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The best 50mm lens in 2022: which 'standard prime' is the right one for you?

Best 50mm lenses
(Image credit: Nikon)

The best 50mm lenses are an essential addition to the camera bag of any serious photographer. These lenses, also referred to as 'standard' lenses or 'nifty fifties', capture a perspective that's roughly equivalent to the field of the view the human eye can see, making them an ideal choice for capturing imagery with a naturalistic feel.

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These lenses also run the gamut in terms of price – it's possible to spend a four-figure sum on some of the best 50mm lenses out there, but there are also some ultra-budget optics at there that offer surprisingly good quality for a minimal outlay. Of course, spending more will mean you get better features – a wider maximum aperture up to f/1.4, or even f/1.2, for instance. Cheap lenses tend to top out at f/1.8, which is still pretty useful in low light, and they have their own advantages too, as their simpler optical builds make them lighter and more portable. 

There's a lot of choice out there, that's for sure. That's why we've put together this extensive guide of 50mm lenses for all the major mounts that are out there right now, as well as some that are available for multiple systems. We've split the guide into sections to make it easier to navigate, so you can easily find your system of choice.

Best 50mm lens: Equivalent focal lengths

One thing that's worth being aware of is that a 50mm lens does not always produce the field of view of a 50mm lens, depending on the sensor size of the camera you're using. On an APS-C body, such as a Fujifilm X camera, the same lens will have an effective focal length of 75mm (80mm for Canon), making it a better fit for portraiture. 

Shrink down to a Micro Four Thirds camera, and a 50mm lens will have an 100mm effective focal length, more suitable for really tight portraits and short telephoto shooting. 

With that in mind, the MFT lens we've included here is a bit less than 50mm: its 42.5mm focal length equates to 85mm in full-frame terms. Many regard that as spot-on for portraiture.

Whichever camp you’re in, a ‘nifty fifty’ might well be the only prime lens you ever buy, so it pays to get a good one. Even so, nobody likes spending over the odds. So let's take a look at the best 50mm lenses available right now...

The best 50mm lens in 2022

Canon EF & RF 50mm lenses

(Image credit: Canon)
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It may be pricey, but Canon's 50mm for the RF system is an astonishing performer

Specifications

Mount options: Canon RF
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Ultrasonic (ring)
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.40m
Filter thread: 77mm
Dimensions (WxL): 89.8 x 108mm
Weight: 950g

Reasons to buy

+
Unbelievable sharpness
+
Snappy autofocus

Reasons to avoid

-
Unbelievable price tag
-
Big for the system

Sure, it's too big for the cameras it's made for. Sure, it costs about the same as a new EOS R camera. All these are valid points. But... well, if you use the RF 50mm f/1.2L USM, you'll understand. It is quite simply a beautiful lens that radically redefines what the L series is capable of. Real-world results are near-flawless, with exceptional sharpness even wide open at f/1.2, and the customisable control ring allows you to really make the lens your own and have it handle exactly the way you want it to. There's weather-sealing too, and a super-speedy autofocus system: in short, everything you could want from a lens of this type. It's an incredible feat of engineering by Canon.

(Image credit: Canon)
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Both a bargain and an essential lens for EOS R series owners

Specifications

Mount options: Canon RF
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Stepping motor
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.30m
Filter thread: 43mm
Dimensions (WxL): 69.2 x 40.5mm
Weight: 160g

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive image quality
+
Very affordable
+
Fast focusing

Reasons to avoid

-
Not weather sealed

While the RF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a stunning lens, its price means it's out of reach for many EOS R series users. That's where the new RF 50mm f/1.8 STM comes in - a cheap, compact and capable standard prime lens. The great news too is that image quality hasn't been compromised - our tests show that it's on par in some areas with the much pricier f/1.2 variant, while the build quality is noticeably better than the EF equivalent (though it's worth bearing in mind it's not weather sealed). Focusing is also very good, with the stepping motor (STM) used offering quick and quiet focus, which is fast enough to stills and smooth enough for video. The Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a fantastic everyday lens that pairs well with any RF body.

