Should I buy Canon 50mm 1.8 or Canon 50mm 1.4 ?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by steve_johnston|9, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. Hi I am looking to get into potrait photgraphy, I recently bought the 500D.
    I was going to go for the 1.8 because I didn't want to invest too much until i had a full idea of what primes can do. I know that you get what you pay for, and the build quality isn't that good. But I have now heard there have been a number of instances where this lens gets stuck to the body. This worries me, while I understand the lens maybe fragile and break, which i can live with. But, I don't want to damage my brand new camera.
    I have also heard that the 1.4 has it's motor problems as well.
    Am I right to avoid these two lens and go for another manufacter ? Or do you think these are isolated incidents ?
  2. I wouldn't buy, or not buy, either of those lenses out of fear of damaging the camera. Make your decision based on the optical qualities and how they relate to your budget and intended use. For portraiture, you probably want the more pleasing background blur (bokeh behavior) that you'll enjoy from Canon's f/1.4, or from the Sigma 50/1.4 HSM in that mount. But this depends entirely on your style and budget. If you aren't interested in the shallow DoF look, you might indeed be better off keeping the lens price down in that easy 501/.8 neighborhood, and thinking about lights and light modifiers, since that will have more to do with a lot of portrait results than will the differences between those lenses.
  3. The Sigma 50mm f1.4 has its fans and gets an excellent rep for IQ, though there are occassionaly those who have problems, as with any mass-produced product.
    The main benefit of the canon f1.4 over the f1.8 is the improved focus motor, yes there are other improvements such as build quality, the extra half stop max aperture may be a benefit for some, but generally you would want to use these lenses at around f2.8 for max quality anyway. From f2.8 onwards there is no image quality benefit to the f1.4. In practical terms it is only really worth the extra if you need USM focusing. On a cropped sensor body you could really get decent results from wide open with the 50mm f1.8.... The horror stories about the f1.8 build quality are overstated somewhat...
    The difference in price would go quite a long way towards a decent external flash such as a 430EX II.
    Lets rephrase the question: Canon 50mm f1.4, or Canon 50mm f1.8 & Speedlite 430EX II?
    Canon 50mm f1.4 or Canon 50mm f1.8 & Marumi ring flash for canon E-TTL (great for portraiture) and spare battery?
    Canon 50mm f1.4 or Canon 50mm f1.8 & BG-E5?
    Canon 50mm f1.4 or Canon 50mm f1.8 & Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod?
    I could go on but I think you've got what I'm getting at.
  4. I was going to go for the 1.8 because I didn't want to invest too much until i had a full idea of what primes can do​
    Good thinking. Just get the 1.8, no it won't be stuck to your camera. I wonder where you read this "a number of instances" incident. If you're ready to move on to better lens, you can sell it for not much less than your purchase price.
  5. I'm with A Novisto. Stuck to the camera? And frequently? I think not :) It is a great little lens. Not as fragile as people claim. Mine has dropped twice. On concrete and on tarmac. Both times I was running and it somehow fell out of my pocket. I think it's light weight is a blessing in disguise. A heavier lens might not have made it unscathed. Optically, it is arguably the best lens, bang-for-buck, that Canon make. The vast majority of my current portraiture has been done with that lens. Great bit of kit. Get one. Learn primes :)
  6. I'm with A Novisto too. Don't forget the EF-S 60/2.8 macro however, another great lens for portraits unless you feel that you absolutely need f/1.8-2.5 for the task.
  7. Just for grins, check out the Flickr group for "EF 50mm 1.8 II". You will see the lens is very capable. I have one and have not been disappointed in it.. maybe in my use :)
  8. I bought the 50 f/1.8 used two years ago thinking I'd eventually get the 1.4. Still have the 1.8.
  9. Either lens is good value. You get what you pay for.
    50/1.8. The plastic lens mount works just fine. It's a tiny little lens, and the lens mount doesn't have to support much weight. The lens is reasonably sharp wide open, and extremely sharp in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range. AF is slow, noisy, and accuracy can be a problem. If shooting wide open, expect a low keeper rate. When shooting wide open, forget about tracking action with AI servo. Shoot lots of frames to increase the keeper rate. But those keepers will have a very special quality about them. AF works find for posed portraits and slower work though.
