When I got my very first DSLR, like many beginners, I was advised by a few friends to purchase a 50mm f/1.8 for my camera.
I knew I wanted to do food photography and take a few photos of my son, and I was told it was the best lens for the price. To this day, it is one of my favorite focal lengths.
As a Canon user, Canon has 3 versions for this focal length, ranging from $100-$1500. I was very confused on which one to get. I really wanted to know the difference on how it looked like on a full-frame camera and on a crop censor camera.
I did a little experiment to see first hand how it looks. My son was gifted a Canon Rebel XT with a 50mm f/1.8 so I borrowed it to conduct a little bit of experiment. I mainly shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and I used it also to do the rest of the comparisons.
This is how the 50mm f/1.2 lens looks on both the XT and the Mark III.
Both were shot on similar settings, at f/2.8, and I stood at the same spot. Ainsley tilted a bit for me, but she stayed in the same spot also.
How much is cropped will look the same with any of the 50mm lenses I had on hand, so my focus here was to see really how much is taken off with a crop censor camera. It really was quite a bit!
Although the crop seems very tight, when it comes to portrait lenses, the 50mm is amazing for its quality of not distorting edges.
Using my Mark III, I also wanted to see the difference on how the lenses look at their widest aperture. I didn’t edit any of these pictures, they’re all straight out of camera.
Sharpness wise, I think the body itself helps, but I notice better sharpness with the 1.4 and the 1.2 for sure. What was the most noticeable for me was how the bokeh looked.
With the 1.8, the bokeh looked sharp, jagged on the edges even. With the 1.4, not as jagged, but I noticed it more on some of the branches around Ainsley to the top right, more fluttery, but it doesn’t compare at all to how the 50mm f/1.2 shoots at its widest.
The depth of field on the 1.2 is buttery and smooth. Even with the same branches on the top right, I had to look in closer to try to detect it, and it just blurred into the background smoother. That’s definitely a plus to me because I personally like the smooth buttery depth of field.
I had to try also at shooting at the same spot, and using the same settings with all three lenses. I picked 2.0 since it’s an aperture I commonly shoot kids with.
At f/2, I noticed the same thing I did as to how the lenses look like at their widest. The depth of field just looks so different.
Even though the 1.8 would do really well for the most part, just the difference from jagged bokeh to creamy bokeh was noticeable. The 50mm 1.4, true to its price range and quality, is a great lens in the middle. The 50mm 1.2 continues to boast that creamy depth of field.
These are the close-ups of the same image above, to the top right corner of the photos, to show a detailed look of the bokeh.
A 100% zoom of the face from the above three photos. Sharpness wise, I think that the 1.4 and 1.8 could be sharper, but I barely see a difference. With the 1.2, there is a jump on sharpness.
Is the price difference worth it for these 3 lenses? I think the 1.4 really is a great bang for its buck which I used for many years before upgrading. It also has a stronger body compared to the 1.8, and just for that, I think either one is a worthy purchase.
I do love how sturdy the 1.2 is and I have definitely purchased it for the quality of depth of field alone as I prefer buttery depth of field. It was a splurge, but I am in love! I shoot in high grass a lot, and the 1.4 tends to make the edges of the grass a bit too jagged for my taste.
At the end of the day, I recommend any of these lenses! I learned a lot of the things I know now thanks to the nifty fifty! It’s a great focal length and very friendly for either a full-frame or crop censor.