Monday, September 25, 2006

Canon 50 mm f1.8 Mk II (Pros and Cons)

Disclaimer: I don't personal own a canon 50mm f1.8 MkII but do own a canon 50mm f1.4 USM. So please comment after reading this post and give me your take on the f1.8 Mk II.

I was asked by a friend to list the pros and cons of buying canon 50mm f1.8 MkII for a digital rebel xt (canon 350D). This is what I came up with.

The 50mm f1.8 MkII pros:
  1. Price: the lens retails for around $120 CDN which is dirt cheap as far as camera lenses go. For comparison, the canon 50mm f1.4 USM is around $500 CDN.
  2. Large aperture: this will give you the ability to experiment with bokeh, small DOF shots and is great for available light photography. At wide open the small DOF will help you learn to choose focal points in the photo you are framing.
  3. Optics: this lens is sharp. It will blow your kit lens away but of course this is a general property of primes over zooms.
  4. No zoom: it forces you to use your feet to zoom and frame the photo. I will admit I found this hard at first but in the long run I believe it will help your photography skills.
  5. AF is not that great in low light: this can be a pro as it will force you to use manual focus. (Note I have nothing against autofocus, in fact I use autofocus 99% of the time)
  6. Minimum focus distance: not bad at 42 cm.
The 50mm f1.8 MkII cons:
  1. Build quality: plastic lens mount, focus ring is small and may feel sloppy relative to your other lenses.
  2. Not USM: this lens is louder and the AF is slower.
  3. No distance scale: only really a con if you are using tripod and want to focus at infinity.
  4. Effectively 80mm on a 1.6x crop factor camera (300D, 350D, 400D, 20D, 30D): this is not a wide lens and will be difficult to use indoors. Try setting your zoom to 50mm and walk around your house to see what I mean.
  5. Focus is not full time manual: you can not override AF without moving the switch to MF. This may not seem like a big deal but the ability to bring the lens to near focus in low light manually before applying autofocus can significantly reduce focus "hunting".
Most of the cons are build quality issues and I think they can be over looked because of the lens' good optics and price. The only factor that prevents me from yelling BUY IT is the question: is 50mm (effectively 80mm) is too long for the type of photography you like to do? Some wider primes lenses with good optics to consider (according to reviews at are the 24mm f2.8, which is four times the cost or the 35mm f2 which is 3 times the cost.

One more suggestion, camera stores like Henry's usually have this lens in stock and will let you try it out in the store. So when/if you go take your camera and shoot some frames.


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