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I have a Canon EOS Rebel T5i/700D body, an EF-S 18-55 wide angle lens, a 70-300mm telephoto lens, and the kit lens that came with the body.

I am still building my lens collection and am looking for something of a walk-around lens, I'd also like it to double as something fairly fast for low light. Sharpness is key for this one. Because of this my first thought was a prime lens, generally build quality is very important to me so the 50mm f/1.8 "nifty 50" is out. I also prefer EF glass, so I don't have to reacquire my lenses again when/if I decide to go full sized.

All that said, I have it down to two lenses - the EF 50mm f1.4 and the EF 40mm f2.8. What lens would you suggest in my case?

I like the light weight and small size of the 40mm but the 50mm should about mimic an 85mm portrait lens on my APS-C camera.

closed as primarily opinion-based by mattdm, Itai, inkista, John Cavan Mar 1 '17 at 4:26

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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None of these lenses are going to approach L series lenses in terms of build quality and the ability to take punishment and just keep working as they should. There are reasons they offer near the same optical quality at 1/5 to 1/15 the price of an "L" prime lens.

I've had an EF 50mm f/1.8 II "nifty fifty" since 1997 or so and it still works fine for what it is. I used it quite a bit for about the first decade or so I owned it. Most of the "falling apart" stories are from folks who didn't take proper care to protect it from damage or try to force manual focus when the AF motor is connected to the focus ring. That being said, it is more fragile than most of its counterparts. But treated properly it is a perfectly usable AF lens.

Where it falls short is in the usability of the manual focus. There is no true focus ring, you must turn the very front of the barrel to manually focus it, and care must be taken lest your fingers wind up in the field of view! Since it does not have Full Time Manual Focus, one must also be sure to slide the AF/M to M (for Manual) before moving the focus ring manually. Attempting to force the ring to move when the AF motor is engaged can damage the gearing or the focus motor, even when the lens is not mounted on a camera. There are plenty of warnings regarding this in the documentation supplied with the lens.

I use an EF 50mm f/1.4 a lot now. In addition to the wider maximum aperture, it offers Full Time Manual Focus and has a usable AF ring. It is a much better lens, in my opinion, than the EF 50mm f/1.8 II. Better build quality, a faster, quieter, more precise micro-USM focus motor, a truly usable manual focus ring, and better bokeh from the 8 blade aperture (compared to the harsh bokeh from the 5 bladed f/1.8 at any aperture other than wide open) are some of the reasons why I recommend the EF 50mm f/1.4 over the f/1.8 II. I own both of them. I carried the f/1.8 version around in my bag for many years and used it somewhat frequently. Since upgrading to the f/1.4 I have found I pull it out more often due to the increased usability of the faster focus and the usable manual focus ring. The known mechanical weakness of the focus collar can be well managed by remembering to park the focus setting at ∞ when not actively shooting with the lens. When the barrel of the focus mechanism is fully retracted in that position it is not subject to the deformation that a drop or hard bump can do to it when the focusing barrel is extended. If the focus collar helicoids do get bent, it is a fairly easy fix for the DIY type.

Having said all of that, if I were looking for an economical 50mm prime today I would carefully consider the new EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. It is just as good optically as the f/1.4 and f/1.8 II. A lot of the build quality and usability problems of the f/1.8 II have been well addressed by the design of the F/1.8 STM. It sells for a fraction of the price of the f/1.4. The one thing that might be a downside for some users is the way the manual focusing ring works with all STM lenses. The focusing of the lens, even when manually focusing, is strictly fly-by-wire. Turning the focus ring on the barrel of the lens does nothing mechanically to move the focus elements of the lens. Instead, an electrical signal is sent to the camera body which in turn sends a command to the focus motor in the lens to move. This limits the smallest increment of focus adjustment to one "step" of the stepping motor in the lens. It also eliminates the ability to focus the lens when using "dumb" extension tubes or freelensing. You can't move the focus elements to park them when the lens is not attached to a powered up EOS camera body either.

In the end you must weigh the advantage of the wider Angle of View provided by the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM to the wider maximum aperture of the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM to the true manual focus (not focus-by-wire) capability of the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM.

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We all see things differently. People who complain online are likely to outweigh the people who write to tell you how happy they are. In that case, just be aware that complaints are far more frequent and can distort the real picture significantly.

'Walk around' is a term that suggests you want a lens that you would prefer to keep attached to your camera for the majority of the time. Traditionally, such a lens would encompass a moderately wide-angled view such as 35mm or 24mm on a full frame (35mm) camera. The idea is that the camera and lens would be always ready to capture whatever scene appeared in front of the photographer. The derivation of terms such as 'ever-ready case' shows that a camera was always ready to capture the scene.

Taking your choice of 50mm lens (and the 1.6 crop factor) you would be limiting yourself to a field of view which approximates to 80mm and that lens would be more suitable as a short telephoto on your cropped sensor. The 40mm lens would be nearer to a 64mm field of view; so not quite a walk around focal length either.

As for liking good build quality, especially where you intend to keep the lens and use it at a later date, Canon 'L' lenses are known for their build quality. The new STM 50mm lens is not one with which I am familiar and you may find that it suits your purposes very well. The 'L' lens would be the 50mm f/1.2 but it costs! Around £1,149 in the UK and $1,449 in the US. What it will not be at any time is light in weight.

