REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

by PowerReviews
CanonEF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens
 
4.8

(based on 859 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (715)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (121)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (11)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (6)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (6)

98%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Strong construction (601)
  • Nice bokeh (572)
  • Fast / accurate auto-focus (543)
  • Durable (502)
  • Consistent output (439)

Cons

  • Heavy (180)
  • Slow focus (67)
  • Blurry focus (26)
  • Pricey but worth it (17)
  • Pricey / poor value (12)

Best Uses

  • Low light (620)
  • Weddings (531)
  • Night photography (384)
  • Video (206)
  • Landscape/scenery (197)
    • Reviewer Profile:
    • Pro photographer (313), Semi-pro photographer (239), Photo enthusiast (150), Casual photographer (34), Professional (26)
    • Was this a gift?:
    • No (648), Yes (19)

Most Liked Positive Review

 

Idiosyncratic, frustrating, brilliant!

This really is an interesting lens. I've gone from hating it to loving it over a few short days. It's hugely idiosyncratic, and in that sense, much of the criticism that it has...Read complete review

This really is an interesting lens. I've gone from hating it to loving it over a few short days. It's hugely idiosyncratic, and in that sense, much of the criticism that it has received on web forums, blogs and reviews is largely correct. However, when you get to know the lens, it really is very capable and offers a unique perspective on the world.

It's heavy and does not have IS, and therefore, you will get some blur if you don't use flash below around 1/30 sec. Also, there is definitely a flaw in the focus algorithms, but only when shooting faces and focusing on eyes. Under controlled conditions, shooting a mm scaled ruler, it hits focus accurately 100% of the time. Shooting portraits, I hit around 65 to 70% success. This is quite acceptable given the incredibly narrow depth of field at f1.2. It definitely does back focus on some occasions, but not often enough to be a problem, and given the narrow slither of focus available wide open, it probably wouldn't show up any missfocus at anything much above f2.8 where the zone of focus is a bit wider.

How sharp is it - razor sharp from f1.2 up. Sharpness improves up to f1.6, and then reaches a peak at around f2.2. However, I shoot at f1.2 whenever I can as results are simply brilliant. So, this is a bit of a love me hate me lens. It is definitely not worth the money, and unless you are wealthy or a true bona fide professional earning your money through social photography (not so many of them left now), I'd think twice before parting with your money. However, if you are in this category, or a keen amateur portrait photographer, you won't regret buying this lens - just be prepared to accept it does have some foibles. It is limited to 50 or 80mm equivalence on FF or APS-C cameras, and you might miss your zoom, but when you nail a shot with this lens, nothing can compare to it. The 80mm f1.2 is too large and heavy and the electric focusing all conspire to put the 50mm ahead (cheaper too). I like this lens on a crop frame camera best as the 80mm perspective is particularly flattering. I remember when in film days of the 1980s we were all told to throw our 'useless' 50mm lenses away and buy zooms - how things change!

I was tainted by all the bad press about this lens, but I'm glad I got it. The reviews I read made me paranoid, and I was pixel peeping every image for sharpness - I guess you all will too after spending this much money. I read one review that said the lens caused strange yellow banding patterning on most frames some of the time. Imagine my thoughts when this happened to me on the second day I had it - I was ready to throw the lens in the bin (well return it). But ha - I learnt that at fast shutter speeds (due to large aperture), older style fluorescent lighting causes this patterning. Motto - don't believe half the rubbish you read on blogs! My advice is to buy this lens, it'll give you great pleasure and inject a new perspective to your photography. My view is that this is a sharp, brilliant lens, but a truly idiosyncratic one - a bit like many creative geniuses. But don't buy on a whim or a must have premise, buy if you are in need of the narrow depth of field and unique images that this trait confers Enjoy, and I hope this review dispels some of the misinformation and confusion that exists out there, and particularly with prospective buyers.

VS

Most Liked Negative Review

 

A Necessary evil

I shoot a wide variety of subject matter for my work and, because I exclusively use full frame Canon bodies and always try to use prime lenses, a 50mm is almost mandatory.Read complete review

I shoot a wide variety of subject matter for my work and, because I exclusively use full frame Canon bodies and always try to use prime lenses, a 50mm is almost mandatory.

