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Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the compact, lightweight, Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro lens.

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Handling and features

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens Review: EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro

Canon's 50mm f/2.5 macro lens offers a compact, lightweight half life size macro option for EF and EF-S cameras, which costs around £230. An optimal converter is also available for this lens, which costs around £250 and provides life size magnification with the lens at its closes focus.

Owners of EF-S compatible camera bodies may also consider Canon's 60mm f/2.8 macro optic, which costs around £340. This lens provides life size magnification without a converter, along with silent internal focusing.

The closest equivalent from third party manufacturers is Sigma's 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens, which costs around £255. This optic provides life size magnification without a converter also.

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Handling and features

Weighing only 280g, this lens is relatively compact and lightweight. Despite the light weight, 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 on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II used for testing.

Focusing isn't particularly fast, as is common with macro lenses, but it does hunt back and forth quite a lot before locking onto a target, even in ideal conditions and at normal distances. The lens extends by about an inch at its closest focus distance of 23cm, but the filter thread does not rotate, which makes this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. The filter thread accepts 52mm filters, which is not a standard size for Canon, who normally use 58mm filters for many of their other lenses. Manual focus is smooth and reasonably well damped, making it easy to make fine adjustments.

A clear distance scale window is located on top of the lens, providing information on the focused distance, magnification and hyperfocal markings are provided for f/16 and f/32. No focus limiter switch is provided, which is a shame as this could speed auto focus, especially at normal distances. A magnification scale is provided on top of the lens barrel as it extends for use with the optional life size converter.

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Performance

At f/2.5 sharpness in the centre is already excellent, and the quality towards the edges approaches good levels. Stopping the lens down improves sharpness across the frame until f/5.6, where the clarity exceeds excellent levels from edge to edge.

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens Review: MTF at 50mm
MTF at 50mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled, with fringing reaching half a pixel width towards the edges of the frame at f/8. This level is very low and shouldn't pose any issues, even for highly critical applications.

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens Review: Chromatic Aberrations at 50mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 50mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite pronounced. At f/2.5 the corners are 2.94 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination isn't achieved until the lens is stopped down to f/5.6.

A virtually negligible level of distortion of 0.811% has been detected by Imatest. This low level of distortion should make this lens the ideal optic for critical applications, such as copy stand work.

The deeply recessed front element is very well protected from extraneous light from outside of the frame. Even when shooting directly into strong light sources, contrast holds up well and flare is a very rare occurrence.

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Sample Photos

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Verdict

Optically this lens is excellent, producing sharp images with low levels of chromatic aberrations and distortion.

Being priced at around £230 makes this an excellent value choice, so long as you don't require life sized magnification for which the optional life size converter will be required.

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens Review:
The Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens produces sharp images with low distortion, with excellent value for money.

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Pros

Excellent sharpness
Negligible distortion
Good build quality

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Cons

Slow autofocus
No focus limiter switch


Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF
Focal Length50mm
Angle of View0° - 40°
Max Aperturef/2.5
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size52mm
35mm equivalent80mm
Internal focusingNo
Maximum magnification1x
Min Focus23cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens caps

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armitaged 13 3 United Kingdom
27 Jul 2011 5:25PM
I bought one of these last September and have used it for a range of images including macro. I was disappointed to read on a different website that it is considered soft at below f8, I do not find this and endorse your reviewer's comments. I don't find the hunting a problem and see this lens as an all purpose 50mm, on full frame e.g. EOS 5D Mk 2, of the old school, when 50mm was the standard lens and f2.8, in this case f2.5, was near top of the range!
I have an 85mm f1,2 canon which is superb for portraits but weighs a ton, if I want a versatile quite good quality, incredibly lightweight camera/body combination I match this with a 500/550D body and hardly know it is there!
27 Jul 2011 7:27PM
I bought one of these lenses a year or so ago and unfortunately it was
damaged when the tripod was knocked over. I returned it to Canon only to be told that they no longer kept spare parts for this lens. The lens was no longer able to auto focus but worked as a manual focus lens. I see little point in buying a lens, which is no longer supported by the manufacturer and felt very let down by Canon.

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