RF 50mm F1.2L USM

RF 50mm F1.2L USM

The Niftiest 50? Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Review

By

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What We Love. What's not to love? The Canon RF 50mm F/1.2's premium and rugged build quality that comes with both dust-/weather-sealing and vibration shock resistance? No, that's great. Its design that's big and bulky yet somehow still surprisingly easy and comfortable to use? That's quite an impressive feat, actually. What about that creamy background blur it produces at its widest apertures? No, that part's delicious. And the fact that it's got a minimum focusing distance of 1.31ft, which means that you can get up close and personal with your subject and fill your frame? We are loving that too, alongside its strikingly fast and very accurate autofocusing, super sharp image quality even at its widest of F/1.2, and ability to minimize purple fringing as well as ghosting and flare. That's without mentioning its beautiful color rendition and the fact that it's got a programmable control ring for added flexibility. And with a 50mm focal length, this is already a pretty flexible lens already, suitable for everything from portraits, lifestyle, and events to street, landscape, and architecture.

What We'd Change. If this was a $1,000 or $1,500 lens, we'd be in photo heaven. At $2300 a pop, Canon RF 50mm F/1.2 is pricey. Then again, it's almost as close to perfection as any lens is going to get, so you expect it to be expensive. We'd be surprised--and suspicious--if it wasn't. But is this lens worth the price of a full-frame camera body like Canon's own EOS R? We think, yes. Yes, it is. This lens' high-quality performance might just be worth breaking the bank, even if you don't plan on making money off of it. If they had just added image stabilization, we'd be all set.

Pick This Up If... you're a photographer with an RF-mount body at your disposal. Whether or not, you're doing photography professionally, you'll want, no, NEED this nifty 50 in your camera bag.

or

INTRO

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Every now and then, you come across amazing glass that sweeps you off your feet the moment you click that shutter. This actually doesn't happen very often. Even though there is an overabundance of fantastic lenses out there, there's only a handful that really takes your breath away.

The Canon RF 50mm F/1.2 L USM is one such lens. You know from the moment you take your first photo with it that you've got something extraordinary in your hands. It's so good, in fact, that it's almost hard to take a bad photo with it mounted on your camera.

In fact, it might just be the best 50mm Canon's ever made. But is it worth the price?

Let's dive in.

GEAR USED

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Although we fell in love with the RF 50mm F1.2 back when the EOS R launched, we conducted this review with a Canon EOS RP (review HERE). We also tested it alongside the Canon RF 24-105mm F/4, which we will be reviewing soon so keep an eye out for that too.

FEATURES

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  • Fits: RF-mount cameras
  • Focal Length: 50mm
  • Maximum Aperture: F/1.2
  • Minimum Aperture: F/16
  • Angle of View (diagonal): 46 degrees
  • Lens Construction: 15 elements in 9 groups
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 1.31ft. (0.40m)
  • Filter Size: 77mm
  • Length: 89.8 x 108.0mm
  • Weight: 2.09lbs (950g)
  • Aperture Blades: 10
  • Standard Accessories: Hood, front cap, rear cap, case

BUILD QUALITY

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With that price tag, you expect a product that's not only built to last but is able to endure practically everything you throw at it. The Canon RF 50mm F/1.2 doesn't disappoint in that regard. Pick up this lens, and you'll know immediately that it's made of only the good stuff. 

Besides dust and water resistance, with weather sealing in its lens mount, switch panel and rings, the RF 50mm F/1.2 also features what Canon calls its L-series level vibration shock resistance in the barrel so that your focus won't falter when you're shooting in harsh weather conditions.

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We didn't get a chance to test this lens against the rain, unfortunately. However, we did end up in the middle of a desert windstorm while we were shooting Desert X in Palm Springs, and this lens didn't waver once, even when we were getting beat up by sand and wind. Plus, it has fluorine coating on its front element and at the rear for more even protection.

And it all comes in a nice-looking package with a matte finish to keep fingerprints at bay. 

ERGONOMICS

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At 950g and 89.8mm x 108.0mm, you'd never call this lens compact or light. Surprisingly, though, the fact that it's big and bulky hardly had any impact on its ease of use. It is well balanced, and it felt good in this reviewer's small hands.

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Of course, mounted on a camera that's only a little more than half its weight (the EOS RP only weighs 485g), our overall set-up was a little off-balance. But even that didn't affect our shooting process, not when we were battling hiking the canyon to shoot the California poppies, and not when we were fighting through dust storms in the desert. 

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Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that this lens is just a pleasure to shoot with, at least partly, so you hardly notice how big and heavy it is. But then again, we actually like how it actually feels. It's got enough heft to it to help steady our hands when shooting, but no more than that so it would feel more like a burden rather than a useful tool. 

