Monday, November 8, 2010

Canon 85mm f/1.2L Lens

Canon 85/1.2L how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

1) Creamy smooth backgrounds that are real! Often referred to by photographers as Bokeh

Have you ever seen the "fake" blur that some photographers Photoshop into their pictures? It's extremely annoying, especially around the edges of the main subject, or when distant objects are less blurry than those that are close to the main subject.

True, there are some Photoshop Plugins (such as Alien Skin's Bokeh 2) that do a better job than others. But they still suffer at the edges of subjects.

For example, It's hard to gets masks perfect (especially if fuzzy edges like hair are involved). So plugins will tend to blur the subject "into the background", which can't simply be edited out and kept looking real without a tremendous amount of work.

I like it real. I prefer not to edit my photos a whole lot. So if it can be done in camera, so much the better!

Some examples from my recent pictures - pay close attention to the sharpness of the subject and the creamy smooth backgrounds:

Canon 85mm f/1.2L
(Click to view large)

Canon 85mm f/1.2
(Click to view large)

2) Background lights turn into beautiful round orbs (again, Bokeh):

Canon 85mm f/1.2
(Click to view large)

3) Hiding defects.

I tell people that my 85/1.2L can make anyone look beautiful. Why? Because secretly I know that when I'm shooting very shallow DOF the only thing that will be in focus is their eyes (sometimes only one eye) and all of the 'defects' that they've learned to hate just blur away. Who needs skin smoothing software when you can capture it correct in camera?

One such example:

Canon 85mm f/1.2
(Click to view large)

4) Finally, the 85mm f/1.2L is easily the sharpest lens in my bag. So when I want perfect eyelashes or other details I pull out this lens.

In other words, I'm not obsessed with shooting wide open. Sometimes I want the sharpest image possible and this is my go-to lens for that sort of image.

Are there any downsides to this lens? Well yes...

1) Price. This lens is, by no means, a cheap lens.

2) Slow Focusing. I don't understand the physics of it, but I understand there are reasons why, even with Canon's USM focusing system, this lens still takes longer to focus than the vast majority of Canon's USM lenses. It means I don't use this lens out on the dance floor at a reception. I get that. But it doesn't stop me from using it for portraits.

So in spite of the slow focusing and high price, this is easily my most favorite lens. Ever.

It's not my most used lens. In part, because as a wedding photographer I am a slave to my zooms (I hate becoming a "moving distraction" at a wedding ceremony and so I prefer a good zoom lens over a prime for that reason). But when I want my very best pictures, this is the lens I pull out of the bag.

NOTE: All of the pictures featured here were taken with the Canon 5D Mark II Body. I need to point this out because the 5D II is a full frame camera which allows an 85mm lens to act like an 85mm lens (not 136mm as it would on a 1.6x crop-factor body). This is important to me because even at 85mm the lens feels a bit long at times. I like a long lens for portraits. But if it's too long, I feel like I have to stand too far away to interact with my subjects.


Display Name said...

This, the 35 f/1.4L and the 135 f/2L are on my list. Unfortunately I'm still trying to justify my 70-200 f/2.8L, 24-105 f/4L and 5DmkII purchases so it will be a while until this dream's realized...

Derico Photography said...

The 24-70 f/2.8 is next on my list, and I'm SUPER excited about that... but man, you make me want to try out the 85mm! I shall have to see if I can rent one and give it a try!

dterryphotography said...

I rented the 85 for 3 weeks before I bought it. I swear I didn't want to send it back.