Canon 50mm 1.8 Review
If you’re reading this review ,chances are good you already own a Canon DSLR camera. What the guy at Best Buy or Target didn’t tell you is that the lens is a much more important factor than the camera in taking high quality photos. However, it’s hard to justify a $500 lens purchase when you just spent the same amount on a brand new camera. Your local retailer doesn’t want you to hear this, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money to take amazing pictures. Check out our review of the Canon 50mm 1.8 lens, a must-have lens for any budding photographer that takes better shots than most zoom lenses and sells for a fraction of the price.
Canon 50mm 1.8
The Canon 50mm 1.8 is a fixed focal length lens, meaning it cannot zoom in or out. Either you or the subject has to move to frame the shot. Because there is no zoom mechanism, however, fixed focal length lens have vastly superior optical quality. The Canon 50mm 1.8 is well-known among photographers for its sharpness and color balance. Whereas most “prosumer” lenses generally can’t stop below f3.5, this lens can stop all the way down to f1.8. This lets you blur out backgrounds and provides more flexibility in low-light situations.
The Canon 50mm 1.8 isn’t a replacement for the zoom lens that came with your Canon camera, but it’s an excellent compliment. I bought it as a second lens for my Canon 450D, and it’s sharper than my $399 Canon 28-135 USM lens. It’s best used for portraits and landscapes. With a price tag of only $99, it adds a lot of bang to your equipment bag at a very low cost. The casual DSLR user can get a lot of mileage from it without making a huge investment, which is why I decided to cover it here at PC Fastlane. I’ve owned this lens for 2 years, so I’ve had plenty of time to evaluate it.
- Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 50mm 1:1.8
- Lens Construction: 6 elements in 5 groups
- Diagonal Angle of View: 46°
- Focus Adjustment: Overall linear extension system with Micromotor
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.45m / 1.5 ft.
- Filter Size: 52mm
- Max. Diameter x Length, Weight: 2.7″ x 1.6″, 4.6 oz. / 68.2 x 41.0mm, 130g
Canon 50mm 1.8 Design
Let’s talk about what the Canon 50mm 1.8 is and isn’t. It’s the lightest and smallest lens from Canon. You won’t find the solid feel of a giant zoom lens here, however. The entire lens body is made of plastic. I didn’t think the build quality was cheap in any way, though. This is not something I would worry about breaking. Canon managed to reduce the weight of the 50mm 1.8 to a mere 4.6 ounces, making it the perfect travel companion.
Installing and removing the lens is as painless as another model. The lens cap on front of the 50mm 1.8 stays put and never came loose while I’ve owned it. Because this is a fixed focal length lens, the only controls are a focus ring in front and an AF/MF button on the left side. The ring responded well to my touch, although manual focusing wasn’t as smooth as I’m used to. The auto-focus isn’t the fastest, but should be adequate for anything other than fast-motion sports. Again, keep in mind this is only a $99 lens.
In short, the Canon 50mm 1.8′s design is cheap but not too cheap. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t last a good 10 years. Take a look at our sample photos to see where this bad boy really shines.
Here are a handful of pictures I’ve taken over the years on my Canon Digital Rebel 450D with the Canon 50mm 1.8. As you can see from the sample photos, this lens takes simply stunning photographs. The sharpness and color reproduction rivals lenses 10x the price.
Note that all photos have been edited in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for optimum exposure and color. I shoot in RAW and then export the final product as a JPEG. Unlike typical point-and-shoot cameras, DSLRs don’t automatically optimize your images for eye-popping color. You need post-processing software such as Lightroom or Apple Aperture to get the best results.
Taken at f/4.5 and ISO 200. You can almost feel the coarseness of the stone seating in this photo, but that probably isn’t what you were looking at.
The Canon 50mm 1.8 really shines with portraits, even self-portaits such as this photo of myself. The lens is so sharp you can see the bumps and wrinkles on my skin. Each hair and eye lash stands out from the others. I shot this at f/2.8 and ISO 800 only a foot or so away from my face.
The lens is also very adept at landscape and architecture shots. There is practically no barrel distortion at 50mm, but the fixed focal length is limiting when you want to cram something into a shot and can’t step back. This sample photo was taken at f8.0 and ISO 400.
You can view thousands of other Canon 50mm 1.8 sample photos on Flickr.
The Canon 50mm 1.8 offers the best bang for the buck by far out of any DSLR lens. I highly recommend this lens if you want to get the best results from your DSLR, especially if memorable family and pet photos are your goal. I use a zoom lens most of the time because of its versatility, but this fixed focal length lens is my favorite for portraits and barely takes up any room in my camera bag. If you just received a Canon DSLR for Christmas, the Canon 50mm 1.8 should be your second lens.
- Very inexpensive
- Small and light
- Very sharp
- Excellent color
- Great for portraits
- Fixed focal length is sometimes limiting
- Plastic exterior
- Warranty is only 1 year