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Best 50mm Prime Lenses

A 50mm lens, also known as the "Nifty Fifty", is an essential piece of kit for many photographers but if you don't currently own one, here are our top 50mm lens picks to help you with your next purchase.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses:

Best 50mm Prime Lenses

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.

This list is split into Best Medium Format 50mm Prime Lenses, Best Full Frame 50mm Prime Lenses, Best APS-C 50mm Prime Lenses and Best MFT 50mm Prime Lenses. We've also grouped brands together so you can easily find the brand/lens mount you're looking for. 

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A Little More On 50mm Prime Lenses...

Most camera kits include a standard zoom lens, highly versatile and of adequate to good quality. So why consider a 50mm prime lens? The 50mm prime was at one time the kit lens of choice and it has the advantages of being of generally higher quality than the zoom, more compact and will almost certainly have a much faster (brighter) maximum aperture, enabling images to be shot in even the dullest light. It will also be less expensive than a high-quality zoom.

Why 50mm? The "standard" lens for any given format is considered to be the focal length that is approximately the diagonal measurement of the format. So, for the full frame of 24x36mm, this measures around 50mm. It is actually 43mm, but lens manufacturers settled on the slightly longer length for ease of manufacture and historic reasons. This still leaves the question of 'why 50mm?' only half answered, and the rest of this is because this focal length gives a perspective that is very similar to that viewed by the human eye. Things look normal.

Unlike a standard zoom, the 50mm prime can also be, optically speaking, abused in many ways, such as the use of close-up lenses, extension tubes, teleconverters and other optical additions and yet still retain sufficient quality. The image from a zoom lens would be likely to degrade very quickly.

With digital cameras there are of course many different formats, so the focal length that is considered a standard lens will vary. Full frame is around 50mm, APS-C crop sensor is around 35mm and Micro Four Thirds is around 25mm. All of these lenses will yield an image very similar to what our eyes see, so all are included in this “50mm” lens list.

There are various levels of quality/pricing and these do not necessarily directly relate to image quality. There are low priced, largely plastic lenses often referred to as "plastic fantastics" as they are sometimes capable of stunning results. There are the conventional, larger and heavier but still fairly compact lenses that may have been in lens ranges for many years, possibly even since the days of film. Then there is the new generation of big, heavy, expensive and superb optics that are chasing the quality level of the high-priced Zeiss lenses.

The other major cost factor is the speed of the lens. Whereas the average standard zoom might have a maximum aperture of only f/4 or f/2.8, the 50mm prime will start at around f/2. It may well be even faster, with apertures of f/1.8, f/1.7, f/1.4, f/1.2, f/1 and even f/0.95 being available. Of course, the cost goes up exponentially the faster the lens becomes and the depth of field steadily reduces. A 50mm f/1.8 would be considered a good standard and a 50mm f/1.4 would be considered a fast version.

Whatever level of performance and cost is aimed for, there should be something for everybody in this list of the finest "50mm Prime" lenses.

 

Best Medium Format 50mm Prime Lenses

Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Fujinon GF 80mm F/1.7 R WR
Overall Rating

Fujinon GF 80mm F/1.7 R WR

The temptation is to think that this could be a carry-anywhere camera of superb quality, blowing everything else out of the water. In reality, it is indeed superb but it is also bulky and is far more suitable for using on a job at a location rather than carrying it around on spec. Superb for portraits, fashion, landscapes, architecture and social photography, this will be a workhorse for many photographers. The f/1.7 aperture opens new possibilities for reduced depth of field, surely one of the major advantages of larger formats. Couple this with the incredible buttery smoothness of the images and there is just so much to like.

In summary, not for general everyday use but if you need it an incredible photographic tool that delivers quality - Highly Recommended.

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Best Full Frame 50mm Prime Lenses

Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM
Overall Rating

Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM

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 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.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro
Overall Rating

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro

The Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro is an excellent lens producing sharp images with low distortion, low levels of chromatic aberrations and it offers superb value for money. 

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
Overall Rating

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

This lens isn't for everyone, that's for sure. It's a unique lens in more ways than one. The bright maximum aperture allows depth of field to be reduced creatively, isolating your subjects from the background, which this lens renders incredibly smoothly. Sharpness is good from maximum aperture in the centre of the frame, but the performance towards the edges isn't in the same league. If your intended use requires good centre sharpness, and the ability to reduce 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.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Overall Rating

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Canon's old 'Nifty Fifty' was a popular lens despite its poor build quality as it represented such good value for money. 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.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro
Overall Rating

Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro

The Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro is a superb, versatile lens of the highest quality. The feature set and quality are not in question but it does need a high degree of photographic skill to get the best out of its potential. However, the photographer will certainly not be disappointed in the results from the Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro lens.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM
Overall Rating

Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM

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 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.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Irix 45mm f/1.4 Dragonfly
Overall Rating

Irix 45mm f/1.4 Dragonfly

The Irix 45mm f/1.4 gives a superb performance, slick handling and a unique focal length for this lovely standard lens. Excellent to outstanding sharpness, low CA, low distortion, very well made and virtually no flare. 

