Ultimate Lens Bokeh From The Canon 50mm F1.0

Ultimate Lens Bokeh From The Canon 50mm F1.0

Many photographers don't know it, but Canon used to produce a 50mm lens with a F1.0 aperture. Yes, one-point-zero. At the time, this was the fastest SLR lens in production. While it was being made the lens retailed for $4,210. In 2000 the lens production was stopped and was eventually replaced by the F1.2 version. Why? The lens actually wasn't very good... except for the bokeh. 

Basically the Canon 50mm 1.0 is considered a one trick pony. If you are willing to drop this much cash on a 50mm lens you better actually shoot at F:1.0. The second you begin to stop it down, you will notice that cheaper lenses like the 50mm 1.2, 1.4, and 1.8 are all much sharper. The fact that this lens was so expensive and so... soft, meant that it's life would be short but because of that, this lens has become a hit with collectors. A few years ago, good copies of this lens were selling for close to $8000. Today This lens still usually sells for more than it's retail price. You can actually buy one on eBay right now for $5500.

One of our readers Bryan Soderlind was lucky enough to find this lens in perfect condition for just $3000. He did what any good photographer would do and went out and shot tons of gorgeous shots at F:1.0 for us all to enjoy. As you will notice, the lens isn't very sharp but keep in mind that the depth of field is probably less than a millimeter and although you normally pay more for your lens to be sharp, in the case of the Canon 50mm 1.0, you are actually paying extra for the blurry bokeh.

So what do you think? Is this lens worth the price? To see more of Bryan's images with this lens and read about his story head over to his blog.

Log in or register to post comments


Kyle Sanders's picture

These have a similar look to the Canon 50mm f/0.95 TV and Leica thread lens, that is to say the out of focus areas are very prominent! 

L S's picture

Except the bokeh looks far too nervous and displeasing with this lens. The Leica has flawless bokeh.

Gene Smirnov's picture

This lens make 50 1.2 look like a bargain.

Lee Morris's picture

I wish we could see these exact shots also taken with the 1.2 version. I wonder if there is a significant difference. 

 Probably not significant, but the little extra always costs a lot.

Michael Herb's picture

Looks more like a cheap trick then anything. However, in the hands of someone who took the time to really use the lens for more than just snap shots, i'm sure the creative potential is there. Definitely would stay in the bag more than on the camera. I'll drop that kind of cash on a more useful peace of gear. 

Kyle Sanders's picture

If I remember correctly, Sue Bryce did a video shoot with this lens that might fit your bill. She was going for less of the bokeh effect and more for the razor thin depth of field on pianos keyboards and stuff like that.

Michael Herb's picture

Looks more like a cheap trick then anything. However, in the hands of someone who took the time to really use the lens for more than just snap shots, i'm sure the creative potential is there. Definitely would stay in the bag more than on the camera. I'll drop that kind of cash on a more useful peace of gear. 

joshua barnett's picture

Oh man, these look fantastic.

pireze's picture

Don't see how these are "ultimate".  f/0.95 lenses are fairly common today. Would be more impressed by an f/0.7 a la Stanley Kubrick. Also, while there isn't really objective judgement for bokeh, I do prefer the softer edges on the circles of confusion as produced by the 135mm STF lens.

Vladimir's picture

Excuse me, did you say f/0.95 lenses are fairly common?? :) Name 5 please...

L S's picture

Both the Leia and micro fourth thirds have options for f 0.95 lenses made today, not some legacy product. I don't know if that is common to you, but more common than f 1.0 lenses which have long been surpassed. But more importantly, both these 0.95 lenses have circular halos in their bokeh which is far more pleasing that the strange weird shape this lens produces...

Albi Kl's picture

Someone correct me if I am wrong but does depth of field not increase the further away one is from their subject? If so then having such a wide aperture would allow one to achieve a shallow depth of field for a distant subject. Is it not for that reason (as well as bokeh) that make these lenses worth the asking price?

Mako Koiwai's picture

Depth of field increases radically with distance. At 10' you would have about 8" of DoF wide open, at 284' everything would be in focus from 142' to Infinity ... that's what's called the Hyperfocal distance. But wide open the fine detail in wider shots would REALLY show off how relatively poor resolution is. Things like grass, or building details would be quite soft.

Christian Elvers's picture

My Sigma 85 f1,4 does the same...:-)

Emil Nyström's picture

I was just going to say the bookeh lookes alot like Sigmas

David Woollatt's picture

Nice, just prefer the radial bokeh of the Hellios 44, that's an amazing look at 1.4

Petr Brodík's picture

Except Helios 44 is f/2

Stephen's picture


L S's picture


Sander Martijn's picture

The bokeh is nice but the flare is out of control. Some might like this "effect" but I think it ruins the photos. Distortion is pretty noticeable for a 50mm prime too.

