on August 29, 2007
The reviews of the 50mm f/1.2L are useless. All you hear is "Spend your money on the 35L or 85L instead" or "the focusing issues make this lens unuseable". But something makes me think that people are just writing reviews based on what other people have said without actually ever using the product.
If you ever want to shoot snapshots of downtown without a flash at midnight WHILE walking, this is the lens to have. I'm so in love with this lens.
* It's completely silent. Quieter than the f/1.4
* It has no problems focusing in the dark
* It's highly useable at f1.2
* It's sharper than the f/1.4
* Colors are more saturated than the f/1.4
* Images taken with this lens have higher contrast than the f/1.4
* It makes the f/1.4 feel like a hunk of plastic
* It comes with a hood
* It costs 4 times more than the f/1.4
* It costs 18 times more than the f/1.8
* You can comfortably shoot under conditions that would make the f/1.4 nervous.
* Produces a much higher yield of useable photos
* Aesthetically, it's the coolest looking lens I own!
For those who are concerned about the "back focusing" issue, I will let you know that I haven't experienced any backfocusing at all. I've let others shoot with it, wide open, within low-light environments and even the non-photographers were able to focus/shoot accurately.
This is my review from my non-scientific, real-world, situational testing.
on March 6, 2014
I thought a long time about whether I should write a review on this lens. It seems to disappoint some people, but others love it. As a professional who uses primes when the moment is right and zooms when a situation calls for them, I think I understand why there are varying opinions about these tools, and I can help some people understand what the differences are between these different pieces of equipment. There are key reasons why this lens exists that I don't think are properly characterized in the reviews. Yes, you will want to manually focus this lens just like every other lens that is being used at a narrow depth of field. Yes, you will also never want to use it above f/2.8. In the end, it all comes down to what the user is trying to achieve, and what we see in the photographs taken with these lenses.
First, let's get the distinction between the two predominant primes and a zoom lens that covers the 50mm focal length. With a high end zoom, the 24-70 f/2.8L II, you are using an aperture that is 2 stops more narrow than the primes. Additionally, you have a lens that has a premium placed on sharpness and versatility. This means that when you use the 24-70 you will find the sharpness to be incredible at an aperture of f/5.6 and it will be indistinguishable or better than the sharpness from either the 50mm f/1.4 or the 1.2. Sharpness at f/2.8 will be about the same as the 1.4 and better than the 1.2. You also are buying the versatility of the zoom range. Many people will say to buy the 24-70 f/2.8L II because they think it's as sharp as any prime in it's zoom range. But that's not making a holistic recommendation based on all the strengths and weaknesses of each of these pieces of equipment. Unlike Miriam Weeks (Belle Knox), you definitely do not want to sacrifice all of the positives of several options, while you're chasing the single positive of one option. You would choose the zoom if your application requires very good sharpness or versatility. You don't pick a zoom for it's bokeh, contrast, and color representation.
Now, to distinguish between the 1.4 and the 1.2. First, you are considering these because you want to shoot at wide apertures. If you want to shoot at an aperture of 2.8 or narrower, you really should choose a zoom, because you are being handicapped by focal length for essentially the same or worse sharpness and bokeh is going to look about the same. Where these wide aperture lenses have an advantage is in character of the photograph at wide aperture. The sharpness is sacrificed in the design of these lenses in favor of more attractive color, micro contrast, and blur. You can't have everything in a lens design and high resolution is optically mutually opposed to high contrast. To create the best sharpness, you have to reduce spherical aberration. As an aside, it should be noted that spherical aberration is also necessarily more prevalent in a lens that has a very large aperture, because you have a lot of light coming in from the periphery that isn't moderated unless you decrease the size of the aperture. When you attempt to reduce spherical aberration by lens design, you sacrifice beautiful looking blur. Bokeh will take a hit, and color saturation changes as well (because spectral varying wavelengths of light (this means different colors) are behaving differently as they are refracted through the lens elements.) This lens design does the best it can to reduce spherical aberrations by placing an aspherical element at the rear of the lens, but there is a limit to what lens design can do to mitigate the nature of physics. Aesthetically, all of this combined could be called 'pop' to the picture, or attractive isolation of the subject. This is actually desirable in certain circumstances, especially when the sharply resolved detail of a subject isn't as important as an emotion you are trying to evoke. So that is why a photographer will choose a wide aperture lens despite it's deviation from an ideal lens characteristic (also, because they want to photograph in low light at low ISO.)