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Meike 50mm f/1.7
Overall Rating

Meike 50mm f/1.7

Given that the price is fantastic, both for the Meike lens and the competition, then we need to consider whether a metal lens, manual focus, traditional in design, is preferable to the various camera makers' Plastic Fantastic offerings.

The Meike image quality is a strong factor, as is the dust and moisture resistance. On the other hand, the AF lenses will be faster and easier to use and are pretty good themselves.

Overall, Meike has produced a very impressive lens at a very impressive price, but the final choice is a very individual one based on features, performance and ergonomics rather than price.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G AF-S
Overall Rating

Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G AF-S

For the price, this lens represents excellent value for money. The build and silent focusing are welcome refinements, even if the focusing speed does seem a little slow. Performance throughout the aperture range is very good to outstanding, which is what you would expect from a lens of this type, and as a result this lens should not disappoint even the most discerning photographers.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G AF-S
Overall Rating

Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G AF-S

The new Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens is optically superb offering outstanding quality and it handles very well. Optically, it offers outstanding quality at a reasonable, although not bargain basement price.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 macro
Overall Rating

Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 macro

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.

It also has advantages over the usual 100mm lenses in that we do not have unreasonably long working distances for tabletop photography, and indeed for the copying of documents. In addition, the lens makes an excellent standard lens for full-frame cameras. On APS-C format it would make an excellent short telephoto for portraiture, having a “35mm equivalent” field of view of approximately 75mm.

In summary, the Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is a very welcome addition to the Nikon Z series repertoire and a definite Editor's Choice.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S
Overall Rating

Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S

Another very expensive standard lens for the Nikon Z system, offering a lens not quite as fast as the f/0.95 Noct but at a fraction of the price. In terms of performance, the two lenses act in a very similar way and at the widest apertures the more expensive lens just has the edge. However, all we are comparing are degrees of outstanding, so it is doubtful that the difference will be seen in images. If you don't need the f/0.95 aperture then a fair bit of cash can be saved by going for the new f/1.2 lens.

Of course, 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.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Nikkor Z 40mm F/2
Overall Rating

Nikkor Z 40mm F/2

There is no doubt that the lens delivers an excellent to outstanding performance, and at a very keen price. Add to that the small, light form factor and we have perhaps an ideal travelling companion. 

The only slight faltering of performance is when we attempt to shoot flat subjects at close to the minimum focusing distance, and then we need to stop down to bring the edges and corners in crisply. This may well be due to field curvature and it does look much better on 3D subjects.

Overall though, a superb lens that continues to make the Nikon Z system look really impressive.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct
Overall Rating

Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct

What a dilemma. Discounting the price, this is an amazing lens that reaches the very highest level of quality. However, there are many lenses not that far behind, almost as fast, even at f/1.4 where the choice widens considerably. These are a fraction of the price of the Nikkor Z.

The advantages are clear, exemplary performance, high-quality construction, sublime handling of light sources and beautiful bokeh. These all add up to a very desirable product, sensibly specified and offering unique qualities. There will be photographers who snap this up and there will be photographers, like myself perhaps, who stand wistfully watching but unable to afford the huge price tag.

It still has to be an Editor's Choice, which makes it five in a row for the Nikon Z system, in itself a remarkable performance.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: HD Pentax-D FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW
Overall Rating

HD Pentax-D FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

There are plenty of 50mm f/1.4 lenses, although many of them have designs that date back possibly decades. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in this as the 50mm has always been a high-quality optic, generally considered the perfect standard focal length for 35mm format. However, things move on, and even higher standards are now possible, albeit using complex designs and being very expensive to produce.

