April 8, 2020

Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM | Lens Review

Hands down, the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens is the best lens I have ever used!  In the wedding photography industry, it is imperative that we provide the highest quality images possible, and this lens delivers just that to our well-deserving couples!

As long as I have been a wedding and portrait photographer, the 50mm focal range has been my favorite. I started out with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 but felt the bokeh wasn’t smooth enough.  I then upgraded to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4.  Unfortunately, the AF failed multiple times and after going through multiple copies, I upgraded to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2. Though I liked the bokeh better, it was never sharp enough for me, especially when shooting at f/1.2. Thus, I decided to try out the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens.  Though its images were certainly sharp, the bokeh pattern seemed to “ray” out from the subject rather than swirl around them. I felt that the images seemed to be missing the “pop” and “wow” factor. For me, the two most important factors when purchasing a prime lens are bokeh and sharpness, so when Canon announced their RF 50mm f/1.2, I knew it would not disappoint.  The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 is by far my favorite lens, and for a wedding and portrait photographer, nearly perfect in every regard. 


As any prime lens photographer would say, it’s all about the bokeh. Bokeh is a term used to describe background blur, and it is the primary reason I shoot with prime lenses. I want my photos to have a dreamy, romantic look that pulls the focus to the people in the photo. The background, and any other distractions in the photo, seem to disappear and the eye is drawn directly to the subject.  Most of the time, I shoot at f/1.2 and the bokeh is perfect, but even when stopping down to f/2, the bokeh still looks beautiful as the lens has 10 aperture blades. There are many different characteristics of bokeh, too many to cover in this review, but I will say that the bokeh created by the Canon RF 50 mm f/1.2 is more than worth its’ price tag. Creamy and smooth all the way to the corners, its’ bokeh creates a beautiful “wrap around” of the subject. I absolutely LOVE the bokeh of this lens!


While this lens is larger than many 50mm lenses, its’ image quality is worth the trade-off for its’ bulk. It is about the same size as the EF 85mm f/1.4 IS and fits in the palm of my hand nicely making its’ ease of use sustainable for long hours on wedding days.  I have also come to love the plastic material that the lens is made from as it is lighter weight and yet very durable.  When shooting in Minnesota’s cold seasons, it also doesn’t make my hands as cold as the metal lenses do. I shoot primarily with the hood on which is long enough that it shades the lens well from unwanted flare and ghosting. Because of the way that I hold my lens when I shoot, I do wish the control ring was closer to the camera body.  When I adapt my EF lenses with the Control Ring Mount Adapter, the control ring is right up against the camera body where it is easier to change the dial. I have my control ring set to ISO. The one thing that I hope Canon will solve with the Canon EOS R5 is that if I rotate the control ring too far it goes down to Auto ISO which can be frustrating. All that said, overall, I love the build. 


This lens is by far the sharpest lens I have ever used – even at f/1.2. There is no need to stop the lens down to improve image quality. Subjects seem to leap off the page because they are razor sharp, yet the foreground and background are beautifully blurred. F/1.2 is even sharp all the way to the corners. This is critical when photographing wedding parties as you want to ensure those who are standing at the edges of the frame are as sharp as those in the center.  


Quick and accurate, combined with the Canon EOS R’s Eye AF, this lens simply doesn’t miss on the focus. Gone are the days where I had to take multiple photos, refocusing each time to make sure at least one would hit. When capturing bridal portraits now, I know with complete confidence, the eye will be in focus. 


At the time of writing this review, this lens retails for $2,299, and though this is more than any other Canon 50mm, it is completely justified. Should anything happen to my first copy, I would not hesitate to buy a second copy. For photographers just starting out, it is understandable that this lens may be out of reach for a time.  And yet, as businesses grow, and after implementing a full frame body, I highly recommend this lens as a go-to for a first large investment. The image quality is worth the price and beyond! 


If I was limited to one focal length, it would be a 50mm. If I could only have one 50mm lens, it would be the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L lens. Fast autofocus, crazy sharp, and beautiful background blur, make it the best out there.  A huge shout out to Canon for this incredible lens!  I highly recommend this lens to any professional wedding or portrait photographer looking to capture stunning, high quality images!

For a detailed video review of the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L lens, check out our YouTube review: