What's the best 50mm lens for a Rebel

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by markboyer, May 17, 2009.

  1. If price was no object, what is the absolute best straight 50mm lens for an XTi? It doesn't have to be by Canon. Ev en a lens that requires an adapter is acceptable. Thanks for all input.
  2. Depends.
    If you mostly produce small prints and perhaps share on the web and shoot "typical" subjects with this short telephoto focal length, the EF 50mm f/1.8 will be just as good as any of the others.
    If you want a lens with slightly better build quality and the ability to go a half stop larger with some loss in contrast and sharpness, but get a lens that produces very fine image quality at f/2 or so an smaller apertures, it is hard to imagine why you would not regard the EF 50mm f/1.4 as the best option. Lot's of "serious" photographers rely on it.
    If you are a macro shooter you might consider the 50mm f/2.5 macro, though you might also then be looking at the EFS 60mm macro instead.
    There is an extremely expensive, large, and somewhat finicky EF 50mm f/1.2 lens - but this is very much a specialty lens and it is unlikely that you would gain anything from using it.
    Why do you want a 50mm prime?
  3. Well, it depends on what aspect of the lens's performance you're after. Do you want it to auto-focus? If you don't mind manual focus (which isn't much fun with a smaller viewfinder), then look to Zeiss, perhaps.

    Are you particularly interested in the bokeh (the out-of-focus area rendering) when isolating a subject against a background you want to nicely blur? Consider Sigma's 50/1.4 HSM - also very good in terms of distortion, CA, and focusing speed.

    Canon's 50/1.2 seems pretty swell, too, at well over twice that lens's price.

    But "best" is highly subjective, because it really does depend on what you're shooting, and on your style and priorities. Is it important to keep it very small and light? Then you won't like the Sigma or that super-fast Canon, and will trade off size and weight by looking at a 50/1.8... but pay a different price in terms of robustness of build, and bokeh and flare behavior. So, do tell more about how you intend to use it. That will make a difference - even ignoring the price issue.
  4. I should have added: "Absent some specific information about what you are trying to accomplish with the lens, there is no meaningful answer to the 'which is best' question."
  5. I guess I should have been more specific. I'm looking to get better resolution primarily on close-in shots (but not macros). I've been shooting the skeletons of dead Saguaro cactuses. I want to crop those images from 20 to 40% and then enlarge the final image to approximately a 24" to 28" width for printing. I'm not getting the resolution I need with the Canon EF 70-200 f/4 L USM or Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II.
  6. 60mm f/2.8. It's sharp as hell.
  7. Even the 60mm f/2.8 isn't doing it for me once I enlarge the TIFF file.
  8. I don't understand your reasoning. The 60mm f/2.8 macro is about as high-res as you are going to get out of this system. If you need more resolution, the problem isn't the lens, its:
    1. Camera system / format - larger sensor, more MP, or something completely outside of 35mm format (MF or LF).
    2. User error - tripod, mirror lockup, cable release, proper f/stop, etc.
    Talking about cropping a 1.6X body image from 20-40% and then printing at 28" wide, I can tell you right away that you are doing way more than the system itself can support. That will get you usable results from a far enough viewing distance, but if you need tack-sharp 300dpi printing at 28" wide, then you are going about it in completely the wrong way, period. Besides which, why crop in the first place? Why not pick a more appropriate perspective and focal length to begin with and use as much of the frame as possible? That will make a much greater difference than switching lenses (and as I said, you're already using one of the sharpest lenses Canon makes, definitely sharper than any of the 50mm lenses).
    If you are dead set on using a Rebel and printing as high detail at 28" as possible, I can make one suggestion. Make it a pano. I assume this subject is long and skinny - shoot multiple exposures with the longest axis of your frame oriented along your subject's shortest axis (maximum resolution), and combine the images in post-production. Then you can print a super-high detail image at sizes even greater than 28" long axis.
  9. If you could avoid having to crop the image by 20% to 40% before making the enlargement that would probably give you more of a boost in quality than any amount of money you can sink into a better lens that the 60/2.8 macro or 50/1.8.
