Last month, Canon announced a tiny, lightweight ultra-wide angle prime lens for its full frame mirrorless cameras: the RF 16mm f/2.8 STM. Given how affordable it is, can it offer decent performance?
Christopher Frost has put the RF 16mm f/2.8 through its paces and found that, while certainly very easy on the pocket, there are inevitably some compromises that Canon has made along the way. The reduced flange distance achieved by ditching the mirror in the move from DSLRs has offered manufacturers some significant advantages, but these are not enough for Canon to avoid some trade-offs in what is still an excellent lens and a bargain to boot.
Though perfect for holiday landscapes,16mm is a slightly odd choice as Canon’s second budget prime for its RF cameras, and I have speculated as to whether this is another hint that Canon might eventually release an RF-mount camera featuring an APS-C sensor. This lens is so small and lightweight that it would make an ideal 26mm equivalent prime lens on a crop-sensor camera, and Nikon’s success with the Z 50 and the Z fc suggests that an entry-level Canon APS-C body might not be such a bad idea.
Will you be ordering the 16mm f/2.8? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Autofocus was one hell of a quality-of-life upgrade in photography, but it’s not always necessary. In this video, see a comparison of one fast autofocus prime with four fast manual focus primes to see how they hold up.
By the time I had taken up photography, autofocus was about as staple as it could get. There was plenty of vintage glass you could get with manual focus, but anything new or even recent had AF built-in. However, my propensity for vintage glass had me using manual focus from quite early on in my career and I got used to it. While I would always reach for an AF lens in most scenarios, there are plenty of slower, controlled shoots where manual lenses work just fine.
Since I started, there has been a gradual incline on the number of new, manual focus lenses for sale. I wouldn’t have predicted that, but it seems many of the peripheral brands that produce only lenses figured out that they can create fast glass for a fraction of the price if they forgo AF. This has led to a wealth of manual lenses on the market and I have several of them.
While they don’t work in all scenarios, I use my manual focus lenses on most shoots and there are several I reach for regularly. For example, on my Fujifilm GFX 50R my go-to lens, in general, is manual focus, the Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 65mm f/1.4. This video is an interesting comparison of how they all fare, though it’s worth noting that you don’t always have to shoot wide-open. Part of the benefit of having a lens that’s as quick as f/0.95 is that you can shoot as wide as f/1.2 and increase the sharpness.
That said, there is no denying the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 is a superb lens and great value too!
Irix has released a fast 30mm f/1.4 lens for Nikon F, Canon EF and Pentax K mounts, based on its existing cine-camera version that’s aimed at the film industry.
The photographic version of the lens has a different housing while retaining the optical properties of the cine version. These include three low dispersion glass elements, two high refractive index glass elements and one aspherical lens. There are a total of 13 elements in 11 groups. Irix claims the new 11-blade aperture with rounded edges also ensures “pleasant and very vivid” bokeh.
Sample image by Dimitri Bourriau
The lens employs the same ‘Dragonfly’ external design as its 45mm f/1.4 and 150mm f/2.8 Macro stablemates. As such, it’s said to have a scratch-resistant finish complemented by an anti-slip focusing ring. It’s also weather-sealed, while featuring a characteristic Irix focus-lock function. It will be available from October, with pricing to be confirmed.
Sample image by Dimitri Bourriau
Irix 30mm f / 1.4 – main features
● Fast f/1.4 Aperture ● Rear focusing ● Weather-sealed construction ● Compatible with PASM semi-automatic modes ● 61,9 degree field of view ● “Focus Lock” function ● 140-degree rotation angle of the focus ring ● Reinforced internal structure ● 86mm filter mounting front thread ● Mounts: Nikon F, Canon EF, Pentax K
Further reading Best lenses for low-light, from just £99 Other AP lens reviews
The Meike S35 75mm T/2.1 FF is a new prime cine lens that expands the Meike Super 35 Prime Cine Lens series which was first introduced last year with the release of the Meike 35mm T2.1 Super 35 Cine Lens.
Features include industry-standard 0.8mm pitch gears on the focus and aperture ring, 13 elements in 11 groups, a minimum focus distance of 0.7m and a T/2.1-T/22 aperture range.
Another example of Canon’s out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to its full-frame mirrorless lens releases, the new RF 16mm F2.8 STM is a unique small, lightweight and affordable wideangle prime. It’s primarily designed for vloggers, who like to be able to take group selfies and videos with the camera held out in front of them at arm’s length. But it could also find favour with stills photographers who’d like a highly portable ultra-wide option for landscape, architecture or interiors, but can live with the fact that it isn’t weather-sealed.
The Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM bears a strong resemblance to its 50mm f/1.8 stablemate
With dimensions of just 40mm in length by 69mm in diameter and coming in at a featherweight 165g, the lens bears a strong resemblance to its Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM stablemate. It employs 43mm filters and can focus as close as 13cm. As on the 50mm f/1.8, a switch on barrel allows the manual focus ring to work as a control dial for changing exposure settings. In terms of pricing, the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM is set to cost £319.99.
Canon has also announced the EOS R3 for professional sports and news photographers, and the affordable RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS STM that’s designed to complement the Canon RF 24-105mm F4.0-7.1 IS STM in photographers kit bags.
