Who is the King of Fast 50mm Lenses

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by carlos_prado|2, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. I own a Canon 5D Mark II and am looking for a Fast 50mm Lens I can use wide open.
    Unfortunately, it seems that all the f/1.0, 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 lenses are not very sharp at their widest aperture.
    Can anyone suggest a lens between 40mm and 70mm focal length that is really fast, i.e. : f/1.0 to f1.4.
    I need the widest aperture to produce sharp results.
    I don' care if the manufacturer is not Canon or if I have to use a lens adapter.
  2. I once took a moment to enumerate all of the fast primes I know of; here's what I came up with:
    If you need f /1, your only choice is the discontinued, very expensive Canon 50mm f /1 L
    If you can live with f /1.2 , your choices are 50mm f /1.2 L and 85mm f /1.2 L
    If you can live with f /1.4, there are many more lenses available, including:
    Canon 24mm f /1.4 L (version I and II have been made)
    Sigma 30mm f /1.4 (for crop bodies only)
    Canon 35mm f /1.4 L
    Canon 50mm f /1.4
    Sigma 50mm f /1.4
    Zeiss 50mm f/1.4
    Zeiss 85mm f /1.4
    That's the lot. Some are sharper than others, but no lens that fast is perfect wide open.
  3. Many reviews of the Sigma 50mm F1.4 give it a higher rating than the Canon 50mm F1.4 and F1.8 lenses. It is optimized for use wide open.
  4. Sorry double post.
  5. I have the 50 1.2 for two years now. It's taken me up until the last 6 months to get continually good shots. It's really been down to me getting to know the lens's strengths and limitations, but it's not been an easy road to for me to get competent . I have been frustrated at times. But I do really like this lens and the shots I get. It has character.
    • The sharpest fast lens from 40-70mm ever made is probably the Nikon 58mm f1.2 aspherical NOCT Nikkor. The problem is that acquiring this highly sought after lens means waiting for one to come up on eBay, and being prepared to lay down $2000-3000.
    • There's a Canon FD lens similar to the Aspherical NOCT Nikkor, you might get it for $1000 cheaper, but you then have to pay a shop to rebuild the mount as a Nikon or Pentax so you can use an adapter to put it on Canon EOS (yes, I know that's sick, but it's how it works).
    • The next best thing is a Zeiss 50mm f1.4, if you want something modern and pretty easy to get for a reasonable price. Manual focus, stop-down metering, and you need a "focus confirm" adapter.
    • Sigma 50mm f1.4, if you need AF, can tolerate occasionally quirky behavior and Sigma's famous lack of reliability.
    There's the Nikon 50mm f1.4 AF-S G, which is sharper than the double Gauss derived Canon or older Nikon 50mm f1.4, but you can't really use a fast AF-S G effectively on an adapter (even that "twist the whole lens to stop down" adapter typically used for Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 zooms on Canon bodies).
  6. Don't forget the Leica-R 50mm 1.4, third optical version (the one that takes 60mm filters, looks just like version 2 which takes 55mm filters). I'm sure it would cost an arm and a leg, and it would most likely need surgery of some kind to fit on a canon without it hitting the mirror (unlike the previous version) but it is reputed to be one of the nicest 50 1.4's around.
  7. I wouldn't believe what you read. You may well find that the Canon 50 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 are indeed pretty sharp wide open. Not as sharp was when stopped down a bit, but that applies to pretty much every fast lens ever made.
    You may well go crazy trying to get accurate manual focus with an f1.2 lens since the DOF is so small.
    I'd stick with Canon and go for the 50/1.4 or 50/1.2 depending on your budget. I'd also look at the Canon 85/1.2 if 85mm isn't outside your focal length range or the 35/1.4 if that's not too short.
    I can't comment on the optics of the Sigma 50/1.4 since I've never used it. Compatibility and reliability has been an issue with Sigma lenses in the EOS mount in the past.
  8. Joseph
    I paid a considerable sum to purchase the latest version Leica 50mm Summilux-R f/1.4.
    Unfortunately, I soon discovered that its performance at f/1.4 was not what I expected. Leica even has an interesting way of explaining the lackluster performance of the lens wide open; they say it opens up "creative possibilities" at f/1.4. This simply means that it is not very sharp wide open.
    Anyway, I really do want a lens that is optimized for wide open use. You mentioned the Nikon 58mm 1.2 ASPH and an older Canon FD.
    In case I cannot aquire the Nikon 58mm 1.2, would you kindly tell me more about the Canon FD option: Focal lenght, widest aperture, what is the full name of the lens?
    Finally, what is the performance difference, wide open, between the nikon 58mm 1.2 ASPH and the Canon FD? Is it even worth getting the Canon FD? where can I find MTF charts for both? How do they compare with the Leica 50mm 1.4 (latest version)?