I have owned the EF 50mm f1.4 for years and it is a really good lens. Unfortunately, it is not a truely great one as it flares, focuses erratically and suffers from chromatic aberration, amongst other things.

I assumed the 50mm f1.2L would have to be much better because it is much heavier, many times the price and only a third of a stop faster. I was wrong. For examle, compared to my Mk. I 85mm f1.2, (which it is in the same "family" as) it is very poor. The later 50mm f1.2 should have built on this 20 year old design but it went backwards.

In some ways it is better than the EF 50mm f1.4. It has less flare and it is sharper to about f4 but it still has chromatic aberration, it is only acceptably sharp in the centre and it really suffers with back focussing and erratic focussing problems. I have paid Canon several times to try and get this lens to focus reliably, ( and had it done under warranty too). I have now given up and and accepted the best compromise after many hours of micro-adjustment with my camera bodies. I just shoot a lot of frames wherever possible. If I can get away with it I manually focus with live view or, even better, use my old Zeiss f1.4 plannar. In all I have 9 L series lenses and this has been the only truly troublesome one. My colleges are having similar problems with them. I would be o.k. about it if this didn't cost almost as much as the last car I could afford.

Australian photographers are rarely rich but, like other professionals, we get in trouble if we don't produce sharp photos. If you need the best compromise to do your job and they pay you well enough, this might be it but, otherwise, get the 50mm f1.4. It is a fraction of the price and, in in many ways it is the better lens. Now, why did I sell mine? . . . Better get another one.

Reviewed by 859 customers

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4.0

ef 50 mm f/1.2l usm

By Gabriel

from Los Angeles

About Me Semi-pro Photographer

Verified Buyer

Pros

  • Consistent Output
  • Durable
  • Easily Interchangeable
  • Nice Bokeh
  • Rugged
  • Strong Construction

Cons

  • Heavy

Best Uses

  • Indoors/Low Light
  • Landscape/Scenery
  • Night Photography
  • Video
  • Weddings/Events
  • Wildlife Photos

Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

Great lens. good for low light. also great for portraits

  • Was this a gift?:
  • No

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(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

 
4.0

Stunning Lens With Some Caveats

By Perry, Aesthetic Photographer

from Denver, Colorado

About Me Pro Photographer

Verified Reviewer

Pros

  • Nice Bokeh

Cons

  • Blurry Focus
  • Heavy

Best Uses

  • Indoors/Low Light
  • Night Photography

Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

This is a fantastic lens that delivers truly stunning detail in urban night scenes at f/2.8 and smaller aperture settings. Otherwise, at wider apertures, I would use it mostly for portraits because it seems to have focus issues.

In 2011, I bought this lens from B&H and took it on a three month tour of north and eastern France, mostly Paris. One night I was shooting the Eiffel Tower from the popular Trocadero plaza. I made the huge mistake of trusting the focus on manual and automatic at the widest aperture settings without carefully checking that focus under strong magnification. That was a bit tragic given that the moon was full and moving behind the tower for hours, clouds cracking with awesome lines and hues of blue and grey. It was April in Paris. I did my shooting on a tripod using a shutter cable on my Canon 5D Mark II DSLR. As always, I was shooting in raw at full rez. I shot hundreds of these Eiffel images that night. All the ones using this lens at widest apertures came out horribly soft focused, meaning they would not make marketable enlargements but would otherwise look good for web pages or small prints. Unfortunately I also made an embarrassing blunder. I realized that I had failed to remove a lens filter, something that can probably contribute to bad focus in night scenes. So that might explain why even the f/2.5 shots were blurry. But further experience would show that the filter mistake was not the primary culprit.

