Capturing great images in very dark sceneries using a EOS R5 and a bright F/1.2 lens. Worth to buy a dedicated lens?

puffo25

EOS R5 - Fine art landscape, travel,astro and pano
Jul 18, 2017
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Hi, I am fortunate to own a EOS R5. I like to shoot in different light conditions including at night or when it is quite dark.
In those dark conditions, bumping the ISO over 6400 even if I shoot RAW might not preserve too well the soft quality of the image and might add some grain and/or I can still not catch all the image's shade in te darker area.
Currently I own a RF 16-35mm F/2,8 and an RF 70-200mm F/2,8.

So I am wondering if you think it is worth, as I do mostly street photography, to buy a brighter F/1,2 lens like the RF 50mm or 85mm or should not really matter?
 

Maximilian

The dark side - I've been there
CR Pro
Nov 7, 2013
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Hi puffo25!

To me those f/1.2 lenses are great but also really expensive tools that should be really needed for your work.
And it takes some patience and experience to make f/1.2 work well, as the shallow DOF makes it difficult.

I think it all depends on what subject you want to shoot, what DOF you want and what shutter times are needed to "freeze" the motion.
E.g.:
Street photography at night could be about
- people, where you need shorter shutter times
- light reflections, where you would want lovely OOF bokeh and therefore open apertures
- cityscapes, where a tripod and long shutter times are possible but also enough DOF for details is needed
Those are quite different situations and not always a f/1.2 lens is needed.

My recomendation:
- Think about what you can achieve with your f/2.8 lenses and those apertures wide open.
- Think about cheaper lenses with wider aperture, e.g. the 50 or 35 f/1.8 and look that could be enough for you
- Before you buy a > 2.000€ lens maybe rent one and try out, if it works for you.

Hope that helps.
 

YuengLinger

EOS R6
CR Pro
Dec 20, 2012
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You seem to have a good sense of the importance of the quality of light in photos. If a subject and/or its lighting aren't very special, do they deserve an extremely expensive lens? When photojournalists had an essential role in everyday reporting, lighting wasn't a priority--getting the newsworthy shot, capturing the sense of the moment was what the job was about. Now it is easy to get pretty decent shots in very low light and then clean them up in post, but is what we are photographing worth our time, money, and effort? If so, will others believe the same? Will the shots we take in various lighting situations be compelling, even fascinating to others? Or just something to collect and leave on the hard drive. A technical conquest, of sorts, but will it be worth sharing? Would it be worth hanging on somebody's wall? Displaying on a mantle? Including in a gallery showing or a book?

Beyond very low light, fast aperture lenses can bring so much to a photographer's "bag of brushes." Isolation of subject, emotion, beautiful bokeh...But I know they can also be a trap; they can make me lazy. If I always isolate a subject, then subjects with blurred out, abstract backgrounds begin to limit the interest of my photos: They remove sense of place, of context. By being lazy, I'm referring to avoiding the challenges of composing with more complex backgrounds that do bring often vital context to photographs.

Technical aspects are the easy part. What's your motivation? Who else will enjoy these photos? If you have these answers, perhaps your spending decisions become clearer.
 
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Joules

doom
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Jul 16, 2017
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Just another point to consider: If you don't need native RF glass, there are currently many fast third party options for EF that compete well in terms of IQ and certainly beat Canon glass in terms of absolute price.

Depending on the lens in question, AF concerns may not matter as much as they used to - though it is worth making sure to confirm that for a particular model before buying.

Native third party glass from Sigma and Tamron isn't available for RF (yet). So if adapting isn't an option, your stuck with sacrificing aperture and quality (35 mm 1.8, 50 mm 1.8, 85 mm 2.0) compared to the super fast, super expensive L options.
 

VegasCameraGuy

EOS R5
CR Pro
Jul 9, 2020
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Keep in mind that with IBIS and IS, you can now handhold at crazy slow speeds which can help keep the ISO down. Using faster lenses wide open gives you little DOF, as previously pointed out, so how much needs to be in focus? When you shooting street, when was the last time you needed to focus on a single small area to be in focus when the rest is blurred due to short DOF? With a 50mm lens you are typically shooting a street (wider distances) and can shoot slower and at smaller apertures or shooting close-ups where you could use a strobe.
 
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Bdbtoys

R5
CR Pro
Jul 16, 2020
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Hi, I am fortunate to own a EOS R5. I like to shoot in different light conditions including at night or when it is quite dark.
In those dark conditions, bumping the ISO over 6400 even if I shoot RAW might not preserve too well the soft quality of the image and might add some grain and/or I can still not catch all the image's shade in te darker area.
Currently I own a RF 16-35mm F/2,8 and an RF 70-200mm F/2,8.

So I am wondering if you think it is worth, as I do mostly street photography, to buy a brighter F/1,2 lens like the RF 50mm or 85mm or should not really matter?

