40mm f/2.8 STM vs. the 50mm f/1.4

Started Jun 21, 2012 | Discussions
chironNYC
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modern digital makes large apertures less necessary
In reply to EvokeEmotion, Jun 23, 2012

Yes, I used to love to go for max ap lenses, but in terms of getting the picture, digital sensors have changed the game a bit, which is perhaps another reason Canon is introducing more 2.8 lenses lately.

Given the light sensitivity of cameras like the 5d3 and given FF to get less DOF, there is just less need for very large apertures, which inevitably hurt image quality when they are used.

Please note: I said LESS need; I know there are some very nice pictures that use very large apertures. But the larege apretures are much less necessary than they used to be, and they carry real disadvantages (e.g., size, image quality).

EvokeEmotion wrote:

+1. People get all hung up about a lens' maximum aperture, when they should be looking at its maximum usable aperture. For example, there's not much praise for the 50mm f/1.0's IQ when shot at f/1.0. It's simply terrible. When I had the Canon 50mm f/1.4, I never shot below f/2.2.

Shorthand wrote:

Also, I find that I am almost always shooting the nifty fifty at f/2.5 or f/2.8 because its just so soft and colors aren't there at bigger apertures. f/1.8 and f/2 are pretty much emergency settings to me ... despite the pentagonal bokeh that is in full force at f/2.5 and f/2.8.

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DA photo
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Re: modern digital makes large apertures less necessary
In reply to chironNYC, Jun 23, 2012

I ordered the 40mm because: 1, it is not expensive 2, it fits my full frame 5D 3, It fits my 7D giving 64mm equivilent 4, It fits my NEX 5N with adapter and is small for street. 5, It fits my bag 6. I have a 50 1.8 which gives 75 mm eqivilent on my NEX. I paid 60 bucks for it used for fifteen years ago. It works but I like the 40 focal length better on my crops. I don't use 1.8 much because of shallow dof for a lot of my pictures and my 5N and 5D do quite well at a stop or two higher ISO. The lens performance figures are quite good compared to my Sony kit lens although it is not that bad in the center. I have wanted a pancake at around this focal length for sometime for people and the street. The sony pancake I have is 16 mm that is too wide for most uses. It's good in the center but not so good on the edges.
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Timbukto
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Re: modern digital makes large apertures less necessary
In reply to DA photo, Jun 23, 2012

Focus is not mechanically coupled its fly by wire, you might be dissapointed with it for NEX

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cedrec
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NEX compatibility
In reply to Timbukto, Jun 23, 2012

He can just prefocus on his 7D, then remove the lens from the DSLR and put it on the NEX, moving the camera closer or farther from the subject for fine-tuning.

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DA photo
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Re: NEX compatibility
In reply to cedrec, Jun 23, 2012

I already have an adapter and am using Canon lenses on the NEX 5N and have gotten some good street pictures with it. I was probably manual focusing before you were born. They work fine although the 100-400 looks kind of ridiculous with the 5N attached to it.
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Re: NEX compatibility
In reply to DA photo, Jun 23, 2012

Seriously I have had the NEX 5N for six months and have shot a few thousand pictures with it. I know the camera quite well and as well the lenses. It has what is called focus peaking and it is easy to manual focus. The only drawback that I can see is the same as my EF 50mm 1.8 is that the MF ring is thin and at the end of the lens. There is a local beach boardwalk where I have used the 50 mm with adapter and it takes very sharp well focused pictures. I use the NEX for parties, sports head shots and groups while saving the Canons for action, low light and serious group pictures. So I think the 40mm will work well on what I have. I did weddings with Bronicas and they were MF and in some cases MF works better than AF for me. I use a simple no glass adapter. If you put a Canon lens on a Canon body and simultaneously remove the lens while holding down the depth of field button the aperture will stay at what you set it at and will return to wide open when you re-install the lens to the EOS body. My 50mm has been at f8 for a couple of weeks. Normally when you remove a Canon lens it goes to wide open. This is a little awkward but it beats using a variable aperture adapter and the Conurus adapter is too expensive at 399 dollars for my blood at twice the price of the 40mm.
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CarVac
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Re: NEX compatibility
In reply to DA photo, Jun 23, 2012

Since it's electronically coupled focusing, it'll be like the 85/1.2L or the 50/1.0L or the 200/1.8: you can't make it do ANYTHING on an adapter. Good luck, though.

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DA photo
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Re: NEX compatibility
In reply to CarVac, Jun 23, 2012

oh but I can. I just told how to set the lens aperture to install a Canon lens on the NEX at a selected aperture. I have done it with several of my Canon Lenses including the 100-400. The NEX accepts the manual focus and the camera will set the exposure. All the Canon lens has to have is a manual focus ring. I have done it. There is no IS and no AF. You cannot set the aperture in the normal way but as long as I don't put my 50 mm back on a Canon body it stays at f8. Now, as I said I couid buy a Conurus (metabones) adapter for 400 bucks which will control the exposure and operate IS from the Canon body. No AF. There are adapters you can buy for Canon for about seventy bucks that have external aperture rings but I find for what I want to do a simple dumb adapter works fine. Man, I am getting pictures to prove it. I have a Tamron 17-50 2.8 Canon mount that works the same way and is small enough to look and feel ok on the NEX body. That gives me a low light capability for the NEX that I don't have and I can set any Canon lens aperture on a Canon body and transfer it to the NEX by using the dof adjustment; just to make mysefl clear. A one line post without explanation is not a favorite post for me to reply to.
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DA photo
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Re: NEX compatibility
In reply to DA photo, Jun 23, 2012

I take it all back the 40mm will not work on the NEX. Mea Culpa. I just did some reading. The 50mm works. I will work fine on my other two bodies. I finally got it through my thick head--
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CarVac
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Re: NEX compatibility
In reply to DA photo, Jun 23, 2012

(I wrote a long explanation, but you figured it out.)