Testing: After the journey, I did some night test shots using the 50mm f/1.2 lens, on a diagonal view of a half block of buildings lit mostly by side-street city lamps. I used both manual and automatic focus, mirror lockup, better tripod and no lens filter on the lens. I found that the lens just does not seem to focus reasonably in average urban night shots at f/1.2 no matter what I do. All of my f/1.2 test shots were unacceptably blurry. At that full wide aperture it's good for portrait bokeh but not urban night scenes except maybe close-ups. At f/2 the focus problem was not as bad but it was still unacceptable. The depth of field was very narrow as expected. But even the sweet spot was out of focus. At f/2.8 however, the focus was very crisp through the entire depth of field. And those images registered with stunning quality even upon extreme magnification. Too bad I was not aware of all this on that April, 2011 night back in Paris.

The issue of soft focus at wide aperture might be solvable by doing a technical camera focus calibration specifically for this lens (see your camera user manual). But I tend to doubt it given that my experience with the focus issue does not seem uncommon. And those calibrations are usually unnecessary.

Based on my personal testing, I think the lens is still a truly fantastic prime if you don't mind using the widest aperture settings mostly for portrait work and not for urban night scenes. But again, the f2.8 night shots are beyond astonishing. At this writing, I'm planning my second three month Paris photo journey very soon. I plan to haul this heavy lens among five others even though I can get 50mm on my 24-70, f/2.8 zoom. I believe the 50mm prime delivers on great glass performance although there is an expected weight penalty to carry. If not for the awful tower focus problem at wide apertures and less than perfect night focus even on my f/2 test later, I'd be giving it my top rating. Nevertheless, I still love it and treasure it especially for urban night scenes and portraits.

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(1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

 
5.0

An amazing piece of glass!

By Brian

from Newberg, OR

About Me Semi-pro Photographer

Pros

  • Durable
  • Fast / accurate auto-focus
  • Nice Bokeh
  • One Of A Kind Images
  • Rugged

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Indoors/Low Light
    • Video
    • Weddings/Events
    • Wildlife Photos

    Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

    I have purchased this both for use in still photography on my Canon 40D and as a professional "interview" lens for the C100. I have only had it for 24 hours, but the quality of the images that it generated, just around my home are stunning! I do not know why there are so many people who harp on the price or on the size, or on the "softness" of the images. The primary purpose of this over a different 50mm lens is the ability to create dreamy looking images. I can place an item on a cluttered counter or in front of a dirty window, and the background disappears into a soft blur. From a handling perspective, it feels much like the Canon EF 24-105 F/4.0L lens that I have used for years. It is solid, it has a nice weight and feel to it. The smoothness of the focus ring in manual mode is superb. I also offer this thought about those who talk about auto focus problems. When taking images 18 to 24 inches away... the depth of field is extremely shallow. An item that is curved (a soda can, a candle, etc) will have the front edge in focus and the rest will melt into a blur. I believe that if you are taking images at F/1.2 you need to carefully "select" which part of the image you want to draw attention to. On a soda can, that literally means which letter in the name on the side. The price issue is simple. Either you can justify it or you can't. If you want an L lens with the value of F1.2, this is the lens! If you can afford it and want the quality, don't hesitate. I have also owned the F1.4 lens. It also creates wonderful images, but believe me, that extra half stop and the quality of the glass "does" make a difference that you can't get on the 1.4.

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    • No

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    (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    My favorite lens for 6D

    By Harry

    from Los Angeles

    About Me Photo Enthusiast

    Pros

    • Consistent Output
    • Fast / accurate auto-focus
    • Nice Bokeh
    • Strong Construction

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • Indoors/Low Light
      • Night Photography
      • Video

      Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

      i have a few L lens, this is my 1st choise when taking pictures for kids.
      with 6d's high iso, i turn night into day light.
      i posted a pic on wechat, my friend say she can take the same picture with her point and shoot camera, she say that because she can't imagine the kids's bright and clear faces are totally dark when you see it with your eyes...
      I also like the color, and back ground blur.
      85 or 135, or 70-200 2.8 are for adult, who can stand away from you and follow your instruction, for for kids, you can't stand two far away to get their attention.
      The more i use it, the more i like it, Buy it if you want to take pictures for kids in dark outside or low light indoor.

