Lens Comparison | Canon 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4 vs 1.2

When it comes to DSLR lenses, there’s a lot of variety out there. From the brand, to the focal length to the aperture range, there is a lens for any situation. It’s great to have a lot of choices, but in some situations, it can be hard to know what the difference is. 

Take the 50mm for example, a very popular focal length that is sought after by many photographers and videographers. You may have seen the term “nifty fifty”, that’s because the 50mm has become a staple in the world of photography and videography. It is a flattering focal length for most people, and is best used for portraits and sit down interviews. So inevitably, there are many 50mm lenses to choose from. Just in Canon alone, there are three, the Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 50mm F/1.4, and the Canon 50mm f/1.2. 

background image from Alasdair Elmes

So what’s the difference between them? And which ones is best for you? I’ve written this comparison post to give you the specifics. So let’s see how they stack up against each other, the Canon 50mm 1.8 vs 1.4 vs 1.2.

I’ve already written a post about the Canon 50mm 1.8 and how amazing it is especially for the value. But I wanted to do this comparison post so you can see how they measure up to each other.

Canon 50mm f/1.8

Canon 50mm 1.4 vs 1.8 vs 1.2

This lens really puts the term “nifty-fifty” to the test. Of all the available DSLR lenses, this one is easily one of the most cost effective. Not only is the price ridiculously cheap by comparison, it also produces pretty impressive quality, just take a look at some of these photos shot on the Canon 50mm f/1.8!

Video credit No Talent No Bank Balance

Canon 50mm f/1.4

This lens is meant to be a “bridge” between the f/1.8 and the f/1.2. With an aperture slightly better than the 1.8, it is assumed to produce better bokeh. It’s reasonably priced, falling slightly more than the 1.8 but still significantly less than the 1.2.

Canon 50mm f/1.2

This lens is part of Canon’s professional grade line, and it doesn’t disappoint. It features an amazing aperture range of 1.2 to 22 and it’s build allows for ultra smooth autofocus and extremely sharp images. This is the highest quality lens, but it comes at a price.

Canon 50mm 1.4 vs 1.8 vs 1.2 Comparison Chart

Canon 50mm f/1.2Canon 50mm f/1.4Canon 50mm f/1.8 
Price$1,299$349$125.00
Autofocus Motor TypeUltrasonic MotorUltrasonic MotorStepping AF motor
Weight1.28lb10.23oz5.64oz
See on AdoramaSee on AdoramaSee on Adorama

Which One is Best For You?

If you’re really looking to invest in a top of the line lens, then I suggest the Canon 50mm f/1.2. In my years as working as a videographer, I’ve neve come across someone who bought the Canon 50mm f/1.2 and was unhappy with it. It’s top of the line all the way, and it is worth the investment. 

If you’re looking for a cost effective alternative, then the Canon 50mm f/1.8 is the way to go. You may be surprised to read that, but in my opinion the Canon 50mm f/1.4 doesn’t provide enough difference in quality to warrant the extra $200 price difference. Plus in many comparisons, the 1.8 actually outperforms the 1.4 in the way of sharpness.

If you want to see each lens in action, the SLRlounge has a really great post comparing each lens in photographs so you can see their performance. Check out their post here!

Olivia J

Olivia J is a video producer, writer, and director specializing in corporate video, events, documentaries and film. To see some of her work visit oliviaj.me