Any Canon 50mm f/1.2 L owners here?

VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 1, 2008
6,304
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Vancouver, BC
Heya, do you have the Canon 50L? If so, I'm eyeing this lens, and curious about your experience with it.

I realize shooting at f/1.2 creates some challenges (I already have the 85L)... but what other things have you noticed about this lens? Where is it strong? Where is it weak?

I know when it first came out, there was a huge uproar over the inherent focus shift at short distances when stopping down... is this an issue that has affected your photography with this lens? How do you work around it?

I imagine it's great for portraits but can it also be used for street photography or general snap shots or even product type photography? What do you use it for?

Thanks for sharing! :)
 

Attonine

macrumors 6502a
Feb 15, 2006
714
44
Kent. UK
Never used this lens and not interested in it. I only want to comment regarding 1.2 for portraits and street photography. I know someone is going to disagree, but this aperture is pretty much useless for these two purposes, far too shallow depth of field.
 

duncanapple

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2008
471
11
Well, it can be tricky but I am not sure about "useless." The flexibility to go that shallow is great, and how shallow that really is totally depends on the subject to camera distance.

Ie f/2.0 is pretty shallow up close on my 135L, however when I am using it for indoor pictures of relatively far away things like players at hockey games, I can very easily get the whole person in focus while also getting a good fast shutter speed to compensate for the usually less than great lights in those rinks.

I realize f/1.2 is quite a bit shallower but the point is the same. The flexibility to be ABLE to do that is great, and subject distance plays a heavy role into it all too.
 

Meister

Suspended
Oct 10, 2013
5,455
4,265
Well, it can be tricky but I am not sure about "useless." The flexibility to go that shallow is great, and how shallow that really is totally depends on the subject to camera distance.
Ie f/2.0 is pretty shallow up close on my 135L, however when I am using it for indoor pictures of relatively far away things like players at hockey games, I can very easily get the whole person in focus while also getting a good fast shutter speed to compensate for the usually less than great lights in those rinks.
I realize f/1.2 is quite a bit shallower but the point is the same. The flexibility to be ABLE to do that is great, and subject distance plays a heavy role into it all too.
The DOF difference between 2.0 and 1.2 is humongos.
I find it a sever challenge to get focus right with my 85mm 1.4 on FF.
When you get it its awesome though :) .
 

cocky jeremy

macrumors 601
Jul 12, 2008
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Columbus, OH
I had it. Probably my least favorite, most overrated lens I've used. I much prefer every other lens I've bought over it, except MAYBE the 24-105. I'd take my old 85 f/1.8 over it a million times over. My advice: Wait for the new Sigma 50 f/1.4 ART to come out. It'll be better, and most likely cheaper. The preview images of it compare to the $4000 Zeiss 50MM.
 

VirtualRain

macrumors 603
Original poster
Aug 1, 2008
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Vancouver, BC
I had it. Probably my least favorite, most overrated lens I've used. I much prefer every other lens I've bought over it, except MAYBE the 24-105. I'd take my old 85 f/1.8 over it a million times over. My advice: Wait for the new Sigma 50 f/1.4 ART to come out. It'll be better, and most likely cheaper. The preview images of it compare to the $4000 Zeiss 50MM.
What didn't you like about it?
 

cocky jeremy

macrumors 601
Jul 12, 2008
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Columbus, OH
What didn't you like about it?
I can't really put my finger on it. The images weren't as sharp as they should be, the bokeh wasn't very smooth, it didn't have an "it" factor that a lens of that price should have. I'd take my 135L, 100L, 35 ART, 300 2.8 II L, 85 1.8 all over this lens in a heartbeat. It just felt like a $400 lens to me. Like I said, the 50 ART will blow this thing away. I already have the 35 ART, and it's honestly got that 85L unique look to it. I bet the 50 ART will end up being a legendary lens as well.
 

KimJonNumberUn

macrumors regular
Dec 18, 2013
168
0
I can't really put my finger on it. The images weren't as sharp as they should be, the bokeh wasn't very smooth, it didn't have an "it" factor that a lens of that price should have. I'd take my 135L, 100L, 35 ART, 300 2.8 II L, 85 1.8 all over this lens in a heartbeat. It just felt like a $400 lens to me. Like I said, the 50 ART will blow this thing away. I already have the 35 ART, and it's honestly got that 85L unique look to it. I bet the 50 ART will end up being a legendary lens as well.
ever used the Canon 35mm 1.4 L?
 

