Review: Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM (Canon RF Mount)

The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is one of the reasons why I’m going back to the system.

I genuinely didn’t expect to Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM to be a reason to come back to Canon, but I’m glad to say that via Adorama, I’ve made the purchase of the new lens along with a new body. With a very medium format look to it, the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM proves that Canon really did put lenses first when they created this camera system. While the Canon EOS R in and of itself is a bit lackluster in comparison to its competitors, this lens is really make it stand out. Maybe I’m smitten with the way that the sharpness is just there at f1.2 or the colors, the way it makes people look, or just the beauty of how it renders scenes. But as it is, I’m pretty safe guarded against the bokeh bug. And in my testing, I’ve found the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM to be really, really incredible.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • Weather sealing
  • Pretty fast autofocus, much faster than the DSLR versions
  • Build quality is solid
  • The textured, matte feel is nice
  • The control ring around the lens feels like an organic aperture ring
  • People simply look good with this lens attached

Cons

  • Expensive, but when you consider what this lens is, then it makes sense for what you do.
  • Though it sort of isn’t needed, image stabilization would have been nice due to the size.

Gear Used

We tested the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM with the Canon EOS R, and Canon speedlights.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from Canon’s Website

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture

50mm f/1.2

Lens Construction

15 elements in 9 groups

Diagonal Angle of View

46°00′

Focus Adjustment

AF with full-time manual

Closest Focusing Distance

1.31 ft. / 0.40m

Filter Size

77mm

Max. Diameter x Length, Weight

Φ3.54 x 4.25 in., approx. 2.09 lbs. / Φ89.8 x 108.0mm, approx. 950g

Ergonomics

The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is a lens that looks a whole lot like their DSLR lens offering. Except it has been boosted with some extra functionality. Let’s explore it!

To begin the front of the lens is weather sealed and to our knowledge, you don’t need a UV filter to protect the weather sealing. Even if you have a lens hood on you theoretically should be fine. The hood is huge, anyway.

Here you see all the controls on the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM. From the big red ring to remind you that you own a Canon L lens moving to the right you can see:

  • Control ring: this is programmable. It would make the most sense to allow for aperture control around here.
  • Focusing ring: big and beefy
  • Focusing type switch: Auto or manual.
  • Focus limiter switch: Honestly, I have no idea why you’d have this instead of image stabilization.

Canon is continuing their nice matte finish to their lenses. The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is no exception.

The back of the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM has a nice thick plastic ring to complete the weather sealing onto the camera. When you mount it to the Canon EOS R, you feel it push back just a bit.

Build Quality

Well, I guess you can tell for yourself from the image above that the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is fully and thoroughly weather sealed. We took it out in NYC’s rain, Hawaii’s rain, through the rainforest, and it survived everything that we threw at it. While Sony gear is built well, I’d question whether or not it could stand up to what I threw at the Canon gear simply because of experience. I’d had Sony gear start to misbehave after some rain and my Canon 5D Mk II survived Hurricane Sandy and kept clicking for years afterward.

In the hand, folks who I’ve shown it to liked the matte texture finish. And in recent years, I too have started to enjoy it. It gives you some nice extra grip–which is needed when you hold such a chunky lens.

At this price point though, I’d surely expect the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM to be able to perform on a level like this. Thankfully, I can say that you’re getting your money’s worth.

Ease of Use

The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is pretty simple to use. You attach it to the camera, focus, shoot and enjoy. But in terms of controls on the lens there is the focusing ring, the optional control ring that can be programmed to control variables like aperture, and and that’s really about it. It’s a simple lens to use and the mere act of pointing it at a subject, obtaining focus, and snapping the photo is an absolute joy. When you look at it, you’re pleasantly surprised by the medium format look that it elicits.

Autofocus

While the autofocus is partially related to the camera’s performance, I can say with all certainty that it works as it should most of the time. When a specific focusing point is selected, then the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is quick and obtains focus with little effort. When face and eye detection is enabled, then ensure that your subject has a lot of bright light on their face. Otherwise, the performance will be very lackluster.

In terms of the autofocus speed, it is more than fast enough for most candid and portrait photography. In fact, extended testing makes me believe this lens to be on par with that of Sony’s fastest lenses. For what it’s worth, I still think that Olympus has a bit of an edge but that’s for obvious physical reasons.

Image Quality

The reason why you’re most likely considering reading this review of the the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is either because you’re interested in a purchase/switch over or you just want to find a reason why your current gear is superior. If I’m going to be very honest, the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is the best 50mm lens that I’ve tested. I loathe the 50mm focal length. LOATHE IT! But with this lens, I feel like I’m shooting with a medium format 80mm f2 lens in the 645 format. It’s beautiful and in every single way, Canon is leading the way when it comes to 50mm focal lengths.

Bokeh

Just look at that bokeh. It’s beautiful and gorgeous. Combine this with the micro contrast that this lens offers and you’re getting guaranteed gorgeous photos. Now just for an informal comparison’s sake:

Sony 50mm f1.4 Alpha Mount

Sony Zeiss 50mm f1.4 E mount

Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

Model: Amanda Aiken

Fujifilm 63mm f2.8 on GFX

All of the lenses have a beautiful look to them, but I’d argue that the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM has just a bit more pop and beauty to it and then I’d highly rate Sony’s Alpha lens. The bokeh on all of them is nice; but what I’ve seen is that the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM’s bokeh isn’t always perfectly round.

Personally speaking, I don’t care that it’s not perfectly round. It’s more than good enough, it looks nice, and I genuinely do not think that a rounded bokeh ball would enhance the main subject in this image. If you do, I think you’re wrong.

Chromatic Aberration

In my tests, I couldn’t find any signs of purple fringing at all. As far as distortion goes, I can’t really complain once again. I’m getting a medium format, 80mm f2 field of view.

What I did find weird though is his jaw here; and I’m not totally sure if it’s a problem with how the model made his face or the lens. It just looks off and I know from other images that this isn’t how he looks.

Color Rendition

I think that most folks will be happiest with the color rendition of this lens when using Canon’s auto white balance. In this way, you’re using Canon’s color science. But as most of you know, I manually white balance to film white balances of 5600k and 3200k.

The colors are a no-brainer. They’re stunning; and if anything it will rely a lot on the Editor’s talent in Capture One and Lightroom to get the most of the colors in the scene. But know this: the colors out of the camera are beautiful.

Sharpness

To get the most of the sharpness, we tested the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM with a flash. It seems almost useless to do so considering that you buy this lens to shoot it wide open. But it worked, and it’s super sharp when stopped down and wide open. You also get just enough sharpness to cut down on your retouching needs when it comes to skin. It’s almost film-like and makes me so happy.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Bokeh
  • Sharpness
  • Responsiveness
  • Build Quality
  • Feel
  • Image quality overall

Dislikes

  • It’s big, but I’m getting used to it.

Congratulations, Canon. It only took you folks forever to get a mirrorless camera system out the door and figure out how you can differentiate yourself from all the rest. The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is only one way and I wish you luck with all your lenses. This lens exhibits beautiful bokeh, sharp images, micro contrast, a medium format look, weather sealing, fast focusing, etc. In many ways, this is perhaps Canon’s most perfect prime lens within a standard workable focal length that they’ve put out in years. I’m thrilled that they launched the system with this lens and as I stated at the start of this review, I’m buying one.

The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is $2,299. If you want a lens that excels in almost every way, then this is the one for you. Plus you get an f1.2 aperture, a medium format look, sharpness, fast autofocus, and weather sealing that I genuinely believe is class leading.

The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM earns the Phoblographer’s Editor’s Choice Award and five out of five stars.