Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Canon 35mm f1.4

I've been mulling over the idea of getting a new lens for this upcoming maui trip/wedding shoot. I looked over my lens collection to see what I was deficient in. I have the following lenses:

- Tamron 17-50mm f2.8
- Canon 50mm f1.8
- Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro
- Canon 70-200mm f4 IS "L"
- Canon 400mm f5.6 "L"

You know how I love to shoot with natural light. This presents a problem when shooting indoors. Your best bet is to get a prime lens with a fast aperture (less than f2.8). My very first canon lens was the 50mm f1.8. Yes the "plastic fantastic." For a $90 lens, it has given me great images and I have gotten much mileage out of it. However lately I have been feeling the need to upgrade it. I could always get the canon 50mm f1.4 or f1.2 lens. I'm not sure if going from 1.8 to 1.4 is going to make that much difference. The f1.2 lens is a whole different ball game. It is very expensive. It is a huge and heavy lens for its size. Also at f1.2 wide open the dof is super shallow. It is very easy to get out of focus shots just because you miss aimed the focal point. Or you will get 1 eye in focus and the other will be out of focus. Danny's work uses that lens, and he was kind enough to borrow one for me to play with for a weekend a couple of years ago. Here is the set if you want to see. All in all I was not that impressed given the high cost of the lens.

I been thinking about getting a wider angle fast prime for indoor photography. Now for the maui wedding, Janet's main job for me is to shoot the pre-wedding. Obviously it will be in her hotel room with natural light from the windows. In my mind, I think the shots would look best if done with a moderate wide angle fast prime. I could use my plastic fantastic 50mm f1.8 lens, but this was a special occasion and I really wanted to give her high quality photos. I did a bit of research and came across the canon 35mm f1.4 "L" lens. It is a very highly regarded lens but at a ridiculously high cost ($1400). At first I thought, no way am I going to pay that much for a lens. I kicked the thought back and forth until I got sick of thinking about. I had Wednesday off and so I was going to go rent it from Sammys and see if the hype about this lens was actually valid. The problem is that I really would only have about 6 hours to test it since I could not return it the next day. Yes I could have waited for the weekend but I don't have a lot of time left before I leave for the wedding and so if I do end up buying a lens then I would need time for the shipment to get here before I fly out.

Did you guys know that Sammys raised their rental fee? On their online catalog, the canon 35mm f1.4 lens was $25 per day. When I talked to the rental guy on the phone, he said that they raised it to $40 per day. So $40 just to play with it for 6 hours... Again I thought, what a waste of money. But my curiosity about the lens would not leave me alone. I would rather pay $40 to test it out rather than pay $1400 and end up not liking it. So off I went.

The first thing I noticed was that even though it is a relatively small lens, it has a good amount of weight to it due to all the glass of the large aperture. Not as big and heavy as the 50mm f1.2 but definitely bigger and heavier than my 50mm f1.8. My 50mm f1.8 lens uses the camera's motor to autofocus which can be slow or inaccurate at times. The 35mm f1.4 lens has USM (ultrasonic motor) which makes for super fast, accurate and quiet focussing. I love it so much on my canon 400mm f5.6 and canon 70-200mm f4 IS lenses that I vowed to only get lenses with USM from now on.

I shot most of the indoor pics wide open at f1.4. Man this lens is so freakin sharp wide open. In the second to last shot with the tricycle, when I zoomed in 200% of the original image, I can read the warning sticker on the back of that tricycle. Most of the time when you zoom in even 100%, the image quality goes to crap. Not this lens. I think the outdoor shots were set at f2 mainly because I had too much light. We went to a park at about 2pm and the light was super harsh and bright. With such a large aperture, I was getting shutter speeds maxing out at 1/8000 sec wide open. I had to stop down. One bad thing that I did notice was some chromatic aberration in the wide open shots with a bright background.

The other thing that I notice when shooting with high quality lenses, is that when it comes to post processing, I have less to do. The contrast, color and sharpness are quite excellent straight out of the camera and so I find myself making very little adjustments in photoshop. The bokeh is oooh sooo buttery smooth. Overall I was very impressed with the image quality from this lens. Whether or not it's worth the $1400 price tag, I'm still debating over. I didn't get any objections from Sandy so the decision is up to me. Now there are 2 more options. Canon also has a 35mm f2 lens which is older and does not have USM. Some say the quality is no where near that of the f1.4. Others say that it is a little gem considering the low price ($329). Another option is the Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens. It has a strong fan following but there are mixed reviews concerning front/back focussing. *shrug* Danny's work also uses that lens and he told me that he would try to borrow one for me to play with. That would be awesome. That lens sells for $439 which is much much more affordable and it has USM. The question is how does the image quality stack up against the canon 35mm f1.4. Is there really a $1000 difference in image quality between the 2? Time will tell...

One last thing to consider. Here is a recent shot I took with my 50mm f1.8 ($90 lens). Compare this last shot with all of the above. Now since I took and edited all of these pics, I will tell you that yes there is a difference in image quality favoring the 35mm f1.4 lens. the difference enough to justify the $1300 price difference?? I guess that depends on how much of a pixel peeping, bokeh whoreing, fast prime lens freak you are...

1 comment:

  1. You're rockin' w/ that 35mm 1.4! Totally blows the 50mm outta the water. The OOF b/g is simply amazing!


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