(Image credit: Canon)
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An unconventional choice for a Canon 50mm, but it's the smart buy

Specifications

Mount options: Canon EF
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Stepping motor
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.35m
Filter thread: 49mm
Dimensions (WxL): 69 x 39mm
Weight: 160g

Reasons to buy

+
Bargain price and light weight
+
Fast and quiet AF

Reasons to avoid

-
Mediocre edge sharpness at large apertures
-
'Only' f/1.8 max aperture

Canon’s 25-year-old 50mm f/1.4 lens might seem the obvious choice, but we prefer this newer option (opens in new tab). It’s two-thirds of an f/stop slower, but is less than a third of the price, is much lighter and has better performance. 

Unlike previous f/1.8 editions, the ‘STM’ model has a stepping motor autofocus system that gives speedy yet quiet operation. The focus ring no longer rotates during autofocus, which improves handling, as well as enabling manual override in Single AF mode. 

The lens has a metal rather than plastic mounting plate, and a better-rounded aperture based on seven diaphragm blades instead of just five.

After testing multiple samples of the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8 lenses, we've found the f/1.8’s autofocus system to be much more accurate and reliable than its older sibling. Sharpness is also better than from Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 lens, from the centre to the edges. 

Colour fringing is minimal at wide apertures and negligible at other apertures. There’s a little more distortion than with some rival lenses, but it’s rarely noticeable. Considering its accessible pricing, this lens is a great value budget buy.

Nikon F & Z 50mm lenses

(Image credit: Nikon)
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Nikon's fastest fifty for Z-mount cameras

Specifications

Mount: Nikon Z FX
Elements/groups: 17/15
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: None
Minimum focus distance: 0.45m
Maximum magnification: 0.15x
Filter thread: 82mm
Dimensions (WxL): 89.5x150mm
Weight: 1090g

Reasons to buy

+
Very fast aperture
+
Supreme build and optics
+
OLED display & customisable controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Very big and heavy for a 50mm
-
Premium price

Up to now, if you wanted a Nikon Z-mount prime faster than f/1.8, you'd have to remortgage your house and fork out for a Nikkor 58mm f/0.95 Noct (opens in new tab). When compared to that lens, this 50mm f/1.2 S could almost be called cheap. However, there's no getting around the fact that at 150mm long and over 1kg in weight, this is one hefty 50mm prime. This 17-element pro lens incorporates advanced coatings like anti-reflection ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coat, along with a 9-blade rounded diaphragm. The exterior is fully weather sealed and features a video-friendly silent control ring, along with a customisable Fn button and OLED info panel that displays important data.

Read more Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S review

(Image credit: Nikon)
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It may be a ‘standard’ prime, but its performance is anything but

Specifications

Mount options: Nikon Z
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Stepping motor
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
Filter thread: 62mm
Dimensions (WxL): 76 x 86.5mm
Weight: 415g

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly sharp
+
Achieves beautiful bokeh

Reasons to avoid

-
Premium price
-
Heavier than its F-mount counterpart

Nikon's standard prime for its full-frame mirrorless Z cameras packs a 12-element optical stack which includes two ED glass elements as well as two aspherical elements to boost contrast and vibrancy. 

Externally, the Z 50mm is noticeably bigger and heavier than a good old F-mount Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G (opens in new tab), but compared with some F-mount 50mm alternatives from Sigma and Tokina, it’s pleasingly portable.

The lens barrel features just a single AF/MF switch, but the wide, tactile and precise manual focus ring isn’t redundant if you’re using autofocus, as it can also be set in-camera to adjust exposure compensation or ISO sensitivity.

Nikon has made much noise about the Z-mount's larger 55mm inner diameter and shortened distance between lens flange and image sensor, versus Nikon's F-mount. It's all supposed to add up to increased image quality. 