Adding to its ease of use are the focus and focus limiter switches, which are both within easy reach of our left hand, as well as the control ring, which you can program for aperture control so that the lack of an aperture ring doesn't feel like a disappointment.

SPEED & FOCUS 

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The Canon RF 50mm F/1.2's autofocus is spot on. It performs beautifully in the best shooting conditions, as you would expect from a lens of its caliber, and works well with the EOS RP's EyeAF and Face Detection features. However, it also does quite commendably in the worst possible conditions.

It's able to not only quickly find and grab onto its intended subjects, but also track moving ones nicely. We weren't able to test how it would fare with fast action shots, but it did manage to keep up with our subjects when we had each of them walk and jog towards the camera/lens.

CanonRF50mmF1.2_SampleImage_23.jpgWe also weren't able to test this lens in low light situations. But again, we did test it in the middle of a desert sand storm when there was sand and dust flying everywhere. We could barely keep our eyes open, and yet this lens was able to lock and hold its focus like a boss.

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It also has another thing going for it in terms of focusing. It boasts a minimum focusing distance of 1.31ft (0.40m), which means that you're able to get decently close to your subjects and fill your frame without compromising sharpness. 

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Many photographer's issue with 50mm lenses is that their focus length just isn't enough to fill the frame and get up close and personal with your subjects, especially when shooting portraits. With its more than decent minimum focusing distance, we were able to get a few respectable close-ups with the EyeAF still working perfectly.

BOKEH

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Ten aperture blades allow the Canon RF 50mm F/1.2 to produce really creamy bokeh and dreamy backgrounds, especially at its widest aperture. From F/1.2 to F/3.5, the background dissolves quite nicely, allowing your focused subjects to really pop. The bokeh isn't as perfectly rounded as some might prefer, but for us personally, that small detail is inconsequential especially considering how gorgeous it is already.

IMAGE QUALITY

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The very first time we took a photo with the Canon RF 50mm F/1.2, it was love at first click. Here is where this prime lens really shines, the way it captures scenes and produces them as images (with the help of the camera, of course). Every image we took with this lens is super sharp, impeccably clean, extremely vibrant, and just a stunner in general, whether that image is an interesting portrait or a run-of-the-mill shot of a building.

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(Shot at F/1.2)

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(Shot at F/2)

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(Shot at F/4)

First of all, this lens so sharp and crisp at F/1.2 that it might just cut through bone. That's saying something, as many lenses--including expensive ones--tend to noticeably soften at apertures below F/2. Of course, this lens does still get ever so slightly sharper around F/2 to F/4, but you can shoot at F/1.2 all you want and none would be the wiser.

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It's more than just extreme sharpness, however. This lens also produces such clean images--very minimal chromatic aberration, no signs of ghosting or flare, and only very rare vignetting--that it's perfect for both experienced photographers and novices. There might be some distortion, but nothing that can ruin your image, not even slightly. In fact, it's just enough that you might use it to your advantage.

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And if those still aren't enough for you, the colors really pop with this lens. We took editing liberties with some of our images and made some small adjustments on others just because we wanted to, but most of our shots didn't really need boosting in vibrancy and saturation. More likely, you'll often love the results right out of the box--or the SD card--that you wouldn't feel compelled to spend (or waste, depending on your perspective) time in Lightroom.

PROS & CONS

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Pros
  • Super sharp even at its widest
  • Very versatile
  • Fast and accurate AF
  • Stunning bokeh
  • Effective weather sealing
  • Rugged design
  • Customizable control ring
  • Handles well for being big and bulky
  • Decent minimum focusing distance
  • Very minimal chromatic aberration
  • Zero to minimal ghosting and flare
Cons
  • Pricey
FINAL THOUGHTS

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The Canon RF 50mm F/1.2 is a lens every photographer should have in their camera bag, regardless of whether or not they are doing photography professionally. It is damn near perfect, with only a couple of flaws--it is pricey at $2300, and nitpickers might scoff at the lack of image stabilization, which might be valid considering the fact that we're still waiting on IBIS for the EOS R bodies.

However, we'd start saving now as well as get a good tripod and flash. This lens is so good it's might be the reason you invest in the Canon mirrorless R-mount cameras. Not that you'd need an excuse to get yourself a Canon EOS R or a Canon EOS RP (if you're at that still-a-beginner-but-going-enthusiast level), as these cameras are already pretty impressive.

But back to the lens... this baby's got pretty much everything going for it: excellent image quality, super fast and accurate autofocusing, ease of use, and glorious bokeh. Taking photos with the Canon RF 50mm F/1.2 is practically effortless.

What more could you ask for in a lens?

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MORE IMAGES

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