Overview of the 'Plastic Fantastic' Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II, known as the 'Plastic Fantastic' or the 'Nifty Fifty', is a very popular lens, and for good reason: it is fast and cheap.

I used to own one of these, but I later sold it.  I have no need or desire for a 50mm lens, as the focal length does not appeal.

However, given the enormous popularity of this lens, I think it is worthwhile to point out what is good about it, as well as what is bad.

Anyone considering purchasing one can take these simple facts into consideration.

What is Good?

  1. It is light.
  2. It is small.
  3. It is fast (as in wide aperture).
  4. It is sharp.
  5. It is inexpensive.
  6. On an APS-C camera, it provides classic portrait framing.

What is Bad?

  1. Its barrel and mount is plastic.
  2. It has no distance gauge.
  3. It has no ultrasonic focus motor.
  4. It is slow to focus, and noisy, too.
  5. The focus ring is awkwardly positioned and small.
  6. It has a five-bladed diaphragm, producing unappealing pentagonal bokeh.

What the lens does provide is a lot of bang-for-buck.  It is ridiculously inexpensive for what it delivers.  Of course, if one wants a fast 50mm lens and can live with the negative aspects I have itemised above, it is worth having.  Even if the lens turns out to be unappealing after all, it will not be an expensive learning exercise.

Published on Wednesday, 1st September, 2010.