The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 vs. The Canon EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 II

For years now I have used a workhorse of a lens with very pleasing results. The EF-S 18-55mm by Canon has done a beautiful job for me. But today, in the mail, I received the next contender for the number one spot, the EF 50mm f/1.8 II. So here we are putting these two lenses against each other to find out which is the winner of the battle of the lens.



The techie stuff.

The 50mm f/1.8 is a prime lens which means no zoom and no moving elements apart from the focusing lens. This allows the elements to be in a fixed length allowing for sharper images. This lens is a no frills kind of tool. Just point and focus, leaving you to use your legs as your zooming. On a down side the filter threading is smaller than the 18-55mm (52mm as opposed to 58mm) so I was left holding my filters in front of the lens and couldn’t use my lens hood at all.

The 50mm has 6 elements in 5 groups with 5 aperture blades. The weight is a really light 130 grams so unless you attach this to a monster SLR, you wont need to be a body builder to walk around with this. The outside of the barrel is all plastic all the way down to the mount so in this respect you see the price tag. However the build of the lens is still pretty strong, so unless you abuse the lens or force the mounting, there is no reason to think it wont last.

Lastly on the tech stuff this is a full frame lens therefor if you have an APS-C 1.6x crop sensor, the focal length actually is 80mm which can be a little long if you were looking for a street photography lens, but for portrait it’s pretty ideal.

How close can you go.

On this issue the 18-55mm wins hands down. With a minimum focus of 11 inches compared to the 50mm 1.5 ft. I would use the 18-55mm still for close crop small work. On the other hand then bokeh on this lens is superior and if being right up in your face isn’t important this 50mm really does a nice job.

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The can’s and cant’s

Let’s get down to what this 50mm lens can do first. As I said earlier, the portrait capabilities is great. The bokeh is creamy smooth and the focus is really sharp.

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Also being a no frills lens it means you can point shot and move on like a sniper, BANG and out. This is really nice when you want to capture that fleeting moment  like Segway tours of an empty park.

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Now what it can’t do. With it wide open you can’t slow the shutter down in outside light without ND filters. That in itself is not a fault of the lens but when you only have 58mm filters it can be a little annoying but not impossible. I used my ND8 to capture this shot but at the smallest aperture, f/22, my shutter speed was still only 1/4 sec.

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If you want a lens that’s closer to a 50mm length your not going to find it here with a APS-C sensor. Instead you might want to buy an EF 35mm f/2 (56mm after crop) but the price isn’t as low or just use the 18-55mm zoom EF-S lens. Here’s what you will see with that lens at 55mm f/5.6.

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In the end

As to be expected both lenses have there specific uses (wide angle, portrait, close-up) and each have some weak points but in the end I’ll have to choose the 50mm as my working lens. I love the 80mm length and the fast glass. The plastic barrel and mount is a little off putting but with a little care this is not a problem. For the price I got it new for ($104 USD) I’m pretty satisfied. Of course don’t forget, the Bokeh!

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Have you used this lens? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below and please follow.


About Mark Birks
Professional photographer specializing in fine art photography and portraiture.

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