Available at a fraction of the price of its f/1.2 brother, how does this sub-£300 prime compare. Read the WDC Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM review to find out.
Canon users are blessed with a choice of three 50mm primes offering maximum apertures of f/1.8, f/1.4 and f/1.2. The middle lens is reviewed here, but Canon also sent the f/1.2 lens so it too has been commented on in passing.
The f/1.4 lens has excellent ergonomics thanks to a sensibly-wide and centrally-located focusing ring that remains static in AF mode and also allows manual intervention. The AF/MF switch is located rearward and a focused-distance window is provided forward of the focusing ring, where it is highly visible.
As well as depth-of-field markers for f/22 there is also a dot-marker for infrared photography. Manual focusing is a little unrefined but automatic focusing, though slightly noisy, is quick and reliable.
Canon makes great claims for this lens, concluding: ‘If crisp images with little flare are important to you, they can be obtained even at the maximum aperture with this robust lens’. This is not hyperbole: our technical testing revealed the most amazing set of MTF figures. These results, coupled with only modest pitching of the curve, mean that the resolution figures are almost exclusively in the 0.3-0.4 cycles-per-pixel range, far above the critical 0.25 cycles-per-pixel level, with negligible colour fringing.
Given this performance it is hard to imagine Canon’s f/1.2 lens being able to do much better, despite its £1,800 price tag. And indeed it doesn’t: choosing the faster lens simply gets you a brighter viewfinder, slightly more-refined AF performance, a soft pouch and a lens hood.
It is a shame that there appears to be neither a soft pouch nor a hood supplied with the f/1.4 lens (even a collapsible rubber hood would have been nice), but this is only a minor niggle. The low-geared manual focusing is more of an issue but again a minor niggle.
For most users this lens, with its sub-£300 street price, is an absolute gem.
See sample image gallery
Lens hood supplied
AF and MF (IF)
74 x 50