Canon EF 50mm lenses comparison
Discover their performances in infrared photography
On the same model as my previous article on the performance of the Canon EF 85mm line-up in infrared, I propose here to take a look at the Canon EF 50mm line-up.
Unlike the 85mm, I have a more distant relationship with the 50mm focal length. Too short for street photography, too wide for portraits, I never really knew how to use this focal length, only recently during professional projects combining photo and video.
However, Canon’s 50mm line-up is as important as its 85mm line-up, so it’s interesting to know how they perform in infrared photography.
A few points before we start
This article focuses on two of the three lenses available in the Canon EF 50mm range: the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM and the Canon EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM. The first model belongs to me, the second was lent to me by Canon France for the realization of this test. It goes without saying, as usual regarding my tests, that this loan does not influence my opinion or the results of the tests which will be published.
I voluntarily ignored the Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 USM, which I have already had the opportunity to test in infrared photography in the past and which turned out to be totally unsuitable for this technique, with a large hotspot appearing from F/4.
Handling and ergonomics
The previous image speaks for itself: here we are faced with two very… contrasting models! All plastic (except for the lenses), very light and responsive, the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM is generally pleasant to use and you won’t be afraid to expose it to difficult conditions given its price.
The Canon EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM, for its part, is a real tank! Metal, seal… The lens is very beautiful and very pleasant to use, lighter than its cousin the 85mm. It’s simple: this lens has reconciled me to this focal length, by the simple pleasure of using it.
Hotspot is the most commonly defect observed of infrared lenses. Basically, it is a light spot of more or less intensity, accentuated by the closing of the diaphragm and generated by the multiple internal reflections of the infrared radiation in the lens and on the surface of the sensor. Kolari Vision website explains the phenomenon very well.
The presence of hotspots is increased by the selectivity of the infrared filter used: the phenomenon is more likely to be observed at the highest wavelengths.
To verify the presence of hotspot on the three lenses that interest us here, I photographed a white wall homogeneously lit at different apertures, from the largest to the smallest. The results are presented side by side for a given aperture.
The filter used is the 850nm from Kolari Vision. No corrections have been made except for the lens profile integrated into my camera. The test device is a full-spectrum unfiltered Canon RP.
Results analysis :
- Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM: diffuse hostpost visible from F/11 and impacting at F/16.
- Canon EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM: diffuse hotspot from F/8 and impacting at F/11.
These two lenses offer very good performance in terms of hotspot resistance, and can be used in most cases in infrared photography.
Internal infrared light leak
Some lenses integrate with electronics that emit a low level of infrared light signal. This is particularly the case with Canon’s new range of RF lenses, as studied by Kolari Vision.
Here I did not observe any internal light leakage due to the electronics of these two lenses.
While the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM offers unbeatable value for money, its optical performance is still limited. Nothing prohibitive so far, the sharpness is generally good. Just remember to center your subjects at the widest apertures.
The Canon EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM is first appreciated for the style of the images it produces, and not for its sharpness. Where the 85mm F/1.2 makes no concessions, the rendering of this 50mm is more diffuse, less surgical. It has an undeniable style, which will not please everyone.
Below, I offer you a new comparison of the performance of these two lenses, this time focusing on the sharpness and the presence of chromatic aberrations on the edges of the infrared images at 720nm and 550nm.
Regardless of aperture or infrared filter used, the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM will deliver better sharpness and detail separation than the Canon EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM. As said before, the interest of the latter is to be sought elsewhere, in a unique rendering of contrasts and colors.
What is the best Canon 50mm lens for infrared?
For me, there is a draw here, as these two lenses offer very good performance for two distinct types of photographers. Do you do reportage, landscape and video? The Canon 50mm F/1.8 STM is for you. Do you do portraits? No hesitation to have for the Canon EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM.
Let’s finish this article with the portfolio of images taken with the Canon EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM at 720nm and 500nm.
If you want to use some of the pictures in this article for illustration or commercial purposes, contact me directly by presenting your needs and the desired types of use. I will get back to you as soon as possible with a suitable commercial offer.
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