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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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For some reason, I’ve been trying to force myself to shoot with my cheap glass, rather than my good glass. It’s a bit of an intellectual exercise, to remind myself that photography is not about the equipment, it’s about the process.

In theory, that means I’m restricted to my:

  • 50/1.4 – mine was made back in the mid nineties, saw a lot of use on my EOS-3
  • 50/1.8 – my copy is new this year, you can pick one up for about $90
  • 85/1.8 – picked up a few months ago second hand for about $250, has some scratching on the objective element
  • 28/2.8 – picked up from a coworker back at the atmospheric sciences lab when he started getting into L glass; gray market

All of these are available for less than $400, all are dust suckers with extending elements except for the 85/1.8. Two come with the joy of non-USM motors, and the USM on the USM glass is junk. Each has either a Rodenstock or B+W filter on the front, to protect them, and to ensure I’m not “compromising” the cheap glass with cheap filters.

So far, my observations:

  • I’m sort of amazed at how much the 85/1.8 gets hit with chromatic aberrations on sharp contrasts when shooting wide open. DPP’s lens-specific fixes for the 85/1.8 are not sufficient to pull these out. Damn. Purple fringing really isn’t my favorite look. The 85/1.2 should, in the mythical future when I own one, solve this problem and give me bokeh to die for. My lens also seems to hunt a lot when near the MFD; manual focus will still pull the shots, but I need to back away about a foot for autofocus to nail it. I am not sure whether I have a lousy example (that’ll teach me to buy used), or if it’s just not a great lens in this regard.
  • The 28/2.8 is a damn fine lens, at least in terms of IQ. Bitch to use and slow as hell, but the pictures it takes are still pretty nice. I was popping some available light cat shots, and got some results that I’m pretty happy with, given something that can be picked up for a few hundred dollars.

With the 28/2.8:

I blew my plan and used the 17-40/4, which is still a cheap lens, but not as cheap as the above. I kept blowing the exposure (shooting high contrast stuff), but I was saved by the RAW format and enough extra information to make a 2EV shift. Why every consumer digital camera doesn’t have this is beyond me.