  10. Gabriel,
    You are undoubtedly right. I can say that user error isn't the issue here (though it usually is in most other aspects of my life). Part of the problem is that I've been shooting the saguaros from too far away because they are behind barbed wire fences. But I know I've got to get in closer (so I'll be buying work boots, gloves, and heavy-duty fence-climbing pants) so I can get exactly what I want in the original image and thus won't have to crop. But my expert advisor also thinks a prime lens may help as well.
  11. You may want a Canon 1DS MK3 with a Sigma 70mm macro (ie: . You can crop that about 45%, and still left with about the same number of pixel as the XTi.
  12. Hi again Mark,
    The 60mm macro is a prime lens :) (and as I already said, sharper than any of the 50mm lenses).
    Best of luck,
    -Gabriel L.
  13. Gabriel,
    You're right again. I don't know what I was thinking except that a macro lens probably wasn't what I wanted since the subject-matter area was broader than what a macro conventionally is. Does that make sense? I am old and losing brain cells at a frightening pace. I did get the best results with that lens but there wasn't enough of what i wanted in the image.
  14. In my view, you are pushing the boundaries of cropped sensor resolution at those print sizes. I know that "maximum print size" is a subjective and relative thing, but if you are regularly making prints that large I think that full-frame would make sense.
    Of course, it is also critical to maximize the quality of every step of the process from capture to print if you hope to push cropped sensor (or even FF) to such sizes on a regular basis:
    • Use a tripod.
    • Use mirror lockup
    • Use a remote release
    • Focus very carefully and perhaps double-check the accuracy of your AF system
    • Consider carefully your aperture choice. On crop you do not want to stop down beyond f/8 if you are printing this large since diffraction blur will decrease resolution. A slightly larger aperture may be better depending upon the lens and your need to get sufficient DOF.
    • Shoot RAW
    • Learn how to do fairly sophisticated sharpening in post. There are a number of ways to do this. My system combines an initial smart sharpen layer and an unsharp mask layer. Then I do a final output sharpening process on the flattened file for printing to compensate for the fact that ink spreads on the paper. (And it doesn't spread the same amount for all types of paper...)
    If you do plan to print this large from crop, your technique for shooting, post, and printing must be very, very good. You'll have a bit more leeway with FF.
    There is no reason that I can think of to get a 1DsM3 for what you are shooting. A 5DII should be as good or better for this. But don't go spending money on that - or lenses - until you are certain that you have optimized the rest of the process.
  15. Gabriel,
    You continue to be right. I do everything you outline (tripod, remote release, raw, etc.) and have been for awhile now. I use a number of sharpening tools and utilities, and of late I have been oversharpening to try and get what I want, knowing it won't work. My lens question was my last shot before confronting the possibility of a 5D, which I really can't afford.
  16. Some Leica's or Zeiss' 50mm (Summicron 2.0 for example) are probably the best 50mm one can get. With an adaptor, many of them can be used on Canon, even with AF confirmation. However, the new Zeiss' 50mm ZE is on par with Canon's F1.4 base on some prelminary reviews.
  17. For a given focal length and aperture, once the lens exceeds the Nyquist frequency of the sensor, it no longer becomes a limiting factor for the resulting sharpness of the image. In fact, one might say that the lens need only approach this limit before the sensor resolution becomes the predominant factor in sharpness.
    Most primes will hit that limit easily at f/8 in the center of the image, even on a high-resolution APS-C sensor. The question then becomes this: if you cannot further increase the resolution of the lens + body, how do you get additional sharpness?
    Three basic criteria are required for sharpness:
    1. Resolution of the imaging system at chosen settings
    2. Subject and system must be still for the duration of the exposure
    3. Proper illumination of a subject which possesses contrast.
    The only thing you can still change are the settings of the system. This means you need to get closer to your subject or increase the subject magnification. Ideally, you would want to use a long prime lens, maybe 100/2 or perhaps longer, stopped down to somewhere around f/5.6 to f/8, no further as diffraction starts to become significant. In fact, I would venture to say that for a high pixel density sensor, diffraction may become a problem as early as f/8, as the size of the Airy disk at a given aperture must be evaluated in the context of the size of an individual sensing element.
