Yongnuo has been coming pretty thick and fast with lenses over the last couple of years. Sure, they’re generally copies of somebody else’s lens, but they’re cheap and, for the most part, seem to perform fairly well considering the price. Announced last month, the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.4, though, looks to be of their own design.
The first review of the new lens has now been posted to YouTube by Christopher Frost, and it appears to be pretty favourable. It not only keeps up, for the most part, with Canon’s 65% more expensive 50mm f/1.4 USM, but it even seems to beat it in some aspects.
As mentioned in the video, some magazines and website are referring to this as the “Yongnuo 50mm f/1.4 Mark II”. And while technically, it isn’t the first 50mm f/1.4 lens that Yongnuo have shown off, it is the first one they have released. One was rumoured back at the end of 2016. It looked like a straight up copy of the Canon and was never released. This new one appears to be a design unique to Yongnuo, and Yongnuo themselves are just calling it the “YN50mm f1.4”.
But how well does it perform? Well, that’s going to depend on how you typically choose to shoot with a 50mm f/1.4 lens. In some aspects, the Yongnuo beats the somewhat underwhelming Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM. In other aspects, though, not so much. But depending on how you shoot, those differences may or may not be an issue. And, remember, we are comparing a $199 lens against a $329 lens.
Christopher compared the two lenses on his Sony A7RII and Canon EOS M3 mirrorless cameras. And right out of the gate, if you’re a wedding photographer, this probably isn’t the lens for you. The autofocus motor is ridiculously loud. Far more so than the well used Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM Christopher tests it against.
But if sound is not of concern, it seems like a relatively good lens for the money. Wide open, the sharpness looks fairly similar to the Canon, but with much better contrast.
Once you head into the corners, though, the Yongnuo starts to lose a little of its sharpness, although keeps the contrast. It does seem to introduce quite a bit of chromatic aberration, though.
As the lenses stop down, the gaps between them start to close down on the corners, until you stop all the way down when diffraction starts to kick in a little more on the Yongnuo.
On the APS-C sized Canon EOS M3, the Yongnuo and Canon both have issues. Wide open, there is a lot of softness from both lenses, although the Canon seems slightly better wide open. Contrast is better on the Yongnuo, and both lenses show a fair amount of chromatic aberration. Stopping down to f/2 starts to clean things up a little.
Comparing it with the $329 Canon might seem a little unfair, however, the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM is a notoriously bad lens. The only people I’ve ever seen recommend it are those who’ve never tried any other 50mm f/1.4 lenses. And, while the Yongnuo isn’t an overall better lens, it does seem to offer some benefit over the Canon in certain areas. I can’t imagine most people would notice a difference between images shot on one or the other. They’re both pretty bad.
Although Yongnuo hasn’t announced a Nikon version of this lens yet, Nikon shooters do have another option. Nikon’s own 50mm f/1.4G, although it is more expensive than the Yongnuo and even the Canon. But if you really want a quality 50mm f/1.4 lens for Canon or Nikon (or Sony) and are willing to spend the money to get it, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is going to be your best bet.
Overall, for $199, it doesn’t appear to be that bad of a deal. Yeah, it has some issues, but it’s a $199 f/1.4 prime. You can’t really expect much at this price. But you’ll have to watch the video to see all of the side-by-side comparisons to determine for yourself to see if the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.4 can work for you.