Hands down, one of my favorite lenses. It’s cheap: ($125 new on Amazon at the moment, $100ish used,) sharp, lightweight, and fun. Definitely worth skipping out on a few Starbucks for. So many people will downplay this lens. Some call it junk, a piece of crap plastic toy, or other such nonsense. Is it the best lens on the planet? No, it’s not. But for the price, It’s absolutely worth picking up.
EDIT: Article is now a few years old. Canon has released an update, the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. It is still $125 new, like the old one was. It features an updated 7 bladed aperture, a metal mount, and pretty much addresses any perceived shortcomings the II model has. The II is still a great option, and is great for very strict budgets at $60ish used these days.
I got my first DSLR in 2009. I was working at Circuit City when it went under, and got my hands on a Canon XTi with a somewhat broken 28-135 IS (autofocus didn’t work) for next to nothing. Due to the AF not working, I wanted a new lens. The EF 50mm f/1.8 II was suggested to me. I happened to have $100, so I bought it. It hardly left my camera over the next few years.
Olga – Canon 40D – EF 50mm f/1.8 II – YongNuo YN460 II – CowboyStudio 22″ Beauty Dish
Okay, yeah… this is the biggest issue many have with this lens. It’s made of plastic, with a plastic mount, and weighs about as much as a deck of cards. If I hear one more person say they’re afraid it’s going to break, I’m going to scream. I’ve had mine for a few years now (four as of this article,) it hasn’t broken… I guess I need to juggle cameras more, or perhaps drop it a few times? It’s not a tank, that much isn’t rocket surgery, but treat it well, and it will treat you well in return.
Sharpness: For the work I do, overall sharpness is sometimes overrated. Yes, I love being able to see individual hairs when shooting beauty with an EF 100/2.8 macro. Do I need that much sharpness though? What I care about is corner to corner sharpness (something my 28-135 lacked,) and enough sharpness to get me crisp prints. Seeing as most of my clients print at 11×17 or smaller, most consumer lenses do just fine, especially this one.
Sharpness, however, is one of this lens’s strong point. It becomes stupidly sharp once you stop it down to f/2.5 or f/2.8, which is still wide enough to blur out backgrounds in many situations. This is a killer combination of sharp and blurred. When I use it on a crop camera in studio, I’m typically using f/5.6+ and it’s as sharp as I could ever ask for.
Andrea – Canon XSi – EF 50mm f/1.8 II – YN 460 II – Cowboy Studio 22″ pop-up softbox
COLOR, CONTRAST, AND OTHER AESTHETICS
Chromatic Abberation has been pretty much well controlled, I see a little bit of purple fringe when zoomed to 200% for retouching, but it’s overall well managed, except under extreme contrast areas. Lens flare is’t too much of an issue. With a hood, it’s pretty much under control, and when you specifically want lens flare, it looks nice enough. In my experience, the lens isn’t as contrasty, with less punchy colors straight out of camera when compared to other, more pricey lenses. But since these are elements that can easily be fixed in post without much effort while maintaining a natural look, it’s not something that concerns me too much.
OUT OF FOCUS / BOKEH
Having a wide aperture, it is very capable of shallow depth of field. The look of the out of focus area, however, is as important to overall aesthetics as any other metric. What good is there to having a blurred out background if that blur is awkward and choppy (like the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D?) While the out of focus area might not be as creamy and smooth as say an 85mm f/1.2 or a 200mm at 2.8, there’s some harshness to it, but it’s nice enough overall.
Morgan – Canon 40D – EF-50mm f/1.8 II – Natural Light
Get it. There’s a reason that this lens is one of the most recommended first purchases for someone wanting to pursue photography (same for the Nikon or Sony versions for those who shoot those brands.) It is an inexpensive great quality lens. If you are looking for something to either give you the ability to shoot with shallower depth of field, or something a little sharper than your kit lens – definitely give it a shot.
If you’d like to pick one up, please support this blog, and check it out on Amazon with this link: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Visit the Support Shooting On a Budget page for more information on how your support helps keep this blog going.