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: Sony 50mm f/1.4 A

Best 50mm lens for your camera: Sony 50mm f/1.4 A

Price: £305
The Sony 50mm f/1.4’s design follows the opposite path to the competing Sigma lens. Downsizing seems to be key, with a size and weight that’s much more in keeping with f/1.8 lenses. It also has a relatively small filter thread of 55mm.

Surprisingly, the lens itself is even smaller than Sony’s 50mm f/1.8 lens, despite the fact that the f/1.4 is compatible with full-frame bodies, whereas the f/1.8 is designed exclusively for cameras with APS-C format sensors.

Sony has managed to squeeze in a focus distance scale, but the focus ring seems almost like an afterthought.

It’s small and placed at the forward end of the lens barrel, and has no knurling to assist a secure hold. That’s not an altogether bad thing, however, as the focus ring rotates during autofocus.

Contributing to the fairly lightweight build of 220g is the absence of a built-in autofocus motor. Instead, autofocus needs to be driven from an in-camera motor via a screw-drive.

As with the similar arrangement in the Pentax 50mm lens, autofocus is fairly fast, but the Sony is a little quieter.

The minimum focus distance of 45cm, maximum magnification factor of 1.5x, and the provision of a seven-blade diaphragm are all par for the course.

Performance
There’s a noticeable darkening of image corners when using the lens at wide apertures on a full-frame body like the A99, but it’s not too bad on APS-C format cameras. Sharpness and distortion levels are average for this class of lens, but colour fringing is relatively poor.

Features: 3/5
Build quality: 3/5
Image quality: 3/5
Value: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

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Best 50mm lens for your camera: Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM

Best 50mm lens for your camera: Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM

Price: £115
Compared with the Sony 50mm f/1.4, which is the second most expensive in the group, this f/1.8 lens costs little more than a third of the price.

It’s designed exclusively for cameras that feature APS-C format image sensors, so can only be used in crop mode on full-frame bodies like the Sony A99.

It’s quite small and lightweight, but feels a bit plasticky and, like the Canon and Pentax f/1.8 lenses, has a plastic rather than metal mounting plate.

Unlike the Sony f/1.4 lens, the focus distance scale is printed on the focus ring (which rotates during autofocus), instead of being positioned beneath a viewing window.

But at least it does have a focus distance scale, which is absent on the Canon and Pentax f/1.8 lenses.

Another difference between the Sony lenses is that this one’s an SAM lens, with a built-in Smooth Autofocus Motor.

It’s a fairly basic electric motor and, on our A77 body, offered neither an increase in autofocus speed nor reduction in noise, compared with the f/1.4.

Whereas all other lenses in the group have a minimum focus distance of 45cm, this one focuses down to 34cm. As a result, the maximum magnification factor is slightly larger, at 0.2x rather than the more typical 0.15x.

Performance
Sharpness is marginally higher than in Sony’s more expensive f/1.4 lens, and colour fringing is better controlled. Vignetting on APS-C bodies is worse than with other lenses on test, which is no real surprise when all the others are full-frame compatible.

Features: 3/5
Build quality: 3/5
Image quality: 3/5
Value: 3/5

Overall: 3/5

PAGE 1 – Overview; Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM ; Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
PAGE 2 – Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G; Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
PAGE 3 – Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8; Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
PAGE 4 – Sony 50mm f/1.4 A; Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM
PAGE 5 – Image quality comparison & 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.