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The mighty 50L vs the plastic toy 50mm f1.8 II

edited December 2013 in home
I recently picked up the 50L because it was on sale and I was suffering from G.A.S. When I unboxed it, I loved the feel and quality of it and was excited to go out and shoot. It was great to see that everything bad that I had read about-focus shifting, soft wide open, soft in the corners, can't center focus and recompose, etc- simply was not true.

But is it 13 times better than the 50mm f1.8II? I had already sent back the f1.4 because it was not better than my little plastic wonder.

Well...I am returning the 50L. There is not enough of a difference to justify the switch. The DoF at 1.2 is really not that much different than 1.8. Really. The extra stop of light is pretty sweet and does the 50L feel good...so sexy, so red, so black, so much glass....but. And that is what did it, the BUT. I have included two small jpegs to show both lenses at 1.8. There is no difference in saturation, color, etc. Just corner sharpness. The 1.2 is MUCH sharper in the corners (wide open) than the 1.8 is (wide open).

They are small because my wife is worn out from studying due to upcoming finals for her masters. She says she looks tired...and does not want her face plastered on the internet :)

Look at the pics and tell me what you see. Do you see a $1200 difference? What do you see/where is the difference?




  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited December 2013

    Yep, I can see a difference. :) [always one smartarse in the mix hey!]

    It's maybe minor, but the bottom image is definitely warmer, for the better in my opinion.

    Check the 'whites' in your wife's top, the whites in it are slightly warmer, [check the cuffs and wide band at bottom] and also the top left where the sun/sky is and you can see it's warmer. Or look at the snow area on top image beside wife's right arm, it's whiter.

    Apart from that the bottom image [as you mentioned] is slightly sharper on all the tiny branches beside wife's left arm, and in the sun/sky section down to the branch sticking out on left of image you can see it's lot more sharper at that distance.

    Mind you, all on a small jpeg. So I am then assuming the bottom was the new u-beaut lens.

    It's so tiny a difference yes, and the slightly warmer image at bottom also her your wife's skin tones looking good.

    Of course it's subjective, but I prefer the bottom image.

    The bottom is better in terms of color/sharpness, to me.

    Now, that may not be a definitive test on just that one image, over a course of images you may find it overall better or not, but with a $1200 difference you had better be damn sure you wanted the lens.

    I feel for your wife also with the 'guinea pig/lab rat testing' she endured. :)

  • OK, Trev gave his answer and I told him if he was right or wrong via private message. He has been sworn to secrecy via a secret photographers handshake.

    Who's next? :)

  • jcgoodsonjcgoodson Member
    edited December 2013
    The out-of-focus areas in the top image are more round than the out-of-focus areas in the bottom image. So, I'll go with 50L at the top and plastic wonder at the bottom.

    For me, I'll keep my nifty fifty. It's broken (a piece of the lens filament is floating around in the middle of the lens) and still gives decent results (but only the center auto-focus point works).

  • MikeZMikeZ Member
    edited December 2013
    I am going to agree with what trev said a bout the colors, branch definition and edge sharpness. I am seeing some type of swirling in the oof area behind your wifes head in the bottom pic. Not digging that. I really dont like the sharp branches. Ill take the top lens. I want to say the harsh oof areas are on the el cheapo. But thats just me being super pickey. And I have an el cheapo nifty fity nikon that I love. Even with the stop sign shaped bokeh.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    The bokeh is pretty harsh in the bottom image. So I am going to say it is the 50 f/1.2L for the top image.
  • CedCed Member
    edited December 2013
    I also go for 50 f 1.2 at the top, f1.8 at the bottom because of the bokeh.
    I have the f1.8 on a crop sensor, it depends on the type of background, but there is often a little thing disturbing me in the f1.8 's bokeh. I now have the 85mm f1.8 the bokeh is always super nice.