    50/1.4. You get metal construction, an extra 2/3 stop of light, 8 aperture blades for better bokeh. The AF motor is better although sadly you don't get ring-USM. There's full-time manual focus, a decent focus ring, and a focus distance scale. The colors and contrast that this lens produces are superb, and perhaps just a notch better than the 50/1.8
  10. If you are getting a prime as a new DSLR owner more or less to fine out what the 50mm FL will do on your camera, two alternative suggestions:
    1. Get the fine and inexpensive f/1.8 50mm prime. It will do what you want it to do just fine. Or...
    2. If you have the 18-55 kit lens, set it at 50mm and start doing some work at the FL on the zoom to see how this all works. It really isn't a bad performer, and shooting with it a bit as a "virtual prime" can help you understand better the goals you speak of.
    Also, when you read stuff online about this lens or that, keep in mind that there is a ton of hyperbole and that more of what gets written is the more extreme stuff. There is a lot of "Lens X provides magical and life-changing performance" and "Lens X sucks so bad that it is unusable" stuff out there. The truth lies somewhere in between.
    I don't own the f/1.8 lens. I do own and frequently use the f/1.4 50mm lens. When you handle it you will be aware that it is not an L lens. However when you shoot with it you will be very happy with its performance. It works very well. It has - as do all lenses, even the expensive L primes - some weaknesses. In terms of optical performance there area two, neither of which is a deal-stopper:
    • At f/1.4 it becomes noticeably softer and has less contrast. It is still quite usable at this aperture when you need it but the image does change. This issue diminishes very quickly when you stop down one stop or less.
    • I shows a bit of barrel distortion. You normally won't even notice it, but you might in certain shots with parallel lines near the edges of the frame.
    That said, again I have to say that I like the performance of this lens a lot and use it frequently.
  11. I'd suggest the 1.8 until you could identify a reason to upgrade to the 1.4 (after you personally use it).
  12. I was in the same position once. 1.8 or 1.4? I considered build quality, the extra stop and price of course. In the end I opted for the safe (save) option and went for the 1.8. I have been very pleased since. I use it on both my 400D and EOS 30 SLR. After much experimenting I found that it worked best at 2.8, which was fine by me. I dropped the lens twice, once on the grass and once on a tiled floor. To my surprise it still worked as usual. I do aspire to own the 1.4 but thinking of other alternatives such as the 85mm 1.8 or the 100mm 2.8.
  13. Wow thanks for the answers guys! My first post i was expecting one maybe two answers if i was lucky. Thanks again
  14. get the 1.8, its $100. Then if you think you need the 1.4, you can buy it later. I originally wanted the 1.4, but bought the 1.8 b/c I came across one for a good price. I have never even lusted for the 1.4 since; I am perfectly content and I saved about $250.
  15. For portrait work, why bother with a 50mm at all? I know they're relatively cheap for the speed, but the effective focal length has always struck me as awkward for portraits, and whatever money you spend on one is money you won't have to put towards a true portrait-length lens.
  16. I think by being stuck, Steve might have misinterpreted it as "not leaving my camera body forever under my own volition", not "somehow physically melded together" stuck. That's what almost happened to mine.
    Just sayin'..... ;)
  17. I had the 50 1.8 briefly, and it and my T1i didn't do a very good job of autofocusing at 1.8. For portrait work you will need to use magnified live view when it is wide open.
    The lens I find most amusing, and that would work for portraits, is the Tamron 60mm f2.
  18. The only reason that my 50/1.4 is stuck on my camera is that I like it so much. I read about those motor problems but haven't had any problems. I chose the 1.4 less for any optical advantage than the fact that it focuses quietly. (Years ago I had an early Nikon AF that I ended up selling and switching back to MF because of the noisy motor.) Be sure to get the hood (sold separately)--it improves image quality in many situations and it protects the delicate lens barrel assembly from shock, which is rumored to be the cause of mechanical failure.
  19. Stephen Cumblidge [Subscriber] , Feb 19, 2010; 03:55 p.m. I had the 50 1.8 briefly, and it and my T1i didn't do a very good job of autofocusing at 1.8. For portrait work you will need to use magnified live view when it is wide open. The lens I find most amusing, and that would work for portraits, is the Tamron 60mm f2.​
    Sorry to be a pedant Stephen but this lens always focuses at f1.8 regardless of the aperture set, it will stop down at the point of exposure. On my XTi it performed fine in Ai mode, or centre AF select & recompose. On my 3 and 7D it rarely needs any help at all.
