Canon 50mm “Nifty-Fifty” Lens – Featured User Review

Accessory Reviews Canon Featured Lenses Uncategorized User Reviews

I dug up this review of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II “Nifty-Fifty” prime lens to show off what is arguably one of the best camera gear buys you can make. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens can be had for less than $100 US dollars, it’s got great optics and it’s an excellent low light lens. It will also teach you to be a better photographer since you can’t rely on zoom to help you compose and frame. If you’re a Nikon shooter you’re also in luck. The Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens is comparable in price and performance.

Thanks to member Ben_Morrissey for this thoughtful and detailed Canon Nifty-Fifty lens review. If you’ve got a 50mm lens – Canon, Nikon, Sigma, or whatever – we need your review. Your camera and lens reviews are the foundation of this site.

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Featured Review: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II “Nifty-Fifty” Lens

by Ben_Morrissey (Expert)

Price Paid: £.80.00 from
Review Date: January 18, 2010
Used product for: Less than 1 month

Overall Rating: 4 of 5
Value Rating: 5 of 5

Just a quick note, the price paid is in GBP, not dollars.

You will have noticed that I have stated that I have used it for less than a month, which is true, as I received it as a present for Christmas. However, I do believe that I can give it a fair evaluation due to the amount I have used this lens.

The first thing I noticed when opening the package was the actual size of the box. It would appear that as well as reducing costs, Canon has become conscious of it’s effect on the environment. I can assure you, you will never find a box more cramped than the box that the 50mm f/1.8 mkII arrives in. The lens itself barely fits in the box, but then Canon have decided to shove a thick set of instructions in there. Though, it does give the impression that the lens has more weight than it really does.

Once you pull out the lens from the box, you will immediately notice the weight and build quality. Depending on your skill level and time spent doing photography, you might be surprised or alarmed at this. The lens is a mere 130g, and when mounted on a larger camera body, feels like it isn’t even there. It is better paired with a smaller camera, as the balance feels much better (to me anyway). The Plastic around the edges exudes cheapness. Rather than the rougher feel of the EF-S lenses Engineering plastic, Canon has opted for smooth black plastic, which to me, doesn’t feel right. It makes the lens feel more like a toy. The small shiny black focusing ring at the front isn’t the best I have used, but it is definitely smooth (On a side note, When focusing back from close to infinity, I encounter a small bit of resistance in the lens, where it feels like it wants to stay there. It’s not tough to move, in fact it’s very easy to move, but it is definitely there).

The focusing ring, as I have mentioned, is very small, which may be unsettling for those who have used L lenses (I doubt those that actually have L lenses will be purchasing this, but many more people have used L lenses than own them) where the amount of resistance and size of the ring allows for smooth focusing. When set to Manual Focus, the ring turns as quickly as you would if you were slipping on ice. I feel that it’s too fast for my liking, and doesn’t give much room to really get selective about where you’re focusing (I also use my 500D for video, so I may cross over into videography as well in the review – sorry!) This means that it is very easy to move, a slight knock will shift it. When focusing, part of the lens will extrude from the front. When in Manual Focus, this bit can be physically pushed back into the lens (and while I do not recommend doing so, it can still be done with relative ease), which is rather annoying and doesn’t say much about the build quality.

In Autofocus, this lens is not quite at all. You could not miss it. It’s basic focusing system seems to mis-focus in bright conditions (such as the sun in the corner of the frame) and rather annoying, for such a wide aperture lens, can have trouble focusing in low light, which sort of defeats the point of the lens. If you are able to introduce a temporary light source into the scene, it will achieve focus very quickly, so it isn’t the worst thing in the world. The noise does have one benefit, because it allows you to know when it’s working, and inevitably for a lens of this price and build quality – when it isn’t.

The images at f/1.8 are not the sharpest this lens can produce. By f/2.8 the sharpness increases substantially, and I find that f/5.6 produces the sharpest results. However, I got this lens to allow low light photography where my kit lens could not (The kit lens gives an aperture of f/5.6 at 50mm), thus again, this point is rather irrelevant for me. By stopping down, you will notice that instead of circles in out of focus regions, you will get increasingly noticeable pentagons. Obviously, as a cheap lens, the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I expect many people will be shooting at f/1.8 rather than stopping down, so this isn’t much of an issue. Though, as I make videos as well, I do find it annoying that my camera sets the aperture to f/2 at the widest during video, so more aperture blades would have been nice (obviously, this is more a camera fault than a lens fault, but I thought I should mention it).

Flare can be noticed, but it is not really a problem. the only instance I have on an image is when the sun was located in the top right corner of the frame, which created a sligh blue flare in the bottom left corner, so, nothing to worry about in normal conditions.

Price. This has to be the biggest strength. You would be hard pressed to find a lens as good as this for the same price. It’s quite outstanding really.

Image Quality. For the price, The image quality this lens provides is exceptional.

Wide Aperture. Why am I mentioning this? I’ll tell you. This is a lens aimed at those new to photography, who want to try everything, but have a limited budget. This is one of the widest aperture lenses a person can buy, and really is a great introduction to wide aperture lenses. If you want a wide aperture lens, but don’t want to splash the money on a more expensive lens that you might not like, this is the lens to go for.

Build Quality. Feels like a toy. The texture feels wrong in my hands. It’s not going to survive a lot of ‘testing’, if you’re inclined to treat your equipment that way.

Noise. It’s quite loud. You might even be surprised by how loud it is. Not very intrusive, but might eat away at you for a while.

Aperture. The 5 bladed non-rounded aperture does produce nasty pentagonal out of focus areas when stopped down. At f/1.8, it’s circular, problem solved.

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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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