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Canon RF 50 1.2L vs Canon EF 50 1.2L Gear & Apps

The Canon 50mm L Showdown | Canon RF 50mm F1.2L vs. Canon EF 50mm F1.2L

By Jay Henington on January 2nd 2019

I’ve used the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L for many years, and it’s been my favorite lens to use for just about everything. The bokeh is amazing; it gives off incredible flare in direct sunlight, and it has a f/1.2 aperture, so it takes in a lot of light. The only complaint that I’ve had about the lens has been that it’s not as sharp as I’d like at the wider apertures. But that was a tradeoff I was willing to make to reap the benefits of this lens. Last month, I experienced the new Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L, and I fell in love. It felt like everything the EF could do, the RF did better. So, I decided to pit the two against one another in a head-to-head shoot out.

Sharpness

Right out the the gate, the RF 50mm f/1.2L blows the EF 50mm f/1.2L out of the water in terms of sharpness. From the first shots I took with the RF at f/1.2 I knew it wasn’t even going to be a competition. A quick glance at the back of my camera and it was obvious that the RF was unbelievably sharp at f/1.2. The EF does fine, but you won’t want to pixel peep too much at wider apertures or you might not like what you see. Once you get to about f/5.6, both lenses become very sharp. In the examples below, you’ll also notice much worse color fringing in high contrast areas on the EF 50mm. There is almost no color fringing on the RF 50mm, even at f/1.2. The RF 50mm is also clearly much sharper with better contrast.

All of the images below were shot at f/1.2 on the Canon EOS R. The EF 50mm f/1.2L is on the left and the RF 50mm f/1.2L is on the right.

Winner: Canon RF 50 1.2L

Bokeh

This is where the lines begin to get a bit blurred (pun intended). There’s really no such thing as objectively better bokeh, just different preferences and different uses for different looks. So, for this one, I called it a tie, even though I prefer the look of the RF 50mm f/1.2L.

The image below was shot at f/1.2. The EF 50mm f/1.2L is on the left and the RF 50mm f/1.2L is on the right.

Winner: Tie

Character

Ultimately, what matters when using a lens is the overall quality and feel of the images produced. This includes things like sharpness, bokeh, distortion, etc. But it also includes the more difficult to quantify element of character. Both of these lenses shine when it comes to producing images that are stunning. The way that both lenses handle light is the main reason to love them in my opinion. I was a little worried that the engineers at Canon might have sacrificed the RF 50mm’s character in an effort to achieve greater sharpness. I’m happy to report that they did not. Below are some of the images I’ve taken with both lenses, edited with my own style to show how a photo will actually appear with each lens.

Canon EF 50 1.2L

Canon RF 50 1.2L

Winner: Tie

Design

Both of these lenses are well-built with weather sealing and solid plastic external shells. The RF certainly looks more modern with a matte black finish and a brushed metal connector. With all the extra glass in the RF comes a substantial increase of size and weight. The EF 50mm is almost half the length of the RF 50 (EF: 3.38 x 2.58″, RF: 3.54 x 4.25″) and feels about half as heavy (EF: 1.28 lbs, RF: 2.09 lbs). These differences are not insubstantial, though, if you’ll be holding your camera for many hours at a time. The RF 50mm also comes with the customizable control ring on the lens body, but its placement at the end of the barrel makes it inconvenient to use. I have mine set to adjust ISO and having to reach 4 inches from the body of the camera is not ideal. I greatly prefer the placement of the control ring near the camera body as you find if you use the optional Control Ring Mount Adapter for the EOS R. In the end, it’s hard to crown a winner in this category as the RF 50mm looks better, but the EF 50mm is substantially lighter and smaller.

Winner: Tie

Final Thoughts

Both the RF and EF 50mm f/1.2L lenses are incredible. But in the end, the RF 50mm f/1.2 is the winner because of its sharpness at lower apertures. At f/1.2, the RF f/1.2L is contrasty and crisp with very little color fringing. As I mentioned in my hands-on review of the RF 50mm f1.2L, it’s my favorite lens that I’ve ever used. But is it worth the $2,299 price tag? That’s up to you. In real world use, both lenses create beautiful images. As for me, I’m going to hold onto the EF 50mm 1.2L for a little while longer and save some money, even though I’ll be dreaming about the RF 50mm f/1.2 every night.

 

Have you had a chance to shoot with the new RF 50mm f/1.2L lens? If so, please comment below and share your thoughts. 

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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/Larissa Boudoir
Instagram: @heningtonphotography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Manuel Perri

    Nice comparison. I was wondering with a Canon 5DIV with EF 50mm. 1.2 and a Canon R with the RF50mm.  lens, who is better?  Seems like the R is better.  Thanks 

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  2. Andrew Fishkin

    I see this the same as the 50/0.95 vs 50/1.0 Noctilux comparisons in Leica land.  The new one is technically better, but the old one has some special magic sauce that the new one cannot duplicate.  Of course, the new one also has its special magic sauce that the old one cannot duplicate.

    I know photographers who have all three versions of the Noctilux, and I’m sure we will see many photographers buying the new RF 50/1.2, but keeping the old EF model for the unique look it gives.

    I know I’m saving for the RF now, but my EF isn’t going anywhere and may just remain my favorite ever Canon lens.

    By the way, the EF 50/1.2 is so much better behaved on the EOS R than it was on any Canon DSLR.  Dual pixel AF and an essentially infinite number of focus points (not to mention the control ring adapter) is a game changer for this lens, transforming it from a temperamental beast into a well-behaved pussycat.

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  3. Konstantin Fedotchev

    Thank you, for review, Jay.  How is 50L EF  performance in terms of AF on R?  Any issues with AF on R? Best regards, Konst.

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  4. Matei Horvath

    Hi Jay! Cool review! I can attest that I rented the 50mm RF for a week and it’s absolutely gorgeous! While I was intrigued by the Canon R (I haven’t shot Canon in 12 years) I was not convinced (especially for pro wedding work). I’m not gonna just get the Canon R as a lens cap for the 50mm RF as one reviewer said…but I am looking forward to whatever Canon is gonna announce next.  (and Nikon, Sony, Panasonic hahaha). I shoot Nikon but I think their mirrorless proposition is even less convincing as both cameras and  lenses are prosumer grade imho.

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  5. Patrick Marcigliano

    Great review and yes to all of this. I just returned my RF 50 rental after having used it for the last 12 days, most of which was in studio.  It’s just stunning.  It almost never misses a shot, never missing focus.  And the sharpness down to 1.2 and 1.4 is hard to believe.  I kept thinking “i’ve got to dial this back or I’m going to miss this shot”…but then never having to.  I was sad to return it, because it’s the best lens I’ve ever used….that said, I’m still going to get the Sigma 50 Art…cuz the extra $1400….

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    • Jay Henington

      Thanks Patrick! Ya I agree. It’s the best lens I’ve ever used. I’ll be buying it when I have the $$$. It’s going to be hard to send it back. The EF 1.2 has been great to me though.

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  6. Kyle Stauffer

    Great review! Those sample images are stunning!

    I’d love to see a comparison with whatever 50 or 58mm Nikon comes out with like Jay Cassario did for the 85mm several years ago. Mostly for that “character” comparison that is many times overlooked! 

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    • Jay Henington

      That’s a good idea. I’ll try to do that when the Nikon is released. The hard thing about character is that you can’t easily quantify it with a number. It’s just totally subjective. But the Canon EF 50 has it in my opinion and the Sigma 50 doesn’t. But again, my totally subjective opinion. 

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