Nikon has announced the $300 Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 Ultra-Compact prime lens. The company claims the new optic will provide extraordinary bokeh and fantastic image quality for both video and still photos, all in a very tiny package.
Nikon says that many creators have told it that they want extremely small lenses with fast apertures to compliment the lightweight Z series mirrorless cameras, and the new 40mm f/2 will deliver on that request in a lens that it says is great for travel, street photography, and everyday use.
The company says that the 40mm f/2 prime lens is versatile and can be used on any of the Nikon Z series full-frame or DX (Crop sensor) format cameras since it is small enough to sit discretely on a Z 50 or Z fc, but still suitable when paired on a Z6 II or Z7 II for users seeking something light and compact as a “walk-about” lens. It is worth noting that when paired with a DX system the lens is equivalent to 60mm, making it a great focal length for portraits.
The new lens is built with six elements in four groups and features a nine-blade electromagnetic diaphragm for precise aperture control and stable exposures during continuous shooting. This is all packed into a lens body that is only 1.8 inches in length and weighs just 170 grams, making it a lens you can actually carry in your pocket. The company boasts the f/2 aperture will give impressive low-light performance while providing exceptional bokeh for great separation between the subject and the background of the images.
Additionally, the lens features a short 0.96 foot (0.29 meter) minimum focusing distance making it suitable for shooting products, food, and beverages that require a “top-down” setup. On top of this, the new 40mm f/2 lens is also weather-sealed to prevent dust and water from entering the lens, features an integrated control ring that can be customized to adjust multiple settings, and the focus motor adjusts smoothly and quietly further proving its utility for video shooters.
Below are some sample images captured with the new 40mm f/2 ultra-compact prime lens:
The new Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 ultra-compact prime lens will be available to order later this fall for $300.
The 50mm prime lens is a piece of kit your camera bag shouldn’t be without. Why? 50mm prime lenses, offer excellent performance in low light, they’re great for capturing portraits and offer a view that’s similar to that of the human eye. Also on the ‘plus point’ list is the 50mm’s ability to produce an extremely shallow depth of field which ensures all focus falls on your subject and you can also disguise unflattering backgrounds. Combine these points with the fact that they’re, generally, reasonably priced, and you have a lens you can’t ignore.
When generally comparing primes with zooms, zoom lenses may be practical, offer multiple focal lengths in one lens and are great for travelling but they don’t tend to be as fast as primes, bokeh isn’t as pleasing and they’re rather bulky.
There are plenty of 50mm lenses currently available, both from third-party lens manufacturers as well as well-known camera brands, and ePHOTOzine has reviewed a fair few of them. So many, in fact, that it’s well worth taking a look at our review section or the Equipment Database if you already have a specific 50mm lens in mind and just want to see how it scored. For everyone else, we’ve put together a top list of 50mm lenses to help you make an informed choice on what your next purchase should be.
Over 40 ‘nifty fifty’ lenses are listed and we’ve taken their performance, features, how they handle and cost into account when reviewing and compiling the list.
Nb. We’ve included 35mm lenses that can be used on APS-C cameras for a 52.5mm equivalent (Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Pentax), and 56mm equivalent (Canon), plus 25mm lenses for 50mm equivalent on Micro Four Thirds cameras. These lenses are also ones we’ve reviewed so if you’re wondering why your favourite optic isn’t on the list, it’s probably because we’ve not taken a look at it yet.
5 Star Lenses: Editor’s Choice
Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF
The Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF lens is designed for Nikon and Canon DSLRs, and offers excellent sharpness, smooth bokeh and fast, silent and accurate auto-focus performance. The lens is weather and dust resistant, and as well as offering high levels of sharpness, it also offers low levels of chromatic aberration and minimal distortion.
The Pentax-D FA* 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW is made for Pentax DSLRs, and covers full-frame and APS-C sensors. The lens delivers excellent levels of sharpness, from wide-open aperture, with very well controlled chromatic aberration. There is virtually no distortion, and smooth bokeh and background blur. The weather-sealing makes it a great combination for weather-sealed Pentax DSLRs.
The 35mm FE lens from Samyang can be used on E-Mount (APS-C) cameras and it gives you an equivalent angle of view of 52.5mm.
The technical quality of this lens is excellent, the AF is fast and accurate and the results look punchy with superb colour rendition. In terms of value, it’s hard to argue with such a modestly priced lens when it performs so well. Weather resistance would be nice, as would full-time manual focus in AF mode, but apart from that the lens pretty much hits the spot. It is certainly an excellent match for the Sony mirrorless range for which it has been designed.
The Fujifilm Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens gives a 52.5mm equivalent angle of view when used on Fujifilm X Mount cameras. It’s an ideal standard lens that features weather-resistant coatings, a high-quality finish and great handling. Plus, you get a very even and impressive performance.
All 50mm lenses tend to be pretty good, so differences will be in terms of construction quality, longevity, and the absolute performance at the top grade of lens making. Photographers do buy the highest quality lenses at sometimes very high prices indeed, but they also have a need for the specific subtlety that they extract for their particular style; the character of the lens.
The Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S has plenty of performance and plenty of character to justify its price. Editor’s Choice.
The Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 gives a superb performance, excellent handling and a light, compact form factor all sum up this excellent macro lens. There are no bad macro lenses, but this one pushes the envelope out a little further and excels.
This lens is a bit of a bargain for DX users looking for a compact high-quality lens for low light shooting, or to isolate a subject by exploiting the shallow depth of field. The optical quality is excellent for a lens at this price point, and that coupled with the good build quality and lightweight should mean this lens finds its way into many a Nikon users’ kit bag.
It has bulk, it has the features, it has a high price… but, did we say it has the features? In other words, another of those situations where the feature set and quality are not in question but the price will limit the market to those who really need this as a working tool. It would be very nice indeed to own, but it does need to pay its way, as well as needing a high degree of photographic skill to get the best out of its potential.
The Sony Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA adds to the high-end full-frame FE mount arsenal but with, what might be considered by some as, an eye-watering asking price, you may be wondering why it’s taken our number 1 spot. Well, the simple answer is the extraordinary results the lens produces. In terms of sharpness, it is difficult to see how any improvement could be reasonably made and CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very much under control, especially at the centre. In fact, centrally, figures are as close to zero as could possibly be expected from any lens.
The bokeh of the lens is very smooth, and in the various bokeh shots we captured in our review, you can see the almost perfectly circular aperture. The lens, which is dust and moisture resistant, is also built to a very high standard,
The overall “character” of the lens is crisp and clean and it will suit a very wide variety of subjects and this is exactly what a “standard lens” should be. Yes, the price is on the high side but if it can be afforded, the lens should offer many years of excellent service.
This 50mm Sigma Art lens offers a fast aperture and will fit Canon, Nikon, Sony and Sigma SLR cameras. It’s another premium optic, hence the higher asking price but its performance does justify the cost (if you can afford it). Build quality is excellent but it’s not as compact and light as some other 50mm lenses available.
Sharpness is excellent in fact, we’d be happy to call it even ‘outstanding’ across the frame. Chromatic aberrations are virtually non-existent and even when shooting into the light, contrast remains good and flare is virtually non-existent. Out of focus areas are rendered buttery-smooth making images that are incredibly pleasing to the eye.
On paper, seeing this lens simply as another 50mm f/1.4 lens, the £850 asking price does seem a little steep. With the performance this lens delivers taken into account it makes much more sense, representing very good value for money. Similar optics offering good performance have asking prices over £1000 so you can really see what a saving you get with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens.
Overall, with this lens, Sigma has created a lens which performs well in terms of sharpness and other optical attributes, for a fairly reasonable price.
The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC can be used on both FF and APS-C cameras and it’s available in almost every mount (Canon, Four Thirds, Fujifilm X, Micro Four Thirds, Nikon, Pentax, NX, Sony A and Sony E). On APS-C cameras, the lens gives you a 52.5mm angle of view equivalent but you do have to use manual focus when using the lens which won’t be something everyone likes.
If you’re looking for a sharp, moderate wide-angle with a fast aperture and can live with focusing manually, you need to look no further.
Giving 52.5mm equivalent on Pentax K-Mount APS-C cameras, the SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL lens is a good place for photographers to start, before decisions are made as to whether wider or longer lenses are needed. Overall, the Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL lens offers a very high level of optical quality for a very reasonable price.
This full-frame lens can be used on E-Mount (APS-C) cameras for a 52.5mm equivalent angle of view.
The Samyang AF 35mm f/1.4 FE lens is a very attractive proposition for those seeking a fast 35mm lens. The quality is uniformly excellent and the price much lower than the marque alternatives. All in all, the lens is excellent value for money.
This standard Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 ED lens for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system cameras provides an angle of view equivalent to a 50mm lens used on a 35mm format camera and sports a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture.
It is certainly capable of producing excellent quality images, with sharpness being excellent in the centre of the frame from maximum aperture. It’s well built, lightweight and reasonably compact.
A prime lens that provides an angle of view equivalent to a 52.5mm lens on a 35mm camera and sports a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture, optical image stabilisation and a lightweight, compact design.
Although it seems this lens carries a bit of a premium price, the performance it delivers probably makes it worth it, for those who require it. Sharpness is very good from maximum aperture, and can even be considered as outstanding as the lens is stopped down.
Other optical anomalies, such as CAs, falloff and distortion are also kept well in check, plus the lightweight and compact dimensions of the lens should make this an ideal addition to any serious NEX camera owners kit bag. The addition of optical stabilisation can only enhance the appeal of the Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS.
It is yet another cracking lens from Samyang, offering fantastic performance at a very reasonable price. The manual focusing is much easier than many ultra-bright lenses and is possibly more accurate at f/1.2 than some AF systems might be capable of. There really is little to fault with this design and will be a tempting proposition for many mirrorless users.
The Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD full-frame lens can be used on both FF and APS-C cameras – available in Canon, Nikon and Sony mount on APS-C cameras – which gives a 52.5mm equivalent angle of view.
This lens offers premium features, such as weather sealing, silent autofocus and Vibration Compensation, which will make it an interesting alternative to other similar lenses. It is certainly capable of delivering excellent quality images, with high sharpness in the centre of the frame. Whether those extra features are worth the extra expense to you will depend largely on how you use the lens. For example, travellers may find the Vibration Compensation and weather sealing invaluable to them.
