The usual course of action when first diving into interchangeable lens cameras is to purchase some sort of 50mm prime lens. Experience eventually tells you why this is a good happy medium option, as the 50mm focal length is great for everything from landscapes to quality portrait shots.
If you’re on a budget or just starting out, the expensive options can seem like too much of a commitment. This is why the likes of the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 could be a good starting point.
Yongnuo may not be the first lens makers you think of, but what the company is very capable of is taking tried and trusted designs and making more affordable options. The big question here is whether this lens can still deliver reasonable levels of quality along with providing a very friendly price point.
Those who have even a small smattering of familiarity with the Canon lens lineup will see that the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 has taken more than a few design hints from the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM. As the saying goes, if you’re going to copy something, copy from the best, and the Canon 50mm is one of the most affordable lenses around while also offering very good quality optics.
To squeeze out as many optical benefits as possible while also undercutting the very budget-friendly Canon 50mm, there have to be some compromises along the way. This is evident in the Yongnuo with the plastic bayonet mount and lens barrel, which admittedly does have a cheap feel overall. The lens barrel itself has a very thin manual focusing ring, with a small AF/MF switch when you need to venture into manual focusing.
The lens can be fitted on both full-frame and crop sensor cameras providing an 80mm equivalent focal length on the latter and available in both Canon and Nikon camera mounts. The aperture comes in at a fairly nice, wide, and bright f/1.8, with all the internal elements being treated to a special multi-coating to increase image quality. It also has a reasonable close focusing distance of just 45cm.
Although everything on this lens feels a bit plasticky, there are at least gold-plated electronic contacts for efficiently transferring data to the camera. However, I don’t think you can melt these down to get double your money back if you get bored with this lens.
The Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 In Use
One thing’s for sure with the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8, the autofocus system lets you know it’s working with an audible whirring sound. This may sound like analog gears grinding together compared to the smooth AF whoosh of higher-end lenses, but at this price point, the complaining side of my brain has to be kept in check. The autofocus system works reasonably well, but it can trip up in low-light conditions and on brightly-lit backgrounds.
When it comes to sharpness levels, like many people have commented, it’s advisable to start by removing the protective film from the front and back elements. With the aperture wide open at f/1.8, the center of the frame is relatively sharp, but there are definitely soft edges to an image. For the most precise sharpness across the frame, the Yongnuo will need to be stopped down to f/5.8-f/8. Between these apertures, the lens provides not-too-oversaturated colors and a generally neutral contrast rendition.
The lens doesn’t have any type of flare-resistant coatings and with no supplied lens hood, sunlight can easily spill into the lens. This effect will really depend on your own preferences, as it can give a more vintage look to images. However, the f/1.8 aperture is very good at producing background blur, although it’s not going to be as creamy smooth as you would find in some of the best 50mm lenses out there.
Let’s Look at It Next to Canon’s 50mm
The obvious comparison here is going to be with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, which the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 is very much based on. The Canon 50mm has been a long-term favorite for those who want a quality, budget-friendly prime lens that can produce higher-quality images than the price would suggest.
The Canon has mainly the same attributes with an f/1.8 aperture, but it also has a slightly better autofocusing system, Super Spectra coating to reduce lens flare, and a metal lens mount. Although the Canon is still cheap to buy at roughly $125, it’s not as budget-conscious as the Yongnuo.
It does, however, have slightly better optics and final results. This means that if you’re on the Canon platform, the Canon 50mm is still the option to go for unless you really are strapped for cash.
|Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8||Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM|
|Close Focusing Distance||45cm||35cm|
Final Verdict on the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8
For roughly the price of a decent meal at a middle-of-the-road restaurant, (if you can find one open these days), the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 offers surprisingly good value. The build quality is as you would expect from a budget prime lens, but it’s really the quality of the optics that counts at this price point.
For the sharpest result across the frame, the aperture will need stopping down. If you want a more dreamy, vintage look to your images, f/1.8 will provide a softer look than most lenses, but this can also work to your advantage.
As with any budget lens, you have to familiarize yourself with it’s most pleasing working zone and how it reacts to different lighting setups. If you think of this lens as having a more old-style look and feel, providing a more soft glow rather than razor sharpness, you will get along with it far better.
This doesn’t mean that you’re going to produce the same high-end glow as you would from the ridiculously expensive Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH, but at least the Yongnuo will give a slight flavor of a vintage lens in the right lighting conditions.
Ultimately, the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 will suit those who are diving into interchangeable lenses for the first time and want to experience the joys or pitfalls of using a prime lens. At this price point, the Yongnuo can also be worked to death without fear of reprisals. If it accidentally gets banged on the streets or dropped off a cliff, you’re not going to be too unhappy, at least when compared to a prized possession lens.