Canon 50mm F/1.8 STM Stan Horaczek
I’m a sucker for the 50mm field of view, so I have spent some time with just about every 50mm full-frame lens option that is available for Canon bodies. When the new “nifty fifty” was announced, I was pretty excited, and now that I have had some time to shoot with it in a variety of situations, I’m actually pretty impressed. Here are some sample images along with some shooting impressions. Look for our full lab test in the upcoming issue of Popular Photography.
All photos were shot on a Canon 6D and were exported at full resolution from Adobe Lightroom without editing (unless otherwise noted in the caption).
It seemed to me that the sharpness really maxes out around F/4. This was shot under bright, contrasty sunlight, which explains the super fast shutter speed. Even at F/5.6, it gives some nice separation between subject and background.
The entire bouquet of buoys is in very nice sharp focus and it has already begun to fall off before hitting that walk sign a few feet behind it. It didn’t draw a lot of contrast out of the flat scene, but that’s easily punched up later in post.
The focus is set near the front-center of the main pink starfish and, as you can see, at F/2.8 we get a relatively shallow depth of field, which I find pretty pleasing. As we fall off into the blurry sections of the photo, the bokeh isn’t the smoothest I’ve seen, but it’s also not harsh, even with the bright neon colors.
It’s obvious that we’re not getting quite the same sharpness that it offers at F/4 and beyond, but the relative sharpness is still very acceptable.
At F/16, you get nice sharpness throughout the frame and, although I was expecting things to get a bit gnarly where the buildings hit the sky, the edges of the buildings actually seem surprisingly clean. You get a surprising amount of detail in the buildings even though they’re far off in the distance.
In this instance, I was curious what kind of vignetting we would get and I wasn’t surprised to see it start creeping in by F2.8. The 50mm F/1.8 has always had some vignetting, which I think a lot of people found to be part of its charm. The new STM version seems to continue that tradition, so if you’re one of those shooters who hates lens vignetting, you should be prepared to apply the lens profile in post, especially when you’re shooting wide open.
As you’d expect, the focus falls off extremely quickly, but the sweet spot of the image is actually very sharp. There’s a ton of detail in the engraved letters. It even handled those bright pink flowers hiding back in the bokeh rather well.
Combined with new higher-megapixel DSLRs, it gives you some more creative cropping options. Here, I underestimated how shallow my depth of field was really going to be at F/2.2 using the close focus. The starting image is a bit flat once again, shot in open shade on a sunny day.
Even this close to the maximum aperture, the in-focus area is impressively sharp. The bokeh in the top left corner gets a little harsh, but that’s likely due to the extremely high-contrast nature of the subject.
There’s a ton of sharp detail in the leaves of the trees, but more importantly, the edges between the leaves and the sky aren’t a mess of aberration. It’s not quite as challenging as if they highlights had been totally blown, but still a pretty admirable job done by the coatings.
For this image, I punched up the contrast a bit and adjusted the exposure, so you can start to see the vignetting be more apparent during editing (it’s not difficult to remove, but I chose not to for the sake of illustrating the lens performance). The softness at the top and bottom of the frame are likely due to me tilting the camera slightly and eschewing the plane of focus.
In this case, the light was very dramatic, but it came out of the lens looking very manageable. Normally, I would need to slightly tone down the contrast a portrait shot in under these lighting conditions if I was using the 50mm F/1.2 or the new Sigma F/1.4.
Here’s an example of a shot taken specifically to induce flare and it’s still not that severe. Even in portrait situations, there were times when I expected a wash of flare to take over the frame, but it didn’t happen. If that’s something you hate, then you’re in luck, but if you want that effect, you might have to invest in a crummy UV filter to put over the front lens to bring it back.