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/1.8 II

Best 50mm lens for your camera: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

Price: £79
You can’t help but feel that Canon had to cut a few corners to build a lens that sells for just £79. Sure enough, it only has a plastic mounting plate, a basic electric micro-motor for autofocus and no distance scale.

It’s feather-light at 130g and feels a little flimsy in the hand. There’s one less element in the optical design, compared with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, and the diaphragm only has five blades, as opposed to eight.

The focus ring rotates during autofocus, but this doesn’t cause any real handling problems. That’s because the focus ring itself is positioned right at the front end of the lens, and it’s tiny.

The downside is that manual focusing is quite tricky, not only because of the smallness of the ring, but also because its action lacks any real precision.

At 52mm, the filter attachment ring is also small. This can be annoying for Canon shooters who already have kit zoom lenses like the 18-55mm and 55-250mm.

These both have a 58mm attachment thread (as does the Canon 50mm f/1.4), so a step-up ring will be needed to use existing filters.

Canon claims that the lens’s ‘virtually circular aperture diaphragm’ gives a soft effect to defocused areas in images. However, defocused lights and bright spots take on a pronounced pentagonal appearance in anything other than wide-open shooting.

Looking on the positive side, sharpness and contrast are pretty reasonable for such an inexpensive lens.

Features: 2/5
Build quality: 2/5
Image quality: 2/5
Value: 3/5

Overall: 2/5

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


Photography Basics: the No. 1 cheat sheet for metering and exposure
Expose to the right: the camera technique every landscape photographer must know
10 things photographers can do to stop wasting pictures
21 photography facts you probably didn’t know

  • 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.