by Philip Greenspun; revised August 2018
Canon's 50/1.4 is a bit heavier than the 50/1.8 but it gives you simultaneous AF/MF because of its USM focusing motor (the latest Canon 50/1.8 STM lens also has good AF). It is one f-stop slower than the 50/1.0 but much lighter weight and less than one-sixth the price.
If you are going to limit yourself to one 50mm prime lens, this is the natural choice. It is reasonably light in weight, a joy to focus manually or automatically, has an 8-blade diaphragm so that out-of-focus highlights look natural (good "bokeh"), and takes a bayonet lens hood.
If you're stuck with Canon EOS bodies, it won't cheer you to know that Popular Photography's comparison of 50/1.4 lenses showed the Contax/Zeiss 50/1.4 to be slightly better than Canon's. On the other hand, the Canon lens proved superior to Leica, Minolta, Nikon, and Pentax (in that order).
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|Construction:||7 elements, 6 groups|
|Angle of view:||46 degrees (diagonal), 27 (vertical), 40 (horizontal)|
|Focus motor:||Micro USM (allows full-time manual focus)|
|Closest focusing:||0.45 m (1.5 ft) -- magnification of 0.15x|
|Filter size:||58 mm|
|Lens Hood:||ES-71 (outside bayonet)|
|Length and diameter:||50.5 x 73.8 mm|
I bought the Canon 50/1.4 just before a business trip to Ireland. I only had two free days and my primary photographic tool was to be a Fuji 617 panoramic camera. I wanted something light but high quality to stick on a EOS-3 body for snapshots. Why not a zoom lens? I find it less mentally challenging to take pictures with a fixed lens. I don't have to spend time choosing a focal length before each photo. Anyway, here are the best of my snapshots during those two days (all with the EOS-3 body and Fuji NPH ISO 400 color negative film; no filters or lens hood;
Text and pictures copyright 1999 Philip Greenspun