This is a continuation of my last post, and the one before that. Here are the longer lenses. Sorry it’s a little late, I had to shoot a quick direct comparison of the 85mm and 135mm lenses (Thanks Jeehe!)
The 50mm 1.2 vs 50mm 1.8. Why do I have both? Why did I buy and sell two copies of the 1.8, and one copy of the 1.4 before settling on this combination. Put shortly, I was stupid. I listened to what others were shooting with and followed. The 1.8 was great, so I got it. It didn’t suit what I was shooting, so I sold it. Then I remembered why I loved it. So, I bought it again. Then someone convinced me the 1.4 was better. So I traded. The 1.4 was soft and didn’t render out of focus elements the way the 1.8 did. So I decided to go exotic and picked up a 1.2. It was a dream come true. It produces amazing out of focus elements, has only a little correction for spherical aberration (giving slightly swirly bokeh), it has slightly more corner distortion and vignetting (which I like), and it is sharper than either of the other two at wider apertures. It also has a little coma around high contrast areas that the 20mm and 35mm exhibit, and with distant objects it can give a strange focused, but out of focus feeling that makes you look twice. Nothing beats this lens aesthetically. However, it is heavy, and the focusing has to be very precise. So, I picked up a 1.8 for times when you’re shooting at f/8 and it only matters that the shot happens quickly. The 1.8 also has the least distortion of all three lenses, so if it’s perfectly straight lines you’re looking for, $100 can’t be beat! Wide open the 1.8 is also a great lens. Here’s a frame wide open from both.
50mm f1.2 – Note the sharpness, slight blurring of highlights, and slight vignette/distortion towards the corners.
The Helios 44-2 58mm was a $30 purchase including shipping from Belarus. It was an experiment. It has beautiful bokeh, but it is not exceptionally sharp wide open, and has a lot of coma (cheers Brian!) around contrasty areas. It is used to make fun pictures.
The 85mm and 135mm lenses basically serve the same purpose. They completely obliterate backgrounds, they’re amazingly sharp, and they’re long enough to make people happy about their slim figures. The only decisions to make when choosing between these two is how tight the frame should be (or how much I want to compress the background), and how much room I have to move. I wrote in great detail about the DC feature of the 135mm here. Needless to say, these two lenses have reputations that precede them, so I’ll give a quick example of what I mean by compressing the background. Check how much of the side elements are visible in the frame, and how close the background appears to be rendered to get an idea of why you might choose one lens over the other.
So there we have it, a round up of the lenses I use and why. I have also admitted to suffering from NAS, and now it’s time to introduce life. Sometimes it is just not possible to switch lenses all the time and keep a situation fluid, so choose the lenses that do the job you need them to do. Use them, know them, don’t let them get in the way of the picture, learn to make them bend to your will.