Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Lens Reviews / Canon Lenses i Lab tested
50mm $1,399
average price
image of Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion

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Buy the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

(From Canon lens literature) The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a peerless new standard lens featuring an ultra-large aperture for a narrow depth of field and soft background blur so loved by photographers everywhere. The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is suitable for any shooting situation; its lens coating and construction are optimized to minimize the ghosting and flare that frequently occurs when lenses are used with digital cameras. This high-performance, weather-resistant lens delivers all the superb image resolution and contrast you expect in a Canon L Series Lens.

Test Notes
This is a monster of a lens, and I think is the widest-aperture 50mm optic available for any of the major DSLR platforms. It's also incredibly well-constructed, as befits a Canon L-series lens.

That said though, we have to admit that we were a little surprised that the Canon 50mm f/1.2L's optical performance wasn't better than what we found. Read the "Tanner Report" for the gory details. Meanwhile, we've asked Canon if they can get us a second sample, to see if perhaps the performance of the first one wasn't a fluke.

Tanner Report
This lens is one of 6 different 50mm lenses that we did a shootout with. Senior tech Jim Tanner wrote up the test results for each lens on a comparative basis, with charts and graphs showing how each lens did compared to the others in the test. The graphs for this don't fit our usual layout well, so we've assembled the resulting "Tanner Report" into a full page that opens in a separate window. This will let you see Jim's charts in all their glory, yet still be able to access all our normal test charts, back on the main page. Read the Canon 50mm f/1.2 Tanner Report for the full scoop!

Full-Frame Test Notes:

On a full-frame body, the Canon 50mm f/1.2L behaved more or less as we expected it to, with corner softness getting a little worse, and chromatic aberration getting somewhat better, thanks to the larger pixels on our EOS-5D test body. As we found with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens though, shading (aka vignetting) was literally off the chart (our chart, at least), reaching a maximum of 1.7 stops(!) at f/1.2. That staggeringly high figure dropped to 1.44 stops at f/1.4 and 0.76 stops at f/2.0, finally reaching a "reasonable" level of 0.38 stops at f/2.8. Distortion was also higher than on the 20D body, with a maximum value of 0.39% and an average of 0.22%.

The much-improved CA and somewhat controlled blur characteristics on the full-frame 5D body would lead us to say that perhaps this lens was actually designed more for a full-frame shooter than one using sub-frame cameras. When you take into consideration the extraordinary light falloff in the corners of the frame though, that theory goes out the window. Again, we're a little hard-pressed to see the justification for buying this lens, particularly at street prices ranging from $1,400-1,600.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM User Reviews

8.9/10 average of 20 review(s) Build Quality 10.0/10 Image Quality 8.8/10
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by jamieraephoto (1 reviews)
    Sharp Focus even at wide apertures Quick focusing Beautiful portrait lens Amazing bokeh Have used in all kinds of weather, no problems

    I used this lens for 90% of my digital work and it is amazing. It focuses much faster than the 50 mm 1.8 and is worth the hefty price increase. You can check out my digital and film work captured on this lens at

    jamie rae photo

    reviewed April 12th, 2017 (purchased for $1,300)
  • 6 out of 10 points and not recommended by LeeBabySimms (14 reviews)
    Magical images, if you can get a good one. Accurate auto focus, great weight, nice build quality.
    I've tried to purchase this lens four times, and can't get a copy that doesn't have ridiculous purple fringing.

    In 2012 I rented a 50L and fell in love. Everything I read was true. Magical images, great AF, smooth bokeh, great flares. Then I bought one, and returned it. A year later bought another one and returned it. A year later tried a third and it was better than the first two so I kept it. After a couple of years I did a 2.8 shoot out with the 24-70L II and the zoom won (ouch). I sold it. Then saw images from a friend's 50L and wanted the magic again. I bought a 4th copy and at 2.0 the performance compared to a $100 50mm STM was embarrassing. I give up. The problem? Purple fringing in high contrast situations, specifically backlit portraits. Software can remove it, but men wearing dark suits against the sun now have a comical halo around them because you're taking out that much content.

    reviewed March 8th, 2017 (purchased for $1,150)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by denniscsw (1 reviews)
    Beautiful Bokeh Dreamy looks Spot on focus Dustproof (not even a spec in my lens), weatherproof
    Slow focus pricey sharper, better, cheaper, better IQ alternative nowadays is the Sigma ART Focus struggles in dark environment