This isn't just hype though, as the Z 50mm is terrifically sharp, only fractionally down on the significantly pricier Z 35mm f/1.8 S, and that’s the sharpest lens we’ve ever tested. 

Aberrations are practically non-existent at any aperture, as is distortion, and the lens's stepping motor autofocus never missed its mark in our testing.

(Image credit: Nikon)
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A compact and light f/1.4 lens that's incredibly sharp across the whole image frame

Specifications

Mount options: Nikon F
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Ultrasonic (ring)
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.45m
Filter thread: 58mm
Dimensions (WxL): 74 x 54mm
Weight: 280g

Reasons to buy

+
Pin-sharp from f/2.8
+
Good autofocus

Reasons to avoid

-
Distortion is noticeable
-
Susceptible to flare

Compared with a Nikon-fit Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A or a Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4, Nikon’s own-brand lens is only half the physical length and about a third of the weight. It’s simpler than the Sigma, with eight rather than 13 optical elements, and rather less robust than the metal-jacketed Zeiss. 

A further sign of the downsizing is that the Nikkor only has a 58mm filter thread, which is quite small for a 50mm f/1.4 lens. The straightforward optical path doesn’t contain an aspherical element (as featured in Nikon’s more budget-oriented 50mm f/1.8), and there are neither any ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements nor any Nano Crystal Coat.

Autofocus accuracy is more critical in very wide-aperture lenses and the Nikkor does well in this respect, unlike Canon’s f/1.4 counterpart. Sharpness is average at f/1.4, but stop down to f/2.8 and this lens delivers superb sharpness across the entire image frame. 

Lateral chromatic aberrations are minimal, though longitudinal fringing is present when wide-open. A nine-blade diaphragm helps to maintain smooth bokeh when stopping down a little. The only weak link is distortion, which is worse than we'd like for a standard prime. Overall, this lens is worth the extra outlay compared with the less expensive Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G (opens in new tab) optic.

Sony E 50mm lenses

(Image credit: Sony)
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Sony’s go-faster standard prime ticks all the right boxes

Specifications

Mount: Sony FE
Elements/groups: 14/10
Diaphragm blades: 11
Autofocus: XD Linear Motors
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
Maximum magnification: 0.17x
Filter thread: 72mm
Dimensions (WxL): 87x108mm
Weight: 788g

Reasons to buy

+
Great handling characteristics
+
Scintillating sharpness, even at f/1.2
+
Robust, weather-sealed build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey, if you don’t need the f/1.2 aperture
-
A bit bulky
-
Heavy vignetting at f/1.2

Sony's 50mm lens range is now very extensive, but we reckon its latest 50mm f/1.2 G Master optic is the best of the bunch. Although it feels quite bulky on a Sony mirrorless body, it’s still fairly compact and reasonably lightweight for an f/1.2 lens. The weather-sealed construction feels of fully professional-grade quality, there are two customizable function buttons that fall naturally under the thumb in both landscape and portrait orientation shooting, and the manual aperture ring comes complete with a de-click switch for stepless control during video capture. Unlike most ultra-fast lenses, the Sony maintains spectacular sharpness across the entire image frame, even when shooting wide-open. Bokeh is beautifully smooth and both lateral and axial color fringing are very negligible. There’s noticeable vignetting when shooting at f/1.2 but this pretty much disappears by f/2, and automatic in-camera correction is available anyway.

