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Gear Reviews

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L Lens | Hands-On Review

By Jay Henington on December 20th 2018

The Canon RF 50mm F1.2L is the newest prime L lens that Canon has released and it’s the first for the new Canon EOS R mirrorless system. It’s also a monster of a lens, weighing a bulky 2.09 lbs. But all of that weight isn’t for nothing. While it feels more like a 24-70mm zoom lens, the RF 50mm F1.2L packs a massive amount of glass, with 15 elements in 9 groups. That glass and the new RF mount have turned this lens into one of the most impressive prime lenses I’ve ever used.

Pros:

  • Sharp at F1.2
  • Great character
  • Crazy bokeh
  • Autofocusing in low light

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy weight
  • No Image Stabilization

Cost

The RF 50mm F1.2L is not a cheap lens. In fact, at $2,299, it’s one of the most expensive Canon prime lenses and it costs the same as a new Canon EOS R. That price tag will make this lens unattainable for many photographers, especially when you can use the older Canon EF 50mm F1.2L ($1269) with the EOS R mount adapter ($99). So, is the extra cost for the new RF 50mm F1.2L worth it? Let’s find out.

Design

The Canon RF 50mm F1.2L is a beautifully designed lens with all the finishing touches you’d expect from an L lens. While the lens body is mostly plastic, it’s not cheap plastic and it feels very well built. I think it’s fair to assume that they used plastic on the body because had they used metal, it would have been better used as a baseball bat than a lens; it’s already really heavy for a prime lens. The weight of this lens notwithstanding, it’s simply gorgeous.

[Recommended: Canon RF 50mm F1.2L Vs. Canon EF 50mm F1.2 Showdown]

There haven’t been many times in my life that I’ve picked up a Canon lens and considered how beautifully designed it is, but their new design language for the Canon EOS R mirrorless series is elegant and modern, red ring and all. Gone is the archaic distance scale on top of the lens. The only switches on the lens are the AF/MF and the focus limiter switch. It also comes with weather-sealing, which is always a nice touch. Another of my favorite features on all of the new RF lenses is the customizable control ring. Being able to adjust my ISO (or almost anything else you could want) from a ring on the lens is a fun way to shoot. My only complaint with it on this specific lens is that it’s a bit of a reach from where my hand naturally sits to make adjustments. Overall I’ve really enjoyed the aesthetics, feel, and use of this lens.

Focusing

The RF 50mm F1.2L is not the fastest lens I’ve ever used in terms of focus speed, but it’s not slow, either. The USM motor is quiet and snappy with minimal focus hunting. If you activate the focus limiter switch, it shortens the time to focus a bit as well. So if you don’t need to focus on something right in front of you, keep that switch on for a little more quickness. Where this lens really shines is when focusing in low light. In a pitch black room at F1.2, I was able to grab focus with ease.

Image Quality

Holy Crap. This thing is sharp wide open. At F1.2, the center of the frame is extremely sharp with some softening as you get closer to the corners. For my pixel peeping friends, check out the images below. Cropped in on just the pigeon you can see just how sharp this lens actually is wide open. At wider apertures, the lens is just ridiculously sharp.

Canon RF 50 1.2L Pigeon TestCanon RF 50 1.2L Pigeon Test Cropped

Besides being sharp, the images this lens produces are spectacular. Chromatic aberration is minimal, even at wide open aperture, and it has character in droves.

Bokeh

I imagine the question on everyone’s mind is, “How’s the bokeh?” Am I right? The bokeh is insane. It’s creamy smooth, and with 10 rounded aperture blades, bokeh balls are nice and round. Taking portraits with it is a joy as you can easily create a photo with tack sharp eyes and dreamy bokeh.

Canon RF 1.2L SampleCanon RF 50 1.2L BokehCanon RF 5_1_2Bokeh

Conclusion

The Canon RF 50mm F1.2L is one of the best lenses I’ve ever used. Period. It’s sharp, well-built, produces insane bokeh, and has the “it” factor. The only real negatives I see with this lens are its size and cost. On the EOS R mirrorless, it’s huge. But I’ll trade size and weight for image quality any day, and there is no 50mm better than this lens.

Should you buy it? If you have $2299, own a Canon EOS R, and won’t settle for second best, then yes, buy this lens. It’s worth it. If you don’t have $2299, but still want an incredible 50mm, the original Canon EF 50mm F1.2L is still a great lens. It’s a little soft wide open, but it produces great images and has tons of character.

If you’d like to see a comparison between the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L and the older 50m F1.2L, leave a comment below.

Sample Images

Chicago Canon RF 50 1.2LChristkindlemarket ChicagoCanon Rf 50 1.2LCanon RF 50 1.2L SampleCanon RF 1.2L SampleCanon RF 1.2L Sample

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I’m a Chicago-based photographer and co-owner of Henington Photography. I photograph weddings with my better half, Larissa. When I’m not taking pictures, I’m most likely playing with our two boys, editing, eating chips and salsa, or writing for SLR Lounge.

Website: Henington Photography
Instagram: @heningtonphotography

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