So where does the 1.2 distinguish itself from the 1.4? The 1.2 design team made the decision to place a greater focus on not reducing spherical aberration but improving the way the blur and color transitions look in the resulting image. You would be absolutely correct if you noticed that the images from a 50mm f/1.4 look slightly washed out when compared to the identical image from a 50mm f/1.2. That is by design. More emphasis in the design of the f/1.4 was placed on reducing spherical aberration, astigmatism, and comatic aberration in a different way while still providing an ultra wide aperture (and the 50mm f/1.8 has a design emphasis on being as cheap as possible.) The 50mm f/1.2 is designed to make the bokeh more creamy and the colors more popped. You won't get that quality with the 50mm f/1.4.
THAT is why you would buy the 50mm f/1.2 over the 50mm f/1.4. The bottom line, is that if you are going to shoot most of your images below f/2 and you are trying to get images that really have a subconscious character to them, then you really should spend the extra money on the 50mm f/1.2. People can't always articulate it, but they can see a difference from the f/1.4. It would make perfect sense to place a 3 stop neutral density filter on the 50mm f/1.2 and shoot images with that lens in daylight because you're trying to get a specific look in your pictures. I can't really see a reason to do that with the 50mm f/1.4.
The f/1.4 is going to be best for someone who is on a budget or really just wants the ability to take images in low light at low ISO. It's a cheaper way to get there, and beautifully composed images with a narrow depth of field can be taken with it. But the 50mm f/1.4 doesn't perform well below f/2, so the advantage of low light photography is competing with image quality at large apertures. You have to understand how it was designed with a different application and design focus in mind.
By comparison, when Canon updated the 85mm f/1.2, the lens design team didn't change a thing (the version II is literally the exact same lens design) - it produced images exactly they way they wanted it to - they just added some new coatings and improved the autofocus hardware and software. Does the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II produce images with equally resolved image sharpness? Yes. But it doesn't matter - that's not what the 85mm f/1.2 is about. Same with the 50mm f/1.2. Just remember that professional primes are not going to be perfect. They are going to have design differences that make them different.
on October 19, 2007
I am not a professional photographer, or make living with taking pictures. I am just a person who loves to take pictures & enjoys good pictures. And, I know how expensive this lens is, and YES, I am very aware of "Back Focusing" issue with this lens that others worry. I have been using this lens for 3 weeks now, and have been experiencing good & bad about this lens. (I believe "back focusing" issue was way too much inflated.) I have EOS 5D, and wanted to take full advantage of FF factor, and this was why I took a plunge instead of getting acclaimed 35MM or 85MM.
Picture quality - from f1.2 thru f2.8, the lens works superbly. AF is fast & faster compared to 50mm 1.4. Above f2.8, the pictures become a touch soft, but it exceeded my expectation. In low light condition, this lens is virtually unbeatable.
Weight & Feel - Anoth factor that sold me to this lens is its overall feel. Very balanced & well weighted. And, its build quality is good.
Back Focus - Yes, it does back focus in very (very) close distance. Within 20 inches, you may experience back focusing more than half of the time. (Others say within 30 inches or so, but I never experienced more than 20 inches far.) I asked myself how many times (in reality), I would try taking pictures within such distance.
Cost - Yes, this is expensive lens. 4 times more than very good 50mm 1.4.
I love to take portraits (especially for my new born baby) , and this was my main reason that I upgraded from 50mm 1.4 to 50mm 1.2. I would recommend this lens if you are into portraits. If you want more than what I am into, you may be disappointed. Did I make a good investment? Yes, I believe I did.
on February 21, 2012
You are probably reading these reviews to decide if you will pay $1,500+ to buy this lens or to get its sibling the 50 f/1.4. I owned the 50 f/1.4 for a year, and currently own the 50L 1.2. Ignore the reviews by those who have never even owned 50L 1.2 (or maybe rented it for a weekend) yet feel they can give you a solid opinion about it. I will give you a run-down of my experience with the 50L 1.2 as a portrait photographer:
*** Crop vs Full-frame Camera ***
This lens is all about narrow DoF. I will talk about the characteristics relating to DoF further in my review. To get the most out of this lens it is recommended that you use a FF camera to give you the most control over DOF. A full-frame camera will give you approx 1.6 times more blur than on an APS-C camera (such as the 7D).
