My Gear : Canon 35mm 1.4L Lens

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Next up in my gear bag is the Canon 35 1.4L!  This is a new addition but I rented it first for my weddings in March to see if it would do what I wanted.  I planned the rental to cover the two weddings and an engagement session so I could make sure to give it a real workout!  Remember rentals are a great way to try before you buy especially with lenses that are upwards of $1000.  Make sure it will do what you need it to!

Prior to the 35 I had been using the Canon 28 1.8 which is a much nicer price point around $500 to start out with.  I liked the wide angle it gave me for certain shots like the bride and her dad walking down the aisle, landscape shots of the venue and dancing at the reception.  I also used it for a few photos during portrait sessions with the bride and groom to include more of the landscape around them.  So the 28 worked great for that but I wanted to move up to an L series lens for that added sharpness.  I realized that most of what I used the 28 for was reception dancing.  I always felt like the 28 put me just a bit too far from the dancing action so I wanted something that would be wider then the 50 but not quite as wide as the 28.  My two options were the 24 1.4 and the 35 1.4.

I eliminated the 24 because it is wider then the 28 so that left the 35.  I’d seen great reviews on it from other photographers I know so I knew it would be a good lens to rent and try out.  So after testing the 35 1.4L out at a couple weddings it did exactly what I wanted, it put me closer to the dance floor action without actually getting out on the floor myself all the time.  It also works great for the wide angle landscape photos I do on a wedding day.  The 24 1.4L would be better for this but for those few shots I would use it for the price is a bit too steep to justify them both.  Since getting the 35 I’ve added in photographing details like the paper goods with it because I can actually focus closer then with the 50.  Plus it gives me a little different look for portraits that I’m still exploring.  It’s not going to replace the love I have for my 50 but it’s fitting in nicely in my gear bag!

This time I’ll go easy on the examples!

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ISO 200 f/1.8 1/2500- I think the 35 does pretty great for landscape style portraits!  Here I wanted to show the gorgeous backdrop Janine and Micheal chose for their wedding.  It was a beautiful sunny day so I stuck with ISO 200 most of the time and then chose 1.8 for my aperture to keep good depth of field (DOF) on Janine & Michael.

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ISO400 f/1.6 1/2500- Similar to above but I wanted to show that the 35 is great for architecture too!  I love that I can get more in the frame and still be pretty close.  I’d have to back up a lot with the 50 to get the whole cottage and it would add in unnecessary sky while making my couple smaller.

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ISO 640 f/2.0 i/125 – I love the chandeliers at Stevenson Ridge and I love incorporating them into the composition of my photos when I can.  I think they are like a cake topper dressing up the ceiling!  I chose 2.0 because I knew my subjects would be moving and I wanted to keep my DOF wide enough that I wouldn’t lose focus on them.  SS 1/125 is plenty to stop their slow action and 640 was the lowest ISO I could go with to keep the exposure correct.

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ISO 1000 f/5.6 SS 1.6sec – Yes I used a tripod for this!  I could have dropped the ISO down on this since I was using a tripod but I think I left it the same as what I had been using for dancing shots.  5.6 because I wanted plenty of DOF and then I tried several settings for my ss to find the right balance with blowing out the lights but getting a nice blue in the sky.

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ISO 6400 f/3.2 1/60 – First wedding using my MK3 so I was playing with higher ISO levels!  This room is also very dark, think brick and black paint.  Lots of windows but once the sun goes down that doesn’t help much.  I used an OCF near the stage to light the crowd and on camera flash to light my couple.  I usually stick with 2.8-4.0 for dancing shots to again get more DOF and have several people dancing in focus.  1/60 lets in more ambient light while the flash freezes the action.  The 35 lets me get closer to my subject while still showing the crowd around them on the dance floor!  Perfect for my dance floor style!

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ISO 200 f/1.8 1/8000- I love wide angles for this shot, it is the scene setting lens for me.  1.8 for my aperture because I was focusing on Rae and her dad but I wasn’t worried about having crazy depth of field.  2.0 would have worked fine here too.  Tip for focusing these try to place your focal point at the point of greatest contrast on your subjects like where his black suit is next to her white dress.  It is a small spot but it’s worked great for me when using Al Servo mode to track focus.

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ISO 200 f/2.0 1/6400 – I’m using the 35 more and more for bridal party photos since those groups can be pretty big!  I typically shoot BP at a 4.0 to keep everyone in focus but they were in a pretty good straight line to go with a 2.0.

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ISO 200 f/2.0 1/2000 – Trying out the 35 with portraits too.  It is definitely different then the 50 but I can’t explain the difference in words.

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ISO 1000 f/4.0 1/30 – Really love my 35 for these shots!  I spend an average of 2 hours photographing dancing so this lens gets lots of use.  The 28 would have required me to get closer to the subjects or have more in the frame.  I like that this gives enough information about the environment with the other people dancing without me having to be right up in their faces!  I like to balance my OCF with ambient light and keep my on camera flash as a pop but not too bright.  ISO 1000 lets in more light to let my on camera flash be the pop I want, 4.0 to keep that depth of field and 1/30 for the ambient light.  Having to try to focus the Canon 5d in the dark is a pain so I try to grab focus on a high contrast point about 4-5 feet away and then I try not to push the focus button again.

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ISO 1000 f/4.5 1/30 – I bumped my aperture just a little bit since I was trying to get more DOF.  Not sure how much extra it really gave me but that was the idea.  This venue has benches around the dance floor so I was standing on the bench shooting down into the crowd.  You’ll also find me shooting with the camera over my head a lot too.  Unless my deodorant quits like this past Saturday and then I keep my arms plastered to my side except for a few shots!  ( Mental note- buy extra deodorant for my camera bag)

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Left ISO 400 f/2.0 1/250 – Love the 35 for a different look to details.  2.0 lets me isolate certain aspects of the table while letting the others fall to a nice blur.

Right ISO 1600 f/1.4 1/160 – I wanted the flowers to pop and the rest of the room to be the supporting cast.  Keeping my DOF shallow at 1.4 gives me this, plus it is still nice and sharp wide open!

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