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  1. #1
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    Canon 50 1.4 v 85 1.8

    Ok Since having the 50 1.4 for a few days I've been curious how it stacks up against my previous favorite lens, the Canon EF 85 1.8 USM. At the time of the purchase the 85 1.8 was by far the best built and the best performing lens I had. Some have mentioned interest in a direct comparison and I had planned on doing so.

    In build quality, handling, and performance [when I use performance I mean, focus speed and accuracy] they are in my eyes and hands indistinguishable from one another. Please understand weight and focal lenght will and obviously do differ.

    Have a look see; side by side; 50 on the left 85 on the right [Sample images are with my 35 F2; he wanted to play with the big boys]









    On to the simple tests. No pretty bokeh, no pretty subject, just a jar of sauce. Focus point was centered on the horizontal middle line of the letter A in RAGU Please note that the exposures were exactly the same - Here the 50 rendered a better exposure and crisper colors. . . I'm not smart enough or motivated enough to do the research to explain why, the apertures were the same, so was the shutterspeeds, undercontrolled lighting, you'd think we'd have an identical exposure but the 85 was a wee bit darker and the colors were more dull. Test resolution [And I'll be using the word "World" for my analysis since most of the word sits directly above my focus point] is slightly better fromt he 50 1.4. Please understand to get as close of the same image as possible I had to move the tripod so please pardon the slight variation in the sauce jar - I eyed it as best as I could.



    2.8 - The 85 gets closer to the 50s color and exposure - still identical settings. But the text resolution of the 85 is just slightly less crisp than the 50 in my eyes - I am having a hard time deciding if this is due to the dullness of the colors, my think is that the 50s text may appear sharper only becaues the text pops more ie better contrast- I can't decide what do you guys think?



    F 4.0 - Again color reproduction and contrast is slightly better with the 50. Any difference in sharpness or is it just the color again?



    F5.6 - Even still the color production is better with the 50 - better contrast as well again - making the text appear a ltitle sharper to me.



    Well there are the batteries of test samples. . .

    Just from this alone I would have to say that I like the 50 here simply because it bested the 85 in saturation/contrast. I can't come to a conclusion on sharpness - I think sharpness is a function of contrast so here the 50 appears sharper but I bet if I add a little contrast to the 85 it may be idenctical to the 50, I didn't want to do any PP for these. . . Me thinks the 50 is more near L than the 85 simply based on color saturation/contrast. . . It really shows in the sauce images. . .

    Thanks for looking. . . Open to any and all ?s and comments as usual!
    Last edited by aparmley; 02-28-2006 at 01:51 PM.
    Nikon D90 | Sigma 10-20 HSM | DX 18-105 f3.5-5.6 VR | DX 55-200 VR | 35 f/2.0 D | 50 f/1.4 D | 85mm F/1.8 D | SB-800 x 3 | SU-800
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  2. #2
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    I agree with your assessments. I believe the 50 is a bit better in saturation/contrast and that perhaps makes it appear a wee bit sharper. I'm willing to bet the sharpness difference is just an illusion in this case, unless you received a hair under par copy of the lens (highly doubtful).

    Your test results are a little odd though in that they contradict what I hear about the 85...being better than the 50 under most factors. But then again, both your and my results of using the 50 contradict all those stories of softness wide open too!

    They both look like cracker lenses though...especially at this price point. I'm extremely happy with my 50 and this coming from a guy who plunked down over 2 grand on 2 L zooms. My standards are quite high.


    EDIT: Something I just thought of which may or may not be true regarding the exposures. Is it possible that the different focal lengths causing you to move the tripod, and not having the exact same FOV due to that, allow just a tad bit more light in on the 50mm shot, thus making it appear brighter? Unless you cropped both of those images, it looks like you were closer to your subject in the 50mm shots. Not by much, but possibly enough to vary the exposure just a tad.
    Last edited by cdifoto; 02-28-2006 at 12:38 PM.
    Ouch.

  3. #3
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    Sharpness looks almost identical to me (impressive, since I reckon the 85 is the best non-L lens Canon makes). The differences look to have more to do with the exposure than anything else IMHO. I'd be interested to see what a trip through "auto levels" would help even things out...

    Don, I originally had the same thoughts about the distance being a factor, but the light should be the same on the model...unless...Parm's flashlight batteries were dying...!
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  4. #4
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    To be honest, it would be a lot easier to assess lens sharpness with cropped photos instead of downscaled photos...
    Canon EOS 350D, Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 macro, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC EX, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L USM, Tokina AT-X124 Pro 12-24mm F4, Soligor 1.7x C/D4 DG Teleconvertor, Manfrotto 724B tripod, Canon Powershot S30

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by coldrain
    To be honest, it would be a lot easier to assess lens sharpness with cropped photos instead of downscaled photos...
    I understand. If you please click on the images - this will take you to where they are being linked from, you can then click on the image and it will open up larger, then you can select 'O' from the menu at the top to view the original size image. The images are 48in wide by 32in in height - the same dimensions that they are when they come out of the XT. Now each image is comprised of two images slightly cropped from the orginial, I cropped them at 24in by 32in so that when I combined them they had the same aspect ratio and resolution as one of the original images.

