In the world of photography, there are few lenses that stand as iconic milestones in a photographer’s journey.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is one of those lenses known for its remarkable image quality, affordability, and artistic possibilities.
This lens is commonly referred to as the “Nifty Fifty” and for good reason.
It has been a trusty companion to me and other countless photographers, serving as an entry point into the realm of prime lenses.
In this review guide of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, I’ll be diving into its capabilities, example images, nuances of the lens, and how it performs. Let’s dive in!
If you prefer video format, be sure to watch my video review on this lens:
Table of Contents
In short, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a must-have lens for amateur and beginner photographers.
The maximum aperture of this lens creates beautiful bokeh, and the price tag of this lens makes it a lens you’ll find in most photographer’s lens collections.
While this lens should be used primarily for close to mid-range shots (headshots, portrait, street, product, macro) it can also get the job done when you want to capture some landscapes (however, there are better lenses out there for landscapes).
Here are the pros and cons of the 50mm f/1.8 STM
Pros and Cons of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
|Excellent background blur
|Noisy autofocus (AF)
|No weather sealing
|No image stabilization (IS)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Build Details
1. Focal Length
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a prime lens with a fixed focal length of 50mm.
It is an EF-lens that can fit on both full-frame cameras and APS-C sensor cameras.
When using the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM on a full-frame camera, you get a field of view equivalent to 50mm.
This is the “true” or “actual” focal length, and it provides a standard perspective without any crop factor applied.
Here’s an example of the 50mm f/1.8 on my Canon 6D Mark II, which is a full-frame camera:
When you use the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM on an APS-C camera (with a typical crop factor of approximately 1.5x to 1.6x for Canon), the effective field of view is narrower due to the crop factor.
So, with a 1.6x crop factor, the 50mm focal length of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM on an APS-C camera would provide an effective field of view equivalent to about 80mm (50mm x 1.6).
Here’s an example using the 50mm f/1.8 on the Canon Rebel T7i which is a crop-sensor (APS-C) camera.
Notice how it is more “zoomed in” when used on this APS-C camera versus the full-frame camera above:
In short, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM on a full-frame camera is 50mm, while on an APS-C camera with a 1.6x crop factor, it’s equivalent to around 80mm.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, which is ideal for capturing images with a shallow depth of field.
This shallow depth of field is ideal for capturing a beautiful background blur (bokeh) and for performing excellently in low-light situations.
Here’s an example image I took of a flower at it’s maximum aperture f/1.8, notice the background blur:
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM has a circular aperture and features 7 rounded aperture blades.
By having 7 blades, the bokeh that’s produced by this lens is very smoother and soft.
When using it at wider f-stops such as f/1.8 and f/2.8, you’ll notice a very soft and rounded bokeh and aesthetic background blur.
This is particularly nice for portraits, headshots, product photos, or anything other types of photos that can benefit from background blur in order to draw emphasis to the subject.
3. Focus Mechanism
Stepping Motor (STM)
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM features a focus mechanism that is driven by a Stepping Motor (STM), which is a type of autofocus motor that aims to produce smooth and near-silent operation.
This type of motor is helpful when you’re recording video or photographing in a quiet environment and want to capture subjects discreetly or without picking up the noise from the motor in your audio recordings.
Although the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM features this motor, I did notice that it was still quite noise when auto focusing.
If you watch my video review, I have a section in the video where you can hear the noise of the motor.
While it was noise, the auto focus was smooth at least and adjusted the focus steadily, making it suitable for quick autofocusing when recording or photographing different subjects quickly.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM also features a manual focus feature if you prefer to go manual and also has a manual focus override which lets you manually fine-tune the focus even when in autofocus (AF) mode.
This will allow you to have greater control and flexibility when you want to adjust your focus manually without having to switch fully to manual focus mode.
Minimum Focusing Distance
The minimum focusing distance of the lens has a distance of 1.15 feet (0.35 meter), making it capable of getting close to your subjects, which is why it is an ideal lens for portraits, headshots, and products/still-life.
Smooth Focus Ring Operation
When using manual focus, you have to turn the manual focus ring.
When I used the ring, it was very smooth and complemented the overall user experience of the lens.
4. Optical Design
Lens Elements and Groups
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM consists of six lens elements that are arranged in five groups.
The size of lens elements within the optical path of the lens are responsible for bending and focusing incoming light to form a sharp image on your camera’s image sensor.
The arrangement of the elements are arranged in a way to optimize image quality
Groups: The six lens elements are organized into five groups.
This is done because grouping elements together allows for more precise control over various aspects.
Each group can consist of one or more len elements with unique properties, such as aspherical or low-dispersion elements to address specific optical aberrations like distortion, chromatic aberration, and spherical aberration.
Among the lens elements, there is at least one aspherical element incorporated into the optical design.
Aspherical elements help reduce spherical aberrations, which can cause image distortion and softness at the edges of the frame.
This inclusion enhances overall image sharpness and clarity.
The lens coating on the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM features Canon’s Super Spectra coating.
This coating technology helps minimze reflections and reduces the occurrence of flares especially when shooting in some challenging lighting conditions.
