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Is this REALLY "the best prime lens… period"?

Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM
(Image credit: Peter McKinnon)

Anyone singling out any lens as "the best" is putting themselves in the firing line for controversy and criticism, but that hasn't stopped a YouTube megastar from citing a $2,300 optic as "THE BEST PRIME LENS. Period."

Peter McKinnon – who is such a monarch of internet photography and videography that Canon picked him to introduce the Canon EOS R5 in its official announcement video – has claimed that the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM is not only the best prime lens on the market, but perhaps the only one you need to have in your camera bag.  

• Read more: Best 50mm lenses

As you'd expect, he highlighted the shallow depth of field, beautiful bokeh, wide-open sharpness and relative lack of bulkiness as the lens' strengths. Though he also noted a number of shortcomings, such as loud focus hunting at f/1.2 (fine for photography, but not when shooting A- or B-roll), unsuitability for vlogging (where the Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM is his go-to) and the lens not being wide enough to shoot landscapes without introducing compression.

More relevant than his choice of lens brand, however, are his comments on 50mm lenses as a whole – and why it's the perfect all-round focal length for almost any kind of shooting.

Watch video: THE BEST PRIME LENS. Period.

"I think that 50mm is the perfect focal range for so many types of photography. You can shoot product photos with this, you can shoot landscapes with this, you can shoot portraits with this. It's a great lens for events, it's a great lens for automotive, it's a great lens for so many things umbrellad together, which is why I end up carrying this and this alone almost always. 

"This covers so many genres of photography, and that's the 50mm range across the board. I'm not just saying it's the 50mm RF – you guys know I'm a Canon ambassador – that is not saying that this RF exclusively covers all of these things, that's just the 50mm range within this industry." 

Obviously McKinnon, as a Canon user and ambassador, is going to choose Canon's 50mm f/1.2 as the best. However, in our own tests, we found that this RF version isn't actually the best 50mm f/1.2 out there – in fact, it's not even the second best.

We determined that the superb Sony FE 50mm F1.2 G Master is actually the best 50mm you can buy, closely followed by the brilliant  Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S, with Canon's RF alternative coming in third.

Obviously you can't go wrong with any of these stellar lenses, and the RF 50mm f/1.2L is undoubtedly one of the best Canon RF lenses – though it really isn't the best prime you can buy. Sorry, Peter. 

Read more: 

Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM review
Sony FE 50mm F1.2 G Master review
Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S review

James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-PhotoDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. An Olympus (Micro Four Thirds) and Canon (full frame) shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a particular fondness for vintage lenses and film cameras.