Canon 85mm f/1.2L focusing tips

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by matt_k|1, Feb 4, 2007.

  1. I'm renting and messing around with the updated version of the 85 1.2L this weekend. I think I've fallen in
    love with the bokeh. <p>
    I wasn't aware of the geared, motor driven focus ring... no full-time manual, the lag, etc<p>
    I was wondering if anyone had any tips for using this lens, especially in a fast-paced gig like a wedding
    where fast focusing can be important. Do you ever manually focus? Or can you rely on the autofocus in a
    dim setting? I'm finding that at the widest apertures, there is virturally NO room to focus/recompose/
    shoot (not that that's a good way to work all the time anyway).. and the lack of full-time manual focus is
    kind of disappointing.<p>
    I already have the 85 1.8, and I'm not sure if it's worth it for me to upgrade, but the 1.2 is definately a
    beautiful lens.
  2. I only use AF with my Mk2 version of this lens. It is my favorite and most used lens during the wedding day. My technique while shooting is to focus and shoot all in one push. Works very well for me. I do the same thing with my new 50mm 1.2L.

    Also with the 20/30D and 5D I have the custom function set for the little multi-controller to change the AF point directly w/o pushing any other button.
  3. I get asked this question frequently because I use this lens a lot and nail critical focus.

    I've never manually focused the 85/1.2. (either version). Frankly, I'm not fond of Canon's
    sloppy manual focus on their AF lenses and never use it ... except on the macro lens where
    it's a necessary evil. If you insist on it, set your camera on Manual Focus.

    The 85/1.2 is slower than other lenses of the same focal length because it's moving huge,
    heavy glass elements around. So the trick to faster focusing is to get those elements closer
    to the critical focus point before-hand.

    This concept can be better understood by looking at some lenses that have "range limit
    switches" ... which literally limit the range of distance the lens will focus, thus eliminating
    the longer throw from one end of the range to the other, and increasing focusing speed.

    1) So as you go to shoot, pick something contrasy close to the distance of the subject,
    then go for the real thing. Sounds slower, but it isn't. What you cannot be is numb to
    potential shots. You have to anticipate a bit, but that's true in general no matter what lens
    you're using.

    2) If your camera has enough resolution, just use the center focusing spot and crop off-
    center later. The center AF sensor is the most sensitive.

    3) For available light shots in very dim conditions, use your flash with the head pointed
    backwards and minus compensated to the max, so you can use the red focus assist light
    of the flash ... OR use a STE-2 (without a flash), which has the focus assist built in.

    4) Like a cat fighting, go for the eyes : -)

    5) When processing 85/1.2 shots, selectively sharpen ... whatever you focused on (like the
    eyes) is what you sharpen, not the whole image. This preserves the beautiful out-of-focus
  4. You can have full-time manual focus with this lens if you move focus to the * button, as I have done. However, I usually rely on autofocus with manual AF point selection. I don't know which camera you are using, but on my 1Ds2 I've set the Custom Functions so AF points are limited to 9 and AF point selection is initiated with the Quick Control Dial (CF 11-2 and 13-3). The Assist button calls up the center AF point. This set-up allows me to quickly choose an AF point appropriate for the composition so I don't need to focus and recompose. I generally have good results with focus accuracy, even at the widest apertures.
  5. Sending herewith a sample as Marc Williams explained- selective sharpening the eyes.
  6. Here's what I mean Matt ...
  7. Thanks for the info Marc! I knew you'd chime in. Great tips about prefocusing and about using the autofocus assist from the flash. Don't know why I didn't think about that one.
  8. Pre-focus is a must, as already said. The other thing that is useful and I use all the time is something I lovingly refer to as swing shooting. Similar to the pre-focus Marc explained but used for dancing. Here's how it works. Focus the best you are able on a couple dancing. Note that they usually 'swing' to and fro repeating the same distance every other step. As you gain focus on a given position (normally toward the end of the step, or the point from which they make the return step), then await their return to that position and fire about 2 - 3 shots close together. Using this method I have been able to nail at least one good shot with the point of sharpest focus very close to the desired location. It really is a Godsend in times of need/stealth. Here is one using this method where the first shot grabbed the best moment...
  9. Good one David! Both the suggested shooting technique and the photo demonstrating it.
  10. Once you're in the ballpark, so to speak, it may be faster to focus using your body than using the lens.

    Say what?

    Focus. Subject moves 6 inches backward. You move 6 inches forward.

    Subject moves 6 inches forward. You move 6 inches backward.

    Works better than continually re-focusing in some situations.

  11. Great idea Eric.

    I will be adding that one to the bank and making a little investment in time trying it out. Thanks.
  12. For your tip #3, is it possible just to swich the flash to master and turn it off (using as wireless command without comanding any slave) so the flash wouldn't mess up the ambient light? (at least with the 580 EX)
  13. I had my 85mm1.2 on a 50d and had great tack sharp images at 1.2 now on my 1dmark2 it focuses faster but seems like it is not as sharp

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