25/09/2016 Gear review – Canon EF50mm f1.2L

I have to admit that as a photographer covering a range of commissions I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this lens. I invested in it after careful thought because although I’m quite comfortable using off camera flash, I do like the natural look that comes from available light, and we had a big job covering the Shropshire Business Awards event where f1.2 felt like it could be essential.

Funny enough we didn’t get to use it at that event, good old Amazon UK, who have served me consistently in the past, managed to somehow miss their quality control a little, and the lens that turned up (on the day of the awards no less, delivered to the venue) was a cheap Samyang fisheye, packed in the Canon EF50mm f1.2L box. I wish I had a photo of my face when I pulled it out of the packaging. To add insult to injury it wasn’t even a Canon fit! Something a bit naughty going on there but Amazon were brilliant, sending a replacement within 48 hours.

So why the love/hate relationship? Well for portraiture it’s amazing. The shots have lots of colour and contrast and at f1.2 the depth of field is so shallow that photos take on a dream like quality. You don’t need razor sharpness for portraits and it’s quite soft at f1.2 which I can live with (although if I want a soft image I’d rather do that in post to be honest). Anyway stopped down it’s sharp, but not as sharp as my other prime lens, even after careful calibration. So if there’s time to set the shot up then it’s wonderful, shots are classy with a nice circular bokeh, although not quite as nice as the EF85mm f1.2. I’ve used it a lot for product photos and portraits. For products I ran a lengthy shoot for a company’s on line shop and the photos were perfect, but that was using a range of apertures and the client preferred the shots which had more depth of focus.

So – if you want f1.2 then this is just about all there is, but prepare for some soft shots. If you’re stoping it down then be careful of your focus because it does shift a bit (back focus) and that seems to vary depending on the distance from the subject.

I’ll give it three stars out of five for the great shots it’s given me. Take one star off for the frustration of seeing an image come up on the screen that isn’t as sharp as I expected, and another star off for the annoying amount of calibration needed out of the box for what should be a flagship lens.

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