Posts Tagged ‘sharp’

The Venerable EF 85mm 1.8 USM

85mm1-8-blog4-1361Canon has offered the EF 85mm 1.8 USM for a very long time now. In fact this lens was introduced way back in 1992 when the EOS system was still fresh and new. Canon of course had a FD 85mm 1.8 for many years prior and they had the amazing 85mm 1.2 L in FD. I have owned both of those FD lenses and both were spectacular products. In the EOS world, the EF 85mm 1.2 L and the newer Mk II, are both excellent lenses, but they are enormous in size and weight and the focus is not considered to be that fast, at least by standards set with Canon’s other lenses. Now let’s be clear, if you can afford the 85mm 1.2L Mk II at some $2000 it will perform a little better from f/2 on down, all the way to the far corners of the full frame. This 1.8 version is 1/5 the cost, just as sharp everywhere except the last bit of the corner on a full frame camera and is so fast and easy to use, it is a wonderful choice for the photographer looking at a short portrait lens. I have always liked the 85mm focal length especially at f/2. At 1.2 the focus is so shallow that it is nearly impossible to shoot a head shot and have the facial features uniformly sharp, so often stopping down to f1.8 or f2.0 is needed anyway.

I haven’t shot actively in the studio for many years but I had both the 85mm 1.8 and the 85mm 1.2 L back in the early 90s with the bulky and heavy lens almost exclusively used in studio, and the lighter 1.8 in the field. Now I own the 85mm 1.8 USM lens and honestly I don’t use it a lot, because I just don’t take formal portraits very much. I shoot many portraits of my dear and lovely wife, but I do those informally when we are out and about and I use my EOS M3 for those with either the Zeiss 35/2 (56mm effective) or the Canon Rangefinder 50/1.2 (80mm effective).

85mm1-8-blog-0936This 85mm f1.8 Canon lens is a gem. With a street price in the $320-400 range new, and even less for used examples at eBay or camera shows like, PhotoFair, it is one of the great photo bargains. The autofocus is instant and very precise. The bokeh on this lens is truly delicious. The USM is silent and the lens has a solid build quality. Not like an L lens of course, but better than average. This lens also enjoys Canon’s instant manual focus feature allowing manual override with a simple twist of the focus ring. There is no need to toggle a switch.

About a month ago my wife bought a couple of wigs just to horse around with short hairdos and I shot a few pics in the living room with the 85mm 1.8 on my EOS 5D Mk II with the 580EX flash on camera.

So my wife and I both qualify for AARP,Ā so to keep the home life happy I applied some classic overexposure and a little softening. But hey, isn’t that what most good portrait photographers would do for their clients anyway? Of course it is šŸ˜‰85mm1-8-blog-0936-2

The shot up topĀ is uncropped. I took the same shot and cropped it tight into a head shot to show the lens is sharp and the f/1.8 provides crazy shallow focus as you will see; the right eye which is slightly closer to the lens is sharp and the left is soft. This is a fabulous lens and the 85mm focal length on a full frame camera is just so versatile for people, even a small group of three for a head and shoulders will deliver a nice soft background with sharp eyes and face.

I decided to snap a few shots around the house to show off the lens’ versatility and its delicious bokeh. I have a couple of shots of ornaments on the tree as well as some spontaneous shots outside, and finally a lovable doggy shot. Who doesn’t like a doggy picture?

My wife is a high school teacher and needed some head shots of her students for a project. I used this lens for the photos and the students were delighted with their pics, many choosing to post them on Facebook. It wasn’t me, I never was that good at portraits, I am moreĀ ofĀ a landscape, cityscape, wildlife guy. It’s all about that lens. Well, a little Photoshop/Lightroom too šŸ˜‰

For readers of this blog shooting Nikon, they have a nice 85mm 1.8 lens as well and I hear it is a fabulous lens. The 85mm focal length is just wonderful. You can also read about the amazing value proposition from Vivitar with the Series One 85mm 1.8 from a previous post.

The Canon EF 85mm 1.8 USM is outstanding. If a short telephoto lens is a big part of your shooting life then Canon may be a wise choice in bodies because all that I have read suggests that this may be the best 85mm consumer grade lens in the market place. Overall I keep asking myself, why the hell did I wait so long to add this lens to my bag? I bought it about 6 months ago.

