Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

This review covers


» Image Quality «


» Sample Pictures «

» Conclusion «

» Further Information «

Table of contents

The EF 50mm f/1.8 II is an incredible lens. It was introduced 29 years ago (!) and has been a success ever since. The reason is that its maximum aperture of f/1.8 enables a whole new variety of photographic possibilities at an incredibly low price. If you compare the lens to its immediate peers it doesn't excel at anything but price, size and weight but if you are on a tight budget the EF 50mm f/1.8 II will nonetheless be well worth your buck.

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/1.8 the EF 50mm f/1.8 II will require a lot less light than conventional lenses like the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II or in turn allow much faster shutter speeds or lower ISO settings. In comparison with that lens's maximum aperture at 55 mm (f/5.6) the EF 50mm f/1.8 II allows shutter speeds more than 3 exposure values faster (e.g. 1/200 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 160 instead of ISO 1600. That's why the EF 50mm f/1.8 II is an excellent choice for available light photography.


Using the EF 50mm f/1.8 II 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/1.8 II 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


The EF 50mm f/1.8 II's weight is a mere 4 oz. You will not regret having it on you all the time.

Lens Weight [oz]  
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II 4

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/1.4 USM 9
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/1.8 II's dimensions are 2.7 " (diameter) by 1.6 " (length).


Compare with these values:

Length in
Diameter: in

Handling and Build Qualitytop

Well, this is one of the lowest-cost Canon lenses available so you shouldn't expect much in regard to build quality. It's build mostly of plastics and - to be honest - looks quite cheap. It feels as if it would fall apart any moment but that's just a feeling and doesn't say anything about its long-term reliability (which is said to be quite good). The lens mount is made of plastics as well and will wear out a lot faster than those build of metal. There is no seal against dust and moisture but since it's not a zoom lens it's probably less prone to dust inclusions anyway. Canon ship this lens with just a dust and lens cap and no further accessories. However there is a lens hood available for purchase which adds about 30% to the total price of the lens (to be fair that's mostly because the lens is inexpensive to begin with). The hood comes with an adapter that has to be screwed into the filter thread because the lens itself does not have a fixture for the lens hood (the lens is fortunately just too compact for that). That's unusual but not annoying because you can quickly attach or remove the hood from the adapter and you can mount it upside down for storage. If you'd like to use a filter with the lens you can attach a 52 mm filter onto the hood adapter (it has another thread) or onto the lens's filter thread itself. The use of circular polarizing and other graded filters is easy with this lens because the front element does not rotate while focusing and the hood is also short enough to give access to the filter.


The EF 50mm f/1.8 II uses an old style micro motor drive to focus which is noisy, slow and inaccurate but also not surprising given the low price tag of the lens. You'll have to pay more than three times as much for an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM that comes with an ultra sound motor (and a couple of other benefits). A USM motor would also allow manual override during autofocus operation which is especially useful for a lens featuring such a narrow in-focus range. Instead you have to switch to MF mode before you can use the tiny focus ring (0.2 ") on the EF 50mm f/1.8 II to fine tune your focus setting. If you have never used a lens with such low f-stops you will be surprised how often you do use manual focusing because for a close portrait a focus on a person's nose can already render its eyes out of focus (and you'll usually want its eyes in focus).

The maximum magnification of 0.15 x is mediocre but good enough to allow a close portrait of a person's face with a full frame camera (or a part thereof with an APS-C camera). The lens does not have an image stabilizer but at least you are less likely to need one with low f-stops because you'll usually shoot with faster shutter speeds.


Maybe this is trivial but let me just point out that this is a prime lens. If you have never used a prime lens note that this takes some time to get used to but in my opinion it's highly rewarding. The lack of a zoom forces you to try different distances from your subject. You'll get closer or further away and reframe your shot several times so - especially in the beginning - you will need more time for a single picture and that's a good thing because you will think about how to compose your image more carefully. The maximum aperture of the EF 50mm f/1.8 II is ideal to try out lots of different things. If you are torn between this lens and the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and ask yourself whether the difference between f/1.4 and f/1.8 is worth the price difference I would say: no (but there are other reasons for the more expensive lens - check out that lens's review for details). Most of what you can do with f/1.4 you can also do with f/1.8 - and that's a lot!

Another reason why many people love prime lenses is because of their superior image quality in comparison to zoom lenses. So let's take a look at the EF 50mm f/1.8 II's image quality next.




Image Quality