    I hope that by clicking on them and viewing them at their original sizes helps out a bit. Like I said, on my screen it looked like the 50 edged out the 85 - but this may only due to the contrast/saturation difference.

    Don - Jamie - I can't tell you why the images differ like they do - exact same light - this is controlled - 3 - 8 inch shop lights with GE clear 150 watt light bulbs being diffused through a bed sheet - I'll show you the set up tonight I'll take a photo at lunch and post it when I get back to work. No lights where changed, no bulbs burnt out the only thing that differs in these images is the distance from camera to product, I had to move it closer for the 50. The Custom white balance was used, it was the same setting for both, same ISO, same aperture, same shutter speed - on paper the images should be identical - So that leaves me to assume there is something in the lens - a different element, different coating in one of the lenses used. . . somethings different. I used my right eye on on both of them and my right thumb on the shutter release cable too. . . I got nothin different to offer you. . . [Shruggin shoulders] . . . these images were taken within 5 minutes of eachother tops. . . just long enough to fire off 4 shots with one lens, reposition the tripod, change lenses, eye it up and fire off 4 more. . . ? ? ? clueless. . .

    I love the 85 and the following statement should not take from that, but I will be 100% honest here - While the 85 was great when I first got it, the images didn't have as dramatic effect on me as the 50's did. I recall thinking the images looked a little dull on the color - perhaps not as tack sharp as it seemed others were getting - please don't read "they aren't sharp." It just they didn't appear as sharp as others had claimed - like change your life sharp or cut your eyes sharp. But they were still great images and better than any other lens I had at the time. Deciding which is sharper may be splitting hairs and I really don't care which one is sharper - They are both great lenses thus far and I'd recommend either one. If I had to choose one over the other I'd probably pick the 50 right now just because of the extra 1/2 stop [is that right? 1.4 1.6 1.8 2.0 sounds right . . . ] and color reproduction. . . But someone couldn't go wrong with either lens.

    But you're right Don, for the money, who can complain. . . Don the images are slightly cropped - I eye balled through the viewfinder so that he can of Ragu was the same size about 65-70% of the original frame I should think, then I cropped off the extra to make a uniform image size suitable for side by side comparison - so I may not have been precise on either the orginal comp or the crop. . . they are pretty close - like I said not perfect - either way I should think the exposure would not differ because of it.

    Jamie - You also mentioned something about exposure, after reading this does that thought change? I am really at a loss to why, unless explained by materials in the lens, these images are different.

    Thanks for looking guys.
    Last edited by aparmley; 02-28-2006 at 02:30 PM.
    Nikon D90 | Sigma 10-20 HSM | DX 18-105 f3.5-5.6 VR | DX 55-200 VR | 35 f/2.0 D | 50 f/1.4 D | 85mm F/1.8 D | SB-800 x 3 | SU-800
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by aparmley
    I understand. If you please click on the images - this will take you to where they are being linked from, you can then click on the image and it will open up larger, then you can select 'O' from the menu at the top to view the original size image. The images are 48in wide by 32in in height - the same dimensions that they are when they come out of the XT. Now each image is comprised of two images slightly cropped from the orginial, I cropped them at 24in by 32in so that when I combined them they had the same aspect ratio and resolution as one of the original images.

    I hope that by clicking on them and viewing them at their original sizes helps out a bit. Like I said, on my screen it looked like the 50 edged out the 85 - but this may only due to the contrast/saturation difference.

    Don - Jamie - I can't tell you why the images differ like they do - exact same light - this is controlled - 3 - 8 inch shop lights with GE clear 150 watt light bulbs being diffused through a bed sheet - I'll show you the set up tonight I'll take a photo at lunch and post it when I get back to work. No lights where changed, no bulbs burnt out the only thing that differs in these images is the distance from camera to product, I had to move it closer for the 50. The Custom white balance was used, it was the same setting for both, same ISO, same aperture, same shutter speed - on paper the images should be identical - So that leaves me to assume there is something in the lens - a different element, different coating in one of the lenses used. . . somethings different. I used my right eye on on both of them and my right thumb on the shutter release cable too. . . I got nothin different to offer you. . . [Shruggin shoulders] . . . these images were taken within 5 minutes of eachother tops. . . just long enough to fire off 4 shots with one lens, reposition the tripod, change lenses, eye it up and fire off 4 more. . . ? ? ? clueless. . .

