Battle of the 50’s

Personal Pictures, tests

Hi,
last week I bought a new 50mm lens from Canon. I had the 50mm f1.8 II before, but sold it last week, and I bought the 50mm f1.4 USM. Did I make the right decision? Time to find out.
So after my excellent, quick’n dirty test for the 85mm lenses, time to have the 50mm’s compared.
The images are rather big for your convenience, sorry about the download time.

On the left the 50mm f1.8 II selling for 90 Euros, on the right the 50mm f1.4 USM, selling for 299 Euros. (prices Art&Craft – Ghent jan. 2012)

Just before I shipped my old 450D and the nifty fifty (or fantastic plastic) I took some comparison shots with both of them.
All images are taken on tripod, with a Canon 5D II, with Live view magnification for focusing (manual mode). White balance set to 5600 (flash). The images have not been processed, except for my standard processing settings at Lightroom import, so they all present in the same way. All images are saved jpg compressed, quality setting 11, from Photoshop, with sRGB IEC61966-2.1 profile attached, I don’t know what happens to the profile when publishing to WP.
I have chosen my subjects in a way to provide some real-life hard time situations for the lenses. Any comments welcome, suggestions, or if someone, or some big company wants me to do some tests on other lenses, please give me a sign. All images are done in my backyard, no exotic things going on here.

Now for the results, I will post some personal ideas, but you don’t have to agree on them, just my opinion.

Vignetting test


Some heavy vignetting on both of them, in my opinion a bit better for the 1.4 at 1.8. Note the color difference between the two lenses.

Sharpness test Same setup as vignetting pictures, 100% crops, click on the image to view full size.
Center:

Edge:

To me the 1.4 seems sharper on the entire line. I know a lot of tests seem to give opposite results and quote the 1.8 higher than the 1.4. A lot gets lost in the corners due to vignetting, but the center crop looks crisper on the 1.4.

Sharpness test2
Entire scene:

100% crops, click on the image to view full size.
Center:

Edge:

Here too I think the 1.4 is a tad sharper. This can be due to better contrast too. Same in the edge as in the center, although it is hard to see some difference at bigger apertures.

Flare test I forgot to do a test at 1.8 for the 1.4. So both of them are wide open shots.

The 1.4 clearly has more flare here, but also keeps a little more contrast in the center of the image. The cheap 1.8 does very well. I will take a shot at 1.8 with the 1.4 as soon as we get some sun in the morning.

Bokeh test Two different scenes, each time I show background and foreground bokeh. Sorry about the leaf that moved. These crops are at 50%, because in a 100% crop I couldn’t present enough image. You can see the entire shot in the top-righ corner.


To me there’s really very little difference, except that on the 1.4 you have a little softer when wide open, seems normal to me. On the other hand, when you look at the second sample you start seeing one of the biggest problems with the 1.4, purple fringing on the highlight edges.

Chromatic aberration and purple fringing center and edge crops at 100%. Note that the second image for the 1.4 is at f2.2

Entire scene:

Center crops:

Edge crops:

Ouch, that really really hurts! Never seen it soooo bad! Here the cheap nifty fifty clearly wins hands down. I made a little mistake, taking my second shot at 2.2 in stead of 1.8 for the 1.4, and it still is worse than the 1.8.
Also remark that both lenses loose contrast when stopping down too far. The branches are softer at f14 than at f7.1. I didn’t really got the image perfectly sharp with the 1.8 but I think the message is clear enough here. With the 1.4, CA on the edges never completely disappears until f14, and then contrast is gone already.

Personal conclusion
Am I happy with my new purchase, I don’t know yet. Practical use will need to prove.
– – – –
It has some serious problems with the purple fringing and Chromatic aberration, as well as with flare, compared to the nifty fifty.
It’s more expensive than the 50mm 1.8 (which really is a cheap lens for the image quality offered)
+ + + +
The sharpness results please me though, although I had read not so good reviews before, for me it is sharper than my copy of 50mm 1.8, and a little more contrasty.
It has USM autofocus, which is way faster and more accurate than the micro motor in the 1.8
It is more solidly built than the 1.8, which even has a plastic bayonet.
It is 2/3’s of a stop faster.
It is still quite cheap for a fast prime, at less than 300 euros.

Thank you for reading!

Ludwig.

3 thoughts on “Battle of the 50’s

  1. Thanks for sharing. This is great information. My buddy uses the 1.4 and I currently use the 1.8. So far I just can seem to justify the upgrade and its primarily because I have been very pleased with the results. I do like the USM autofocus advantage of the 1.4 though. Oh well thanks again for the comparisions..

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