Courtenay RiverCredit: Javrsmith

The least expensive lens made by the Canon corporation is known as the "Nifty Fifty". This is a 50mm focal length with a maximum aperture of f1.8. This item has become a favorite for a multitude of Canon digital camera owners. The reasons are quite clear.

The Nifty Fifty is very affordable at about $125. For this amount, purchasers receive a new unit in the full retail box. A full warranty and registration card is also included. For those who are a little adventurous, this lens is available at an even lower price, about $100. This version, however, is known as a "gray market" unit. It ships in a plain box and may not include a warranty card. It is still, however, a very good buy and a safe purchase. Even without the card, owners are covered in the case of defects by the sales agent. Canon will also provide warranty service as needed, although some discussion with service staff may be necessary.

The Best Seller

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens - Fixed (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Amazon Price: $125.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 23, 2017)
Perpetually an Amazon Best Seller.

Optical Performance

Courtenay River, BCCredit: Javrsmith

This 50mm unit has very good optics. Published reviews show that the distortion of captured images is at a minimum. This is to be expected with a fixed focal length. Interestingly, however, there is faithful image recording whether the aperture is wide open, or stopped down, (closed). At the maximum opening, it is capable of capturing good images in low light situations. This is known as being "fast" in the terminology of cameras. Many other units are "slow", with focal ratios of 3.5, or even higher. This makes them far less usable in low light, compared to the nifty fifty.

The overall size of this unit is very small. It is also very light. The number of pieces of glass is minimal. There is no zoom mechanism. The factory uses quite a lot of plastic in the construction process. These facts allowed the designers to keep the weight down. It does contain an automatic focusing motor which adds weight. The final package, however, is very light and easy to handle.

Gray Market Unit

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Standard AutoFocus Fixed Lens - International Version (No Warranty)
Amazon Price: $125.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 23, 2017)
Gray market item available for a significant cost savings.


Comox Glacier, BCCredit: Javrsmith

This unit fits many of the popular Canon digital camera models. Such models as the T5i, 5D and 70D can use it. Photographers report that it is easy to use due to simplicity. It is a "prime", rather than a zoom. As a result, it is a fixed focal length. In use, photographers point, focus, and shoot. Because there is no zoom, shots may need to be manually composed by moving the camera into different locations. This action is more like traditional photography as it was performed with 35mm film cameras in the years before digital imaging.

Cropped Sensor Use
On a "full frame" Canon camera, (like the 5D), this lens offers a 50mm focal length. On a camera such as the Canon T5i, it acts as an 80mm. This is due to the "cropped sensor" of the T5i, 7D, and others. The actual image forming sensor in these cameras is substantially smaller than that in a 5D. As a result, the image is more narrowly focused. A magnification factor of 1.6 is applied due to the design of the cropped sensor. Thus a 50mm focal length becomes 80mm in use. The unit still works very well but it results in a small view of the world, compared to the images produced on full frame cameras.

Example Photographs
The images in this article were produced with the Nifty Fifty on a cropped sensor Canon T1i.

New Model: Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens
Amazon Price: $125.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 23, 2017)
Canon now produces an upgraded lens. This includes a solid metal mount and an "STM", or stepper, motor. Optically, it's very similar, producing quality images. The STM feature makes focusing practically silent.


A number of accessories are available for this 50mm. It accepts 52mm filters of various types such as "Neutral Density, Ultraviolet, Circular Polarizing, and more. A light shielding hood is also available. This device helps to limit stray light entering the device during shooting. It is quite a useful accessory for use when the photographer wishes to shoot wide open during bright conditions. Although the unit ships with a protective cap, some owners prefer to buy a new one that has a retaining cord.

Package Deals
Often, retailers will offer this device in a kit with a variety of accessories. In some cases, the asking price is quite a bargain. The unit is included, of course, along with filters, cleaning cloths, protective hood, and other gear. Some kits may even include a tripod. Be sure to check for such deals when you are considering a purchase.

Comparison to Other 50mm Units
Canon currently makes four different 50mm devices. Each is offered for different photographic uses.

Model f1.2L - Professional grade, extremely fast. Great for low light conditions, portraits. Very expensive.
Model f1.4 - Performance grade, very fast. Low light, portraits, etc. Expensive.
Model f1.8 - Entry level grade. Fast. General use. Very affordable.
Macro - Performance grade. Great for close-up images of wildlife, collectibles, etc. Fairly affordable.

The Upgraded Unit

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard Lens for Canon SLR Cameras - Fixed
Amazon Price: $399.00 $349.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 23, 2017)
The big brother, with a more expensive price. Faster optical performance.

Photography Use

Strathcona ParkCredit: Javrsmith

This unit is great for basic shots, and low light conditions. Owners find that they are often able to use it in conditions where others require a tripod. It does feature an autofocus motor but focuses well in manual mode as well. The motor is not silent. This means that it may be noticeable during video production. Flare and chromatic aberration problems may be seen, especially if the unit is used in bright conditions. Such problems can be reduced through the use of filters and a light blocking hood. Certain effects can also be adjusted on the computer using Photoshop, Lightroom, or even with GIMP, the free image processor.

Owners of cameras that use this device report that they take great photos in many different conditions. The optics are fast, allowing use in low light. Color imaging is excellent. Distortion is at a minimum. The device is capable of capturing good video clips although the focus motor is evident. Many people use the manual focus ring during video shooting. Those that purchase a stray light blocking hood report that they increase the contrast of their shots. Similarly, the use of polarizing filters is popular for better images.