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Can you tell the difference between a $125 lens and a $1600 lens?

MichaelVMichaelV Member
edited November 2014 in general photography

I saw an online article about this and thought I might post the pictures from that article to see if you can tell the difference.  I will reveal that article in a few days.  Please don't Google it up until you have looked at both pictures and have posted honestly if you can tell the difference.

The lenses in question are the Canon 50mm II 1.8 ($125) and the Canon 50mm 1.2 $1600).  Before doing any Googling or other detective work, first tell me which pictures you prefer. and why.






  • This is actually a simple test.  Cheaper lenses produce harsher background blur because they usually have less aperture blades. Plus they don't normally have the optical coatings to enable them to handle backlit situations very well.  So just judging by the background blur, the first and third images were shot with the 50mm f/1.8 lens.
  • Yeah I agree about the Bokeh. Also you can can see the difference in the DOF on the bracelet on her right hand. However I think the contrast is better with the 1.8 lens so I prefer that over the 1.2.       
  • I prefer the Second picture of the woman and the first of the man; they look more appealing to my eyes...
  • I like the second one of the woman and the first one of the man.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Ditto 2nd woman/1st man
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited November 2014
    The first image in each set has harsh bokeh, and is the f/1.8 lens.
  • MichaelVMichaelV Member
    edited November 2014
    When I looked at these pictures initially, my eyes only focused on the face without seeing the background (bokeh).  Pictures 1 and 3, the F1.8 lens ($125 lens) do have this harsh distracting bokeh which looks comical or a bit scary depending upon your eye.  Pictures 2 and 4 have that bokeh which is quite a bit more soothing.  

    I was laughing as picture three looks like an odd Halloween picture with that tree in the background somehow sawing out quite jaggedly whereas 4 just blends the tree a lot better into the background.

    The F1.8 lens seems to have a darker contrast.  The exposure seems to be a bit different between the two lenses.  Is that the lenses or the camera body somehow not exposing the picture correctly.  If I was using the F1.2 would I have to dial the camera back and I would get the same exposure as the 1.8?
  • edited November 2014
    I own both and posted my own similar "test" here on the forum earlier this year. When you only use two or three photos to compare, it is VERY difficult but when you compare an entire photo session, it becomes MUCH easier. When I first picked up the 1.2, I wanted to return it but my wife actually talked me into keeping it and I am glad she did. The 50mm is now my go-to lens based on usage with the 135 f2.0 right behind it.
    I had my second shooter at a recent wedding use the 1.8 and the difference in quality over many files is worth the money alone. The 1.2 is sharp wide open but at 2.0 it will cut you :)

    Both of the attached are at 2.0 and are large enough to allow some pixel peeping. 

    As far as brightness is concerned: the 1.2 is much brighter at the same f stop than any other lens I have at the same f stop...usually at least 0.5 stops. 
  • Both of these are just lovely Rudy, especially the bride and groom, that's a magnificent photo. Are they both with the more expensive 1.2? 

    How is your photography/business going? I know you were talking about tossing in the towel a while back. 
  • Hi Skip, 

    Those are both with the 1.2 lens and thank you for the kind words. I did toss in the towel for a while but tried it again in July (2014) and it worked. I started using Thumbtack and got a lot of work from them and then word got out...I am not drowning in work but it is enough to keep me busy. My style is slowly changing and photos are getting better because reading/determining light quality is becoming easier. It's a journey...right now I am adding head-shots to my business and just wrapped up a session with an author. Very happy with how that turned out-used lots of info learned on here :)  
  • That is great news! That's right, I remember when you started Thumbtack. Glad that is proving to be a successful marketing avenue. Congrats all around.  
  • The photo on the left has this 3-D effect with the couple just popping out.  The background looks 2-D like its a backdrop in a studio.
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