      • Was this a gift?:
      • No

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      5.0

      Wonderful Lens

      By Barb C

      from Atlanta GA

      About Me Pro Photographer

      Verified Buyer

      Pros

      • Consistent Output
      • Durable
      • Strong Construction

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Indoors/Low Light
        • Landscape/Scenery
        • Weddings/Events

        Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

        This is a must have lens! I love the detail, the color is amazing, the speed is good as well. I used this lens for weddings and portraits, I love it and it's one of my favorite lenses.

        • Was this a gift?:
        • No

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        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        4.0

        Great lens but tough to get used to.

        By manray17

        from Staten Island, NY

        About Me Semi-pro Photographer

        Pros

        • Nice Bokeh
        • Rugged
        • Strong Construction

        Cons

        • Blurry Focus

        Best Uses

        • Indoors/Low Light
        • Weddings/Events

        Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

        I love this lens but can honestly say shooting under 1.8 its hard to get focused photos. I leave it at 1.8 and 2 and love it when its there. The other canon 50mm are good lenses but the images they make look cheap compared to this lens and don't have the mystique that this lens brings.

        • Was this a gift?:
        • No

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        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        In a word: WOW!

        By Acynic

        from Dallas, TX

        About Me Photo Enthusiast

        Verified Buyer

        Pros

        • Consistent Output
        • Easily Interchangeable
        • Fast / accurate auto-focus
        • Nice Bokeh
        • Rugged
        • Strong Construction

        Cons

        • Heavy

        Best Uses

        • Indoors/Low Light
        • Landscape/Scenery
        • Night Photography

        Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

        I was looking for a primary lens. It took a while to justify the cost of this lens, but it was worth the wait. The clarity and quality is there. Yes, one can throw all the technical terms out there and this lens will get high marks in all of them. However, my initial response stands: WOW!

        • Was this a gift?:
        • No

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        5.0

        Quality of L series

        By SMP

        from Pittstown

        Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

        It is fast glass Lense , nice sharp image not regratte For this buy , will recomend to anyone who wants to get results in photography .

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        5.0

        Just buy it!

        By James

        from Ottawa, ON

        About Me Semi-pro Photographer

        Pros

        • Fast / accurate auto-focus
        • Strong Construction

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Indoors/Low Light
          • Weddings/Events

          Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

          Picked up a 1.2 couple days ago. Had 50mm 1.4 which is good but 1.2 just much better.$ dollar difference is totally worth it.

          • Was this a gift?:
          • No

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          3.0

          Mixed Feelings.

          By Dani

          from Oklahoma

          Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

          I decided to invest in this lens because I am very comfortable working with the 50 mm 1.4 prime lens from when I worked as a contractor for a photography company. I am now starting my own. I'm surprised at how soft pictures come out at times with this one. I understand now what other reviewers meant when they talked about back focusing problems and not always getting tact sharp pictures. Of course, in the end, a lens is only as good as its photographer. I plan on giving myself more time in learning how to wield this lens. Pros: Super creamy bokeh. Can be used to shoot without flash in low light settings. Physically durable. Cons: could feel too heavy for some people. Focus issues at times.

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          5.0

          Customer feedback for this lens

          By Kevin

          from Georgia

          Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

          It was a dream lens to own. It has a high end build quality, nice low light performance, and nice bokeh. A perfect lens for indoor portrait and daily carry. However, it would be better if the price would be lower

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          (7 of 7 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Clearly a difference!

          By SeanO

          from Atlanta, GA

          About Me Photo Enthusiast

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Consistent Output
          • Easily Interchangeable
          • Fast / accurate auto-focus
          • Nice Bokeh

