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Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM Lens Review

John Riley has been capturing photos with the Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM to find out how well this new 'nifty fifty' lens performs.

| Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM in Interchangeable Lenses

Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM Lens Review: Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM | 1/6 sec | f/16.0 | 135.0 mm | ISO 100

In recent years, photographers seem to have rediscovered the benefits of the "Nifty Fifty", sometimes referred to as the "Plastic Fantastic" when in its low-cost guise. It is the classic “standard lens” for the 35mm format, and ubiquitous in its usefulness. Costs can also vary widely, from the affordable to the esoteric, from the modest performance to the state-of-the-art. Canon has now introduced this lower cost 50mm lens for their full-frame R system cameras, so using the 45MP high-end Canon R5 body, we look in detail at what the new lens has to offer and how it performs.



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Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM Handling and Features

Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM Lens Review: Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM | 1/6 sec | f/16.0 | 135.0 mm | ISO 100

The lens is compact and light, weighing in at just 160g, which barely changes the bulk of the Canon R5 at all. There is a bayonet fit on the front that is clearly intended for the lens hood, but sadly the hood is not included with the lens. For the sake of a minimal increase in cost, it is a pity that there is no hood as all lenses may benefit from the protection one offers. Probably very few users will actually go on to purchase the dedicated hood. Within the bayonet, fit is a standard 43mm filter thread, an unusually small size for a 50mm full-frame lens.

If we peer into the front element we can see that the diaphragm consists of 7 rounded blades, and the clarity with which we can see that indicates the effectiveness of the SSC (Super Spectra Coating) in suppressing reflections. The lens is well made, extensively using plastics in its construction, but sadly this does not extend to any form of dust or water sealing.

There is a focusing ring towards the front of the lens, quite narrow but offering a good grip. If MF is desired there is no AF/MF switch, so it's back into the menus to make the change. There is a switch marked Focus/Control and this changes the function of the focusing ring from manual focus to another function. In this control setting the default is exposure compensation, applied when a half-press on the shutter release is held. It is arguable that a simple AF/MF switch would be more useful, but that will no doubt vary from photographer to photographer.

Canon RF 50mm F/1.8 STM Lens Review: Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 53.0 mm | ISO 100

Focusing is down to 0.30m, rather closer than the standard 0.45m found in many classic 50mm lenses. This represents a maximum magnification of 0.25x, or 1:4, and is a very useful bonus. AF uses a stepping motor, which focuses quietly, quickly and positively.

Optical construction is 6 elements in 5 groups, at first glance a traditional design until we realise that one element is now Aspheric.

It is always interesting to see a new 50mm lens design and discover how it varies from and perhaps improves upon the traditional standard lenses that are still, in many cases, available new. The addition of an aspheric element may improve optical performance, but chances have been missed and there is no weather resistance. Likewise, there is no compatibility with extenders, so the lens is not quite of the traditional breed where the 50mm could be abused with all sorts of add-on kit, from extenders to close up lenses, reversing other lenses onto the front for macro work...

Where this does score is in simple handling, fast focus, a nice wide aperture and a relatively low cost. 50mm is also a very flexible standard focal length on full-frame cameras, maybe a little wide for portraiture which is better served by 85mm and above. However, as a 75mm-equivalent on APS-C format, the lens becomes a viable one for portraits.

Now we look at its technical performance.


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