Guessing Game: 50mm 1.2L vs 50mm 1.4

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to stumble into a local meeting of photographers. Chris who runs the meetings in his awesome studio in Nyack NY was kind enough to let me try out his 50 1.2 on a newborn I shot a few weeks ago (that always sounds criminal!)

Several online photographer friends have had the same question that I have had ( is the 50 1.2 L a worthy upgrade over the 1.4?) and I promised to post my results.

So I’m posting a few images from my two recent newborn sessions, one shot with the 1.4 and one shot with the 1.2.. can you tell which is which? You can click on the image to see it larger on flickr if that helps..

Baby #1




Baby #2




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SME says:

Hi Ariana! I’ve been a lurker for quite some time but have never posted. I have a question for you and your savvy photographer followers. I finally convinced DH we need to upgrade to a DSLR…yay!! Here’s my question, what lens should I get? I am a total newbie and my interests for now will be shooting everyday photos. If it turns out I am good at it and I enjoy it, I may consider going into the business…but I have A LOT to learn before even considering that an option. I will be purchasing a Canon (perhaps the 60D but that hasn’t been fully decided) so I have been browsing Canon lenses. I would like to purchase one lens when I get the body and more than likely add to my collection going forward. What one lens would you suggest given my circumstances? Thanks so much and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

ariana says:

Thanks for all the nice comments!

Kristen & Tess, the blanket in shoot #1 is from Ikea too (you guessed right Kristin!) but it’s a neutral color, which is nice b/c it doesn’t blow out as easy as the white one which is the Ofelia throw also from Ikea.

Tess says:

I totally love your blog. I’m a photographer in another state and I just have to know where u got that blanket that u used. Would u mind telling me? Tessii1@ mchsi. Com thanks!

Kristen says:

Oh, I was going to guess right! Baby #1 the parts in focus look a bit sharper to me too, but I’m thinking it might have to do with the light and her skin tone. She is a doll and I LOVE that session, you did so awesome. Thanks for the headband link too! Is this an Ikea throw too? It’s different from the Ofelia one right?

Becca says:

I love your blog :-) just thought you should know!

Cole says:

I don’t know anything at all about cameras, but I love all of your pictures – those gorgeous babies made Mommy’s uterus skip a beat…

THanks for the comparison! I just upgraded from 1.8 to the 50 1.4 and LOVE it. It’s quick and sharp and you do get what you pay for. Beautiful newborn shots btw.

Amy says:

Man, I guessed wrong, but I’m happy I did (having been the proud owner of a needs-to-be-calibrated 50mm f/1.4 for over 6 years), for the same reason of a bit more of a creamy factor I thought I perceived. I’m glad to see the comparison, I have heard many don’t think the f/1.2 is *that* much greater than the f/1.4…now, the f/1.4 or the f/1.2L *IS* going to be hugely better quality than the f/1.8, no doubt, so for Jennifer above, I think you definitely got a worthwhile upgrade. =D

Great comparisons, thanks for the post!!

Kristen says:

My goodness! Babies are such blessings! I can’t wait to get my hands on a lens like this one:) Love your work!
Kristen E

ariana says:

Michelle, if you search Etsy there a bazillion flower headbands for sale! I think this particular one was from here:

But I’m not even sure because I ordered so many from so many different sellers!

ariana says:

OK, don’t read this if you don’t want to know the answer…
Baby #1: 50mm 1.2L
Baby #2: 50mm 1.4

The comparison wasn’t TOTALLY fair because I think I shot baby #1 mostly at 1.4, while I shot baby #2 mostly at 1.6 which is why there is more “out of focus” areas on baby #1 -the DOF is shallower at 1.4. Remember too that distance from subject affects DOF, so that’s not really an accurate way to judge lens quality. All in all, being that most people guessed wrong I’m more convinced than ever to stick with the 1.4! I think shooting at 1.4 is a bit too open anyway, so I won’t be gaining anything with the extra stop.

Thanks for playing along :)

Sarah says:

I’m guessing the second set are the 50L. In the first set, the babies face isn’t uniformly in focus, while in the second you’ve got great bokeh while still mainting focus on the face and body.

Michelle says:

Where did the mom get that headband for the little girl! It’s beautiful and i want one for my girl.

jbhat says:

What little beauties those babies are.


anne marie says:

oh man i missed the part that you said you shot one session with the lens LOL. i blame my whiny kid i can’t even see straight. i will have to say session 2 for the 50L. after reading the one comment about smoother bokeh i can see it but not at first.

I’ll be honest. I can’t tell the difference. However, was it easier to use? I rented the 35mm 1.4L for a month and I LOVED it, I mean really loved it! It was on my camera from start to finish. Then after I sent it back I went back to my 50mm 1.4. I was amazed at the difference when I “downgraded”, specifically the focusing.

Jennifer says:

I am guessing you shot the 2nd session with the 1.2L because the skin tones look a little creamier and the soft bokeh. If you tell me you think there is no difference between the 2 lenses I am going to jump off my roof since I just upgraded from the 1.8 to the 1.2. Just kidding-kind of:)

GiGi says:


My guess is baby1 is w/the 1.4 and baby2 is the the L.

But it’s a TOTAL guess! :+)

Julie says:

1st session with 1.2L and 2nd with 1.4????

anne marie says:

you’re right it’s hard to figure out which. lets see..

1 & 2 & 6 with the 50L
3 & 4 & 5 with the 50 1.4