50mm is very versatile on a FF camera, allowing small group photos, individual photos of bust-up / full length / three quarters. But not so much on the 7D, when you will have an equivalent field of vision of 80mm. 80mm is quite tight, and more suited for headshots and bust-up.
*** Bokeh ***
With narrow DoF comes great bokeh. The bokeh produced by the 8-bladed aperture is round and beautiful, currently matched only by the 85L 1.2. The 50 f/1.4 also has an 8-bladed aperture but the bokeh it produces pales in comparison and is often nervous and distracting. With the 50L 1.2, the bokeh has a soft and beautiful rendition - the subject is well isolated and everything out of focus becomes a wash of creaminess.
*** Sharpness ***
This is one of the areas where I feel the 50L 1.2 is most misunderstood. I will open my review of sharpness with this: between the apertures of f/1.2 to f/2.0, this lens is the sharpest of the Canon 50mm family. Period. If you don't like taking my word for it, then you can poke around in MTF charts. You must be skilled (yes, skill is needed, this is not a point and shoot lens) at using single focus points, have a steady camera technique, knowing where the blade of DoF falls, and knowing when to not focus and recompose.
The 50 f/1.4 then takes over in sharpness at around f/2.2 to f/2.8.
The 50L 1.2 will never be as sharp as my 85L 1.2 II. But for me as a portrait photographer, sharpness is relative. If the background is pure cream, then the lovely lady I am photographing will look sharp. Also, I don't mind not having the lens a little soft so the photograph does not capture every pore and imperfection on my subject's face. It actually saves me time when retouching later!
As a further note, I found that shooting wide open with the 50 f/1.4 gave results that lacked so much sharpness so as to be unusable.
*** Color & Contrast ***
The color rendition and contrast from the 50L 1.2 is beautiful, and what you would expect from an L lens. The optics and lens coatings are far superior to the 50 1.4 when it comes to color and contrast between f/1.2 and f/2.0.
When shooting wide open with the 50 1.4, I found out of focus areas with sunlight would exhibit color shifts to red and green. The contrast would also be very low - and at times so faded that the photograph could not be fixed (to my satisfaction) in post. With the 50 1.4 closed up to f/2.8, the color shifting was much more controlled and the contrast at an acceptable level.
*** 50L 1.2 vs 50 1.4 ***
The $1,500 grapefruit or the $355 non-L?
I would sum it up this way:
1. The non-L is advertised as an f/1.4 lens. BUT, there will be many lighting conditions in which shooting between f/1.4 to f/2.0 will give you less than perfect results (eg. distracting bokeh, terrible color, washed out photos, or complete lack of sharpness). For a professional, it would be a challenge to practically use the non-L at f/1.4-f/2.0 in less than perfect situations. Shooting at f/2.8 and narrower, the non-L is as good as any Canon lens.
2. The grapefruit is advertised as an f/1.2 lens. AND, it is the wonder lens between f/1.2 and f/2.0 for the reasons given above. The color and contrast is L glass quality at all apertures. However, the sharpness is not as good as other Canon lenses from the more standard apertures of f/2.8 and narrower. The sharpness is also affected by the focus shift that occurs because the 50L 1.2 focuses wide open and the aperture is stopped down an instant before the sensor is exposed to take the photograph.
So where does this leave us? Because what I am going to say might insult some people, I am going to caveat that all of this is my own personal opinion - which is totally worthless anyway. Why have you read all the way down to here, hey? Here we go with a deep breath:
3. The $1,500 grapefruit is the lens for you if you love shooting between f/1.2 and f/2.0 for that bokehlicious cream and narrow DoF. It is a perfect versatile complement to the 85L 1.2, 135L 2.0, and the legendary 200L 2.0. I also consider the 35L 1.4 a fantastic prime, but not for portraiture as it has even less lens compression than a 50mm lens.
