly a touch softer than f5.6), but for my use of the lens, it's not a bad thing and doesn't worry me one bit.

    There's also "soft" and looking good (as in a "soft focus lens" or a lens with some residual sperical aberration) and "soft" and looking awful (as in a lens that's slightly out of focus" or a lens with severe coma, chromatic aberration and astigmatism). They are not at all the same thing.
     
  13. "Why is it absurd to "characterize" the lens as soft at 1.4? It is. How else could he characterize it."

    True, mine was terrible until F2.8. F1.4 images looked like they were taken through the end of a coke bottle.
     
  14. this lens, like almost all short canons (though released in the 90's), is based on a design that goes
    back to the 70's. it probably has much in common with the 50mm lenses used in the 50's or 60's. it
    shows. the color is so old-world. i only use it from 1.4 to 2.5. if i shoot at 2.8 on, i use a fast zoom or
    another prime like the ef-s 60 -- the images that i get have more punch, are far sharper, and have a
    modern color palette.

    i've gotten shots with the 50 1.4 that i could not have thought of trying to get with another lens. however,
    this lens is a specialty optic that only comes out with the light is gone.

    will be getting sigma short primes and hoping canon revamps its lenses
     
  15. zml

    zml

    True, mine was terrible until F2.8. F1.4 images looked like they were taken through the end of a coke bottle.

    Unless you enjoy the effect, have you considered sending the lens to Canon for repair? It is obviously broken.... (My apologies for being king of the obvious.)
     
  16. I noticed they already use 50D for the test.
     
  17. It is useless to talk about a single lens. As long as there is no better alternative you have to live with what you get. The much more interesting question would be if there is a better alternative.

    Therefore, I would like to see some comparisons with e.g. the new sigma lens or some other 50mm lenses.
     
  18. Oops I overlooked that the comparison starts on the next page ....
     
  19. But even there are no comparison shots of the other lenses ... :-(
     
  20. They have reviewed the Sigma as well. Here are all the lens tested complete with test shots.

    http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/
     
  21. I've never shot a 50mm F1.4 on a Canon (have shot the f/1.8 though). Don't remember hearing any complaints about it being soft back in the 90's. I wonder if the lack of sharpness only shows above 6MP (most film).
     
  22. jbm

    jbm

    There is a great review of the different 50mm primes on www.imaging-resource.com that puts most of the available 50's through their paces.

    I've owned the Canon 50/1.8, the Canon 50/1.4, an old Nikon 50/1.4, and now the Nikon 50/1.8 plastic fantastic. I for some reason am still partial to the color rendition and images that came out of the Canon 50/1.8. I did not resort to any test charts, but they really looked great to me with such accurate saturation and tonality compared to the others I've used.

    My new Nikon is the second best by a bit and truthfully is probably tied with my old, old Nikon 50/1.4 from well before I was born (I'm 30).

    I agree with the review of the Canon 50/1.4 but still think it is a great lens, as they all are. Really for most of us we should focus on making great photographs...an amazing image with the Canon 50/1.4 will still be great, even if it is a bit soft wide open.

    Happy shooting,

    Jay
     
  23. "The fact that a lens is or is not an L is utterly irrelevant to a test of how it performs and the conclusions that can be drawn. Just the facts, Ma'm. Just give me the facts."

    That comment, Larry, would panic the Canon R&D "L" lab, if their engineers felt the majority of Canon lens owners believed what you said. I think one of the advantages of an expensive L lens, as well-marketed by Canon, is the ability to shoot sharper images, especially in the corners, with the aperture wide open.

    So I'll say it again. Most any consumer priced prime or zoom lens, at its widest aperture setting, is going to be softer than when used at f/8. Even a Leica M or R 50mm will not perform at its optimal capability unless the aperture is set closer to f/8. So how can dpreview.com criticize the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 prime lens for being soft at f/1.4? What did the reviewer expect to find at f/1.4? By their logic, the lens deserves to be praised if it is sharp at f/8. Duh?
     
