Skip to main content

Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide

Lesson 32 of 58

Prime Lens: Normal Lenses


Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide

Lesson 32 of 58

Prime Lens: Normal Lenses


Lesson Info

Prime Lens: Normal Lenses

Okay, So in the last section, we were talking about zoom lenses, which is where a lot of people get started in their photography because they're versatile. And if you don't know what you're going to dio a zoom lens is a great choice because it allows you a lot of options. As you become more ableto identify exactly what you're photographing, then you're gonna probably be more interested in some of the prime lenses. And so that's our next topic is getting into the prime lands, also known as a fixed lens. And basically it's a lens that does not zoom back and forth. And so, in this section, what we're gonna be doing is just kind of going through the full list of different prime lenses that Cannon has will start with the normal. We'll work our way into the white angle, and then we'll come back and work our way up through the tele photos to the super tele photos. And then at the end of this will be talking about all the aftermarket options. As I mentioned before, I don't work for can and I d...

on't care if you buy these canon lenses or not, and So there's some Sigma's and tell Kenyans and tamarins and Zeiss and a bunch of other ones that we'll talk about in there as well. And some of those I'm gonna recommend over the cannon just cause I think they're better value for certain people that have certain needs. All right, so we're gonna be starting with the normal lens, the standard lands, 50 millimeter range and so normal or standard perspective. It's kind of what I call straight photography, where you're just trying to document things as naturally as they appear to your eye. It's also worked very well for low light environments, because these lenses are the easiest lenses to build with very wide aperture, so that they let in a lot of light. So let's take a look at the collection of canon lenses, and I'll just mention here before I dive too far into this one of the challenging issues and putting this class together for him, for you is do I include discontinued lenses or not? Because there's a number of discontinued lenses, you know? What if it was discontinued 20 years ago? No, I'm not gonna talk about it. What if it's discontinued? Six months ago. Well, maybe I'll talk about it if it's still available on the market. And so in this case, the 51 8 is a lens that is currently being replaced by the new 51 8 and you can both find both of them available right now. How long will that be? I don't know. Cannon could keep this around for 10 years, or it may disappear in six months. I just don't have that sort of information. But any case, they make three different aperture levels of lens 1.81 point four and 1.2. And in and of itself, the difference between 18 and 1.2, in my opinion, is not that big a difference. But the construction, the features and everything else in these lenses is hugely different, as is the price. So let's take a look at these individually now. This is one of Canon's newest lens. It's the 50 millimeter, 1.8 STM. This is replacing the model. I was just talking about getting discontinued, and this will likely become the most popular lens ever sold. And that's simply because a lot of people are buying lenses This is cannons cheapest lens and Canon is the largest manufacturer of lenses on the market, and so they've sold Mawr auto Focus SLR lenses than anyone else. And so this is the lands that is probably going to eclipse the 51 8 which was their top selling lance. And at the price it is, I can understand why it's just about $125 right here in the United States, So small lens lightweight lens compared to the previous model, it's pretty cool. They put a metal mount on this, and they're selling it for the same price. Now, optically, it's the same as the old 51 8 But they did add this STM focusing, which is a little bit better focusing system than the old 51 8 had on it. And so this is just a great buy, and it's something that I would highly encourage. Ah, lot of photographers to have is a fast 50 and for many people, maybe you're just want to test the waters a little bit $125. It's a great way to test the waters because you could buy this lands $125 today. You could use it for the next two or three years, keep it in good shape and probably sell it for 80 to 100 bucks down the road. And that's a darn cheap rental fee, if you ask me now, optically speaking, this is not the bees knees. This is not the best lens out there. In fact, it's pretty weak when you shoot it wide open. But that's part of the character of the lens, and it actually is quite fine for most photography. And so if you want an inexpensive fast lens that can shoot shallow depth of field under low light, it's fantastic. I already have a really nice 50. I'll show you later, but I popped one of these just cause. I think it's such a nice little compact lightweight lands, and it