Many people have made this comparison before, but this is a hard choice because both lenses have pros and cons. It wasn’t an easy decision for me, but after testing them for a long period the choice is clear for me.

Size and stealth factor, XF 50mm f2 wins: It’s small and light, even walking close up to people they won’t notice you, and if they do they won’t care with such a small lens. The lens hood is also smaller and less noticeable. If you are still new to street photography, this lens together with a flipscreen camera is awesome. Of cause if you plan to shoot weddings or portraits, size dosen’t matter.

Parade at Piazza San Marco, Venice with the XF 50mm f2.0.

Price, XF 50mm f2 wins: 449$ (50mm) vs 899$ (56mm), that’s a big difference.

Fast aperture, XF 56mm f1.2 wins: this is obvious, but it matters. Fast aperture f1.2 means more light for low light situations, it means smoother bokeh and to get better separation between objects in and out of focus. In low light situations you need a high shutterspeed for longer lenses (1/120) so you will need that f1.2 for night shooting.

My friend Janus + family + bike, with the XF 56mm f1.2.

Closer focus, XF 50mm f2.0 wins: It’s not that it focuses super close, it’s more the 56mm that can only focus at long distance. If you want to take closer up shots of objects or closer portraits of part of the face, you can’t do it with the 56mm. Not a big deal for many people since they often carry two or more lenses. 

Rendition, XF 56mm f1.2 wins: this is very subjective, but there is a clear difference in the look of photos from the two lenses. And I don’t just mean the look resulting from the different aperture. The 50mm has a more clear generic hard look, where the 56mm has more clarity/micro-contrast and has better colors. The 56mm has some kind of softness while still being sharp, try comparing this 50mm photo and this 56mm photo zoomed in. I absolutely loves this character the lens gives your photos, I have only tried only Zeiss lenses that would give the same kind of look. For me the image rendition of the 56mm is the most important factor for me.

Hospital in Nanjing, China. With the XF 50mm f2.0.

Other notes (that doesen’t matter): 56mm is a little bit longer (obviously), the 50mm focuses a tiny bit faster, the 50mm is a tiny bit lens noisy when focusing, the 50mm is weather resists, 50mm has more rounded aperture blades. There’s also a APD version of the 56mm with better bokeh, but it’s more expensive and let’s in less light, don’t think it’s worth it.

Final discision:

  • If you are a chicken and want’s to do street photography, then size and stealth factor will matter for you. It matters more that you bring your camera and get the shot than if the lens rendition is perfect. Get the 50mm.
  • If price matters to you, you could get almost get 2 lenses with the 50mm.
  • What matters most to me is that very characteristic rendition, almost unique like an old vintage lens but still sharp and with amazing colors. The XF 56mm f1.2 is my favorite lens.
  • For me I own both, I prefer to use the 56mm but also use the 50mm if I have to be very lightweight or stealthy.

Autumn in Copenhagen with the XF 56mm f1.2.

Links: 

More of my photos:
XF 50mm f2.0 Flickr Collection
XF 56mm f1.2 Flickr Collection