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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Canon EF and EF-S Lenses 
Thread started 23 Jan 2013 (Wednesday) 07:14
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Looking for a 50mm f1.4. Are there any good ones?

 
nothsa
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Jan 23, 2013 07:14 |  #1

I've been looking to get a 50mm f1.4 lens and was initially looking at the Canon, and then later started looking at the Sigma as I liked the bokeh more in comparison photos.

After reading a number of reviews and forums, the consensus seems to be that both lenses are great when they work, but "don't buy the Sigma 'cause you may get one with front- or back-focussing issues" and "don't buy the Canon because it's very soft wide open, and has a fragile focus mechanism that can easily break".

So my question is: Are these people being overly critical, or are these valid concerns? If so, I might have to start looking at a different focal length for my portrait lens =/


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cdifoto
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Jan 23, 2013 07:39 |  #2

They're valid concerns but that's what warranties are for.


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BrandonSi
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Jan 23, 2013 08:04 |  #3

They're both a bit infamous in their own right.. if I had to choose between the two, I'd personally choose the Canon.


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Sirrith
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Jan 23, 2013 08:12 |  #4

I personally didn't like either of the 50/1.4 options for Canon. Its a shame no one makes a decently priced, reliable, good quality (IQ and build), 50/1.4 in EF mount nowadays.

The Canon has too many reports of weak internal build for my liking, is too soft wide open for the price, and the Sigma is expensive and huge.

I settled instead for a 50/1.8 Mk I which IMO is closest to what a fast 50 should be: small, cheap, reliable, with good IQ and decent build. Unfortunately it is 26 years old and if it dies, I will not be able to get it fixed by Canon. Also, the AF is not the best in terms of speed and consistency (its not bad, just not as good as what I'm used to, but then I'm used to lenses costing over 5x the price.)


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msowsun
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Jan 23, 2013 08:27 |  #5

Sirrith wrote in post #15523691 (external link)
I personally didn't like either of the 50/1.4 options for Canon. Its a shame no one makes a decently priced, reliable, good quality (IQ and build), 50/1.4 in EF mount nowadays.

The Canon has too many reports of weak internal build for my liking, is too soft wide open for the price, and the Sigma is expensive and huge.

I settled instead for a 50/1.8 Mk I which IMO is closest to what a fast 50 should be: small, cheap, reliable, with good IQ and decent build. Unfortunately it is 26 years old and if it dies, I will not be able to get it fixed by Canon. Also, the AF is not the best in terms of speed and consistency (its not bad, just not as good as what I'm used to, but then I'm used to lenses costing over 5x the price.

Another option is to get a cheaper Manual Focus 50mm 1.4 that works on your DSLR.

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Sirrith
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Jan 23, 2013 08:30 |  #6

msowsun wrote in post #15523727 (external link)
Another option is to get a cheaper Manual Focus 50mm 1.4 that works on your DSLR.

Yes, I have several MF 50's, but I want a good AF one too :)


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cdifoto
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Jan 23, 2013 08:44 |  #7

I sold my Pentax 50 because my manual focusing is consistently off whereas the EF 1.4 is only sporadically off.


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skut
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Jan 23, 2013 08:48 |  #8

msowsun wrote in post #15523727 (external link)
Another option is to get a cheaper Manual Focus 50mm 1.4 that works on your DSLR.

QUOTED IMAGE

QUOTED IMAGE

which one is sharper?


Canon 5Dc | canon 50mm 1.8 mk1

  
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Anthon
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Jan 23, 2013 08:52 as a reply to  @ Sirrith's post |  #9

I had 50mm 1.4 and it had focusing issues - no way you could get it to focus in less than f2.8, which kinda defeated the purpose of the lens. It was quite soft wide open (for pixelpeepers, fine in most real life photography) and I didn't like the bokeh.
Got stolen, not sure if I will buy it again.

Now I have Pentax 50mm 1.7, which I bought at a flee market (had a Hoya UV filter on ) for 10 euro.
It's about 30 years old, but works just fine, very sharp. What's great about Canon, is that you can mount almost every vintage lens on it, with an inexpensive adaptor. Also, focus confirm and exposure meter will still work (if the adaptor has a chip) - so you will be able to get an accurate focus.