          Cons

            Best Uses

            • Indoors/Low Light
            • Weddings/Events

            Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

            I read thru and watched a bunch of online reviews of the Canon 50mm F1.2L vs. the Canon 1.8 and 1.4 50's. I originally purchased the 1.4 to use with a Canon 50D. It was then used when I upgraded to a 5D mark II. On each of these bodies, the 1.4 was a solid performer. However, when I upgraded to the 5D mark III, it seemed as though all the limitations of the 1.4 were being identified. Even when closing the 1.4 down to F5.6-11, I wasn't seeing the overall performance I was expecting with a prime lens. My primary need/want for the 1.2L was for better low light capability, along with a nice prime for small group & individual portraits at events. In using the 1.2 on my 5D mark III, I see a CLEAR difference in overall sharpness and clarity, as well as better bokeh. Even when looking as just the raw unedited versions I can easily see the difference. Given this, I don't understand why so many reviews down play the improvement. My guess, as with my own experience, is that its likely related to the camera body it's being used on. In addition to the mentioned benefits, it does look and feel better on my camera body. Forget about the heavy comments, its a non-issue if you're seriously considering this lens. The 1.2L is a keeper for me. PS - I read the reviews on the Sigma 50 art. In the end, my experience with Canon performance and resale value kept me in the Canon camp.

            • Was this a gift?:
            • No

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            5.0

            Great lens

            By Amy

            from Portland, OR

            About Me Pro Photographer

            Verified Buyer

            Pros

            • Consistent Output
            • Durable
            • Easily Interchangeable
            • Fast / accurate auto-focus
            • Lightweight
            • Nice Bokeh
            • Rugged
            • Strong Construction

            Cons

              Best Uses

              • Weddings/Events

              Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

              I LOVE everything about this lens. Sharp focus creamy backgrounds are among my favorite features.

              • Was this a gift?:
              • No

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              5.0

              Game Changer

              By CourtD

              from Ofallon, IL

              About Me Pro Photographer

              Verified Buyer

              Pros

              • Consistent Output
              • Fast
              • Nice Bokeh
              • Sharp

              Cons

                Best Uses

                • Indoors/Low Light

                Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

                Fantastic lens! Started with the 1.8, move up to the 1.4 and now the 1.2 If I wold have realized just how much better this glass is, I would have started with it in the first place. Very fast, super sharp and gorgeous color! Can't express enough how fantastic this lens is.

                • Was this a gift?:
                • No

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                (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                5.0

                Exelente

                By David

                from Arica

                Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

                Muy nitido,rapido,exelente para tomas con poca luz...100%recomendable

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                5.0

                Fantastic Performance

                By Hongtao

                from Kirkland, WA

                About Me Photo Enthusiast

                Verified Buyer

                Pros

                • Consistent Output
                • Durable
                • Easily Interchangeable
                • Fast / accurate auto-focus
                • Nice Bokeh
                • Rugged
                • Strong Construction

                Cons

                • Heavy

                Best Uses

                • Indoors/Low Light
                • Night Photography
                • Sports/Action
                • Weddings/Events

                Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

                I mainly use it indoor for taking pictures for my son. It focuses fast and accurately.

                • Was this a gift?:
                • No

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                (0 of 6 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                5.0

                the best lens

                By yaya

                from san ramón, ca

                About Me Semi-pro Photographer

                Verified Reviewer

                Pros

                • Consistent Output
                • Easily Interchangeable
                • Fast / accurate auto-focus
                • Lightweight
                • Strong Construction

                Cons

                  Best Uses

                  • Indoors/Low Light
                  • Night Photography
                  • Weddings/Events

                  Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

                  I love this lens for portraits

                  • Was this a gift?:
                  • No

                  Share this review

                  (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                   
                  5.0

                  magical lens

                  By Brae Howard

                  from Philadelphia, PA

                  About Me Pro Photographer

                  Verified Buyer

                  Pros

                  • Consistent Output
                  • Durable
                  • Nice Bokeh
                  • Strong Construction

                  Cons

                  • Blurry Focus

                  Best Uses

                  • Indoors/Low Light
                  • Weddings/Events

                  Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

                  I'm a full time wedding photographer and being able to make portraits of the bride and bride and groom at 1.2 is pure magic. That aperture makes things so beautiful.

                  The lens is a bit slower than I thought it would be, but not as slow as the 80 1.2

                  • Was this a gift?:
                  • No

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                  (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                   
                  5.0

                  Perfect lense

                  By agi

                  from wood dale, il

                  Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

                  Very bright, nice depth of field. One of my favorite lenses. I would recommend it.

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                  (0 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

                   
                  5.0

                  it's awesome! !!

                  By Don't Blink Photography

                  from Oklahoma

                  Comments about Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens:

                  Love my new purchase! !!!

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