USM Lenses.. Worth it?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Abyssgh0st, Jan 13, 2010.

  1. Abyssgh0st macrumors 68000

    Abyssgh0st

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    #1
    Hey everybody,

    I'm pretty new to photography, so this may be a novice question. My parents have a USM lens for their Rebel T1i and it seems pretty nice, so I'm interested in getting one myself. **
    The lenses I'm looking at are portrait type lenses, specially I'm looking at these:

    1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM.*
    2.*Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II.*

    I know the USM will be a bit faster and quieter, but is it really worth a ~$200 difference?*

    FYI: The two lenses I have now is the stock EF-S 18-55mm IS, and an EF-S 55-250 IS, both by Canon.*

    Thanks! *
     
  2. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #2
    USM is not the only difference between these lenses. First, the 50/1.4 is two-thirds of a stop faster than the 50/1.8 (i.e. larger maximum aperture). Second, the build quality of the 50/1.4 is vastly better than the 50/1.8.

    Image quality is a bit better on the 1.4, though the 1.8 actually turns out some decent performance. The quality of the background blur (bokeh) you get with the 1.4 is MUCH nicer than what you get from the 1.8.

    If you ask me, the difference in price is completely justified. That's not to say you shouldn't get the 1.8; it's a decent entry level lens, and a good way to get into prime lenses. But the 1.4 is much better.
     
  3. Abyssgh0st thread starter macrumors 68000

    Abyssgh0st

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    #3
    @Edge100- Yeah I knew about the aperture difference, I just forgot to write about it. In regards to the build quality, is it really that much of a difference?

    The USM is obviously a better lens, so I might just end up getting that one if I can justify it.
     
  4. iBookG4user macrumors 604

    iBookG4user

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    #4
    The autofocus on the 50mm ƒ/1.4 is prone to malfunctioning. Although the autofocus on the ƒ/1.8 is not great either. Look at the Sigma 50mm ƒ/1.4, it is better than both if you get a good one.
     
  5. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #5
    That's a VERY big IF. You are correct; the Sigma gives much better IQ (and has a higher price tag, it should be noted). But the widely-reported AF issues are cause for alarm. Yes, you could send the lens back to Sigma for calibration, but I've heard horror stories about Sigma saying that the lens can be calibrated for focus at short distances but not infinity, or vice versa, but not both. Also, you have to be prepared to be without the lens for a while.

    The AF system (micromotor USM) on the 50/1.4 isn't quite as good as the ring USM on other Canon lenses, but it's still quite fast and much better than the 1.8, especially in low light (where I find the f/1.8 almost useless).

    If you're willing to play the Sigma roulette, you could end up with a VERY good lens (like, 'L' quality good). You could also end up with a clunker.
     
  6. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

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    #6
    USM give you lots of pluses over the older AF tech:
    1) more accurate focus
    2) faster focusing
    3) quieter focusing and
    4) manual focusing without flipping a switch (biggest plus in my book)
     
  7. iBookG4user macrumors 604

    iBookG4user

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    #7
    You seemed to discount the failure of the 50mm ƒ/1.4's AF. It is very prone to malfunctioning, and if it malfunctions after the first year of purchase you are SOL. link link

    The same thing happened to the 50mm for two of my friends that I shoot with.
     
  8. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #8
    there are two variants of USM: ring USM and micromotor. micromotor is the older motor, and while it isn't slow, it isn't fast, either. this is the type of motor that drives the Canon 50/1.4 and 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS. for these lenses, USM just gets you silent focusing and FTM. the 50/1.8 II also has a micromotor, it just isn't silenced.

    as for the f/1.4 vs f/1.8, both are disappointing, the 1.8 is just less so since it's so cheap. the 1.4 is built better, but it's still not built that well, it is not noticeably sharper at f/1.8, its bokeh is still terrible, most copies have halation at f/1.4 (making it look very soft), its AF isn't any faster, and if you know how to focus in low light, its AF isn't much more accurate.

