Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II vs. EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by downingp, Dec 18, 2008.

  1. downingp macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    I have heard that a good lens for taking portrait-like photos is to get a 50mm lens. I currently have a 28-135mm lens for my Canon 40D. Would I benefit in using a 50mm lens for taking pictures of my 12 month old son? If the 50mm is the way to go, is there a BIG difference in the 1.8 vs. 1.4? The f/1.4 seems to be 3x the price of the f/1.8. Is the cost difference worth it?
    I am by no means a professional photographer, I just enjoy taking pictures.

    Thanks for your input.
     
  2. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Hi,
    Because of the APSC sensor on your 40D...a 50mm will be similar to a 77mm-ish on a full frame (FF) cam. Generally, the ideal FL range (*FF*) for portraits is 85-135...with 85 being very popular. So, the 50 gets you close to that range.

    Since you're not depending on photography for income, I think you would be very happy with the 1.8 and saving the cash. It will be much sharper than your 28-135. The differences between the 1.8 and 1.4 are mostly subtleties in bokeh and such things. The return on investment for the 1.4 is very low for general photography imo.

    The 1.8 will open many new creative possibilities too.

    Enjoy!
     
  3. CATinHAWAII macrumors member

    CATinHAWAII

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    #3
    just wondering, how would the 24-70 compare to the 50 1.8 or the 1.4?
    i know it's a good lens, but would i notice much difference?
     
  4. superwoman macrumors regular

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    #4
    I've used both. Picture-quality wise, I would say that it's hard to see a difference. So perhaps you can consider other factors.

    A major difference between the 1.8 and 1.4 is that the latter is metal mount, while the former is plastic. The 1.4 feels better-built to me as an investment. The 1.8 feels plastic-ky and fragile. I also felt that 1.4 gives better balance weight-wise when mounted on the camera.

    My suggestion is to try the 1.8 first, since it is so cheap. If you find yourself enjoy taking photos (especially portraits) with a prime lens, and like the results of the 1.8, then definitely start saving for the 1.4 as a longer term investment.
     
  5. CrackedButter macrumors 68040

    CrackedButter

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    #5
    You're forgetting the poor build quality, lack of manual focus and duller colours.

    The f1.4 isn't that expensive, and I would get it personally.
     
  6. WilliamG macrumors G3

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    #6
    I have both the 1.4 and 1.8. The difference in build, bokeh etc is definitely there. At this point, given your equipment, I'd go with the 1.8.
     
  7. downingp thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    Great comments so far. Thanks alot. It sounds like whether I get the 1.8 or the 1.4, there is a consensus that either lens would be great for portrait-type pictures?

    For those of you with either of the lenses, would you mind posting a few shots using the various lenses?
     
  8. CATinHAWAII macrumors member

    CATinHAWAII

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    #8
    actually , i meant picture quality wise between the 24-70 to the 50 primes?
    actually, i would probably get the 1.4 if i did get the 50mm, as opposed to the 1.8, but would i see much difference between the 24-70 and the 50 1.4?
    i have a 40D, 580ex flash and 10-22 canon...

    i shoot mostly school events (indoor and outdoor) and daughters vollyball games and practices, and like the Christmas party we just had, took pics of the kids on Santa's lap... that kind of stuff...

    and then of course when we go travelling..
     
  9. FX120 macrumors 65816

    FX120

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    #9
    Get the 1.4, it is worth the extra $200 easily. The colors, contrast, out of focus blur, and even sharpness are improved. Plus it is faster and quieter focusing, worlds better build quality, and overall just feels better to use.

    Unless that extra $200 is really a stretch, you'll be much happier in the long run.

    On a 40D it is probably my most used lens becides my 70-200 F/2.8L.
     
  10. CATinHAWAII macrumors member

    CATinHAWAII

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    #10
    thanks! now just two lenses on my wish list,, the 501.4 and that same,, 70-20 2.8,, THAT WISHING is mostly just wishing,,, but .. if the stock market appreciates in the not too future future,,, (Obama syndrome...)

    then there is a closer possibility... maybe by next round of rebates...:cool:
     
  11. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #11
    Save for the 1.4

    It's really a vastly better lens; better bokeh, better IQ, and most of all, better AF (especially in very low light, where I consider the 1.8 to be nearly useless).

    If you REALLY need a 50, the 1.8 will be fine; it makes nice pictures. But the 1.4 is just so much better that it might be worth your while to save. They can be found for a song on Fred Miranda.
     
  12. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    While I agree with many of the comments suggesting the 1.4....it is the hyperbole that really cracks me up. Example...above: "vastly better"....and how in the world is a 1.8 "nearly useless" in very low light??!?!?!? (Bites tongue)

    < big sigh>

    The OP asked if there is a "BIG" difference between the two lens..noting the 1.4 costs 3x more $$. I think, for the intended uses, the answer is still..."no". Is the 1.4 3x better than the 1.8? Not even remotely. If *I* had to put a percentage value on it, I would say the 1.4 is 30% better at the most...considering all factors such as build quality, AF, etc. If quiet focusing and built like a tank aren't important to you or *needed*, then far less.