Best 50mm lens: Sony Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA

(Image credit: Sony)
It's a big boy, but the quality of this Zeiss-made lens is undeniable

Specifications

Mount: Sony FE
Elements/groups: 12/9
Diaphragm blades: 11
Autofocus: Ring-type ultrasonic motor
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.45m
Maximum magnification: 0.15x
Filter thread: 72mm
Dimensions (WxL): 87x108mm
Weight: 780g

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional image quality
+
Top-class handling
+
Cheaper than G Master

Reasons to avoid

-
Hefty

If f/1.4 is fast enough for your purposes and you don't quite fancy the asking price of the G Master lens above, the Sony Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA is an excellent choice. It's a bulky, heavy lens, designed around the tried-and-tested Zeiss Planar concept designed to enhance image quality. In our review, we found center-sharpness, contrast and color fidelity of the lens to all be absolutely exceptional, and the quality of the bokeh to be delightfully smooth and creamy thanks to the 11-blade diaphragm. Is it a bit of a monster for 50mm, in terms of both size and price? Yes, but there's a lot going on under the hood here, and it's a credible alternative to the G Master. 

(Image credit: Sony)
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A great Sony 50mm lens doesn't have to be large

Specifications

Mount: Sony FE
Elements/groups: 9/9
Diaphragm blades: 7
Autofocus: Linear motors
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.31m
Maximum magnification: 0.21x
Filter thread: 49mm
Dimensions (WxL): 68x45mm
Weight: 174g

Reasons to buy

+
Superb image quality
+
Very small, very light
+
Fast and silent autofocus
+
Declickable aperture ring

Reasons to avoid

-
Not fast for a 50mm
-
No focus distance scale

Unlike many high-profile 50mm lenses with very fast max apertures, the FE 50mm f/2.5 is extremely small, extremely light and extremely practical. It can go places where you just wouldn’t take a bigger lens: with a lens this size you can shoot all day without getting arm-ache. Its maximum aperture of f/2.5 might sound very tame by today’s standards, but it’s still faster than even a pro zoom lens, while being a fraction of the size and cost. Performance-wise, this lens is just terrific. Sharpness is sensational, especially between f/2.8 and f/5.6, and chromatic aberration is almost invisible. The dual linear AF motors do their work silently, smoothly and quickly, and though there no stabilisation, all current Sony A7 (and A9) cameras have in-body stabilisation anyway.

(Image credit: Matthew Richards)
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A super-sharp autofocus prime for Sony A7 and A9 cameras

Specifications

Mount options: Sony E
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
Filter thread: 72mm
Dimensions (WxL): 80x89mm
Weight: 420g

Reasons to buy

+
Relatively compact and lightweight
+
New and improved autofocus
+
Excellent build and performance

Reasons to avoid

-
‘Slower’ than Sony’s f/1.2 option
-
No dedicated aperture control ring

The original edition of the Samyang AF 50mm F1.4 FE II was Samyang’s first ever autofocus lens, launched in celebration of the company’s 50th year in the business. Five years down the road, the Mark II features a new and improved autofocus system which is faster and more consistently accurate. Although relatively compact and lightweight for a modern 50mm f/1.4 lens, the Samyang packs some impressive features. Its new linear stepping motor-based autofocus system is super-fast for stills capture and works well for Sony’s face- and eye-detection AF, complete with highly effective tracking. It also enables smooth autofocus transitions for movie capture, the latter with minimal focus breathing, so the focus position doesn’t change when you adjust the aperture.

Best 50mm lens: Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

(Image credit: Sony)
On a budget? Here's the best cheap 50mm lens for Sony

Specifications

Mount options: Sony E
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: DC motor
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.45m
Filter thread: 49mm
Dimensions (WxL): 69x60mm
Weight: 186g

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Lightweight, travel-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
No weather seals
-
Severe vignetting at f/1.8

Not everybody has the money for G Master and Zeiss lenses, and if you just need a simple 50mm for your Sony camera that'll get the job without costing the earth, here it is. The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 performed well in our tests when we subjected it to a full review, with good sharpness and distortion control. Things do soften up when the lens is wide open at f/1.8, and there is some severe vignetting at this aperture, but otherwise performance is pretty excellent. One thing to be aware of though is that the autofocus is quiet but not silent, which will be a concern if you're planning to shoot video. 

