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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48 Comments

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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

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?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFJ96onYmu0&feature=player_embedded

http://overgaard.dk/leica-50mm-Noctilux-M-ASPH-f-095.html

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/llenuts/6451582541/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/llenuts/6451583109/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/llenuts/6451581991/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/llenuts/6586880551/

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

"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?

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

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.