I know of a few users that shoot with the RF 28-70 F2 for low light situations... where they specifically say it beats out their 2.8's without resorting to Primes. However that is a beast of a lens... so I decided to go 2.8's, with primes as the fill in (only have 1 atm).

I have the RF50 F1.2 and I kind of nicknamed it my night-vision lens. Outside of normal daytime/indoor usage you would normally expect from a 1.2 lens (dreamy DOF)... I took it out during night a few times, under just moonlight, no flash, handholding, and got pictures I didn't know were possible to even take (keeping in mind reasonable expectations).
 
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puffo25

EOS R5 - Fine art landscape, travel,astro and pano
Jul 18, 2017
112
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56
italy
Thanks all for the reply. Probably it is indeed worth for now to stick with my RF F/2,8 lens and use the camera on the best settings with ISO up to 6400 and using the IBIS to get a good still picture in low shutter speed situations.
 
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PeteH

I'm New Here
Oct 5, 2020
10
15
You will notice a pretty big difference between 2.8 and 1.2, both in terms of depth-of-field and light transmission. I bought an EF 85/1.2 mainly to play around with shallow depth-of-field, and hand on heart I somewhat underestimated the dynamic range benefit from having extra light available. So the files you get at ISO 800 / f1.2 will look quite a bit nicer than ISO 4000 / f2.8, for instance.

If you're not in the way of using ultra-fast lenses it does take a bit of getting your head around. Just walking around pointing it at stuff randomly at f1.2 is fun for a while, but eventually gets pretty samey. Like any other tool it's not a panacea, you need to know what you're doing with it to get decent results (am very much still learning myself).

I figured there wasn't much risk in buying a used EF 85/1.2 since the prices have now dropped a long way and you won't lose much if you decide to resell. If you want to test the water with an f1.2 lens wiith you could consider doing the same.
 

Canonite

EOS R5
Dec 19, 2013
28
80
So many long drawn out answers. I love fast glass, and the f2 is a full stop faster than f2.8.
With f/2 you would double your shutter speed (1/80s to 1/40s) and you double your iso (ISO 6400 to 3200)
I do not like using the ef to rf adapter even though it works great, as you have to remove the bloody adapter for every lens change.
Now I keep the adapter on my EF 600mm II, and I have sold all but 2 of my ef lens.
If you don't mind the weight of a heavy lens, the 28-70 is expensive, fat, heavy and just all around wonderful. :)

You would love the RF50 mm or the RF 85mm. I sold off my 16-35 and my EF 35II and replaced them with the RF 28-70 F/.2 as the lens is sharp at all apertures.
I shot a familiar pier in town to see how the 28-70 stacked up against the super sharp EF 35 F1.4 II and I have no regrets selling off the ef lenses for the 28-70 as you get a 35 and 50 prime in one lens instead of two. I will replace my 14mm and my macro when new RF glass comes out that will replace them.
 
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koenkooi

EOS 5D Mark IV
CR Pro
Feb 25, 2015
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[..]If you're not in the way of using ultra-fast lenses it does take a bit of getting your head around. Just walking around pointing it at stuff randomly at f1.2 is fun for a while, but eventually gets pretty samey. Like any other tool it's not a panacea, you need to know what you're doing with it to get decent results (am very much still learning myself).
[..]

When I rent the RF f/1.2 lenses, it follows the same pattern every time:
  1. day 1, everything at f/1.2.
  2. day 2, trying f/1.6, just to show that it's faster than the f/1.8 I actually own
  3. remaining days: fit DoF around subject, even if it leads to f/8
  4. The morning before returning it: everything at f/1.2
 

puffo25

EOS R5 - Fine art landscape, travel,astro and pano
Jul 18, 2017
112
33
56
italy
Dear colleagues, hello. I own a R5 and I have a RF 15-35mm f2,8, an RF 70-200 f2,8, an EF 300 f4 and a samyang fisheye 12mm f2,8 (for pano and astrophotos). I contact you because in my travel and documentary activities I like to shoot also on very light and dark conditions (ie. I am in the forest with just candle lights and want to capture some people near the candles...). Of course using the IBIS and probably pushing around 12800 ISO I can still get decent images at f2,8, BUT probably a faster lens might help to lower iso and get a less grainy picture and making focus better on very dark conditions? If that is true, I heared that f1,2 or f1,4 have very shallow focus and hard to use in those conditions to get a precise focus and good image quality and maybe better to look for a f1,8 or f2.0 lens.
What is your point of view?
Which one to choose, as a bit wide or standard lens, btw the new coming Canon RF 24mm f/1.8 IS STM Macro, or the Canon RF 35mm f/1.2L USM or the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM or the RF 50mm F1.8 STM just for night photography and making documentary pictures during my touristic trips in exotic areas around the world ?
TIA,
Andrea
 

PeteH

I'm New Here
Oct 5, 2020
10
15
I'm not sure anybody apart from yourself can really say whether you'd be better off with a 24/1.8 or a 50/1.2, which are not exactly interchangeable. That said, here are some thoughts.

