DSLR Lenses

Canon 50mm f/1.8 II

Written by Gail Bjork

There is a lot to like about the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens, but a few things to dislike to. But what a lens for the price!

50mm 1.8 III almost talked myself out of buying the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens. Just because so many raved about it didn’t make it the right choice for me. I wanted a fast “normal” lens.

On the XSi, 50mm equates to a short telephoto lens

The 50mm f/1.8 is fast but it does not have a “normal” focal length when attached to my Canon XSi/450D that has a Focal Lens Multiplier of 1.6. So the lens on my camera actually has an effective range of 80mm, not quite wide enough but I’ll make do.

I looked at other prime lenses that were wider, but they cost so much more. I bought the 50mm for under $100.00 U.S. At that price I figured I couldn’t go that wrong — and I was right.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II is light as a feather. You hardly even notice it when attached to the camera. Images are crisp and clear. On my XSi, it focuses with about the same speed as my other lenses, the Canon 18-55mm IS and 55-250mm IS.

A great portrait lens, too

At the equivalent of 80mm, the lens is ideal for photographing subjects in the not too far distance, as well as for portraits where depth of field plays an important role. At larger apertures, backgrounds are blurred. When sharpness and greater depth of field is needed, switch to a smaller apertures.

It’s a delight to have a fast lens! Considering the price, you simply cannot get a better one.

Likes and dislikes

What I like about the 50mm f/1.8 lens

  • Excellent image quality
  • Produces sharp images; lens sweet spot is around F5.6-8
  • Very good for photographing subjects in the short telephoto range
  • Excellent for portrait shots and portraits
  • Focuses well except as indicated below
  • Very inexpensive
  • Low light shots have good detail
  • Lightweight (only 4.6 ounces/130g)

What I dislike about the 50mm f/1.8 lens

  • Wish the focal length was wider
  • Does not have the build quality of more expensive lens
  • So-so bokeh, varies with the backlighting
  • Autofocus sometimes hunts in low light
  • Makes a fairly loud sound as the autofocus struggles back and forth in low light. Otherwise, the autofocus sound is about the same as other Canon lenses I own (the 18-55mm IS kit and the 55-250mm IS).

Canon 50mm f/1.8 usage tips

The Canon 50mm 1.8 lens is rather unassuming. Still, it takes some practice to get the best out of it.

  • Watch the aperture – The main challenge using this lens is to watch the aperture to control depth of field, which is very shallow at wide apertures.
  • Taking vertical shots – When holding the the camera vertically, I change the single area focus point to the top.
  • Focusing in low light – Even a fast lens like the Canon 50mm 1.8 can struggle in very low light. Either raise the ISO or focus manually.

Links to interesting discussions about the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens”

Visit our Canon 50mm 1.8 II Lens Photo Gallery for sample images taken with this lens.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

1 Comment

  • I am looking into getting this lens as well, thanks for your tip and information on this lens! I can’t wait to purchase it and put it into great use. I do a lot of potrait photography so it’ll be a great lens for me! thanks once again!