LumbermanSVO

macrumors 65816
Mar 15, 2007
1,040
131
Denton, TX
ever used the Canon 35mm 1.4 L?
Dude, you keep asking everyone about this lens. Just go to lensrentals.com or BorrowLenses.com and rent it already. You'll have your answers soon enough. It's very inexpensive and a GREAT way to decide if you really want the lens or not. I'm sure that by now you've read all the reviews and no one here can tell you anything you haven't read already. Just go rent it and then tell us what you think about it.

/rant
 

Edge100

macrumors 68000
May 14, 2002
1,557
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Where am I???
The DOF difference between 2.0 and 1.2 is humongos.
I find it a sever challenge to get focus right with my 85mm 1.4 on FF.
When you get it its awesome though :) .
This is only a half-truth (or one-third truth, if I might...)

Question:

Which lens has the shallower DoF, when shot wide-open from the same subject-to-camera distance: 50 f/1.2 or 400 f/5.6?

The answer is: 400 f/5.6. Why? Because, contrary to popular belief, f/stop DOES NOT AFFECT DoF. What, you, say? That's crazy. Well, it's true.

In fact, insofar as the opening at the end of your lens is concerned, it's the size of the physical aperture, not the ratio of aperture size to focal length (i.e. "f/stop") that matters.

A 50 f/1.2 lens has a maximum physical aperture of 41.7mm.
A 135 f/2 lens has a maximum physical aperture of 67.5mm.
A 400 f/5.6 lens has a maximum physical aperture of 71.4mm.

Thus, IF SHOT FROM THE SAME PLACE, the DoF at max f/stop goes:

400/5.6 < 135/2 < 50/1.2

Now, of course, one rarely shoots from the same spot with a 50mm lens and a 400mm lens, and, of course, the further one moves away from the subject, the greater the DoF. So in actual use, the 400 f/5.6 may have greater DoF than the 50 f/1.2 when both are at minimum f/stop.

Indeed, if one moves 8x further back with the 400mm lens (say, 15 feet to 120 feet), then DoF is equivalent between the 50mm and 400mm lenses, at equivalent f/stops.

But it's misleading to say that "DOF difference between 2.0 and 1.2 is humongos (sic)", because this is meaningless without a consideration of focal length and subject-to-camera distance.
 

nburwell

macrumors 601
May 6, 2008
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I owned this lens for a period of time when I was with Canon. I very rarely shot at f/1.2 because the DOF is so shallow, you really had to nail the focus. The copy I had did not suffer from the focus shift at short distances. My primary use for it was for portraits, but I ultimately decided that field really wasn't my thing.

I believe if you purchased one now, you should be okay in avoiding the focus shift, but I would still rigourously test the lens out when you receive it. I think it's the best of the Canon 50mm trio (f/1.8, f/1.4). The colors the lens produces definitely best the other two 50's.

If you have the money and do portrait and/or street photography, it's definitely a lens you should check out.
 

Edge100

macrumors 68000
May 14, 2002
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I owned this lens for a period of time when I was with Canon. I very rarely shot at f/1.2 because the DOF is so shallow, you really had to nail the focus. The copy I had did not suffer from the focus shift at short distances. My primary use for it was for portraits, but I ultimately decided that field really wasn't my thing.

I believe if you purchased one now, you should be okay in avoiding the focus shift, but I would still rigourously test the lens out when you receive it. I think it's the best of the Canon 50mm trio (f/1.8, f/1.4). The colors the lens produces definitely best the other two 50's.

If you have the money and do portrait and/or street photography, it's definitely a lens you should check out.
Focus shift is not a symptom of specific copies, but of the inherent optical design of the lens. There are some exceptionally high quality lenses that exhibit focus shift (Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50 f/1.5, Leica 35 Summilux ASPH pre-FLE, etc).

Also, there's almost no lens I would want *less* for street photography than the Canon 50 f/1.2L, but that's just me.
 

tcphoto

macrumors 6502a
Feb 23, 2005
758
2
Madison, GA
The 50L is my go to lens for many of my shoots. I usually shoot close to wide open but I'm also tethered, focus manually and mounted on a tripod.
 

The Mad Kiwi

macrumors 6502
Mar 15, 2006
376
14
In Hell
One thing going for the 50mm 1.2 it's got great focus speed and good servo tracking so you get lots of keepers even when shooting runners and the like.
 

Prodo123

macrumors 68020
Nov 18, 2010
2,319
9
One thing going for the 50mm 1.2 it's got great focus speed and good servo tracking so you get lots of keepers even when shooting runners and the like.
HA, that's literally the first time I've heard anyone praise the 50mm f/1.2's focus speed.

