Valdorama CT Wedding Photographers

For Photographers

Canon 50mm Lenses. Are They Really Worth the Hype – a Pro Wedding Photographer’s Thoughts and Observations

by on Jan.29, 2013, under For Photographers

Hey guys,
Lately I’ve been testing and comparing a few optics. Last summer I finally had to make a decision about a prime lens in the normal range. I needed a lens for fashion/themed and underwater(!) shoots with the following requirements:
Minimum distortion – neither barrel/pincushion nor perspective;
Minimum fringing (color aberrations),
Maximum amount of light to allow me to focus in dark situations;
Not too big – had to fit in an Ikelite underwater housing for my 5D Mark II with minimum or no modifications;
Good contrast, and
Maximum sharpness at wide apertures.
DISCLAIMER :) First and foremost, I use primarily Canon equipment, but I am NOT obsessed with Canon (or any other brand for that matter). To me, my equipment is just a bunch of tools, and I am not emotionally attached to any of them. That being said, I will try to be as neutral as possible in my review. Also, for a really good technical review on this – and almost any piece of equipment – you can try dprewiev.com. This post is all about usability and practicality from a wedding/fashion photographer’s perspective and does not claim to be scientific nor analytical. I am just sharing my experience and observations. Hopefully that gives you one more perspective and along with the rest of the online reviews – an educated foundation to step on when making decisions about your own lenses. So, let’s start.
DISTORTION. If you are a wedding photographer, you probably own a bunch of lenses. The wide angle ones, quite naturally, distort, as they are made to achieve that effect. In some situations that can be not quite flattering. The telephoto ones compress too much, without giving you a glimpse of the surrounding area. I was looking for something right in the middle, a perspective as close as possible as that of the human eye – for that natural, organic look. The 50mm was the obvious choice here. With several models available I basically had to choose between the 1.8, the 1.4, and their “ultra” brother 1.2L.
SHARPNESS and CONTRAST. If you are buying the lens with the intent to use it between f1.4 and f2.8, there is a high chance you will be disappointed. Both this version, and its high-end sibling, 50mm/f1.2L are surprisingly VERY SOFT lenses when the aperture is wide open – definitely NOT what I expected from a normal prime lens. Some online reviews and Canon representatives at trade shows call them “dreamy”. To me they are just plain soft. I have tested three f1.4’s and two f1.2’s. To me both lenses are unusable at apertures above 2.8. My tests were portraits of my dog and outdoor fashion portraits on a bright sunny day, with plenty of light to let you focus well. Although I knew I was putting apples to bananas together on the table, just for the heck of it I took a few other lenses with me – my Canon 70-200/2.8L, my 24-105/f4L, and my prime 100/2.8L Macro. ALL of them had better sharpness than the two 50mm primes at their maximum wide aperture, my 100mm/2.8L macro being the sharpest, with the most pleasing bokeh.

PHOTOS HERE

FOCUS. Auto focus is far from perfect – the lens keeps searching for a while, but is really not that bad after all – especially at that price range. The 50mm/1.2L has a much better auto focus system. To some this might be an important. To me it is somewhat less of a factor since I focus manually 95% of the time. 

MY FINAL DECISION. Of course I liked the 1.2L better than the 1.4. Almost everything is better in this lens – the construction, the optics, the solid feel,  The reason I decided to keep this lens is my underwater photography. I shoot brides and models underwater – at f8 – f11 – and do not need the narrow depth of field there. The lens performs as expected. Everything is tack sharp. 1.4 allows for more light to pass though it than most other lenses, and in underwater conditions – where light is scarce – that is critical. Considering it’s not that expensive, it’s a keeper. I chose it over the 1.2 because it fits in my Ikelite housing and the existing port I have for my f2.8 fisheye, so I won’t have to invest in extra underwater equipment.
– Your Pal Val
a.k.a. Valdorama CT Wedding Photographers
…If you love what you see here, stay in touch – subscribe to my posts. It’s quick and easy. No worries  – no spam and no excessive posting. I promise.

Hey guys,

I’ve never been obsessed with my equipment. It is just a bunch of tools – it’s all about what I do with them. Sometimes though, tools can be critical in achieving your goals – especially when they stop you from getting some basic results.  Lately I’ve been testing and comparing a few optics and have some surprising observations about some 50mm lenses available from Canon. I needed a normal lens for fashion/themed and mostly underwater shoots with the following requirements:

Minimum distortion – neither barrel/pincushion nor perspective;
Superb optical quality – tack sharp lenses with minimum fringing (color aberrations), good contrast,
Maximum amount of light to allow me to focus in dark situations;
Not too big – had to fit in an Ikelite underwater housing for my 5D Mark II with minimum or no modifications;

If you are a wedding photographer, you probably own a bunch of lenses. The wide angle ones, quite naturally, distort – they are made to achieve that effect. In some situations that can be not quite flattering. The telephoto ones compress too much, without giving you a glimpse of the surrounding area. I was looking for something right in the middle, a perspective as close as possible as that of the human eye – for that natural, organic look. The 50mm was the obvious choice here. With several models available I basically had to choose between the 1.8, the 1.4, and their “ultra” brother 1.2L. I chose to test the 1.4 and the 1.2L. What did I find out about them? Are they really worth the hype? Read on.