    I love the 85 and the following statement should not take from that, but I will be 100% honest here - While the 85 was great when I first got it, the images didn't have as dramatic effect on me as the 50's did. I recall thinking the images looked a little dull on the color - perhaps not as tack sharp as it seemed others were getting - please don't read "they aren't sharp." It just they didn't appear as sharp as others had claimed - like change your life sharp or cut your eyes sharp. But they were still great images and better than any other lens I had at the time. Deciding which is sharper may be splitting hairs and I really don't care which one is sharper - They are both great lenses thus far and I'd recommend either one. If I had to choose one over the other I'd probably pick the 50 right now just because of the extra 1/2 stop [is that right? 1.4 1.6 1.8 2.0 sounds right . . . ] and color reproduction. . . But someone couldn't go wrong with either lens.

    But you're right Don, for the money, who can complain. . . Don the images are slightly cropped - I eye balled through the viewfinder so that he can of Ragu was the same size about 65-70% of the original frame I should think, then I cropped off the extra to make a uniform image size suitable for side by side comparison - so I may not have been precise on either the orginal comp or the crop. . . they are pretty close - like I said not perfect - either way I should think the exposure would not differ because of it.

    Jamie - You also mentioned something about exposure, after reading this does that thought change? I am really at a loss to why, unless explained by materials in the lens, these images are different.

    Thanks for looking guys.
    1/2 or 2/3 stops difference depending on what camera you use.

    It is probable that the exposure differences you are seeing are the result of differences in T-stops, not f-stops.

    T-stops disregard the mathematical formula of f-stops (ie; FL divided by diameter of iris) and instead measure relative brightness.
    Christian Wright; Dip Phot
    EOS 5D Mark III | EOS 600D | EOS-1V HS
    L: 14/2.8 II | 24/1.4 II | 35/1.4 | 50/1.2 | 85/1.2 II | 135/2 | 180/3.5 Macro | 200/2.8 II | 400/2.8 IS | 16-35/2.8 II | 24-105/4 IS | 70-200/2.8 IS II | 100-400/4.5-5.6 IS
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by cwphoto
    1/2 or 2/3 stops difference depending on what camera you use.

    It is probable that the exposure differences you are seeing are the result of differences in T-stops, not f-stops.

    T-stops disregard the mathematical formula of f-stops (ie; FL divided by diameter of iris) and instead measure relative brightness.
    Say what? I'll take shot in the dark - is this a function of say the distance between the front element and say the sensor?
    Nikon D90 | Sigma 10-20 HSM | DX 18-105 f3.5-5.6 VR | DX 55-200 VR | 35 f/2.0 D | 50 f/1.4 D | 85mm F/1.8 D | SB-800 x 3 | SU-800
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by aparmley
    Say what? I'll take shot in the dark - is this a function of say the distance between the front element and say the sensor?
    Not really it's more to do with the design of the lens. Some lenses are more efficient at passing light through than others. The f-stops are purely a mathematical formula, however T-stops more accurately measure the resultant brightness at the exit pupil.

    Some things which can widen the gap between f-stops and t-stops include poorly coated elements, or many elements in a complex lens. A little bit of light is lost whenever you go from air to glass or glass to air (ie; 95% may transmit but 5% may be reflected). This is where multi-coating helps a lot.
    Christian Wright; Dip Phot
    EOS 5D Mark III | EOS 600D | EOS-1V HS
    L: 14/2.8 II | 24/1.4 II | 35/1.4 | 50/1.2 | 85/1.2 II | 135/2 | 180/3.5 Macro | 200/2.8 II | 400/2.8 IS | 16-35/2.8 II | 24-105/4 IS | 70-200/2.8 IS II | 100-400/4.5-5.6 IS
    580EX II | EF 12 II | EF 25 II

  9. #9
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    So what your saying here is that a difference in materials used in the manufcaturing of the respected lenses could be the result in the lack of brightness shown on the 85's side ceteris paribus.

    I'll add this just looking at the physical features the 85 looks like it would suck in a lot more light than the 50.
    Last edited by aparmley; 02-28-2006 at 03:50 PM.
    Nikon D90 | Sigma 10-20 HSM | DX 18-105 f3.5-5.6 VR | DX 55-200 VR | 35 f/2.0 D | 50 f/1.4 D | 85mm F/1.8 D | SB-800 x 3 | SU-800
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  10. #10
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    Yep. Could be.
    Christian Wright; Dip Phot
    EOS 5D Mark III | EOS 600D | EOS-1V HS
    L: 14/2.8 II | 24/1.4 II | 35/1.4 | 50/1.2 | 85/1.2 II | 135/2 | 180/3.5 Macro | 200/2.8 II | 400/2.8 IS | 16-35/2.8 II | 24-105/4 IS | 70-200/2.8 IS II | 100-400/4.5-5.6 IS
    580EX II | EF 12 II | EF 25 II

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