Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM Review

January 19, 2021 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


In our view, every photographer should own a cheap and cheerful "nifty-fifty" as they're such good fun, so it's great to see Canon release one for their full-frame mirrorless cameras.

Sure, you could just use the very similar EF version of this lens with an adapter, but that adds further weight, size, complexity and cost, plus the RF version offers slightly better macro capabilities.

Unless you already own the EF 50mm F1.8 STM lens, we'd recommend buying the native RF version instead, even though it costs significantly more at full retail price than its DSLR cousin.

Compared to the only other RF 50mm lens, the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM, this lens is undoubtedly inferior in almost every way, with the exception and size and weight and price - it's nearly 800g lighter and costs a whopping 10x less than its big brother.

If you've already got the F1.2 L lens, we'd still suggest taking a look at this new F1.8 version as a much cheaper, much lighter lens that's perfect for travel and everyday photography, keeping your pro 50mm for those crucial jobs.

Despite its very affordable price, the build quality of the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM is reassuringly good, certainly matching the other affordable prime RF lenses that we've previously reviewed.

Image quality is generally good. Chromatic aberrations are present but generally well controlled, distortion is impressively low, the Super Spectra coatings successfully prevent contrast loss attributable to flare, and you can achieve some nice bokeh effects at f/1.8.

The only real optical issues are some obvious corner shading at the maximum aperture and a lack of critical edge sharpness between f/1.8-f4 and f/16-f/22. Still, not bad going for a £$200 lens!

We would like to have seen Canon include a lens hood, though - instead you have to pay an extra £$35 for the optional Canon ES-65B, which seems a bit steep given the overall cost of the lens.

Focusing is perhaps this lens' Achilles heel, albeit a fairly minor one. Auto-focusing is quiet, especially during video recording, but not especially quick, although it does focus reliably even in low-light conditions.

Manual focusing is a rather unintuitive affair, though, with the lack of an AF/MF button forcing you into the camera's menu system, unless you take the time to setup the rather convoluted full-time manual focusing.

Rather weirdly, the lens also emits a distinctly audible whine when manually focusing that gets louder the faster that you move the focusing ring, but thankfully we didn't really notice or mind that the focusing ring is electronically-driven.

For everyone who can't stretch to the £2349 / $2299 RF 50mm F1.2, and we suspect that's most people, then the RF 50mm F1.8 STM is certainly a worthy alternative, at least until Canon release a middle-ground RF 50mm F1.4 lens (come on Canon!).

This is a very lightweight, very compact standard prime lens for Canon full-frame mirrorless owners that delivers good image quality, at a price that certainly won't break the bank.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 4.5