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For the most part I have not been that interested in the 50mm focal length, since in the past I found it somewhat boring. Many say 50mm is what the eyes “see” and thus it is a very intuitive and natural focal length for most people. I suppose this is true, and one of the reasons I have not been drawn to it since I like to offer a more interesting perspective with my photography. Canon’s 35mm 1.4 has been my go to lens when I only wanted to carry one prime. However I often found it too wide and not suitable for individual portraits. I was looking for a fast lens that I could carry around with me regardless of the situation… one which, if I had to choose just ONE lens (fast 2.0 or faster) it would cover both portraits as well as the ability to capture the environment. .. the 50mm seemed like the logical choice. It is good for portraits and wide enough to capture a scene if need be. It is a fast lens (1.4 or 1.2 aperture) so it is good for dark or dimly lit situations). Since I had a 30 day return option, I decided I would purchase both the Canon 50mm 1.4 and the Canon 50mm 1.2 L and see if I got to love this focal length and if so, which would I choose.
Starting out I have to admit, I did not think I was going to enjoy shooting 50mm that much. I have to say, that attitude has completely changed after playing around with these two lenses. I am loving it. It is true that it is close to the perspective of my own eye (seems like 42mm – 45mm would be better for me personally) and thus it is a very intuitive and and natural focal length.
So.. how do they compare and is the $1,000 price difference worth it?
Here are my findings.
First lets look at the sharpness of the 1.2 vs 1.4
To my eyes and in this test, the Canon 50 1.2 looks sharper, but when I go away and come back, the 50 1.4 looks sharper.. so I guess it is a toss up!!! Since I was interested in how they compared wide open, I did not test the Canon 50mm 1.2 @ 1.4. From what I have read, the difference would be slight, but might put these two evenly. Either way, you have to be impressed that the Canon 1.4 is holding up against Canon’s L glass!
Here are a couple more pictures comparing not only sharpness but also vignetting and distortion.
Here the Canon 1.2 looks sharper again. Not only in the center, but also at the corners where the 1.4 begins to get mushy. Vignetting is fairly equal, but I would say the canon 1.4 wins here. Distortion looks the same.
Let’s compare Bokeh.
This was an interesting test. One of the main reasons I considered the 1.2 was the bokeh. It definitely looks better than the 1.4 which has more pronounced halo’s around the circles which give it more definition. The 1.2 looks more creamy. If you look closely at the little gnome, the Canon 1.2 is definitely showing more detail.
Here is another comparison which also shows chromatic aberrations produced by each lens.
Again the difference in bokeh is noticeable but not extraordinary. Interesting. Chromatic aberrations seem fairly equal, but the 1.4 wins here with less fringing.
Wow.. I was expecting a bigger difference between the two lenses. I thought for sure the 1.2 would be the clear winner. It is in many respects, but one has to consider whether the $1,000 difference is worth it. For me, being a professional photographer who makes his money through photography, it is worth it to me. However, I do hope we see Canon come out with a 50mm which is more impressive that the 1.2. While I am not disappointed by its performance standing alone, when compared to the much less expensive 1.4, the difference is minimal and makes me feel as if I have spent a significant amount of money for a small amount of advantage.
I hope you found this review helpful.. to see some of my other Canon, Tamron and Tokinia Lens reviews, please click on the following link.