Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

This review covers


» Image Quality «


» Sample Pictures «

» Conclusion «

» Further Information «

Table of contents

The EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is one of three Canon 50 mm prime lenses (one of four actually if you count the EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro). Those three lenses come at completely different price points and the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is the medium-budget version. Unlike the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM it's still affordable for many but you might ask yourself whether it's worth the surcharge from the EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Let's find that out.

Intended Use

Available Light

Ever tried shooting in a club or at a party? Using your flash almost certainly looses all the ambient light atmosphere in the picture. Shooting without flash requires high ISO settings, slow shutter speeds and low f-stops. With a maximum aperture of f/1.4 the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM will require a lot less light than conventional lenses like the EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM or in turn allow much faster shutter speeds. In comparison with that lens's maximum aperture at a similar focal length (f/5.6) the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM allows shutter speeds 4 exposure values faster (e.g. 1/320 s rather than 1/20 s) or if you don't need the faster shutter speeds go for image quality and use e.g. ISO 100 instead of ISO 1600.


Using the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM with an APS-C camera results in an effective focal length of 80 mm which is considered ideal for portrait photography. On a full frame sensor you have to get a little closer to your subject but the focal length is still great for portrait. Most importantly the low f-stops available with this lens allow for verry narrow in-focus ranges which can be used creatively to make a subject stand out from its sourroundings.

Of course the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM can also be used for a variety of other things. In fact a 50 mm lens is sometimes called a "normal" lens and was for many years the standard lens to ship with SLR cameras.

Weight and Dimensionstop


At 9 oz the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is more than double as "heavy" as the EF 50mm f/1.8 II. But it's still a very lightweight (and small) lens.

Lens Weight [oz]  
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM 9

Compare with the weight of other lenses:


Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 14
Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM 20
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM 22
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM 17
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II 7
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS 16
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM 10
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM 28
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM 32
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM 23
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM 11
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM 9
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM 4
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM 19
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II 4
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro 10
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS 14
Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II 14
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM 12
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM 52
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM 14
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM 21
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM 22
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM 52
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM 83
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM 90
Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD MACRO 1:2 (for Canon) 16


The EF 50mm f/1.4 USM's dimensions are 2.9 " (diameter) by 2.0 " (length).


Compare with these values:

Length in
Diameter: in

Handling and Build Qualitytop

The EF 50mm f/1.4 USM has a solid feel to it though it's built mainly of plastics. The most important part however (the lens mount) is made of metal thus less prone to wear than plastic mounts. The focus ring is big enough (11 mm) to feel comfortable and it's firm and accurate. The lens is not sealed against dust or moisture but since it's not a zoom lens it's probably less likely to get dust into the system anyway. Canon has a suitable lens hood for sale but they don't ship any accessories with the lens (exept for the dust and lens caps). The lens is small and lightweight enough to not regret having it in your photo bag all the time.


The Lens has a USM motor which is great because it allows manual override during autofocus without the need of switching to MF first. It is an older model though and is a lot noisier and slower than modern USM drives (the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM has been on the market now for 26 years!). But it's still a whole lot better than the conventional micro motor used in the EF 50mm f/1.8 II.

The front element of the lens does not rotate while focusing so graded filters or circular polarizing filters can be used without hassle (and the lens hood is short enough to allow access to them while it's attached). The EF 50mm f/1.4 USM does not offer image stabilization but with it's great maximum aperture fast shutter speeds can be used which decreases the need for IS. It allows close-ups of up to a 0.15 x maximum magnification which is good enough for a close face portrait on a full frame body or even a detail on an APS-C camera.




Image Quality