As I've said before, nothing beats the Noctilux :)

apercep's picture

 For $11,000.00, nothing should.....

Kyle Sanders's picture

Do you think SLR Magic's "hyperprime" 50mm T0.95 M will fair better than the Voigtlander fast 50?

Aputure's picture

The pictures are interesting, but I find the lights in the background are too much. Some shots with different backgrounds would be nice. Also the shape of the bokeh seems a little odd. I'd probably prefer the 1.2 to this. 

Jorge Moro's picture

Crap.  And the bokeh is hideous

John Godwin's picture


Mike Thacker's picture

Indeed this lens isn't very good. Is it me or does the color and contrast seem to suck too. I'll keep my Sigma 50 and 85mm 1.4s and $1500 over ths guys bargain $3000 f1.0.

M K's picture

so. very. soft. actually I can't tell if most of it is just OOF at F1.0 or that it's just soft everywhere...

Keith Bradshaw's picture

This looks just like one one these with an adapter. 


Gunnar Rathbun's picture

lensrentals.com is selling one for 3,400 too right now! http://www.lensrentals.com/buy/canon/canon-50mm-f1.0l-serial-number-10473
but i actually like the softness.. combined with the HUGE bokeh it gives an ultra dreamy effect i think. kinda like the 135 with the soft focus feature

calebpike's picture

Please. Please. PLEASE nobody tell Phillip Bloom about this lens...

Michael Miller's picture

I would not even consider this lens when the much better Leica 50mm f.095 Noctilux exists. F1.0 HA! THAT'S THE BEST YOU CAN DO CANON?



kotaro_14's picture

No, Canon can make a f/0.95, remember the 50mm f/0.95 "Dream lens" that is even well-regarded by Leica users? There is a huge difference between making auto-focus and manual-focus lenses. Nikon can't even make a f/1.2 autofocus lens, that's why they're still selling their 50mm f/1.2 manual lens.

Gagan Dhiman's picture

Should have read your comment before I replied to the comment above. Exactly my point.

Gagan Dhiman's picture

Canon bet Leica with a canon 50mm f/0.95 in 60s so yeah canon can do better. Canon 50mm f/0.96 dream lens.

I picked up a Meyer Optic 50 1.8 that makes nice lively bokeh... $20 in an antique store on excellent condition... 

Marcos Pellegrini's picture

this lens is for 50mm lovers.....like me

Jr Miller's picture

Perfect lens for current trends in portraiture..ultra thin DOF and dreamy processing. You can do 99% of that with this lens..one trick pony indeed tho. My brother had a mid 80"s Vette'..great in a straight line but forget taking corners at speed.

Chris Popely's picture

Crap, the DoF is far, far too shallow. All of the images are just too soft. 

Josh Stunell's picture

I picked up a mint copy from eBay around this time last year. It's a pretty special lens. Quite difficult to master, but produces some very unique results.Here are some comparison shots with other Canon 50mm's and also next to the 85Lmk2, and a shot exhibiting the rainbows created by a light source in the frame.





Joseph Teeter's picture

Ok, Fstoppers and PetaPixel's headlines are looking a little too similar lately, take this article for example. Both sites have the same story on the same day, and to top it off they both credit the story to "One of their readers" who happens to be the same person!

Andres Trujillo's picture

This lens makes (judging by the example shots) everybody look like a hipster... I wouldn't do that to my friends

Przemek Czaicki's picture

"As you will notice, the lens isn’t very sharp but keep in mind that the depth of field is probably less than a millimeter (...)"
And you calculated that ignoring all rules of physics?

drstiles1's picture

When the subject image lacks appropriate sharpness to contrast with the bokeh what good is it. Maybe more practice is in order.

L S's picture

The DOF is really shallow but the bokeh quality is HORRIBLE. Note all the nervous double or triple outlines in both the FG and BG elements, this makes the bokeh look very nervous and displeasing. Then the blur light circles show a really distracting geometric shape clipping the circles, possible the mount contacts getting in the way (proving the canon mount is too small for this lens). In modern lenses, you often get the cat's eye effect, this is unavoidable, but with this lens you get not just a nervous look to the bokeh but this weird geometric shape that looks like slicing a circle in quarters then taking a notch out.... hideous.
If you want a truly fast lens with lovely bokeh, which is not nixed by lens mount contacts, consider instead the beautiful Leica 50mm f 0.95. More importantly, it doesn't suffer from the double or triple line bokeh this lens is plagued by.
So this goes to show why canon stopped making them: creating a shallow DOF is easy, creating great pleasing bokeh is a tall order.

Johannes Lietz's picture

Seriously: Get a cheap Lensbaby instead.