Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM Gordon Laing, June 2013

Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM bokeh (full-frame)

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To compare the depth-of-field and bokeh quality of the Canon EF 50mm f1.2 under real-life conditions, I shot this still life scene at every aperture setting within a few moments of each other, using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III mounted on a tripod.

The Mark III was set to 100 ISO and the lens focused on the napkin tied around the glass using magnified Live View assistance. The image opposite shows the full composition, while the images below at each aperture show the full width of the frame, reduced to fit the page width and cropped a little vertically. Note there was some movement in the background between some frames, so I've concentrated my comparisons and comments on the portions of the frame which have remained consistent. You can see a comparison between all three Canon 50mm lenses on the next page!

  Canon EF 50mm f1.2L results
1 Canon EF 50mm f1.2L quality full-frame
2 Canon EF 50mm f1.2L quality APS-C
3 Canon EF 50mm f1.2L quality centre
4 Canon EF 50mm f1.2L bokeh
5 Canon EF 50mm bokeh comparison

The Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM is all about achieving the shallowest possible depth of field, and as the images below prove, you can enjoy a razor thin plane of sharp focus with this lens with the aperture fully-opened. At f1.2, barely anything in front or behind the napkin is in focus, and even much of the small plate is quite blurred, let alone the dominoes and their wooden box behind it.

It’s clear the f1.4 and f1.8 versions, while still showing a very shallow depth of field, are noticeably better defined than the f1.2 version, proving there really is a benefit to a lens with this aperture if you're into the maximum blurring effect.

But it's not just about achieving the shallowest possible depth of field. The quality of the out-of-focus areas, also known as the bokeh, is an important factor of any large aperture lens. This is where the Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM really scores as the out-of-focus areas look particularly smooth and creamy with no undesirable artefacts to mention.

This may sound a little odd if you've not paid close attention to the blurred parts of an image before, but different lenses can render these areas quite differently from each other, and some can look messier or more complicated than others. The ideal is smooth blurring with no distractions, allowing the subject to really stand out against the background, and this is where the Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM justifies its price for bokeh fanatics.

Of course like many high-end goods, the difference can be subtle and some photographers may not need it or even be able to notice it. What you really want to see at this point is how the effect compares against the cheaper models, and I can show you just that in my Canon 50mm bokeh comparison!


Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM
Depth-of-field (full-frame width, cropped vertically)
f1.2 (full-frame width, cropped vertically)
f1.4 (full-frame width, cropped vertically)
f1.8 (full-frame width, cropped vertically)
f2 (full-frame width, cropped vertically)
f2.5 (full-frame width, cropped vertically)
f2.8 (full-frame width, cropped vertically)

Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM
results : Quality full-frame / Quality APS-C / Quality Centre / Bokeh / Bokeh comparison

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