  20. i had Canon 50mm 1.8 lens for about 5 years (the lens and the body were stolen some time ago) and soon after i got it it became my main and favorite lens. i went on many overseas trips with it, it's been though Thar and Moquegua Deserts, incredibly bumpy bus rides on the Pan-American Highway in South America and equally bad buss rides in India, it's been in snow storms and rainstorms, i dropped it several times - i never had any build issues with it. it feels weak but it's strong enough for many situations. check these out , all with that trusty 50mm 1/8 -
  21. Hi Steve,
    I have the 50mm 1.8, it is sharp, it is a great lens to start with. The build quality is pretty poor, but at this price you cant really complain. I too would like to know where you have heard that this lens can get stuck to the body? I also had the 500D which suits this lens fine. I dont think you can go wrong with this lens.
  22. All objective evidence I know of suggests that the "plastic fantastic" 50mm f/1.8 is at least as tough in actual use as the 50mm f/1.4 lens. It just looks cheap and plastic. Looks can be deceiving.
  23. Lenses are forever. 1.4 is forever.
  24. I agree with what everyone else has said here. For the money you absolutely can non beat the value of the Canon 50 1.8. It is an excellent light durrable low light lens and has saved me in many occasions when my Tamron 28-75 F2.8 failed or my Canon 580 EX had burned up all my batteries. Even as a pro I always keep my trusty 50 in the bottom of my camera bag. It is very sharp and descrete when I don't really want to be noticed. I use it a lot for street photography where I don't really want to have all my expensive gear.
  25. I've owned the 1.8 for about a year and just upgraded to the 1.4. The 1.8 will serve you just great. It's a fantastic lens, and it will take a while for you learn to exploit it. The extra half-stop is nice, but you can get good shallow DOF with the fantastic plastic. Plus, you can dump in on CL for 75 when you don't want it anymore in a year. $25 "rental fee" for a year of using the 1.8 is worth it. Don't spring for the 1.4 yet. Someday maybe. Not today.
  26. Juanita makes a good point that some overlook. Just because you could shoot at f/1.4 doesn't mean that this is the best aperture for portraits. In many cases the DOF will be narrower than you really want wide open, especially if you are shooting close enough to fill the frame. And at f/1.8 it won't be a lot larger! In reality you'll often want to shoot at least a bit smaller with either lens.
  27. I can think of worse problems than having a fast 50mm stuck to my body!
    Seriously, I think Paulo was right. I've read a lot about these lenses, and while I've never read a single report of a mounting problem, I've read many people stating that they never want to use another lens, so the lens is figuratively "stuck" to their camera.
    If you're not sure whether to get a 1.8 or 1.4, then get the 1.8. Don't spend the extra money unless you have a reason to. You won't be shooting many portraits at f/1.4 anyway, but rather at f/2.8 or f/4. At f/1.4, if the eyes are in focus, the nose will be out of focus.
    I have a handful of old, manual, 50mm lenses in both f/1.4 and f/1.8. The only reasons I choose the 1.4 over the 1.8 are if (A) I know I'll be in really low light and can't use a flash, or (B) I want the creative effect of a super shallow depth of field. For anything resembling portrait or candid work in even half decent light, the 1.8's work just fine. The 2/3 stop different isn't really all that big.
  28. I went through this same dilemma about two months a go. After comparing all of the 50mm lenses at SLR Gear there didn't seem to be a major optical a advantage to any of them yet a substantial variation in prices. I opted for the 1.4 Canon because the lens hood is bayonet mount, it has a smooth bokeh and it says Canon on it matching my other lenses. If the threaded hood of the 1.8 doesn't bother you and the name Canon is irrelevant to you, then you are down to a bokeh difference. What are you willing to pay for that?
    Perhaps some of the other members would care to post samples so Steve can see the difference in bokeh.