If AF and reliability issues worry you so much, manual lenses are a good alternative - if you don't get it right, there is no one to blame, expect yourself :p


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schris
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Jan 23, 2013 09:17 as a reply to  @ cdifoto's post |  #10

I say go for the Canon, it's quite affordable: $340 now on Amazon, but it was on sale at B&H a while ago for $300. If you decide it's not for you, they're selling used for about that much anyway. I got one used from FM and it works great, no sharpness or mechanical issues, and I use it a lot. I follow the standard advice of storing it with the hood reversed to protect the AF ring. Don't know if that's helping, but it's certainly not hurting.


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msowsun
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Jan 23, 2013 09:20 |  #11

skut wrote in post #15523776 (external link)
which one is sharper?

I only have the Canon FD 50mm 1.4 and from what I have read the Pentax Super-Takumar, Pentax SMC Takumar, and Nikon MF 50mm 1.4 are all similar in IQ.


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rivas8409
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Jan 23, 2013 09:39 |  #12

I haven't bitten the bullet on a 50 1.4 yet, mainly because my 50 1.8 mk1 is just fine. Sure, it's a bit soft at 1.8, but stop it down to 2.2 and it's good-to-go! Is the Af a bit slow and noisy? You bet it is! I mean seriously, what prime isn't soft wide open, and for a $100 lens can you really expect super quiet focus? That's a rhetorical question by the way. None-the-less, I still get great results with it a 1.8. So the way I see it, why am I going to spend $300 on a 50 1.4 if I have to stop it down to 2.8 to get it to "work" when I already have a 1.8 that does the job just fine? I havne't been able to justify it to myself.

So I guess I'm trying to say that you may want to consider, or at least look at, a 50 1.8 mk1 (with the metal mount). They run used for about $150, but you can probably find one for less if you're patient. I was able to pick mine up for $100 about 4 years ago.


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msowsun
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Jan 23, 2013 09:42 |  #13

schris wrote in post #15523891 (external link)
I say go for the Canon, it's quite affordable: $340 now on Amazon, but it was on sale at B&H a while ago for $300. If you decide it's not for you, they're selling used for about that much anyway. I got one used from FM and it works great, no sharpness or mechanical issues, and I use it a lot. I follow the standard advice of storing it with the hood reversed to protect the AF ring. Don't know if that's helping, but it's certainly not hurting.

I have heard that before but, I don't think contact with the AF ring is what causes damage to the EF 50mm 1.4 and to cause premature AF falure.

I am guessing that it is contact with the moving front element that causes stress to the AF system, and that storing the lens with the hood in it's mounted position would do a better job of protecting the delicate AF system on this lens.

Here is a link that shows how to repair a damaged EF 50mm 1.4 http://www.fotomozaic.​ro/artikel.php?idstory​=225&s=1 (external link)

And here is the part that gets the damage:

IMAGE: http://www.fotomozaic.ro/img_upload_users/26/16.jpg

http://www.uscamera.co​m/ya2-1765.htm (external link)
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amfoto1
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Jan 23, 2013 09:48 |  #14

Option 1... get the Canon EF 50/1.4... it's a good lens and with a few simple precautions will likely give you long, reliable service. First, get the matched lens hood and use it. That helps protect the front barrel of the lens from bumps while using the lens, and when storing the lens, the hood reversed covers and protects the focus ring. Secons, it's also a good idea with this lens (actually with most lenses) to set it to infinity when storing it, to fully retract the front barrel. Third, don't make a habit of overriding focus manually a lot, without turning off AF. Even tho this is a USM lens, some think that treating it like one and using FTM a lot might cause faster wear and tear on the mechanism. Finally, don't drop it.

My 50/1.4 has been fine for at least eight or ten years regular use. I bought it used so am not sure how old it really is. It came with and I've always used it with the hood. Never gave it any special care, just what's noted above, which are things I'd consider reasonable and practical with any lens. Yes, some simply break unexplicably... but usually if that happens it's within the first year warranty period.

