50mm prime lens is a piece of kit your camera bag shouldn’t be without. Why? Well, we’ll get onto that in more detail shortly but when generally comparing primes with zooms, zoom lenses may be practical, offer multiple focal lengths in one lens and are great for travelling but they don’t tend to be as fast as primes, bokeh isn’t as pleasing and they’re rather bulky.
As for 50mm prime lenses, these offer excellent performance in low light, they’re great for capturing portraits with and offer a view that’s similar to that of the human eye. Also on the ‘plus point’ list is the 50mm’s ability to produce an extremely shallow depth of field which ensures all focus falls on your subject and you can also disguise unflattering backgrounds. Combine these points with the fact that they’re, generally, reasonably priced, and you have a lens you can’t really ignore.
There are plenty of 50mm lenses currently available, both from third-party lens manufacturers as well as well-known camera brands, and ePHOTOzine has reviewed a fair few of them. So many, in fact, that it’s well worth taking a look at our review section or the Equipment Database if you already have a specific 50mm lens in mind and just want to see how it scored. For everyone else, we’ve put together a top list of 50mm lenses to help you make an informed choice on what your next purchase should be.
27 ‘nifty fifty’ lenses are listed and we’ve taken their performance, features, how they handle and cost into account when reviewing and compiling the list.
*** Note : £1 = $1.39
1. Fujifilm Fujinon XF 50mm f/2 R WR
The Fujifilm Fujinon XF 50mm f/2 R WR is another superb Fuji lens that’s sharp, crisp and produces pleasant bokeh. It’s also compact, weather resistant and relatively modest in price. Low CA, Low distortion, low flare and beautifully made – another fine Fujifilm lens that’s more than worthy of our Editor’s Choice award.
2. Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro
It has bulk, it has the features, it has a high price… but, did we say it has the features? In other words, another of those situations where the feature set and quality are not in question but the price will limit the market to those who really need this as a working tool. It would be very nice indeed to own, but it does need to pay its way, as well as needing a high degree of photographic skill to get the best out of its potential.
Given the need and the cash, the photographer will certainly not be disappointed in the results from the Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro lens.
3. Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
The Sony Zeiss Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA adds to the high-end full frame FE mount arsenal but with, what might be considered by some as, an eye-watering asking price, you may be wondering why it’s taken our number 1 spot. Well, the simple answer is the extraordinary results the lens produces. In terms of sharpness, it is difficult to see how any improvement could be reasonably made and CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very much under control, especially at the centre. In fact, centrally, figures are as close to zero as could possibly be expected from any lens.
The bokeh of the lens is very smooth, and in the various bokeh shots we captured in our review, you can see the almost perfectly circular aperture. The lens, which is dust and moisture resistant, is also built to a very high standard,
The overall “character” of the lens is crisp and clean and it will suit a very wide variety of subjects and this is exactly what a “standard lens” should be. Yes, the price is on the high-side but if it can be afforded, the lens should offer many years of excellent service.
4. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
This 50mm Sigma Art lens offers a fast aperture and will fit Canon, Nikon, Sony and Sigma SLR cameras. It’s another premium optic, hence the higher asking price but its performance does justify the cost (if you can afford it). Build quality is excellent but it’s not as compact and light as some other 50mm lenses available.
With cost and size not on its side, does it really justify sitting in second place and the answer to that question is a definite ‘yes’. Sharpness is excellent in fact, we’d be happy to call it even ‘outstanding’ across the frame. Chromatic aberrations are virtually non-existent and even when shooting into the light, contrast remains good and flare is virtually non-existent. Out of focus areas are rendered buttery-smooth making images that are incredibly pleasing to the eye.
On paper, seeing this lens simply as another 50mm f/1.4 lens, the £850 asking price does seem a little steep. With the performance this lens delivers taken into account it makes much more sense, representing very good value for money. Similar optics offering good performance have asking prices over £1000 so you can really see what a saving you get with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens.
Overall, with this lens, Sigma has created a lens which performs well in terms of sharpness and other optical attributes, for a fairly reasonable price.
5. Sony NEX 50mm f/1.8 OSS Lens
Unlike the lenses listed so far, the Sony NEX 50mm f/1.8 OSS comes in at a very reasonable £199.99. It also sports a bright maximum aperture of f/1.8, optical stabilisation, silent focusing and is compact in size. The lens barrel is constructed from high-quality plastics with a chrome finish applied to the out surfaces and the lens mount is metal.
Sharpness is very good and when stopped down, results can be described as ‘excellent’. Chromatic aberrations are more prominent than you may expect from a 50mm lens but falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is extremely well controlled for a fast aperture lens. The lens is very resistant to flare, produces good contrast, even when shooting into the light and out of focus highlights are rendered neutrally.
Overall, this lens represents good value for money due to its excellent features and good optical performance. It’s reasonably priced, produces sharp, contrasty images and has the added luxury of optical stabilisation and a fast maximum aperture. All-in-all, it’s a bit of a belter that’s available at a bargain price.
6. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G comes in at under £180 and optical-wise, it’s superb. For the price, it offers outstanding quality, handles well and the build quality is excellent.
Clarity in the central portion of the frame is very good and as with most lenses, stopping down the aperture increases this optics performance across the frame and by f/2 the lens produces images with good sharpness from edge-to-edge. When shooting into the light, the simple optical design ensures this lens maintain good contrast and is resistant to flare in all but the most extreme of conditions. Falloff can be quite pronounced as too can be barrel distortion but this is easily fixed in image editing software and you might like the fact that the corners of the frame are 2.5 stops darker than the image centre.
Out of focus areas are rendered smoothly thanks to the rounded aperture blades and the compact size and light weight makes this lens an ideal travel companion.
Overall, it’s optically superb, offers outstanding quality and is available for a really great price.
7. Olympus Zuiko Digital Ed 50mm f/2 Macro
The Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50mm f/2 Macro is a lens with few shortcomings. Optically it is sharp from maximum aperture, with negligible levels of CA, distortion and falloff. It is also dust and splash proof which is always reassuring to know and the overall build quality is excellent.
Optical performance is superb, this lens is definitely capable of producing excellent quality images. At f/2 the centre sharpness is already excellent, and the quality towards the edges is good. Chromatic aberrations are kept well within acceptable levels at all apertures and falloff of illumination towards the corners is also very well controlled.
The lens appears to be quite resistant to flare and ghosting and a deep circular hood is provided, which does a great job of shielding the front element from extraneous light that may cause flare.
It’s currently available for £562.82 over on Amazon which is very reasonable considering how well it performs.
8. Samyang XP 50mm f/1.2
There is very little difference in brightness between a f/1.4 and f/1.2 lens. The wider aperture also means more difficulty in focusing, but only because the point of focus is so fine. In reality, if used carefully with magnifying aids then it is highly accurate. The Samyang XP 50mm f/1.2 lens is also very bulky and very heavy, certainly quite huge compared to a conventional 50mm f/1.4.
However, the price is reasonable and the standard is very high, so there are clear benefits for those for whom the difference is significant. In any event, the performance is exemplary.
9. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G is an oldie but a goodie and should not disappoint even the most discerning photographers. Performance throughout the aperture range is very good to outstanding and even if focusing speed is a little slow, it’s still well-worth considering. The lens is built well and its lightweight design make it a great lens for holidays or a city shoot.
As for performance, even wide open at f/1.4 this new 50mm lens produces images with very good resolution in the centre of the image and good sharpness towards the edges. Peak performance across the frame can be achieved between f/5.6 and f/8, where the sharpness is outstanding across the frame.
Chromatic aberrations are kept to low enough levels that they shouldn’t pose any issues and the slight amount of barrel distortion is quite common for wide aperture lenses like this one. Bokeh is pleasing and the lens captures portraits beautifully.
For those wanting to purchase this lens, it’s currently available for £379 from Park Cameras.
10. Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro
The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro lens is a universally useful optic and the ability to continue to focus right down to life size is very appealing indeed.