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G comes in at under £180 and optical-wise, it’s superb. For the price, it offers outstanding quality, handles well and the build quality is excellent.
The clarity in the central portion of the frame is very good and as with most lenses, stopping down the aperture increases this optics performance across the frame and by f/2 the lens produces images with good sharpness from edge-to-edge. When shooting into the light, the simple optical design ensures this lens maintain good contrast and is resistant to flare in all but the most extreme of conditions. Falloff can be quite pronounced as too can be barrel distortion but this is easily fixed in image editing software and you might like the fact that the corners of the frame are 2.5 stops darker than the image centre.
Out of focus areas are rendered smoothly thanks to the rounded aperture blades and the compact size and lightweight makes this lens an ideal travel companion.
Overall, it’s optically superb, offers outstanding quality and is available for a really great price.
This 25mm f/1.2 lens for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras is equivalent to a 50mm f/1.2 “standard” lens in 35mm-format terms.
It is a very fine lens in its own right, with excellent sharpness that borders on outstanding, low CA, no flare and a very pleasing bokeh. Add to that the low light potential and we have a very attractive proposition indeed.
The HD PENTAX-DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro Limited compact macro lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 52.5mm lens on a 35mm format when mounted on a Pentax Digital SLR. It’s built well, handles well and produces stunningly sharp images from maximum aperture. Given the performance this lens delivers, the price is a small ask. Even those not specifically looking for a macro optic will be pleased with how this lens performs.
This standard lens for the Fujifilm X-Pro1 interchangeable lens camera provides a field of view equivalent to a 51mm lens on a 35mm camera and sports a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture.
With this lenses ability to deliver extremely sharp images, it should win many fans amongst users of this camera system. The build and handling are about right for the price. Add in this optic’s ability to take images you could almost cut yourself on, and you have a winner here.
There is very little difference in brightness between a f/1.4 and f/1.2 lens. The wider aperture also means more difficulty in focusing, but only because the point of focus is so fine. In reality, if used carefully with magnifying aids then it is highly accurate. The Samyang XP 50mm f/1.2 lens is also very bulky and very heavy, certainly quite huge compared to a conventional 50mm f/1.4.
However, the price is reasonable and the standard is very high, so there are clear benefits for those for whom the difference is significant. In any event, the performance is exemplary.
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is an oldie but a goodie and should not disappoint even the most discerning photographers. Performance throughout the aperture range is very good to outstanding and even if focusing speed is a little slow, it’s still well worth considering. The lens is built well and its lightweight design make it a great lens for holidays or a city shoot.
As for performance, even wide open at f/1.4 this new 50mm lens produces images with very good resolution in the centre of the image and good sharpness towards the edges. Peak performance across the frame can be achieved between f/5.6 and f/8, where the sharpness is outstanding across the frame.
Chromatic aberrations are kept to low enough levels that they shouldn’t pose any issues and the slight amount of barrel distortion is quite common for wide-aperture lenses like this one. Bokeh is pleasing and the lens captures portraits beautifully.
The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro lens is a universally useful optic and the ability to continue to focus right down to life size is very appealing indeed.
Sharpness at the centre is simply excellent at all apertures and CA (Chromatic Aberration) is highly corrected at the centre, approaching zero. The coatings are effective and even without a provided lens hood, the front element is recessed enough to avoid any signs of flare.
Despite only having 7 diaphragm blades, the bokeh is still very pleasing. It is not as ultra-smooth perhaps as lenses specifically designed with bokeh in mind, but it is very satisfactory.
Overall, the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 macro lens is an excellent performer and a pleasure to use.
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 is a high-quality lens, with excellent sharpness, that’s available at a competitive price.
With excellent sharpness throughout, low CA, low distortion and excellent manufacturing quality, it’s a 50mm lens you can’t really ignore. Sharpness can simply be described as excellent and CA is very well controlled. There is -0.948% barrel distortion, which is typical for a fast 50mm lens, but overall, the lens produces very pleasantly sharp images, with a smooth bokeh that shows well throughout the aperture range.
Size-wise, it’s a little on the bulky side but this is a small price to pay for an optic that can deliver such beautiful results.
The standard 50mm lens, long neglected, has more recently seen a resurgence in popularity. It is easy to see why – relatively low cost, fast, bright maximum apertures, fast focusing, the lens that can be taken anywhere no matter how low the lighting and the one that delivers the goods.
Although, ideally, it would have been good to have weather resistance and the lens hood included as standard, let’s not be churlish as the Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens remains excellent value for money and performs very well overall. To many zoom orientated photographers the fast 50mm can be something of a revelation.
The Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 for Micro Four Thirds is the equivalent of the 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.7 lenses that for decades were considered the standard lenses for 35mm film cameras.
Much of the performance of this lens is exemplary, especially considering the modest cost. The only real drawback is the susceptibility to flare, which is very evident in shots taken into the light. If this can be accepted then the lens is, without doubt, an excellent proposition.
