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

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

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To evaluate the real-life performance of the Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM lens, I shot this landscape scene at every aperture setting 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 center of the composition using magnified Live View assistance. Most of the scene is effectively at infinity so even at f1.2 the depth of field covers the range of distances from top to bottom.

The full-frame Mark III allows us to compare the sharpness across the entire frame from the extreme corners to the center; by taking a carefully measured crop, we can also simulate the corner performance when mounted on a camera with a smaller APS-C sensor.
  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

I shot the scene in RAW and processed the files in Adobe Camera RAW using sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile; meanwhile the White Balance was manually set to 5500K. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts. I also switched off all lens corrections to reveal vignetting, chromatic aberrations and geometric distortions - everything you see here is uncorrected.

I'm presenting these results over three pages: corner sharpness on full-frame (on this page below), corner sharpness on APS-C, and center sharpness. I also have a fourth and fifth page illustrating and comparing the depth of field and bokeh quality - you can jump to any of these from the index above right. Now it's time to discuss the results on this page, below, for the corner sharpness on full-frame cameras.

The image above right shows the full-frame area with three red rectangles representing the cropped areas on each results page. The crops presented on this page were taken from the red rectangle in the bottom left corner, so indicate the performance in the corner of a full-frame image.

The EF 50mm f1.2L USM is all about achieving the shallowest possible depth of field with sharp details in the middle of the frame. The trade-off is significant softness, vignetting and coma in the corners of the full-frame when the aperture is open.

Close the aperture to f2 and you'll find much of the vignetting and coma reduced, but the details remain quite soft. As the aperture closes further, the sharpness gradually improves, but you'll need to close it down to f8 before it's looking good in the full-frame corners. As you'll discover from my Canon 50mm comparison pages though, you can achieve a much sharper result in the corners with the cheaper 50mm lenses. So don't buy the 50mm f1.2L USM believing you'll enjoy sharp details across the full-frame - it's not bad when closed to f8, but there are better choices if fine details corner-to-corner are what you desire. Now let's see how much the situation improves on the more forgiving cropped frame in my Canon 50mm f1.2 APS-C sharpness.


Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM
Corner (full-frame)
f1.2 corner (full-frame)
f1.4 corner (full-frame)
f1.8 corner (full-frame)
f2 corner (full-frame)
f2.8 corner (full-frame)
f4 corner (full-frame)
f5.6 corner (full-frame)
f8 corner (full-frame)

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

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