The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens is a prime (single focal point) lens made for the Canon EOS SLR cameras. The 50mm prime lens is considered as the bread-and-butter lens for a SLR camera, because it represents the "normal" perspective, which closely approximates the "normal" human eye's perspective in real life. Canon actually makes three 50mm primes lenses for its EOS SLR cameras:
All of these normal prime lenses are excellent in photo quality. The most significant differences are in their build-quality and technology, where lies the difference in suggested retail price. Out of these three lenses, the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM lens is probably the best value for its performance, build-quality, and functionality.
The Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM lens comes in the standard Canon red and white lens box. Marking on the box is sparse. After opening the box, you'll find the warranty card and the instruction manual. Like instruction manuals for other Canon lenses, this one folds out into a large sheet with multiple languages.
The lens is packed between two Styrofoam pieces and wrapped in a translucent plastic bag. It comes with a front clip-on lens cap and a rear Canon bayonet lens cap.
Because the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens is a small lens, much like other 50mm lens on the market, it's not very impressive to hold in your hand. That is, it is not very impressive, until you actually look at the front and rear lens elements. The two lens glasses are huge. They practically double the size of the lens elements on the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens.
The lens feels heavy-weight. It's extremely beefy and well build. A metal EF mount surrounds the rear lens element, unlike the plastic one on the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. The lens is quite short; it's diameter is longer than the length. The AF/MF switch provides excellent tactile feedback and is really easy to push.
The focus ring is rubberized and provides great confidence during use. A window shows the focus distance in both feet and meters. Depth-of-field markings are provided for f/22.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens uses the Canon ES-71II Lens Hood. This lens hood is not compatible with any other lens and is made exclusively for the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens. The lens hood is almost as long as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. After putting on the lens hood, the lens length practically doubles.
The Canon ES-71II Lens Hood comes in a standard Canon red/white box, wrapped in translucent plastic bag. This lens hood attaches to the front of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens via the bayonet mount on the body of the lens barrel, rather than the front lens element. This means that the front lens element can extend while focusing, but the lens hood remain fixed and does not extend. With this lens hood, the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens practically becomes a internal focus lens!
Strangely, the Canon ES-71II lens hood is not flower-shaped, even though the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 Lens has a non-rotating front. In fact, the lens hood is mounted to the lens body. Because this lens is exclusive for the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens, Canon could have made a flower-shaped lens hood, which optimizes the glare-reduction on the sensor area. A little disappointment, but not a big deal.
The inner surface of the lens hood is felt. Turning the lens hood in my hand, I could see that the felt reflect virtually no light. It does its job very well.
As with any other Canon lens, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens has a AF/MF selector switch. When you switch it to AF, the lens auto-focuses when you hold the camera shutter half-way down. When you switch it to MF, the camera does not perform auto-focus and leaves manual focus up to you.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens has an ultrasonic motor (USM) for auto-focusing. Unlike previous technology, where the auto-focus mechanism is connected the lens electronics via mechanical gears, the ultrasonic motor is physically disconnected to the lens electronics and is controlled via ultrasonic vibration. The beauty of this newer technology is that auto-focus is extremely fast, auto-focus is extremely quiet, and manual-focus can be performed after auto-focus without disengaging auto-focus mode.
The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM does not have internal focus mechanism. Therefore, during focus, the front lens elements will extend and retract, increasing and decreasing the length of the lens. It has a non-rotating front, so it is quite convenient for circular polarizer use.
The Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM lens has a 58mm front filter thread. This is a standard filter thread size for most of Canon's low-to-medium-end lenses. Therefore, if most of your Canon lenses have 58mm filter threads, you can standardize to 58mm filters.
This is an excellent step up from the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens, which has a 52mm front filter thread. With the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, you won't have to use step-up rings if you are already using 58mm filters.