Canon do make a 24mm f/2.8 EF-S lens which is very light, inexpensive and has gathered some good reviews.It does not fit the EF mount. It would give you a 38.4mm field of view and may be far more suitable to consider as a lens for walking around. £1700 uk pounds would get you a Canon 24mm f/1.4L which you would be able to transfer to an EF mount and it is built like a tank.

Thereafter you will be looking at zoom lenses or the 20mm f/2.8 lens. 'Walk around' lenses tend to mean wide-angle so that you will have great depth of field and capture as much of the subject material as possible. You may find that your cropped sensor 50mm and 40mm lenses do not include enough subject matter and are not as easy to guarantee adequate depth of field or sufficient subject matter captured.

Hope this helps

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Well the 40mm is a better focal length for walk around in my opinion, however if you are into portrait then the 50mm is certainly more flattering and it's a tad bit sharper and faster.

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You seem to have some confusion about the different lens designations. The "nifty 50" is the EF 50mm f/1.8. I don't think Canon offers a 50mm f/2.8.

generally build quality is very important to me so the 50mm f2.8 "nifty 50" is out.

Then step up to the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. At $350, it costs more than the f/1.8 that I think you're referring to above but is better built and a little faster. This is a great lens that'll open your eyes to the advantages that prime lenses bring to the table. The wide aperture makes portraits with very shallow depth of field possible, which I like, but wide open it can actually be too shallow -- it's easy to be just a little off with the focus, so you have to be careful. I have plenty of photos of sharp noses and blurry eyes. This isn't really a problem -- just stop down a little bit when close up, or take your time and be careful.

The EF 40mm f/2.8 is a little slower, about half the price of the 50 f/1.4, and closer to "normal" on your crop-sensor camera. It's also very compact. I have the EF 50 f/1.4, but I've been thinking about buying the 40mm lens (for a full-frame camera) just because it'd be very easy to carry in a pocket. You won't get the very shallow depth of field of the 50mm f/1.4, but that might make the lens seem easier to use.

I don't think you'll go too far wrong if you go with your gut and pick the one that appeals to you most right now. They're both good lenses, either will be useful additions to your kit, and it wouldn't be terrible to eventually own both. Personally, I'd lean toward the 50mm f/1.4 for it's large aperture, which makes it stand out more from your kit lens.

I also prefer EF glass, so I don't have to reacquire my lenses again when/if I decide to go full sized.

In this case it doesn't matter much -- the only prime EF-S lenses I can think of are the 24mm pancake lens and the 60mm macro lens. Both seem like nice lenses, but not what you seem to be looking for here.

  • Canon did offer the discontinued EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro until very recently. – Michael C Aug 15 '16 at 23:03
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If you are considering a Canon 50mm lens, you should really consider the new EF 50mm 1.8 STM as it is much much better than the old plastic mount EF 50mm 1.8 II.

The new STM version has much more accurate STM AF along with a metal mount, closer min focus distance, 7 blade aperture, better focus ring, and new coatings which improve the optics.

It is so much better that I would even recommend it over the 50mm 1.4 USM. The USM motor on that lens has a terrible record for premature AF failure.

You can read the negative Amazon reviews here: 50mm 1.4 USM Customer Reviews

New EF 50mm 1.8 STM New EF50mm 1.8 STM

  • Thanks! That looks awesome! Hows the build quality on that lens? Not like the 2.8 where its rumored to fall apart? – Kyle Sponable Apr 14 '16 at 16:18
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    There is no Canon 50mm f/2.8!!!!!! – Michael C Apr 14 '16 at 16:18
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    "rumored to fall apart"? Lenses don't fall apart. Also, I would offer some general advice on not deciding for/against buying anything based on "rumors". – osullic Apr 14 '16 at 16:40
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    I've still got my EF 50mm f/1.8 II that I purchased in the late 1990s. It hasn't fallen apart yet. I've still got my EF 50mm f/1.4 that I purchased around 2010-11 and have used quite heavily for the past several years. It still focuses fine. You just need to take proper care and not expect these lenses to be able to take abuse like an M1 Abrams tank. – Michael C Apr 14 '16 at 17:01
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    For some users the manual focus-by-wire system may also be a consideration. If I were needing a 50mm prime today I would strongly consider the EF 50nn f/1.8 STM, but I might still choose the EF 50mm f/1.4. – Michael C Aug 15 '16 at 23:01
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I shoot street with 35mm film, and 35 focal length is my go to, although 28 is also a good perspective. For your sensor size, I don't think a 40 = ~58 ? would be a good choice. I think you should be looking for a 24 full frame or 35 APS to get you some depth of field, and some decent coverage in close quarters. Horses for course, though. Just my two cents.

  • I tend to agree. The 40mm makes a decent walking around lens on a full-frame. I hated the shorty forty on my crop body, because just gives too small a field of view, but I enjoy it occasionally on my full-frame. A 24mm lens (perhaps the EF-S 24mm STM) would probably be a better choice on a crop body. That said, the original poster wants to avoid EF-S lenses in hopes of upgrading to full-frame at some point, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – dgatwood Feb 25 '17 at 20:08

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