When testing for flares myself, I noticed that it did fair well in the sun and you can find that section in my video review:
Chromatic Aberration Correction
The optical design of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is optimized to minimize chromatic aberration, which is often seen as color fringing or unwanted color dispersion.
The lens’s optical formula also addresses distortion, ensuring that straight lines in your photos remain straight without bowing or curving.
This is especially important for architectural and product photography.
I test out each f-stop to check for distortion so be sure to check out that section in my video review.
But essentially, I didn’t notice any crazy distortion with this lens, plus most editing software have “Profile Corrections” that will allow you to adjust for this distortion, so this is something you shouldn’t worry about with this lens.
5. Construction Materials
The main body of the lens barrel is constructed of high-quality plastic making it very light and easy to carry around for extended periods of shooting, especially on a lighter camera like the Canon Rebel series.
The use of plastic is also another reason why the lens is so affordable.
No complaints though, it feels great and light in the hands.
The mount on the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a metal lens mount that enhances its durability and allows you to securely and precisely attach it to your camera body.
Having this type of mount is important especially if you frequently need to change lenses and attach and detach it from your camera.
Here’s a photo of the mount:
The focus ring is also made of plastic.
It has a textured surface and has a comfortable grip that is also very smooth as mentioned earlier.
While the focus ring isn’t made of metal or rubber, it’s well-designed to get the job done when manually focusing.
The lens has a filter thread size of 49mm, which is standard for many Canon lenses.
The filter thread is typically made of metal, allowing you to securely attach various filters such as UV filters, polarizers, or neutral density (ND) filters.
Here’s an image without the lens cap:
6. Weather Sealing
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM does not feature any weather sealing.
This means that this lens is not built to withstand exposure to dust, moisture, or any other adverse weather conditions.
Have to constantly shoot in challenging environments or inclement weather conditions such as rain or dust?
I’d recommend you exercise caution and take the appropriate measures to protect both this lens and the cmaera.
If you do have to shoot in this conditions once in a while, then I consider using a dedicated rain cover for your camera and lens so you can prolong their lifespan and functionality!
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is known for its compact and portable weighing approxiamtely 5.6 ounces (~160 grams) making it very light.
Of couse, if you add any accessories or filters to the lens then it might way a bit more but overall, this is one of the lightest lenses out there!
8. Image Stabilization (IS)
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM does not feature built-in image stabilization (IS) which means the lens doesn’t have optical image stabilization technology to compensate for camera shake or vibrations.
With this being said, if you have to shoot in low-light conditions or slower shutter speeds, then you’ll have to increase the ISO or use a tripod to maintain image sharpness.
If you have to record a video and don’t have a tripod with you, then you most likely will have shaky footage but at least there are many stabilization plugins and programs out there in video editing software.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Image Quality
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM has excellent image quality and a very wide maximum aperture of f/1.8 making it suitables for different photography niches.
When it comes to portrait photography, the name of the game is background blur.
Well with the f/1.8 wide aperture of this lens, it will allow you to create beautiful background blur (bokeh) that will easily isolate your subject.
This makes the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM a go-to when you need to capture professional-looking portraits or headshots.
Here’s an example portrait photo I took with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM:
In street photography, quick shots and natural lighting are the norm, and that’s where the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM shines.
The wide aperture of this lens, quick autofocus, compact size, and light weight make it inconspicuous and very easy to carry around.
Just be wary of the noise of the autofocus if you are photographing somewhere where you have to be very quiet.
Here’s an example street photo with this lens:
If you have to photograph in a low-light environment such as a concert, at night time, or in a club, then the wide f/1.8 aperture once again makes this lens a great choice.
With its aperture, this lens can gather ample light, creating sharp images in challenging lighting conditions.
Just be aware of what camera you use this lens on as the noise from the high ISO settings could cause grainy images.
Here’s an example image I took at a concert where the setting was very low-light.
As you can see, it held up well and there wasn’t much noise:
Product photography also benefits from sharpness and background blur.
Once again, the wide aperture of this lens makes it the hero in this story, making it advantageous to highlight specific product features while blurring the background.
Here’s an example product photo I took with this lens. As you can see, it captures the fine details well:
While not a typical choice for landscape photography due to its fixed focal length, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM can still produce quality-looking landscape images.
It won’t produce stunning landscape images, but its sharpness and contrast can capture intricate details in the landscape.
For macro photography, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is not a dedicated macro lens but you can use extension tubes if you wanted to achieve macro-like shots.
But in my opinion, for the hassle and cost of getting an extension tube, I would just say get a dedicated macro lens especially if you want to specialize in macro photography.
Here’s an example photo I took of a flower at the lens’ maximum aperture.
I think the shallow depth of field you’re able to achieve makes it more that capable for macro photography:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM F-Stop Ranges
I tested the quality of images at different f-stop ranges, you can find the images here or be sure to check out that section in my video review.
Overall, this lens performs well at all f-stop ranges.
You’ll notice some noise at the higher f-stop ranges because the sun was starting to go down, but even then, the noise is not too crazy:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Video Quality
The video quality of the 50mm f/1.8 is the same as the image quality, except you’ll have to remember that this lens is a fixed focal length, and there is no image stabilization.
