Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II Gordon Laing, July 2013

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II bokeh (full-frame)

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To compare the depth-of-field and bokeh quality of the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 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 f1.8 II results
1 Canon EF 50mm f1.8 quality full-frame
2 Canon EF 50mm f1.8 quality APS-C
3 Canon EF 50mm f1.8 quality centre
4 Canon EF 50mm f1.8 bokeh
5 Canon EF 50mm f1.8 bokeh comparison

The EF 50mm f1.8 II is often the first large aperture lens owned by many Canon photographers, simply because it delivers great results at a low price. Scroll down and you'll see at large apertures it's capable of delivering a very shallow depth of field with a narrow plane of focus. This makes it easy to isolate your subject against a nice blurred background.

Looking closely at the actual out-of-focus areas you'll see they're mostly rendered with soft, fairly rounded shapes. The quality of out-of-focus effects is known as the bokeh, and for such an affordable model, the EF 50mm f1.8 II certainly delivers good results. Indeed you may well be wondering what the pricier f1.4 and f1.2 versions offer over it in terms of depth of field. I'll show you an in-depth comparison on the next page, but just briefly it concerns the extent of the depth of field itself and the quality of the out-of-focus rendering. Compare the EF 50mm f1.8 II side-by-side against the f1.4 and especially the f1.2 versions and you'll see its bokeh isn't as creamy, and that some of the out-of-focus rendering can become a little busy at times. With only five diaphragm blades, some out-of-focus areas on the EF 50mm f1.8 II will also be rendered into pentagon shapes as oppose to the more rounded shapes of the f1.4 and f1.2 versions which sport eight blades. The pentagon effect may not be particularly visible in my test shot below, but can be quite obvious in other images and obviously looks less natural than a rounded effect.

The desire for uncomplicated, natural-looking creamy perfection is what drives well-heeled enthusiasts and pros to the pricier lenses, but for many photographers, the EF 50mm f1.8 II will be more than good enough for their needs. Indeed many will simply be looking for something which delivers a shallower depth of field than the standard kit lenses at the most affordable price - and if that's what you want, then the EF 50mm f1.8 II is the lens for you.

If you'd like to see how the depth of field compares against the more expensive versions, please check out my Canon 50mm bokeh comparison.


Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II
Depth-of-field (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 f1.8 II
results : Quality full-frame / Quality APS-C / Quality Centre / Bokeh / Bokeh comparison

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