4. The non-L is advertised as an f/1.4 lens. HOWEVER, in practice, in most conditions it will only give best results when used as an f/2.8 lens. With this limited 'usable aperture', this leads me to question what is the place of the non-L in my lens bag when there is the 24-70L 2.8. The L zoom is as sharp as most primes, and with the high resolution 24-70L 2.8 Mk II just around the corner, the Mk II will blast the 50 1.4 away in sharpness, color, contrast and versatility. For apertures wider than f/2.8, the grapefruit is firmly rooted in its position. Unless you cannot afford L glass (which you obviously can, otherwise you would not be reading this review), then you are sacrificing image quality for something else by putting the 50 1.4 in your lens bag.
on May 31, 2008
I have to briefly comment regarding this lens. In the past I had been lukewarm about it, but over time I have come to cherish it. Make no mistake, it has caused me some troubles over the years. As others have written, there is a learning curve to the lens. The narrow aperture at f1.2 itself requires some practice but even beyond this, the lens has some quirks that, like a good friend, you learn to understand better and eventually start to like. I also have to say that when I started fussing with this lens some years ago I was using the 5D --which I still love-- but having upgraded to various other bodies such as the 5D II and others, the focusing reliability of this lens has improved dramatically. I have since sold off most of my L lenses and now exclusively shoot with the 50L and I can't see parting with it anytime soon.
on December 10, 2012
I can't think of many other lenses that have received such mixed reviews. Something I read in Ansel Adam's The Camera immediately reminded me about this lens:
"The term portrait lens usually signifies one of moderately long focal length with somewhat soft definition, considered by some photographers to be a desirable quality in portraits. The soft quality can be produced by deliberately under-correcting one or more lens aberrations."
So in a sense, this lens is far from clinically perfect at wide aperture settings (as the MTF chart suggests). However, whether it's these clinical short-comings or something else, this lens captures very unique and more importantly, pleasing and dreamy shots that most lenses can't duplicate. My only analogy is that of a guitar amplifier, yes, it distorts the signal coming into the amp, but what you get on the other end is harmonically richer. The bokeh (quality of out-of-focus elements) is stunning and absolutely creamy - while it's not Canon's absolute best lens in this regard, only a few handful of them do it better.
I've used it quite a bit over the last couple of months and have found the following:
- You might need to do a micro-adjustment on your camera to setup the focus correctly. My lucky number was -5, but I've read others had different values. This was on my 5Dmk3. Focus was perfect on my Rebel T3i.
- Found the real secret of focusing in wide aperture settings is to use a single-point in SERVO, not SINGLE SHOT as the depth-of-field is so wafer-thin, any small changes in your subject or your stance will put your shot out-of-focus. Wide-open, the depth-of-field is on the order of millimeters if you're within a few meters of your subject. Also, focus on one of the eyes and don't recompose your subject in the frame as it will go out of focus, just crop in post later. Many knock this lens' ability to focus when it is really caused by operator error.
- The lens was a bit soft on apertures f/1.2 to f/2.0 - matching some of the description from Ansel Adams. The lens is highly useable at f/1.2 and quickly becomes sharp as one clamps down to f/2.8 in the center moving towards the border of the frame - much sharper than its 50mm f/1.4 sibling in this range. At f/5.6, the lens is very sharp across the frame. While you get great shots using full-frame, I've tried it with my Rebel T3i and have gotten some spectacular results - people deny that I'm not using my full frame with the 85mm f/1.2L II as they share about the same view perspective.
- The aberration (distortions on the borders of very bright and dark areas) was evident on apertures from f/1.2 to f/2.0. They quickly clear up from that point and after.
Comparisons to other lenses in this range:
EF 50mm f/1.4 - The f/1.2L version is going to give you more contrast, color saturation, and sharpness at apertures from f/1.2 to f/2.8. Not to mention, the f/1.2L is built much better. If you live at apertures f/2.8 to f/22, get the f/1.4 version and save yourself about a grand - it probably has more bang for the buck in that arena and at these narrower apertures gives the f/1.2 more than a run for its money. If your intended primary use is for apertures between f/1.2 and f/2.8, there's no question the f/1.2L is superior.
EF 85mm f/1.2 II - Sharper and generally better picture quality than the 50mm f/1.2 at any aperature and one of the very few lenses out there that has better bokeh, if not the best as some might argue. The 85mm is heavier however, not weather-proofed, has nearly double the minimum focus distance, has an extending/retracting lens while focusing, slower to focus (had to give my 5Dmk3 body a micro adjustment for the 85mm too), and costs nearly $2000. I just don't ever feel right taking it out for a walkabout session, quite the contrary for the 50mm f/1.2L. The 85mm is for a more controlled studio environment in my opinion - I own both of these lenses and they are remarkable and quite recommended.
