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Canon EF 50mm f/1.0L USM

Review Date: May 20, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,500.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Low light shooting ability, amazing build quality, selectable focusing range, exellent bokeh
Bokeh not as smooth as the 85mm f/1.2, crazy used price tag...more than original price!

I first saw this lens in my dealer's shop when I picked up my first DSLR, the Canon 1Ds. It was in his personal collection and he wasn't interested in selling it. He let me try it out in his shop though. I fell in love with this lens and vowed to own one someday.

This lens has become somewhat analagous to a mythical creature. Its extraordinary used price tag keeps it out of reach of most, except for the terminally insane, such as myself.

Well, it is 2006 and I have upgraded the original 1Ds to a 1Ds Mark II. The 50mm f/1.0 lens has been discontinued for a number of years. It was still desirable to me so when a good example came on the market, I decided to buy it.

I really love this lens. I don't necessarily always use its primary feature, the f1.0 stop, but it has proven itself in the mid stop range quite commendably. I like having the ability to shoot in a wide variety of lighting conditions without changing lenses.

I prefer it over my 85mm f1.2 many times due to the wider field of view.

Will the newer, faster focusing, 50mm lenses beat it in a pixel peeping contest? In the majority of cases, yes. Will they be able to open up to f/1.0? Nope.

I will admit, part of this purchase was emotional. It was a chance to own the mythical beast that has been touted unobtainium.

I can't recommend it to the masses due to its hefty price, however, if you have the spare change and a good copy is available, I urge you to try it out. You just might like it as much as I do!

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Review Date: May 11, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,045.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Improved autofocus speed over the previous model. Improved rear element coating to cut down on ghosting. Transfer of ETTL II distance data to camera and flash.
Very minor...Focus by wire.

I sold me old Mark 1 version of this lens in anticipation of this revised edition. I brought the old one to PMA 2006 to do an A vs. B comparison of focusing speed. I autofocused on a close target (about 3 feet away) with a half press of the shutter button. I lifted my finger, raised the camera and aimed at a distant target across the convention center. I would estimate the second, distant, target was 200 feet away. I half pressed the shutter button to achieve autofocus. I did this procedure several times with each lens, the Mark 1 and the Mark 2. The Mark 2 took 2 seconds and the Mark 1 took 3 seconds to achieve focus. So, it is measurably faster to focus and consistent with Canon's specs.
The optics are claimed to be the same and in all of the photos I have taken thus far, the quality is the same and there aren't any perceivable differences between the old and new optics.
The other two benefits of the Mark 2 are ETTL II distance data conveyance to the camera and flash and the use of a special coating on the rear element to reduce ghosting from the reflectivity of the digital sensor's glass filter.
All in all, I am happy to own this lens for the speed alone. But bear in mind, that does not mean it is a fast focusing lens. It is not! I generally haven't used this lens with a camera mounted flash as it is primarily used in a studio environment with strobes in manual mode. I also haven't ever experienced ghosting with the old version, but it is great that Canon thought to update the coating for digital use.

If you have never held an EF 85mm f/1.2, or a EF 50mm f/1.0 (also in my arsenal) for that matter, you have been missing a real treat! These lenses are so exquisitely made they simply drip with quality.

Most of Canon's newest lenses utilize USM's (Ultrasonic Motors) to drive the focusing mechanism. The EF 85mm f/1.2 Mark II now does as well. It does, however, use a focus by wire. It works well, but there isn't that tactile, instantaneous, feel of a normal mechanical focus lens. It is just a tiny nitpick, and not worthy of much weight in a decision to purcahse or not.

Regarding bokeh, nothing comes close. Shot wide open, the bokeh and particularly the bokeh in the area of background highlights, is simply beautiful.

Feel free to shoot by candlelight, this lens is very fast in that sense of the word!