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Quite honestly, it's Canon marketing at its very best. They have somehow instilled into all Canon users that "L" lenses stand above all lenses out there. I have used Canon 35L for a long period of time and I can assure its bokeh sucks especially for a 1200 dollar lens but it focuses really fast. On the other hand, Nikon's 35G sucks at focusing but it's has a much smoother bokeh. I can bet if we replace Canon with Nikon and mark the 35G as 35L, we would hear Canon users say that Nikon's bokeh sucks :P
Now coming to 85L,...Show more →
Bokeh on 35L isn't technically great, I know this but I like the way it looks. I like many kinds of imperfect bokeh. Yes, focuses really fast and this is very appealing to me: Many times I tried to snap focus for a shot within a second and the 35g did not focus fast enough...and then other times I did the same thing with the 35L, suddenly trying to lock focus on something at the last moment and it snaps and bang right in focus...and I say to myself, damn that was pretty impressive...the 35L didn't always succeed in snapping to the perfect focus, but it did it fairly often...and the 35g basically never succeeded in those situations. Yes 35g bokeh is MUCH smoother, and it does have an overall nice effect, so I do like the 35g bokeh overall. I just don't like the slower autofocus and other mentioned focus issues (especially backlit subjects, it did me in too many times.
As for 85L, yes I've used center point since forever so it's become a major habit. Zeiss might be optically superior but they 1. don't come in at f/1.2 so they don't produce the same effect or gather as much light, and 2. they don't have autofocus. I need autofocus lenses because I shoot weddings with digital cameras that have viewfinders too small and imprecise to determine focus through analog measures. Nikon's 85 f/1.8g is pretty sharp wide open and has smooth bokeh, but I don't necessarily like that super smooth bokeh...and I also suspect that I like f/1.8 better on a faster-than-f/1.8 lens because I think it looks different than on a lens where f/1.8 is the fastest aperture...85L's primary weakness is slow AF speed, just like the 35 f/1.4g. And sometimes it is limiting. 35 and 85 are my most used focal lengths by a huge margin, and honestly 35 gets more use because it does just about everything. I tend to use 85 for more predictable moving subjects and static subjects because of the focal length (and possibly out of expectation of the lens' performance), while I often get up close and personal with 35 and shoot fast, erratic moving subjects as well as more predictable moving or static subjects.
I used to be all about the best optics I could afford...then my attention shifted to the best autofocus, then the best stylistic/artistically capable lenses (which is when I started using primes regularly). I'm still there in that last phase where absolute sharpness and minor lens defects are less important than the "look" of the photos.
And I was brought up with Canon since...2006?...so yes there's surely going to be some subconscious preferential treatment I don't know how to avoid. I remember when I didn't like the 50L's bokeh at all...I preferred the Sigma 50's bokeh (in other peoples' images, not mine). Now I have seen (and even produced a select few) images with the 50L that make me think, "this lens can produce a really nice effect when used a certain way." I admit subconscious bias, but admission doesn't change how I feel.
Now, those leica noctilux 50 f/0.95...I wouldn't mind having one of those. Talk about a dream maker.