    I didn't think FTM, 1/3 of a stop (f/1.6), and marginally better build was worth $200, so I stuck with the 1.8 until I could afford a Sigma - I've heard no horror stories regarding calibration that Edge100 alludes to.

    if you can't stand the build quality of the 1.8, though, then by all means buy the 1.4.
     
  9. anubis macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    Honestly it depends on which lens it is

    The 50mm f/1.8 II focuses very fast for being a direct drive motor, because it doesn't have a lot of mass to move. Typically on prime lenses, there isn't much mass to move and so a direct drive motor isn't that much of a disadvantage. Zoom lenses, on the other hand, usually have lots of big groups of lenses to move. So while the 50mm f/1.8 is quick to focus, the 75-300mm f/4-5.6 on the other hand is slow as molasses and you'll really be dying for USM after a few days of it.

    I don't really believe that a direct drive focus is less accurate than USM... I think it has a lot more to do with the available light and autofocus system of the camera
     
  10. funkboy macrumors regular

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    #11
    My suggestion, as an owner of these & many other Canon lenses (USM & non-USM):

    Get the 50mm f/1.8 II AND an 85mm f/1.8 USM.

    I've owned the 50mm f/1.4 USM (and a Zeiss c/y 50mm f/1.4 and currently the ZE 50mm f/1.4). The Canon 1.4 is better than the 1.8, but not $200 better. I have the Canon 50mm f/1.8 as well and optically it's pretty close to the 1.4 when stopped down. I was using the Canon 1.4 at f/2.0 most of the time so I "traded down" to the lighter, cheaper lens. It's good fun on a tiny Rebel body.

    The 1.8 is just too inexpensive not to own. Just go out & buy it. Call it a backup lens, a girlfriend lens, or whatever, but it should always be in your bag, along with a 220EX (which can also be had used for a hundred bucks). My take on this is that the whole point of having an SLR is to be able to use primes and a good flash, so at $200 for the pair of them I feel that it's silly for an SLR owner not to have them.

    The 85mm f/1.8 USM, however, is awesome, and a fantastic deal. The AF is really fast, the build quality is very solid, and while I use it at f/2.2 most of the time I won't hesitate to open it up more if I have to. Given that it's almost the same money as the 50mm f/1.4 USM, take advantage of the fact that there's a really cheap 50mm option and get two lenses. The 85 does everything the 50 1.4 does, & it does it much better.
     
  11. jeffy.dee-lux macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    Sorry to go off topic here, but how do you like those two lenses you already have? We're just about to get a T1i, and those were the lenses we were looking at. This is my girlfriend's first DSLR, so i figure these might be a good place to start...
     
  12. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #13
    The bokeh on the 1.8 is terrible; I would call the bokeh on the 1.4 "ok". nothing stellar, but not terrible. The Sigma is much better.

    Then you're not looking hard enough (or following the links I posted on the other thread about this lens). Do a search for "Sigma 50" at fredmiranda.com; you'll hear LOTS of horror stories about this lens. It's a crap shoot; you may win, you may lose.

    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/viewtopic.php?TopicID=843048
    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/851912/0?keyword=Sigma,50#7958303
     
  13. Abyssgh0st thread starter macrumors 68000

    Abyssgh0st

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    #14
    Well the kit lens (the 18-55mm) is decent for what it is, not bad for just casual shots. Everything on my Flickr was shot with just the kit lens.

    The 55-250 is really nice, seems to focus well (9 AF points on my XSi, your T1i will have it as well), and the range is quite good. For an essentially free lens for me (via a BestBuy deal), it's a great addition for the casual/aspiring hobbyist photographer.

    @Funkboy- I think I'll try out my parents 50mm ƒ/1.8 II and see how I like it, I'll probably end up getting it since it's only $100. And I definitely need to pick up a flash, my limit would be $175 or so. The 220EX doesn't seem to shabby, but I kinda prefer one with an LCD.

    EDIT: Upon looking more, I think I'll probably get a Speedlite 430EX or possibly the 430EX II. Looks like I can get the 430EX for about $200-225.
     
