To Keep or Not to Keep, That is the Question

In Experiences, General, Photography by John3 Comments

When I took delivery of the Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM lens last Monday, Ryan at Ted’s Cameras reminded me of the store policy that if I was not happy with the lens I could return it within 14 days (subject to conditions of course).  I’ve never returned a camera or lens purchase yet, but the 85mm f1.2L had me thinking that here was a lens that I might cause me to take advantage of the return policy.  It’s not that I don’t like the lens, it’s just that it is so difficult to use and get a sharp photo with that I began to wonder if the lens was sharp at all.  Mind you, I knew this when I ordered the lens both from from reading and my experience with my Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM lens.  I’ve read that it takes a great deal of practice, and then more practice, and then more. It’s a long learning process and takes care and thought, not only in taking photos at f1.2 but in selecting subjects.

Well, the lens got an unexpected tryout at 1.38 in the dark hours of this morning.  The was a loud continual noise – a bit like a car horn stuck, but it was louder and more complex.  So I got up to investigate and there were flashing lights out the front of my unit.  A peak out my front door had me rushing back for my camera which had the 85mm lens attached.

The camera had been set to spot metering and centre spot focus, so whatever I pointed the centre point at is what determined the exposure.  In the above photo it was the bright lights in the instrument panel.  The exposure has not been adjusted in any way.

In the photo below, taken a few minutes later, the centre focus and metering was pointed at the door of the fire engine.  As you can see it has made a big difference to the exposure, and shows the spectacular ability of the f1.2 aperture in the dark of night where the only light is from the fire truck.    From memory, I think the photo is brighter than the actual scene was.  The truck’s rear door is shut in this photo.

The photo below is the top photo repeated, and I mean the dark one at the top of this post, but I’ve adjusted the image with Levels in Photoshop.  It shows the advantages of shooting in RAW because the detail and fire engine red is there despite the dark shadows at night.  And the adjusted photo reveals the truck’s rear door is open with a second fireman inside.

So perhaps the title of this post should now be “To Keep or Not to Keep, that Was the Question”

What do you think?

By the way, I have no idea why the fire truck was there, but in the centre photo you can see the fireman with his hand on a hose coming out of the side of the truck and you can see part of the hose along the edge of the foot path and another part of it out on the road.


This afternoon when I checked my letterbox,  there was printed message in it from Victoria Police seeking assistance from anyone who had witnessed any suspicious activity before or at the time of the fire at the address and time given.  The message indicated that “a fire occurred to a vehicle” at the residential unit block next to my unit.


  1. Wacko John,

    I certainly did not understand anything of the photography jargon or lens details … but the pic effects are fantastic and you could report to VicPol that:

    ~ flashy vehicle with a group of strangers seen hanging around vicinity shortly after time of offence

    ~ local ‘unseen’ man took spy photos near the crime scene

    On the matter of to keep or not … I think you need to continue to balance out the likelihood of photo opportunities that may occur for which the new lens is uniquely suited over any of your current (or future) lens alternatives.

    Cheers, Ralph

    1. Author

      Thanks for your comments Ralph. I was very amused by your observation of what I could report to Victoria Police about the scene. Good on you, Ralph!

      However, in the early evening when I put out my garbage bin for collection Friday, I walked past the block next door to see if vehicles parked there could be seen from the street. Doing that gave me a rather nasty feeling at the time, when I realised that it was, as you put it, a crime scene, and in the dark of night when most were asleep, some unsavoury person had been lurking in the block next to my unit, and set fire to a vehicle.

      Regards whether or not to keep the 85mm f1.2L lens or not, I appreciate your advice which puts it very succinctly in a nutshell. As for the likelihood of photo opportunities that may occur for which the new lens is uniquely suited over any of my current (or future) lens alternatives, the sad answer that based on my experience over the past 10 years in my retirement, there will probably not as many portrait opportunities as I had in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

      The thing is that the latest Canon Lens book says of this lens that it is widely regarded as the “gold standard” for professional portrait work. It’s a difficult lens to use and takes a lot of practice, thought, care and good technique. At f1.2 (wide open) at a subject distance of 1m, only 1mm is in focus. At 2m, only 4mm is in focus. The unique quality of this lens is that it was designed to be very sharp at the point of focus and for the out of focus area (most of the photo in many cases) to have good “bokeh” and look buttery and dreamy. So it’s a great challenge for me to learn to take stunning photos with the lens.

      It’s perhaps an even bigger challenge for me to regain the confidence I had in the mid 60’s to mid 70’s to go out and find subjects for portraits. Back then people used to ask me to take their is probably not as many photo opportunities portraits and wedding photos after seeing the photos I had taken in the past.


    2. Author

      Hi Ralph,

      An update to my previous reply. I have kept the lens and made a new post about it, with my first portrait subject – me.


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