Canon gear advice

A 50mm wide aperture lens is a kit essential. The Canon 1.8 is so cheap that it would be better as part of a set than the standard 17-50mm. It is most DSLR users' introduction to bokeh and can be addictive. For most photographers, the €1000+ 50mm 1.2 L lens is completely out of reach and while there are cheaper choices from other makers, every Canon photographer has to take the 50mm f1.4 which you can get around €200 used on eBay.

It is great in a lot of ways: wide open, relatively high number of aperture blades so the bokeh highlights are not like squished pentagons (like the 1.8), full time manual override, distance scale on the top, and it's light and did well on any camera.

 But all of this comes with a dark side: The one major construction defect this lens has is the front focus ring that extends when you focus something up close is so weak, just a little pressure in a bag is enough to push it out of shape. 

This happened to mine over 2 years ago. It got slightly crushed then refused to work. I thought I had destroyed it for good so invested in a Canon 85mm 1.8 instead. But I always missed the close focusing ability of the 50mm. I searched around on YouTube and found a few repair videos. I followed the instructions, took my lens apart, gently coaxed the metal back to shape and then reassembled the lens. When I put it back on my camera, the focus send to work but when taking a shot an error came up saying something about the lens connection. I figured I had probably broken one of the delicate data cables inside the lens so back in the cupboard it went for another year.

 I was considering selling some old equipment recently and found the lens in the cupboard looking dusty. I got a bit nostalgic and wondered if I had the skill to finally fix the lens (or pay somebody else to), so I watched the videos on YouTube again and opened up the lens. It didn't take me long to spot that one of the data cables want sitting completely in the socket! I reassembleded the lens and to my relief and surprise, it started working again!! So this year I'm going to get re-acquainted with my nifty fifty but a word to the wise:

 Always store this lens with the focus set to infinity. This reduces the chance of going through what me and many other Canon 50 1.4 owners have already been through!


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Oh my...lens!

I have been researching about a particular retro lens for a few years now and thanks to the advent of modern mirror less DSLRs made by the likes of Sony, the demand for it (and the price) has been on the rise for the past few years.

the Canon 50mm 0.95 dream lens dividing opinions and relationships for the last 50 years

the Canon 50mm 0.95 dream lens dividing opinions and relationships for the last 50 years

The Canon 50mm f0.95 lens is a one of a kind as the first mass produced lens to beat f1.0 from what I have read and Canon haven't tried to repeat since so it has the same heritage as ridiculously fuel-guzzling American muscle cars of the same era. It's a mighty chunk of glass that can suck light in better than most modern optics except maybe a leica or two but the thing that makes it loved and hated about as much as Marmite is its look in the photos it produces. It has a smooth bokeh that I personally find as entrancing as thickly spread Marmite on my toast for breakfast and part of its appeal for me is that it isn't a perfect lens. It hasn't benefited from digital construction or the latest computer tech to make it transmit light is cleanly as a modern optic but it does have soul and fortunately it isn't radioactive unlike some other lenses of its generation. Any imperfections make it what it is and whenever I see any images by this Canon dream lens, I can't help but want to make similar images too.

So when I saw this lens up for sale at a relatively cheap buy it now price on a net auction site I knew I had to risk it. I figured even if it was scratched or mouldy I could sell it on without a loss as I have seen even cracked copies of this lens go for a high price. (I owe a couple of people for helping me get this lens as it's been sitting in Japan waiting me to check it out for a few weeks and had to persuade my partner it would make it's money back and more when sold)... And the wait was totally worth it!

It's the cleanest lens I have ever seen second hand with not even a scratch and it's over 50 years old. The camera sold with it was labeled as just an extra but it's also as perfect and untouched a camera as could be expected. Now I just need to put some film through it to see if it works but I'm super cautious of touching either of them let alone taking them outside.

