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

Image quality comparison

Find out how each of the 50mm lenses in this test compare in terms of sharpness, fringing and distortion. Click the infographic below to see the larger version.

Best 50mm Lens: Image quality comparison

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Best 50mm lens: Verdict

Comparing all the lenses in the group, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 stands out by maintaining excellent sharpness and contrast throughout its entire aperture range. Colour fringing is extremely well controlled and there’s little distortion.

Handling and build quality are very good and it’s sensibly priced at £290, making it an outright winner.

Nikon’s f/1.8 lens is only about half the price, yet has most of the same advanced features and refined handling, and still manages to give superb image quality. It’s unbeatable value.

The Canon lenses lag a little behind Nikon’s offerings. The f/1.4 is lacking in sharpness, especially at its widest aperture, although barrel distortion is marginally better controlled.

The Canon f/1.8 is quite basic in terms of features and build quality, although it’s inexpensive at just £79. The Pentax 50mm f/1.8 delivers superior image quality and is well engineered, but its feature set is basic, especially as it costs £220.

The Sigma is the only independent lens here. It’s larger and heavier than competing f/1.4 lenses, but gives very little darkening of image corners, even at its widest aperture. Unfortunately, sharpness is underwhelming at f/1.4.

The Sony lenses are comparatively tiny but peripheral illumination is quite poor.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4The Winner: Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G

What’s good: Superb image quality, build and handling at a sensible price.
What’s bad: Not the greatest when it comes to controlling barrel distortion.
Our verdict: It’s the best all-round lens in the group and very good value.

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.