Best 50mm lens for your camera: 8 ‘Nifty Fifty’ lenses tested and rated

Best 50mm lens for your camera: 8 'Nifty Fifty' lenses tested and rated

Best 50mm lens for your camera: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Best 50mm lens for your camera: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Price: £280
Were money no object, you could get the L-series (Luxury) Canon 50mm f/1.2 lens, but it costs a monstrous £1,170.

At a quarter of the price, the f/1.4 is much more affordable and a mere one-third of a stop slower.

It offers some of the same attractions as the dearer lens, including an eight-blade diaphragm to give a rounded aperture, a focus distance scale positioned beneath a viewing window, and Super Spectra coatings to reduce ghosting and flare.

One bit of downgrading is that the autofocus system is based on an ultrasonic motor, rather than being ring-type ultrasonic.

It’s a bit slower and more audible, but quiet nonetheless. Unusually for an ultrasonic motor system, or Micro USM as Canon calls it, full-time manual override is available in One Shot autofocus mode.

This is a feature usually reserved for Canon’s ring-type USM and more recent STM (Stepping Motor) autofocus systems.

Build quality and specs are superior to the cheaper Canon 50mm f/1.8, also on test. The mounting plate is made from metal rather than plastic, and the f/1.8 lens lacks a focus distance scale.

Typical of non-L-series Canon lenses, however, there’s no lens hood supplied; the optional ES-71 II hood costs an additional £25.

Relatively fast 50mm f/1.4 lenses often fail to give great sharpness at their widest available aperture, and this is no exception. It’s pretty good by the time you hit f/2.8 and has a sweet spot at f/8. But even here, sharpness is slightly outclassed by most competing f/1.4 lenses.

Features: 4/5
Build quality: 4/5
Image quality: 4/5
Value: 4

Overall: 4/5

PAGE 1 – What is a 50mm lens good for?
PAGE 2 – Features to look for in a Nifty Fifty lens
PAGE 3 – Best 50mm lens: 01 Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
PAGE 4 – Best 50mm lens: 02 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
PAGE 5 – Best 50mm lens: 03 Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G
PAGE 6 – Best 50mm lens: 04 Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
PAGE 7 – Best 50mm lens: 05 Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8
PAGE 8 – Best 50mm lens: 06 Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
PAGE 9 – Best 50mm lens: 07 Sony 50mm f/1.4 A
PAGE 10 – Best 50mm lens: 08 Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM
PAGE 11 – Image quality comparison
PAGE 12 – Best 50mm lens: Verdict


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  • Edgard

    The Nikkor 50mm AF-S f1.4 is, by far, the slowest autofocus lens I’ve ever used. This point should be enough to put in on the bottom of the list. The AF-S 1.8 is a little better (considering its cost) but I would never use it for an assignment. For Nikon cameras, right now the only acceptable 50mm lens is the two Sigmas (if you want to shoot wide open) or the old Nikkor stopped down.

  • mikhs1

    “Another helpful by-product of shooting with a 50mm lens on an APS-C format body is that, along with the increased, effective focal length, the depth of field is further reduced. ”

    This statement is 100% false… Crop sensors actually “rob” lenses of their shallow depth of field, because in order to fill the frame with a subject of the same size one needs to either move further back or use a wider lens.