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Canon EF 50mm f/1L USM Lens Review (Ken Rockwell)

EF 50mm f/1L

Image: Wikipedia

The EF 50mm f/1L can be found on eBay for around $4000 (click here) – which is much more than the original retail price :-(

Ken Rockwell posted a review of the Canon EF 50mm f/1L lens. The lens was discontinued by Canon in 2000. This lens is considered “rare” by someone, and it has a hell of a bokeh. First a short description of the lens taken from Wikipedia (see also the short video below for an overview):

The […] EF 50mm f/1.0L USM is a professional L series autofocus lens. On the used market sells for as much as double the original retail value. It was the fastest SLR lens in production during its lifetime. This lens has a metal body and mount, and plastic extremities. It also features a wide rubber focus ring that is damped, a distance window with infrared index, and the ability to set the focus range from 0.6m to infinity, or 1m to infinity. In common with the EF 85mm f/1.2L USM it uses an electronic “focus by wire” system and requires power from the camera in order to manual focus. The 8-blade diaphragm and maximum aperture of f/1.0 give this lens the ability to create extremely shallow depth of field effects and to support low light situations. The optical construction of this lens contains 11 lens elements, including two ground and polished aspherical lens elements. This lens uses a floating front extension focusing system, powered by a ring-type USM motor. The front of the lens does not rotate, but does extend when focusing.

Some excerpts taken from Rockwell’s review:

This highly advanced 50mm f/1.0 is a thoroughly relevant and modern lens for all kinds of shooting. It’s the one Super-Lens you can use for photographing anything and everything in any light. Technically it performs far better than it should, and used at its limits, which are the very limits of photography itself, it can help give unique renditions that other photographers with more limited tools will not be able to duplicate.

About the reason to get “this masterpiece”:

    • Used at larger apertures, gives a unique look which cannot be duplicated any other way […]
    • For ultra-low light, f/1.0 is 1/2 to 2/3 stops faster than common f/1.2 lenses. In fact, this f/1.0 lens as about as much faster than an f/1.2 lens as an f/1.4 lens is faster than an f/1.8 lens […]
    • Subject Isolation: no other 50mm lens can isolate a subject from its surroundings as strongly as can this lens […]

The lens can be found on eBay for around $4000, much more than the original retail price. Another review of the lens can be found at Bryan Soderlind’s site.

The video below (by YouTube user peachy dismay) is recommended if you want to see how shallow the depth of field of this lens is, and to have a comprehensive overview.

  • Roger

    It would be a nice lens to have, but at $4K used it’s just not worth it. I’d take the new Zeiss otus over this any day. What KR describes as sharp is what every other reviewer calls soft.

  • Bob B.

    If I was going to spend $4000 on a 50mm lens….I would buy The Otus….not Mr. Softee. :-)

  • Uberzone

    This reminds me of Cannon’s upgrade from the FL 55 1.2 to the FD 1.2L. In both instances they managed to almost half the size and weight.

    This would be fun to play around with for a day, but there is a reason nobody bought this and it is discontinued……..

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