L-mount

Best 50mm lens: Leica Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH

(Image credit: Leica)
The most outrageously expensive nifty fifty... and the best

Specifications

Mount options: Leica L
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus : Yes
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.6m
Filter thread: 82mm
Dimensions (WxL): 88x124mm
Weight: 1,065g

Reasons to buy

+
Maybe the sharpest lens we've tested
+
Solidly built

Reasons to avoid

-
Autofocus is average
-
Preposterously pricey

All right, we'll wait until you're finished fainting at the price tag. All done? Right – while we're going to admit that this expensive lens is not for everyone, we have to also be fair and say that it is one of the sharpest lenses we've ever tested – ever. The Leica Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH is ludicrously well constructed, inside and out, and the reason it weighs more than a kilogram is because it's packed with some of the finest glass in optical engineering. If you need the best of the best to pair with your Leica L-mount camera, this is the buy to make – it's absurdly sharp even with the aperture wide open or stopped fully down, and in the mid-range it's simply scintillating. What a lens.

Pentax K

(Image credit: Pentax)
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13. HD Pentax D FA* 50mm f1.4 SDM AW

Fast aperture lens designed for K-1 and K-1 Mark II users

Specifications

Mount options: Pentax K
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
Filter thread: 72mm
Dimensions (WxL): 106 x 80mm
Weight: 910g

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sharpness at f/1.4
+
Smooth AF
+
Nice bokeh

Reasons to avoid

-
Large and heavy

The HD Pentax D FA* 50mm f1.4 SDM AW represents Pentax's the first in a new generation of Star-series optics that have been designed for use with the both the full-frame K-1 and K-1 Mark II (opens in new tab) DSLRs. Designed to deliver the highest in-house standards both for current and future Pentax DSLRs, this 50mm lens features Aero Bright Coating II - a lens-coating nanotechnology employing a super-low refractive film fabrication process, while the lens also incorporates three super-low dispersion glass elements and one aspherical element. A large and heavy lens at almost 1kg, it's both dust-proof and weather-resistant, as well as enjoying a newly developed ring-type SDM (Supersonic Direct-drive Motor). It's pricey, but if you're looking for a high quality standard prime for your full-frame Pentax DSLR, this is the best 50mm lens you can buy. 

Fujifilm X 50mm lenses

(Image credit: Fujifilm)
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A relatively pricey prime for Fujifilm X cameras, but performance is fabulous

Specifications

Mount options: Fuji X
Effective focal length: 75mm
Full-frame compatible: No
Autofocus type: Stepping motor
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.39m
Filter thread: 46mm
Dimensions (WxL): 60 x 59mm
Weight: 200g

Reasons to buy

+
Great sharpness
+
Superb autofocus

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite pricey for an f/2 lens
-
Hint of pincushion distortion

Available in black or silver, there’s no denying that the Fujifilm XF50mm (opens in new tab) looks a bit pricey for an f/2 lens. Indeed, it has the slowest aperture rating of any lens in this test group. 

However, it’s impeccably built, with comprehensive weather-seals, a physical aperture ring for refined Aperture Priority and Manual mode shooting, and a high-grade optical path that includes an aspherical ED (Extra-low Dispersion) element. The nine-blade diaphragm is well-rounded. 

Autofocus is virtually silent. As with other ‘stepping motor’ systems, the focus ring is electronically coupled and, in this case, enables particularly precise manual control.

On Fujifilm X cameras, the lens has an effective focal length of 75mm and delivers a tight depth of field at f/2, making it a great portrait lens. Wide-open sharpness is excellent across the entire image frame, there’s very good resistance to ghosting and flare, and fringing is practically impossible to spot at wide apertures. There’s a very slight hint of pincushion distortion, but it’ll generally go unnoticed.

