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Canon 50mm Macro: It's worth owning, but could be better.
Mar 23, 2005 (Updated Mar 24, 2005)
Review by balasuar
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Color Contrast, Sharpness, Macro.
Cons:Focus Ring, Special adapter required for true macro work.
The Bottom Line: It produces nice images, and has macro capabilities, making it a great contender in the 50mm arena.
50mm is a popular focal length for photographers because it closely matches what our eyes perceive. Prior to picking up this lens, I had the Canon 50mm f1.8. For the price I paid, it was great, but it did lack in a few areas.
Recommend this product?
Read my review on the 50mm F1.8 here.
I wanted to experiment with macro photography, so I gave this lens a good hard look. Even though I already had a 50mm prime, some of the features of this lens made it hard to pass up. The lens addresses a few of the deficiencies of the 50mm F1.8, but at higher cost, and a smaller maximum aperture.
The lens is designated as a macro lens, which means it has a much closer focusing distance (0.8ft compared to 1.5ft for the F1.8).
The lens doesn't come with a hood, but the front element is far enough recessed, that the hood is unnecessary.
The first problem with the F1.8 is the lousy manual focus ring. It's difficult to use. The 50mm F2.5 has much better focus control, and unlike the 50 f1.8, there is a distance window to help you focus.
The second issue with the F1.8 was the quality of the background blur. While not bad, it wasn't exceptional either. The blur produced by 50mm F2.5 is very nice and quite smooth.
Besides focus control and blur quality, the lens has great color rendition and nice color contrast. Images of flowers have a nice pop to them.
As is custom for macro lenses, the 50mm F2.5 is sharp wide open.
There are only a few exceptions I take with this lens.
First, even though its designated as a macro lens, it's not a true macro lens. Macro starts at 1:1 magnification--if a subject is 2cm, it will take up 2cm on the negative (or CMOS sensor). The Canon 50mm F2.5 is only provides 1:2 magnification, objects occupy only 1/2 size on the negative. A special Life-size Converter made by Canon can be affixed to the lens, which provides 1:1 magnification. The caveat is that the Life-size Converter costs just as much as the lens.
Second, though its build quality is better than Canon's 50mm F1.8, its still not perfect. The focus ring feels lose, and the Autofocus motor isn't Canon's Ultra Sonic Motor. AF is fine, but it doesn't have the snap that the USM lenses have.
This lens will hunt for autofocus, but I attribute this to the nature of macro lenses. Macro lenses have a larger focus length than other lenses...from .75 feet to infinity, where a normal 50mm prime is 1.5 feet to infinity. This extra distance means the lens takes longer to focus. Canon's other consumer macro, the 100mm f2.8 also has this problem, but has 3 features to help. It has a USM ring motor, full time manual focusing, and a focus limiter. The 50mm doesn't any of these. Most macro shooters prefer to use manual focus to begin with, so Canon may have put in subpar AF to cut down on costs.
That said, I'm very happy with this lens. This is a great lens for shots of flowers because of the color it produces.
In deciding on this lens, it will help to think of this as a 50mm lens with good macro capability. If you're looking for a 50mm prime lens and are curious about the macro world, this lens is definitely worth looking at. It's sharp, produces nice color, and can focus close up.
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