DxOMark review: Which 50mm lens for my camera?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

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DxOMark review: Which 50mm lens for my camera?

(This review has been prepared with Focus Numérique, a French photo news website)

Owning a 50mm lens is probably a must for any photographer. These primes are ideal for many good reasons. Mounted on a full-frame body, they provide a neutral field of view. Not a wide-angle, and not yet a telephoto lens, it is said to be close to human vision. On wide sensors, a 50mm lens can be the perfect companion for many different activities, including reportage, portraits, or even landscapes.

Mounted on an APS-C sensor, they become a short 75mm telephoto that is highly suitable for portraits.

In addition to their optical qualities, 50mm lenses usually use a simple optical formula. They are thus small, light, fast, and usually affordable, although at least one sells for more than 1,000 USD.
Many qualities, yes, but many models, too, and choosing the right one isn’t always easy. That’s why we have produced this short analysis.
In the following pages we will mostly focus on two measures: the DxOMark Score and the resolution. We will also take into consideration other aspects such as distortion or chromatic aberrations, but they won’t appear listed in tables. You can, however, easily find them in the individual test report for each lens.

We decided to focus mostly on resolution and on the DxOMark score because they are a perfect match for everyday use. The DxOMark score is reflects the performance of a lens-body combination in a low-light environment (150 Lux with an exposure time of 1/60th second— similar to those in a normally lit living room, for example). The score measures the quantity and the quality of information received by the sensor at a certain aperture, and has a direct impact on the printing size you can expect. A score of 10 allows you to expect a perfect 20x30cm printing. If you double the print size, you must double the score as well.
We also focused on the pure resolution in order to indicate what aperture range is required for each lens in order to achieve the best definition under better lighting conditions.