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Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM

ef_180_35_1_
Review Date: Apr 29, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Incredibly sharp and contrasty. I love being able to focus this close up.
Cons:
None really. It's heavy and attracts attention. Fortunately it isn't white. It does stick out a mile.

If you want to do macro this is the lens. Personally I find autofocus to be fast enough but I've only autofocused twice. No need. Closeups don't really demand it. Others have commented on the lens' sharpness. Any look at this lens' MTF will clue you on that.

What I want to address is comfort in shooting and the utility of the lens. I have shot almost 2000 frames with this lens in the past month, as it is spring and I'm doing a lot of floral and closeup photography. I literally left all the other lenses I own at home and went out the door with this lens, camera and tripod.

I've needed to get used to shooting closeups with a 180mm focal length. It's a totally different world than a 50, and quite a ways from a 100, in terms of working distance. What I do admire is that I can get extremely close to my subject and still be able to focus up close. I'm finding that I often will discover new possible compositions when I get the distance wrong. I am too close, but yet I can focus and I find myself in an alien world. Yet I can take 'normal' photos of bushes and trees with the same lens. I find the lens extremely versatile despite being a prime. I'd be limited with a zoom.

It's a bit heavy but you don't want to handhold this lens. Get a sturdy tripod and use it. You've heard this advice. If you go for this lens you had better do it. You'll be looking at your frames at 100% in Photoshop (if you do that) all the time from now on, so don't dissapoint yourself. I do have a slight problem with gunk getting into the rear of the lens. I'm using a hurricane blower to tackle that. I can hardly wait to get out and shoot with this lens. If you don't have a macro lens and you would like to see what this can do for you, you'll like this lens. Sure it's expensive and there are third party lenses aimed right at this Canon lens. You won't be disappointed if you use it correctly, that is, with solid support.


 
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

ef135mmf_2l_1_
Review Date: Apr 29, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $800.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: One of Canon's finest lenses. Maybe one of the finest ever made. Alongside the 200 f1.8, the 85 f1.2 as Canon's best primes.
Cons:
I wish it focused closer so I could do more closeups. Adding a teleconverter gives me pause, so I'm trying out an extension tube.

Such a wonderful lens. People who haven't tried it just don't know. Primes are getting a little rare these days as I have seen most photographers going toward zooms. I really believe in the versatility of primes, perhaps an oxymoron. What I can do with this lens sometimes stuns me. Not to say I'm a great photographer, but this makes anything I do shine.

I'm into nature photography big time and I like using what might be considered a portrait lens for other purposes, perhaps not intended by the designers. I like the effect of out of focus areas, especially in plants. The unusual distortion in the out of focus areas is unreal at f2. Some might not like it, preferring to shoot everything at f16. Personally I enjoy making a bit of a risky statement in photography. This lens delivers what I want; actually it surprises me more than not with some interesting patterns I never saw in the viewfinder. Hard to describe until you see it.

I hope I've convinced the right photographer to go with this lens. It is expensive, but not absurdly so. I'd say get it while you can, as Canon may be dropping this lens. They dropped the 200mm f1.8 Their best ever prime IMO) so anything is possible.


 
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM

ef85mmf_12_1_
Review Date: Mar 27, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,429.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Amazing Bokeh. Sharp at f1.4, not bad at f1.2. Awesome lens barrel.
Cons:
Bit of CA on contrasty subjects at f-stops less than f2.

Been shooting with this lens for a couple of weeks so I want to share some initial impressions. This is designed as a portrait lens, and optimized for that type of subject, so I am 'misusing' this lens a bit, perhaps better to say that I'm not using it for what it's main purpose is.

Not to just repeat what others have said, although I agree with most of the posts on this lens, I want to comment on some of the negtive aspects of this lens. Believe me, the pluses outweigh the minuses, but at this price I'm nitpicking of course.

Focusing: ring has tremendous travel. Camera has to be activated to allow the ring to change the focus. Autofocus is slow. Others have said all this. Well, this lens is designed for very precise focusing at a very shallow DOF that is possible on the lens. The ring's travel is actually an advantage when you are shooting under f4. This allows very precise movements and enables you to select what will be in focus with precision. I don't recommend autofocus with this lens, especially in low light. Since the viewfinder is as bright as it ever will be, you should be able to focus pretty accurately.

Weight: Fine for me. Not a trivial lens to shoot with. The price you pay for the extra light.

Price of alternatives: Very difficult issue. Is bokeh really better at f1.2 than f1.8 to justify the purchase of the lens? Yes IMO. The f1.8 isn't bad at all. Go for that lens if the price scares you off. The extra $1000 or so could be used else where (for example, a super duper Gitzo tripod).

This is a hard core lens for the perfectionist. Maybe bragging rights factors into this too. Everyone who has heard of this lens wants to see what f1.2 can do. It can do plenty, but I'm not always going to shoot at f1.2, trust me. You pay a price in being able to get anything in focus. Very specialized lens here, must be used appropriately. Remember no lens is as good wide open relative to what it is at f8. With this lens, you are getting as good as it gets wide open. So the question is, do you really need to shoot wide open? Are you ready for the trade offs?