    So my recommendation is to use a longer focal length to increase subject magnification, otherwise you are simply wasting available resolution as you crop down. The drawback is that you must be more judicious and disciplined in your composition. Almost always, if you can't get close enough to your subject to frame it to the desired size, the next best solution is to use a longer focal length, not try to get more sharpness at the focal length you are currently at, then attempt to crop.
    Another possibility to gain even more sharpness in your situation is to use an extreme telephoto prime, say in the 200-400mm range, and take images of the subject in sections. Then stitch the images together using a panoramic application like hugin, which can also help restore a rectilinear perspective. The result can be quite impressive if you do it right. But I suspect that this option may be too expensive. Perhaps a few rentals might show you what is possible?
  18. "Gabriel,
    You continue to be right."
    That last post was Dan's, not mine, but thanks anyway? ;-)
    FWIW I would suggest trying the panorama idea before spending money on new equipment. You cannot use it all the time, but for the occasional large print of a long narrow subject it can work well.
  19. My thanks to everyone.
  20. To get a better image quality you need to:
    1) use a lens with a focal length that avoids you needing to crop by 20-40 per cent. This could be the EF 100 f2.8 macro or EF 180 f3.5 macro.
    2) Use a larger format with more megapixels. This could be a 5D mark II or medium format digital.
    This of course assumes you are already using a rock solid tripod, cable release and mirror lockup.
  21. The answer entirely depends on your definition of "the best". Is that sharpness, AF-speed, build-quality, contrast and color reproduction, price to performance ratio, minimum focus distance, maximum aperture ...
    For my definition of "the best", it is either the EF 50/1.2L or the EF 50/2.5CM.
  22. can you provide an example of the photos you're making?
    might help us visualize the situation you face
    rather than cropping a 50mm, perhaps a long, sharp prime ( 85 / 135 etc) would fit the bill?
    you've mentioned budget, but haven't given an exact price range you're ok with - that would help too
  23. Leica Summicron R 2/50mm would be the best, but not the cheapest. Zeiss also make great lenses but they have a different look.
  24. 28" is much for a 10 MP picture as soon as you look at the pciture at unusually short viewing distances. This is probably the case if you look at your TIFFs on your PC monitor. At "normal" viewing distance (the whole picture in your visual field) the image quality should be ok with your equipment as long as there is no error in upscaling the image.
    If you intend to produce an extremely detailed 28" picture for close view, the resolution of your camera is the problem. The cheapest way to improve resolution (I assume the cactusses will not move) is to shoot several smaller images (with a longer lens or closer distance) and stitch them together. This is done easily with the PhotoStitch software that came with your camera. A bit cumbersome to shoot and the final composition is not visible while shooting...
  25. 1st choose should be Canon 1.2L, excellent in every aspect.
    The other 50s got some problems (little or big) that i'll try to summarize:
    Canon 1.8 : 5 non rounded blades, the bokeh is not so nice. No usm and no full time focus. Colors are a bit washed and the response to flare is terrible. Pro: sharper than Nikkor 1.4 and 1.8(@90€), usable since f2.2-2.5~, excellent in the 3.5-8 range.
    Canon 1.4 : 8 non rounded blades, pleasing bokeh, still not perfect. Almost unusable full open (same as 1.8), similar to the 1.8 but with more accurate and saturated colors, better flare response.
    Sigma 1.4 : optically fantastic, usable even at 1.4, pleasing bokeh (maybe some "onion-ring" full open), low vignetting, low CA etc.... 1 big problem, focus accuracy. Even at "normal" focusing distances (meters) u'll notice front/back focus problems, in many reviews it's written that 60/70% of the photos were trashed due to this problem.
    I'll say Canon 1.2, Canon 1.4. The best at all and the best price/performance.
    Best regards, Luke :)
  26. Your XTi cannot show you the difference between a $100 50mm lens and a $3000 50mm lens! It simply cannot resolve the light that the $3000 lens would be giving it.
    Your minimum requirements would be a 50D, 5DII, or 1DsIII. Even then you may not be happy with the kind of image size you are talking about. These sizes are typically left for medium format and large format film, let alone even medium format digital!
    Once you upgrade your body, and I highly suggest renting one first, then you will start to see the limitations of your lenses and start thinking about which $1000 to $3000 lens to get for this kind of magnification.