is so lightweight you can put it in your bag and you will barely even notice it's there. It's just a few ounces. All right, so what this lens is replacing is this lands here? And so this is the old one, and this one was made out of a lot of plastic. This one really feels like it came out of a gumball machine in its design. It has a plastic mount on it, which I've never been very fund of, but it has been an affordable way for people to get in to an inexpensive fast lands. There's not a lot of reason why you would buy this lens right now, because the new 50 although optically is not improved in any way at least has a better quality mount, and I think it has a better focusing system. The only thing that this has going over the new one is that the new one has that S t. M focusing, which is fly by wire technology, which means when you turn the focusing ring, it's not a direct manual physical connection with lens moving it back and forth. And if you were to focus out to infinity and turn your camera off, you can't manually focus that you gotta turn the camera on the camera. The lens needs to have power to it. This one is a direct control, and so there might be a special situation where you need to manually have direct control of the focusing. And if you really wanted that, that's the one thing that this older model has over the new model. The 51 4 has been one of the most popular lenses because people like those F 1.4 lenses. It's been around for quite some time, and I find it so interesting that Cannon will come out with their latest high tech $ camera. And they have a 20 year old lens that they put on the front of it when they advertised the camera because they want to put on kind of the standard simple lands, and so they put this one on it. I would not be surprised to see this replaced, but then I would not be surprised to see it around for another 10 years, given how long it's been here. But it's a fairly small lightweight lands. It is a little bit weak, wide open. In my opinion, I shot this quite a bit, and it's not the best wide open. You get a little softening in the corners and a lot of vignette ing or darkening of the corners. It does have a decent manual focus ring, and if you go back to the features and technology section, you'll recall that I said that this is using one of those micro USAID motors that tends to be a little bit weaker and sometimes has focusing problems. And so the manual focusing connection could be sometimes little bit weeks. And so this is one of the more repaired lenses in Cannons lineup, but optically sharp. If you do stop it down appropriately. So one of the favorites of the serious pro photographer, this would be something that you would likely find in the bag of a wedding photographer or a portrait photographer. It's the 51.2. This is the fastest autofocus 50 available. Canon did make a 51.0 as a brag item. I think I told talked about this before. And the fact of the matter is that the 51 point who was terrible and shot wide open very, very soft. And so they decided to compromise when they came out with kind of a sequel to that lands, and they decided to bring it down to a more reasonable 1.2 aperture where they could improve the optics quite a bit. And so, if you want really shallow depth of field in a 50. This is the shallowest you're gonna get. And it's a very nice what I call lifestyle lens because it's not a perfect tight up portrait lens. So if you want to show somebody doing their lifetime stuff, whatever it is backed off just a little bit. Works very nice for that has a beautiful bouquet or out of focus area. And so that's why it's very popular with the portrait photographers. Once again, any of these lenses that are really fast and, you know, for fear of repeating myself over and over again. Anything that opens up to a fairly fast aperture is gonna be soft in the corners except when we get up to the tele photos. When we get up to some of the really nice 203 104 100 those lenses you can shoot wide open and they're not going to be very soft in the corners. They're gonna be very, very good, so that's the only exception to the rules. So here's your collection of 50 millimeter lenses. Here's your comparison in price. Yes, you can see that 51 2 is way out of the league when it comes to price on the others. I think the STM is probably the choice for most people. I think in most cases I would recommend the new STM over the 51 4 I think the difference between 18 and 14 is incredibly small and not meaningful to most people. And so I think that's the better by right now, unless you're going for it all and you want that 1.2.

Class Description

Working with interchangeable lenses can be both exciting and daunting to all levels of photographers. Canon® Lenses: The Complete Guide with John Greengo will prepare you to select the right lens and get the most out of all of your lens investments.

John Greengo is the master of making complex photography concepts easy to understand and in this class, he’ll bring all of your Canon EOS DSLR lens options and operations into focus. 