  14. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #15
    the bokeh on the 1.4 is still terrible. if the background is pretty empty it'll render fine, but once it starts getting busy, everything goes down the drain. the 1.8 can render empty backgrounds perfectly fine, so I don't see the point of the 1.4 in that regard.

    the Sigma, by contrast, has near-technically perfect bokeh.

    I still doubt this is a very common thing. I hear horror stories about Sigma service every now and then, along with Canon service...and I hear positive reviews. this doesn't look any different, and it doesn't seem to be very common, so it just looks like some people's lenses got handed to the company moron. it happens and unfortunately it's normal.

    I know some people who don't like Canon service at one location just send it to the other. I know everyone in Canada hates Canon service. maybe this is just a case of the Sigma NY service center is worse than the one in AZ? I only saw NY mentioned, anyway.
     
  15. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #16
    I just don't see this in my experience. The 50 1.4 gives very acceptable bokeh. It's not of the quality of the 85/1.2L, but it's only "terrible" if you consider the bokeh from the 1.8 to be "absolutely the worst thing ever seen in a photograph".

    No argument here. That what makes its QC issues so frustrating.

    Virtually every review I've seen of the Sigma 50 mentions AF accuracy as an issue. That, combined with the multitude of user reports on trusted sites like FM.com tell me that there is a real issue with this lens.

    I may still yet buy it, but not unless I can try the lens first AND I have the option to return it if it doesn't perform correctly.
     
  16. Brien macrumors 68020

    Brien

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    #17
    To me, USM is worth it just for full-time manual.
     
  17. CrackedButter macrumors 68040

    CrackedButter

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    #18
    Excuse me, what exactly do you mean by this please?
     
  18. rouxeny macrumors 6502

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    #19
    I have a 50 1.4 and have always liked it's background blur.

    I was unaware that "bokeh" could be ever described as "near-technically perfect."

    Isn't that somehow trying to quantify a quality that is inherently unmeasurable?

    Back on the original subject, I personally think the 50 1.4 is absolutely worth it over the 1.8. The construction is definitely better and I like the ability to do full time manual focus. USM is basically a necessity to me.
     
  19. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    #20
    Perhaps it could be argued that "technically perfect" bokeh is a blur that follows a gaussian distribution falloff pattern, as if you had applied a gaussian blur to the background.

    Optically a "perfect" lens free of any optical aberration can be simulated and its bokeh calculated, although IIRC the resulting pattern while very good might not be described as exceptional bokeh (i.e. optical aberrations in a real lens contributes to an enhanced bokeh). But perhaps this could be defined as "technically perfect" as it resulted from a technically perfect (ideal) lens.

    Ruahrc
     
  20. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #21
    "pleasing" bokeh has specular highlights that fall off gradually from the center to the edge and have no double lines, among some other things I don't remember, but those are the primary two. double lines is the primary factor in making a background look "nervous", and prominent rings in the specular highlights (donuts) are extremely distracting.

    this is not to say photographers chase "perfect" bokeh - you could say that it lacks character - but it's an objective method of concluding if a lens has good or bad bokeh.
     
  21. Ljohnson72 macrumors 6502a

    Ljohnson72

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    #22
    Let's compare Canon 50mm's to retail stores.

    50mm f/1.8 = Walmart
    50mm f/1.4 = Macy's
    50mm f/1.2 = Nordstrom


    The f/1.8 is an excellent lens for the price. I would definitely invest in the 50mm f/1.4 as the build quality, optics, and focusing are far superior. I owned the f/1.4 and now own the f/1.2, and the f/1.4 is certainly no slouch.
     
  22. Brien macrumors 68020

    Brien

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    #23
    How do you like the 1.2 compared to the 1.4? I've heard from a few people the L wasn't worth it.
     
  23. Ljohnson72 macrumors 6502a

    Ljohnson72

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    #24
    I love it. The colors and bokeh are definitely better. I do notice backfocusing at distances less than 5 feet but I don't do any upclose work with it. When I first got it I was surprised at how heavy it was. Can't imagine the weight of the 86L. :D
     

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