    Had this for near 2years. Whenever I want a particular dreamy look not found on any lens, I'll use this at f1.2. It's very sharp wide open on my 7D, so far never disappoints. Very good contrast, sharpness and that special clean look... a gem of a lens. Look at the pics I show in a dark hotel room around f1.2. Must have for professionals, otherwise save your money for the Sigma, you won't regret it.

    reviewed June 5th, 2016 (purchased for $1,000)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by gluecklicht (2 reviews)
    weather sealed, build quality, fast speed, weight
    little slow on AF

    What a lens this is! F/1.2 is out of this world. The colors are amazing and the build quality feels like it will take a beating and live to keep shooting. Currently, the 50mm is in fact my favorite lens.

    The balance and weight of this particular lens is superb. It picks up details that are lost by the f/1.4 & 1.8. Great for portraiture work. In the end I only recommend this lens to professional photographer who make a living with their images. If you are a amateur or novice photog then the f/1.8 or 1.4 even would be sufficient and save you a tone of cash.

    Examples here

    reviewed February 19th, 2015 (purchased for $1,400)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by tingfish (1 reviews)
    Speed low light performance and beautiful colors
    heavy and pricey

    Wow All this stuff about cameras and lenses needs some clarification, and here is why. I use this 1.2 prime with a Canon 7D camera. I get great results. If you set your focus to manually choose placement/ auto, you can do some cool stuff, like have three people in a row, and focus on one- the one you focus on will be sharp, the others will become background. Of course you can close down the aperture and get the other two persons on the next shot by using the Quick button.. Save yourself a lot of time and use the Quick button on the Canon 7D. This gives a digital readout of all the settings, and you can change them on the fly. Use manual settings after experiencing auto. it seems like more work, but wait till you see the pictures.

    reviewed June 11th, 2014 (purchased for $1,500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by hansdampf (5 reviews)
    Quality - Bokeh - Feeling
    Weight - Price

    Like so many others I suppose, I started with the 50mm 1.8, then moved to the 50mm 1.4 and then eventually buying this lens. On the way, I spent countless hours on the net going over reviews, opinions, price lists, Flickr pictures with that lens and so on.

    I will not go through technical details, weight, corner sharpness, vignetting ... who really cares? If you look only at those things in images then you miss the whole point in my opinion.

    In short - it's expensive and it's worth it. I was very hesitating, is it really worth it, what's the difference?
    Difficult to describe really. Sharpness, contrast, colors, feeling with the lens - everything. On a full frame camera, indoors at f/1.2 this is just incredible. Shallow depth of field that allows for no error since the DOF is like 3 cm at some distances, but when you get it right it's magic.

    A couple of days ago, I shot a couple in magical backlight with my 5D II and the 50mm 1.2 at apertures around 1.6 - 2.8 when I needed both faces sharp. Seeing the pictures in Lightroom I was blown away.

    See them yourself:

    reviewed March 11th, 2014 (purchased for $1,500)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by JPMuller (9 reviews)
    Nice Bokeh. Quick AF. Decent Sharpness Even in Corners
    $$$ Too Expensive When Compared To The 1.4. 85 1.2 is Sharper With Better Bokeh

    For the most part I have not been that interested in the 50mm focal length, since in the past I found it a somewhat boring. Many say 50mm is what the eyes “see” and thus it is a very intuitive and natural focal length for most people. I suppose this is true, and one of the reasons I have not been drawn to it since I like to offer a more interesting perspective with my photography.

    Canon’s 35mm 1.4 has been my go to lens when I only wanted to carry one prime. However I often found it too wide and not suitable for individual portraits. I was looking for a fast lens that I could carry around with me regardless of the situation… one which, if I had to choose just ONE lens (fast 2.0 or faster) and the 50mm seemed like the logical choice. It is good for portraits and wide enough to capture a scene if need be. It is a fast lens (1.4 or 1.2 aperture) so it is good for dark or dimly lit situations).

    Since I had a 30 day return option, I decided I would purchase both the Canon 50mm 1.4 and the Canon 50mm 1.2 L and see if I got to love this focal length and if so, which would I choose.