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Photomonkey
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Re: 40mm f/2.8 STM vs. the 50mm f/1.4
In reply to Shorthand, Jun 23, 2012

The numbers are nice but the real endorsement for me is that Roger saw real performance from his sample.

I bought three different Canon 50 1.4's and none of them would focus reliably at any distance. I returned them and got a Sigma 50 based on the raves seen here and elsewhere. My copy seemed to be cr@p so I sent in to Sigma repair and they said "Oh, the rear element is loose" . They fixed it and it has been astonishingly sharp since.

I liked the 40 right off even not knowing the performance as the formula is a familiar one and has produced excellent performers at reasonable prices since the 70's. The only reason I did not buy it is because I need f1.4 at that FL.

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absentminded
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Re: 40mm f/2.8 STM vs. the 50mm f/1.4
In reply to Shorthand, Jul 5, 2012

Replying to this thread because it's been a few weeks, and I'm a beginner facing the same question.

I have a 60D. The size difference is nice, but not my primary concern. Here's my understanding so far:

40mm
-Very sharp across the image at wide open (2.8)
-Slightly wider focal length
-$199

50 1.4
-Wider aperture (1.4)
-USM (Micro) for what it's worth
-$369

With taxes, the 50 is nearly double the cost of the 40. Is it really worth that much more/does the 50 1.4 really give me that much more performance?

Speaking in terms of real world performance, what does the 1.4 do for me in low light situations? I mean at usable apertures. It appears that both lenses are nearly equally sharp at 2.8.

Finally, I see a lot of people talk about the 40 not being a good FL for crop sensors. Why is that? Is it because at a 64mm equivalent, it doesn't fall into any of the 'classic' FLs? (e.g. 50, 85?)

Thanks!

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Steve Balcombe
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Re: 40mm f/2.8 STM vs. the 50mm f/1.4
In reply to absentminded, Jul 6, 2012

absentminded wrote:

With taxes, the 50 is nearly double the cost of the 40. Is it really worth that much more/does the 50 1.4 really give me that much more performance?

Speaking in terms of real world performance, what does the 1.4 do for me in low light situations? I mean at usable apertures. It appears that both lenses are nearly equally sharp at 2.8.

Nobody else can really answer that for you, because it so much depends on how you will use the lens. And as a self-declared beginner perhaps you don't know yet. I don't just mean with regard to knowledge, I mean discovering what sort of photography you enjoy.

But f/1.4 is a full two stops faster - that's the difference between shooting at 1/25 and 1/100 for example. It makes a huge difference to depth of field control, and (because the 50 mm lens is also 25% longer) it gives you about 2.5 times as much background blur, all other things being equal.

But interestingly, you say "I mean at usable apertures". I'm not 100% certain what you mean by that, but are you asking what difference the maximum aperture makes if you're using both lenses at (say) f/4? Well, some, but not much. F/2.8 is large enough to get maximum performance from your AF sensors, provided it isn't so dark that you are on the limits of AF operation. F/2.8 is also large enough to get maximum brightness from your viewfinder.

Finally, I see a lot of people talk about the 40 not being a good FL for crop sensors. Why is that? Is it because at a 64mm equivalent, it doesn't fall into any of the 'classic' FLs? (e.g. 50, 85?)

It's simply that many people, myself included, find that they don't use that focal length very much. But once again so much depends on they type of photography you do. Have you done enough with your standard zoom to know which focal lengths you tend to favour? Or to look at it another way, why are you thinking of buying a 40/50 mm lens?

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Shorthand
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Re: 40mm f/2.8 STM vs. the 50mm f/1.4
In reply to absentminded, Jul 6, 2012

Honestly, given what you're writing, I am going to suggest that you get a 50mm f/1.8 (call some pawn shops, I've seen them there for $60) and use that as an introduction to primes in this range. You'll figure our what you want/need based on your experience with the "nifty fifty".

Of course, the 40mm f/2.8 and 50mm f/1.4 are also great lenses, and it won't be a mistake to buy either.

absentminded wrote:

With taxes, the 50 is nearly double the cost of the 40. Is it really worth that much more/does the 50 1.4 really give me that much more performance?

Without a doubt the 50mm f/1.4 at that price is a very good deal and yes it gives you that much more performance.

Speaking in terms of real world performance, what does the 1.4 do for me in low light situations? I mean at usable apertures. It appears that both lenses are nearly equally sharp at 2.8.

When you're on the edge, the definition of "usable" changes to include everything your equipment can do. In low light, you're trading aperture for ISO. The 50mm f/1.4 lets in a massive 4x as much light as the 40mm f/2.8 and is extremely sharp stopped down.

Finally, I see a lot of people talk about the 40 not being a good FL for crop sensors. Why is that? Is it because at a 64mm equivalent, it doesn't fall into any of the 'classic' FLs? (e.g. 50, 85?)

Classic focal lengths are classic for a reason:

  • 50mm-equiv is very similar to how you view a scene.

  • 85mm-equiv puts you far enough away from a full-grown human that their portrait begins to look "natural" ... without any big nose effects, and also 85mm lenses on FF give you good depth of field and excellent background blur.

  • 50mm is about the shortest you can make a symmetrical (double-gauss) lens for a 35mm SLR and 100mm is about as large as you can practically make a symmetrical lens for hand-holding.

So, 64mm-equiv is a bit of an odd focal length with regard to fully-grown humans ... it doesn't put you far enough back for good portraits (without cropping) but is a bit too long to work easily in confined spaces.

I can see it being great for work with kids, though - its a great kid portrait length and also a great length to catch a kid running across the room.

The community has only begun to understand the artistic features and limitations of this new prime.

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