Of all the cheap 50mm lenses made, Canon’s nifty 50 has always reigned supreme as the niftiest thanks to both image quality and affordability. Very recently, however, the company chose to update its formula for the lens. The Canon 50mm f1.8 STM is a lens that, like its predecessors, is still priced rather affordably and also performs very well for the price point. In every single way, this lens is a step up and improvement from the previous version and with that in mind, it will surely serve a new generation of budding photographers very well.
But it’s not totally perfect.
Pros and Cons
– Very sharp image quality when only slightly stopped down.
– Better image quality when shot wide open than previous versions.
– Nice bokeh
– Small size
– Silent focusing and manual focusing is much more simple
– Better build quality
– For those of you who care about this a lot, purple fringing is still a problem.
For this review, we used the Canon 50mm f1.8 STM with the Canon 6D and Canon 5DS.
Tech specs taken from the Adorama listing of the lens.
- Focal Length
- Maximum: f/1.8
- Camera Mount Type
- Canon EF
- Format Compatibility
- 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor Canon (APS-C)
- Minimum Focus Distance
- 14″ (35.56cm)
- Diaphragm Blades
- 7, Rounded
- Filter Thread
- Dimensions (Diameter x Length)
- 2.7 x 1.6″ (69.2 x 39.3 mm)
- 5.61 oz (159g)
- Mfr #
Taken from our First Impressions post
Like its predecessor, the Canon 50mm f1.8 STM is a prime lens with not very much to it. It’s designed for those who want something cheap, simple and very effective. With this design, Canon seems to have given consumers what they want.
We start this tour with the front of the lens. The design is very much like the previous one where the front element is deep into the lens body. Because of this, the body seems to serve as its own built-in lens hood.
Move to the top of the lens and you’ll notice the focusing ring. Canon didn’t bother putting a depth of field scale or distance scale on this lens, either of which would have been effective. At this price point, I can’t say that I blame them. A major improvement over the previous lens is that you now have a full manual focus ring instead of moving the focusing element section yourself. In practice it works out rather nicely for the size of the lens.
The only control on the lens is the autofocus switch. Here you can tell the lens to focus manually or with autofocus. When in autofocus mode, the lens can be manually overridden by the user.
This lens is far from being one of the best built lenses that Canon offers–and it isn’t supposed to be. The exterior is plasticky by today’s standards but not awful at all when it comes to build quality. This lens isn’t weather sealed and at the same time it doesn’t feel like it’s going to easily fall apart the way that version two did.
It’s sure to endure the abuse that a new photographer throws at it.
Ease of Use
The Canon 50mm f1.8 STM is designed primarily for autofocusing. The lens doesn’t have a distance or depth of field scale on it and the manual focus ring is very small–since the company knows that consumers will probably not use it at all. However, it allows you to manually touch up the focusing if you need to.
This lens focuses very quickly for the most part, but it’s faster with some cameras than others. For some odd reason, this lens focused incredibly quick with the Canon 6D but took a bit of extra time with the 5Ds despite the latter having the significantly more complicated focusing system.
Even though it can focus quickly, Canon’s AF systems and DSLRs in general are starting to show their age. In single focus performance, Micro Four Thirds cameras shooting in equivalent situations and with similar gear still outperform the speed of this lens.
Canon’s 50mm f1.8 STM is an overall great lens for what it is: a cheap lens that is aimed at a specific consumer. It’s not going to deliver the best image quality and it’s not going to give you the looks that many third party manufacturers give you now. But what it will surely do is give you a starting point to work with.
The Canon 50mm f1.8 STM is good at everything in general, but it isn’t great at everything. Perhaps we’re being too harsh on it for being only $120–but with that said, don’t expect incredibly jaw-dropping images compared to many other higher end offerings (if you’re more used to those).
We found the best sharpness to come to us at around f8–but the best balance is at f2.5. As with many other lenses, we found the best sharpness to come when you attach a flash to the camera or if a flash is used in general. When flashes are used, specular highlights come out and you really start to see this lens pay for itself.
For people that understand that they’re buying a cheap lens, they’ll also understand that they shouldn’t expect the best bokeh ever. While some may call this bokeh distracting, I didn’t at all think that it was half bad.
As far as colors go, they’re not bad but they’re overall not great either. For the price, you surely can’t complain about what you’re getting here and you’ll really need to massage your files in post-production to get the very most out of them. For what it’s worth, this lens seems to deliver results that are a bit more muted for our liking.
At around $120, there obviously has to be some sort of caveat with this lens, right? Indeed there is! The lens exhibits color fringing for sure, but to be honest this isn’t such a big problem. It’s easily gotten rid of these days in post-production programs like Adobe Lightroom CC.
Extra Image Samples
– Small size.
– Pretty good image quality overall, great for what it is.
– On the right camera body, the focusing is very quick.
– Not very much to dislike here.
Canon’s 50mm f1.8 STM is a great lens for the beginner, hobbyist, enthusiast or even the professional who likes to rough and tumble their equipment. But overall, it’s scoring mediocre to good results when you attach. The image quality is much better than before and Canon has proven once again that they can keep ahead of the curve.
Yet, this lens really should have been released years ago. With the new Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R out, the company should be focusing on creating higher resolution yielding lenses. The 35mm f1.4 L, which was one of my favorites for years, still hasn’t seen a replacement and it’s probably been around 20 years.
Additionally, we see no reason why the 50mm f1.8 STM can’t be kitted along with certain camera bodies like the 6D, 7D Mk II or even some of the Rebels. It would do terrific since photographers are always recommending that folks buy this lens to begin with.
We award Canon’s 50mm f1.8 STM five out of five stars for what it is. But what is is is also holding it back from getting an Editor’s Choice award. Want one? Check out the Adorama listing for the latest prices.
Recommended Cameras and Accessories
Canon 6D: Canon’s entry level full frame camera is a great candidate for a lens like this. It will take full advantage of the 50mm field of view.
Canon Rebel SL1: The company’s most affordable Rebel camera and also their smallest is a great offering for those that are just getting into photography.