DISTORTION. Although there is some barrel/pincushion distortion, both of them nail the perspective distortion factor by default – that’s what they are made for.

CONSTRUCTION. The 1.4 is a plastic lens, nothing too impressive. The 1.2 is a true L lens – made of metal, and weatherproof. It feels much more solid in your hands, and the focus dial is very pleasant to operate, while the 1.4 one has a bit of that “cheap” factor to it.

OPTICAL QUALITIES. This is where it gets really interesting. If you are buying a 50mm lens with the intent to use it between f1.2/f1.4 and f2.8, there is a high chance you will be disappointed. Both the1.4, and its high-end f1.2L sibling, turn out to be surprisingly soft lenses when the aperture is wide open – definitely not what I expected from a normal prime lens. Some online reviews call them “dreamy”, others talk about a “vintage” feel. One way or another, while there is definitely a difference in the contrast and bokeh quality (the 1.2 being much more pleasant). To me both lenses tend to be on the soft side at wide apertures, with the 1.2 being slightly better, but not as much to justify its astronomical price. Theoretically prime lenses, and especially a normal 50mm lens should be tack sharp. Whether the f1.4’s softness can be attributed to the archaically old design of this lens, the extremely narrow DOF and the inherent tricky focusing, or something else is an open question. The fact is, both the 1.4 and the 1.2L are  among the softest I have seen at apertures above 2.8. The 1.4 produced some noticeable aberrations, even at f7.1.

I tested three f1.4’s and two f1.2’s. My tests took place on bright sunny days, with plenty of light to let me focus well. Although I knew I was comparing apples to bananas, just for the heck of it I took two other lenses with me – my Canon 70-200/2.8L and my prime 100/2.8L Macro. Both of them produced better sharpness at their maximum wide aperture than the two 50mm primes, my 100mm/2.8L macro being the sharpest, with the most pleasing bokeh. Check out the resulting photos, taken in real-world situations. All of them are taken with 5D Mark II bodies, converted from RAW in Lightroom, and sharpened for the web, using the exact same technique and parameters.

50mm/1.4, Shot at f1.4:

50mm/1.4, Shot at f4, f5, f7.1:

(continue reading…)

Comments : more...

Photo Forum Seminar Shots

by on Sep.04, 2012, under For Photographers, Wedding & Engagement

Hey there everyone,

Earlier this year I flew to Europe, and did a three-day photo seminar in Sofia, Bulgaria. We talked about the business of wedding photography (1st day), creativity and how to attract more brides with your work (2nd day), and SEO for photographers (3rd day). I had a great time with everybody and got to know some amazing new friends.

At the end of the second day we  did a quick photo shoot to demonstrate some of the topics we discussed earlier at the seminar. Below I’ve posted  a couple of my own the shots I took that day, along with some comments and ideas. Every participant will be getting a PDF with the full detailed version of these. I hope everybody finds something interesting in them, and if you have any questions/comments/suggestions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

GALLERY 1:

GALLERY 2:

To the participants – thank you guys so much for coming, and I hope to see you again. Stay in touch. I can’t wait to send you the PDFs and the final critique from the photo session. Coming soon to a computer near you.

BIG Hugs,

– Your Pal Val

a.k.a. Valdorama CT Wedding Photographers

…If you love what you see here, stay in touch – subscribe to my posts. It’s quick and easy. No worries  – no spam and no excessive posting. I promise.

Comments :, , more...

Canon 5D Mark III and Touching People’s Hearts

by on Mar.02, 2012, under For Photographers

Today is one of those memorable days. Canon just introduced the new incarnation of its 5D line – the 5D Mark III. Congratulations Canon! You did it again.

I am a Canon user. I am happy about today’s announcement. I’ve always had Canons, and probably always will. But this post is not going to be about Canon. Not about another silly Canon/Nikon debate either. It is all about what really matters after all.

A couple of days ago I came across something that picked my attention. I shared it on my Facebook status. It’s a list of the top 10 things a client should never say to a photographer, courtesy of Laura Fleming Photography (Kudos!). Interestingly, the one that tops them all is “Your camera takes really nice pictures!”. Here it is:

Today I saw at least a dozen status updates on Facebook about Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Photographers all over the world are now drooling. Everyone’s talking about extended ISO, improved noise, weather sealing, microphone interface, and so on. Indeed, cameras are a big part of a photographer’s world. And the introduction of a new and better model is always a good thing. In a way. But there is one other thing today’s events made me think about. They made me think about what is it that really matters after all – and what my clients really treasure. And speaking of that, here’s a little story for you.

