Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Kent Wedding Photographer - Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens



I bought the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L lens earlier this year and have no regrets for doing so – the image quality from this lens is stunning, in terms of sharpness, colour and contrast.

I wanted a very fast wide angle lens for low-light wedding photography to complement my 85mm f/1.2 L lens. I grappled with the dilemma of whether to buy the 24mm f/1.4 L or 35mm f/1.4 L and decided on the latter as it’s a more general purpose focal length – at 24mm perspective distortion becomes an issue. Although 50mm is regarded as the ‘standard’ focal length I think 35mm corresponds more closely to human vision – or mine at least!

The lens is beautifully constructed but is light. It features ultrasonic motors for rapid, silent focusing and supports full-time manual focus. The lens focuses very quickly in low light and I find it more efficient and reliable than the 24-70 f/2.8 L zoom lens. On the full-frame EOS 5D vignetting (darkening towards the corners of the image) is visible when the lens is wide open (f/1.4) but this is easily corrected in Lightroom or Photoshop. As the aperture is reduced from f/1.4 to f/2.0 there is an increase in sharpness but I regularly shoot at f/1.4 and find the results sufficiently sharp for my purposes.

I process at least 700 wedding shots using Lightroom most weekends on my 30” Apple Cinema Display (which is pretty unforgiving in exposing image flaws) and, as I work through the images in the development module, those from the prime lenses stand out. You would expect this from first principles, on the basis that the optics of the lens should be close-to-perfect for this single focal length, but it is reassuring to see it in practice.

Check out my photography here: Kent wedding photographer

8 comments:

George Bain said...

What's next on your shopping list David. After your 30" monitor and pending 5DMk2 - anything exciting out there to boost your photography?

David said...

My shopping list is currently empty George. Thank goodness I don't have a passion for wildlife photography - if I were buying L-series telephoto lenses I'd never turn a profit!

Yours,

David

Geoff said...

David,

I notice you use this lens a lot for head and shoulders images - and they all look fantastic.

My understanding was that one should use 80mm + to avoid facial distortion in these kind of shots. What's your take?

Cheers

David said...

Hi Geoff,

Thanks for your kind words.

Focal lengths of 80mm and above are typically used for portraiture since it forces you to stand further from your subject in order to fill the frame, giving a more flattering perspective to your subject's face. See my earlier post on perspective and portrait lenses.

The important thing to note is that perspective depends upon distance to subject. If I fill the frame with someone's face using a 35mm lens it probably won't look too flattering. Increasing the distance from the subject will diminish the distortion though. Some of my shots have probably been cropped making it appear that I was closer than I actualy was.

Some portrait photographers might find some of my shots taken at 35mm unacceptable. It's all in the eye of the beholder!

Yours,

David

Geoff said...

Understood. Yes I had not considered cropping to zoom. No problem on 5DMk2.

What sort of shutter speeds can you get with this lens in a dim environment. I note you typically need to go around 60s and still high iso to grab indoor ambient light in many shots and avoid camera shake. How would the 85L cope for similar shots? - you don't seem to use it other than for portraits, why so? I heard it was too slow to focus.



This lens appeals to me in theory that with a short focal length and fast aperture, I can get high shutter speeds like 160 at lower iso, but in low indor light conditions I'd stil have to drag the shutter to expose the background so that benefit is lost right? Is it realistic to expect a shutter speed over 60-80 in a dim interior? Obviously 60-80 is fine for this lens to avoid camera shake.

Sorry if I'm missing something, this does tend to confuse me when trying to decide on a lens.

David said...

Hi Geoff,

The limitation on shutter speed with a wide angle lens tends to be people movement rather than camera shake. I can hand hold the 35mm lens at 1/15 sec and get pinsharp results but rarely when people are involved - even if they're not moving, people are rarely static. I aim to get at least 1/50s shutter speed for this reason.

The 5D Mark II will help tremendously with this. I'll be happy to go to ISO 6400.

If you're unwilling to go to high ISO, then put your camera into manual mode with your desired settings (I often use 1/50, f/2.8, ISO 1600), underexpose for the ambient light and use flash to light your subject.

The 85mm f/1.2 L lens is magnificent. It is a little slower to focus but I find the main limitation to be the minimum focusing distance of around 1m. Difficult to use in a crowded venue but wonderful for the bride and groom portraits.

Hope this helps.

Yours,

David

Geoff said...

Thanks David,

Can you please explain your logic on this comment? I'm still learning in terms of exposure tactics.

"If you're unwilling to go to high ISO, then put your camera into manual mode with your desired settings (I often use 1/50, f/2.8, ISO 1600), underexpose for the ambient light and use flash to light your subject."

Why underexpose the ambient? Wouldn't increasing the shutter have a similar effect?

I think Canon need to make an F1.2 lens with IS - that would be a big help!

Thank you -

David said...

Hi Geoff,

I'll post on the blog in the next couple of days regarding this topic as I'm sure many people won't have encountered this tactic before.

Yours,

David