  9. I suspect that you are doomed to be dissapointed. All the fast lenses are somewhat "creative" wide open, meaning they are softer and lower in contrast then when stopped down. It's a consequence of spherical aberration which goes up with the square of the aperture (for longitudinal SA) or the cube of the aperture (for transverse SA).
    The Canon 50/1.0 was very "creative" wide open. None of these ultra fast lenses is optimized for use wide open in that they ALL get better when stopped down and they ALL show evidence of SA when used wide open. They are meant for low light and shollow DOF effects, not sharpness.
    I have a Konica Hexanon 57mm f1.2 lens which some say is among the best fast lenses ever made. Wide open it's softer and lower in contrast than it is stopped down.
  10. Yep, looks like you might be chasing that wild goose for a long time ;-) Would you mind telling us why it has to be sharp wide open? What's the intended subject matter?
  11. Easiest and cheapest way is to give the new Sigma 50/1.4 HSM a chance. It's seriously good and designed in different way than traditional normal lenses, your Leica included.
    At least I'd take my chances before tracking down and modifying and adapting an FD lens for $1000+...
  12. A good copy of any of Canon 50s are reasonably sharp if your subject is within the razor thin DOF at F1.0-1.4. Everything else is out of focus. If I get the iris of my subject perfectly focused at F1.2, the eyelash and eyebrow are out of focus. The nose and eyes are a total blur. The reason you shoot at F1.2 is to blur 95% of the picture.
  13. You don't have to go the stopped-down metering route with Zeiss. The Zeiss ZE 50 mm f1.4 does everything that an EOS lens does, except it does not autofocus. The lens will work with the focus confirmation light in the viewfinder, however. And of course there is no image stabilization. Voigtlander announced a 58 mm f1.4 based on a Topcon design in the EOS mount, but it hasn't appeared yet in the US. This lens has received good reviews. Stephen Gandy's cameraquest.com sells Voigtlander lenses, and seems to be the first to get the new lenses in the US, before B&H and Adorama, who also sell Voigtlander lenses. The Voigtlander probably will cost less than the Zeiss, and might perform just as well. Note that the Zeiss ZE and Voigtlander lenses are all manufactured by Cosina in Japan. They all apparently have excellent build quality.
  14. Fast 50mm lenses are really never at their sharpest at their widest aperture, regardless of the brand.
  15. I own the Canon 50mm f/1.0 L. In my experience sharpness isn't a real problem for this lens wide open (and I expect for the others as well) because:
    1. DOF is very thin so the area that could be sharp isn't really that big.
    2. Sharpness wide open is less than stopped down, but this is relative to the same lens. If you would compare it to a stopped down zoom lens at 50mm I'm sure you wouldn't call it soft.
    3. Shooting with any of these lenses (wide open) produces images with so much other qualities that sharpness is only a minor trade-off.
  16. Carlos,
    While all the Leica marketing speak sounds BS, it isn't really. This is what a wide aperture lens does. It is all about bokeh and only a little about sharpness. If you want a 50mm f1.4 lens to be able to take a shot at infinity and get the same resolution as that same lens at f5.6 you will be disappointed. I do not think there is really a lens that can do that - The Summilux-R that you have is certainly one of the finest (as is the M ASPH version). The FD version is surely just a predecessor to the current L 50mm, and probably not so good (although I am sure it has "creative" bokeh). Have you tried the original f 1.0 L lens?
    Certainly it is true that the current 50/1.2L does not seem to have scored a home run with testers.
  17. currently, a good copy of the sigma 50 1.4. there are good indications canon has a new 50 1.4 in the works -- probably will trump the sigma.
    for me, (i can't deal with sigma [or any indie optics]) the canon 1.4 or 1.2 are fine.
    that said, i'm impressed by the sigma's contrast and (they say) it's a tad sharper wide open
    all in all, new short primes from canon are plenty overdue
  18. Carlos,
    “Fast wide-open” and “sharp” are mutually contradictory.
    Fast lenses are useful for two purposes: to capture a picture — any picture — in very dark conditions; and to create images with a very shallow depth of field.
    In the former case, you have two choices: use available light and live with a soft picture; or add light so you can stop the lens down for sufficient sharpness. There is no third option.
    In the latter case, you can pick a very narrow plane of focus, ideally near the center of the frame, that you can make “acceptably sharp.” But the plane of focus may well be so narrow that the pupil is sharp but the iris isn’t, which leads to all sorts of practical problems.
    If your primary goal is sharp pictures, what you want is the Canon 50mm f/2.5 compact macro. It still gives a very shallow depth of field at f/2.5, plenty enough for all but the most extreme uses of selective focus. And it trumps all the other lenses in image quality.
  19. Kinda surprised no one has mentioned the Coastal Optics 60mm.... While not a "fast" lens, it should certainly perform ...
  20. This is not a test but here are some samples from my 50mms. All jpeg at ISO200 @f/2 in manual focus, window light
    Nikon 50mm 1.8
    Takumar 50 1.4
    Pancolar 50 1.8
  21. Carlos, the FD lens referred to is the FD 55/1.2 SSC Aspherical. Here's a link to Leica guru Erwin Puts' endorsement of it: http://www.imx.nl/photo/optics/optics/page81.html.
    If you don't need infinity focus, you can use the lens with an inexpensive glassless FD-EOS adpter and suffer no loss of IQ. A cheaper, easier-to-find FD alternative is the later 50/1.2 L, which is also very good wide open and considered by some to have a little better bokeh than the 55/1.2 Aspherical.
  22. Of course you could always try the Canon 50mm f0.95 or the Leica Noctilux M 50mm f0.95 ASPH, shut right down to f1.4 or f1.8 they shoud be pretty good. More seriously the Leica 50mm Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH has a pretty good reputation if you can find an adaptor. All these are, of course, going to cost an arm and a leg.
  23. It's relatively easy to build a very good fast 50mm (in terms of wide-open sharpness at the center). But it's extremely difficult to build one that's great (in terms of wide-open sharpness in the corners without much distortion). Few companies do it as well as Leica in their M lenses, but those don't work on SLRs!
    Basically, there is no perfect solution, at any price, for an SLR. So you'll have to do some homework and decide what's important (center sharpness, corner sharpness, 1.4 vs 2.0, AF vs MF, willingness to keep buying and returning lenses until you get a good sample, etc.)
    For example, the Zeiss 50/2 Makro Planar is sharper at f 2.0 than just about any other 50mm SLR lens is at f 2.0, regardless of the other lenses' maximum aperture (1.2, 1.4, etc.) and the M-P probably has less CA than any other fastish 50mm lens. But if you really "need" 1.4, you'll have to settle for something less sharp and with more CA than the Makro Planar.
    For another example, the Sigma 50/1.4 is definitely sharper than the Canon 1.4 wide open when using best examples of both. But the Sigma's reputation for quality control, focus accuracy, etc. is not good. So if you buy the Sigma, make sure you unwrap it carefully, mount it carefully, and have no-hassle return privileges (so the retailer can sell the stinky copy to someone else?).
    Sites I find helpful when weighing various lenses' comparative sharpness:
    For instance, here's t-d-p's comparison of the 50mm EF 1.2 and the EF 1.4, both at 1.4 (mouse over to see the 1.4 lens). You can see from the bottom third of the chart that corners are extremely soft for both.
    SLRlens review
    You have to be flexible, for example with Voigtlander and Zeiss checking out results of Nikon tests at photozone since they didn't test the Canon mount but the optical formula is supposed to be the same. Ditto for APS-C vs FF; a lot of test sites have tested lenses primarily in the smaller format and if you care about corners on FF that's not much help so you have to guess a bit.
    Not that any fast 50mm lens will do well in the corners wide open on full frame...
  24. In my mind, the real champ in terms of price, optics, and build quality is then Voigtlander 58mm 1.4 lens. You can judge for yourself if the Nikon-mount review on photozone (http://www.photozone.de/nikon--nikkor-aps-c-lens-tests/360-voigtlander-nokton-58mm-f14-sl-ii) makes this the top contender.​
    I am not sure you can really say this. The test at Photozone was on a D200 APS-C camera (D200), so not all that helpful for FF users, also with a lot fewer MP than on the current FF Canons. Even then it said:
    The Nokton was able to produce good to superb resolution figures under lab conditions. Unsurprisingly the lens shows the weakest performance at f/1.4 - the center resolution is already very good here but the borders are soft.​
    So OP may not be happy. Someone did say though that this lens will be available in EOS mount soon. I like Voigtlander, but have to reserve judgment as of now.
  25. I'd say it's the Leica Noctilux 50/0.95. Of course at 10 grand it's pretty unaffordable, but on sheer performance, I don't think there is any other lens to touch it, especially wide open where Leica lenses shine. Focus carefully ;-)
    You could make a pretty good case that the 1 stop you gain from the Canon 50/1.4 is meaningless, and you would normally be right. It's a specialist lens.
  26. Besides considering the correction of optical aberrations (chromatic, spherical, etc.) also look at the degree of field curvature the lens has as this can affect edge sharpness as well. Test carefully as many fast 50's as you can or at least make sure you have return priveleges for any lens you buy. Also consider used lenses too. On more that one occasion Popular Photography (and likely other photo magazines) have done comparison tests of 50mm lenses, but at wide apertures variantion among samples could affect the outcome of the tests so don't put too much faith in tests. Rather read tests for a starting point if evaluating lenses.
