f/1.8 lens, stopped down, shot with f/1.4 lens, open

I have many times recommended 50mm f/1.8 lenses, and I’ll try to inspire you once more to go out and get one right now. Most manufacturers have a cheap lens like this:


As you will have heard me say many times, this lens is cheap, small, light, fast and sharp.

Ideal for portraits or for low-light subjects or images where you want to dramatically blur the background. If this lens is not in your kit yet, I recommend you add it immediately.

As you will have seen in the previous post, I shot Prof Dawkins yesterday with just sich a lens (my 50mm f/1.4).

9 thoughts on “f/1.8 lens, stopped down, shot with f/1.4 lens, open

  1. Just to clarify – are you recommending a 50mm for a full frame camera, and say 35mm for a 50D? Or (for someone with a 50D) would you still rather forgo 35mm in favour of 50mm? Assume I have a 50D and can only afford one of the two lenses.


  2. Great question, Len. And the answer is: both.

    The 50mm lens is now a great portrait lens on the small frame cameras (on a Canon, 50mm is now 80mm; on Nikon, 75mm). So get a 50 and use it as your portrait lens, all the time.

    The 35mm lens is now like a 50. So if you can get an affordable 35, that too, for sure, The only reason I do not mention35s much is that except for the new Nikon, they tend to still be costly. My 35mm f/1.4 Canon lens costs about $2,000 🙂


  3. Oh and I would let money determine the answer to your “which one first” question. I suppose if they were the same price, I would ask “do I do a lot of headshot portraits”. If yes, get the 50. If no, but I do a lot of street photography, then the 35 is the best first choice.

    • Have you had any experience with the CANON EF 35MM F2.0 AF LENS? (25% of the cost of the 35mm F1.4). This lens is roughly the same cost as the 50mm F1.4. I would prefer the 35mm, but is the difference in quality so great, that buying the 35mm F2 instead of the 50mm F1.4 would be a dumb move?

      • Len: I have, and I love it. The difference in quality is minimal.

        For me, the extra stop was worth it, since I shoot professionally, so I can justify it (not afford. Just justify!). But 1.4 is tough (narrow DOF), and the lower price is much more reasonable, so if I were you -depending on what you shoot! – I would recommend the f/2 35mm lens for sure.

    • Thanks for your helpful replies, Michael.
      BTW, I was there at the Richmond Hill Camera Club when you gave your talk. It was great! Thanks.

  4. I haven’t seen a Series E in years! I had a Nikon EM in high school and I used the E series on my F3 many times early on in my career. Today, I still use a 50 (1.4) for alot of portraiture. Thanks for spreading the word about the 50!

  5. I found this comment about the Canon 50mm F1.4 on the Canon Rumours site (http://www.canonrumors.com/category/photography/canon-lenses/):

    “EF 50 f/1.4 II
    – The current 50 f/1.4 is one very old lens and among Canon’s most unreliable as far as build goes. The USM is dated and the AF motor isn’t the most reliable. The Sigma 50 f/1.4 is a much better lens (if you get a good copy). This should be upgraded and this might be the year.”.

    What do you think? Have you tried the Sigma 50 f/1.4 for comparison?

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