Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Review

In a hurry? Here’s the quick summary

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a fixed focal length lens. Such lenses are also referred to as prime lenses. The 50mm focal length is considered a standard focal length.

This one and the 35mm. The reason is they offer a field of view that is close to what the human eye sees. 

Both the 50mm and the 35mm are hot favorites when it comes to street photography, everyday photography, weddings, travel, and everything in between.

The fact that the 50mm is so popular among photographers is why all lens brands have at least one good 50mm prime in their line-up.

Some brands like Nikon and Canon have multiple 50mm primes on their line-up with each having a different maximum aperture and other features.

Pros and Cons Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM

Pros
  • The fast wide aperture of f/1.8 collects a lot of light
  • f/1.8 aperture with the rounded 7-blade aperture diaphragm produces decent Bokeh
  • Super Spectra coating on the lens helps suppress lens flare and ghosting
  • Excellent value for money
Cons
  • Fixed focal length means you will have to move with your legs to zoom
  • No image stabilization means you will have to use a tripod when shooting videos

Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM Specs

The 50mm prime is suited for both stills and videos. This particular lens comes with the Stepping Motor (STM) autofocusing mechanism.

This technology is ideally suitable for shooting videos in live-view mode. The reason behind this is that the new technology produces smoother, more silent autofocusing.

It has been designed primarily keeping in mind the video shooting option of today’s Canon DSLRs. The technology came out in 2012 after about a decade of the launch of the previous generation Micro USM II autofocusing motor.

There is something that you should know about the STM motor. Yes, it is accurate, it is smooth and perfect for videos.

But it is not snappy and therefore when shooting stills, you will find the autofocusing mechanism moving at a much slower pace than what your mind is working. That can be an excruciating experience watching the image slowly coming to focus.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Example image using Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

For moving subjects, this would be a problem. But for fixed or non-moving subjects this will pose no problem.

The lens has a full-time manual (FTM) focusing override. If you are a Canon user, you will probably have the experience of working with FTM focusing lenses that are mechanically geared.

You will find the FTM technology on this lens different. Because of the focus-by-wire technology when the focusing ring is turned the result is much smoother.

The fast maximum aperture of f/1.8 is a bonus. In low light conditions, this lens will be able to capture decent enough exposures without too much noise creeping into the image.

Of course, there are other 50mm primes with even faster apertures. Those are heavier, more expensive and I would also add somewhat irrelevant. The 50mm f/1.8 is a fine lens that produces sharp images even when shooting wide open.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Example image using Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

The 50mm prime works with both full-frame as well as APS-C cameras. Now, with full-frame cameras, the lens gives beautiful distortion-free images.

With APS-C cameras the crop factor changes the effective focal length. So, on Canon APS-C cameras that have a 1.6x crop factor, the effective focal length becomes 80mm.

The 80mm is the ideal focal length for shooting portrait photography. But you won’t get the benefits of shooting with a 50mm lens when you need one. In tight spaces, this lens will feel like a liability.

Therefore, we recommend that you don’t buy this lens if you are using an APS-C Canon camera and you need a lens for shooting the human-eye perspective.

For you, the 35mm prime would be a much better option. That said, if you are looking for an inexpensive portrait lens, with a fast wide aperture for an APS-C camera the 50mm is a great option to explore.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM Design

Also known as Canon’s nifty-fifty, the 50mm prime is a great lens to have regardless of the genre of photography that you do. You can shoot anything from the human-eye perspective, using this lens.

Let’s say that you are a landscape photographer and use 16-35mm as your go-to lens. Sometimes, the 50mm will give you less of a reason to dabble with the zoom ring and use your feet to zoom.

The overall design is compact. Not the same as the 40mm pancake lens that Canon makes, but still this is a design with demure proportions which should fit inside your weekend camera bag without much fuss.

The focusing ring is out at the front. I have already mentioned the focusing features. There is an AF/MF switch on the body.

Another positive thing about this lens is that it is very lightweight. At just 160 grams (5.64 oz) it is one of the lightest lenses in the market.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Example image using Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

The advantage of a lightweight lens is that you can easily shoot with it for hours without ever feeling the pain of having to wield a heavy set-up in hand.

On the flip side, however, if you are a using bulky camera like an EOS 5D Mark IV or a 1 DX Mark II the 50mm f/1.8 STM will appear very small indeed.

The mount is made of metal, but I wouldn’t recommend that you hold the camera lens combo by the lens. always pick up your camera when using this lens.

Please note that this lens is not weather-sealed and there are no sealings anywhere to prevent dust or water. So, please be careful when using this lens and exposing it to the elements.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM Image Quality

I don’t have major issues with the image quality. Yes, if I’d be nit-picking and shooting charts inside a laboratory rather than shooting in real-life situations, I would have had some bad things to say. I am not going to do that. 

But there are some aspects that I am going to talk about anyways. For example, the chromatic aberrations bit. It is surprisingly well controlled in this lens.

It is not completely absent but in rare cases, in very high contrast situations you are likely going to see some chromatic aberrations. 

There is some amount of light fall-off though. The corners of the frame appear darker. However, that can be controlled easily in Lightroom and Image RAW.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Example image using Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Some people will get excited with the f/1.8 aperture and the promise of creamy bokeh. Let me tell you that thanks to the rounded 7-blade diaphragm aperture bokeh are decent.

But we have seen better results with other lenses. All said, the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a fine lens and for the price tag, it is a steal.

Anyone with a budget full-frame will have loads of fun shooting with this lens. Centers are very sharp right from f/1.8. Corners always lag a bit.

They tend to get better when you stop down the lens. But there is always a difference that only the trained eye will ever discover. For someone sharing on Instagram or Facebook, or Reddit, the 50mm f/1.8 STM is a rocking lens!

Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM Overall Performance

I don’t quite understand the prudence of not including image stabilization in this lens. the whole point of the STM technology is to ensure smooth autofocusing in video mode.

But the lack of image stabilization means you will have to use a tripod when shooting. For still images, this will not pose a major problem.

As long as you shoot at a shutter speed of more than 1/50 sec your images will be sharp. And I don’t think with a fast f/1.8 aperture that will be a problem.

Also check out our 12 Best Macro Lenses for Canon.

Concluding Remarks

I love the 50mm prime. The nifty-fifty is my go-to lens in a lot of situations. Yes, there is the disadvantage of lack of zoom, but that it is rarely a problem because you can always zoom with your feet.

But the lack of a zoom ring means there is one less manual control to fiddle with. You can concentrate on the focusing and the compositional aspects which are more important to me than the zooming bit.

The 50mm prime is a versatile lens. you can street photos, travel photos, weddings, journalists love this lens, and so does people who shoot candid photos. 

Plus, the pricing is very attractive. For someone looking for an inexpensive option, the 50mm f/1.8 STM is a fantastic value for money proposition. 

Overall, I would say, if you are not going to bet your life on the optical performance of a 50mm lens, (I guess then you are definitely on the wrong page, and you should be looking at the likes of the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 and be prepared to fork a lot of money) this 50mm f/1.8 STM is a fantastic lens to have. It is fast, sharp, and is a steal at this price.

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