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RF50mm f/1.8 STM: 6 Reasons to Own This New Nifty Fifty

On 4 November 2020, Canon announced the RF50mm f/1.8 STM, the RF mount version of one of its most popular standard prime lenses. Providing image quality that is unbelievably high considering its wallet-friendly price, together with the beautiful, creamy bokeh that is the signature of a large aperture (“fast”) lens, this new lens is poised to continue the legacy of its EF mount counterpart as a much-loved go-to lens for a new generation of EOS R system users.

1. The beautiful bokeh you get at f/1.8
2. Improved image quality thanks to the RF mount
3. The versatile 50mm focal length
4. Compact portability
5. Semi macro shooting capabilities
6. Up to 7 stops’ image stabilisation with the EOS R5 and EOS R6

 

1. Beautiful, creamy f/1.8 bokeh

Head shot of lady by window

EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/1250 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto


To many, the biggest appeal of the RF50mm f/1.8 STM would probably the lovely, creamy bokeh made possible by its large f/1.8 aperture. Soft and natural-looking, such optical bokeh results in portraits that are more pleasing to the eye than the digitally processed bokeh on smartphones. Like its EF mount counterpart, the RF50mm f/1.8 STM is priced affordably, making it a good candidate for a first RF prime lens.

Tip: The wide maximum aperture is also excellent for indoor photography. See: 2 Simple Tips for Beautiful, Blur-free Indoor Portrait Photographs of Children

 

2. Improved image quality thanks to the RF mount

Architectual landscape

EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/2500 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 


Close-up of the area framed in red

The large mount diameter and short back focus distance afforded by the RF mount makes it possible to design lenses capable of higher image quality than before. Images shot at the maximum aperture on large aperture (“fast”) lenses tend to be a little soft, but those shot at the maximum f/1.8 on the RF50mm f/1.8 STM are sharp all the way to the corners. Aspherical lens elements were incorporated into the traditional lens construction for improved lens aberration correction.

 

3. The different looks you can create at 50mm

Environmental portrait

EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/250 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: Clowdy

 

Take a sheet of A3 size paper and hold it out in front of you with both arms straight. The area covered by the paper roughly corresponds to the angle of view covered by focal length 50mm. This angle of view makes it easy to tie together the things that you notice into the same composition.

The 70 to 100mm medium telephoto focal range is well known for its faithful depictions of shapes and dimensions. A little wider than that, focal length 50mm is known for its versatility. Move a little further back from your subject and shoot at an angle to get a wide angle lens-like perspective; or move closer and take a close-up to achieve a look that resembles what you would get on a medium telephoto lens. With just a bit of footwork, you will be surprised by just how much is possible even with just one focal length.

 

Close-up portrait with background bokeh lights
EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/125 sec)/ ISO 640/ WB: Auto

Also see:
Professional Composition Techniques (3): Making Good Use of Lenses

 

4. Compact, lightweight portability

The RF50mm f/1.8 STM is the smallest, lightest RF lens to date: a good choice for those who want to maximise portability. When paired with an EOS R system mirrorless camera, it results in a smaller and lighter combination than a full-frame EOS DSLR with the EF50mm f/1.8 STM! The extra mobility this affords is a plus not just for walking around and exploring places, but also for taking the fullest advantage of point 3.


Comparing weight and size


Comparing weight and size

 

5. You can shoot closer than the EF mount version

Close up of fruit tart

EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/30 sec, EV +1)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto/ At closest focusing distance (30cm)

 

Fruit tart with dish in background
Shot on EF50mm f/1.8 STM at closest focusing distance (35mm)

Still torn about upgrading from your trusty EF50mm f/1.8 STM? The RF50mm f/1.8 STM has a closest focusing distance of 30cm, which is 5cm closer than that on its EF mount counterpart. Combining this with the 0.25x maximum magnification lets you shoot even closer to food, products, small items, and other interesting objects you may encounter, unlocking more creative possibilities.

 

6. Handles low light scenes better: Up to 7 stops’ image stabilisation with the EOS R5/R6

Night portrait

In-Body IS On
EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/8, 1/4 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

 


In-Body IS Off

According to a well-known photography rule of thumb, to avoid camera shake, your shutter speed has to be 1/(focal length) seconds, i.e., 1/50 seconds for a 50mm lens.  On its own, the huge amount of light that its f/1.8 aperture allows in makes the RF50mm f/1.8 STM an excellent performer in low light scenes. When mounted onto the EOS R5 and EOS R6, the In-Body Image Stabilizer (In-Body IS) in both cameras offers up to 7 shutter speed stops’ image stabilisation, providing even better sharpness and stability for handheld night shots.

 

RF50mm f/1.8 STM

Key specifications
Lens construction: 6 elements in 5 groups
Closest focusing distance: 0.3m
Maximum magnification: 0.25x
No. of aperture blades: 7 (circular blades)
Filter diameter: 43mm
Size: φ69.2 x 40.5mm
Weight: approx. 160g

 

Lens construction

A: PMO aspherical lens


Lens Hood ES-65B (sold separately)

 

Sample images


Violinist portrait with bokeh lights

EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/250 sec)/ ISO 3200/ WB: Auto


Cafe portrait in natural light

EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/25 sec, EV +0.7)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto


Portrait with front and back bokeh lights

EOS R5/ RF50mm f/1.8 STM/ FL: 50mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.8, 1/1600 sec)/ ISO 6400/ WB: 4000K

 


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