A bit of glass


Oh my, it's been over 7 months since I have updated this section of my blog, hell, the last update to this section!  Last post was announcing the birth of my son!  So, it's time to give a little update here!

It's finally time to talk about glass!  Not the kind that you drink out of, or the kind on a window - but the real nice glass that you get with quality lenses.  Over the past 5 years I have for sure been accumulating a pretty nice collection, and it's just interesting to watch and see the trends!  One new lens upsets the whole balance and more times than not it bumps one out of use.  

Earlier this year I shot 2 weddings and figured why not give 2 lenses I have debated over for quite some time a try - the fairly recently released (2010) Canon 70-200mm f2.8LII IS, and the older (1996) Canon 135mm f2.

As mentioned in a previous post, I had been using the much older version of the 70-200.  It still rocked the 2.8 aperture, which was needed given the range of the lens.  It was a workhorse of a lens (going by the metadata it's my 2nd most used lens).  It was my second L series lens (which is the moniker for professional grade in canon terms).  It forced me to shoot with a real steady hand.  But, I definitely got bitten by the prime lens bug.  Prime lenses are focal length specific lenses - they do not zoom so they are optimized for that particular range and the quality more times than not definitely trumps most zooms - and they have larger apertures so they let in more light.  Also, as my direction with weddings took root, I started to find the shortcomings of this lens.  For most ceremonies your working in a low light situation.  

For most ceremonies I shoot with 2 cameras and use the 70-200 and the 35mm for the processional.  On the body with the 35 I can keep my ISO much lower (better image quality) - even at matching apertures because I can hand hold a wider angle lens at a lower shutter speed.  For example: even with a steady hand for a typical church ceremony your using ISO 5000 and SS of 1/180th.  But, with the 35 I can go as low as 1/60th and use an ISO of 2000.  While Canon sensors hold up pretty good at higher ISO's, you lose a lot of detail as you bump that level up.  

On to the updated version, the 2.8II IS - this lens is 3 generations of R&D better than the first version.  IS stands for image stabilization.  And yes it does work really well.  I can handhold now down to 1/50th!  Your subject can't be moving fast though, the IS does keep the lens shake down but at low shutter speeds you start getting motion blur.  This all means - more keepers, and better overall quality for those keepers.

This lens went head to head with the 135mm f2L.  I had had a theory that I could simply get this lens instead of upgrading he much more expensive 70-200.  What I found though is this lens is just as special as every other review I have read on this lens.  It's why I have been wanting to get my hands on one for like 3 years now. 

This lens is going on 2 decades old now, and it performs on par with all of my other very good lenses.  Even though the focal lengths overlap, this lens is it's own tool - it doesn't replace anything  - it just adds another level of creative fun.  f2 at this range is just a whole new world of DOF fun.  That's where the magic of this lens makes itself known.  It's not the workhorse like the 70-200 - I wouldn't rely on it fort he processional, but I would switch to it for many moments of the ceremony.  This lens will shine though on engagement shoots, outdoor posed shots with the bride and groom, the first dances, and slow dances if it's a larger reception venue.  

Due to the workhorse nature of the 70-200mm, that just had to come first.  But, I am planning on having the 135mm by the the end of May.  In the past 2 years I have been working mostly on the wide to normal range - 16-35mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm (which i recently sold), 85mm, and 100mm macro.  It was the 24 and the 35 though that made me make the moves I am making.  The image quality of those 2 lenses is just amazing.  Adding these 2 longer lenses levels the playing field.

The only question now, will I be able to get by without a 50mm?  We shall see!