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Yongnuo At It Again, Selling Clones of Canon 50mm f/1.8

By Anthony Thurston on December 17th 2014

Yongnuo is a bit of an enigma to me. On one hand, I absolutely love their speedlights and radio triggers for their overall reliability and very low costs. But, on the other hand, you have things like the Yongnuo 50mm F/1.4, an obvious clone of the Canon 50mm f/1.4.



It seems that our favorite Chinese brand is at it again; instead, this time, they are knocking off the Canon 50mm F/1.8. It looks like the Canon (minus the branding, of course), in every way. What is worse, they are selling it on Amazon for $69, just a little over half the price of the Canon model.

Yongnuo YN50mm F/1.8 Lens ‘Features’

  • Auto Focus or Manual
  • 2 Inches in Length
  • 0.15 Magnification
  • 46 Degree Maximum Angle of View
  • 6 Elements in 5 Groups
  • Accepts 52mm Filters
  • View-angle Coverate Diagonal 46 Degree
  • Vertical 27 Degree
  • Horizontal 40 Degree
  • Lens Structure 5 sets, 6 pieces
  • Minimum Aperture F/22
  • Minimum Focusing Distance 0.45m
  • Maximum Magnification and Sight Range 0.15X / 160x240mm ( when the distance is 0.45m )
  • Filter Diameter / Auantity Available 52mm / 1
  • Maximum Diameter and Length 73*55mm


Personally, I think it is funny that they chose the ONE super affordable Canon lens to knock off. I mean, really, why not rip off a nicer lens, something people can’t just run to the local shop and find for $100. Baby steps, I guess.

I wonder how long until Canon gets this shut down. I can’t imagine it would take much to prove these are virtually identical products, or at the very least that the Yongnuo is breaching a Canon lens patent. Then again, Chinese courts are notorious for siding with Chinese companies…

[via Photo Rumors]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jesper Ek

    copying the copier…

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  2. Dave Smith

    This may be just a trial balloon for Yongnuo. Test the market , see how it fairs then move onto other lenses.

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  3. Robert Moura

    Glass ??

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  4. Pye

    Chinese companies are all about knock-offs and clones. But, what makes this so hilarious is the fact that they chose to copy the cheapest lens possible. Typically, with counterfeit and copies, isn’t it more worthwhile to copy “high end” items? Counterfeit Rolex, counterfeit Louis Vuitton bag… Not counterfeit Timex, or counterfeit Mossimo t-shirt.

    But, maybe they are just taking a stab at making optics starting with the lowest bar possible. Who knows. Either way, it’s just one of those things that makes you go “huh?”

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    • adam sanford

      Again, Pye, the IP is public and expired. This is a business development effort — I see this lens not as a cash cow but a guinea pig to grow the business’ capabilities for the future. Yongnuo is using a very simple lens to learn how to spec, source, build, test, distribute, commercialize and [cough] support a lens business.

      Once they pull this off, they’ll clone something moderately harder, like a crop zoom or a lens with USM. And if you look at Canon’s aging lens portfolio, there are a ton of ~20y old primes (presumably past patent coverage) that they could snap up: imagine the 28 f/1.8, 50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8, 100mm f/2 at half price…

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  5. Greg Silver

    I once saw a video of the process in making a Canon lens and was very impressed. I can only assume these cheaper knock offs spent most of their time and energy to make them ‘look’ like the original and not actually perform like the official branded lens. Not to say the imagery is terrible at all – I would just have reservation buying a knock off of any lens. I just don’t have the faith in copycats.

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    • robert s

      this is their first lens and for half the price tag, I wouldnt expect it to be a stellar performer. even the canon lens isnt that good till f/2.5.

      but sigma tamron and tokina are killing it with some of their new lenses.

      2015 will be a year dominated by 3rd party MFR. economy is bad and people want worth for their money. every ART lens released performs better than the canon/nikon equivalent.

      I have hopes for Tamrons 15-30 2.8 VC and by what was said in a different article here theyre also supposed to release two primes. I also believe these will be superior to canon/nikons version. Im hoping a 50 and 85 1.4

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    • Greg Silver

      I agree with you Robert. The Sigma and Tamron have some great lenses. I wouldn’t include them in the group that sell knock offs or call them copy cats. I think they’ve developed their products and brought some innovation to the industry.

      But companies like Yongnuo who design a product to look ‘EXACTLY’ like the Canon product with same fonts and look make me a little leery which makes me wonder why they need to do that? Can’t they develop their own product. Seems like a knockoff to me.

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    • robert s

      clones? you didnt see these 2, did you?

      the yongnuo are killing it in sales and while Shanny are new, there is a lot of interest in their gear. btw, one of the owners was head development engineer for yongnuo flashes who left and started SHanny. dumb name, killer looking products. Im waiting for bugs to show before I sell my 4 yongnuo flashes and get Shanny. its just too early. the day Shanny was on flashhavocs website, they dropped the YN568 flash from $175 to $120 to compete with Shanny. for $120 you get a killer flash with elite specs that has it all and for only $120. I can buy 5 for the price of one canon. wheres the proportion?

      now tell me those arent clones..especially the Shanny! HAHA.

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    • sakari Nylund


      So Shanny flash is copy of copy of Canon flash?

      Canon’s price tag consists of research and ‘professional market’ multiplier.