    My pick(s)- If sharpness is of utmost importance then avoid any lens that requires an optical element type converter to reach infinety focus. For economy, the EOS 50mm f1.8. Or maybe go with the 50mm f1.4 but limit it to f2. Every f1.4 lens I've ever owned or borrowed always performed better when stopped down to f2. You would have to make your own tests.
  27. Carlos,
    I'm not a Canon shooter, so I can't comment directly on these lenses specifically. I would like to point out something that many people overlook including the lens testers themselves. In order for any lens to be a "fast" lens, it must be able to gather alot of light. In a really low light situation, this may not be a problem. However in most situations, this translates into flare which is why the lens seems soft at the low aperture. Light is getting scattered everywhere inside the lens causing the image to be slightly diffused. The CURE for this is a good lens shade. I don't mean the petal shade that came with the lens. I mean a good one such as lindahl (an accordian or compendium shade). This will transform the lens to a completely different breed. Contrast is vastly improved as is color accuracy.
    So, the real problem with these lenses isn't poor optical formula, it is really inadequate shading of the lens. Are you listening lens testers!
    By the way, there are many Canon shooters who have Pentax primes on the front of their cameras via an adapter.
  28. I have the same body and I regularly use a Zuiko 50/1.4 made for the OM system as well as a 55/1.2. I use them mounted on a converter and they work flawlessly. I love the images I get from my 1.4
  29. Like others have said, the search for such a lens is futile.
    Why not stand further back from your subject and use the 135mm f2.0L wide open? That is one razor sharp lens.
    Alternatively, use the 50mm f1.4 at f2 to get the desired sharpness and then Photoshop the bokeh a little further using the lens blur filter.
  30. gbs


    I hope this is not redundant ...Leitz 50 mm 1.4 wetzlar Germany
    I put it on my 21 mgpix canon ...like a tack
  31. I would suggest getting a Holga, and shooting with it exclusively for a few months. Then go back to your Canon. All of your existing Canon lenses will suddenly be much, much sharper!
  32. I agree with Mr. Atkins on this one. I believe the original intent by the lens manufacturer designing an f/1, f/1.2, f/1.4, etc., was to provide a brighter viewfinder for use in low light conditions. I don't think they meant for the maximum aperture to be used except perhaps creatively. The old rule of thumb for most any lens' best performance is 2 stops from the maximum or minimum aperture. Just my ¢¢.
  33. I believe the original intent by the lens manufacturer designing an f/1, f/1.2, f/1.4, etc., was to provide a brighter viewfinder for use in low light conditions.​
    Sorry Steve, but that is not technically possible. Viewfinder brightness is limited by the "scattering angle" of the ground glass. Typical modern ground glass has a 10 degree scattering angle. That's why when you have an f1.4 lens, stop down to f2.8, and hith the DOF preview button, the DOF and brightness don't noticealby change. Older cameras were closer to 20 degrees, which is fine for an f2.8 or even f2.0 lens, but an f1.0 and f1.4 lens look exactly the same on the viewfinder, no difference in brightness or DOF.
  34. The most effective way to have a sharp, fast 50 wide open is to change platform to the Leica M9 and use the superb 50/1.4 ASPH.
    Not only do you get the best 50 wide open, but you also get inherently sharper images because there is no AA filter.
    Of course, above ISO 1250, the Canon FF sensor will cope with noise more effectively.
  35. Sharp and wide open always lead to problems with what you perceive as sharp. I recently put a Canon 50mm 1.4 up for sale at a local shop and bought a Sigma 1.4 from the classifieds at another site. I could do that because in the great scheme of things, the 50mm lens is not as important to me as longer or wider lenses in my little arsenal of glass.
    I believe I lucked out, however. I'll include one of my first tests. Shooting my reluctant wife under fluorescent light and having to do an unsatisfactory color correction, still the ISO 500 image is sharp on the crease of the upper eyelid--that's how limited the depth of field can be at portrait and closer.
    This Sigma lens will perform at 1.4, but you have to take care. Live view focusing will probably be required for essential work--I'm just saying. I will not complain about this one at any aperture, it surprises me with its quality every time I use it.
  36. I'm getting forgetful--The Camera was a 5DM2.
  37. leica is the king even know am canon shooter a got to admit. leica sweep all those lenses above
  38. My pref for Canon mount lens for subject would be 85 1.2L. The color it captures is REALLY vibrant especially when you use it in a 1V with good films like Provia 400. It is only the weight that minus a lot of my rating points to it, not to mention that the focusing is rather slow. Leica's Noctilux is by far the best fast lens I have ever used. I am not judging it from a collector's point of view but a portrait photographer's - only that we are talking about Canon lens that I will choose to cease commenting that's all.

Share This Page