There’s only so much that can be tested in home without fancy gear (MTF charts and the like) so I did a few tests that gauge common aesthetic qualities, using techniques that are often recommended for testing at home.
- Sharpness (center, corner, edge)
- Flare (not a great test, I admit, but shows some difference and similarities)
- Bokeh (spoiler: the Yongnuo wins)
- Chromatic Aberration
Canon Center. All sharpness tests shot at 1.8 / 2.8 / 5.6.
Yongnuo Center. I think the YN is a clear winner here.
Canon Top Left Corner
Yongnuo Top Left Corner. I like the sharpness a little better with the YN – but its a little brighter, even at the same settings.
Canon Right Edge
Yongnuo Right Edge
All in all, when it comes to sharpness, I think the Yongnuo has a slight advantage across the board. There are overall differences between the two, slight exposure differences, etc… but I think the Yongnuo wins out as being slightly more sharp overall.
The next is not a great test, I’ll admit, I wanted to see what results I could get shooting against the sun (a technique I use often, more specifics to come during the outdoor portrait session) there’s no clear winner, just wanted to showcase it. Surprisingly, the Yongnuo is marginally wider, but with more controlled flare. Focus set to the right point, on the leaves. Top is f/1.8, bottom is f/5.6.
One of the most reported shortcomings of the Canon 50/1.8 II is its pentagonal bokeh. While it might be nice wide open, it gets pretty ugly stopped down. The Yongnuo has a 7 bladed aperture, which should make it more appealing – let’s see.
For the test, I aimed a flash at some headshot paper (thunder grey) with holes poked in it. Not super scientific, but a technique I’ve used for bokeh in beauty portraits. Camera about 6 feet away, shot at nearest focal point at 1.8 – 2.8 – 5.6
Nice wide open, but at f/2.8 the hated pentagonal shape starts to rear its ugly head. Once you hit f/5.6 it’s pretty distinct and terrible. (please no clean your sensor comments, lol)
Bigger at every stop. The seven bladed aperture REALLY makes a difference here… The Yongnuo is the CLEAR winner.
Chromatic Aberration Test
Next up is chromatic aberration… something any budget-friendly fast prime will fight to control. I took a scenario that should cause some distinct CA, black on backlit white. Here’s what I got for f/1.8 and f/4 on both lenses.
It’s what I expected from this lens, in a high contrast, backlit scenario. Noticeable CA, with purple and green fringing.
Surprisingly, the CA seems more overall controlled with the YN lens, though more distinct in areas (like the lens) I still think the Yongnuo wins.
Mostly controlled at f/4 – I think it’s tied once you get this far in, with the edge going to Canon.
All in all, I’ve gotten some marked differences between the two shot under exact circumstances. Today’s tests aren’t anything fancy, and not the “hands-on, on set scenario” that I like, but they do give some input, so I thought I’d share. And I will go so far as to say the Yongnuo is aesthetically the better lens.
About the author: Jay Leavitt is a hobbyist photographer who tries to push himself as far as he can go. With many budget constraints around him at times, he does what he can to not let them hold him back at all. Leavitt blogs at Shooting on a Budget, where this article originally appeared.