Jasmine Star : Lenses and Camera

Okay, so this post has been…oh, like…A YEAR in the making. Whenever I'd get enough time to gather my thoughts to describe the lenses and camera I shoot with, I'd be all, Hey, I'm really good at blinking…!! And then I'd go and organize my argyle sock collection. I've been meaning to give a comprehensive review of my camera gear and how I use it, so what better time than today?

It's been over two years since I posted What's In My Bag, so if this post is too long and wordy, please blame making up for lost time. It feels like we were separated at birth and we're being reunited on the Maury Povich show.

Canon 5DMII
If you've been reading this blog for some time, you'll know the love affair I have with my 5DMII, primarily because of the full-frame sensor. Swoon. Really. Yes, I consider shooting with the Canon 1DMIV (primarily for burst mode superiority), but I'm tied into my sensor-loving ways. Sure, there are differences in files between the 5D and the 5DMII (I prefer the files on the 5D), but I hope Canon announces a new camera soon…if it's the 5DMIII, I'd sign on the dotted line immediately. F'real.
{**UPDATE: Here's my review of the Canon 5DMIII, which is what I'm now using**}

Canon 50mm, 1.2
This is my sweet something, my precious love-child. I use this lens more than any other lens and if I had to choose one lens that's defined my style, this would be it. Because of it's wide aperture (f/1.2), I use this lens to shoot in any lighting situation, everything from bridal prep details (wedding dress, shoes, wedding invitation, etc) to bride and groom portraits, to reception details (centerpieces, dessert tables, drink details, etc). Of course given the fact that I'm lucky to mix in other lenses is a blessing, but this lens just is so diverse and allows me to freedom to be me behind the lens.
I'm often emailed with questions regarding focus issues with this lens. I don't have a concrete answer, but I will say it's hard to compare with other lenses on the market because it's wide in a different way than, say the 50mm, 1.4 (a beautiful lens in its own right). When dealing with with wide apertures, it takes time to fall into a new shooting rhythm and massage the lens so that it whispers sweet nothings back to you. But, yes, it takes time and practice. When I shoot at f/1.2 not every shot is in focus, but the majority is…and when it locks in, there are few things prettier than the magic it produces.

Canon 85mm, 1.2
This lens is a hunk. If he had a name, it'd be Brad. And have sandy blond hair. The lens weighs about two pounds and is a beefy piece of glass, but produces some of the prettiest portraits. Ever. It's ability to give a photojournalistic feel is something I love during prep photos, as well as bride and groom portraits. I especially love using this lens when the bride is getting ready on the other side of the room and I want to give her space to breathe. I simply use this lens to get a up close feel without encroaching on her space. In like manner, I use the 85mm during bride and groom portraits to give an intimate feel to a photo. When I use this lens at f/1.2, it locks onto the subject and I have yet to find a lens that produces better bokeh.

Canon 35mm, 1.4
This is a newer addition to my lens set-up…and I'm smitten. I have a crush on this lens and it's treated me so well! I wish I hadn't waited to invest in this wide lens because it's wide without being too wide. I bought the 24mm, 1.4 before I bought this lens because I wanted diversity in my lens choices, but the 24mm was too much a departure from my shooting style that I hardly used it during the first half of the day. I reviewed this lens in depth (Canon 35mm, 1.4 Review), but suffice it to say I adore this lens for its ability to create an entirely different vibe to a photo given the same situation and its width blends quite well with my shooting style.
These three lenses (Canon 50mm, 1.2, Canon 85mm, 1.2, and the 35mm, 1.4) are the only lenses I take with my on an engagement session. I prefer to travel light and they provide enough diversity for an entire shoot while staying true to my shooting style. They've treated me so well and I love them so much I'm tempted to kiss them goodnight and tuck them in bed.

Canon 50mm, 1.4 and Canon 85mm, 1.8
These little babies are insane. They're the first two lenses I recommend to portrait photographers since they're amazing at what they do! When I first decided to incorporate prime lenses into my collection, I started with these two and they're STILL chugging along like champs. JD uses these lenses and actually prefers them to their L Series counterparts (50mm, 1.2 and the 85mm, 1.2). On occasion, if JD and I happen to be doing a quick lens exchange, he'll shoot with my lenses and when he hands them back to me, his comment is always the same: I don't know how you shoot with those! JD prefers to stay within the f/2.0-f/2.5 range when shooting and the 50mm, 1.4 and the 85mm, 1.8 focus faster. I actually think the 85mm, 1.8 outperforms the 1.2, but (in my opinion) nothing compares to a photo at 1.2, which is why I prefer it. If you're considering using fixed (non-zoom) lenses, these are great starters for less than $400 a piece!

Canon 100 Macro, 2.8 IS
This is my newest lens and I am SO in love with it. Did you see that I capitalized SO? That's high school talk for so, but, like, really big. I owned a 100 Macro (non IS) and while it did me well, I definitely struggled with focus while shooting the wedding rings (which is all I used it for). I can't tell you how frustrating it was to be shooting (on a time crunch) and I couldn't get the darn lens to focus. I'd break out in a cold sweat every time. I'd have to manual focus and that's about as fun as plucking your dad's eyebrows (whhhhhhat? He needed a little help man-scaping!). Anyway, the 100 Macro IS is the complete antithesis to its predecessor. I've been shooting with it for four weddings and it has yet to do me wrong. I've used it to shoot the wedding dress, wedding rings, hand-written vows, glass details…and so much more.

Canon 100 Macro
This was the first macro lens I bought. It did me well until I upgraded to the 100 Macro, 2.8 IS…and it was well worth the investment. JD now uses the 100 Macro while he shoots the groom prep (for details like cufflinks and tie clips), but stays in our large camera bag for the majority of the day.

Canon 70-200mm, 2.8 IS
This is the one lens I believe is universally needed by a wedding photographer. Even if you have to rent it, do it! I believe wedding photographers should be as out-of-the-way as possible during the ceremony (how many horror stories have we heard of wedding photographers standing at the altar with the bride and groom?!) and this zoom lens allows me to capture up close moments yet stay out of the way. I use this lens for the majority of the ceremony–sprinkling the use the 24mm, 1.4 for a wide shot and 85mm, 1.2 for an aisle portrait using the widest aperture focusing on one subject at once–and it's solid. It was the second lens I bought for myself and when we saved up enough money, it was the first lens I bought JD.

Canon 24-70mm, 2.8
This was the first lens I bought…and I can't get rid of it for sentimental reasons, even though I don't use it that much. I usually only touch it if family portraits on the wedding day will range from small groups (4+) to large groups (20+) in a short amount of time. JD uses this lens for the wedding processional as he's usually toward the back of the aisle and has less time to fire off a few images, so he needs the quick adjusting focal range, especially if he's seated in an aisle. Ummm, yes. We do that. Especially when shooting in churches, JD will sit like a wedding guest and shoot from a pew…this is when the 24-70mm is priceless as it blends with guests and offers a lot of latitude.

Canon 24mm, 1.4
Like I alluded to when referencing the 35mm, 1.4 in this post, this lens was great and performed well, but it was a departure from my style. However, what I will say is that JD inherited this lens and he rocks it out in an entirely different way. He shoots 100% photojournalistically (candid, non-posed) throughout the wedding day and this lens lends itself to this genre quite well, as its a story telling lens. Because I'm a diva, I steal this lens from him when reception dancing begins (he'll take my 35mm) and shoot the majority of dancing with it. It's too perfect to document a story in a tight setting and dancing pictures are usually funnier when more people are included in the frame.

Canon 16-35mm, 2.8
I shake my head every time this lens is packed in my bag because I can't remember the last time I used it. Like, years. Yet, it's still packed because I always worry one day I'll need an uber wide shot…and when I do, I'LL HAVE THE PERFECT LENS! In all actuality, I bought this lens my first year of business (when I didn't really know what my style was) and it's totally awesome if your style more documentary in nature, or you prefer to photograph your clients standing very close to them

Canon 580EXII
Here's a little story about flash: You get what you pay for. The end.
Okay, not really, but if you're the type of person who learns from mistakes, learn from mine. When I first started, I was strapped for cash and made short-term decisions. My first flash was the Canon 480 and I shot with it for a few weddings before I realized it wasn't powerful enough for what I needed it for (dark receptions and dance floor pictures). Shortly thereafter, I upgraded to the 580EXII and have been singing it's praises ever since. LA LA LAAAH!

Happy Wednesday!