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

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II quality centre

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To evaluate the real-life performance of the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II 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 f1.8 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 f1.8 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

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, corner sharpness on APS-C, and center sharpness (on this page below). I also have a fourth page illustrating 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 for the sharpness in the middle of the frame. I also shot the same scene moments later with the Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM, so if you're interested in seeing their results side by side, check out my Canon 50mm f1.2 review.

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 middle so indicate the performance in the center of the image.

The budget 50mm f1.8 II performs admirably in the middle of the frame, delivering a great-looking result even wide open at f1.8. There's a slight loss of contrast and ultimate sharpness but nothing which can't be tweaked on RAW files. Close it to f2.8 and the image becomes beautifully crisp and contrasty in the middle of the frame with a result that's as detailed as any of its more expensive counterparts. Indeed there's no point closing the aperture further unless you want a larger depth of field, longer exposures or similar sharpness in the corners.

As seen on the previous page, the 50mm f1.8 II is already pretty good in the corners of the APS-C frame at f2.8 and perfectly crisp at f4, making this a great option for owners of cropped-frame Canon DSLRs.

This is a fantastic result for the nifty-fifty and really makes you think about whether you really need the f1.4 or f1.2 versions. Of course these more expensive models enjoy other benefits including shallower depth of field effects and better quality bokeh. To see how the out-of-focus performance on the budget model measures-up, check out my Canon 50mm f1.8 bokeh results.


Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II
f1.8 centre
f2 centre
f2.8 centre
f4 centre
f5.6 centre
f8 centre

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

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