Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Incredible Canon 85mm f/1.2 L

A friend of mine, Rick Horowitz, stopped by the location house I was shooting at last week. Rick had rode his bike, a very cool Victory touring motorcycle, down from Fresno to attend some sort of lawyer's conference in Los Angeles. American made Victory motorcycles, if you're not familiar with them, are V-twin muscle bikes similar to Harley Davidsons. Design-wise, they look a fair amount like Harleys only their not; not Harleys that is. No problem. Victory bikes are cool. At least Rick didn't ride down on some rice-burning crotch-rocket.

Anyway, yeah, Rick's a lawyer. A criminal defense lawyer. He's also a photographer. And while Rick was down here in LA attending a gathering of criminal defense attorneys, Rick cruised on over to Samy's Camera and bought himself a Canon 85mm f/1.2 L prime. If you've never heard of Samy's, think B&H... but in LA.

I'm guessing there's plenty enough crime and criminals in Fresno to keep Rick fairly busy. After all, he just plunked down over two-grand on a piece of glass. But what a piece of glass! And Rick, being the cool guy that he is, offered to let me shoot some with his brand-spanking-new, two-thousand-dollar-plus lens. I mean, Rick hadn't yet shot with it himself and he was willing to let me bust its cherry! Like I said, Rick's a cool guy.

So, I popped Rick's new Canon 85mm L prime on the front of my more than 3-year-old Canon 5D and started snapping. I have two words to say about that lens: "Holy shit!"

The two, side-by-side, photos at the top are from the same capture. I didn't do much of any processing on the images. They're pretty much how they came out of the camera. Obviously, I re-sized them for the web. You can see I shot my model, Anna, in a 3/4 body shot for that one. I then cropped it only to reveal her face in close-up. Click it to enlarge it and check out the detail in her face. Is that freaking lens amazing or what?

But it isn't just about the detail. I was shooting Anna under an overhang attached to the house. As a result, she was standing in the shade. Dark shade. I had the modeling light switched on on my main light but it wasn't making much of a dent. With all that bright mid-day sun in the background, Anna looked like a silhouette in my viewfinder. Did that have any impact on the 85's ability to auto-focus? Not even a little bit. I could barely make out Anna's features in my viewfinder but that lens effortlessly, silently, and quickly locked focus.

Like I said: "Holy shit!"

Do I want one of those Canon 85mm f/1.2 L primes? You betcha I do! Can I afford one? Not at the moment. Unless, perhaps, I become a criminal... in which case I'll probably need Rick's services because I'm pretty sure I'd make a fairly inept criminal. You know, what with me not having attended some prestigious business school and gone to work on Wall St. or having some similar background. But if I suddenly find myself able to justify spending a couple of grand on a lens, by becoming a successful criminal or otherwise, that 85mm L prime is now on the top of my wish list.

Thanks again, Rick! It was fun having you on my set for a few hours. And thanks much for letting me try out your new lens. I hope it does for your photography all you hope it will. And to everyone else, let me say something I've said before: Forget about every new camera body that comes along. You want to seriously upgrade your images? Spend your money on glass. Good glass. Awesome glass if you can afford it.


Rick said...

Glad you liked the lens. One of these days, I'm hoping to find a model or six to shoot with it myself.

Maybe you'll give me some lessons!

Gauguin7 said...

Beautiful! I just purchased a first generation 85mm 1.2 at a significant discount over the mark II. Still in the learning curve regarding how to keep the eyeball and eye lashes both in focus at 1.2 =)

A appreciate Phil Steele letting me know about your blog and your eBooks... and since I live in Fresno I should look up Rick. We're both on Model Mayhem as well.