    I ultimately decided to go with the Canon 1.2 since I am a professional photographer and make my living photographing people. So the small difference was worth it to me. However, it might not be for everyone. To see the results of my head to head comparison of the 1.2 vs the 1.4, click on the following link:


    reviewed August 22nd, 2013
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by gunzorro (5 reviews)
    Great "look" wide open to f/2, super sharp from f/2.8 on. Love the color!

    I love this lens! It is not the easiest to use, and it is a little finicky from body to body (mine works best on my 5D2 and 1D3, not quite as precise for AF on my 1Ds3, but still usable wide open).

    Amazing color and tonality. Great bokeh -- looks even better on computer screen than in viewfinder. This lens will make you look like a better photographer than you are! :)

    This lens, along with 24TSE II and 100L Macro, are my best primes.

    reviewed April 4th, 2013 (purchased for $1,225)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by jajambo (4 reviews)
    f/1.2, sharpness at f>1.4, practically no distortion
    size, expensive

    Look, you are buying this lens mainly for one thing: f/1.2

    Forget about the sharpness at f/1.2, because the rest of the picture will blow you away. Sharpness gives you high score on a spec sheet, but does not guarantee a good picture.

    If you do desire a tack-sharp picture, just stop it down to f/1.4 or f/1.6.

    Have used this on a 40D and 5D MkIII. Results on both are generally great. I would say the focusing on the MkIII is much more accurate, but that has to do with the camera.


    reviewed March 9th, 2013
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by Creyr Glas Lightworks (10 reviews)
    So far, this lens does what I expect it to do, love the bokeh
    some CA wide open, price is very high

    So far, I am a believer in this lens. It does what I expect it to do wide open, which is deliver dreamy, creamy imagery. Stopped down it is amazingly sharp, colorful and contrasty. It is worth the money in my estimation. I knew I was taking a risk spending this much on a fast normal lens, but I have no complaints.

    Here is an example at 1.2 using nothing but natural light:

    Here is an example outdoors at 5.6

    Finally, here is an example in studio at 9.5 using a single alienbees lightsource.

    For my applications, I am pleased, and feel good spending the extra $1000 over the cheaper Canon and Sigma offerings at this focal length, or going for the shorter focal length Canon 35L 1.4. I love it!

    reviewed March 1st, 2011 (purchased for $1,500)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by kafri (2 reviews)
    Nice bokeh, weather-sealed
    slow autofocus, [email protected], price

    I tested all three Canon 50mm lenses and this one is clearly the best. Yes, it is true, sharpness at f1.2 is disappointing and does in my humble opinion (I'm a professional wedding photographer) not match higher expectations of professional photographers. However, sharpness improves significantly at f1.4 and again at f2 but overall sharpness from corner to corner is not reached before 2.8. Of course, sharpness at 1.2 is not all blurred and absolutely usable for private portraits etc. However, in comparison to the 85mm 1.2 sharpness is disappointing.

    Another con is the autofocus. While it is fast enough to focus quickly on non-moving subjects it is a real challenge to focus on moving subjects. Don't get me wrong, autofocus is not slow but in comparison to Canon's latest lenses like 70-200 f/2.8 II it leaves much to be desired!

    Still, this is my favorite lens and much better than the 50mm f/1.4 , so why is that:

    1) Its bokeh is far superior in comparison to the Canon 50mm 1.4, above all much smoother.

    2) Colors and contrast of the 50mm f1.2 are much better than other 50mm lenses.

    3) It is fully weather-sealed in combination with a front-filter. This becomes an important issue when traveling. I've recently used it in the Sahara desert and not a single grain of sand made it onto the sensor or onto the lens' inner elements. Check out some pictures:

    4) Construction quality is perfect. The lens feels and handles very well.

    Overall, I absolutely recommend this lens. It is for sure the best 50mm lens on the market and if you like the 50mm focal length this truly is a must-buy!

    reviewed November 28th, 2010 (purchased for $1,500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by Spar (1 reviews)
    weather sealed, build quality, fast speed, weight, sharp on full-frame, blur 1.2

    color the best, contrast and sharp on 1.2, accurate and fast focus on 5D.

    I like this lens ( I have 35 1.4, 85 1.2II),
    50 1.2 as sharp as 35 1.4 at f/1.4.