I refuse to get any lens which uses focus-by-wire. Lenses like the f/1.2 is begging to be used in lowlight, and often times I rely more on my eyes than on the phase detection for correct focus. Focus-by-wire just doesn't cut it for such a use.

Moreover, the servo performance of the f/1.2 is absolutely horrible. It might be impressive for the amount of glass that it's moving, but compared to the f/1.4 it's slower than a snail. It's better to go with a good 50mm f/1.4 (Sigma and Zeiss comes to mind) with a proper focusing mechanism and lose out on half a stop of DoF than cash out on an overpriced, unreliable lens.

The 50mm f/1.2 is also soft from what I hear, softer than most f/1.4's at the widest apertures. Really, if you want this lens you're buying it for the f/1.2 and f/1.2 only.
 

macjonny1

macrumors 6502a
Jan 10, 2006
535
46
if you want that super shallow DOF it's the only game in town from Canon. I don't find the difference from f/1.4 to f/1.2 enough to justify
 

Edge100

macrumors 68000
May 14, 2002
1,557
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if you want that super shallow DOF it's the only game in town from Canon. I don't find the difference from f/1.4 to f/1.2 enough to justify
Yes, it's hard to justify the 50L these days, IMHO. Back when the Canon 50/1.4 was the only alternative, the L was the clear winner. But now you've got options from both Sigma and Zeiss @ f/1.4, and the difference in speed, as you say, isn't enormous.

The same thing is true of other Canon L lenses; the 35L is easily bested by the Sigma, and while the 85L still offers a unique rendering, the Sigma 85/1.4 is very close (although it has yet to be updated to the new ART series, and still suffers from the old-school Sigma AF issues).
 

thunng8

macrumors 6502a
Feb 8, 2006
818
205
My advice: Wait for the new Sigma 50 f/1.4 ART to come out. It'll be better, and most likely cheaper. The preview images of it compare to the $4000 Zeiss 50MM.
Just saw a few reviews of the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 ART lens. Very nice .. and much better than the Canon 50mm 1.2L.

Review:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-Art-Lens.aspx

and comparison with the 50mm 1.2L:

http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Compare/Side-by-side/EF50mm-f-1.2L-USM-on-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III-versus-Sigma-50mm-F14-DG-HSM-A-Canon-on-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III___197_795_1306_795

i.e.
- much sharper
- less distortion
- less vignetting
- much less CA

The Sigma lens is in a different class .. and is also cheaper.
 

cocky jeremy

macrumors 601
Jul 12, 2008
4,171
1,736
Columbus, OH
Just saw a few reviews of the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 ART lens. Very nice .. and much better than the Canon 50mm 1.2L.

Review:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-Art-Lens.aspx

and comparison with the 50mm 1.2L:

http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Compare/Side-by-side/EF50mm-f-1.2L-USM-on-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III-versus-Sigma-50mm-F14-DG-HSM-A-Canon-on-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III___197_795_1306_795

i.e.
- much sharper
- less distortion
- less vignetting
- much less CA

The Sigma lens is in a different class .. and is also cheaper.
Told ya it'd be better! Sigma is putting out some amazing stuff. I'd buy the 50 1.4 on day one, but I need a few other things first.. 1DX, 400 f/2.8 IS II, 200 f/2, and my new python. lol.
 

Cheese&Apple

macrumors 68010
Jun 5, 2012
2,004
6,604
Toronto
Just saw a few reviews of the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 ART lens. Very nice .. and much better than the Canon 50mm 1.2L.

Review:

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-Art-Lens.aspx

and comparison with the 50mm 1.2L:

http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Compare/Side-by-side/EF50mm-f-1.2L-USM-on-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III-versus-Sigma-50mm-F14-DG-HSM-A-Canon-on-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III___197_795_1306_795

i.e.
- much sharper
- less distortion
- less vignetting
- much less CA

The Sigma lens is in a different class .. and is also cheaper.
Here is a review of the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens that is a MUST READ: Review
 

dark knight

macrumors regular
Oct 28, 2008
142
2
I have have nothing but praise for it. One of the smallest L lenses too. Generally, if you buy that sort of aperture, you are wanting to shoot with it. Ok, f1.2 is a bit soft but helps create a dreamy sort of shot, which you'd probably be after if you'd bought this kind of aperture. i say go for it.

Just got an a7R and zeiss 55mm combination. compared to this, the canon produces smoother out of focus parts. i feel that its a more artistic sort of a lens than the sharp but slightly busy looking zeiss. i've not used the smaller apertured canon lenses but some say that if your using smaller apertures, these cheaper lenses can be sharper. Oh, and no issues with focus. Its heavy but then L lenses are.