Here are the other shots I took with the lens today:


Maggie Mae, 1/400 @ f1.8 ISO 400


Ornament, 1/250 sec @ f/1.8 ISO 800


Stubborn Leaf, 1/320 sec @ f2.5 ISO 400


Ornaments, 1/160 sec @ f/1.8 ISO 800



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Canon 16-35mm f/4.0 L IS


St. Johns Bridge and pond, Portland, OR

I have had a whole slew of ultra wide zooms over the last 10 years. I shot with a Canon EOS 7d for a while and tried a number of ultra-wides for that camera, including the Tamron SP 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 LD, Tokina ATX 11-16mm f/2.8 and the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5.

When I decided to go “Full Frame” (Full Frame or Crop?). I also had a couple of ultra-wides. I started with the Canon 17-40mm f/4.0L and that was a very good lens. It was sharp and pretty well corrected. As I have mentioned I have always been a fan of fast glass and Canon’s 16-35mm f/2.8L was out there… taunting me. There it was a full stop brighter and even more wide-angle. But that lens is physically quite large and heavy, and optically it is not as clean as the 17-40mm. Even the second generation 16-35mm f/2.8L II is not considered to be a solid performer optically. So I was able to resist that ‘Jonesing’ sensation. Last summer (2014) Canon came out with a new ultra wide-angle lens; the 16-35mm f/4.0L IS. I read the reviews on this new lens and they were overwhelmingly positive. Several magazine reviews suggested this was the sharpest and best corrected ultra-wide angle lens Canon had ever made. Oh no… I suddenly “needed” that lens. So I bought one and sold my venerable 17-40mm L. So how will it perform? After all, Canon has not exactly been the performance leader in the full-frame ultra-wide zoom arena, routinely falling short of arch-rival, Nikon.

Well, many of the professional reviewers have given this new Canon lens higher marks than the offerings from Nikon. In fact one reviewer took the test all the way to the top, so to speak, comparing this Canon lens to the legendary Zeiss 15mm 2.8 prime. Granted, 15mm is wider than 16mm, but the Zeiss is a prime lens! The Canon lens in that article was similar in performance on several metrics to the Carl Zeiss.

My primary use for this lens is real estate photos. As a RealtorĀ® I routinely take photos of my listings and I also take photos for other agents in the area. A good wide-angle is essential when trying to show an entire room in one image. This new lens is equipped with Canon’s famously good, image stabilization system, “IS”. Although I almost always use a tripod, there are times when I am in a tight spot and have to hand hold. Having the IS is a huge bonus in those situations and this is the only ultra-wide that Canon offers with IS.

Ef16_35_4lisu_586x186_heroAlthough this lens is a bit longer and heavier than the 17-40mm it is MUCH lighter than the beefy 16-35mm f/2.8L. I have been delighted with this lens and it continues to impress with exceptional control of distortion and crisp sharpness right out to the corner. Vignetting is always an issue with these ultra-wides and again this lens has it well-managed. The best part about this “new’ Canon lens is the price. It is about 40% more expensive than the 17-40L but it is a superior lens in every measurable way. It is however significantly less expensive than the 16-35 f/2.8LĀ coming in more than 30% less. It is also superior optically to that lens. This lens is a walk-off home run in game seven of the World Series. Yeah it’s just that good.

Ultimately I am in serious lust for the latest entrant in ultra-wide angle zooms and that is also from Canon. The 11-24mm f/4.0L. Yes this is a FULL FRAME lens that goes to a crazy wide 11mm. The reviews have been over the moon about this lens. One of these days real soon I will rent that lens and test it out. I probably ought to just buy it, but they are quite proud of it at Canon USA with a sticker of around $3000.00. Yikes! I haven’t spent that kind of coin on a lens since I bought a Canon FD 300mm f/2.8L back in the early 90s.

I’ll probably just have to make do with the sharpest and highest quality ultra-wide angle lens Canon has ever built. Yes the 16-35mm f/4.0L IS.



Ramp and dock, Washougal, WA

house2 (1 of 1)

A listing in Camas, WA

house4 (1 of 1)

Entry to listing in Camas, WA

house3 (1 of 1)-2

Master bath, tub area, listing in Camas, WA


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