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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM

Review Date: Feb 14, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Wide open, this lens shows a brighter and more colorful picture than the eye.

I've waited some time before I bought this expensive lens. I already had the 50mm 1:4, and the 35mm 1:4. I usually take photos at parties, indoor, at night, without a flash - on a 20D (1.6x crop) camera, so the 50mm is a portrait lens and the 35mm is good for "natural" medium-shots.

The advantage of 1.6x is that you only use the best part of the lens, and in that respect, the 50mm is a super-best buy. The difference with the expensive 35mm, wide open, is barely noticable.

But the 85mm... At first, I doubted the "magic" of this lens, suspected it was one of those "board-hypes" by people who spent a lot of money and had to justify it. But then I bought it anyway and started to take pictures at 1.2. Amazing sharpness, brightness, contrast and color. On a 1.6x crop, this is (more or less) a super 135mm lens, very suitable for headshots in an large room and outdoors. DOF and bokeh: not that much better than my two other lenses, but sharper wide open and slightly better color and contrast. And that one stop extra makes a lot of difference in my kind of photography.

"Heavy"? Only if you let it dangle on your neck. This lens feels very comfortable to me on a 20D. It has an ergonomic grip for thumb and index of your left hand. Nice balance.

"Slow AF"? Haven't noticed any difference with my other lenses, and the "motorized" MF feels very good too, but not very usuable in low light (unless you have 20/20 vision). Very nice in the city, on the street: you can take close shots of people who don't even notice you - this lens is black, it's short, it's very discreet, doesn't scream "tele" at all.

"High learning curve"? Forget it. Frame your subject, (auto)focus and press the button. Hint: always shoot wide-open. That's what the 1:2 is for, to get tack-sharp photos with that special DOF. I think it's a sin to stop this lens down: I always use it at 1:2 (what other lens can do it?). And believe me: 1:4 of 1:2, it can make a difference. Wide open, this lens sucks up light, color and contrast and detail like nothing else.

Very happy with my 50 and 35mm, but this one is extra special.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Feb 14, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: On a 1.6x crop, a very good portrait lens - perhaps THE portrait lens.
Not too bright wide open in low light.

I haven't tried every Canon lens, but I think all 20D users should own THIS lens: it's a good focal distance (a 85mm on a 1.6x crop) and for its price, you get a lot of quality. In that respect it must be the cheapest 1:4 lens there is.

In bright sunlight you can use this lens wide open and get a sharp picture with nice shallow DOF; bokeh is beautiful, like the best L-lenses. In low-light conditions, with lower shutter times, it's not tack sharp, but still very good. People only interested in photos and not in photography won't see the difference with the expensive 35mm 1:4 L-lens.

I'm interested in photographing people and faces, and find myself preferring this lens over my 35mm L, mainly because of the focal length. The results are almost always very satisfying. For this price, it can't get any better.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM

Review Date: Feb 14, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Just a very, very good lens. Very usable wide open.
Not really a con, but this lens is banal on a 1.6x crop.

I shot a lot of low-light pictures with this lens of which people said: wow, how do you do this without a flash? So sharp, so clear, so real.

But with my 20D/1.6x crop camera, I'm not very passionate about this lens. It comes down to the "banal" 50mm focal length, and it's just a bit too banal for my taste. Of course it's not really a 50mm (distance between objects etc.) but still it's not a very exciting lens on a 1.6x crop camera. This is the one that I would like to use on a FF.

Nevertheless, it offers sometimes amazing sharpness and detail, wide open (almost the only way I use it).