The 50mm f/1.2 takes awesome portraits, is great for just walking around, is very usable in limited-light (I can wander around downtown Chicago after the sun has set hours earlier and still get great hand-held photos). Again, while not perfect in the labs at open apertures, it is oddly one of my favorite lenses and gives gorgeous photos. As long as you know the quirks on this thing and leverage them, it will yield you shots few other lenses can provide. Bottom line..., this is the lens that caused me to sell my 24-105mm f/4L without remorse. That zoom has different demons, ones that I couldn't live with.
Good Luck & Happy Shooting
on November 30, 2011
I bought this lens to replace my Canon 50mm 1.4, but I soon found out that it is more of complement to the other lens than a substitute. Given its price, I thought it would exceed the 1.4 in every aspect. But I was wrong. Dead wrong! (well not really dead wrong, but I always wanted to say that, hehe)
My new lens arrived just yesterday. The date code: UZ10 (October 2011), factory fresh!! The very first thing I noticed of course is its weight and build quality. To me, that alone is worth a $500 premium over the 1.4. It feels f***ing fantastic to hold and gives a good balance with my 5DII.
Then I mounted it and did couple of test shots with both lens at identical settings. This lens has strengths and weaknesses over the Canon 50mm 1.4. Below are my findings:
Way better build quality
Slightly better and creamier bokeh.
1/2 stop faster (@ f/1.2)
Slightly less contrast (could be because it allows a little more light in)
Slightly less saturation
Softer at aperture f/2.8 and above
More Chromatic aberration (CA) at comparable apertures.
I would not consider the 1.2 to be any sharper than the 1.4 even at their widest respected apertures. At least not to my naked eyes. I really did expect a bit more from this lens. I will keep it for its strengths, but had planned to sell the 1.4 to cover (a little) the price of the 1.2. But after seeing the comparison shots, I am debating whether or not to sell the 1.4, as it has bitingly sharp images, especially from f/2.8 and above that neither the 50 1.2 nor my 24-70mm 2.8L can match.
My recommendation: if you have the 50mm 1.4 or deciding between the two, consider this: Do you really NEED that slightly cremier bokeh? Do you really NEED that ½ stop more light? And will you be using this lens professionally on a regular basis to exploit its build quality? And more importantly, are you willing to make sacrifices like slightly less saturation, less contrast, more CA and a lower sharpness at f/ 2.8 and above. If your answer is yes, then this lens is for you. Otherwise, appreciate the 1.4 version. I know I do, even more so than before!
Compare and make your own judgment. I posted a few of comparison shots at my flickr page. Search under people, "Sheedoe". Hi res available at photobucket dot com. Search users, "sheedoe".
on May 3, 2010
This lens receives a ton of negative reviews, mostly dealing with focus problems such as back focus or focus shift. However, this lens has been locked on my 5D for over a year and I have NEVER experienced any of these problems. I haven't shot a brick wall or a test chart with this thing; nonetheless, I'm very picky with my real world shots and have just been blown away by the results.
Every lens is designed for specific purposes and the 50mm f/1.2 is certainly no exception. Consequently, the negative aspects of this lens should be expected if you are familiar with ultra-fast 50mm's:
1. Significant chromatic aberration wide open. Easily fixed in post-processing.
2. Lots of vignetting wide open. No surprise here. It's beautiful for some shots, is fixable in PP for other shots.
3. Hard to focus wide open. The numerous reports of back focusing probably has to do with the limited skills of most users (myself included) or slight variations in lens/body combinations. I've never experienced this problem. The special Canon focusing screens (optimized for fast lenses) certainly help in this regard.
4. If you shoot mainly above 2.8, the much less expensive 50mm f/1.4 will likely give you great results as well. Even below 2.8, the 50mm f/1.4 is quite good.
Now, the pros:
1. If you live below f/2.8 and especially f/2.0, this lens is astounding. That's why I use prime lenses.
2. If you can nail the focus, this lens is sharp at f/1.2. I can see individual eyelashes when I nail the focus.
3. The lens is even more sharp starting f/1.4 and above.
4. Sharpness isn't everything. This lens produces out of focus areas that look like paintings. Much, much better bokeh than the 50mm f/1.4.
5. Colors are out of this world. Just a lot of work with... Post-processing becomes much easier, your results are of a higher quality.
If you are a skilled photographer who needs this lens, just go ahead and get it. The limitations are greatly exaggerated and don't inhibit the creative process much at all.
on December 27, 2007
The build quality is outstanding. The lens ends up being a bit heavier than you'd expect, as a result. The DoF is razor thin at f/1.2. The bokeh is liquid smooth, and with my 40D I can't even hear the USM focusing in AF. I included a few pics for this product.