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G lens gives an angle of view equivalent to 52.5mm when used on a Nikon APS-C sensor camera and those looking for a wide-angle lens with a fast maximum aperture could do a lot worse than this 35mm f/1.4 from Nikon. Sharpness levels in the centre are extremely high from maximum aperture, it’s well built and focuses fast.
The SMC Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4 is a robust, high-quality standard lens for Pentax DSLRs that’s currently available for a reasonable £339.
Images captured by the lens are bright, contrasty and have plenty of punch, plus there is an almost total resistance to flare, even with the sun just on the edge of the image area. The colour balance of all Pentax lenses is excellent and this one is no exception with it producing colours that can be described as slightly warm but very much natural.
Sharpness starts off quite soft at f/1.4 peaks at f/5.6. The edges also start off soft at f/1.4 and f/2 and again, performance peaks at f/5.6. Distortion is respectable and CA is controlled well.
The conclusion is that this lens can compete with the latest high-quality full-frame lenses as an equal. It’s also robust, well-made and all-in-all, is an unobtrusive addition to any camera kit.
Sigma’s 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is physically larger and noticeably heavier than equivalent lenses but don’t let this put you off at it’s well built and feels like it can take a bit of use and abuse. As for performance, this optic proved itself capable of producing fantastic sharpness, especially in the centre of the image. Those after a technically perfect lens may be slightly disappointed with the performance towards the edges, but for portraiture at wide apertures, the high levels of centre sharpness should produce great results.
When shooting wide open images are reasonably sharp across the frame and CA levels are low enough to not cause concern. Barrel distortion is often present on wide-aperture prime lenses like this and even though it is slightly present, again, it’s not really much to worry about and can be corrected in image editing software.
The sharpness in the centre is this lens’ strong point, so if you tend to shoot at wide apertures this could be the lens for you. Pentax users after a bright 50mm should certainly consider this lens when looking at purchasing a 50mm for their kit bag as the price point (£322.80) makes it a worthy contender.
This 25mm lens has a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, internal focusing, Nano Surface lens coatings to reduce ghosting and flare and it offers the same field of view that a standard 50mm lens would do on a 35mm camera.
Micro Four Thirds camera owners after the classic field of view offered by a standard lens will not be disappointed by the optical performance of this lens. It is a very sharp, contrasty optic, worthy of the Leica branding applied.
The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM lens gives a 56mm equivalent angle of view when used on a Canon APS-C sensor camera and there is no doubt that the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L II USM is a very pleasant lens to use and has a very attractive “character” to the images, that indefinable look. This is aided by its high contrast that gives a crisp appearance to images.
This is concentrated on the centre without a doubt, the edges lagging behind, but the fine detail is very good indeed at the centre of the field. The edges are a little disappointing, as is the relatively poor flare control. Overall, a very good lens, not a perfect one, but an excellent, reliable choice for Canon users.
Those shooting videos will appreciate the option for a step-less aperture and everyone will enjoy the fast maximum aperture and ability to isolate a subject from their surroundings with shallow depth of field.
This sample also appears to offer improvements in sharpness and contrast over the copy of the first version we tested some time ago. Whether this is down to natural variation between lens samples, or improvements to the optical construction is difficult to say at this point, without having a few of each lens version to test and compare. The sample tested was more than usable at f/0.95, so long as care is taken to ensure accurate focus. Overall, this is an interesting lens, that should win over many fans.
Lenses bearing the Carl Zeiss name tend to be luxury items and carry a luxury price tag as a result and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZA SSM is no different with a cool £1488.33 sat against its name.
At maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is good, but the clarity recorded towards the edges of the frame is a little disappointing. Stopping down the aperture improves performance across the frame with clarity reaching good levels by f/2.8. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved at f/5.6. Chromatic aberrations are higher than you might expect but falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is fairly typical for a lens with such a fast maximum aperture.
The lens does have excellent weather resistance and its overall build quality is worthy of the Carl Zeiss name. In fact, the materials it is constructed from mean the overall size and weight are a good match for compact SLR and SLT bodies and overall image quality is impressive.
Sharpness is very good in the centre at maximum aperture and stopping down produces even better results across the frame. Contrast holds up well when shooting into the light and there is no issue with flare. Distortion is detected but easily corrected and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.
Even though this lens costs more than its predecessor, it still represents great value due to the high levels of sharpness it produces. The improved build quality is welcome too and should win over many fans as a result.
The SLR Magic 35mm T/1.4 Cine Mark II gets a 52.5mm equivalent angle of view when used on Sony E mount and Fujifilm X-Mount cameras (it’s also available in Micro Four Thirds, but is equivalent to 70mm).
Although this lens is sold as a special effects lens due to the softness towards the edges of the frame seen at fast apertures, it is a competent performer, delivering excellent sharpness in the centre of the frame from maximum aperture. Although this lens is geared toward those shooting video with their camera, it is equally at home for still photography and is priced reasonably when compared to the competition.
Overall, the SLR Magic 35mm T/1.4 Cine Mark II lens offers excellent sharpness for a fair price.
This full-frame lens can be used on APS-C Canon DSLRs so the 35mm lens becomes 56mm equivalent.
With this lens, Canon has produced something that performs very well indeed, but then you would expect that for the asking price. It may be questionable whether or not having image stabilisation available at this focal length really is a killer feature, as it will really only be of use for photographing static subjects unless motion blur is required for creative effect.
