So Bokeh Monster is a term I use for those primes that weigh in with apertures larger than 2.8.
Now with photography being very expensive here in South Africa, I've only got space (and money) for one Bokeh Monster in my kit.
Which would you recommend?
I'm aware that the number of aperture blades plays a big part in creating bokeh but I'm also looking for decent AF performance and sharpness. I'm less worried about those abherrations (fringing/vignetting) that can be 'ticked' away in post.
I'd also like an opinion as to whether IS benefits the photographer when working at these extreme apertures.
Looking forward to hearing some opinions, especially those with working experience of these primes.
Thanks in advance guys
If you primarily do head&shoulders indoors and/or have a large working distance (outdoors) and want the best quality even if it requires extra care/work then I would recommend the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II
If you need a lens that is able to be more flexible, such as faster focusing or using it indoors in tighter spaces, outdoor groups or with less working distance then I would recommend the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L
The 50 and 85 offer very similar "bokeh monster" "looks" but the 85 is sharper w/ better bokeh - though also larger, not weather sealed, focus by wire, heavier, slower focusing, requires more working distance, and much greater care in mounting on camera compared to the 50L. The 200L f/2L IS is excellent too, but very expensive and a headshot or outdoors only lens. If I were able to finance it, I'd own all three!
135L is a good value but I do not like it due to the angular bokeh ball highlights when stopped down.
Generally distortion is not an issue at 50mm+ unless you are using the whole frame for a headshot, in which case 135mm+ is optimal. 85mm won't be as bad for headshots as 50mm, but its not ideal either. 85 works great for shoulders up shots.
Image Stabilization I find is most useful at 100mm+, as I generally keep the camera at no less than shutter speed 1/125 to avoid motion blur.
So, in summary, if you have good control over the situation, good working distance, can take the time to do very careful lens swaps, and don't need fast focus then the 85L II will deliver the best portraits. If you need something that is a bit more flexible both in focal length/speed and does not require as much TLC, the 50L looks great too but not quite as good as the 85L II.