  29. I had a Sigma 50/1.4 on my 5D very briefly last year. Returned it because it didn't focus properly and I couldn't be bothered to send it to Sigma for calibration. I've had several copies of the Canon EF 50/1.4 and never had any reliability issues with it, but the performance at or near wide open was lacking for me. I would probably go for the 50/1.8 if I needed that focal length today. It's cheap enough that it's easily replaceable if broken or lost, and if both your lens and body are under Canon warranty you have nothing to worry about as far as things getting stuck and/or broken.
    Of course, there's that new Zeiss ZE 50/2 Makro-Planar, but the price is breathtaking, to put it mildly.
  30. If you want a manual focus Zeiss lens get a Contax/Yashica 50 mm 1.7 or the C/Y 50mm 1.4 from KEH or somewhere similar and an adapter form Hong Kong. The C/Y 50 1.7 is one of the best lenses ever made for 35mm photography and it costs less than $200. I shoot a reasonable amount of 35mm film using the C/Y 50m 1.4 on Contax bodies and some digital with an adapter, and many of my favorite photos have been shot using that lens.
  31. They are isolated incidents.
  32. Canon 50mm 1.8 is a modarate lens.But not a WOW lens.
  33. I have had 2 50mm 1.8 lenses over the last 5 years. The first had an electrical problen after I put my bag down a little heavily. The second now has an AF problem in that it can't distinguish between 30' and infinity. No good as most of my work is between 30' and infinity. I have had no problems with image sharpness, colour or contrast. The 50mm 1.8 sharpness is a touch better than the Tamron 17-50 2.8 I now favour and a touch worse than the 85mm 1.8 that I love. I am not going to buy another 50mm 1.8, looking for a more robust lens, maybe the 50mm 2.5 macro. Apart from my problems with robustness the next biggest problem with it is its almost impossible to use manual focussing ring. Yes nice performing lens, cheap, but if only Canon had made it a little stronger for a few $s more.
  34. Get the 1.8 for $70, the one or two internet claims of problems is just plain dog bollocks.
  35. I got the 50mm 1.8 and have had it 2 years with no problems as far as build go. I am not hard on my equipment but it has fallen off the sofa (no damage) I sprained my wrist, it ws a pleasure to use the 1.8 to lighten my load and I like it on my 40D most of the time. 50mm fits my bill. You can't ask for better for 100 dollars. The autofocus is acceptable, not terribly fast, nor terribly slow. The only upgrade that"s worth it to me is the 50mm 1.2L. at more than ten times the price.
  36. The 1.8 will service you just fine and the the savings will allow you to get a number of other accessories as you see fit. Pauls examples are a good place to start.
  37. Just a thought. Save up for the excellent 70-200 f/4L after buying the 50 f/1.8. It cost just a little more than the 50 1.4, and is quite versatile.
  38. Get the 1.8 at Amazon and wait for the $90 price if you can stand to wait (price is usually $100, but it drops). If you don't like the lens, you may be able to return it within 30 days. If not, you can play with it for awhile and then sell it. Even if you list it at a screaming bargain $60 price, it'll only cost you $30 to try out a great lens.
    And yes, if you like it, spend the extra money on flashes or other accessories for portraits.
    Don't worry about the difference in F stop. You likely won't use 1.4 or 1.8 for portraits. The examples in portrait books that I've seen don't go below f/3.5. 1.4 makes for too shallow DOF.
    One criticism of the 50 f/1.8 is the pentagonal bokeh. Personally, I think pentagonal bokeh is wonderful. This picture has it in the upper left. (Taken with the 50mm f/1.8 and Kenko extension tubes (which turn the 50mm lens into a macro lens.) I hadn't quite perfected getting droplets into focus at that time, but it's my most convenient example of the pentagons. They are beautiful and novel and not the least bit distracting, I think. And often you get round lights rather than pentagons, anyway...don't have a convenient example of that, though.)
    Oh, I should also state that many lenses do great portraits. I've seen beautiful shots with the 70-200 f/4 someone mentioned.
  39. If my daughter the photo major has not damaged the 1.8, nothing will. She did, however, manage to damage my 1.4. The 1.8 design is probably less prone to damage than the 1.4. Get the 1.8. See if you need the 1.4. If so, sell the 1.8 at a $30 discount from new and get the 1.4. Not much risk here.