This Pentax 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW lens aspires to be amongst the best of the best, and indeed it achieves that at a price which is still high, but which is highly competitive within its own bracket. Add effective AF and all-weather construction where some much more expensive lenses are manual focus only, and Pentax Users have a very enviable package. Obviously, users of other marques will need to use the alternatives (notwithstanding any adapters that may be available), but Pentax enthusiasts can be confident that they can share too in the very latest quality optical designs.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: SMC Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4
Overall Rating

SMC Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4

The 50mm lens was at one time the lens of choice with a new camera, and it is still a very versatile option today. Many photographers will carry such a lens as well as a bag of zooms, and the SMC Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4 is an excellent choice. The quality is high, the lens handles well and it is an unobtrusive addition to any camera kit.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro
Overall Rating

Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro

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 feels a little dated, especially when compared to the latest Macro optics offered by the likes of Canon and Nikon, which offer silent, internal focusing. Still, if you can live with the slightly antiquated design, you will be rewarded with outstanding sharpness, from a relatively lightweight lens that should be no trouble to pack in your kit bag ready for a time you fancy taking the occasional close up.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE II
Overall Rating

Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE II

Samyang makes some great lenses, and the new 50mm f/1.4 FE II is an excellent example of that. It performs to an excellent high standard, it works smoothly, is weather-resistant and is reasonably priced. A 50mm lens is such a straightforward proposition and many photographers will always carry one, even those who are dedicated zoom users. In low light, it's a winner, and for a general view of the world as we see it unsurpassed. It is also good to see videography being catered for, with the option of a silent aperture control.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Samyang XP 50mm f/1.2
Overall Rating

Samyang XP 50mm f/1.2

The Samyang XP 50mm f/1.2 is a large and bulky but truly excellent ultra-bright 50mm lens. 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.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE
Overall Rating

Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE

With a high level of performance and a pleasing character, the Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE lens has plenty of potential to become a favourite. There are some parameters that may need some additional correction in software, not really an issue as the solutions are there. It is light and compact and generally just delivers the goods in a simple, discrete package. When used for street photography, it can be an advantage to use an unobtrusive lens.

There is some flare and there is no weather sealing, so these are a couple of disadvantages, but to be absolutely fair, the price tag is a very attractive one and generally, the Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE lens is a delight to use. Highly recommended.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Sony FE 50mm F/2.5G
Overall Rating

Sony FE 50mm F/2.5G

There are quite a few alternative 50mm lenses, at all sorts of price levels. There are faster lenses, but they do tend to be bulkier. There are the "plastic fantastics" and they too have a place, but may not approach the high level of performance of this lens. The Sony FE 50mm f/2.5G performs impeccably and at a reasonable price, in balance with its peers. It also handles beautifully. It is without doubt 'Highly Recommended'.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Sony FE 40mm F/2.5G
Overall Rating

Sony FE 40mm F/2.5G

What a delightful lens this is to use. It has an elegant simplicity, performs superbly well and is a useful, if somewhat unusual, focal length. Of particular note are the high and even sharpness, centre and edge vying through the aperture range for supremacy, the resistance to flare and the general ease of use. The Sony FE 40mm f/2.5G is a very classy lens that is 'Highly Recommended'.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro
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Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro

The 50mm lens is a universally useful optic and the ability to continue to focus right down to life size is very appealing indeed. The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 macro lens is an excellent performer and a pleasure to use, at a realistic price.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF
Overall Rating

Tokina Opera 50mm f/1.4 FF

All the things that made the Pentax version of this design an Editor's Choice apply just as well to the Tokina Opera version, bringing some fine qualities into the domain of Canon and Nikon users. There is no doubt that the competition amongst these types of high-quality lenses is fierce, but Tokina is delivering close to the best quality available at a very competitive price. Another Editor's Choice.

 
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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E
Overall Rating

Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E

This is a Voigtlander lens with a bit of character to it, and would probably well suit those photographers who enjoy sharp, crisp images. Of course, most lenses are sharp and we expect them to be, but this has that edge to it, that extra crispness, and the results are there to be enjoyed. Perhaps a tad expensive, but then traditional lenses are bound to be so. For those who care to exploit the sharpness and particular character of the lens, it has to be 'Highly Recommended'.

 

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Voigtlander 50mm F/1.2 Nokton E
Overall Rating

Voigtlander 50mm F/1.2 Nokton E

This lens is reassuringly solid and quite heavy but balances very well with the camera. Results are also excellent and are geared towards offering a slightly softer result wide open, tightening up to razor-sharp by about f/2 at the centre and f/2.8 at the edges. There is huge creative potential for portraits as well as most other subjects from architecture to landscape. This is another Voigtlander lens with character, capable of very satisfying creative images.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Zeiss Batis 40mm f/2 CF
Overall Rating

