Canon 50mm f/1.2L
Review. Discuss this lens, and this review, at Digital Grin Forums
Summary: Solid build, excellent mechanics, operation, feel, balance. Not overly heavy, as one might expect. Autofocus is faster than the 50 f/1.4
, and it is accurate. Not blazing fast though. Color and contrast are excellent - as you'd expect. Bokeh is creamy smooth. Odd "cutting-off" of the out of focus specular highlights, a serious flaw. CA control is average wide open, quite good stopped down. Sharpness - OK wide open, little, if any, difference to the 50 f/1.4 wide open.
Conclusion: This is a lens for folks that need to shoot in the dark, and can't afford to trade ISO or shutter speed, and use a lens that is 1/5th the price, Canon's 50mm f/1.4. No doubt, it can produce great photographs, and many folks, including lens connoisseurs, will benefit from this glass. Me? I'll stick with my 50 f/1.4. I so much wanted this lens to be really great. Canon has missed the boat with this much-hyped lens, and the fact that it sells for $1,600 USD, when there is an alternative for $300 that's for all intents and purposes, just as good, well, I'd think twice about it folks.
Edit: September 2008: I have decided to own this lens after all, and a big reason is the low light performance and sharpness on the Canon 5D II with HD Video :)
Size, Weight, Feel, Build: It's bigger than the f/1.4 - but you know that. It's not obnoxiously heavy like the bloated beast, the f/1.0. It's more compact-looking and -feeling that I had thought it would be. It feels good in hand, balances nicely on the 5D I've been shooting with. The build is pure Canon L. It's smooth, weather sealed and rugged. The focusing moves internally, though there's not a static front element - the entire works move as you focus. The hood is bayonet mount.
(Image courtesy of Canon)
Just a quick shot to show the bokeh. More examples of this to come. With a shot like this, the bokeh just drifts off into creamy dreamy nothing-ness. It's really quite beautiful.
Vignetting: This lens is a light sucking machine. But remember, any giant-aperture lens like this will vig when wide open. You'll notice it in some scenes, in other scenes you won't notice it at all. In all cases, vignetting is easily adjusted for in Camera Raw. So, vignetting is something that never bothers me. On this lens, vignetting is no more and no less than I've experienced on Canon's 85 f/1.2. Notes: vignetting will be much less on a 1.6x body. Vignetting is near zero once stopped down to f/2.
Here is an animated Gif (click on photo to enlarge it), showing vignetting on Full Frame 5D, at wide aperture. Easily corrected in Camera RAW, and this is a common situation with fast glass.
This animation starts at f/1.2, and goes to f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16.
Autofocus: The measurebators out there are having a field day over this lens. It backfocuses! It frontfocuses! Well, in my real world usage, this lens is spot-on for focus, and no, I don't use a ruler, I shoot at something, and if the focus is where I expected it to be, the lens is good. I will be perfoming some real-life tests on AF with this lens as soon as possible. My early observation is that it's faster than the f/1.4 (thankfully!).
This is a screen grab, showing the focus point (dead center) for the next example shot.
Shot at f/1.2, ISO 100, tripod. Shot in Raw, and no processing or adjustments or sharpening done to this file. I find the lens to focus accurately. Of course, it's easy to blame the lens when likely it's the photographer. Watch out for sample shots that have been done handheld, they could be victim of "focus and recompose," which, at f/1.2's extremely narrow depth of field, can be deadly :)
Another focus example, here
Put this image in Lightbox by continuing to click on it until you have the full shot showing.
Here are three side-by-side shots, with the 50 f/1.2L and the 50 f/1.4L. The 50 f/1.4 @f/1.4 is in the middle, the 50 f/1.2L @f/1.4 is on your left, and the 50 f/1.2L @f/1.4 is on your right.
In this example, the 50 f/1.2L is sharper fully wide open than the 50 f/1.4, it is sharper at f/1.2 than the 50 f/1.4 is at f/1.4.
is the full scene, showing where these 100% crops were taken from.
(put this image in Lighbox by clicking on it until it fills your screen.)
But wait a minute! In this example, there is really no perceived sharpness difference here, with both lenses wide open. The focus point was center, on the center of the Nutracker's beard. The sword is in the same plane of focus. The 50 f/1.4 actually looks sharper, wide open, than the 50 f/1.2L. These shots were tripod mounted, ISO 100. No sharpening or processing in ACR, only converted to JPG.
OK so, is it fair? Probably not. I'm sure there's lots of physics voodoo that goes into making that f/1.2 work. But the reality is, that the 50 f/1.4 is an incredible performer, at 1/5th the price. Now, if you need f/1.2, well then, the 1.2L is the lens for you :) And let me also say, that the sharpness isn't horrible at f/1.2, in fact it's good. But in this example, the 50 f/1.4 was better for sharpness. YMMV.
There have been numerous reports of this lens having a failure in the out of focus specular highlights at f/1.2. That they are "cat-eye" like, not round. Well, this photo
shows that, I believe. These are tiny holiday lights, and you can see, on the tree in the distance, that some of the lights are showing rounded, and some are showing the "cat-eye" effect. It's most likely due to the orientation of the specular highlight to the lens. In any case, here you go. OOF specular highlights and the Canon 50 f/1.2L.
So, let's look closer at the out-of-focus specular highlights with this lens, and compare it, wide-open, to its cheaper cousin, the Canon 50 f/1.4. Two things jump out at me here. First, there is much more pronounced fringing with the 50 f/1.2L, wide open, versus the 50 f/1.4 wide open. Just look at the green fringing around the circles of light. The second thing is this "flattening" of the circles of light. Look carefully where I've indicated with arrows. I find that quite objectionable, and I consider this a flaw, one that shouldn't be in a $1,600 lens.
, the lens produces some nice 8-pointed stars :)