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  Reviews by: Beverly Guhl  

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Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Jul 16, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $399.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, lightweight, inexpensive, handy focal length
Autofocus hunts a little in really low light.

I've owned the 50mm 1.8 and rarely used it, but after seeing various images shot with the 1.4 (and 1.2) by other photographers, I was intrigued. I debated getting the 1.2, but since I mostly wanted a fast, lightweight prime lens to take available low light pics of my 1 y.o. granddaughter, I didn't think I needed to get a 1.2. I have the 85L (puts me too far from her) and the 35L (puts me too close to her sometimes, and I risk distortion, or she reaches up and grabs the glass)! I often need one hand free when I'm photographing her, which means I have to hold my 5DMKII in the other hand, and that gets heavy after a while (especially with the 85L on there). So, I liked that the 1.4 is so lightweight, and I figured what it would lack in "L" quality I could make up for in LR3 or Photoshop. Well, I got far more than I bargained for. I got a very sharp copy which truly blew me away. It compares to L glass wide open, and to prove it I'm posting a link to shots of my granddaughter with the Canon 35mm f/1.4 L and with this much cheaper 50mm f/1.4 (FY: both were shot at 2.0 because I prefer that aperture and bokeh for close ups of this baby.)...

Technical Disclaimer: the link below is a casual but stunning comparison just for the heck of it. Maybe it's helpful if you, like me were to say, "Gee, do I want to buy a cheap 50 1.4 to photograph babies/dogs/cats or spend $1,000 more and buy the amazing 35 1.4L ?" (Though there are a lot more considerations when choosing either lens, we know that!) Check out the link below and see for yourself just how hard it is to tell the casual $1,000 difference.

Is there anything I don't like about this lens? Well, it seems to hunt a bit in really low light. For the price this is a an amazing bang for the buck. It's so lightweight, I can toss it in my purse as a second lens and never feel a thing. And it's cheap enough if anything happens to it I'm not going to scream like I would if it were a 1.2!

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Review Date: May 10, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: sharp,crisp,quality,dependable,bokeh
heavy, slow focus in low light

I show with a 5DMKII. I owned the 85mm 1.8 for a couple years and I had a really sharp copy, so I couldn't imagine the 1.2 being THAT much better to justify the huge cost difference... but, I wanted to see for myself. I've had the 1.2 for about a year now and am pretty dazzled with it. It is definitely sharper, and there's a bit more clarity and snap to the images, just what you'd expect in an L lens. The bokeh is a dream.

I shoot a lot of headshots and some portraits, so I mainly use it for that, but I do pull it out for babies, kids, dogs, and cats, too (though I often use my 35 L for those). For headshots and portraits this is just amazing. The sharpness in the eyes is everything. On the downside, it's ridiculously sharp for some people's skin even at f/3.2 in a tight headshot, so I find myself softening the skin slightly on occasion.

On the downside... 1. It's HEAVY. I'm pretty strong and can hold 6 lbs. of camera and lens, but it's challenging to hold my 5DMKII with this lens using one hand while shooting. Always nice to have a hand free when you need it, like when getting a baby's attention. It's worth the weight though, of course. 2. It's "great for low light" situations, but the catch is you can't auto-focus well in low light every time you need to. So, be prepared to manually focus or miss some shots. None of the other things folks have said about the lens bothers me (lens hood, mount, etc.)

Here's some pics taken with this lens at various apertures.

For anyone debating whether to buy the 1.2 or the 1.8, I'd say IF you can comfortably afford the 1.2, go for it. If not, then don't fret. If you get a sharp copy of a 1.8 it's a gem, and the differences can be made up in post if you can adjust and sharpen images reasonably well. I just sold my 1.8, but I seriously considered keeping it because it was so lightweight and sharp.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Review Date: Mar 20, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Super sharp, DOF range, creative options, lightweight, size, solid build.
none for me

I'd come across some wonderful portraits of people and pets with a really shallow DOF and asked the photographers what lens they used, and this was it. I knew I had to have one. I LOVE this lens. It gives color, clarity, and sharpness mixed with a creamy bokeh that makes you just sit back and be awed by the images. The razor thin DOF can be challenging, but for creative, artsy effects for portraits, pets, objects it's fabulous. Landscapes and everything in between are rich and and crisp. The creative options and versatility make this a great lens to own. The price is probably just about right for a lens of this quality, but don't we all wish they were cheaper.

4 sample shots taken with this lens:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Review Date: May 14, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,700.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Large LCD with stunning clarity, sharp images, ISO, weight, custom dial, sensor cleaning, wireless remote triggering, etc.
Less noise handling improvement and image quality over 5D than I expected; still only 9 point AF; clumsy movie mode, shutter lag.

I must have a great 5D. I say that because I was expecting a *huge* improvement in image quality and noise handling with the MkII. There's a bit of improvement, just not huge--e.g. when I upgraded from an XTi to a 5D I was in awe. I was expecting to be awed. The MkII is slightly better with noise, and the extended ISO range is cool; and it handles color and contrast a tad better. The LCD screen is, for me, worth the upgrade. The clarity is breathtaking. I shoot a lot of headshots and I need to see faces and eyes really clearly, and show them to the client; now it's awesome. (and yes I've tried wirelessly transferring images to a computer as I shoot, that was too slow). The LCD screen shows skin tones more red than they are, so that kinda sucks. I love that it is self-cleaning, and I like the changes in the buttons and a custom menu. I don't have any problem with the CF card door like some have; but my 5D had that issue. A guy at the camera store tightened something inside the door for me and it stopped creaking, so I'm sure the MkII would be an easy fix, too. The movie taking feature is clunky. Even so, it does take impressive movies-- and while I don't need that in a camera, it's kinda cool knowing it's there (a bonus). Overall, like the 5D, a fantastic camera. Gotta love it.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Dec 6, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,700.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp, great range, IS, quiet, sexy.
HEAVY, mine was defective.

I bought this lens new based on all the rave reviews. However, every photo I took with it was SOFT, and the DOF at every f/stop was oddly shallow. I thought maybe I was just expecting too much, but I was horribly disappointed. Finally, I decided to ship it to Canon for evaluation. I got the lens back in less than 2 weeks. Turns out the lens assembly was "deformed and damaged" (from day 1 obviously), so they replaced the lens assembly and made other adjustments, etc. free (since it was under warranty).

NOW... it is everything I thought it should be. Yay!! I'm astounded. It's marvelous!!!!!!!!!!! Ditto on all the raves others have said.

I'm petite and this lens does get really heavy for me quickly, but it's been worth the adjustment and my arm has gotten stronger as a result. A monopod helps but in some situations is too limiting. Even so, after a 1 hour shoot my arm is tired. The IS really helps when the fatigue sets in and ensures sharpness even at 1/30 shutter speeds.

I would recommend this lens, but if YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS about it or ANY Canon lens, send it to Canon immediately.