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Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

Canon’s Nifty Fifty

The Canon 50mm f1.8 II, also referred to as the nifty fifty, is Canon’s most cost-effective prime lens. It’s also been the most requested lens review, by you, our readers! So we spent $109USD to purchase a copy of our own,  and were eager to run it through its paces to see what it could do. As luck would have it, my brother (Chris) and his lovely fiancee (Sara) volunteered for an impromptu Downtown Denver Engagement Photography Session. It turns out this lens is quite a marvel, and we are very impressed with the quality of images that it can aid in creating at its very affordable price point.

As a wedding photographer the shallow depth of field look is required to help us tell our love stories. This lens, with its wide 1.8 aperture, is very capable of doing just that. This lens maintains a standard 50mm view, so of course it won’t zoom. It will, however, give the photographer a perspective similar to the human eye. It’s very compact and light weight (as its made of plastic), which makes it welcome for day trips or light traveling needs. The all plastic design not only makes it affordable and light weight, but it also makes autofocusing lighting fast.

Canon had undoubtedly created this blockbuster of a lens to bring photography to the masses and it’s one of the most popular lenses in their entire lineup. The inexpensive 50mm has been a staple for photographers past and present and will continue to be a staple well into the future – and for good reason. It’s quite capable and considering its ability versus price point, owning one really seems like a no brainer. For this review all example photos have been created using the 50mm 1.8 and LR to develop our style. Thanks again to my brother and his soon to be wife for posing in these engagement photos!

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Art for the Masses

Bringing the super wide 1.8 aperture to an inexpensive design really opens up the playing field. Having to physically move around to compose shots, as opposed to merely zooming, gets the compositional mind racing. Art students, amateur and professional photographers alike either currently own or at some point have owned an inexpensive 50mm. Simply stated, the 50mm is a powerful tool with which one can learn the ways of photography, while empowering the user to create fantastic images that’ll keep the interest in photography thriving!

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Lens Build & Artifacts

Being at the most affordable end of the Canon 50mm spectrum, it’s expected that some corners must be cut to bring down cost. This lens is completely made of plastic, even the mount, which makes it feel a little toyish when holding or connecting it to the camera. It’s also very loud when auto-focusing. This is due to the simpler motor employed for pricing reasons. All these cutbacks add up to a lens that is capable of creating amazing pictures with the very barest essential of features. This has brought the cost down significantly. It’s longterm durability certainly seems suspect to a professional photographer. If you are looking for a lens that will certainly stand up to the regular abuse that full-time photography life can bring, consider Canon’s 50mm 1.4 or 50mm 1.2L models.

This lens also tends to exhibit a lot of artifacts. It suffers from significant chromatic aberration and you will notice quite a bit of purple color fringing when shot into a bright light source. It also creates rainbow flaring when shot directly into the sun. This has almost becoming a calling card for this lens and can be used in an artistic way. While these artifacts are mostly limited to bright or extreme conditions the do happen. It’s also worth mentioning that most of these artifacts can be repaired in LR or Photoshop.

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In Conclusion

Canon created a fantastic lens, and while it does lack basically all the bells and whistles its quite capable. If you are looking for an artistic look on a shoestring budget this lens will most likely be the best contender. Its dual personality allows it the ability to render whimsical images wide open or sharpen up a bit stopped down to capture more depth. The image quality is quite good and being very light-weight makes it a great travel companion for a full day of shooting. However, its greatest strength is how it continues to bring professional level results to the masses at the most affordable of cost!

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*Past Love: We no longer carry this lens in our bag and have given it away to a very lucky reader! Join our mailing list to be immediately entered into future give aways. As a subscriber you will be alerted to our latest photography gear reviews, techniques and other content only available to our subscribers!

More Resources

Are you interested in learning more about this lens? There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.

Canon –  Canon Tech Specs