    So..OP...is a 30% improvement worth 3x the price to you? There's no right or wrong answer imo. For my uses, the 1.4 would be worth it, but I need a lens that can take a beating in travel and harsh conditions, focus as fast and quietly as possible etc, etc. I need to sell photographs(!) in a competitive market...plus I can write it off my taxes. :)

    Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting the 1.4 is a mistake by any means....but imo, you don't *need* it.

    Seems to *me*, the best path is to get the 1.8...maybe used...or rent one... and see if you find its results and performance adequate for your needs. If not, sell the 1.8 and try the 1.4. Blessedly, we're not talking about a $1600 lens investment.

    Have fun!!
     
  13. ChrisBrightwell macrumors 68020

    ChrisBrightwell

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    #13
    Agreed.

    That said, the 50/1.8 tends to hold most of its value fairly well. If you get the 1.8 and decide to upgrade to the 1.4, you won't be out that much on the upgrade.
     
  14. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    For me, the two are completely different animals.

    Under "normal" circumstances, using the 24-70 at 50mm @f8, for example, will be practically indistinguishable from the 50mm prime @f8. It's the creative choices that come with the 1.8 (or 1.4) prime vs the 2.8 zoom that make the primes valuable...essential... to me.
     
  15. bking1000 macrumors 65816

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    #15
    Jaduffy, with all due respect, The 1.8 (at least the two copies I have had) is nearly useless in low light because it can't focus in low light AND it's not sharp even if you do get focus. What's the point of 1.8 if you can't get it to focus?

    I am very un-enamored w/the 1.8, but I'm past the return date (which was only 7 days at my local shop. So, I paid a premium of 25% for a lens with only a 7 day return cycle. Though I like to support local business, I think I'll stick to B&H or Amazon from now on).

    I can get good shots out of the 1.8 if in full light OR if stopped to at least 2.8, but it really prefers 4.0. My 35/2.0 is a much better lens in terms of focus and sharpness. (also, if you are doing portraits, you don't want to be down around 1.8 anyway, so you don't need a lens that stops that low).

    So, though quite cheap, cheap is not a feature if the product doesn't work well in exactly the situation you want it for (i.e. low light).

    Just my 2 cents. I hope for your sake you got a better copy than my two, but I can't abide "chasing" the perfect lens copy. I think I'll just move on to better lenses.
     
  16. downingp thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    After reading over everyone's comments I found a used f/1.8 50mm on Craigslist in my area. I just picked it up from him about an hour ago.
    So far, I am happy with it. I will definitely have to play around and get familiar with the aperture; my main subject in the photos seem to be more blurry than what I would like. What aperture do you recommend for portrait photos (i.e. photos with santa)? I plan on taking a few pictures with this lens over the holidays and don't want to miss "my shot" fiddling with the settings.
     
  17. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    Perfect...imo. Now you can always sell it for what you paid for it. You'll definitely want to stop it down to *at least* 2.8 for your portraits.

    Here's what the digital picture review site conclusion had to say about the lens:

    "The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens is a good low-light indoor photography lens - especially when a flash is not appropriate or desired. It works very well in a church or gym for example. Aside from having mediocre bokeh, the 50 f/1.8 makes a good focal length for full-body portraits. If mounted on a 1.6x FOVCF camera, you will need some extra space to accomplish a full-body portrait and might also want to capture head/shoulder portraits with this lens.

    Need to travel light? Mount the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens on a small DSLR and you have one of the smallest, lightest and least expensive low-light combinations available.

    The drawbacks of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens are easily overlooked when one looks at the price. This lens is not for everyone, but I don't know of a better lens available for twice this price."

    ==================
     
  18. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

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    #18
    If I had to choose between the 1.8 and 1.4, I would pick the better constructed one, in this case, the 1.4.
     
  19. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #19
    I'd add the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 to that list. It's optically superior to both Canons (it's the latest design with much larger glass). The built quality is better than either of the Canons, too. Whether it's worth it really depends on what you shoot.
     
  20. PCMacUser macrumors 68000

    PCMacUser

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    #20
    I think build quality - and build consistency has something to do with this. I bought a 50mm 1.8 from Adorama in 2004, and it's never had any significant problems focussing in low light. The quality of the images it produces are very sharp.

    However, I'd have the 1.4 over it any day, due to the quality and full time manual focus option. I also don't like the grinding noise the 1.8 makes when autofocussing.
     
  21. PCMacUser macrumors 68000

    PCMacUser

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    #21
    I'm not sure if it's superior to Canon's 1.4. Especially after reading the comments in that article you linked to:

    The Sigma's greatest strength is its sharpness at f/1.4. The Canon cannot compete. Once things get to f/2 and smaller, the lenses become comparable.
     
  22. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #22
    Nikon and Canon use (high-quality) plastic for their f/1.4 lens and the optical designs are rather dated (I'm talking about the AF-D Nikkor). Sigma's design is brand-new and includes much larger lenses (it's a full frame lens). And it's consistently rated higher than both, Nikon's old AF-D f/1.4 Nikkor and Canon's f/1.4 lens.

