Now that I've explored depth of field and autofocus accuracy, it's time for me to use the Canon EF 85mm F/1.2L lens in a couple of photoshoots typical of my photographic style. The first shoot is in the studio, with Alien Bees strobes for illumination. Strobes generally make everything look pretty sharp and make lenses look their best. All shots using the expensive L lens on this page were shot wide open, at F/1.2. The 1.8 lens was also used wide open. The camera was a Canon 5D Mark III.
The first image is an example of how the shallow depth of field affects portraits. Standing about six or seven feet away, I put the focus point on the model's right eye. The photo is cropped so that we only see about 25% of the original image. You can see that the left eye is is undeniably out of focus. Some fans of this lens feel this is a good thing and use terms like "magical rendering" to describe this look.
If you want both eyes in focus, the model needs to have her face pretty square with the camera, like in the image below.
I backed up to about ten feet for the next one - minimal cropping. Still wide open at F/1.2, notice how some of the hair is quite blurred. Rather a nice effect, I think, but would I pay two thousand dollars for it?
Backing up to about 15 feet allows full body portraiture. At this range, all parts of the body are in good focus, only the background is blurred.
While the 1.2 is a fine lens, I wasn't really seeing any qualities that I needed for my studio work. I did, unfortunately, notice the weight and rather slow focusing. Neither was a big issue in the studio, but did negatively effect my overall impression of the lens.
Perhaps the 1.2 L would really show it's stuff outdoors? My old friend Miss Cupcake needed some photos for her blog to illustrate a post that combined her Gothic Lolita costume with some theatrical magic. Magical powers are often ascribed to the 85 1.2 L, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity!
The image below was taken with Canon's trusty workhorse, the 24-105, wide open at F/4. Notice that the background is only slightly blurred.
The two photos on the left were taken with the L lens wide open, The two in the right column were taken with my old 85mm F/1.8 wide open. Check them out carefully and see if you can spot the difference.
Seeing these photos made me recall a comment I read about these two lenses a long time ago. Someone said that "The 1.8 blurs the background, the 1.2 obliterates it." I think that's a pretty accurate statement, but I was expecting a more dramatic difference. Perhaps you don't get the full effect of the huge aperture if you aren't standing close enough to the model. Let's get a bit closer and see what happens.
During the outdoor shoot, I really started to feel the weight of the 1.2. Switching back and forth with the 1.8 highlighted the difference. Even the big 24-105 was substantially lighter. I also found it difficult to keep the very active model in the zone of focus. Both the photographer and the model need to hold still or her face will slip out of the zone and look blurry. People have said that the 1.2 is not a good choice for sports due to the slow autofocus - I would add that the very shallow depth of field makes it difficult to use with moving subjects. If I had to use it, I'd stop it down to roughly F/2, but if I did that, I might as well use the EF 85 1.8, which is far lighter, has lightning quick autofocus and ties up a much smaller amount of my cash.
So what is this very expensive, heavy and slow focusing lens good for?
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A sex-positive photographer serving your private photography needs.
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