Believe it or not, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens actually played a large role in my decision to become a professional photographer. We had just welcomed our first baby into the world, and almost overnight I became a beaming, proud father constantly taking photos of every movement my son made. When my sister came to meet him, she brought her Canon DSLR and her photos blew my mind! They were in a completely different league than those taken with my simple point-and-shoot camera. Her secret – her ability to shoot in low-light conditions and the background blur created by the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is the first lens I recommend to photographers who are just starting out and looking for a lens that will create images that seem to “pop” out of the background. This look is achieved with “prime” lenses, or lenses with a fixed focal length as opposed to a “zoom” lens. This lens features an f/1.8 aperture and simply put, this allows for two huge advantages over the “kit” lens that typically comes with an entry level DSLR camera. First, the lens can let in a lot more light than the kit lens can. This means that when shooting in darker conditions you will still be able to take bright, vibrant photos. Second, the low aperture gives the images a blurry background that seems to pop the subject out, or give the image a three dimensional effect. The lower the aperture’s number, the more light the lens can let in, and the blurrier the background becomes. For iPhone users, the Portrait Mode feature is modeled after this characteristic and is what gives your phone’s photos that extra “pop”.
Compared to professional grade lenses, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens’ images will appear soft when shot at f/1.8. That said, in the middle of the frame, the sharpness is certainly adequate and the image definitely usable. Toward the edge of the frame, the image will appear softer and not as sharp. For this reason, photographers should compose images with the subject in the center of the frame to achieve maximum sharpness. Stopping the lens down to f/2.2 or f/2.8 will also really sharpen the image up. While the background blur created by this lens is not as smooth or as blurred as that created by pro lenses, it is still a big step up from the kit lens and will definitely take your photos to the next level!
At about $125, this lens is well worth its price! The low aperture that creates the background blur will produce a higher quality look and feel to your images. The ability to shoot in low-light conditions and produce high-quality images is worth the price alone! At f/1.8, this lens will let in much more light than a f/2.8 zoom lens does and at a fraction of the cost. That’s a win-win in my book!
Despite its low price, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is a well built little lens. It features a metal mount which is an upgrade from the previous version. The barrel is plastic, lightweight, and the focus ring turns smoothly. The STM motor is quiet and accurate; and is especially accurate on the Canon EOS R. Given its small size, it is really fun to shoot with after using much larger and heavier lenses. This lens is my go-to lens for travel as it is so lightweight and easy to have mounted on the camera that I wear as we walk around. It also fits easily in carry-on bags when I don’t want to travel with my larger bag of professional gear.
For anyone wanting to test the waters of photography, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is the perfect place to start. The 50mm focal length is my favorite focal length and tends to be very comfortable for photographers just starting out. This lens is wonderful for headshots, full-body portraits, and for taking family photos. When beginning, I recommend setting the f-stop at f/2.2 for portraits which will produce sharp images while still providing a blurry background. It is a must-have lens for anyone wanting to take their photography to the next level!
For a detailed video review of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens, check out our YouTube review: