My Favorite Lens Thursday, Aug 26 2010 

When I finally decided to enter the world of digital SLR cameras, I purchased a modest Canon Rebel XT, and for the most part, made the best of the EF-S 17-85mm IS lens. I later even added an EF 70-200mm f/4L lens that I coveted for months. Alas, my whole kit was stolen one day, and I had to start rebuilding it again.

Before I even purchased my next camera (which will end up being a used Canon 20D), I decided on the lens. It was going to be the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens, mainly because I could not find a bad review of the lens. Everything about it was appealing – the huge maximum aperture, the focal length, relatively small size and light weight… It’s not a zoom, but if I could have only one lens, I knew it would be that one. Since then, my 85 is always with me, it has become my go-to lens for portraits and closeups, and it especially shined on my Yosemite trip last June (see this, this and this).

Sword in Sheath

Yet, I wanted to find a non-portrait photo to illustrate this post, so I decided to go with one of the first shots I made with the lens. The next day after it came to my doorstep, I brought the lens to the Dallas Museum of Art, and took a photo of this really cool piece. It’s a sheath ornament, made of leather, animal tusks, pearls and imagination. The picture is weird as hell, but I liked it so much I used it for a set of my “moo cards”.

I heard that Nikon just released a 85mm f/1.4 lens. Although it costs a four digit amount, I’m sure it’s spectacular. Canon’s next step up from my f/1.8 is the EF 85mm f/1.2L, which is very expensive, very heavy, and not easy to use well wide open. So, 1.4 would be a great compromise, but until Canon comes up with something like that, I’ll hold on to the one I have. It’s been good to me.

A Shy Little Wish List Entry Friday, Aug 6 2010 

My photography brothers-in-arms Tyler and John and I used to have a disease that often affects fledgling photographers, which we called “upgradeitis”. Both of them are Nikon D90 shooters, but only after they owned a D40 and D50, respectively. I started off with a Canon Rebel XT, and later moved on to a used Canon 20D. We all have multiple lenses, filters and assorted knick-knacks.

Since I bought my Canon 7D almost a year ago, I had no desire to move forward with my digital gear. But I also shoot film, and I’ve consistently been getting better results with film than with digital. Therefore, the one area where I’d like to improve my gear is my medium format setup. If you’re wondering, that’s the type of film where an image area is at least three times larger than on a standard 35mm frame, offering higher resolution and a potential for greater image quality.

My current Mamiya 645 1000S

A Hasselblad would be great, but it’s not a significant improvement over my Mamiya 645 1000S. However, if I could get my dirty hands on a Mamiya 6 (square format, slightly larger) or Mamiya 7 (6x7cm, larger still), that would be the jackpot. These cameras are easy to carry and still have superb image quality. That’s a way away still, as the body itself is many hundreds of dollars, and lenses aren’t cheap either.

The main difference wouldn’t be so much the format as much as the weight. The Mamiyas 6 and 7 are rangefinders, so they’re lighter, and even their lenses are more compact. My 645 is an SLR and it’s pretty heavy and the ergonomics of it are atrocious. It would be so much easier to have a camera over my neck all day instead of tugging on my backpack straps.

Wish List Entry

In part, this wish list entry is somewhat driven by some improvements I could do to my current 645 setup – metered prism finder and a better grip/winder are the first that come to mind. I could also re-sell my whole current kit for about what I paid for it. Even so, it’s still a future goal, and I’m at least happy knowing medium format is something I want to continue to pursue. With the 7D, my digital kit is set for at least a few years, but honestly, ideally, on a future photo trip like the recent one to Yosemite, I could see myself leaving the digital rig behind if I had a reliable and lightweight medium format alternative.

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