    by the way nice portrait :)
  • edited December 2013
    Boy if I had a Canon, I'd def go for the f1.8. The minor inconsequential differences don't even come close to validating the huge price different between these lenses. If indeed the bottom picture is the f1.8, it's much cleaner and clearer at bottom of shot. Look at the Grass peaking out of the snow bottom left, and the clarity of the branches bottom right. Regardless of these minor differences, F1.8 all the way, unless of course I REALLY REALLY need the lower light performance of the f.1.2. So for me, Plastic toy all the way!! But, always a but, if you REALLY REALLY need that RED ring, to make a statement, knock yourself out.
  • edited December 2013
    The top image is L and the lower is the plastic fantastic. The "harsher" bokeh is the dead giveaway as well as the shallower dof in the L. The dof fall-off is more rapid for the L at the same f stop and what many mentioned as being more sharp on the f 1.8 (the corner branches and the snow being clearer) is simply more dof and less burr on the f1.8II. To me, the less dof at the same f stop is a very desirable feature along with the smooth bokeh. Another feature the L has is that it is tack sharp across the frame. Even at f1.2, her hands were sharp and in focus and the f1.8 II shows her hands being soft but the branches behind her being in focus. The f1.8 II is VERY soft in the corners until 2.8.

    penndragonn2001 said: if you REALLY REALLY need that RED ring, to make a statement, knock yourself out.
    I would agree that some photographers would buy this lens to imply a certain level/status (look at me, I am a pro) but there is a certain "need" for this lens. Overall, it is the best 50 that Canon makes, I still think it is worth the price tag and the L will last longer than the energizer bunny:)

    At this point, I no longer need the 5D MK III and the 7D would work just fine but I have become addicted to the quality and ease of use of the Mk III. In other words, I am not willing to sacrifice quality and the same holds true for the 50L. I could not fault anyone for owning one...and one day (maybe) I will.

  • Interesting and informative exercise. Thanks Rudy. High five to Neil and others who distilled the photos' features and came up with right answer. I had no idea. What's harsh bokeh? Less transitional bokeh? Grittier splotchier bokeh? Less smooth bokeh?
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    travelintrevor said: The f1.8 II is VERY soft in the corners until 2.8
    You just convinced me the 50L is indeed the superior lens.
    The bokeh would be important for me as well - I dislike that jittery harsh look.

  • Skipperlange,

    The difference in bokeh -- at least the shape of the bokeh -- is due to the number of diaphragm blades. The 50L has eight (octagon shaped) and the nifty fifty has five (pentagon shaped). The larger the number of blades, the rounder the bokeh. I'll be interested to hear if others have a more in-depth explanation.

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Bokeh also has a lot to do with how spherical aberrations are corrected.
  • edited December 2013
    The more I look at it the more I like the F1.8. Looking at it purely from a clarity point of view, F1.8 wins hands down, in my opinion. If you're looking at it from a Bokeh point of view, F1.2 all the way. Most clients, regular people that is, will look at this photo and choose it for its overall clarity, mostly because they don't know what Bokeh is and even if they did, don't care about it. I'm referring to regular people, not Model, Glamor, or magazine photos. You know, Weddings, parties, events, street photography, and the like. The general public will look at the more creamy bokeh of the F1.2, if pointed out, as being too blurry, but that's the OP's pictures. Say in another scenario, as in a Studio Portrait, and you show client two identical pictures, one with f1.2 and other with f1.8, depending on background, they probably will choose the Creamy looks of the F1.2. Probably due to how the background softness brings out the foreground image that much more. Had to make myself clearer, Hope I didn't make it worse.
  • edited December 2013
    Pendragon...yes, you completely confused me but that is OK :) My wife, a non photog, pointed out that the bokeh was very smooth and looked much better in the 50L so it does not take someone with knowledge to see it. Without a comparison, she would have never said that the plastic 50 looks harsh, but side to side, she preferred the L.

    Ced said: by the way nice portrait :)
    thanks...after we shot the test photos, she posed for me so she could have a new facebook picture. I immediately regretted not having some additional lighting with me since her eyes are so dark but it was too cold to even bother. Notice the red ears?

    This was at 1.2 and the background just melts away...
  • Looks Great Rudy! Your wife is very photogenic.
  • Nice photos. It looks like you've got a good copy of that lens, Rudy! I just traded-in my nifty fifty because it was unusably soft until about f/5.6 - I bought an EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro instead - very sharp, even wide open. In fact it's better in every respect (unless I upgrade to full frame).

  • Trev said: I feel for your wife also with the 'guinea pig/lab rat testing' she endured. :)

    Love that!
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