I Cracked.

Since switching to Canon almost 2 years ago, I’ve gone through the same progression I went though with D70. The one that goes a little something like this:

  • You get your shiny new camera with kit lens, shoot with it for a while, and are happy.
  • You realize the kit lens isn’t that great so you upgrade it.
  • You buy zooms because they’re versatile; you grab a tele and a wide to complement your “all around” lens.
  • You start figuring out what and how you shoot, so you look into primes, and usually pick up a cheapie 50mm f/1.8 from your respective manufacturer
  • You get addicted to the sharpness and image quality (and the speed) of a wide-aperture prime lens.
  • You start selling off your zooms (except for maybe one or two) and start buying primes.

I got my 7D with a kit lens, and immediately sold it off and got myself a 24-70 2.8L. I also picked up a 70-200 2.8L IS, this pretty much covered everything except for UWA, so I bought the Tokina 10-24 (not so great unless stopped down to like f/7.1-8). I was covered for everything. Then I picked up the Canon 50mm f/1.4 — As soon as I shot with it and noticed how much sharper and faster I could shoot (I shoot mostly indoor events), I was hooked (again, as I was when I had my Nikon). The following week I sold my 24-70L and got myself a shiny new 35mm f/1.4L. The lens is amazing.

But on to how “I cracked”. Well, I’ve had some money that’s been burning a hole in my pocket for a while and I’ve been racking my brain the last few weeks on whether I wanted a second body, or some lenses. After much deliberation and a bit of impulse, I’d decided that I have some awesome friends who also shoot Canon and will let me borrow their camera bodies if I ever need them (at least, until I get my own. I’m actually holding out for the 5D Mark III at this point). I decided to complement my lens “arsenal”, if you will.

It came down to two lenses, or rather, focal lengths, and the contenders at each. 85mm and 135mm. for 135mm the choice is clear — 135mm f/2L. I tried on both focal lengths at a local camera store to see which would be useful. As much as I wanted the ridiculously sharp 135L, on a crop, that’s nearly 200mm, which is hardly usable for what I do regularly, so It wouldn’t really be worth it. That left me with a decision of what to get at 85mm. My choices here were:

I’d been eying the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 for quite a while. Of course, like any Canon fan, the holy grail of lenses is the legendary 85mm f/1.2L. Large, fast, sharp, contrasty, and can be used as a weapon in a pinch. I’m a bit spoiled by my 35L, so I immediately dismissed the canon 85 1.8 — though it is a great lens for the money, and is plenty sharp and is very quick to focus. But being that I shoot indoors a lot (mostly without flash), I need as much speed as I can get, so It was down to the legendary 85L and any of the other f/1.4 offerings.

The rokinon/vivitar/samyang/etc is a very sharp lens, but it’s manual focus only. I’ve played with it before, and the lens actually has a very nice build quality with a nicely damped focus ring. This is perfect for video, which I do a lot of. the price is also AWESOME at about $250-260. However, for events, I wanted something that would serve double duty, so I need something that is also an AF lens. If you don’t need AF or do only video, the rokinon (and comparable brands — they’re all the same) is a tack sharp lens, even wide open, and has nice color and contrast for video work.

I don’t have any experience with the Zeiss 85mm, but I’m sure it’s also a great lens, from what I have read…plus, you can’t discount legendary Zeiss optics. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at this one too hard either, since it is also manual focus.

I thought about it for a while and decided that while the 85L is really really nice, it’s a HUGE chunk of change, and being that this is just a side gig for me at this point, it’s not worth the cash outlay for a near intangible difference in quality (for what i do) between itself and the other lenses.

Since the Sigma was released just about a year ago, all of the reviews have been very favorable, with not too much bad to say. The focusing is faster, the image quality is just as good, and it’s less than half the price of the 85L! So this morning I log onto amazon, and see that they have it in stock, and for $20 cheaper than anywhere else ($949)! The price recently jumped (either due to the tsunami in Japan or the increased popularity of this lens) from something like $850 street to $969 street …well, against my better judgment, something took over and clicked that dangerous button “Buy with Amazon 1-click”. *poof* there goes a lot of money.

1 click is a dangerous thing. I should turn it off.

Hopefully I can post up about the Sigma 85 and do a short review once it comes in…With any luck that’ll be tomorrow, since I have Amazon Prime, I opted for the $3.99 overnight shipping. Here’s hoping!

About Bryan

Bryan Gateb is a Southern-California based photographer.