Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The plastic-fantastic

Not so long ago I decided to buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 USM lens. I wanted a ‘standard’ portrait lens that was fast because I love shallow depth of field to isolate or emphasise a subject and am also a big fan of bokeh. Just getting back into the game of photography, I also didn’t want to splash out a lot until I really know what I want.

When the lens first arrived in the post, I almost feared that the box was empty it was so light. When I unpacked it and had a look at it in my hands, my heart sank. I felt I had bought a right piece of crap to be honest and, rather than feel I had gotten something decent for the amount spent, regarded the money well and truly pissed up the proverbial wall.

After letting the lens gather dust as a discarded, unappreciated little number, my curiosity was tweaked when I read an article about it in a photo mag. I thought I should give it a proper bash. It deserved that much at least. Firing off a few test shots here and there, I realised I had done the little barrel a great disservice.

This lens’ bigger brothers cost around £250 for the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and whopping £1,000 for the (admittedly) mega fast EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM, so this just shows what a bargain price this f/1.8 really is and what an idiot I had been in prejudging it for its build. Does this make me ‘lensist’?

As already stated, at first the plastic-fantastic of the build  worried me. Manual focus was also very difficult for accuracy as it is very sensitive and loose. Accuracy is especially tough and marginal when shooting wide open. But all that apprehension was put to bed when I started to use it more and more.

This lens has really won me over. The effects at f/1.8 are just what I was after and the image quality is quite astonishing for the price of the glass. I may be tempted to go to the f/1.4 version one day, but not for now.

I am also a fan of the prime lens approach rather than the zoom, especially for controlled work like portraiture. Zooms certainly have their place but can make the photographer lazy. There are fewer elements in a fixed lens and that is to the snapper’s advantage.

I use the 50mm for a lot of portraiture at the moment because, shooting on my EOS 450D, the crop factor makes this more like an 80mm lens with the converted field of view.

Here are some more images I have taken with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens.

Another well priced fixed lens I have my eye on for portrait work is the highly regarded Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM.

Some links for reviews of the EF 50mm f/1.8 USM:

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