The Canon EF 50mm “Compact Macro” is one of the most frequently used “prime” lenses in my gadget bag. I am finding that really close-focus photography is a great way to capture truly eye-popping visual images.
The Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact-Macro lens is a so-called “mid grade” model that is very affordable and it is well constructed. To get the maximum performance out of this lens, the "Life-Size" Converter EF is strongly recommended.
There is a special numbered scale on the extending barrel of the Compact-Macro, printed in yellow markings. These are magnification ratios that apply only when the lens is used with the optional Life-Size converter. Until you add the converter you really have no idea of what the prime lens is truly capable of doing.
The Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens, when used alone, provides a 1:2 magnification factor, without the EF “Life-Size” converter. However, when it is mated with the matching Converter, this combo delivers true 1:1 "life-size" images. I use the converter more and more often these days. Although, the “less than life-size” images are perfectly sufficient for many applications. When the combination is complete you more than DOUBLE the power of the lens! Magnification is increased from 0.26X to 1.0X. An added benefit is that it also increases the "working distance" of the lens. This is useful when you are shooting tiny creatures. The extra distance between the lens and the subject makes it less likely that you will disturb the little critter, allowing you to get the shot without scaring you subject out of the frame.
Fortunately, this little gadget lakes up so little space in my camera bag that it is always available whenever the subject needs a much closer view. It is only one inch long with the same diameter as the lens and it weighs under 6 ounces! It was designed specifically for use with the EF 50mm 2.5, so the optics present NO COMPROMISES in lens performance. This accessory has only one function, so there were no "trade-offs" required. It is NOT an extension tube. There are four perfectly optimized optical elements used here. The converter adds one f-stop to your exposures, but at f/3.5 it is still a "fast" combination. A very special feature of the converter is that it STILL ALLOWS THE LENS TO FOCUS OUT TO INFINITY!
You can still get some amazing close-ups using the lens alone, but with it you more than DOUBLE the size of the image without loosing any of the prime lens's outstanding sharpness! This is especially true on a “small frame” digital SLR. It should be noted that when this combination is used on Canon’s Digital Rebel (including the XT and XTi) or EOS 10D, 20D or 30D cameras, it becomes the equivalent of a 80mm lens, which is an extremely useful focal length. Its performance is VERY close to that of the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens mounted on a 35mm SLR film body.
It helps that I use a “crop factor” camera most of the time because only the “sweet spot” of the combination is used, even when shooting “wide open”. This practically eliminates the softness in the “corners” that some film camera users have noted when using this combo. Best of all, this pairing of lens and converter remains really, really sharp, and I truly mean “L class” sharp! Color and contrast are consistently outstanding and always pleasing to the eye.
As a “walking around” lens, the EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact-Macro is as good as any prime lens within its price range. By adding the EF Life-Size Converter you increase the versatility of the lens by at least two-fold. The lens, all by its self, does a great job of performing many tasks extremely well. It’s a killer portrait lens, a very good lens for “street” photography, and it is an especially fine choice for nature photos. With the converter, you really have two fantastic lenses to work with, but the combination still takes up less space that the next nearest "true" macro lens alone.
Macro photography with the converter is where the lens really shines. To get the most out this combo, you will need look at relatively mundane subjects directly through its powerful Macro eye. You can capture some of the most artistic close-up shots that you have ever seen. Just look through the viewfinder and examine things that might have never looked interesting to you before. You will find unexpected opportunities in places you could have completely overlooked.
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