Micro Four Thirds 50mm lenses

(Image credit: Panasonic)
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A stabilised portrait prime for Micro Four Thirds cameras

Specifications

Mount options: MFT
Effective focal length: 85mm
Full-frame compatible: No
Autofocus type: Stepping motor
Stabilizer: Yes
Minimum focus distance: 0.31m
Filter thread: 37mm
Dimensions (WxL): 55 x 50mm
Weight: 130g

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and light
+
Optical stablisation

Reasons to avoid

-
Tight 85mm-equiv focal length
-
Average sharpness

Micro Four Thirds lenses only need to produce a relatively small image circle, and this Panasonic (opens in new tab) is typically compact and very light at only 130g - a fraction of the weight of some premium prices for DSLR cameras. 

With its effective focal length of 85mm, the Panasonic is ideal for portraiture and the f/1.7 aperture enables a fairly tight depth of field. It’s well-engineered and features an optical image stabilizer. 

This makes it ideally suited to Panasonic cameras; for Olympus bodies with sensor-shift stabilisation, we’d go for the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8.

Autofocus is quick and accurate, while color fringing is essentially a non-issue, as even Raw files are automatically corrected. There’s the merest touch of barrel distortion but you’re unlikely to notice it. Sharpness is good, but not great, and many other rival optics manage better centre-frame sharpness. 

With its relatively ‘telephoto’ effective focal length, this lens's optical stabilization will clinch the deal for MFT shooters whose cameras don’t have an in-body stabilizer.

Multi-mount 50mm lenses

Yongnuo YN50mm F1.8Z DF DSM

(Image credit: Matthew Richards)
An inexpensive but good-quality lens for Sony FE and Nikon Z

Specifications

Mount options: Nikon Z (FX), Sony E (FE)
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Linear stepping motor
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.31m
Filter thread: 37mm
Dimensions (WxL): 55 x 50mm
Weight: 130g

Reasons to buy

+
Good price
+
Useful function buttons

Reasons to avoid

-
Some noticeable distortion
-
Bokeh could be smoother

Third-party lenses can often be a way to snag some real bargains – case in point, this inexpensive lens for full-frame Nikon Z and Sony FE cameras that nevertheless punches above its weight. The Yongnuo YN50mm F1.8Z DF DSM is built to a pleasing standard of quality, and has a few clever handling features like the two L-fn buttons that can be assigned to your preferred functions. Optical quality is generally pretty good – there's some noticeable pincushion distortion and lateral chromatic aberration, but both can be corrected pretty easily with software. We do wish the bokeh was a little less fidgety – there are definitely smoother 50mm f/1.8 lenses out there. Overall though, this is an impressive package.

(Image credit: Tokina)
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A 50mm prime of the highest calibre

Specifications

Mount options: Canon EF, Nikon F
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
Filter thread: 72mm
Dimensions (WxL): 80 x 107.5mm
Weight: 950g

Reasons to buy

+
Unbeatable sharpness
+
No distortion and negligible fringing

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
Big and heavy

Designed to be the start of a high-end Opera series, this lens (opens in new tab) is positioned above the company's AT-X lens line and rivals Sigma and Tamron’s latest premium offerings. 

Inside is a 9-element optical stack that contains three SD (Super-low Dispersion) elements and one aspherical element to minimise chromatic aberrations, while a new ELR (Extremely Low Reflection) coating reduces ghosting, flare and reflections. 

The Opera 50mm is dust and moisture resistant, and though its AF system is of the ring-type ultrasonic variety rather than a more modern stepping motor design, it's fast and reliable.

But it's the Opera's image quality that impresses most. Sharpness is excellent, even wide open at f/1.4, becoming simply sublime from f/2 right through to f/11. Purple fringing is very well controlled, right at the corners of the frame, and you can forget about distortion, as there simply isn't any.

The Opera 50mm will cost you a sizeable chunk more cash than the already-pricey Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A, but it is the new sharpness benchmark for a Canon or Nikon DSLR standard prime.

