The nifty fifty — a small, lightweight 50mm f/1.8 lens — is supposed to be cheap and cheerful, and none comes cheaper than the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8.
With Canon and Nikon mounts available, it’s a fun choice for those on a tight budget who are looking to step up from a kit lens and discover what a wide aperture can achieve.
Yongnuo is relatively new to making lenses and you’d be forgiven for mistaking this with Canon’s own 50mm f/1.8 STM lens, such are the similarities.
However, at less than half of the price of the Canon version, the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 is definitely a more affordable alternative – not that the more expensive version was ever going to put a huge dent in your wallet.
The focal length of nifty fifty lenses translates to 80mm when attached to an APS-C camera such as the Canon 1200D. This makes it ideal for portraits, though you will need to be very precise with your focusing.
If you don’t have much money to spend, fancy a fun autofocus lens that you don’t need to care too much about, or just want to see what the fuss is about when it comes to bokeh, the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 could be for you.
Table of Contents
Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 Specs
- Fast maximum aperture
- Idiosyncratic images
- Autofocus is inconsistent
- Images can be soft, especially in certain zones at certain distances
- Plastic construction feels very cheap
- Retails for around $50-70
- Canon EF and Nikon F mounts available
- Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22
- 6 elements in 5 groups, one aspherical
- 7 diaphragm blades
- Angle of view: 46°
- Minimum Focus Distance: 1.48’ / 45 cm
- Dimensions: 2.87 ” x 2.17 ” / 73 mm x 55 mm
- Filter size: 52mm
- Weight: 4.2 oz / 120 g
Build & Ergonomics
Be assured: you are getting exactly what you pay for in terms of build quality.
While the Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM features a metal bayonet, the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 is all plastic, giving it the lightweight, inexpensive feel that you should expect when paying little more than $50 for a lens.
The autofocus ring doesn’t feel very smooth and there’s a fair amount of play between the ring and the rest of the body.
The AF/MF switch feels a bit like the on/off button on a child’s plastic toy, but it does the job.
Autofocus can be a fun game with this lens, and performance occasionally seems strangely inconsistent – perhaps because of variances in the lens itself.
It struggles in low light and will hunt around slowly, its motors whining enthusiastically.
Autofocus itself is quite slow and noisy, but if it finds good contrast, it will deliver a sharp image — definitely not all of the time though.
Even a well lit, isolated subject with good contrast can result in out of focus images, possibly thanks to specific parts of the frame or certain focusing distances being soft.
Backlit subjects can present problems, leaving the lens searching for contrast and often failing. This is to be expected.
Blocking the light, grabbing focus, and then shooting is probably your best option.
Though I’ve captured some relatively crisp images with the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8, sharpness when shooting wide open is often absent, sometimes leaving you wondering if you’ve forgotten to remove the protective film from the rear element.
Shooting at smaller apertures will sharpen up the images somewhat and, given the price, contrast is good and chromatic aberrations can easily be sorted out in post.
For publishing online — and Instagram in particular — even the softest images produced by this lens will be more than adequate.
If you want to spend as little money as possible to create bokeh for social media, this is still a good option as the lack of sharpness will not be an issue, especially when viewing on mobile devices.
Bright light entering the lens directly will cause a drop in contrast and flares are not controlled (no lens hood is supplied, either).
More expensive lenses have coatings to control flare and maintain contrast, but this is absent from the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8.
Personally, I don’t find this to be too much of a problem — if I’m shooting straight into the sun, that drop in contrast can create dreamy, ethereal images, an effect you’d normally associate with manual focus, vintage lenses.
The Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 doesn’t quite have that feel, but it certainly comes close.
Either you see these quirks as deficiencies or as idiosyncrasies, and if you like loose, fun photographs where quality isn’t a priority, the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 delivers entertaining results.
Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 Sample Images
Check out these sample images taken with the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8:
Value for Money
With many lenses, you get exactly what you pay for and the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 is no exception.
Autofocus is slow and the image quality can be poor, but at this price, it strikes me as being great value – especially if this is your first lens or simply need something small, light, and not valuable that can be chucked in the bottom of a bag.
Of course, you can probably pick up a vintage lens through eBay or a second-hand dealer, but while the image quality might be slightly better if not equally idiosyncratic, it will be much heavier and will not have autofocus.
It’s worth noting: the autofocus does work, it’s just not very quick and it struggles in low light, so once you know its limitations, it’s not as though you’ll be fighting with it.
As a result, the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 delivers genuinely good value for money assuming you don’t need high-quality results.
Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 Review | Conclusion
The Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 is a fun lens and offers great value at an exceptionally affordable price.
It’s not too dissimilar to having a vintage 50mm lens, albeit with autofocus and without the weight of a metal shell.
It has a plastic feel and delivers suitable plastic-feeling images, but the autofocus — though sometimes inconsistent — makes it comparatively easy to use and no other lens will deliver this much bokeh for such a tiny amount of money.
This lens makes the perfect gift to those relative newcomers to photography who would benefit from learning about the joys of a prime lens with a fast aperture.
Anyone with a passion will want to upgrade quickly from the lens, but it makes an excellent stepping stone and an equally fine stocking-filler.
For anyone shooting on an APS-C camera and wondering if they might enjoy creating portraits, this an ideal first choice, even if there will be a number of soft images along the way.
For those on a full frame, the Yongnuo YN 50mm f/1.8 is a fun walkaround lens that doesn’t require much care and attention, generating some nice swirly bokeh that’s perfect for social media.
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