Canon 50mm 1.4 USM vs Canon 1.8 II Lens Review

You might be surprised how sharp the 1.8.


I have always loved my Canon 50mm 1.8. I have always known it was sharp. I use in most all of my videos at my desk.

It has two nick names, the ‘nifty fifty‘ (t-shirt link) and ‘fantastic plastic’. Certainly not high on build quality, but if you take care of it, it will treat you well.

At NAB a Canon rep told me when they released the 1.8 version II they were blown away by all the reviews that came in saying how sharp it was.

It’s great lens to travel with and limit yourself to. It is also a great lens to learn on as your first lens.

I wanted to compare it to the Canon 50mm 1.4.

Build Quality

  • The 1.4 is far better than the 1.8, you can really hear the difference.
  • The 1.4 comes with a window for focus distance and the 1.8 does not.

Focus Ring Travel

  • The 1.4 travels about 180 degrees or half a turn which is really good.
  • The 1.8 only turns about 90 degrees or a quarter turn.
  • It is hard to grip the 1.8 focus ring and can add extra camera shake while trying to pull focus.

Stills Sharpness

The day I shot this brick wall it was too bright and I didn’t want to use an ND filter to screw up the test, so instead of going all the way down to 1.8, I went to 2.2 for the comparison.

  • At f2.2 you can see the 1.8 has a lot of vignetting, and even in the center I calculated that the 1.8 is about a 1/3 of stop darker than the 1.4. However when you look in the corner of the shot the 1.8 is ever so slightly sharper than the 1.4. Then when you move to the center is appears that the 1.4 is ever so sharper, but they are so close I would almost call it a tie.
  • f5.6 in the center I would call it a tie, and in the corners perhaps the 1.8 is winning ever so slightly again.
  • f16.0 they are both a tie in the center and the corners.


  • If you are just shooting stills and you are concerned about the 1.8’s vignetting, in the develop module of Lightroom you can enable the lens profile corrections and magically get it looking awesome again.
  • It really is amazing what Lightroom can do even for cheap lenses.

Video Sharpness

  • Interesting when you compare the two in video mode there is no vignetting at f2.2 like in the stills.
  • And the sharpness seems the same.

Which one to buy?

If you are just starting out like I was 2 years ago and you are really short on cash and you are not sure if you are you going to take this camera stuff seriously – get the 1.8. If you know you are going to do a lot of video and pulling focus manually, then get the 1.4 if you have the cash.


So don’t be embarrassed if you put this lens on your Canon 5D Mark III, will it look odd sure, but be proud of your nifty fifty.

Royalty free music by

Products Used In This Video

Help me make more of these types of videos by purchasing gear from the links posted on my site. It costs you nothing extra, and helps support me to make more videos.

Canon 50mm 1.4

Canon 50mm 1.4

Canon 50mm 1.8