Both f/1.4 and f/1.8 lenses are pretty fast and they can both come in handy in low-light situations. Also, they both give you soft, creamy bokeh when wide open. Although the difference between these two apertures is not huge, f/1.4 lenses cost two or three times more than their f/1.8 counterparts. Is it worth paying extra cash for a slightly faster lens? In this video, Pierre T. Lambert uses them side by side and puts you on the test: can you tell the difference between f/1.4 and f/1.8?
To give you a few examples, here are some primes with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 and f/1.8, along with their prices:
- Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G ($216.95) vs. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G ($446.95)
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM ($125) vs. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM ($349)
- Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G ($476.95) vs. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G ($1,596.95)
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM ($369) vs. Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM ($1,599)
In the video, Pierre shows you some photos taken with both f/1.4 and f/1.8. He shoots wide open, but also at f/2.8 and f/4. When you look at the photos, can you tell them apart? Which one was taken with which aperture?
Honestly, I wasn’t able to tell. I could only differentiate between close-up photos shot wide open and those at f/4, but I had no idea whether the wide open ones were shot at f/1.4 or f/1.8. For my eye, that difference is too subtle. The bokeh looks very similar between f/1.8 and f/1.4. In terms of low-light capabilities, there’s not even one stop of light difference between the two apertures. Personally, when I was buying my prime lenses, I went for the maximum aperture of f/1.8. It’s more than enough for my needs, and the price is significantly lower than the f/1.4 version.
So, does it make sense to invest in an f/1.4 lens? Of course it does. First of all, some of the lenses only exist in this variant, so it’s your only option. But also, it all depends on your needs and your shooting style. I just found it interesting how subtle the differences are. And if you’re having second thoughts about which lens to buy… Well, this could save you some cash. : )