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Canon EF 50mm 1:1.8 II Review

It is Canon's cheapest lens available today.  It costs Rp 900.000,00 or about USD 78 including tax.  It was so cheap that even no one using digital review it on the internet (correction, I've found some reviews about this lens on dpreview and other websites), the EF 50mm f/1.8 II turns out to be very useful. 

  • It's actually a normal lens, however used on 1.6x camera it becomes an 80mm sissy tele, but again remember, this is not a real tele. 

  • Semi hood design, the glass is located more than 1 cm inside lens's barrel, and the barrel moves with the glass when focusing therefore protecting it from stray lights.  This results in a good ghost and flare performance.  My test did not manage to show any ghosts or flares.

    • This is the chandelier in our dinning room, brightly lit by several light and its crystal is scattering the lights entering the lens from random direction.  Thanks to its semi hood design, no ghosts or flares from the side were visible!  Remember, ghosts or flares has nothing to do with light source's strength, its related to the angle of light entering the lens!  The light source's lumens index only show how big and strong is the ghosts and flares.

    • Click to enlarge, and see its holy!  No ghosts!

    • I've found a little ghost after at last after I really tried it!  See the blue dot on 7'o clock direction of the light source.  This kind of ghost is unimportant, since it appears when photographing a light source directly, and it appears on less than 0.1% of my images :)

    • To find how your lens ghost, you can try it yourself at home (indoor).  Just follow the ghost creating instruction here.

  • It has pentagram shaped aperture opening, typical in lens from 90's. It's funny in today's standard, since most other lenses today has round opening.

    • That was the cause, pentagram aperture openings, sorry for the ugly picture.  I use my mobile phone to snap it, then edit it on Corel PhotoPaint to improve the contrast and colour balance (my skin colour is Yellow, OK?).  That's the best that I can do anyway...

    • And now this is the effect:

    • A very clear pentagram shaped bokeh

  • However it produces a cool 10 pointed sun-stars!

  • That was taken at f/22, an f number which I don't recommend to use in digital photography.  Why?  Because the sensor dust will become visible at that F number!

  • AF speed is good, however it makes a lot of noise when auto focusing.  Manual focusing is also not smooth.  I would not recommend manual focusing, since it's almost impossible to do, due to the super shallow depth of field that this lens offers.  At f/1.8, the DOF is merely few millimetres deep. 

    • When focusing on EOS 400 D, sometimes the camera made wrong focus lock few mm in front of the objects, and the result is the object becomes blurry.

  • It weigh nothing, size small and fast.  What else do you need for mobility?

  • Sharpness on digital?  It is not very sharp, that all I could tell today.  I'll run sharpness testing from f/1.8-f/8 ASAP.

  • How about the EF 50 mm f/1.8 II in action?

    • I use that lens paired with EOS 400 D to Chinese New Year's eve in local temple and taking picture of Dragon and Lion dance there.  It was 10 PM, and the happenings took place out doors with minimum lights.  Although it wasn't the sharpest lens available, the result were perfectly fine, considering the dancer's swift movement and low light there.

    • The last picture was taken without flash, outdoor lit by few temple lights and street lights with ISO-1600 and f/1.8 at 1/160 seconds at 10.07 night.  The camera can freeze the moment!

  • A lens that worth every cent of it.

  • Images of the EF 50 mm at f/1.8.  At f/1.8 the depth of field is only a few mm wide.  I took picture of a 30 CMs metal ruler, focus it at 15 CM marking, or on the middle of the ruler and crop the picture there.  Please take a look at it to see how narrow is the depth of field.

    • This is not the accurate way of measuring DOF, however it shows that at f/1.8 the DOF is less than 1 cm.  Therefore if you are taking someone's picture by focusing at his or her nose, only the nose will be in focus, every other part of the face will be out of focus.  Great for some effects, however silly for taking sharp pictures.

  • EF 50 mm sharpness test:

    • The whole image

    • EF 50 mm f/1.8 centre

    • EF 50 mm f/2.8 centre

    • EF 50 mm f/3.5 centre

    • EF 50 mm f/5.6 centre

    • EF 50 mm f/8 centre

    • The sharpness at f/1.8 and f/2.8 is not very sharp, however it improves starting at f stop 3.5.  I hardly saw any difference from f/3.5 up to f/8.

    • EFS 18-55 mm @ 51 mm f/5.6 centre

    • EFS 18-55 mm @ 51 mm f/8 centre

    • Compared to the EF-S 18-55 mm lens, the EF 50 mm is a lot sharper.

    • Sorry for the changes in the tree, that's due to the wind blows.

  • Sharpness on real photo.  I call this picture as Playing Cute.  I took this picture on October 2009 Taman Safari Indonesia trip.

    • A crop just above its beak.  You can see the very fine and detailed feather texture.

  • Anyway, I find some dusts inside the lens, and this is the 2nd time I found something inside Canon lens.  The other debris was found on my Canon EF-S 18-55 lens.  Is this some kind of Canon conspiracy by selling 2nd quality product to Indonesia and sending their best products to countries such as the USA or Japan?  I don't know, but we'll see...  Well, after shooting hundreds of shots with this lens, the debris inside the lens suddenly gone!  Well, may be the sealing of this lens is not very good, therefore dust can enter and leave the lens.  Well, that's the interesting thing of having $78 lens.  Haha...

  • This lens was used naked, now it is coupled with Hoya Super HMC Pro 1 filter to give it some protection and better ghost fighting ability.  Some might argue its a waste to put one of best filter available to the cheap lens.  However, this lens has a very good flare performance, so it won't make any sense to put cheap and bad filter only to degrade it's performance.

  • I used this lens even more than I use the standard EF-S 18-55 kit lens.  Although on my APS-C camera this lens becomes sissy lens (not a real tele at 80 mm and not a normal), I can use it for taking spectacular indoor portrait shots at low ISO and outdoor night shots!

The Conclusion

  • This lens provides me with enough image quality and is super lightweight which I love!  One of the point I got an XTi/400D over the 40D is because of its light weight, and I'm not going to ruin that point.  Although I'm big, having a small and light lens is great for me and I have no plan to change this lens to the faster 50 mm F/1.4 or 50 mm F/1.2 lens, unless they are lighter than this F/1.8 lens.

  • This lens also works perfect for the XTi/400D.  With this perceive the subject I saw did not change its size, therefore I can compose with both both eyes open without being disoriented.  In addition, framing and composition is easily imaginable since in horizontal (landscape) position, the frame width is exactly the distance between my left and right arm extended.

  • Moreover it doesn't look scary and scares the subjects, such as booth babes and dancers, then I can snap their picture with smiles in face.  Therefore I've given a nick name for this lens as a special lens for taking booth babes picture!

  • It is a must have lens for any serious amateurs.  It is a surprise that this lens is not for beginner, although its price suggest so!  Due to its high maximum sharpness level and shallow depth of field, only people experienced enough could maximise this lens, otherwise this lens will only capture blurry images!  It's price tag is not justification for beginner to buy this lens!