Yognuo 50mm f/1.8: Attack of the Clone

 
The Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8

The Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8

The Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 is not just another 50mm lens. It is a living testament to the strides we have made in the field of cloning. Aditya Nair is left seeing double.

Buying a 50mm f/1.8 lens was the first conscious gear decision I made. For the first time, I thought of myself as something more than a tourist with a camera. I did not care about zoom. Non-photographers asked me why I would buy a 50mm lens when my kit lens gave me the same focal length. That was the first time I had the smug look of a gear snob on my face.

I have loved photography since… Attempting to make portraits and not people pictures. Landscapes, not oh-looka- mountain photographs. Being able to play with out focus blobs that we call bokeh. Even, shooting in low light. I realised what a sharp picture meant. It was like seeing the difference between standard definition and 4k for the first time.

It was the beginning of my experiments with the medium of photography. Buying that Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II felt like a rite of passage. In a incredible moment of déjà vu, these memories came rushing back to me when I saw the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8.

Features
The Chinese tradition of creating exact replicas run strong in Yongnuo. They have cloned my favourite lens, at least on the outside. I am not sure how I feel about that. In a strange twist of fate, I found myself using the Yongnuo 50mm in conditions that were eerily similar to when I bought the Canon 50mm f/1.8—Mumbai monsoons followed by a trip to Kerala.

On a more objective note, though, the Yongnuo 50mm costs only USD 63 (approx. Rs. 4000) plus shipping, which is half the price of the Canon lens. For the purposes of this review, in keeping with literary traditions, I shall be referring to the Canon 50mm f/1.8 as Adam while Yongnuo shall simply be called Ripley, for being a talented imposter (Hint: Watch the Talented Mr Ripley).

Since it is an f/1.8 lens, Ripley focuses quickly enough. While it is not internal focusing, the front element does not extend beyond the filter thread. There is no Manual override during AF either. All of this applies to Adam as well. Other features of the two lenses are also identical—a 45cm minimum focusing distance, minimum aperture of f/22 and a 52mm filter thread. Neither lenses have IS or a silent AF motor.

Handling
Though Ripley has slightly larger dimensions than Adam (73 x 55mm vs 69 x 41mm), it is 10g lighter. I suspect that this means lesser quality plastic is being used. Since drop tests are largely frowned upon, by both my editor and manufacturers, we are restricted to a squeeze test, which is about as scientific and complex as it sounds. The Canon (in my right hand) squeezed marginally less than the Yongnuo (left). I am right handed; make of that what you will. That said, neither lenses are meant for or designed for abuse. So, treat them gently and you will be fine. With both Adam and Ripley, the focusing ring is quite narrow. Also, neither have damping for MF, it makes the fine tuning of the focus a matter of some practice.

Performance
Here again, the two lenses are nearly identical in their output. While Adam has marginally better flare control, Ripley was a slightly sharper lens. At maximum aperture, Ripley has good center sharpness that falls quite quickly as you move to the edges. There is visible fringing that can be seen in images. Vignetting is also prevalent at f/1.8 but improves as you approach f/5.6. Though there is no lens hood provided, the design incorporates a recessed front element, which gives some cover from flare arising out of light sources that are just outside the frame. The Yongnuo has 6 aperture blades, one more than Canon, and as a result, produces slightly better bokeh.

Although reasonably accurate, there were instances when the lens focused on the wrong parts of the frame, even in evening light. Here, for example, the lens focused on the feathers instead of the eyes. Exposure: 1/60sec at f/13 (ISO 3200) Photograph/Aditya Nair

Although reasonably accurate, there were instances when the lens focused on the wrong parts of the frame, even in evening light. Here, for example, the lens focused on the feathers instead of the eyes. Exposure: 1/60sec at f/13 (ISO 3200) Photograph/Aditya Nair

Conclusion
The Yongnuo matches the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens in almost every important aspect and even beats it in a few. However, you do need to consider the lack of distribution, warranty or support in India. If users face any issue with the lens, it will have to be sent back to China for repairs. Additionally, Canon users have one more option in the new Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM (Rs. 8995). The STM motor offers some advantages to serious video users. We will be testing the lens in an upcoming issue and will be able to give a more definitive answer, on whether the optics have been improved and if it is worth twice the price. Except for these factors, the Yongnuo is a steal.

 

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Relatively fast AF, no manual override, lacks silent motor and IS, only available for Canon
17/20
Performance
No distortion, some fringing and vignetting
30/35
Build Quality
Plastic build, adequately sturdy
20/25
Ergonomics
Well balanced, narrow focusing ring
13/15
Warranty & Support
No service centers           
0/5
MRP Rs. 8995
OVERALL 80%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4.5/5
Who should buy it? Anyone looking to improve their photography skills on a budget. This is a great beginner’s lens
Why? The 50mm focal length is perfect for portraits, street photography and in some cases even landscape photography. And the Yongnuo gives that to you at an extremely low price
Tags: Canon, Canon 50mm f/1.8, canon lens replica, cheap lenses, Chinese lenses, Yognuo 50mm f/1.8, Yognuo India