    85 1.2II is slightly sharper than 50 1.2 in the center.
    blur very simular.

    reviewed November 24th, 2010 (purchased for $1,600)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by telecommuter (9 reviews)
    weather sealing, build quality, fast speed

    This is my travel and a large majority of the time, walk around lens when not traveling. I use it on a 1Ds MIII.

    It is discreet, very fast and stopped down to 2.0 the sharpest lens I own edge to edge. Wide open it is artistic and requires some care in composition but renders absolutely beautiful images.

    When capped with a UV haze filter (or pick one of your choice) it is fully weather sealed, which makes it very liberating when traveling. I can attest to the sealing, having been in very severe wind/sand/rain with the combination. I'm always completely freaked out, of course, but have not found debris or issues once inside and investigated. The body and lens may look beige once examined but they did not allow stuff in.

    Wide open, it is sufficiently sharp on the edges to do group shots but the narrow focal depth requires some care or the edge folks will not be as sharp as hoped.

    Pretty normal for such large, fast glass. Same procedures required as my 85 f/1.2 require.

    I initially verified the micro focus with my body, and it didn't require any adjustment. So, I cannot comment on the back focus issue reported by others. I have not incurred that issue with thousands of shots.

    reviewed March 31st, 2010 (purchased for $1,400)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by serg (4 reviews)
    sharp,blur, focus, weather sealed,weight

    wonderful blur, color, contrast on 1.2 ; accurate focus

    reviewed March 15th, 2010 (purchased for $1,700)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by manuelek (2 reviews)

    A tank! WOW what a feeling it is to just hold this lens in your hands. Its bulky and heavy for its rather small body. It feels and works smooth and exact.

    Some may argue about the image quality at f1.2 but hey, for my eyes and how I use my images (not printing larger than A3) it is perfect. I have shot complete photo shoots at f1.2 with great results!

    It can be really hard though to hit the target, since the dof is really short wide open. But the benefit of being able to shoot in really dim light without the must of a separate flash is so worth it. There is some vignetting for sure but I love it. If there is not enough I always add some in PS4 ;)

    Weather sealing making it a perfect lens even when the weather is crappy. Full time manual override focus is great, even though its really hard to hit focus manually when shooting f1.2

    If you dont tend to use a lens at wide open or don't need that extra step you can easily choose from Canons far cheaper lenses at 1.4 or 1.8. But as they say, there is no substitute for a large aperture but a larger aperture... so true. Try it, and you'll love it!

    reviewed February 4th, 2010 (purchased for $1,420)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by jordi (1 reviews)
    Quality Product
    Back focus

    Answering to the last review, I must say that I am not agree with the coments. My copy that now is in Canon service has a real back-focus. Shoting two images at 1.2 wit AF or in Manual focusing (tripod and mirror blocked, etc..), the diference of quality image is increible, the back focus is visible for any person and at 1.2 the diagrag remains witout movement. For this reason the problem is obvious this lens has a real back-focus. The question is, It returs the objective with the problem resolved? I hope that.

    PD: After the Canon calibration, the lens turned to EXCELENT.

    reviewed December 6th, 2007
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by hkpham (1 reviews)
    An excellent low-light performer, also good for full body portraits
    none, if you know how to use it.

    A common problem with any large aperture lens is that the focus actually shifts for the center point when you stop down. Since all cameras auto-focus with the aperture wide open, you in effect get back focusing. In other words, you're not back focusing. It was in focus in the viewfinder, but when the lens stopped down, the focus shifted.

    This means:
    1) why are you using the center focus point anyway? The rule of thirds is a guideline for you? Use any other focus point besides the center focus point when you are using a smaller aperture than f1.2.
    2) The only reason to use the center focus point is that on some SLR's the center is a cross type and the others are horiz/vert only or they are less sensitive. In that case, open the aperture all the way and you don't have a focus problem. The only reason you need the extra precision of the center focus point is that it's low light anyway. In moderate light, auto-focus with another focus point. In moderate light, you don't need a cross type or super-sensitive focus sensor.

    With just those two points, autofocus on an ef-50 1.2 L is cake. In any case, manual focus is also cake if you swap out your focus screen. (If you're using a rebel, 20d or 30d, (can't take out your focusing screen), then I see why you have to insist on autofocus.)