The 72mm filter/lens size is expectedly a big step up from the 50mm f/1.4's 58mm, and matches my other lens' threading. If you are a casual photographer taking pics of your kids, the f/1.4 will do fine. You probably won't see the difference. But if you blow up and print your shots, or have occasion to sell your photos, then you will most definitely see the difference. The f/1.8 has 5 blades, the f/1.4 has 8,and the f/1.2 has 8-but those blades are curved to produce silky smooth background/foregrounds when the lens is wide open.
The damped rubber focus ring lets me change focus (even in AF) predictably as it has a good "feel" to it compared to a ring with no resistance. I have heard all the comments about back focus, but honestly I haven't seen it. I've even setup a few tests, and it looks crisp down to a subject being 13" from the lens (which is the closest the AF will work). Maybe it's the new 40D (v1.0.5) I'm using?
And the biggest surprise was how dark it can be while this thing still functions. It's now really easy to be discrete in dark rooms, now!
Anyway... find a way to buy this lens.
on September 12, 2011
I'm a professional wedding and portrait photographer who has been using this lens extensively for about 3 1/2 years. Combined, I use this lens for about 70 weddings/portrait sessions per year and am intimately familiar with it's image quality and nuances.
Let me start off with the weaknesses.
- The lens loses edge sharpness on a full frame quicker than longer focal length, or slower aperture lenses. Don't even think about shooting a full width group shot at anything faster than F2.0.
- Purple fringing will be apparent when shooting at large apertures under harsh lighting conditions. This is even more true at longer subject distances. Shooting that backlit portrait subject at 20 feet? Expect ugly edges.
- Close up performance is relatively weak. This lens employs what's called a fixed rear element design vs a floating rear element. The fixed rear element design results in superior bokeh and background blur, yet somewhat weakens the closeup performance of the lens. At moderate to longer distances, the lens is super sharp. Near minimum focusing distance (much closer than what you would use for portraits), images are not as sharp.
And honestly, I'm struggling to come up with anything else. The whole "focus shift" issue is so overblown its hilarious. Whatever tiny effect their may be (in 3.5 years I've yet to confirm it - seriously), it is VASTLY overshadowed by the fact you're using an F1.2 lens and focus accuracy by the user and camera is critical. You absolutely cannot have sloppy technique when focusing this lens. It requires precision or you're wasting your time.
Now, for the strengths of this lens - the reason why anyone would buy it.
- Image quality below F2.0 is the best of any AF 50mm lens you can buy from any brand - period. Take that to the bank.
- Bokeh, contrast and color saturation from this lens are outstanding - far better than other Canon 50mm lenses. The bokeh is far smoother and less busy than the 50/1.4 at similar apertures. The color and contrast are also superior. In harshly backlit environments, the 50/1.2 L delivers vastly superior image quality than the other 50s.
- Build quality is top notch - typical of Canon "L" lenses. This lens has been dropped multiple times (repaired once). It's even sustained a drop that completely smashed the lens hood. To this day it focuses smoothly and is razor sharp. Believe me when I say this thing is built to last.
- Focusing is reliable. This lens requires zero microadjustment on my Canon 5dII bodies and is worlds more reliable than my Sigma 85/1.4 with accurate focusing.
So there it is. In short, you have a less than perfect lens from most objective standards. If you are looking for clinical sharpness (ie: resolution charts), go elsewhere. If you are looking to shoot at F2.8, there are better choices. If you want the best fast 50mm for Canon you can buy, this is the ticket. It's very expensive, but it's a golden goose and it will retain it's value very well over time. Right now the retail price of this lens is $300 more than when I bought it. I expect that trend to continue in the future.
Why get this lens over a 35/1.4 or 85/1.2? That's like asking why buy a screwdriver when you could buy a hammer or band saw. These are high end professional tools with very specific usages. Each focal length has a very nuanced perspective and image rendering that is unique. If you need 50mm, then a 35 or 85 won't do. FWIW, I do have a Sigma 85/1.4 (and before that a Canon 85/1.2) and while both of them are from a strictly objective standpoint sharper, I use the 50/1.2 three to four times as much as I use the 85s. The perspective is just more comfortable and natural for me. You can move closer to your subject than you can with telephotos without getting the exaggerated perspective distortion that you get with wide angle lenses. For me, 50mm is the golden focal length and this lens is the best 50 you can get.