Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
 

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

This review covers


PAGE 2

» Image Quality «


PAGE 3

» Sample Pictures «

» Conclusion «

» Further Information «


Table of contents

Image Qualityhide all test shotsshow all test shots

Note: the test shots for each of the image quality tests can be compared directly amongst all tested lenses. Within the test box click on "Choose lens to compare with..." to add a lens to the comparison. Then use your mouse to hover over the lens thumbnails. If all those test shots are a little too overwhelming consider clicking on "hide all test shots" above this paragraph.

Sharpness / Resolution

Even wide open the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM has an impressive resolution. Compare the full frame sensor's text crop (7), the checker board pattern (5) and the center of the Siemens star (3) with the same test shots of the EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Even at f/1.4 this lens is sharper than the other at f/1.8. and starting from f/4 the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM offers really excellent sharpness.

The APS-C test shots show a lower resolution than the full frame ones. But that is to be expected because the camera used for the APS-C test shots has almost the same amount of pixels than the one used for the full frame shots - but at a much smaller sensor size. Each pixel therefore is a lot smaller and that in turn requires a higher resolution of the lens to achieve the same sharpness. If you compare with the EF 50mm f/1.8 II again don't just focus on the test crop of the big and small lines at the corner of the image (6). Consider the text crop (7) and checker board (5) to see that this lens outperforms the other even with APS-C cameras.

-Test shots

Full FrameAPS-C    tested with 5D Mark II
Sharpness / Resolution

Distortion

The EF 50mm f/1.4 USM shows a hefty amount of barrel distortion when used with a full frame sensor. It's performance is actually worse than that of the EF 50mm f/1.8 II and cannot be helped with choosing higher f-stops (but it can efficiently be corrected in post). When used with an APS-C camera there is still a small amount of distortion left but I wouldn't worry about it.

-Test shots

Full FrameAPS-C    tested with 5D Mark II
Distortion
Aperture:
Irrelevant

Crop from top of image (downsized)

Crop from bottom of image (downsized)

Best case: the line between the black and white boxes is completely straight in both test shot crops

Color Errors Transverse Chromatic Aberrations

Even at high f-stops where the out-of-focus fringes don't affect the in-focus fringes the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM shows a quite noticeable amount of color errors. The lens's performance is worse than that of the EF 50mm f/1.8 II but at least in-focus color errors can be corrected for in post fairly easy.

-Test shots

Full FrameAPS-C    tested with 5D Mark II
Color Errors

Crop from lower image border
(in landscape orientation)

Color errors in focused parts of the image (upscaled)

 

Best case: no color fringes

Crop from left image border
(in landscape orientation)

Beauty of blurred image parts Bokeh and Axial CA

Canon use 8 aperture blades to create a nicely circular aperture for the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. That makes blurred image parts more even which most people find more beautiful and less distracting. However the intense color fringes in out-of-focus parts of the image will be a distraction for many. They cannot easily be removed with software but get better with higher apertures. Choose f/8 or higher to loose them completely. The EF 50mm f/1.8 II in comparison has slightly less intense color fringes but a very angular aperture (see at f/8) which will diminish the beaty of blurred image parts.

-Test shots

Full FrameAPS-C    tested with 5D Mark II
Beauty of blurred image parts

The way blurred parts of the image look depends on several things such as focal length, aperture setting, aperture shape, distance to the background, distance between foreground and background as well as the texture and dynamic range of the background. With so many things to consider it's very difficult to compare different lenses. Moreover the beauty of blurred image parts is also a matter of personal taste.

In general blurred image parts should be as uniformly blurred as possible and ideally not show any artifacts. Out of the above mentioned criteria only the shape of the aperture cannot be influenced by the photographer and thus this test will show you the shape you are dealing with (left test image). To minimize artifacts there should be no bright line around the edge of the aperture shape. To get uniform blur the aperture should be as circular as possible (which depends on the number of aperture blades used and their individual shape). Furthermore there should be no color fringes in out-of-focus areas of the image (middle and right test shots).

Aperture Shape

Number of aperture blades:  8
Type: straight
Best case: circular and evenly bright

Color errors in out-of-focus areas of the image (upscaled)

before focal plane

behind focal plane

Crops from the center of the image
Best case: no color fringes in out-of-focus areas

Curvature of the focal plane Field Curvature

Fortunately the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM does not show any curvature of the focal plane.

-Test shots

Full FrameAPS-C    tested with 5D Mark II
Curvature of the focal plane

Crop from the corner of the image
focused at the image corner

 

Best case:
no difference

Crop from the corner of the image
focused at the image center

Corner Shadow Vignetting

Any lens used with a full frame camera at f/1.4 will show very noticeable corner shadow and the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM is no exception to that rule. Stop down to f/4 to reduce it to a low level or use software to remove it in post. I personally like the look images with corner shadow and a narrow in-focus range have but that's a matter of taste. The EF 50mm f/1.8 II shows a little more corner shadow (compared at the same aperture).

On an APS-C camera the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM shows only little corner shadow at low f-stops which are gone by f/2.8.

-Test shots

Full FrameAPS-C    tested with 5D Mark II
Corner Shadow

Crops (100%)

Corner

Center

Best case: no difference in brightness

Test shot (downsized)

Corner

Center

Best case: perfectly even brightness

Result-Chart

Best case: no color gradient

EV

0

-1

-2

-3

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-5

PAGE 1

Handling

PAGE 2

Image Quality

PAGE 3

Conclusion

 

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