    From dpreview's review of the Canon:
    Or taken from their list of pros and cons of the dpreview of the Sigma:
    Comparable ≠ better.

    BTW, I'm usually rather sceptical of Sigma lenses (I prefer the feel of Tokina lenses or pro-grade lenses). But this time, Sigma has produced something really good and if Canon wants to compete, they should update their 50 mm f/1.4 lens.
     
  23. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #23
    Not a word of hyperbole in my original post. I find the 50/1.8mkII to be virtually useless in very low light, because the damn thing can't focus. On manual focus, it's fine; it'll produce good images. But AF performance on this lens is crap, especially when compared with the 50/1.4, which doesn't hunt nearly as much, and locks on quickly and accurately in all but the dimmest of light.

    The 1.4 is simply better. That's not to say that the 1.8 is worthless; it's just that the 50/1.4 can be picked up used for so little (mid-$200s on Fred Miranda), that it makes no sense to spend $100 to get a lens with obvious deficiencies. If the 1.8 is all you can afford, then go for it; I still have one in my bag and it takes pictures that are head and shoulders above most kit lenses. But the 1.4 is, I'm sorry to say, "vastly better".

    Don't sigh; it's just a lens. Nothing serious.

    The value of a lens is not cost-dependent. The 5DmkII is a better camera than the XSi, for example; sure, it costs 5 times the price, but that's not the point. Whether the cost difference is worth it FOR YOU is a different concern, but there is a BIG difference between the 1.8 and 1.4, no matter what the price. And low light AF is a huge part of that difference.

    Sooooo not the point. To use my above example, is the 5dmkII 5x better than the XSi? How do you even quantify "X-times better"? If the features of a product are necessary for you, then you spend the money.

    I'll give you another example: the 85/1.8 is a wicked lens, and costs $350ish. The 85/1.2L is better lens, and costs 4-5 times the price. Is the extra stop of light worth the cost? Is the MUCH shallower DOF worth the cost? Is the better bokeh worth the cost?

    The answer to all of these questions is: maybe. If you need an extra stop of light, shallower DOF, orthe best bokeh you can buy, the answer is yes. If not, the answer is no. Can the 85/1.8 take amazing shots? Sure it can, but it cannot do all the things the 1.2L can do, and the 1.2L will be worth the money to some people.

    And I think the difference between the 50/1.8 and the 50/1.4 is far bigger than the 85/1.8 vs. 85/1.2L example. It's a huge difference, especially when you're shooting in low light and getting 10% keepers because the 1.8 can't focus on anything.

    Again, this is totally context-dependent. If the extra features of the 1.4 are necessary for you, then the difference in cost is worth it (and let's not kid ourselves, the 1.4 is still a very cheap lens...we're only having this discussion because the 1.8 is insanely cheap). For some people, the 50/1.2L is the only way to go; is THAT lens worth the cost?

    Exactly. Everyone needs to decide for him or herself what lens is "enough". For me, the 1.8 is not good enough because it is severely crippled for one of the main things you buy a fast prime for; low-light shooting. It gives nice shallow DOF, and for portrait photography on a budget with a 1.6x crop body, it could be fine. But for those who want big apertures for low light, the 1.4 is better.

    Agreed. Rent before you buy. Put the 1.8 through its paces, and see if it's enough lens for you. I'm not advocating overbuying; I'm advocating buying the right lens.

    100% agreed.
     
  24. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #24
    Ahem...indeed.

    Exactly my point. The 1.8 is cheap; the 1.4 is inexpensive. Again, we wouldn't be having this conversation if Canon weren't essentially giving away the 1.8; we'd be talking about the 1.4 as a stellar lens, that focuses well in low light, is a bit dreamy at 1.4 (esp. in FF or 1.3x corners) but is tack sharp at f/2.0 or higher, and is extremely well-priced.

    Isn't it funny how little you hear people complaining about bad copies of the 70-200 f/2.8L IS, for instance? Could it be that quality control is a big part of why you're paying the big bucks?

    Buy once, buy right.
     
  25. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    Clearly...Edge...for you and bking...this thread is now about you. Your defensiveness and "strawman arguments" responses to my posts tell me you're looking for fight.

    I'll pass (for the most :) )....but please do note this...

    Edge you wrote: "It (the 1.8) gives nice shallow DOF, and for portrait photography on a budget with a 1.6x crop body, it could be fine. "

    Please go read the OP's original post. Is that not exactly what he asked about???...thus making the 1.8 a legitimately *good* choice??? Do you see ANYTHING in his post that inclines you to believe he needs great AF in low light? ..and all of the rest of your strawman arguments???

    Don't get me wrong....yours and other's general comments about the benefits of the 1.4 are correct in my opinion. I NEVER denied that. You and others act as if I have. I even said...for me, *I* would buy the 1.4!

    That you and others pointed out the benefits of investing in the "better" lens is absolutely appropriate, but... this thread was suppose to be about the OP's needs....not yours...or mine.
     

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