The lens is numbered 10007 which I'm sure appeals to Bond fans but according to my research means it's also the 7th lens ever made on the production line and the lowest number I could find (even the lens featured in the original catalogue is numbered higher). So now I'm stuck with a tough decision. I hoped this lens could be an investment that I wouldn't mind selling on after a few months use, but now I can't see myself parting with it at all as I will never find another like it again... BUT How am I going to explain that to the better half?

Lost in the nth dimension part 3

Continuing on from the last post, what other factors can influence lens buying choice?


I own a few cameras and some are quite heavy. You only need to feel a trapped nerve a couple of times to wish you had lighter equipment. If you go hiking with your camera then a light lens or a zoom that allows you to reduce the size of your kit is essential. Likewise, the bigger or longer the length of lens you buy, the more likely you will need to buy a bigger camera bag too! Lighter lenses are also easier to hold without shaking as much. The heavier the lens, the sooner fatigue can kick in which will make photography a drag while also reducing the number of good shots you can achieve. It's a good idea to hold one in a shop for a while to see how it feels.


Cheaper lenses are often made of plastic while more expensive ones are made of metal. Metal lenses are more durable but heavier. Feel the weight of them in a shop before you buy to see if they feel comfortable for you. Although you may never need to care about the internal construction of a lens, there are certain things to look out for. E.g. you can check if the rear of the lens is made of plastic or metal. If the parts that attach to your camera are plastic, they may wear faster over time. You can turn the focus and zoom ring and make sure it feels smooth and not too loose. If you give the lens a gentle shake, listen out for any loose parts. You can also check out internet forums to see if the lens you like has any common failures. I bought a cheap Canon EFS 55-250mm lens a few years back that turned out to have a design issue as repeated zooming caused the auto focus to fail due to a particular cable wearing out. If I had found this out before buying, I would have got a different lens.

Some lenses claim to have better dust or moisture resistance, but it is mostly marketing jargon, don't expect any lens to work as well once you have moisture in it and certainly don't try dunking one in the sea! Treat any lens well and it should last many years.

Filter size

My biggest pet peeve is that every single lens I own has a different front legs element size so I can't share filters between them. When you are first starting out or on a really tight budget you can consider finding a lens that is the same diameter as any lens you already own to save cash when it comes to sharing filters. Filters have an issue of their own in that unless you spend a lot of money, a bad UV filter can make your photos less sharp while also cutting the light that gets through. I only have a filter regularly installed on my 24-105 f4 lens as I use it the most. I use a B+W UV haze mrc nano filter which is the only filter I found so far that has a minimal effect on photos and create no colour cast unlike cheap filters.

 Front element

Does the front of the lens move forward or rotate when zooming or focusing? The best lenses are often internal focusing so the lens doesn't get bigger as you zoom or focus. This means you always know how far you lens is from your subject or any obstacles that could get in the way or damage your lens. This might not be so important for telephoto lenses when bird watching but it's essential when doing macro photography. Having a non-rotating front element means you can use filters (e.g. a polariser or graduated ND filter) you can't use easily if the lens rotates.

Full time manual

As a beginner you may rely on auto focus all the time, but as you progress, taking photos in the dark or macros of objects up close may mean you need manual focus more and more. Cheap lenses can't cope with the photographer touching the focus ring if the lens is set to autofocus. I'm sure it can even ruin the lens as it strips gears of burns out the focus motor. I always prefer lenses that allow for full time manual focus override because if the camera won't focus on the spot you want, you can just tweak the focus without flipping switches or even removing your eye from the camera.


Some third party manufacturers like Sigma include more with a lens than the big names; Canon or Nikon. For example, I bought a Sigma 120-400 lens which came with a lens hood, tripod mount and padded case. For those on a budget, buying a lens with these accessories can make for a much better deal as some lenses show very little difference in quality to the more expensive brands.


Nowadays, some lenses have USB ports to allow you to update their firmware and improve camera compatibility and autofocus accuracy.  Third party lens makers may have a more difficult time making sure their lenses work with the camera manufacturers' latest camera models. And don't expect any product will have support indefinitely, so check online to see if your camera and lens combination doesn't have any known problems before you buy!