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Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM lens review

canon 50mm 1.2L photoL-series lenses often have an aura of premium, cool and desirable. The reason for this is their not always justified price. I specially rented this "magic" fifty kopeck piece in order to understand whether it is as incredible as they write on the Internet.

Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM, like any high-aperture fix, is praised for the bokeh. Not for sharpness, but for magical and soft bokeh. I have a usual one for a long time Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM... I will compare with him.

Image quality

The first thing that started my acquaintance with this lens was a photo of a test target at the box office. I must say, the sharpness in the open pleases. Even at f1.2, the lens provides working detail. A little soft, but not soapy.

f1.2 50 1.2l

With a slight cover up to f1.4, the picture becomes noticeably sharper. In fact, starting from this aperture you can shoot anything. For example, on a Canon 50mm f1.4, you can start shooting everything at f2. True, the f1.4 aperture is so capricious that apart from half-length portraits, it is problematic to shoot anything with it because of the shallow depth of field.

f1.4 50 1.2l

From f2.8, the image is perfectly sharp. There is no point in further testing.

f2.8 50 1.2l

The 50 f1.2L is said to be slightly less sharp at closed apertures than the 50 f1.4. While I was filming, I did not notice it. Perhaps, if you use the lens a little longer, some minor differences will be visible. I don't think it's worth your attention.

The lens copes very well with backlighting, which will be useful during photo shoots in bright sun. The contrast almost does not drop, there are no highlights. Few lenses can boast of this result.

backlit work

Source files on Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM by link.
Source files for comparison with Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM by link.

Unearthly bokeh

Let's move on to the most important thing - bokeh. I must say right away, until you bring the blurred background closer to 100% or open the photo on a large monitor, you will not feel the difference between f1.2L and f1.4.

50mm f1.4 vs 50mm 1.2L

Are you willing to pay $ 1000 for the difference you see above? Me not.

I specially made a series of portraits at the same aperture for both lenses. It is noticeable that the Canon 50mm f1.2L produces a slightly lighter image at the same settings. This is to be expected when working with faster optics. The difference, however, is very very small.

50mm f1.4 vs 1.2L (3)

50mm f1.4 vs 1.2L (1)

50mm f1.4 vs 1.2L (2)

If you want cool bokeh, get a lens with a long focal length. 85mm will make the background much softer, and 135mm or 200mm will blur it into trash. Some photographers like to talk about drawing and plasticity. Let's leave these parameters for photo forums. For commercial photography, there is no difference between f1.2, f1.4 and even f2. There is a difference between a photo with a dull whale or a fast lens. There is a big difference between f2.8 and f2. And that's all. I personally use Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM, but in all honesty, you can quite work with Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM.

Let's get a look, how the photos differ at 85mm and 50mm:

85mm f1.8 vs 50mm 1.2L

Fifties do an excellent job with half-length portraits. In fact, this is the only optimal crop for this focal length. What will happen with a full-height portrait?

85mm f1.8 vs 50mm 1.2L

I chose a complex backdrop here to demonstrate how 50mm loses to 85mm. Fifty gives too much background and f / 1.2 won't save you in any way. And if you shoot such a scene at 135mm, the composition will be even more pleasant. Test 50mm, 85mm and 135mm you can see here.


Much more noticeable external differences between these models. Elka is bigger, heavier and more solid. Canon 50mm f1.4 looks like a small, inconspicuous lens.

50 1.2 vs 50 1.4It feels like putting on the 50mm f1.2L is a whole experience. He makes you remember. Because it is a large lens with tangible weight. When you put on a 50mm f1.4, it somehow goes unnoticed. The weight is not felt, the dimensions do not attract attention. I like the second option better.

Of course, the 50mm f1.2L's focusing mechanism pleases. It's quiet, fast and fluid.

Why NOT buy the Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM?

The difference in price between Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM and Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM is about a thousand dollars. Investing in the most sophisticated fifty dollars instead of the usual one does not increase your functionality by a millimeter. Firstly, with this money you can buy a good zoom like the first Canon 24-70mm f2.8L... You can buy a set of fixes like Canon 85mm f1.8 USM + Canon EF 135mm f2L USM... These two portrait fixes leave any fifty dollars is far behind. 50mm - non-portrait focal length... And if you already have a Canon 24-70mm f2.8L or some other zoom, then you can upgrade it to Canon 24-70mm f2.8L II, which will give you much more benefits than just buying a top-end strip. Secondly, personally, I do not like it when the lens is too big and unnecessarily heavy. The nearly identical Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM takes up less space in a camera bag and does not burden when shooting a wedding for 14 hours in a row. 

Why is the Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM worth buying?

The f / 1.2 aperture is the fastest in Canon's current lens lineup. Therefore, for the category of people who want to have all the best, of course, this is the most suitable option.

I know there are photographers who shoot weddings only with the Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM and think this glass is magical, and I agree with that.

If you can afford this lens without a loan, I highly recommend it.

Video review (new):


My advice is to rent it to understand everything for yourself. Use the lens for a few days, compare yourself with a simpler model and see if you need it or not.