The 50mm focal length has been the photographer’s standard for many years, providing an almost as-you-see-it view of the world. These lenses are generally fast and lightweight, with the added benefit of great bokeh effects in the right circumstances.
If you’re on the Canon platform, there’s a good bunch of these Canon 50mm lenses to choose from. These include the older type FD lenses which you can use on modern digital cameras, but will generally need an adapter.
However, for digital cameras which also include mirrorless, the decision process is generally down to budget. But, even cost-effective offerings can provide great images, and, as many have a wide f/1.8 aperture, they are also great in low-light conditions. Let’s have a closer look at the best Canon 50mm lenses and see what they have to offer.
1. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (Overall Winner)
With so many 50mm lenses to choose from for the Canon platform, choosing the ‘best’ could be down to just image quality alone. But, when budget and build quality are also a factor, you can’t go wrong with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens.
Like the rest of the Art series prime lenses, this one isn’t exactly lightweight at 815g, but this is made up for in the sheer image quality. Inside the lens is a nine-blade rounded diaphragm, which produces excellent background blur and the f/1.4 aperture is also a great solution for low light.
This lens features 13 elements arranged in eight groups, with a special low dispersion element, super multilayer coating, and a hypersonic AF motor handling autofocus duties. Some have complained about the autofocusing ability on this lens, but the copy we tested locked onto subjects fine in all shooting modes and only tripped up a few times in very low light conditions. Background blur is extremely smooth and there’s no faulting the sharpness on this lens.
In total, considering the price point of this lens, it provides excellent quality for the money. Canon’s own offerings, as well as ZEISS, may have more street credit, but also cost far more money. This makes the Sigma the best choice for image quality in return for your hard-earned cash.
2. ZEISS Planar T* 50mm f/1.4
The ZEISS Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 should, on paper, romp ahead of the rest with the usual outstanding ZEISS optical quality and the highly respected T* anti-reflective coating. This 50mm lens is fully manual, with an all-metal lens barrel, seven elements arranged in six groups, and a nine-blade rounded diaphragm.
This lens is lightweight coming in at 380g and the sharpness levels are fantastic. However, the lens does exhibit some softness when the aperture is fully wide open, which means this lens operates the best from f/2.8 and upwards. It’s not as convenient or quick to use as an autofocus alternative, but if you’re still swayed by the ZEISS branding, this lens is worth a look.
3. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is the top of the heap in the Canon 50mm lens lineup, with an extremely wide and fast f/1.2 aperture. The lens features one aspherical element, with an internal design of eight elements arranged in six groups. The internal diaphragm has surprisingly eight blades rather than nine, but it does come with the renowned L-series build quality.
This lens definitely polarizes opinions in the Canon community, with some saying it’s not the greatest at f/1.2 and autofocus can be erratic. With the copy we tested, autofocus was spot-on with the ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM), being both quick and quiet. Images shot at f/1.2 had a ridiculously shallow depth of field, but could also suffer from some edge softening and a spot of chromatic aberration.
However, from f/1.8 upwards, images are super sharp, providing a very professional look without compromise. The price point is the real downside to this lens and probably the reason for any negativity. For such a high price point, every area should be immaculate and expected, but as one of the best low-light operators on this list and as long as you can afford it, this Canon 50mm lens is a possible contender.
4. Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM
The Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM comes in as a mid-priced offering, which benefits from a fast f/1.4 aperture and high-quality optics. The lens features an optical design of seven elements arranged in six groups, with a nine-blade rounded diaphragm and a lightweight design of 290g.
The lens is a more old school design, with a micro Ultrasonic Motor (USM) and plastic lens barrel. It also fulfills the role of a cost-effective lens with good image quality. It may not have the ultimate optics of a higher-priced offering, but from f/2 and upwards, images are very sharp, with little sign of chromatic aberration or vignetting.
When the aperture is at f/1.4, background blur is pleasing to look at, which will only fall down on points if directly compared to the bokeh on a much more expensive lens. In total, if you cannot stretch to the price of the top-end offerings on this list, then this Canon 50mm lens is a good middleweight solution.
5. Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM
We had to include one of the latest Canon mirrorless lenses on this list, which comes in the form of the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM. This example has all the bells and whistles of the latest Canon lens technologies, but also with the highest price on this list.
This lens features a wide and bright f/1.2 aperture, with One UD (Ultra-Low Dispersion) and one aspherical element, with an internal arrangement of 15 elements arranged in nine groups. There’s also the latest 10-blade rounded diaphragm blade, Ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM), and the new configurable control ring, which can adjust things like exposure compensation and other exposure settings.
When this lens is coupled to the latest Canon EOS R camera bodies, you can’t fault the sharpness and ultimate image quality. Which would make it the best 50mm lens on this list if it wasn’t for the extremely high price point. This lens is fast to focus and produces wonderful bokeh effects, with also a close focusing distance of 1.31 ft.
6. Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM (Budget Winner)
While there are cheaper 50mm Canon compatible lenses on the market, such as the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM is still the go-to 50mm lens for bang-for-your-buck quality.
The lens features a fast f/1.8 aperture, Super Spectra coating, and an internal optical arrangement of six elements in five groups. Autofocusing duties are handled by an STM stepping AF motor which is quite noisy but does have manual override and quick workings. The seven-blade rounded diaphragm produces good background blur, which may not be as great as found on higher-end lenses, but is perfectly acceptable at this price point.
In general, this lens produces amazingly sharp images for its price and is also a good low-light operator with the f/1.8 aperture. It may not produce the ultimate best quality images on this list, but as is the general consensus, there is no faulting its quality for the price.
Summary of the Best Canon 50mm Lenses
Generally speaking, all the lenses on this list will provide you with sharp images and fantastic low-light capabilities. The higher-priced offerings are going to give the ultimate in sharpness across the aperture range, but you shouldn’t discount cheaper types, as they also offer great quality for the money.
Owning a quality Canon 50mm lens means you will have a standard viewpoint for many types of photography situations. These areas range from landscapes to portraits, with a look that is very familiar. If you don’t own any other type of prime lens, then a 50mm lens is a good start point.