photographers - favorite canon lenses?

topic posted Tue, October 28, 2008 - 3:13 PM by  Unsubscribed
just curious which lenses you love and hate in the canon family and why?
my favorite is the F2.8 70-200mm IS, such amazing bokeh~ :)
my least favorite right now is the 24-70mm. too much lens distortion while shooting in the studio. i'd love to find the sharpest lens for studio work. i know fixed lenses are sharper but impractical for my studio shoots. opinions? :)
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  • Re: photographers - favorite canon lenses?

    Wed, October 29, 2008 - 1:04 PM
    Hi Pixie,

    I've developed some Canon loves/hates myself. I'll share that experience with you, I hope useful?

    My workhorse lens is the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS, but this is mostly for shows. Love that lens! I find it's a little big and awkward in the studio though. I have used the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L in this same context (festivals or shows), but it's just way too slow.

    I'm in agreement with you on the 24-70mm f/2.8L, not only because of the distortion you mention, but also because of the full zoom range. However, this has been my main studio lens historically, and I find it really wanting these days. So I've been contemplating a making a change here that may well be similar to what you need. I think the 24-105mm f/4L IS is the answer for the new main studio lens. I've found the long limit on the 24-70mm lens too constraining in general. But having more zoom range would allow backing off a distance to create less-distorted views, whether in a portrait framing or otherwise. For studio work, the f/4L is actually just fine, since two-stops down will be even sharper, and this exposure falls right within the general range I like to use with studio flash lighting anyway, with latitude to spare. And this lens could do double-duty: it's not extremely fast, but it's not slow either. For certain situations where you want to use a hot lights setup, or (artificially managed) available light in the studio (like candles), the IS would be an incredible feature to have.

    I hope you might reconsider on primes at some point though. I also use the 135mm f/2L as my main portrait lens, it's incredible. The fast speed also allows low-light work, and it allows sharp portraits in situations where studio or portable flash are more intrusive. It's a smaller lighter lens than using the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS in the studio. Psychologically, it also seems a little less intimidating to the model than The Workhorse.

    Similarly, since you like how the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS looks, the Canon lens with the absolutely most painterly bokeh I've ever seen are the 85mm f/1.2L. It's not just the quality of the bokeh, it also the just lovely color rendition in the out-of-focus zone, "painterly," IMHO. And the fast performance is truly excellent for available light work. Here's a couple shots of what that looks like from an old shoot:

    Then there's the prime lens I call the Eye of God, the 300mm f/2.8L IS. OMG that lens seems 1/2 stop brighter than it's rating, things really do seem brighter through the viewfinder when you put that on the camera body. Again, more of a lens for shows at a greater working distance, but I believe it's the sharpest Canon lens I've ever used. Like the 85mm f/1.2L the bokeh is very sweet, but it has a lovely tonality all it's own, I've never seen anything else like it in the Canon line. I've figured out why these super-telephoto lenses are so sharp wide-open: the physical aperture is actually truly wider than needs to be for the fastest rated speed.

    Lastly, for club work in available light, I find the 50mm f/1.2L perfect, but generally only on a 1.3X camera, like the 1D Mark III. On a full-frame camera, like the 1Ds Mk II (or 5D, or other later models...) the 50mm is just way too distorted for my taste ... but using only the central portion of the lens as a 65mm very fast lens works excellently well. However! This is also a truly great studio lens for wider views standing back a little, when using special-effect lighting, or again with specially managed available light in a studio setting, like candles, or poi.

    Wish you well Pixie.

    Blessings and Light,
  • Re: photographers - favorite canon lenses?

    Thu, October 30, 2008 - 6:38 AM
    I use my Canon 70-200mm for shooting belly dance performances and also big burly men in kilts on muddy fields (there are quite a few Highland games events in NC). It's a great lens! I'm shooting an indoor/outdoor Halloween party this weekend and am considering using that as my only lens (since the guy who booked me told me I have to also dress in costume... yikes).
    When I'm feeling that I don't need/want as much crispness, I've been playing with my Lensbaby a lot lately. Talk about your bokeh. Yes, I know... it's an aftermarket lens, but I shot some images with it for my last gallery show and those images got the most attention.
    As for fixed lenses, I've got the Canon 50mm f1.2 prime lens and it makes me happy. I do have to get right up on people for the best effect, so I'm not sure it would fit your studio needs.
    • Re: photographers - favorite canon lenses?

      Thu, October 30, 2008 - 11:27 PM
      Jane, glad you're having some fun with the Lensbaby. This last Spring, I picked up the new Lensbaby 3G, which I like a lot better the than the Lensbaby 2.0. because the control of the effect is much more precise. The bokeh has to be pretty clean, because the aperture disks are absolutely circular.

      The Lensbaby really functions as a SFX type of lens. It's a very interesting lens, one that adds mood, drama, or the appearance of motion on otherwise still scenes. I've also used it to create a kind of apparitional look. Here's a link to one my favorite belly dance photos, (though done with the LB2C), where the lovely Freya appears very much as if in a dream, in this photo:

      I also know photographers who distinctly do not like the Lensbaby effect, so the "look" might not be for everyone's aesthetic.

      I think of Lensbabies somewhat like the Holga film camera. It's a useful tool, and it both forces and allows you to be creative. You can have some excellent results. But, probably it's not your primary working lens.

      Blessings and Light,
      • Re: photographers - favorite canon lenses?

        Fri, October 31, 2008 - 6:57 AM
        Love that shot! It's absolutely beautiful.
        I'm also shooting with the 3G right now... They've changed their line (renamed the lenses, but they work the same) and added a new one called the "Composer" --- it maintains the bend but you don't have to deal with the screws like you do with the 3G.

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