    This means: a) there's no defect. It's a law of optics. Complaining about this makes as much sense as complaining about gravity. b) Calibrating won't help unless you shoot exclusively wide open. c) No, you can't program the lens logic to compensate for this effect, because the amount of offset depends on distance to subject, amount you are stopping down by and a few other factors I don't remember since seeing the equations for this. Yes, the lens can guess what the distance to subject is, but that's just precise enough for flash exposure in E-TTL II, but not nearly good enough for focus. What's next, a laser distance finder duct-taped to the lens?

    The tanner report that's linked is useless, because he's comparing two different things. Of course the lens will perform poorly. He's taking the worst settings for the 1.2L compared to the worst settings for the 1.8. However, if you set the 1.2L to 1.8 or better yet, f2.0, you get an extremely sharp picture. It also spends so much time on graphs; it ignores what we should be using this lens for: taking pictures. At 1.2L and iso 800, you can almost shoot in the dark without flash or tripod. At wedding receptions, when the lights dim and people start dancing, I can take memorable pictures and the customers don't notice I'm there, because I didn't use a huge flash.

    That's why Canon doesn't admit a defect in the lens-there's no defect. It's a basic law of optics that's giving you problems. To make the focus mongers happy, the autofocus would have to work after the lens is stopped down. This would be a problem since these same people would say, "Why's my viewfinder so dark? They did give us a DOF preview button. Use that and manual focus, OR use those two points above and this lens will come alive for you.

    reviewed November 1st, 2007 (purchased for $1,200)
  • 1 out of 10 points and not recommended by Huib (2 reviews)
    F1.2, construction quality
    Price, very bad performance

    I was also very disappointed with the purchase of this lens. I tried 4 copies on 1Ds2 and with the best one I went to the Canon service. They made the lens a lot better but the lens still shows more CA then any other lens I have.
    Buy it only if you really need to shoot wide open at F1.2. It is pretty sharp wide open but mine 24-70mm F2.8 is wide open at F2.8 sharper then the best 50mm F1.2 I could find (and after a visit in the Canon service) at F5.6 and with less CA.
    After testing 5 copies and 2 visits at the Canon Service I can only say that this lens is a joke!

    reviewed October 28th, 2007 (purchased for $1,800)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by Hydrogen (2 reviews)
    Great Build Quality. Decent Image Quality.
    Exponentially Overpriced - Most overpriced L-lens on the market

    After purchasing what I thought was going to be one of the best primes from Canon, I was very disappointed. My 2.8 and 4.0 L zooms performed better and more consistently than this lens.

    The main issue I experienced was OOF pictures. After shooting an indoor family event, I was astounded that I had as low a keeper rate of 1 out of 5-6 shots if I was lucky.

    The lens is known to 'backfocus' and Canon apparently denies it. It occurs on short-distance-to-subject exposures. But I noticed mis-focusing even at 15' subject distances.

    Also, apparently this lens does not use the rear-element focusing as the 35mm 1.4L, instead focusing a larger element toward the front of the lens, which causes focusing across the lens' full distance range to be very slow. Slower than any of my non-L lenses.

    The 50mm f/1.4 is a FAR better value. Sure, the lens isn't perfect and has its own issues, although its sharpness performance (for me at least) is far better than this site's review makes it out to be, but the cost/value benefit is far more in-line.

    I'd rather have the 35 1.4L and the 85 1.2L MkII any day. If you need the 50mm focal length, pick up the 1.4 ....

    FYI: I sent the lens back to where it came from.

    reviewed September 16th, 2007 (purchased for $1,359)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by mebailey (21 reviews)

    This lens is alot like a mini 85L but it seems to focus quicker. The construction is also similar (high quality) to the 85L. One improvement is that the rear element does not protrude as far so it is less likely to be damaged. It is fairly sharp wide open becoming very sharp by f2 or so (also similar to big brother except I give the 85 a slight edge in sharpness). The lens has a sharpness advantage over most copies of the 50 1.4 especially at wide aperatures. I think it will be a first rate portrait or low light lens on a FF or crop body. It would be a good walk around lens on FF.

    reviewed December 15th, 2006 (purchased for $1,443)