Bad rap on Canon 50 1.4

Started Nov 10, 2012 | Discussions thread
Senior MemberPosts: 2,783
It's not bad optically for the relatively cheap price
In reply to Searching, Nov 11, 2012

The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is relatively inferior to some L lenses optically at wider apertures.  Halation and contrast at f/1.4 are truly terrible.  However, this is a case of "you get what you pay for", in my opinion. I've typically thought of it as a lens to use mostly at f/2 and narrower and used it that way, only resorting to f/1.4 under certain conditions and usually as a last resort.  Using it in this way, I have no major complaints optically.

However, it really doesn't have good build.  I used to feel that people were over-reporting the problems with the lens's micro USM clutch failing, until it happened to me.  While the build of the lens feels acceptable for the price, the hidden Achilles's heel of this lens makes that somewhat deceptive: not too bad in use, but essentially a ticking time bomb, with eventual repair costs possibly adding on to the total lifetime costs of ownership.

In addition, the autofocus of that self-same micromotor USM is simply not as good as on my other USM lenses.  While I find that the f/1.4 focuses faster than the f/1.8 and more accurately, especially in lower light, it's not as fast or accurate as, say, the 85 f/1.8 with its ring USM.

I would suspect that what will happen is that Canon will eventually go down to two lenses in the current lineup at 50mm.  I expect a refresh with IS at either f/1.8 or f/2, combining the f/1.4 and f/1.8 so as not to impact the L-series sales while still offering a consumer-grade lens.  I expect it will have ring USM and cost a bit more than the f/1.4 currently does.  Probably not at the same time but a bit later, I expect a refresh of the 50L which will update it optically and improve the autofocus, at least on newer bodies.

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