Zeiss Batis 40mm f/2 CF

Quality, lack of compromise and elegance of design are the things that characterise this lens. It also does not fall into the trap of being clinically sharp without having that indefinable character. It manages to be crisp and clean in terms of its images, but they also have the sparkle that gives that emotional element. Sometimes this is referred to as “pixie dust”, the magical extra ingredient that makes great lenses. Thus the Zeiss Batis 40mm f/2 CF lens justifies its price tag and it has that extra quality that makes it an Editor's Choice.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
Overall Rating

Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA

The only major drawback of such a fine lens has to be the price; the weight and size can perhaps be forgiven. It does offer a very high standard of performance, including very appealing bokeh, and a superb level of sharpness throughout. In terms of quality of results, it speaks for itself, and if the price can be afforded then the lens should offer many years of excellent service. Another superb lens from the Sony/Zeiss stable.

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Best APS-C 50mm Prime Lenses

Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR
Overall Rating

Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR

With a very even and impressive performance, weather resistance, great handling and high-quality finish it would be hard not to like this Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens. The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR is an ideal standard lens for the range of Fujifilm cameras.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL
Overall Rating

Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL

Low cost, high quality, and a very useful experience in simple, one-lens photography. The standard lens is still a good place for photographers to start before decisions are made as to whether wider or longer lenses are needed. There is a certain discipline in using a fixed focal length, plus of course a very high level of optical quality. Very Highly Recommended!

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Samyang 35mm f/1.2 ED AS UMC CS
Overall Rating

Samyang 35mm f/1.2 ED AS UMC CS

The Samyang 35mm f/1.2 ED AS UMC CS is yet another cracking good 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.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X
Overall Rating

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X

The Voigtlander performs well and has one extra quality, that of having character. This is a traditional concept that goes beyond the bald figures for sharpness, CA and so on. It is sometimes referred to as a lens having been sprinkled with "pixie dust", the implication being a magic quality that is difficult to measure objectively.

The Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X lens has a character all of its own, as befits its unashamedly retro, traditional feel. If the various foibles mentioned above fit with the photographer's photographic style, then this is a lens that will not disappoint.

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Best MFT 50mm Prime Lenses 

Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Kowa Prominar 25mm f/1.8 MFT
Overall Rating

Kowa Prominar 25mm f/1.8 MFT

It would be difficult to argue against the usefulness of a 25mm fast lens on MFT format. As is true of any standard lens on any format, performance is very high and the focal length is very versatile.

The quality is not in question but compared to a massive selection of alternative also very fine lenses the price does look high. This is especially true as the lens is manual focus. This leaves us looking very hard at the performance and general characteristics. For some, the price will not be an obstacle if the Kowa Prominar gives the desired “look” to the images. For others, there are a wide variety of choices, largely excellent as well in their various ways.

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Best 50mm Prime Lenses: Meike 25mm f/0.95
Overall Rating

Meike 25mm f/0.95

Of course, we have to accept that this is a manual focus lens, which will not be to everyone's taste, but 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.

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Take a look at our other Buyer's Guides which include top lists featuring various lenses, must-buy smartphones, top camera recommendations and more. 

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Comments


20 Mar 2018 6:29PM
I can't argue with the results, especially as I have all three Pentax 50mm lenses on the list. They are very special.
But, to be honest, most 50mm lenses are very special, the classic focal length (albeit longer for APS-C and M43). Optically they are fairly simple, even the new large Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and Pentax DFA* offerings, which are HUGE!

But don't worry, there is a 50 for any budget, from brand new, to classic MF ones.
Indeed, one of my favourites on the K-1, is from the 70's, a Pentacon 50mm F1.8.

I think I come across as a bit of a 50mm fan.....Grin
petebfrance 11 3.2k France
23 Jun 2018 9:18PM
Odd - I expected to see this one here, Pentax smc da 50 f1.7 as it is 4* as well..an oversight or was there a reason for missing it out?
25 Aug 2022 11:48AM
The SMC Pentax-DA 50mm f/1.8 is indeed a plastic fantastic, but it isn't a standard lens, being a crop sensor format, so on the APS-C cameras it has a "35mm equivalent" field of view of 75mm, in other words a short telephoto.
26 Aug 2022 7:23AM
Where is the Sony FE 1.2/50 GM?
26 Aug 2022 9:04AM
Hi Archie2022, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM has not yet been reviewed, so we can't give an opinion on it. Thanks for pointing it out though - it may well be on the schedule to do already but we can check to make sure.
24 Dec 2022 7:02AM
Obviously no list is ever exhaustive but no mention of either of the Leica 50mm lenses, either of the Panasonic 50mm lenses or the Sigma 50mm Art lens seems an odd omission.

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