    Check this discussion just below: http://www.photo.net/canon-eos-digital-camera-forum/00TNye
  27. 1st choose should be Canon 1.2L, excellent in every aspect.​
    The reflexive response that the biggest and most expensive lens is always the "best" lens does not suggest a lot of photographic sophistication. In this case the f/1.2 would almost certainly not solve the OP's problem.
    "Rounded blades" are completely irrelevant to the OP's issue. The "color" difference claims you make are at a minimum way overstated and in reality pretty silly. And so on...
  28. Get, purchase, borrow or steal a Hasselblad 80mm or 100mm lens. Then purchase a canon to hasselblad lens adapter (Ebay for about $30 shipped from China). You will be amazed at the sharpness you can get from this lens. Note, just make sure you shoot at f5.6 or f/8.
  29. I'm perplexed by these responses saying get a Summicron or a Hasselblad or an f/1.2L or whatever. The lens is only one part of what makes an image sharp. If you don't have a sensor (be it film, digital, or a square of cardboard) that can register that super sharp light that passes through some magical $3000 lens you just got, then you may as well be using a pinhole.
    Please, for those of you who did not consider this basic fact, for your own sake go back and reread my previous post.
    A lot of photographers dismiss the study of optics because it's too technical or far removed from the art of making pictures. In some sense, they're absolutely right. But ignorance of the underlying physics is what leads to erroneous claims and recommendations when it comes to driving the desired result, which in turn leads to wasted money and frustration. You don't have to have tack sharp pictures or equipment to make great photos. But you do have to understand how one's equipment choices influences the resulting image.
  30. Get a decent medium format camera and get the film scanned at a good lab. You will have more than enough pixels then. Bronicas and Mamiyas are available for a couple of hundred dollars these days and both have excellent optics.
  31. Have you consitered using Genuine Fractals to help up-res from your sensor?
  32. Answering to G Dan, my post is about the original question, you can find samples about all the things i've said even here in photo.net, http://www.photo.net/equipment/canon/ef50/
    It's my simple opinion but differences are heavy, i've got the 1.8mkII .
    I've not said that the 1.2L should be the best 'cause i presume it, i've said "should be" becouse it IS the best lens in this group of 4, but it costs a lot.
    About Mark's problem, i'm also for the macro-panorama; i've got both the 60 macro and the 70-200 4L, shooting a single photo with the 60 doesn't return a better photo than one taken with the L, the only advantage is in the focusing distance.
    A collage of macro will return an outstanding resolution, but due to the difficulty about setting up a similar environment i'll go for a single-way panorama, shooting in vertical as Gabriel wrote before...
  33. You've already gotten a lot of (conflicting advice), so perhaps I can vote for which to take to heart.
    G Dan Mitchel has emphasized technique -- fill the frame with what you really want and make sure what you get is sharp. That's really good advice. You're pushing to the very limit of what your camera can do, and to get to the limit you need to shoot with utmost care. Even then, the result might be questionable, but at least you're giving yourself the best chance short of changing ALL the equipment involved.
    Peter Wang's advice is also quite good -- since you're right at the limit of what your sensor can handle, you need to use the lens at its optimum aperture. The possibility of a panorama is also reasonable -- people tend to think of them primarily for large landscapes, but they work perfectly well to increase resolution of smaller, closer subjects as well.
    There's also a reasonable point to be made in favor of just using a larger sensor. That could be either a full-frame digital like the 1DSIII or the 5DII, or it could be a medium format camera (film or digital). If you only need a few specific pictures, renting might well make sense.
    One last note that's actually from me: even if you DO decide to use something with a larger sensor to increase resolution, you'll need fairly careful technique. It might be marginally less critical, but higher resolution won't help much if the camera moves during the exposure or the lens is set to an aperture where its resolution is poor. Any one of the relevant factors (lens sharpness, camera movement, sensor resolution) can limit the sharpness. You can't do much about sensor resolution, but your job is to ensure the others are good enough that the sensor really is the limiting factor.