With alternatives that have a faster maximum aperture being available for the same, or slightly more money, it does make it difficult to see the value in this lens. If the price drops as supply of the lens settles down, then it will make more sense in Canon’s lens lineup.
We go from £100 up to £1040.14 with this offering from Canon. For just over £1000, you get a lens that features a super-bright f/1.2 maximum aperture and silent ultrasonic focusing all wrapped up in a professional-grade weather-sealed body.
Sharpness is good from maximum aperture in the centre of the frame, but the performance towards the edges isn’t in the same league, unfortunately. If your intended use requires good centre sharpness, and the ability to reduce the depth of field to the minimum, not much else comes close. However, if you’re after superb edge-to-edge clarity, and low distortion for general purpose use or more critical applications, such as copy stand work, then this lens may not be for you.
Those who are considering the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM as an option will be happy to hear that the bright maximum aperture allows the depth of field to be reduced creatively, isolating your subjects from the background, which this lens renders incredibly smoothly.
The Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens offers a basic introduction to macro photography, with none of the bells and whistles such as silent focusing or image stabilisation, at a budget price of £185.51 (Nikon fit) and £219.99 (Canon fit).
When shot wide open, this lens produces images with fairly good sharpness in the centre and the quality towards the edges isn’t far behind. As the lens is stopped down, the quality improves and peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/8, where the resolution in the centre is outstanding, and the performance towards the edges is very good.
Chromatic aberrations are kept within acceptable levels and the falloff of illumination towards the corners is reasonably well controlled. There are no problems with flare either and the images we captured with it showed no loss of contrast.
Overall, this 50mm macro from Sigma is a very capable lens for the price and should make a good introduction to macro photography, especially for those on a budget.
Canon’s 50mm f/2.5 macro lens offers a compact, lightweight half life-size macro option for EF and EF-S cameras. The build quality is excellent, with much of the barrel being constructed from high-grade plastics and the lens mount from metal and it balances well.
Optically this lens is excellent, producing sharp images with low levels of chromatic aberrations and distortion. Out of focus areas have a good quality to them, contrast holds up well, even when shooting into the light and sharpness is excellent across the frame when stopped down.
Being priced at around £230 makes this an excellent value choice, so long as you don’t require life-size magnification for which an optional life-size converter will be required.
The Pentax 50mm f/2.8 Macro cannot be faulted for its level of image quality but the design is a little antiquated. Having said that, considering the performance delivered by this lens, it appears to be quite a bargain for the asking price of around £320. Stopping down to f/8 results in outstanding sharpness across the frame, CA is well controlled and falloff of illumination is handled well. A virtually indistinguishable amount of barrel distortion is present in images taken with this lens and it is very resistant to flare with contrast levels remaining consistent.
Optically, it is very difficult to fault this lens, as the performance it delivers is excellent in every respect. Unfortunately, the design of the lens and the way it handles and feels a little dated but if you can overlook this, you’ve got yourself a great lens for capturing images with.
The MEIKE 25mm f/0.95 MFT lens becomes 50mm on Micro Four Thirds but the fact that it’s a manual focus lens won’t be to everyone’s taste. However, if we are prepared to live with that then we end up with a very desirable lens. It is sharp, albeit not at the edges until f/2, in the centre outstandingly sharp, there is no trace of flare, CA is well under control and the price very reasonable for what we are getting. We can add to that the creative possibilities for stills and movies of that f/0.95 aperture and it makes a good case for giving the Meike 25mm f/0.95 serious consideration.
What ultra-wide angle prime lens makes a compelling case to you? Here are six worth looking at.
Landscape photographers don’t always prefer using prime lenses. This is mostly because of the versatility that zoom lenses offer especially when in shooting scenarios wherein moving closer isn’t a viable option. However, there are prime lenses that make the cut either as alternatives to zoom lenses or as additional options for when their unique attributes come in handy for the shooting scenario. Below are six notable prime lens options that you might want to consider depending on what they uniquely offer and how they fit your preferences.
1. Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 G Master
This recently released ultra-wide angle lens from Sony is definitely compelling even by the name alone. A 14mm wide lens gives quite a unique perspective with its angle of view while distortion is pretty well controlled. An opening of f/1.8 given this lens’ angle of view offers quite a lot of room for shooting the night sky for night-time landscapes, star trails, or even time-lapse. The Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM performs with outstanding optical quality wherein sharpness is fantastic. The only downside is the lack of a filter thread for common-sized circular or square filters, but it does offer the use of rear-mount gel filters instead.
2. Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 G Master
Definitely, a contender to the 14mm f/1.8 G Master is the next widest lens in the GM roster. While this isn’t as wide as the first one, it does offer additional low-light capabilities with an opening of f/1.4. If you’re not particularly after extremely wide focal lengths, 24mm is a pretty versatile choice. At the same time, an aperture of f/1.4 can give you cleaner night sky images as well as significantly good background blur in shooting intimate and uniquely shallow depth of field landscapes. Just like the 14mm, this lens comes in a very handy size and hardly significant weight. This one, however, offers the convenience of being able to mount traditional circular filters or standard-sized square filter holders through the 67mm front filter thread. Either as an alternative to heavier ultra-wide angle zoom lenses or as an additional option out in the field, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 G Master is one of the top choices.
3. Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G
This lens is virtually a middle ground for the 14mm and 24mm G Master options. This super-wide angle lens released in 2020 is quite a popular wide-angle prime option not just for landscape photographers but for videographers as well. With the release of the compact Sony a7C, a lot of filmmakers, vloggers, and even travel photographers paired it up with the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G due to its handy size, the manual aperture ring, and its friendlier price tag of just $898. Among other options for landscape photographers, this one also offers the convenience of a 67mm filter thread diameter for use with traditional filters, just like the 24mm f/1.4 GM.
4. Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
This other 20mm option is also a compelling alternative to the earlier discussed 20mm f/1.8 G. The $1 price difference is virtually negligible that someone in the market for a 20mm wouldn’t even consider it a differentiating factor. This lens offers a bit of extra low-light performance with the opening of f/1.4 compared to f/1.8 and may come in handy for shooting at night. However, several trade-offs are present with the Sigma option. The Sigma 20mm f/1.4 is significantly heavier, coming in at 950 grams compared to the ultra-light 373 grams that the Sony 20mm comes in. The Sigma 20mm is also roughly two inches longer, which might be significant when bag space is limited. One significant difference when shooting landscapes would be the fact that the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art comes with a built-in non-removable lens hood and consequently no front filter thread.
5. Tamron SP 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD
Perhaps one of the less popular options from Tamron would be this 20mm f/2.8 lens. Introduced at just $299, this compact and lightweight super-wide angle lens is a compelling choice for a first-timer on a budget. This lens weighs just 221 grams and takes up 2.87 x 2.50 inches of space. This 20mm lens doesn’t offer apertures as big as the Sony and Sigma equivalents, but the f/2.8 opening isn’t bad either. It also comes with a 67mm filter thread diameter in front and a convenient 1:2 magnification with a minimum focusing distance of just 10.92 cm.
6. Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D
If you’re a manual lens enthusiast or one who doesn’t mind the lack of auto-focus, this lens is very well known for a couple of handy features. Much like the other ultra-wide angle options that this Hong Kong-based manufacturer offers, this Laowa 15mm f/2 lens is very well known for outstanding optical performance. Add to that it is guaranteed to be free from distortion, it is a popular lens for architecture and real estate photographers along with the brand’s other 15mm lens option, which is the Laowa FF 15mm f/4.5 Shift lens. This all-metal and glass lens comes in at just 500 grams, 2.6 inches wide, and 3.23 inches long. A 72mm front filter thread can also be revealed by removing the reversible all-metal lens hood.
Making choices in lenses should definitely be driven by logical factors such as image quality, angle of view, low-light performance, and ultimately, which of them would fit your lens budget. Each of the above-listed lenses either set the standard in quality or offer a unique feature or capability over others available in the market. There are definitely many more similar options especially from third-party brands such as the Zeiss Batis 2.8/18, a handful more options from the Sigma Art line, as well as some notable prime lenses from Rokinon. If you have any significant experience with any lenses you would like to add, feel free to tell us about them in the comments.
Shooting wide open on an f/1.2 lens can be tricky. With an aperture that large, your depth of field shrinks to a band of focus so narrow that it’s almost ridiculous. Shoot a loose headshot and, if your subject’s eye is in focus, the tips of their eyelashes will turn blurry. Nailing that focus is fickle. Mirrorless cameras excel when it comes to focus tracking, and so the 50mm f/1.2 has become a staple of the major full-frame mirrorless camera platforms from Canon and Nikon. Now, the $2,000 Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM lens has joined the party, and it delivers truly exceptional image quality in a relatively compact package.
– Pro-grade built and weather sealing
– Exceptional image quality and sharpness
– Minimum aperture of f/16
– Sharp and bright to the edges, even wide open
– Heavy compared to consumer models
A quick view of the good and the bad.
Shooting wide open on an f/1.2 lens can be tricky. With an aperture that large, your depth of field shrinks to a band of focus so narrow that it’s almost ridiculous. Shoot a loose headshot and, if your subject’s eye is in focus, the tips of their eyelashes will turn blurry. Nailing that focus is fickle. Mirrorless cameras excel when it comes to focus tracking, and so the 50mm f/1.2 has become a staple of the major full-frame mirrorless camera platforms from Canon and Nikon. Now, the $2,000 Sony FE 50m f/1.2 GM lens has joined the party, and it delivers truly exceptional image quality in a relatively compact package.
What is it?
Camera manufacturers have long used the standard 50mm focal length to show off what they can do with optics, and that’s still the case in the mirrorless era. One noted grumpy camera reviewer once said the ‘60s-era Nikon 55mm f/1.2 existed “to give little men bragging rights decades ago when little men bragged about the speed of their lens as opposed to how many pixels their camera had.”