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    • adam sanford

      Canon overprices their flashes, certainly, but knockoffs like Yongnuo leave out entire features in their cloning. The key stuff is there, but caveat emptor if you don’t research what you will / won’t be getting before you buy it.

      At least for flashes, this seems to be a pretty thorough feature-based close inspection of the Canon 600EX-RT (and hotshoe transmitter) vs. it’s replacement:

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    • robert s

      absolutely canons flashes are overpriced. nikons even more so. at least with canons 600EX you get wireless triggering for $50 less than nikons SB910.

      the chinese flashes give you all you really need though. there are tons of features my D3 and D3s have that I never use as well. if one needs them, get OEM, otherwise the 3rd party will suit 90% of the people. im all for getting worth for my money and just love these 3rd party flashes.

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  6. sakari Nylund

    I can see how their next-to-nothing costing manual flashes are liked product. Or their speedlite ripoff at 1/3rds the price of canon’s model.

    I don’t get how this marginally cheaper version of “the cheapest lens” would be interesting in any way.

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    • robert s

      I think theyre just going in slowly with this lens. I have a feeling other lenses will follow. theyre flashes and slaves are killer. they steal a huge chunk from OEM in flash sales. many amateurs looking to buy their first flash can buy the 565 for $100 vs $250 for the 430EXII. and pros buy tons of the 560III and their slaves as well. theyre making a killing. I have 4 of their flashes. 1- 565 1-568 2- 560III. im selling my 565/568 and getting 3 new SHanny flashes that offer more for even less.

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    • adam sanford

      This lens is batting practice for Yongnuo, nothing more. This will work, and then they will do it again with something harder to pull off.

      This is how a new RokiBowYang, Sigma, or Tamron gets started.

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    • sakari Nylund

      Yeah, I agree. Would definitely want to see some other lenses made by yongnuo. 50mm 1.8 is probably one of the simplest AF lens on the market currently.

      Im not sure if there’s much market for this YN lens however. It seems to be only marginally cheaper than Canon.

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    • Barry Cunningham

      I never even really considered the Canon f/1.8 because it was so cheaply built and had such a high failure rate reported on its Amazon reviews. I went straight to the f/1.4 because it a more metal in it and might survive more than 2 years. I guess I’m just not the target demographic for this lens. But, I get it. There is a large demographic that is not willing to pay a little more for quality, but is willing to pay for cheap, over and over again.

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  7. adam sanford

    A few thoughts:

    1) Patents expire (After 14 – 20 yrs depending on the type, country, etc.), and this particular lens is 24 years old. If this particular lens was patent protected (I presume but do not know), not only is Yongnuo fair game to clone it, Canon has already published the optical formula for them.

    2) This will not be the last lens Yongnuo clones. Not remotely.

    3) I work in medical devices, and I’ve seen “high-cost manufacturing countries” products cloned in “low-cost manufacturing countries” for another company before (China is not the only area that does this, btw, so let’s not pick on them). The outer appearance of the product was identical, but when these products are torn-down, the internals are night and day different. So for this lens, let’s see the initial quality (in tests) and then let’s see how well the mount, AF, switches, etc. work over time. I’m going to speculate and peg the overall quality to be somewhere between “be gentle and patient with it and it will work fine” and “it’s a flaming house of cards in a windstorm”.

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  8. Bill Bentley

    I think the Chinese are working on a way to reverse engineer the entire universe as we type. :-)

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  9. John Witkowski

    Here is test shots I took with the the Yongnuo 50mm 1.8 lens.

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    • John Witkowski

      YONGNUO 50mm 1.8 lens for Canon cameras. Initial thoughts so far; it seems to be build just a tad bit better then canons 50mm 1.8, not by much. Mount uses screws instead of canons plastic lock tabs. Quick test shots seem to have accurate color and contrast. Not as sharp as the 40mm 2.8 it is very soft at 1.8 and gets better around f4 – f5. Ok boken. Motor noise is similar to the canon 50 1.8. Focusing is ok not to bad to get locked in. With that said It does not work in liveview with my t5i. It has trouble focusing and when it finally does come in focus the camera will not shoot. I noticed if it is in live view with the lens on AF it will not fire. If I change the lens to MF in live view it works. Using the viewfinder the lens works fine.

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    • Scott Pacaldo

      Hey, John! Have you tried doing a macro on this? Interesting to see if the quality is good if the lens is reversed and used for macro.

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  10. Austin Swenson

    Meh, the market always yields what it will yield for this stuff, I don’t think it will take too much out of the Canon market unless image quality is superb over the Canon version

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yeah, I am not too worried about them stealing Canon’s market share here. More concerned for the people who don’t know better and buy this and get crappy results. (though in fairness I haven’t tested it, maybe it isn’t a bad lens.)

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    • robert s

      I think theyre just testing the waters in the optics pool. its not this lens that steals their sales, its the flashes and slaves that are eating a huge chunk of canons flash sales. same with nikon sony and other MFR. they have a 600EX clone and slave and other flashes and slaves that simply do the job well. lets add the other flash MFR as well.
      newcomer SHanny is also releasing some killer flashes for cheap. basically 3rd party MFR for everything are eating a huge amount of sales from the OEM. grips flashes, lenses batteries.

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  11. Rieshawn Williams

    This is interesting. The lens is already pretty cheap!

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