  34. I've not said that the 1.2L should be the best 'cause i presume it, i've said "should be" becouse it IS the best lens in this group of 4, but it costs a lot.​
    I fail to see why the very expensive 50mm f/1.2 L "IS the best lens in this group" for the OP's described use. There would be absolutely no functional (e.g image quality) advantage in using the f/1.2 L rather than any of several of the other options for the type of photograph he describes, shot using the camera he owns .
    "Best" is a relative term in photography, not an absolute one - at least in the majority of cases. If you need to shoot macro, then a f/1.2 prime is not best. If you need super narrow DOF and gigantic maximum aperture, a f/2.5 macro prime is not best. If you need focal length flexibility a prime is not best. And so on...
  35. Recently I did something similar to what you are trying. I saw a butterfly going from flower to flower. I only had one lens so I had to crop a lot to get the image I wanted (at least as much as you are doing). The lens I used was a 100-400 (at 400mm) at F7.1 and 1/650 second (if I recall correctly) hand held. My camera is a 5D MkI (12.8MP full frame). Focus distance was at its minimum which is about 6 feet. In the final image the butterfly came out very sharp without any post processing sharpening applied to the raw photo. In some of the images I got you can actually make out scales on the wings.
    In short I am in agreement that you need a good telephoto lens. Preferably one long enough to elliminate the need for cropping and mounted on a tripod. Use a tripod, set the lens to F8 and use a resonably high shutter speed to completely elliminate vibration concerns. Make sure there is nothing between the lens and the subject, even if it is completely blurred out it could significantly soften the image. You might also want to remove any filters (polarizers or UV) from the lens. Make sure the focus is correct and if necessary use manual focus.
  36. For me if price is no object the absolute best straight 50mm lens for an XTi is the 50mm 1.2L. In my experience in cheap canon bodies you can see (in everyday practice) huge difference in Image Quality if you use "L" primes, also in focusing accuracy.
  37. If the 50/1.8 or 70-200/4 @ f8 ain't getting it for you, I don't think anything will. I have both the 5D and XTi myself and wouldn't consider printing much larger than 16x20. I'm even hard pressed to recommend printing medium format film much larger than that.
    I regard film as printable at 8x for color and maybe 10x for b&w. For 24" or 28" wide prints and no expense spared, I'd go with a 4x5 field or press camera wearing a 150mm or 210mm lens, and exposing Provia 100F or some 100 speed b&w which would then be professionally drum-scanned and printed.
    Don't get me wrong, I consider a digital resolution of about 3000x4500 to be a sweet spot, the place were viewing distance and image size scale very well together, i.e. 10" viewing distance for 10"x15", 16" for 16"x24", etc. It's just that for optimum image quality, 240-300 pixels per inch is needed in order to stand up to examination at 10"-12". If that type of scrutiny is needed here, there is no replacement for a large exposure surface.
    These days, medium format digital can get you there too, but the expense is extreme, in the 10's of thousands of dollars.
    Indeed, with wisely chosen components, the price of a EF 50/1.2 might get you a 4x5 camera, a lens and some holders.
  38. 50D/500D + 60/2.8 + tripod + RAW.
    Happy shooting,
  39. If the subject is not moving then you can use super resolution to overcome the MTF response of your sensor, (up to the MTF of the lens). Or you can use a longer focal length and combine multiple shots. I've used a standard 50mm 1.8 and got near to 2x resolution -- proabably the equivalent of about 30 Mpix worth from my 40D (using PhotoAcute). YMMV
  40. Alan,
    PhotoAcute is new to me. I downloaded the test version and played with it. It does seem to help with sharpness better than most utilities I'm aware of, but the resulting images are truly gigantic. I assume most folks crop them down. Or can you reduce them using the -9% method?
  41. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is nice. Very good lens, solid, quick, quiet, fast, great in low light.....around $499
    As good as you can get without going to the Canon 50mm f/1.2 at over $1000 and I am not sure the more you get is really worth the added cost, the Sigma is that good.
    Unless you got money to blow so you can have bragging rights " I got Canon's best L Glass"(nothin wrong with that, don't take it the wrong way f/1.2 owners), the Sigma is a great lens, great glass and can be used professionaly knowing you are using a quality lens. No regrets my friend it is the one I use for portrait work. Love this lens.

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