  24. zml

    zml

    You can compare directly the EF 50/1.4 to any lens at any f/stop (sometimes even get to choose the camera used for crops) here
    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Canon-EF-50mm-f-1.4-USM-Lens-Review.aspx
    Look for the ISO12233 crops
     
  25. "So how can dpreview.com criticize the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 prime lens for being soft at f/1.4? What did the reviewer expect to find at f/1.4?"

    Perhaps they expected its performance at f/1.4 to match that of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4. That seems to be a reasonable expectation.
     
  26. Dpreview was classifying the lens performance at f/1.4, f/2, f/5.6, f/8; so they said soft, better, perfect, OMG! I think it was a fair classification. If they were unfair, they would not give such good marks to the lens at smaller aperture.

    If they had said, "sharp, sharper, sharpest", that would have been unfair and biased towards this particular lens.
     
  27. it's fair to set expectation on the price of a lens. For example, what do you expect from a sub $300 50mm lens. If money is no object, get the german made Leica 50mm lenses. The question is, are you ready to pay a few thousands dollars for a 50mm 1.4 ? you get what you paid for.
     
  28. "Unless you enjoy the effect, have you considered sending the lens to Canon for repair? It is obviously broken.... (My
    apologies for being king of the obvious.)"

    I owned 2 EF 50 1.8 (MK I) and a 50 1.4 USM. All had God-awful AF and were soft wide open. Why waste my time? I sold
    them--heck even made a profit--and bought an EF 50 2.5 CM and the EF 50 1.2L. The 50 2.5 is the best 50mm lens I have
    owned, and I've owned over a dozen. The 50 1.2L isn't as sharp and whips both the 50 1.4 and 50 1.8 silly at the same
    apertures.
     
  29. Doubt L anything to do with an accurate describtion of this lens, the 50 1.2 L is listed Soft wide open, 50 1.4 long overdue for a modification, If sigma is better for wide open work then folks will just buy it instead. My 1.8 focusses quicker than 1.4 in low light. Now using a OM 50 1.4, can focus quicker.I think folks will pay for a newer one if improved on :)
     
  30. ["The fact that a lens is or is not an L is utterly irrelevant to a test of how it performs and the conclusions that can be drawn. Just the facts, Ma'm. Just give me the facts."

    That comment, Larry, would panic the Canon R&D "L" lab, if their engineers felt the majority of Canon lens owners believed what you said. I think one of the advantages of an expensive L lens, as well-marketed by Canon, is the ability to shoot sharper images, especially in the corners, with the aperture wide open. ]

    Steve, I hope a careful read of my comment will reveal that I meant whether or not the lens has a red ring on it is irrelevant to test results. A proper test will reveal what it reveals no matter what color the lens is or how much it costs. All you should do is look at the facts.

    The test shows the lens is soft wide open. That is a legitimate reason to be critical, whether or not the lens is an L or "consumer" or any other marketing jargon label. It's soft wide open. Period.

    I certainly hope you don't think that just because a lens has a red ring or white paint that it is automatically better than anything else available.
     
  31. I love the 50mm 1,4. It's one of the sharpest lenses I have ever used. I currently use the 24-70 2,8 L, but I still miss my 50mm. It was sharp and it could take pictures in extremly bad lighting. And being soft at apperture 1,4, what do you expect. It is not an expensive lens.

    The 50mm 1,8 however I would not buy, I have heard of too often and seen too often it's destruction. The worst time was when, while a friend of mine was taking a portraite in a dark room and lens popped out of the shell in sort of speaking. It attacked the modell and flung itself 20-30 cm forward. And what was left of the lens was still attached to the body. It was hillarios as I was watching as it happend.

    The 50mm 1,8 may be sharp, good autofocus and cheap, but the build quality is the worst I have ever encountered.
    And the 50mm 1,2 is more expensive than my normal zoom lens, and I could barely afford that.

    My experience with the 50mm 1,4 is that it becomes the favorite lens of the owner.
     
