Weekend Fun with New Lenses


I’m in the market for a new lens, but I don’t know which one I want. Do I get a fixed lens or a zoom lens? L series, non-L series? f1.2 or f1.4, or 24-70 or 24-105?

Since I have zero experience with any lenses outside of the one my camera came with, I decided to rent a couple that I’ve been eyeing to give them a spin. After a lot of researching, I narrowed down my decision to these four:



This weekend I tested out the two fixed lenses. On Saturday I took some shots with the 1.2, which may as well be made out of $1,500 in gold because that sucker is heav-ey. I assume this has to do with the fact that it’s made out of the highest quality glass Canon produces…and perhaps a tanker…or maybe it’s that there are several additional larger lenses in it.

After heaving it off the table and attaching it to my camera, I took a few shots. Pretty much immediately I was like a giddy teenager on my first date. Being able to set my f-stop down to 1.2 after being confined to 4.0 (with my kit lens) for all of these years is so flippin’ exciting!

Amy Matias

So the first set that you’re seeing are all taken on Saturday with the 1.2 lens. I got together with my dear friends Amy, Marius (and their baby, Mathias), and John. We enjoyed brunch at Universal Cafe on an outdoor table basking in the morning light.

Afterwards while walking along the sidewalk a friendly little poodle greeted a curious Mathias. They both seemed to enjoy each other’s company and I think the poodle sensed Mathias’ interest in him as he kept running back to Mathias after greeting everyone else in our party.

While sitting on the sidewalk Mathias found all sorts of interesting items of which to entertain himself—like a bottle cap or the blades of grass growing between the cracks.

All of these are taken in the shade on a very sunny day, which is some of the best lighting for photography.

We then drove to the Marina to do a little hike along Crissy Field. We plopped Mathias in the park among these pseudo-dandelions (I’m not sure what type of flower they are) where Mathias was overly ecstatic by John showing him how to pop the top off of them.

The major challenge with these photos is that they are taken in the middle of the day with the bright sun overhead casting shadows across Mathias’ face. Not the best lighting for portrait photography.

After snapping the top off of dozens of flowers, we walked along the beach where Mathias was even more excited about the sand.

Crissy Field Beach

Before heading back to the car, we stopped by a cafe to grab some smoothies and snacks. That was Saturday.

On Sunday I switched to the 1.4.

While the 1.4 may not be made out of gold (so much lighter!), I feel like it works just as beautifully. To be honest, other than the weight and size, I didn’t notice that huge of a difference in the shots I was able to take with it. In some respects, it almost felt easier to get the shot I wanted with the 1.4. Here are some photos from Sunday with that lens.

Bumbles and Mo were fairly patient models that afternoon, while Clyde was more interested in running up and down the jungle gym for some strenuous exercise than posing for me.

We then had lunch with our friend Mars and his girlfriend at the tasty vegan Mexican restaurant Gracias Madre. We sat at the outdoor tables and I took a photo of Alex and he took one of me before our friends arrived.

On our walk home we saw this adorable old couple holding hands while walking down the street and with my camera hanging around my neck I, of course, had to document it.

Old Couple Walking Down the Street

My final thoughts:

I realize that comparing the two is somewhat like comparing apples to oranges because they’re taken in different locations, with different subjects and very different lighting. However, I think it’s still possible to get a general idea of whether the 1.4 will be sufficient considering the $1,100 cost difference with the 1.2 and, right now, I’m not sold that the 1.2 is worth it.

Lastly, the first ten minutes of playing with the fixed lens was quite the adjustment (pun totally intended), but by the end of the weekend I had it down. It just takes a lot more effort to move your body to the right place…and sometimes when time is of the essence it can be a problem. That’s why both of these lenses are best suited for portraits where your subject isn’t moving a whole lot. The exception is food shots 😦 I know! Boo on that! The depth of field causes too much blur for the areas outside of the focus for my liking. So I don’t think either of these would work well for food photos, but maybe I just didn’t play around with them enough to figure it out.

