Canon 50mm f/1.2L Lens Review: a Hands On Practical Review

Canon 50mm f/1.2L Lens Review

I love 50mm lenses, mostly for their versatile and natural focal length. Whether you are shooting portraits, smaller details, lifestyle, or just looking for a good every day lens, you really can’t beat the focal length of a 50mm. I recently had the opportunity to rent a Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens from our friends over at LensProToGo, and wanted to give you a quick and basic review. These are thoughts based on every day application and not based on super technical schematics. What I really wanted to know was, at its $1349 price tag, 1) How practical is this lens and what are its Pros and Cons? 2) How sharp is it? And 3) How would it compare to my Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 Art lens?

Pros & Cons

PROs:

Solid. This is a well-built and sturdy, just as you’d expect from the Canon L series.

Contrast. The lens produces very clean images with good contrast.

Bokeh. The bokeh and background blur produced by this lens are very smooth and high quality.

Size. The size of the actual lens is convenient and not obtrusive, though relatively heavy.

CONs:

Focus. I found that the lens was occasionally slow to focus.

Soft at maximum aperture. While the lens was somewhat soft at f2, this is typical of most lenses. You can see a comparison of sharpness at varying apertures further below in this post.

Heavy. If you’re used to carting around one of the less-expensive Canon 50mm lenses, this lens is heavy in comparison.

Price tag. The $1349 price tag is not for the faint of heart.

This lens is clearly an excellent choice if you know how to use it well and aren’t swayed by price. Here are just a few images taken with the Canon 50mm f/1.2L.

f2, ISO 125 1/1000 sec
f2, ISO 125 1/1000 sec
f2, ISO 200 1/800 sec
f2, ISO 200 1/800 sec

Sharpness

Canon 50mm f/1.2L Lens Review

The images above compare the sharpness of this lens at f-stops ranging from f/1.2 to f/4.0. The focus point was place directly over the subject’s left eye. To me, this lens had a sweet spot right around f/2.8, and was considerably less sharp when shooting at apertures any wider than that.

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Comparisons

While I loved renting this lens, I currently own a Sigma Art 50mm 1.4 lens, and I love it. I was excited to do a small comparison of the two lenses.

While the Canon is known for being heavy, the Sigma is even heavier. The Canon f/1.2 weighs 19.2 oz (or 1.2 lbs), while the Sigma Art 50mm weighs in at 28.6 oz (or 1.8 lbs). And the Sigma’s physical size is more obtrusive as well. I love using a 50mm lens for everyday type shooting, candids of my family, and to take with me on vacations. I have often wished the size of my Sigma was closer to that of the Canon.

In comparing image quality and sharpness, I found both the Canon and the Sigma Art lenses produced exceptional photos. The following shots were shot with a Canon 6D.

Canon 50mm f/1.2L Lens Review canonvssigma-2

Images from both lenses have excellent contrast and sharpness, and both produce a high quality of bokeh. If I decided to do a little pixel peeping, I’d say that the Canon produces a slightly higher quality of bokeh, while the Sigma Art produces a slightly sharper photo.

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The Canon clearly has the ability to open as far as 1.2, vs. the 1.4 of the Sigma, but this has little real-world impact for the typical photographer. If I had to choose between the two, this would be my thought. If you’re looking for the best value for the money, choose the Sigma Art 50mm 1.4. If you’re looking to carry Canon’s premiere series lenses and have the extra money to spare, you won’t go wrong with the Canon 50mm 1.2L.