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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Canon EF and EF-S Lenses 
Thread started 29 Aug 2013 (Thursday) 22:56
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Canon 50L's perceived softness

Senior Member
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Joined Oct 2010
Aug 29, 2013 22:56 |  #1

Am I the only one who is not bothered by its softness at F/1.2? I actually find it quite nice. It has a different look to it compared to its sharper siblings, like the 35L and 85L.

At F/2.0, the images really comes to life. I get that a good amount of these lenses are sent for calibration or was sent for calibration because the owner is not aware of its inherent flaw due to its design.

For 50L owners, do you ever get this feeling that the softness issue is a bit overblown? OR do i just simply have a great copy?

Canon 5DM III, 35 1.4 II 50 1.2L
Canon 6D/// RX1

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Aug 29, 2013 23:59 |  #2

I think it is just a different look. I like the 50L so much I sold off most of my other lenses. However, I do notice lately I am shooting at 2.0 or higher.

Nikon D850 l Nikon 28 1.4E l Nikon 50 1.8 g l Nikon 24-120 F4 l Tamron 100-400 l

1,224 posts
Likes: 26
Joined May 2010
Aug 30, 2013 00:14 |  #3

I've owned and sold this lens several times. Its quite frustrating really because its inconsistent but once youbget a very good copy imho its the best and most versatile lens in the group. That 1.2 is something. Like skater, I've also sold all my lenses and kept the 50L.

Senior Member
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Joined Jun 2009
Location: Vancouver
Aug 30, 2013 02:20 |  #4

My copy was very sharp as long as I wasn't shooting at MFD or close to it. Anything longer than 2 meters and it was very sharp at 1.2

Not as sharp as my 85L but close.

I only sold it so I could put the money towards a Leica 50mm 1.4 asph.

Canon 5D4 / Sony A7R2 / Leica M240

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Aug 30, 2013 03:44 |  #5

I love this lens. It was very disappointing at the first 50 shots, but was more a user-problem :D

Since the DOF is so small it doesnt allow you to move after the AF has set. If the subject is in focus you really get sharp pictures. I must say, i own 3 L lenses and all of them were perfect at first attempt. Only the 50mm needed a MA of about -5 but im very pleased with the quality canon serves on their L lenses. Or maybe i just have luck but however its a great lens.

Also for portrait, which this lens is also good at, i find it really welcome when the skin is a bit soft (unless the eyes and other important things are soft too). Its less work in post and gives the images a little dreamy look, which is mostly desired when shooting woman..

Sony A7RII | Sony A7S
EF 40 | EF 70-300L | FD 35 Tilt-Shift
FE 16-35 | FE 28 | FE 90
CV 15 4.5 III | CV 40 1.4 MC | Summilux 50 ASPH
Website (external link) | 500px (external link)

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Aug 30, 2013 04:25 |  #6
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Aug 30, 2013 12:35 |  #7

50L is a great lens. Sharpness is grossly overrated. This lens could be the whole reason I stay with Canon.

Fuji XE-1, Zeiss ikon, Hasselblad; I love shooting film as a conceptual idea :)

Cream of the Crop
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Location: san jose
Aug 30, 2013 12:57 |  #8

It's not the softness about the 50L that bothers me, it's the consistency (or lack thereof) focus that sometime frustrated the hell out of me. Even when shooting f2-2.8 in dim but good light, I got some shots that completely out of focus while others at the exact same time is in focus. If it nailed, the pics are beautiful.

I also found that the AF point on the left/right of the center is a bit more accurate than the center point itself (need to test more on this).

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Location: Oakland, CA, USA
Aug 30, 2013 12:58 |  #9

I've loved mine. It's a challenging lens to use, but that's part of the pleasure for me.

A lot of people treat sharpness as the sole determinant of lens quality, which makes perfect sense for many people. I'm not in that club when it comes to the 50L. I bought it for its other qualities, which are fantastic. The "softness" it has is quite trivial beside the colors and bokeh. Personally I think the current obsession with sharpness verges on tackiness at times.

There are artistic reasons for wanting another, razor-sharp prime in the bag. If someone complains that the 50L's sharpness isn't up to the standard set by, say, the Sigma 35, then IMO that person is simply using the wrong tool for what they want to achieve. It would be pointless if all lenses produced the same results.

(I'd like to have another lens in the 24-50 range for those moments when I want razor sharpness in that range; the 100L is outstanding but not fast enough and too long, so I'm sllllooooowly saving for either the Sigma 35 or 24LII.)

6D, 17-40L, 24L II, 50L, 100L, 70-300L.

Senior Member
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Joined Jul 2011
Location: Pacific Northwest
Aug 30, 2013 13:36 |  #10

CaliWalkabout wrote in post #16253753 (external link)
It would be pointless if all lenses produced the same results.


photography ­ By ­ Evangelos
1,167 posts
Joined Jan 2003
Location: Florida, USA
Aug 30, 2013 13:40 as a reply to  @ SamFrench's post |  #11

I have a copy of this lens and I love how the images look, soft as it may be its something different that yields a distinctive look. I won't be selling mine off anytime soon this lens is worth every penny for low light shooters. Its slower than my older 1.4 EF but I think the image quality is quite a bit better.

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Location: Tennessee
Aug 30, 2013 14:26 |  #12

I'm wondering if Canon is going to refresh the 50mm line up this spring?

My Gear is ---> Here

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Joined May 2013
Location: Michigan, USA
Aug 30, 2013 16:05 |  #13

I had two 50s. One was pretty darn sharp at f/1.2. The other needed a bit of micro adjusting with my 6D body. But my experience is that the 50L *can* be sharp at f/1.2. If I hadn't tried a second 50L then I'd probably still think that f/1.2 wasn't meant to be pretty sharp.

I am Sean Lancaster on Flickr (external link)
Sony A7, Contax G 90/2.8, Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II, & FE Zeiss 55/1.8 (<-most used)
Sony NEX 5N and many lenses including many Canon FD

Senior Member
297 posts
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Aug 30, 2013 17:54 |  #14



I don't spend $1500.00 just to take pictures of bricks and paper rulers - I leave that to the PROFESSIONALS... I am an amateur, and I use it to take picture of people and animals. :D

Cameras: Canon EOS M, FujiFilm X-T1| Lenses: FD 50mm 1.4, Fujinon 23mm 1.4, Fujinon 56 1.2, Zeiss 32mm 1.8

Senior Member
259 posts
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Joined May 2011
Location: Warsaw, Poland
Aug 31, 2013 06:10 |  #15

I have my second copy of 50L and while it's not the sharpest lens in the world, it definetly has it's look - it reminds me of soft-focus effect of leica F1 noctilux - sharp parts have something like 'blurry overlay'. I haven't shoot with any other lens with that kind of effect.
I've also had my time when i had olny 50L and nothing else, for me it's one of the finest of all L-lenses.

1Ds IIIx2 | TS-E17/4L | TS-E 24/3.5LII | TS-E90/2.8 | 50L | 100L | 28-70/2.8L

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Canon 50L's perceived softness
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