Monday, June 27, 2011

[Review] Canon 50mm 1.2L

Pros  : superb build and build quality, bokeh, colors, consistent output, excellent weight
Cons : less than "sharp," complaints from others
Bottom-line  : The versatile focal-length lens that I am willing to carry out and actually shoot with
Bodies Used : Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 1D Mark IV

The excellent build and build quality is what makes this lens superb. It marries perfectly with bodies such as the 7D and the 5D Mark II as the weight distribution is one the most desired. It also comes with weather sealing and, with a UV filter, the lens does not protrude in anyway, making the lens seem completely sealed. Even better, the lens weight is light and length is short.

The image quality is superb. The bokeh gives you that rare melting blur, as seen with the Canon's 85mm 1.2L. The color and contrast is just excellent, as seen with the Canon's 35mm 1.2L. The auto-focus is fast, given that the lens does have a large 1.2 aperture. When shooting in photojournalistic or walk around situations, the auto-focus does sufficiently. However, when shooting sports where the subject moves closer and farther inconsistently, the auto-focus might pose a problem. This lens also has a very close focusing, making it comfortable to shoot semi-macro shots.

The lens does have its flaws. The well-known focus shift is definitely present. When shooting with a smaller aperture, the focus does "shift" after apparent focus confirm. This is because focusing is confirmed through aperture f/1.2 and the lens does not have a floating lens element (, which the 35L and 85L have. Therefore, we can see haloing lateral chromatic aberration ( Moreover, the property might also account for the drop in sharpness. Why did Canon do this? Not having a floating lens element permits a much smaller and light design. The unorthodoxed halos in out-of-focus regions make the lens unique and the bokeh absolutely superb. The focus shift doesn't really bother me because I use this lens to shoot at 1.2 and I don't use this lens for semi-macro photography. The sharpness however is a concern. But due to the auto-focus accuracy and consistent output from the lens, this lens actually produces better quality image ratio than most of its competitors.

As a bottom-line, I absolutely recommend this superb lens. Simply because I do not feel so conscious about dust or water getting into the lens and is very easy to carry. This is now the lens that sits on my camera for photojournalism, event, and everyday photography. The output is very consistent and I am able to shoot very nice shots at f/1.2. The best camera is the camera that is with you- and this lens does exactly that, allowing my creativity to shine.

Canon 50mm 1.2L vs Canon 85mm 1.2L
Canon 85mm 1.2L is the bokeh king. It has less chromatic aberration and is noticeably sharper. However, it's size, weight, and moving front elements make it hard for me to carry it around and enjoy photography. I consider the 85mm 1.2L as a complimentary lens that excels in controlled situations such as portrait and studio photography. 50mm 1.2L is the little brother of 85mm 1.2L. 50mm 1.2L sacrifices the image quality of the 85mm for a wider perspective, faster AF, and much suitable everyday build, which really makes my 85mm 1.2L sit in my bag, but the 85mm still pumps out the best images out there.

Canon 50mm 1.2L vs Canon 35mm 1.4L
The Canon 35mm 1.4L excels in sharpness. However, the out-of-focus chromatic aberration of the lens annoys me. The non-weather sealed and plastic body really make the 35mm 1.4L feel cheap compared to the 50mm 1.2L. However, 35mm is a much better perspective than the 50mm in my shooting situations. I like to include more of the background perspective. The 50mm sacrifices the focal length a bit, but the build quality, again, makes it easier for me to carry it around. In the end, I still regard the 35mm 1.4L to be the compliment of 50mm 1.2L. When I do landscape photography and close photojournalism, I generally prefer the 35mm 1.4L. Otherwise, I use the 50mm 1.2L. Canon, please update the 35mm 1.4L soon =).

Canon 50mm 1.2L vs Canon 50mm 1.4 vs Sigma 50mm 1.4
The comparison is simple. 50mm 1.2L is darn expensive compared to the other two. So much more expensive. Canon 50mm 1.4 really loses on build quality, color, contrast, and bokeh. The Sigma 50mm 1.4 really loses on its AF, color and contrast, and build consistency. If cost is a concern, Sigma 50mm 1.4 is a very good choice- but make sure to test and buy it at a store. The variance among copies is pretty significant. In terms of image quality and output, the Canon 50mm 1.2L is a clear winner, but make sure the cost does not bother you too much.

(shot with Canon 50mm 1.2)

(shot with Canon 50mm 1.2)

(shot with Canon 50mm 1.2 - thanks Anthropologie of San Francisco)

(shot with Canon 50mm 1.2 - thanks Anthropologie of San Francisco)

(shot with Canon 50mm 1.2 - thanks Anthropologie of San Francisco)

keywords: Canon 50 mm f/1.2 1.2 f1.2

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