Now, however, super-high resolution cameras like Sony’s 50-megapixel A1 or the 61-megapixel A7R IV demand a lot from lenses to make the most of all that firepower. Sony crammed three extreme aspherical glass elements inside to help maintain sharpness and illumination throughout the entire frame, even when shooting wide open. The edges and corners typically show significant blur and vignetting with an aperture this wide, but Sony has done an excellent job keeping it under control. Ultimately, the lens is a collection of some of Sony’s best lens tech combined in a way that it captures truly beautiful images.
Like the rest of the GM (short of G Master) lenses, the Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM boasts robust weather sealing meant to handle the abuse that comes from pro photography work. There are two programmable buttons on the lens barrel that you can customize to perform a variety of features–they default to activating the AF system.
Inside, there are four AF motors to drive the internal focusing mechanism. The lens focuses extremely quickly and silently without any of the elements extending past the front of the barrel.
The 50mm f/1.2 GM has a built-in aperture ring, which I love about it. It has two settings. One allows the aperture ring to click into each f number so you’ll know exactly what setting you’re on. You can also disable the click and get a smooth transition up and down the aperture range, which is preferable for video. Neither the Canon nor the Nikon offers an aperture ring at all, which gives the Sony a distinct edge in feel and usability—at least in my book.
If you’re looking to get close to your subject, the 50mm GM achieves a surprisingly short focusing distance of 15.7 inches. That provides relatively high magnification on your subject, which is handy in a prime lens like this. For instance, that comes in handy if you’re a wedding shooter and you want to capture the fine details of the decorations and table arrangements without having to switch over to a true macro lens.
While the close focusing is nice, it’s worth noting just how absurdly shallow the depth of field gets when you get close and shoot wide open. Focused at the minimum distance and opened to f/1.2, you’ll get a band of focus so narrow that it’s barely useful in any situation. This is another situation where a minimum aperture of f/22 would be nice compared to the f/16 this lens offers.
Size and weight
It takes a considerable amount of glass to make a super-fast lens like this one: sharp through the aperture range and at the edges of the frame. The Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM contains 14 glass elements in 10 groups, which gives it a total weight of 1.7 pounds. Compare that against Sony’s entry-level 50mm f/1.8, which weighs more than a full pound less at 6.7 ounces.
Compare the Sony 50mm GM to its fellow f/1.2 aperture competition, however, and it looks rather light. The Canon 50mm f/1.2L weighs in at 2.1 pounds, and the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 S prime lens is even heavier at 2.3 pounds. The Nikon is longer, too, at 6 inches, compared to roughly 4.25 inches for the Sony and Canon.
Sony 50mm f/1.2 Image quality
Sony boasts that it uses its best glass inside the GM lenses, and that’s evident here. As stated above, shooting wide open creates some natural vignetting, but it’s tasteful and easily lessened with software if you don’t like it. Once you get to f/2.8, it largely goes away.
If you want maximum sharpness, I found that roughly f/5.6 will get you the absolute best amount of detail (it only stops down to f/16).
The 11-blade circular aperture contributes to the lens’s extremely pleasant blur characteristics. That’s especially important when you have a lens that opens to f/1.2, where you get a lot of blur. It has a very pleasant transition from in-focus to blurry areas, and out-of-focus highlights render as pleasant spheres most of the time. When shooting wide open, those highlights start to get football shaped near the edges, but that’s expected and pretty much goes away by f/2.8.
Overall the lens is fast, sharp, and renders colors very accurately. While those are all positive aspects when it comes to a lens, the existence of Sony’s full-frame 50mm f/1.4 Zeiss Planar lens complicates things. While the GM lens does its best to keep the lens quirks under control, the Zeiss embraces them and produces images which have slightly more character. The Zeiss vignettes a little harder and the colors skew slightly dreamier. The Zeiss feels more like a classic lens than a piece of surgical equipment.
I’m admittedly a big fan of the Zeiss Planar lens design in just about all of its forms, but it serves as a quirky touchpoint that makes the perfect GM lens feel a little sterile.
Who should buy the Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM lens?
If you’re a working pro who shoots Sony and likes 50mm lenses, then this is almost certainly the one to buy. At $1,999, the Sony 50mm f/1.2 is an expensive chunk of glass, but it’s also somehow $100 cheaper than the Nikon equivalent and $300 cheaper than the Canon. But, its exceptional image quality and burly build make it ideal for pros or shooters who never plan to take the 50mm lens off their body. That’s especially true for those packing cameras like the A1 or the A7R IV, which demand top-tier lens performance to satisfy their high-res sensors.
If you’re not looking to drop $2,000 on a 50mm lens, Sony does offer a few models down the line. I already mentioned the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar, but at $1,500, that choice really only makes sense if you’re really dedicated to the Zeiss look.
The $250 Sony 50mm f/1.8 is a solid performer, but you lose a lot of pro features, such as the weather sealing, the abundance of aspherical glass inside, and the top-tier coatings. It does stop down to f/22, though, which is one stop beyond the f/16 mark set by the GM lens.
Recently, Sony announced the $600 50mm f/2.5 G lens as well. It packs higher-end G-series optics into a very compact body that weighs just over six ounces. You obviously lose quite a bit of speed–the drop from f/1.2 to f/2.5 is substantial—but, if you’re looking for something small and inconspicuous, it may suit you better than the chunky GM. If you do take the leap on the GM, you can expect it to crank out extremely fine images for a long time.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.