Option 2... Sigma 50/1.4... Seems better built than the Canon, but it's a much newer lens without nearly the history fo the Canon, and I'm sure hasn't seen nearly as many copies sold and in use. So, who can say for certain if it's actually going to be more durable in the long run. Bigger and heavier (a lot bigger and heavier, who ever heard of a 50mm lens needing a 77mm filter?) doesn't necessarily equate to "better built/more durable".

It is almost certain that you will need to swap the Sigma with the retailer until you get a "good copy" that's well calibrated... Or will need to send the lens in to Sigma under warranty to have it calibrated. This is all too common with Sigma. But once calibrated, it should be fine.

Differences between the two...

The Canon doesn't come with a lens hood... it's sold separately. The Sigma includes a hood.

The Sigma is a little more expensive and a whole lot bigger and heavier.

In terms of image quality, the Sigma is typically a little sharper wide open at f1.4, the two are about equal from around f2.2 to about f5.6, after which the Canon is generally sharper. The color rendition of the Sigma seems a little cooler. The Canon has an 8-bladed aperture and the Sigma's is 9-bladed. That makes the Sigma's aperture slightly more perfectly round at any setting other than wide open, so that it renders slightly smoother background blur. Still, both of them are excellent in this respect and there's not really a whole lot of difference... You need to spend a lot more for the 50/1.2L or a Zeiss ZE 50/1.4 (manual focus only) for any smoother background blur... Compared to the cheaper Canon EF 50/1.8 (5-bladed aperture), both the Sigma and Canon 50/1.4 are more flare resistance, render richer & more saturated color, offer better contrast, smoother backgrounds, have faster & more accurate AF, and are better built/more durable.

There really is no such thing as a "perfect" lens. Optics always involve some compromise. A large aperture lens that renders shallow depth of field puts extra demands on focus accuracy (and today's cameras aren't very manual focus friendly). It's always a balancing act, price vs build quality, sharpness vs chromatic aberration, etc., etc.

Over the years, Lensrentals.com has periodically shared their lens repair rates with a lot of popular lenses. This might give us a bit of a guide, since they often have dozens of copies of any given model and properly inspect them before and after each use. Their data showed around a 20% failure rate with the Canon lens... Lensrentals also has reported a lot of problems with Sigma lenses, in general... enough so that they discontinued carrying them for a few years (but now do stock them again). But it's important to keep in mind that this is likely a "worst case" scenario. After all, those rental lenses probably spend more time bouncing around in the back of a UPS truck than shooting photos... And likely they are often used by people who don't give them any particular care. I dunno if Lensrentals sends the Canon 50mm out with a hood or not (I'd bet not, since it's sold separately).

There is no clear cut "winner"... I'd just suggest get the lens that seems to meet your budget and needs best and start shooting... Use reasonable precautions and you will probably be fine. If something breaks or needs calibration, hopefully it will be within the warranty period. If not, well it's still not the end of the world... I've heard the Canon costs about $130 US to repair the AF. But mine has been fine for many years and never required repair or calibration (knock on wood!)


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frankwite
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Jan 23, 2013 10:02 |  #15

When I'm inside the canon 1.4 is my absolute most used lens. It stays glued to my camera and I have not had any problems ever shooting at 1.4 which is why I bought the lens. As for this lens being soft well I never understood that argument.

I shoot people portraits 99% of the time and I never understood why people would want skin sharpened where you can see their pores. If the eyes aren't as sharp as I want them to be then that's why I invested in pp software. I can then sharpen only what needs to be sharpen and skin isn't one of them. Futhermore I love the softness that the canon provides for portraits.

If you shoot in raw (which I do) every photo will need some sort of sharpening in post if you're looking for razor sharp images. A simple USM will do the trick.

As for sigma lenses well I've had a 70-200 2.8 when I was shooting with sony alpha and it was an awesome lens BUT when I moved to canon I purchased the sigma 30 1.4 lens it had front focusing issues so I returned it. At that very moment I decided that I would always just save the money for canon or just do without. The good thing however about sigma and tamron they have way better warranties, but who wants to keep sending a lens in over and over.


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Looking for a 50mm f1.4. Are there any good ones?
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