Based on the outcomes of the photos, I’m pretty sure that I’d be perfectly happy with the 1.4 and saving myself $1,100.

Next weekend I’m testing the zoom lenses to see if I like them better and hopefully then I’ll know exactly which one I want to buy…but realistically, I know won’t be the case and I’ll probably be torn between two of them.

11 Responses to Weekend Fun with New Lenses

  1. Marc says:

    Hi , I’m Amy’s cousin

    Re 1.2 vs 1.4 , there’s little rational need for 1.2. Only perhaps is you are taking indoor pictures at night lit by a candle. Often the 1.4 lens will be sharper at equivalent apertures than the 1.2 due to optical design considerations. For practical purposes you would be hard pressed to see a lot of difference. Also focus on most cameras is done with the aperture wide open and can be a little slower with a larger aperture lens
    The fuzzy background increases with a larger aperture. This is also called “Bokeh” , a Japanese term. The effect of an out of focus background is subjective, in general the closer you are to the subject and the wider the aperture , the more extreme the effect.
    Good lenses are forever , the best thing I did , for the pictures I take, was to by a 70-200 f2.8 ($1600)
    The 24-70 2.8 is the bread and butter lens of studio and wedding photographers – its on my wish list.
    Other considerations are whether you have a full frame sensor or aps-c size, the smaller sensors effectively increase the magnification , for practical purposes a 50mm on a smaller sensor takes a picture with the field of view of a 75mm lens. Finally ,the kit lenses use a variable aperture. At the longer zoom range you lose the widest aperture , so 3.5 to 5.6 means when you zoom, you get 5.6. This is important in lower light
    Good luck w you decision

    • Christina says:

      Hi Marc! Thanks for your comments and advice! It’s always helpful hearing from others who have experience with different lenses. I definitely agree with you regarding the 1.2 vs 1.4 and your comments about the 24-70 2.8 is inline with what I’ve read from reviews. Plus the woman at the camera shop said that she’s heard nothing but great reviews from those who’ve rented the 24-70, while the 24-105 reviews have been less than positive. I have the 24-70 reserved for next weekend and am so excited to try it! I have a feeling that I’m going to come out of this test wanting both the 50mm 1.4 and the 24-70 2.8…

  2. barbara kiefer says:

    fabulous photos of my daughter and grand-son–thank you.

  3. Dana says:

    I’ll be of no help in the lens recommendation department, because I can’t tell the difference between the two sets of shots… and I also think the pictures you’ve taken with your kit lens are great as well! Being frugal, though, I’d probably err on the side of saving over $1000. 😉

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I think the 1.2 is not worth the extra cost. I just need to see how this next weekend goes with the zoom lens—I’m really excited to give it a whirl!!

  4. Kathy says:

    I’m like Dana–not much help here either. I am impressed with your patience in research–AND with your photography skill (even with the lens you already have!) Loved looking at the pics of baby and friend, as well as the older couple holding hands. So sweet.

    • Christina says:

      Thanks for your comments, Kathy! It’s amazing how much there is to learn about photography—it’s almost overwhelmingly, but I’m definitely enjoying it when I have the time.

  5. John says:

    FWIW, I would almost always rather have a fixed lens on my camera. The loss of control is fixed by moving around, and you get more light with less weight. I think the difference between the 1.2 and 1.4 is minimal unless you do a lot in low light, but I’d take a 50mm 1.4 over basically any zoom lens I’ve ever tried, in a binary choice. My money’s where my mouth is on this. Unless I’m shooting bugs or trying (and failing, per our conversation today) to shoot landscapes, I take the 50mm and ditch everything else these days, every time.

    • Christina says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, John…I’m definitely still struggling with this decision. I think that I might get the fixed lens now and wait to save up for the zoom lens. I really do enjoy the flexibility of the zoom, but you’re right, they are very heavy and bulky and perhaps after using a fixed lens regularly, I might not feel the need for the zoom. 🙂

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