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.

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47 Comments

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! 

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

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

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...

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?

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.

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

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

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

Except Helios 44 is f/2

hahahahahahahaha

Exactly.

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 :)

 For $11,000.00, nothing should.....

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

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

Ugly. 

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.

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...

This looks just like one one these with an adapter. 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Minolta-Rokkor-58mm-f-1-2-Lens-f1-2-/25115703741...

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