Last Updated on 05/02/2022 by Mark Beckenbach
The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is one of the reasons why I’m going back to the system.
I 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 purchased 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 Canon put lenses first when they created this camera system. While the Canon EOS R is a bit lackluster in comparison to its competitors, this lens really makes it stand out. Maybe I’m smitten with the way the sharpness is just there at f1.2, or the colors, the way it makes people look, or just 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 incredible.
Pros and Cons
- 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.
- Expensive, but when you consider what this is, then it makes sense for what you do.
- Though it isn’t needed, image stabilization would have been nice due to the size.
We tested the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM with the Canon EOS R, and Canon speedlights.
Specs taken from Canon’s Website
Focal Length & Maximum Aperture
Diagonal Angle of View
Closest Focusing Distance
Max. Diameter x Length, Weight
The Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM 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 with 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.
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, and through a rainforest; it survived everything thrown at it. While Sony gear is built well, I’d question whether it could stand up to what I threw at the Canon gear simply because of experience. I had Sony gear start to misbehave after some rain, yet 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 extra grip, which is needed when you hold such a chunky lens.
At this price point though, I’d expect the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM to perform on a level like this. Thankfully, I can say you’re getting your money’s worth here.
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. 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 that’s about it. It’s a simple lens and the simple 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 it gives off.
While the autofocus is partially related to the camera’s performance, I can say with certainty that it works as it should most of the time. When a specific focusing point is selected, 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 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 is on par with Sony’s fastest lenses. For what it’s worth, I still think Olympus has a bit of an edge but that’s for obvious physical reasons.
The reason why you’re 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 honest, the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM is the best 50mm lens 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 645 format. It’s beautiful and, in every single way, Canon is leading the way when it comes to 50mm focal lengths.
Just look at that bokeh. It’s beautiful! Combine this with the micro contrast this lens offers and you’re getting guaranteed gorgeous photos. Now, just for an informal comparison’s sake:
All of these lenses have a beautiful look to them, but I’d argue that the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM has a bit more pop and beauty to it. (Then I’d highly rate Sony’s Alpha lens.) The bokeh on all of them is nice; but I’ve seen 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 don’t think a rounded bokeh ball would enhance the main subject in this image. If you do, I think you’re wrong.
In my tests, I couldn’t find any signs of purple fringing. As far as distortion goes, I can’t 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.
I think 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 from the colors in the scene. But know this: the colors out of the camera are beautiful.
To get the most of the sharpness, we tested the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 L USM with a flash. It seems almost useless 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 retouching needs when it comes to skin. It’s almost film-like and makes me happy.
Extra Image Samples
- Build Quality
- Image quality
- 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 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 the 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, 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.