Sharpness at the centre is simply excellent at all apertures and CA (Chromatic Aberration) is highly corrected at the centre, approaching zero. The coatings are effective and even without a provided lens hood, the front element is recessed enough to avoid any signs of flare.
Despite only having 7 diaphragm blades, the bokeh is still very pleasing. It is not as ultra-smooth perhaps as lenses specifically designed with bokeh in mind, but it is very satisfactory.
Overall, the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 macro lens is an excellent performer and a pleasure to use. It also has a rather realistic asking price of £527.24.
11. Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 is a high-quality lens, with excellent sharpness, that’s available at the competitive price of £449.
With excellent sharpness throughout, low CA, low distortion and excellent manufacturing quality, it’s a 50mm lens you can’t really ignore. Sharpness can simply be described as excellent and CA is very well controlled. There is -0.948% barrel distortion, which is typical for a fast 50mm lens, but overall, the lens produces very pleasantly sharp images, with a smooth bokeh that shows well throughout the aperture range.
Size wise, it’s a little on the bulky side but this is a small price to pay for an optic that can deliver such beautiful results.
12. SMC Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4
The SMC Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4 is a robust, high-quality standard lens for Pentax DSLRs that’s currently available for a reasonable £339.
Images captured by the lens are bright, contrasty and have plenty of punch, plus there is an almost total resistance to flare, even with the sun just on the edge of the image area. The colour balance of all Pentax lenses is excellent and this one is no exception with it producing colours which can be described as slightly warm but very much natural.
Sharpness starts off quite soft at f/1.4 peaks at f/5.6. The edges also start off soft at f/1.4 and f/2 and again, performance peaks at f/5.6. Distortion is a respectable and CA is controlled well.
The conclusion is that this lens can compete with the latest high-quality full frame lenses as an equal. It’s also robust, well-made and all-in-all, is an unobtrusive addition to any camera kit.
13. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
Sigma’s 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is physically larger and noticeably heavier than equivalent lenses but don’t let this put you off at it’s well built and feels like it can take a bit of use and abuse. As for performance, this optic proved itself capable of producing fantastic sharpness, especially in the centre of the image. Those after a technically perfect lens may be slightly disappointed with the performance towards the edges, but for portraiture at wide apertures, the high levels of centre sharpness should produce great results.
When shooting wide open images are reasonably sharp across the frame and CA levels are low enough to not cause concern. Barrel distortion is often present on wide aperture prime lenses like this and even though it is slightly present, again, it’s not really much to worry about and can be corrected in image editing software.
The sharpness in the centre is this lens’ strong point, so if you tend to shoot at wide apertures this could be the lens for you. Pentax users after a bright 50mm should certainly consider this lens when looking at purchasing a 50mm for their kit bag as the price point (£322.80) makes it a worthy contender.
14. Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZA SSM
Lenses bearing the Carl Zeiss name tend to be luxury items and carry a luxury price tag as a result and the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZA SSM is no different with a cool £1488.33 sat against its name.
At maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is good, but the clarity recorded towards the edges of the frame is a little disappointing. Stopping down the aperture improves performance across the frame with clarity reaching good levels by f/2.8. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved at f/5.6. Chromatic aberrations are higher than you might expect but falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is fairly typical for a lens with such a fast maximum aperture.
The lens does have excellent weather resistance and its overall build quality is worthy of the Carl Zeiss name. In fact, the materials it is constructed from mean the overall size and weight are a good match for compact SLR and SLT bodies and overall image quality is impressive.
15. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is a bargain at just over £100 and when it was announced, was a welcomed update for the popular and inexpensive standard 50mm f/1.8 EF lens.
Sharpness is very good in the centre at maximum aperture and stopping down produces even better results across the frame. Contrast holds up well when shooting into the light and there is no issue with flare. Distortion is detected but easily corrected and visual uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.
Even though this lens costs more than its predecessor, it still represents great value due to the high levels of sharpness it produces. The improved build quality is welcome too and should win over many fans as a result.
16. SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1
KamLan has a simple, ambitiously specified 50mm lens for a very low price. It is well made, performs well and, within the limitations of manual focus and lagging edge quality, it is still a lens that delivers something very useful. The bright f/1.1 aperture is one thing and the gorgeous bokeh is another. The lens is not technically perfect, but it does have excellent photographic, creative qualities that could be used to advantage. At £126, there is little to lose.
17. Canon EF 50mm, f/1.2L USM
We go from £100 up to £1040.14 with this offering from Canon. For just over £1000, you get a lens that features a super-bright f/1.2 maximum aperture and silent ultrasonic focusing all wrapped up in a professional-grade weather sealed body.
Sharpness is good from maximum aperture in the centre of the frame, but the performance towards the edges isn’t in the same league, unfortunately. If your intended use requires good centre sharpness, and the ability to reduce depth of field to the minimum, not much else comes close. However, if you’re after superb edge-to-edge clarity, and low distortion for general purpose use, or more critical applications, such as copy stand work, then this lens may not be for you.
For those who are considering the Canon EF 50mm, f/1.2L USM as an option will be happy to hear that the bright maximum aperture allows depth of field to be reduced creatively, isolating your subjects from the background, which this lens renders incredibly smoothly.
18. Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG
The Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens offers a basic introduction to macro photography, with none of the bells and whistles such as silent focusing or image stabilisation, at a budget price of £185.51 (Nikon fit) and £219.99 (Canon fit).
When shot wide open, this lens produces images with fairly good sharpness in the centre and the quality towards the edges isn’t far behind. As the lens is stopped down, the quality improves and peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/8, where the resolution in the centre is outstanding, and the performance towards the edges is very good.
Chromatic aberrations are kept within acceptable levels and falloff of illumination towards the corners is reasonably well controlled. There are no problems with flare either and the images we captured with it showed no loss of contrast.
Overall, this 50mm macro from Sigma is a very capable lens for the price and should make a good introduction to macro photography, especially for those on a budget.
19. Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8
This standard 50mm lens sports a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture, ideal for blurring backgrounds, or for shooting in low light conditions.
Very high-quality plastics have been used to construct the lens barrel and the lens mount is also constructed from plastic which may put some people off but as it’s priced at £99, perhaps it’s something you can overlook.
Construction aside, the Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 lens delivers sharp results at every aperture and its overall optical performance is excellent. Chromatic aberrations are incredibly well controlled as too is falloff and at maximum aperture, sharpness in the centre of the frame is very good. It’s quite resistant to flare and contrast levels are also good.
Blurred backgrounds are rendered very smoothly, distortion is very well controlled and focusing is fast, although maybe not accurate enough to be effective for use at wide apertures.
20. Samyang 50mm f/1.2 AS UMC CS
The Samyang 50mm f/1.2 is a compact and well made manual focus prime lens that’s an interesting alternative to other 50mm f/1.2 lenses as unlike the alternatives that retail for up to £1000, this one’s available for £463.22 in a Sony E fit and £384.08 for the Canon M fit.
The lens is clearly well-made, with a metal chassis and an outer shell of high-quality polycarbonate and its performance is just as good, too. Sharpness is excellent, CA is controlled very well and distortion is nothing to worry about.
In a pictorial sense, the lens produces very attractive images, with creamy bokeh. Images are bright and contrasty, which also helps to give an impression of good sharpness The lens is actually suitable for many different types of photography, including portraiture, landscape and any usage where a short telephoto is suitable. The f/1.2 aperture is an added bonus in that it makes possible creative use that is not available with smaller apertures.
Yes, it’s a manual focus lens but it’s an excellent lens for anyone who’s willing to make the necessary effort as the reward is some very fine images.
21. Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro
Canon’s 50mm f/2.5 macro lens offers a compact, lightweight half life size macro option for EF and EF-S cameras. The build quality is excellent, with much of the barrel being constructed from high-grade plastics and the lens mount from metal and it balances well.
Optically this lens is excellent, producing sharp images with low levels of chromatic aberrations and distortion. Out of focus areas have a good quality to them, contrast holds up well, even when shooting into the light and sharpness is excellent across the frame when stopped down.