PG’s Mecca

There’s a guy I know, who lives in a neighboring town. I’ll call him P. P has a relatively small house. With and enormous basement. And I mean ENORMOUS. To the extent where any B&H warehouse manager will go green with envy. Why? P has turned this place into a Mecca for Nikon bums. He stores TONS of photographic equipment there. In fire-resistant safes, locked with the latest security devices. When you open those safes, you’ll see virtually EVERY piece of equipment Nikon has EVER produced. In twos. Every time Nikon announces a new piece of gear, it is immediately being preordered – in twos. Just in case. It’s like a museum there. …No, it’s better. The museum will actually look like a toy store compared to this.

P is an extremely technically savvy person. He will anxiously tell you anything he knows about any piece of gear. Angles, speeds, f-stops, dimensions, glass quality, weight, what not. He’ll enthusiastically sit down and draw color graphics for you to compare the water and dust insulation characteristics of two lenses. He is a Nikon encyclopedia. But there is one element that is missing in this whole story. Everybody knows P with all his equipment, but nobody has mentioned anything about his photography. What I know is that P takes pictures with the single purpose of enjoying their technical quality and comparing their technical characteristics. He is all about that.

The truth is, every photographer has a little bit of P in them. Everybody secretly hopes that with each introduction of a new and cool piece of gear they will have a chance to buy it. At some point? No, ASAP please. I admit, I do too. Heck, I crave so much that better signal to noise ratio, or the new wireless flash head. Hey, no more Radiopoppers/Pocket Wizards. How about that, huh? But photography is not about that after all. It’s about what we as artists create with all these tools.

It’s All About Touching People’s Hearts

I strive to generate emotions with my photos. I create experiences and memories for people. I pour my heart and soul into my work. And while my camera is an extension of me, it’s just a tool. Yes, I do have gear – lots of it – and yes, it is really important that I know my gear from the ground up – so that I am always in control, and I can use it creatively. But owning the latest and the greatest stuff has never been among my top priorities. I never lived for my gear. And never will. I don’t believe that a new camera or lens will necessarily make me a better photographer. It won’t help me make more money either.

It is me who produces the image, not the camera. My camera is just a tool. And tools are tools. Learn how to use them. Inside and out. Start using them creatively, push them to their limits. You’d be amazed how much an old body can do for you. Pour your heart and soul into that. Try to create impactful images with whatever gear you have in your hands. I’ve learned to circumnavigate any inferiorities that piece of gear might have and squeeze the best out of it. Create “Paint from Fart”, as people in certain parts of the world say. Because, as a popular iPhone app puts it, “The best camera is the one that’s in your hands.”

…And guess what? People love what I do for them. Although they see me juggling tons of things in my hands all the time, they never ask me what camera/lenses/flashes, etc., I use. Nobody cares about f-stops, speeds, guide numbers, DOF, infrared, gamma rays, or the weight my tripod can support. Interestingly, judges at competitions don’t care about that either. Everyone just wants to see the final result.

If you are in the business of photography, it’s all about touching people’s hearts. Otherwise top photographers like Joe Buissink – who I absolutely LOVE – wouldn’t be selling weddings for millions of dollars, despite the fact that Joe himself admits some of his images are famously “blurry” and judges wouldn’t even consider them for a competition. Gear here is absolutely irrelevant, it is emotion that counts.

All that being said, getting that new camera, lens or whatever you are craving, is not necessarily a bad thing – it will make certain things easier for you. Being another P obsessed with equipment – just for the heck of owning the latest and the greatest – is the red flag. The industry has one single goal: to make more money. It will always come up with new toys, trying to lure people like him to spend the last penny in his bank account. Now think about it. As a photographer, you’d be offended if someone made remarks about your great camera and said nothing about you – and yet, you secretly crave it. But honestly, nobody is interested in that brand new toy you are holding in your hands. What makes you unique is your passion, your heart, your creativity, your personality. Blow people away with those qualities.

They will love you for that.

Smooches,

Your Pal Val,

a.k.a. CT Wedding Photographer Val Nanovsky

…If you love what you see here, stay in touch and subscribe to my posts. It’s quick and easy. No worries  – no spam or excessive posting. I promise.

Comments :, more...

Smokey Stuff

by on Mar.18, 2009, under For Photographers

Hey ya all,

I’ve always been interested in the mystery of the shapes, colors and textures created by smoke, but I was never satisfied with “just” photographing smoke. I always wanted to take things to the next level and add something from the heart. From that perspective this photo is another first in a long series of smoke images.

When you shoot smoke it’s all about patience, imagination, and of course, serendipity – for that lucky shot. The process itself is a bit tricky and has many but’s and if’s. I am planning on writing a tutorial/article about photographing smoke which will be posted on this blog shortly. Smoke is super fun to photograph. You could spend days behind the tripod lurking for “the one”. It can also be really rewarding – the results can be quite impressive.

Stay tuned,

Your Pal Val

Love You With Every Beat of my Heart

Love You With Every Beat of my Heart

Comments : more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...