You’ll learn about: 

  • Focal length and aperture
  • Canon zoom lenses
  • Which lens accessories to buy
  • Third-party lenses
  • Maintaining a lens system

John will cover the full range of Canon lenses, from ultra-wide to super-telephoto, zooms to primes, fisheye to perspective control. You’ll learn how to match the right lens to your needs and get insights on the best ways to use it.

Whether you are thinking about buying a new lens or just want to get the most out of what you already have, Canon Lenses: The Complete Guide with John Greengo will help you out.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Canon Lens Basics

    John Greengo gets you up-to-speed on the basics of working with interchangeable Canon® lenses.

  3. Focal Length: Angle of View
  4. Focal Length: Normal Lenses
  5. Focal Length: Wide Angle Lenses
  6. Focal Length: Telephoto Lens
  7. Focal Length Rule of Thumb
  8. Field of View
  9. Aperture Basics
  10. Aperture: Maximum Aperture
  11. Aperture: Equivalent Focal Length
  12. Aperture: Depth of Field
  13. Aperture: Maximum Sharpness
  14. Aperture: Starburst Effect
  15. Aperture: Flare
  16. Aperture: Hyperfocal Distance
  17. Camera Mount System
  18. Canon Lens Compatibility
  19. Canon Lens Design
  20. Canon Lens Composition
  21. Canon Lens Shape
  22. Canon Lens Coating
  23. Canon Lens Focusing
  24. Lens Autofocus
  25. Canon Lens Image Stabilization
  26. Canon L Lenses
  27. Image Quality
  28. Canon Zoom Lenses: Standard
  29. Canon Super Zooms
  30. Canon Wide Zooms
  31. Canon Telephoto Zooms
  32. Prime Lens: Normal Lenses
  33. Prime Lens: Moderate Wide
  34. Prime Lens: Wide Angle
  35. Prime Lens: Ultra-Wide
  36. Prime Lens: Short Telephoto
  37. Prime Lens: Medium Telephoto
  38. Prime Lens: Super Telephoto
  39. 3rd Party Lenses Overview
  40. 3rd Party Prime Lenses
  41. 3rd Party Zoom Lenses
  42. Lens Accessories: Filters
  43. Lens Accessories: Lens Hoods
  44. Lens Accessories: Tripod Mount
  45. Lens Accessories: Extension Tubes
  46. Lens Accessories: Extenders
  47. Macro Lens: Reproduction Ratio
  48. Macro Lens: Technique and Choices
  49. Fisheye: Technique and Choices
  50. Tilt Shift: Techniques and Choices
  51. Make a Lens System Choice
  52. Choosing A Portrait Lens
  53. Choosing A Sports Lens
  54. Choosing A Landscape Lens
  55. Best Lenses for You
  56. Lens Maintenance
  57. Buying and Selling Lens
  58. What is John Greengo's Favorite Lens?



I so appreciate what a good teacher John is. I wish I would have known this much about lenses when I first started out buying my lenses. It was hard finding information about lenses. I didn't want to spend money on a lens I wouldn't use. The better understanding we have about our gear the better photographers we will be. I have never seen a class like this. Invaluable...yes I bought the class! I am really impressed with the high quality photography classes available on Creative Live!

a Creativelive Student

Have loved the other John Greengo classes I've watched & purchased - and this is another winner! Having been a high school/college science teacher, it is refreshing to take a course with someone who not only is extremely experienced, seems to be a computer having stored so much knowledge, but is equally concerned about making the information truly understandable to different levels. And he shares the information using every tool he can: slides, video, interactive presentations, and great quizzes. I learned so much about my Canon lenses - and lenses in general with their many components. I am excited about testing each of mine to see what macro ratio they handle, and especially appreciated the tutorial on testing each for their specific quirk that affects super sharpness. This class is great whether you own Canon lenses or not. Thanks John Greengo!


This was a great class not just about the lenses that Canon offers but also how each lens works. As usual, John's slides are alway informative and entertaining. There is a phrase: John has a slide for that! I am not even a Canon user and found this class to have great information for the use of each specific lens. Great work John! Thank you Creative Live for another great class!