Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Review

June 29, 2015 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The new Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM prime lens features a fixed focal length of 50mm, bright f/1.8 aperture, Super Spectra coatings that minimize ghosting and flare, a circular seven-blade aperture, Canon’s proprietary STM stepping motor for smooth and quiet continuous AF while capturing video, a new focus ring placement, metal mount and a short minimum focusing distance of only 0.35m. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is available now for £129.99/€189.99/$125.99 in the UK, Europe and the USA respectively.

Ease of Use

Weighing a mere 160g and measuring only 40mm / 1.5 inches in length, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is one of the smallest lenses that Canon offers. You can use it on a Canon EOS APS-C body for a short-telephoto 80mm equivalent angle of view, and it also balances well on a full-frame camera like the EOS 5D Mk III that we tested it with, providing a more "normal" field of view.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMThe Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens mounted on the Canon EOS 5D Mk III

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMThe Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens mounted on the Canon EOS 5D Mk III

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMThe Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens mounted on the Canon EOS 5D Mk III

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMThe Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens alongside the Canon EOS 5D Mk III

As you would expect from such an inexpensive lens, build quality is good rather than outstanding. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM feels solid in your hand, despite the all-plastic construction, with a metal mount adding to the solidity. The focusing ring is very narrow but has a ridged, rubberised grip band that assists with the finger-tip operation.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMSide of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMFront of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMRear of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens

The only other control on the lens barrel is a focus mode switch with the usual AF/MF settings. Note that this lens offers full-time manual focusing even when AF is selected.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMFront of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMRear of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMThe Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens in-hand

The lens doesn't ship with either a lens hood or a protective bag. It accepts 49mm filters.

Focal Range

At the 50mm focal length the angle of view is 40°.

 Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSMField of view at 50mm

Focusing

Given its small size, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens understandably has a very narrow focusing ring. Manual focusing is of the electronically-driven, 'focus-by-wire' type, more typically found on compact system cameras. There are no hard stops at either ends of the range, making it more difficult to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 49mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM zoom is not a particularly quick performer, taking about 0.3 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on the Canon EOS 5Ds that we tested it with.

We didn't experience too much "hunting" though, either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time. It's also a quiet performer, thanks to the built-in STM (Stepping Motor), which makes this lens well-suited to video recording.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are impressively well controlled with this lens - the examples below show the worst-case scenario.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Light Fall-off

With the lens wide open at f/2.8, you can see some obvious light fall-off in the corners, but distortion is very well controlled.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Macro

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is not really a macro lens, but the close-focus point is a useful 35cm from the film/sensor plane, and Canon quotes a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.21x for the lens. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STMClose-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. One of the reasons to buy a fast lens is to be able to isolate the subject from the background, and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM has an iris diaphragm with 7 rounded blades for a pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Below you'll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
   
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

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