A quick question to those who use a 50mm

Started Jul 5, 2013 | Discussions thread
cpkuntz Senior Member • Posts: 1,003
Re: A quick question to those who use a 50mm

50mm is very versatile, you can capture people in their immediate environment but also take full-body portraits and even waist-up.  35mm is better for really showing people in their surroundings and interacting with other people.  It's good for group portraits but avoid faces with that one.  The 50mm 1.4 from Canon is very sharp at f/2.0 and higher.  It's actually quite sharp at wider apertures, too, but there is a low-contrast veiling haze and quite pronounced light fall-off present at those apertures (f/1.4 to f/2.0 or f/2.8), so it gives the impression of being soft.  The Sigma performs better at wider apertures and has better bokeh.  The Canon 50mm f/1.2L isn't really sharper at wide apertures, but it has dramatically better color and contrast, and the improved microcontrast gives a much better impression of sharpness at wide apertures than other 50mm lenses.  It also goes to f/1.2 which allows use in lower light and has beautiful bokeh.  The 50L at wide apertures is sharp, but not as sharp as the 85mm f/1.2L.  However, at 50mm, it gives the best image quality at apertures wider than f/2.  For narrower apertures, the king of sharpness is really the Zeiss 50mm makro-planar, and that is an option you'll definitely want to keep in mind (although it is manual focus).    In terms of build quality, the order is the same as price:  Canon 50mm f/1.4 < Sigma 50mm f/1.4 < Canon 50mm f/1.2L.  All are good options.

One last thing to keep in mind is that Canon is working on a replacement for the 50mm f/1.4.  It'll probably be sharper at wide apertures than the current model, and it will probably have better build quality, but it will likely be more expensive.  Whether it will match the IQ of the Sigma 50mm is something we'll have to determine when it's released.  I've owned all the non-macro 50mm lenses from Canon (except the 50mm f/1.0L), and I've been happy with all of them but the more you pay the better the lens.  I haven't owned the Sigma, but I've tried it and it falls right between the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and 50L in terms of image quality, and it lies between them in price.  I don't plan on getting another one for a long time.  The 50L is my most-used lens.

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