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I love this lens!
This is the first lens I bought myself (after the kit lenses, which I used for a year) for my Canon 450D, and then decided to buy the 50mm f1.8.
This lens is excellent value for money - I got mine for AU$109 from Ebay (about AU$140 in the shops). It is exceptionally sharp for the cost - I noticed the clarity of the images straight away. When you compare the sharpness and clarity of this lens compared to other lenses of this price range (or the kit lenses), it really is head and shoulders above them.
It's low cost is mainly due to the all plastic mount, which to some might be a negative of the lens. However, this is not a problem for me and probably most other amateur photographers. As a result, it is lightweight. I love carrying this lens on my camera compared to my much heavier Canon 28-135mm lens.
Many people when looking at this lens, are comparing it to the similar Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens. However, considering the difference in price for the small difference between what f1.4 and f1.8 can provide, I believe the f1.8 is a better option. Unless you are a professional photographer, the f1.8 is a completely capable and adequate lens.
It allows for some amazing creativity with depth of field, and takes photographs well in low light compared to a kit lens. It produces some lovely bokeh and very sharp focus with great blur in the chosen non-focus areas.
Focus is easy to use - both AF (auto-focus) and MF (manual focus) are an option. The auto-focus works well, and the manual focus is very easy to use. The manual focus ring is a little small, but it doesn't take much to get used to it. MF gives excellent control, and can be very creative when teamed with the lens wide open (i.e. at f1.8).
I use this lens on a 450D (which is an APS-C), and I do not find the lens to be too "close up" or cropped. I don't think I would really take landscapes with it though. I mainly use it to be creative with depth of field, for still life photography, or photography of flowers and similar items. It can be used for portraits, but I do not really photograph portraits so I can't advise on this.
As it is a prime lens, there is no zoom. This could be a disadvantage for some people. I think it is actually an advantage - it helps to develop creativity and looking at a potential photograph from a different perspective. You have to move with your feet to adjust the frame, and as a result, I find myself lying on the ground, twisting the camera around, changing the angle, etc, a lot! Moving your feet around kinda gives you the realisation that there are lots of different perspectives to take a picture of one particular scene. As a result, I think you can get more interesting photographs.
This lens I think has certainly advanced my creativity, a). with the fact that I HAVE to move my feet - I move around, look around and look at things from interesting view points. b). I creatively use depth of field now - I can control parts of the subject to be in and out of focus. I can chose to have a blurred foreground if I like, and I can chose to blur the subject even, but still have a certain part of the image in focus!
I would 100% recommend this lens, especially to people who are just looking at expanding their lenses as I think this is a superb lens if coming from a kit lens. This lens really opens your eyes to the differences a good lens can make. It is a million miles above the kit lenses, and all of the other lenses you can buy for a similar price range. The lightweight-ness, the sharpness and clarity and the creative control you get from the aperture range make it an excellent, excellent choice for beginner, amateur and intermediate photographers.