  40. Like most people I've found the 50mm f/1.8 to be a very nice lens, but as mentioned above, if you're wanting to use manual focus, forget it. It is also quite prone to getting dust inside, the report of using it in the desert is quite surprising. Of course you need quite a bit of dust to make it an issue, still I was upset having taken pains to keep it clean. I did eventually get the f/1.4 but never used it enough to give any real opinion on it except it is nice, feels much better, it is not without reprted issues by some though. I'm thinking about getting the new Sigma f/1.4 EX DG HSM (love all those designators), the important thing is it's good and have the equivalent of ring-usm focus motor (HSM). It's huge, but if you already have other 77mm lens this mean you can use your filters without step-up rings. You have to have at least 1 f/1.8 or brighter lens in the bag.
  41. I own 50 1.8 (Mk. I) and so far it's sufficient for my casual needs. It's already good at f/2.8, and I wouldn't hesitate to use it wide open. The only downside is 5-sided defocus from the aperture blade which is ugly sometimes.
    Now if I had $300 or so I would add 85/1.8 or 35/2 instead of upgrading it to 50/1.4.
    Here is an interesting review about 1.8 vs 1.4 by Petteri Sulonen.
    If you don't want to read that long review, I would copy some points:
    1. The 50/1.4 was marginally sharper than the 50/1.8 Mk I up to f/5.6, after which it maxed out the camera; the 1.8 showed some improvement still at f/8.
    2. The 50/1.8 Mk I outperformed my 50/1.4 in one important respect: resistance to veiling. The 1.4 shows a magenta glow that spills over high-contrast edges at 1.4 and 1.8. It vanishes at 2.8. The 35 showed some veiling at 2; gone at 2.8. The 1.8 Mk I showed no veiling at all that I could see at any aperture.
    3. Contrast and color-wise, there was no difference between the lenses that I could discern: all are superb.
    4. Sharpness maxes out at f/5.6 for the 1.4, f/8 for the 1.8.
    5. All three lenses show very even sharpness across the frame at all apertures.
    6. The 1.8 shows significantly more light fall-off than the 1.4 at f1.8.
    7. The 1.4 is a bit of a bitch to focus up to f/2. The mechanism just isn't precise enough to get it exactly on the nose every time -- there was significant variation across the frame. The 1.8 Mk I appeared better, although I shot too few frames to be able to tell for sure.
    And the conclusion:
    The 50/1.8 Mk I is in practical shooting jus' 'bout as good as the 50/1.4. The 1.4's edge in sharpness maybe visible on large prints from about 1.4 to 2.8, beyond that, the differences are insignificant. However, the 1.8's better resistance to veiling goes a long way to make up for this. If you have the Mk I, save your money and don't bother with the 1.4, is my advice (unless silent focusing an RT-M are critical points).
  42. The 50mm 1.8 is a great lens. Unfortunately, in some strange twist of fate, my focus ring on it popped off deeming it unusable. It was most likely due to the fact that I added a wide-angle adapter that was a tad but heavier than the actual lens. Luckily, canon repiared it for no charge, and it's back with me preforming great.
    Get it, it's as sharp as some as my L glass.
  43. My friend's 50/1.8 focusing ring was broken too. In fact it's poorly built and almost unusable. I'm lucky enough to have old Mk-1 with usable focusing ring though I rarely use it. The lens was made 20+ years ago and still serves me well.
  44. It was strange! This nasty damn oil residue was everywhere, but despite that, I still love it so that just goes to show that it must be good for something.
  45. The 1.4 is slightly sharper than the 1.8... But overall use is not that significantly different. The 1.4 is sharp wide open, and 1.8 is a bit soft. But, both are great lenses. A little "secret," - the 1.8 is sharper than some of the L glass lenses at F2.8 :)
    - Joe Alisa
  46. The 1.8 provides just as good quality as teh 1.4 although the 1,4 wil be more flexible and provide a shallower depth of field. Although, the 1.4 build is much more robust than the 1.8 which almost feels tinny.
    If you've got the money, shell out on the 1.4, you won't be dissapointed, the images produced by both are sharp, crisp and because of the fixed focal length the calibration is second to none. Also check out the 80mm 1.8. I recently invested in it and it is a very nice lens. Prime lenses are much better quality than zoom. Let us know how it pans out :)

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