The fixed focal length means you’ll need to physically move your positioning and the camera to change your framing.
This can be limiting if you find yourself in situations where you require a zoom lens or quick focal length adjustments.
The lack of built-in image stabilization makes it a bit difficult to achieve stable footage right out of the camera unless you have a tripod, gimbal, or other form of stabilization.
This can be limiting if you need to capture video and be mobile.
I tested the quality of video at different f-stop ranges, so be sure to check out that section in my video review.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Low-Light Performance
The low-light performance of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is impressive due to its wide aperture.
Using lenses with wider apertures like this lens can help you reduce noise in your images or footage allowing you to use faster shutter speeds and lower ISO settings for less grainy images.
One thing I did notice was that if you are photographing in very dark settings, then unless you have a camera that handles high ISO well, you can’t get around the noise in the image.
For example, taking the example images of the flower above, you can see very minimal noise start to form around ISO 3200.
I was also photographing on a full-frame camera, however, so consider that:
Once you’re at ISO 6400 and above, you will definitely see the noise:
I also noticed that there was a little trouble with focusing during low-light settings so if you find this as well, you may need to manually focus as the autofocus struggled a bit in extremely dim situations.
I tested the quality of low-light performance at different f-stop ranges, you can find the images above or be sure to check out that section in my video review.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Compatible Cameras
In case you are thinking about picking up this lens but unsure if it will fit your camera or you currently have this lens and want to get a new camera, here are the cameras this lens is compatible with:
Canon APS-C DSLRs
This lens is primarily designed for Canon APS-C sensor DSLR cameras, such as the Canon Rebel series (e.g., Canon EOS Rebel T7i, Canon Rebel T6, Canon Rebel T6i, Canon Rebel T5i), the Canon EOS 80D, and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II.
When mounted on these cameras, the 50mm focal length provides an effective focal length of approximately 80mm due to the crop factor, making it great for portrait photography, street photography, and achieving a beautiful background blur (bokeh).
Canon Full-Frame DSLRs
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is also compatible with full-frame DSLRs like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EOS 6D, and Canon EOS 1DX Mark II.
On full-frame cameras, this lens offers a classic 50mm focal length, which is ideal for a wide range of applications, including portraits, landscapes, and low-light photography.
Mirrorless Cameras with EF Mount Adapters
Canon’s mirrorless cameras, such as the Canon EOS M series (ex. Canon EOS M50) and the Canon EOS R series, can also use the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens with the appropriate EF to EF-M or EF to RF mount adapter.
This compatibility extends the lens’s versatility to Canon’s mirrorless lineup, allowing photographers to enjoy its benefits on these more compact and lightweight camera bodies.
While this lens is primarily designed for Canon EOS cameras, third-party manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic, and Blackmagic Design have produced cameras with EF mounts.
With the appropriate adapter, you can use the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens on these cameras, expanding its compatibility beyond the Canon ecosystem.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Accessories
Want to accessorize your Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM? Here are some of the most popular lens accessories:
Lens Hood (Canon ES-68)
A lens hood is essential for reducing lens flare and ghosting caused by stray light.
Canon offers the ES-68 lens hood specifically designed for the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens.
It helps improve image contrast and quality, especially when shooting in bright or backlit conditions.
UV or Skylight Filter
A UV or Skylight filter can protect the front element of your lens from scratches, dust, and moisture.
Additionally, it can help reduce the bluish cast that can occur in certain lighting conditions.
Ensure you choose a high-quality filter to maintain image quality.
Lens Cap Keeper
A lens cap keeper is a simple but useful accessory that prevents you from losing your lens cap.
It attaches to the lens cap and connects to the lens barrel, ensuring that your lens cap is always readily available when you need it.
Lens Cleaning Kit
Keeping your lens clean is essential for image quality.
A lens cleaning kit with a blower, microfiber cloth, and cleaning solution can help you remove dust, smudges, and fingerprints from your lens.
As mentioned earlier, extension tubes allow for macro photography with your 50mm lens, enabling you to capture close-up shots of small subjects.
This accessory is particularly useful for photographers interested in macro and product photography.
Lens Filters (e.g., ND, Polarizer)
Depending on your photography style and preferences, you may want to consider additional lens filters such as neutral density (ND) filters for long-exposure photography or polarizing filters for enhancing skies and reducing reflections.
Overall, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a must-have lens for beginner and amateur photographers.
This was one of the first lenses I bought when I started photographing about 5 years ago, and I still use it to this day.
If you decide to upgrade to a new lens, then some great choices include the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM.
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer servicing the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. He specializes in portraits of individuals, couples, groups and headshots. Nate Torres is also a photography writer and content creator and educates other photographers on portrait photography, composition, editing, gear, and business. You can find his content on his personal website, social media, and YouTube Channel, as well as on blogs such as Fstoppers, Photofocus, and Imaginated. Being a former SEO consultant, Nate also teaches other photographers how to use SEO to grow their own photography business on his educational blog, Shutter SEO.