Meet the used Canon 50mm 1.4
The used Canon 50mm 1.4 USM is Canon’s mid-level offering in a range stuffed full of 50mm primes, covering all budgets from the ultra-cheap 50mm F1.8 mkII through to the stratospherically-priced 50mm F1.2 L USM. Although it was introduced in June 1993, fully seven years after the birth of the EOS system, it can actually trace its roots back much earlier, being based on the classic manual focus FD 50mm F1.4 design of 1971. As such, it’s designed as a ‘standard’ lens for the 35mm full-frame format, with an angle of view offering none of the ‘perspective distortion’ associated with wideangle or telephoto lenses. More recently, with the popularization of APS-C as the dominant DSLR sensor size, it’s taken on a new role, and behaves like a short ‘portrait’ telephoto on this format.
The lens uses a conventional optical design for its class, with 7 elements in 6 groups, two of which are made from high-refraction glass. Focusing is achieved by an ultrasonic motor system, with full-time manual override; however unlike Canon’s other mid-range primes, this is of the micro-USM (as opposed to ring) type. Canon claims the lens produces a ‘beautiful, natural blur of the background’, an important attribute for a fast lens capable of a high degree of subject isolation. The company is also keen to point out that the lens’s colour balance is virtually identical to the ISO recommended reference values.
The used Canon 50mm 1.4 USM has always occupied a slightly precarious position in the Canon line-up, with the F1.8 lens offering remarkable value for money below it in the range. It now faces fresh pressure from Sigma’s 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM with its brand-new, bang up-to-date optical design (albeit currently at a far higher price). So is this lens an obsolete throwback to the silver halide era, or worthy of serious consideration in the high resolution digital age?
Headline features of the used Canon 50mm 1.4
50mm focal length; fast F1.4 maximum aperture
Micro-type USM autofocus with full-time manual override