This is the type of article the “9th with Nathan” was made for! Not only do I love reading about what gear other photographers use, but I just plain like geeking out about it. :) Since I don’t really know how to start this, I’m essentially listing out our gear, extolling upon our favorite lenses, and sharing a few pretty photos along the way. So sit back, read (or just look), and enjoy! And yes, we’re just going to ignore how late this piece is. ;)
Hands down, this has been our best investment over the years! It was our first “big lens” purchase over 3.5 years ago and we’ve gotten an incredible amount of use from it at each and every wedding. (That 200mm reach really helps during ceremonies, whether they’re in churches or out on the beach.) And the 2.8 max aperture with image stabilization provide a great deal of flexibility, especially when working in low light! If you’re debating the IS/non-IS or 2.8/4.0 versions, don’t bother. Go for the 2.8 IS. You’ll thank yourself over the years!
While it’s not my favorite lens any more, it’s still something I wouldn’t dare go into a wedding without. I’ve grown used to shooting at f/3.5 or 4 to ensure a sharper shot. However, since we just got it back from CPS, maybe I’ll be flying at 2.8 again!
1/2000th at f/4, ISO 500 @ 200mm
Canon 15mm 2.8 Fish-eye
We may not use this lens all that often (especially since we upgraded to full-frame 5D Mark IIs), but it’s still fun and has its moments! :) The fish-eye lens, in my opinion, should really just be reserved for scene shots since it can distort people so easily. Sure, it’s fun to goof off shooting self-portaits six inches from your nose, but what bridal party wants to be distorted extra wide in a group shot? (Not many.) Since the 15mm is extra fish-eye-ee on full-frame cameras, we often turn to the 24-70mm or 35mm lens if we need a wide shot without distortion.
1/60th at f/2.8, ISO 1000
See? Fun for self-portaits!
1/60th at f/3.5, ISO 1600
Canon 24-70mm 2.8L
Again, I don’t really like shooting with this lens any more, but the flexible zoom range is hard to beat on a day to the parks. :) (I promise I’m just saving our best lenses for last. I don’t hate half of our camera bag!) Just like the 70-200mm, the 24-70mm was an early purchase for us and served as my work-horse lens for a few years. The 2.8 max aperture is good for low light, and the wide 24mm range can provide some striking scene photos. While I’ve always appreciated the zoom range, I’ve rarely had the sharpest of shots from it. (That honor goes to our prime lenses, up next.)
1/100th at f/3.2, ISO 1600
Canon 35mm 1.4L
Woohoo, my personal favorite as of May 2009! The 35mm has fast become my go-to lens for a handful of reasons… it’s compact, it’s sharp, it’s amazing in low light, and it’s “natural.” (By that, I mean the focal length feels very similar to what your eye already sees, not too wide or too long.)
1/160th at f/2, ISO 1000
As you can tell, I like using it for detail shots. :)
1/160th at f/1.8, ISO 640
I also love this lens for travel. If there’s a chance we’ll be out at night, I often bring the 35mm over the 24-70. That, and I just like the clarity of images from it more. (The image below blows my mind at 21 megapixels!)
1/1000th at f/5, ISO 640
Perfect for capturing raw reception moments without altering the scene with flash.
1/30th at f/1.4, ISO 1000
You didn’t think we’d have a personal post without Huck Finn making an appearance, did you?
1/1250th at f/2, ISO 640
These last two photos are some of my favorites! For bridal prep shots, the 35 is a perfect fit in most any hotel room and it shines with natural light flowing into the room. And unlike many lesser lenses, it can shoot directly into a bit of bright light and not completely lose its focus.
1/250th at f/1.4, ISO 1000
1/80th at f/1.4, ISO 1000
Jensey’s Canon 85mm f1.2L
I preface this lens with Jensey’s name because it’s been on her camera body for nearly 2 years straight. Or should I say, it’s hardly been on my camera in the last two years. ;) (As such, all of the below images are Jensey’s.) We purchased this lens from Lens Pro to Go‘s yearly used lens sale. If you’re looking to update your bag, start checking the For Sale page in mid-October. Of course, if you need to just rent a lens, Paul’s service is top notch too! :)
But enough about how we got it, you probably want to know why we love it. After all, it’s a bowling ball of a lens and not exactly subtle. But it’s also the most consistently sharp lens we’ve ever owned. (I’m sure that’s not hurt by Jensey’s ability to always nail the focus.) :) It doesn’t focus the fastest of all our lens, but it’s not too slow either. And c’mon, can you really argue for a 1.2 max aperture at 85mm?! In my opinion, all of Canon’s L lenses have been worth every premium penny we’ve paid for them. (To those that don’t know, the L lenses from Canon have that little red ring around the front. And they’re awesome.)
1/1600th at f/2.8, ISO 800
Being able to shoot into sunset and still come away with a tack-sharp image is just as important as a great max aperture.
1/1250th at f/3.5, ISO 640
1/6400th at f/2.2, ISO 800
1/800th at f/1.4, ISO 1250
1/160th at f/1.2, ISO 1250
Canon 50mm 1.2L
This guy has been on our wish list for years and finally joined the family on Christmas 2009. While I love the width of the 35 and the reach of the 85, it often felt like something was missing. And so here we are. :) (Again, thanks to Lens Pro to Go!) When we’re on an engagement shoot, Jensey and I will often trade between the 85 and 50. And if I was doing a shoot on my own, I’d feel completely comfortable using this lens by itself.
1/640th at f/1.6, ISO 1600
I’ve also grown to like shooting group photos with this lens. (It used to be the 24-70, but with proper location scouting, I much prefer the 50.) I know the focus will be accurate and the image quality will be consistent across the board. (If the group is any larger, I’ll usually grab the 35mm or maybe step back farther with the 85mm.)
1/1250th at f/2.2, ISO 500
1/2500th at f/1.8, ISO 500
Like the 35mm, it can handle shooting into light decently well. It seems to focus hunt a bit more often, but when it does lock on, it’s just as sharp.
1/2000th at f/1.4, ISO 320
We don’t shoot at 1.2 all that often, but when we do, the background just goes all beautiful and buttery.
1/5000th at f/1.2, ISO 500
I also love how this lens can make singling out details very easy.
1/1600th at f/2.2, ISO 500
Thank you so much for sticking through the whole article. :) I’ve never put together anything like this before, so please feel free to continue with questions/discussion in the comments. I honestly do love talking about this stuff, so don’t hesitate! See you all next month.
In case you missed my past articles, here are my first two: