Wow. I never anticipated that my post about The Photography Business and the American Dream would be by far my most-read and most commented upon post ever. I guess it struck a chord with the photography community that’s more used to reading hype, fluff, and sales pitches to buy stuff. It gives me hope because prior to this, my most read posts were ones about gear.
That’s the one big irony – no matter how much I can make the argument that it’s not about gear, everyone loves to read about it! I’ll include myself in that category, since I love gear as much as the next photographer. So with gear in mind, I thought I would write this post as a brief coda to the American Dream post.
This is the Canon 85mm f1.2 L II. It costs $2,200 at Adorama or B&H.
This is the Canon 85mm f1.8. It costs $419 at Adorama or B&H.
What’s the difference? The 1.2L gives you some extra light if you’re shooting in the dark. It will also give you a dof a millimeter thin if that’s what you’re looking for. I’ve never had a need for either. At ISO 1600 or 3200 shooting at f2.0 on my 85mm f1.8 gives me everything I need, even when shooting a dark reception.
As far as sharpness, the lenses are evenly matched. Google the MTF curves and I think you might even see the 1.8 has a slight edge over the 1.2, not that you’d ever see the difference in a real print.
The one big and meaningful difference (other than the price) is that the 1.8 focuses far faster than the 1.2. Oh, and it’s much smaller and lighter too. Faster focus + lighter weight is much more important to me than f1.2. I’d rather own the f1.8 even if the f1.2 were the same price!
Okay, now let’s do some math.
$2,200 – $419 = $1,781 (the difference in price between the two lenses before sales tax)
placed in an investment that returned 8%, that $1,781 is worth $17,922 30 years later.
So that 85mm f1.2L II costs $17,922 + the original $2,200 = $20,122.
That, my friends, is how much that fancy lens will cost you.
You can keep the extra $20,000 and get a lens that is just as sharp, focuses faster, and is smaller/lighter by buying the 85 1.8. I guarantee you that your clients will never know the difference. Smart decisions like this – when multiplied by the hundreds of decisions you’ll make over your career – will increase your odds of living the American Dream.
I’m not saying you’re a dumbass if you buy the 85 1.2. Just don’t kid yourself. That lens purchase is a $419 investment and $1,781 in discretionary spending. If you’re meeting your savings goals and simply want to spend the money as a luxury purchase, sure go for it. Personally, I’d rather buy the 1.8 and put $1,781 in my kids’ college savings plans.
Some images with the el-cheapo 85mm f1.8:
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