(Image credit: Sigma)
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Top-drawer construction, along with superb handling and all-round performance

Specifications

Mount options: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony A, Sigma
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
Filter thread: 77mm
Dimensions (WxL): 85 x 100mm
Weight: 815g

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent all-round image quality
+
Superb quality build

Reasons to avoid

-
Not quite as sharp as the very best
-
Big and heavy for a 50mm prime

Sigma’s previous 50mm lens was renowned as being a heavyweight, but the replacement ‘Art’ edition really piles on the grammes. It gains 50 per cent in physical length and rises from 505g to 815g in weight. 

The main reason for the Art lens’s weight gain is that it has a much more complex and sophisticated optical path than its predecessor, based on 13 rather than eight elements. These include one complex aspherical element and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements. 

Build quality feels superb, although there are no weather-seals and the focus ring doesn’t quite have the tactile fluidity of a lens like the Zeiss Milvus. But you can count on the Sigma’s autofocus system to be fast and accurate.

The Sigma is amazingly sharp, even at f/1.4, along with soft, creamy bokeh. Sharpness only drops off at f/1.4 in the extreme corners of the image frame. Colour fringing is very minimal at any aperture, even at the corners of the frame, and barrel distortion is absolutely negligible.

(Image credit: Zeiss)
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Who needs autofocus when image quality looks this good?

Specifications

Mount options: Canon EF, Nikon F
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Manual only
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.34m
Filter thread: 67mm
Dimensions (WxL): 83 x 98mm
Weight: 922g

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning sharpness and bokeh
+
No-compromise build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Manual focus only
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Very expensive

Autofocus cameras have been around since 1977, so it might seem strange that Zeiss is still doggedly making manual-focus lenses. However, the range of Milvus prime lenses certainly gives a hands-on, feel-good factor. 

The 50mm f/1.4 (opens in new tab) is typical in having a beautifully engineered metal barrel and a full set of weather-seals. The optical design is based on Zeiss’s legendary Distagon principles. The long rotational travel of the focus ring helps focusing precision, and its super-smooth fluidity makes focusing a joy. 

The Nikon edition has a physical aperture ring with a de-click facility, to enable smooth aperture transitions during movie capture. This ring is absent on the Canon edition.

Living up to its reputation and price tag, the Milvus delivers gorgeous image quality. Wide-open, it combines superb contrast and stellar sharpness across almost the entire frame. 

There's beautiful bokeh, and the lens maintains a lovely smoothness in defocused areas when stopping down a little. Colour fringing is almost a complete non-issue with this lens, even in the corners. 

There’s a little more distortion than in Tamron's SP 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, but less than in competing 50mm primes from Canon and Nikon.

(Image credit: 7Artisans)
A bargain 50mm prime if you feel the need for speed

Specifications

Mount options: Canon RF, Leica L, Nikon Z, Sony FE
Effective focal length: 50mm
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus type: Manual only
Stabilizer: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.57m
Filter thread: 58mm
Dimensions (WxL): 61 x 86mm
Weight: 606g

Reasons to buy

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Super-fast f/1.05 aperture rating
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Well-rounded 13-blade diaphragm
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Stepless aperture control ring

Reasons to avoid

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Fully manual, electronics
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No hood supplied or available
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Lacks weather-seals

The super-fast 7Artisans 50mm f/1.05 combines impressive sharpness - even wide open at f/1.05 - with sumptuously smooth bokeh. When it comes to image quality, that’s the perfect combination for a lens of this class. Added bonuses are that both lateral and longitudinal color fringing are negligible, and barrel distortion is very slight. The lens lacks autofocus and has no built-in electronics, so focus and aperture have to be adjusted via the on-board control rings. Even so, it’s amazingly small and lightweight for such a fast-aperture lens, is strongly built and has refined handling characteristics, making it standout value for money.

How we test lenses

We test lenses using both real world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-word testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics. See more on how we test and review at Digital Camera World (opens in new tab)

Read more:

The best wide-angle lenses for Canon (opens in new tab)
The best wide-angle lenses for Nikon (opens in new tab)
The best 70-200mm telephoto lenses (opens in new tab)
Best portrait lenses (opens in new tab)

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