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Canon EF 50 2.5 Compact Macro

Worlds Unseen

Peter Kun Frary


The 50mm prime is one of my favorite lenses. They often live on my cameras for months due to the excellent image quality, versatility and petite size. The viewfinder is bright and vivid compared to most zooms.

Agashi | Canon EOS 10D, EF 50 2.5 Compact Macro, popup fill, F 3.5.

On full frame cameras, e.g., EOS 5D Mark III or EOS 6D, the 46 degree coverage of the 50mm lens is equivalent to the sweet spot of the human eye. Hence, "normal lens," refers to the venerable 50mm prime lens. The natural perspective of this optic makes it easy to pre-visualize images.

Canon EF 50 2.5 Compact Macro | Photo courtesy Canon Inc

Nature photographer John Shaw recommends, if you're going to buy a 50 mm lens, get a macro version. Subsequently, you'll get small F-stops and the ability to focus close if you need it. The gotcha is macro lenses tend to be a stop slower than standard primes, so if shooting at F1.8 is important, look elsewhere.

The EF 50 2.5 Compact Macro isn't as fast as most 50mm optics but, instead, is optimized for macro photography: supremely well corrected and sharp edge to edge from macro to infinity. That amazing image quality is what separates it from other 50mm lenses. In contrast, my EF 50 1.8 and EF 50 1.4 USM suffer heavy barrel distortion at two meters or closer. The EF 50 2.5 Compact Macro is a dream for photographing flat objects—coins, documents and art work—as there is virtually no distortion in both macro and normal ranges. However, this is not a lens for critters as working range is very small at macro distances.

Nikon Nikkor 50mm F2.0 AIS | EOS 5D MKII, EF 50 2.5 CM (F16), RS-80N3 Remote Switch, Manfrotto 190 and silver reflectors

The nine-element design is one of the most flare resistant I have encountered, better than the EF 50 1.4 USM and EF 50 1.8.

It focuses as close as 23 cm (9 inches), resulting 1/2 life size (1:2) images on full frame cameras. With the Life Size Converter EF it's capable of life size (1:1) images but as a 70mm lens.

Fort Street | Works for normal photography too! | EOS 5D MKII, EF 50 2.5 CM (F8)

Pixel level detail from extreme lower right corner

Construction and appearance similar to the EF 50 1.8 (MK I), but a little longer and heavier (63mm/280g). It sports a 6-blade diaphragm instead of the 5-blade version common to AFD prime lenses. The front element does not rotate, but the lens changes in length when focusing. AFD AF is surprisingly peppy and only slightly slower than the EF 50 1.4 USM. The motor sounds buzzy but is reasonably quiet, albeit not silent like USM or STM. The filter threads are a budget friendly 52mm.

EOS SL1 & EF-s 18-55 3.5-5.6 IS STM | EOS 5D MKII & EF 50 2.5 (reflectors)

The manual focusing ring is smooth turning, albeit loose as a goose, but more usable for manual focus than the EF 50 1.4 USM or EF 50 1.8. Unfortunately, DOF markings are for F16 and 32 only. So obviously this lens may be stopped down to F32 for maximum depth of field, versus F22 or F16 for most 50 mm optics.

Wittner Metronome | Canon EOS 10D, EF 50 2.5 Compact Macro, Manfrotto 190 tripod, 420EX Speedlite, ST-E2 (trigger) and white reflector.

EF 200 2.8L USM & EOS 3 | EOS 10D, EF 50 2.5 Compact Macro, F16, Manfrotto 190 tripod and white reflector.

There is no official Canon hood for this lens, probably because of the extreme front element extension required for 1:2 or 1:1 reproduction. However, the front element is so far recessed that this is a moot point. If you're not using the macro range, use of a screw-in generic hood is a good idea. The filter threads are 52 mm, making filters and hoods affordable.

I've owned this lens for over 20 years—outliving dozens of EOS cameras—and it's still one of my favorites and the first one I reach for when shooting small products, flat art and general macro. If I could only have 50mm lens, my money is on the EF 50 2.5 CM. Indeed, it is the only one I continue to shoot with after all these years.

EF 28-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM | EOS 5D, EF 50 2.5 CM (F11), RS-80N3 Remote Switch, Manfrotto 190 tripod and reflectors

Elan 7NE & EF 50 1.4 USM | EOS 5D, EF 50 2.5 CM

01/05/2002 | Updated 06/25/2017

©Copyright 2002-2017 by Peter Kun Frary | All Rights Reserved

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