  32. To characterize this lens, or any lens (other than a true L Canon lens) as soft at f/1.4, is absurd. What does the reviewer expect for a non-L lens?
    According to Canon's own MTF graphs and their own description of how to interpret them (from which I took the following two quotes), both found in a 1998 L lens brochure, the 50/1.0L wide open doesn't come anywhere near "superior" and only barely qualifies as "adequate for good image quality" - and that's only in the central 10mm or so; by the time you get to the corners of the 35mm frame, its MTF at 10 lines/mm drops to under 0.2, and at 30 lines/mm it's not even 0.1. So the magical letter L and red ring doesn't guarantee excellent performance even wide-open, either; many are at least very good wide open, but not all are.
    My 50/1.4 is so soft wide open that I consider it unusable at that aperture. I'll use it at f/1.8 if necessary, at f/2 with an expectation of good sharpness, and anywhere from f/2.8 to f/8 with an expectation of excellent optics. I rarely if ever use it beyond f/8; if I'm going to stop down that much, I might as well just leave the zoom (formerly the 28-135/3.5-5.6 IS USM, now the 24-105/4L IS USM) on the camera.
     
  33. I use my 50/1.8 and 85/1.8 wide open all the time. I would use the 50/1.4 wide open too if it had reliable focus in low light. It doesn't so I stuck with the 50/1.8. The Sigma 50/1.4 is high on my list of lenses to try. The lenses are soft but from my perspective not unusably so.

    I have no problem with the DPReview review. It is not negative. The lens is soft at f1.4 and this is noted. It is a con. This is not unexpected nor does the review go so far as to suggest that the lens is unusable at f1.4.
     
  34. Exactley what I experience with my 50. Dont know why its absurd. Its soft wide open and I dont like it. I wish it were
    sharper wide open but its not. Ive looked at lens tests from the 50 1.2,1.4,1.8 and it would be a cold day in hell
    before I pay 1500 for the 1.2L because it doesnt appear to be that much sharper than the others wide open. I hope
    they redesign it to be optimal wide open. After all, we do buy fast lenses so we can use them wide open. But lets
    say they do come out with a new 1.4 thats as sharp at 1.4 as the 300 f2.8L. Still only gonna have about 1.5-3" of
    razor sharp in focus because the DOF is so shallow. LOL SO how usefull would it be anyway. But a soft
    photo is better than a blurry photo from too low a shutter speed.

    Its not so bad that its unusable. In fact, not looking at the 100% crops and its quite usable. Unless you are going to
    print at 100% size, it doesnt matter. These photos out of a 1DsMark3 at 100% would cover an entire wall. Back off a
    little and even those would look sharp. Yes the brick wall 100% shots are soft, but look at it as a photo at viewing
    size and it really looks very useable. The 100% button really causes over analyzation. I try not to use the 100%
    button unless I'm going to print real big and it needs to be really sharp. Other than this, I use the 50% view.
    Represents much closer look to a 8x10 or so. Most look real good at 50%.

    Look at it this way for example:

    Light is gone. You have a 24-70f2.8L or a 50f1.4. You need 1/125 to freeze your shot. Say at f2.8 ISO 400 you've got
    1/40th. Gotta crank the ISO to 1600 to get shutter speed on the 24-70 or just open the 50 and use ISO 400.

    Which looks better. Soft ISO 400 or noisy 1600 f2.8. And remember, thats the zoom wide open which will also be
    soft, on top of the ISO1600 noise. At least with the 50 the noise wont be there.

    A real wish list. A new lens design. A lens that had a DOF mechanism that didnt limit light entering the lens. The
    lens let in 1.4 light and you control the DOF with another mechanism to desired effect and still keep shutter speed.
    No trade off of shutterspeed vs DOF. I know its almost impossible, but we put people on the moon. My wife had the
    lens cut out of her eye and replaced! Surley someone can do it. Now that lens would be worth some $$$$
     

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