Being priced at around £230 makes this an excellent value choice, so long as you don’t require life-size magnification for which an optional life size converter will be required.
22. Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM
For those on a budget, the Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM will make a great portrait lens. The out of focus blur is quite smooth and when the lens is stopped down a little, you can make your portraits ‘pop’. Stopping the lens down to moderate aperture yields images with superb resolution across the frame but as maximum aperture, shots can be a little soft.
Flare and loss of contrast aren’t things you need to worry about and CA isn’t an issue. Falloff of illumination towards the corners is around the level expected but the slight amount of barrel distortion is surprising but it’s not something you can’t fix in post. At f/1.8 the sharpness in the centre is fair, but maybe a bit soft for many people’s taste but as said, for portraits, this could produce pleasant results.
All-in-all, it’s a good portrait lens for those who are tightening the purse strings as you can pick it up from Amazon for under £100.
23. Pentax SMC P-D FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro
The Pentax 50mm f/2.8 Macro can not be faulted for its level of image quality but the design is a little antiquated. Having said that, considering the performance delivered by this lens, it appears to be quite a bargain for the asking price of around £320. Stopping down to f/8 results in outstanding sharpness across the frame, CA is well controlled and falloff of illumination is handled well. A virtually indistinguishable amount of barrel distortion is present in images taken with this lens and it is very resistant to flare with contrast levels remaining consistent.
Optically, it is very difficult to fault this lens, as the performance it delivers is excellent in every respect. Unfortunately, the design of the lens and the way it handles feels a little dated but if you can overlook this, you’ve got yourself a great lens for capturing images with.
24. Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 E
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 E performs reliably and produces impressively crisp looking images. Yes, they may be a little soft at the edges but central sharpness is excellent and it’s very easy to use effectively. Central CA is low and there are no flare issues to report but CA is visible on the edges and autofocus is a little slow.
Bokeh is very acceptable, the smoothness of the out of focus areas being relaxed and pleasing to the eye. It is not in the same league as some more specialised lenses, but very acceptable for general purpose use.
The price of the lens is £225.99 which is a little high when compared to the performance of other lenses mentioned but once the price drops, it’ll become a bargain. Having said that, it does fit well into the category of the inexpensive kit lens and in that context is very acceptable.
25. Samyang 50mm f/1.4 AS UMC
The Samyang 50mm f/1.4 AS UMC is a good lens, capable of producing images with outstanding sharpness, but as it doesn’t offer electronic coupling with the camera, the price is questionable. It may be that those who prefer the handling of a proper manual focus lens may gravitate to this as an alternative, but even then, there’s nothing to stop them focusing manually with the manufacturers offering.
The lens also tends to give a noticeable warm tone to images, and contrast is muted, when compared to other modern lenses, which sometimes produces a look associated with vintage manual focus lenses but you can see this as both a positive and a negative, depending on what you like.
Sharpness is good, Chromatic aberrations are kept under control and the multi-coatings applied to this lens seem quite effective, suppressing flare and keeping contrast levels reasonable.
26. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
Performance-wise Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 USM is fairly typical, showing it is capable of producing images with excellent sharpness across the frame at optimum apertures. For low light shooting, it would have been nice to see it perform better at f/1.4, but it is still quite capable of producing a decent image, so long as your subject is isolated near the centre of the frame. It has a good resistance to flare and there’s low vignetting at maximum aperture. Barrel distortion might be a problem for critical applications but for most situations, it’s fine and also correctable.
Priced at £295, it’s not a bargain but the lens represents decent value if you need the extra two-thirds of a stop over the f/1.8 version or you aren’t a fan of its plastic build.
27. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II is a go-to lens for those on a budget as the optical quality is rather impressive for how much it costs (£74.99). However, the build quality and basic design may fall short of that offered by more expensive lenses.
Shallow depth of field is possible thanks to the fast maximum aperture and sharpness across the frame is excellent when stopped down. Falloff of illumination towards the corners is noticeable, but not overly intrusive and flare will only be an issue in strong direct light.
If you can overlook the build quality then the low price point makes this optic excellent value.