The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II was the second lens I bought for my DSLR, right after I got my first telephoto (the Canon 55 – 250mm zoom, which you can also read my review of, should you wish to). I wanted a lens with a really wide maximum aperture so I could take photos in lowlight without a flash, and I didn’t want to break the bank – so the ‘nifty fifty’, as it’s sometimes known, was the lens I went for.
It may seem a little strange to start this review off by talking about price, but the great value of the 50mm f/1.8 II really deserves to be spoken about, as it’s just such an affordable loens to add to your arsenal. For example, it’s only about $150 from Amazon US, or around £100 on Amazon UK.
Photography is an expensive hobby at the best of times, so it’s great to find an excellent lens (which it is, by the way) that doesn’t leave us eating cheese and bread for a month or two…
How Will It Improve My Photos?
This is the biggie – afterall, why would you bother getting a new lens if it’s not going to improve your photography at the end of the day? There are a few reasons why you can benefit from getting the Canon 50mm, and I’ll list them in order of importance (in my opinion, anyway):
1. No Flash Needed
Yep, with this little baby attached to your DSLR, you can put away that little pop-up flash on your camera, because you just won’t be needing it – this lens’ maximum aperture of f/1.8 means that it takes in a whole lot of light at a time, which in turn means that you’ll be able to take sharp shots in lowlight situations with ease.
Don’t believe me? Check out my shot of a friend’s cat, below. It was taken inside at night, with no flash whatsoever:
Check out the sharpness of the cat’s eye!
A shot like this, in such a dark situation, would not have been possible to take without flash with the 18 – 55 kit lens that came with my Canon 500D / T1i – the aperture of that lens just ins’t large enough to allow enough light in. But, with the Canon 50mm f/1.8, I just set it at its maximum aperture, raised the ISO (which is the camera’s sensitivity to light) to 1600, and shot away.
By the way, I did a tutorial on how to take photos in lowlight without using a flash, which you may be interested in too.
2. Shallow Depth Of Field
I love taking shots with a beautifully blurred background; love the way this makes the subject of my photos ‘pop’. And what’s the main way you can achieve such out-of-focus backgrounds? Yep, by using a large aperture again – another reasons why the 50mm’s f/1.8 is just so darn great.
You can see an example of this in the shot below: the nice focus on the eyes, with the background (his body) and foreground (his nose) a lovely blur…
It’s also actually another example of the lowlight performance of the lens, as he is a dark dog, in a very dark room – there’s no way that my kit lens would have been able to take this shot without using flash, but the Canon 50mm had no problems.
Funnily enough, I’ve done a tutorial on how to blur the background in your photos too, which you may find useful.
3. Great Focal Length For Portraits
As most of us are probably using crop-sensor cameras – such as the Canon T2i or T3i – then the 50mm focal length of the lens is very similiar to an 80mm lens of a full-frame camera, and this focal length is just great for portraits. And if that talk of crop-sensors and full-frame doesn’t mean much to you, don’t worry, just know that by using the 50mm to take photos of your friends and family, you’re going to get some great results.
The 80mm-equivalent focal length means your subject will look natural, and not distorted – and the wide aperture means you can send the background out of focus with ease.
Check out the portrait of my mum (ah…) below as an example:
I’m pretty sure my mum likes this shot, and she normally hates photos of herself, so the 50m is definitely working well here!
4. It’s Sharp.
Yep, it really is. At f/1.8 it’s good, and at slightly smaller apertures, such as f/2.8, it’s even better. You’ll definitely notice the improvement from your 18 – 55 kit lens.
I’ll include some more shots below – all showing great sharpness:
So, you’re probably thinking I quite like this lens, and you’d be absolutely right! But what of its downsides? Well, you may have heard or read about the build quality of the lens. Yes, it is plasticy, but, you know what? It doesn’t matter. At all. It fits on your camera, and works. Surely that’s all we need it to do? We’re not going to be playing ‘catch’ with it, after all. For amateur/enthusiast photographers, there is just no need to go for a more expensive option just because of the plastic build.
It works, and it works darn well.
A photo I took with this lens was even published in my local newspaper, so, yes, I am quite a fan!