A much better photographer than myself once told me that everybody should have a fast 50 and I'm inclined to agree. That'd also fill in the gap between your f2.8 zooms.

Given that you own the R5 and some 2.8 RF zooms I'm guessing price isn't too much of a concern, and also that you enjoy having the best available. Conditions like candle lighting are an absolute gift to top-end fast primes like the 50/1.2. Using the R5 you're unlikely to have that much difficulty obtaining sharp focus at 1.2 - you'll need to be more careful than at 2.8, obviously, but most of the anecdotes about struggling for focus with fast lenses relate to people using DSLR focus systems and the R5 is an entirely different proposition. (And of course you can always stop down.)

The only thing I'd say in favour of the 50/1.8 is that personally I sometimes find it convenient and/or pleasant to have a really small lens available, and that a simple small 50/1.8 is still more than capable of producing beautiful images (unless you're always committed to ultimate technical image quality - which is fine, obviously, but it's worth remembering that what appears like a night-and-day difference to you won't be that noticeable to normal people). So for example I still use my EF 50/1.8 sometimes even though I also have the Sigma Art 50.

If you're buying a 50/1.2 you could always throw in a 50/1.8 as well and you'd hardly notice the difference in cost.
 

puffo25

EOS R5 - Fine art landscape, travel,astro and pano
Jul 18, 2017
112
33
56
italy
Dear @PeteH, your feedback is very much appreciated.
I am just a bit puzzled now on the image quality. According to the dxo web site, Sigma Art 50mm F1,4 get a 44 score, while the EF 50mm f1,2 (35), EF 50mm f1,8 (35) and RF 50mm f1,2 (38) lenses. We all known that dxo is maybe (?) pro sony and pro maybe some certain brand but this the difference btw the Sigma and the Canon lenses is quite big.
Of course usability/low weight/compact lens is a great advantage for a tourist/travel photographer like me. But at the end I do perfer somehow a very good image and lens quality (especially for sharpness and quality at full open f/stop).
So in conclusion do you think that if I have to buy a fast lens for my reportage and travel pictures taken sometimes at night/very low light conditions, the Sigma 50mm f1,4 Art lens is the only option available as today ?
 

Random Orbits

EOS 5D Mark IV
Mar 14, 2012
2,444
328
Dear @PeteH, your feedback is very much appreciated.
I am just a bit puzzled now on the image quality. According to the dxo web site, Sigma Art 50mm F1,4 get a 44 score, while the EF 50mm f1,2 (35), EF 50mm f1,8 (35) and RF 50mm f1,2 (38) lenses. We all known that dxo is maybe (?) pro sony and pro maybe some certain brand but this the difference btw the Sigma and the Canon lenses is quite big.
Of course usability/low weight/compact lens is a great advantage for a tourist/travel photographer like me. But at the end I do perfer somehow a very good image and lens quality (especially for sharpness and quality at full open f/stop).
So in conclusion do you think that if I have to buy a fast lens for my reportage and travel pictures taken sometimes at night/very low light conditions, the Sigma 50mm f1,4 Art lens is the only option available as today ?

What bodies were those lens scores associated with? The camera bodies will affect lens scores. If you think the EF 50 f/1.2 is large, the RF version is even larger. However, it is a phenomenal lens. Try it out for yourself either by renting or in a store. The only negatives for the RF 50 f/1.2 are price and weight.
 

PeteH

I'm New Here
Oct 5, 2020
10
15
There are probably three 50mm lenses for you to consider with top-class wide-open sharpness: the Sigma Art, Canon RF and Zeiss Otus. You can measure differences in sharpness between those three, and I believe they very marginally increase in sharpness in that order, but for most people the sharpness differences between these will not be important. All are tremendously sharp wide open. Of course the Zeiss does not have autofocus so that may rule it out for you, plus it is extraordinarily expensive.

Many people happily use the Canon EF lenses, but none of those are in the same class for wide-open sharpness. As I mentioned I do still use my EF 50/1.8 from time to time. If wide-open sharpness at 100% is important to you then you may not find any of those satisfactory. Obviously you would need to use an adapter for the Sigma or for any of the EF lenses.

The Sigma Art could be considered good value-for-money since it is much cheaper than other lenses in the same performance category. This is why I bought mine; that may be important to you or it may not. Some people feel strongly that they want 1.2 instead of 1.4, or they may object to the Sigma's bokeh, or whatever.

If I wanted to buy "the best", ignoring considerations of size and cost, then personally I would go for the RF 50/1.2.

(As an aside, it's not what you are after, but for anybody else who may be reading this: the old pre-Art Sigma EX 50/1.4 is the cheapest way to get pretty good sharpness faster than f2 at 50mm. Neither I nor Sigma can vouch for how well it behaves on an R camera though.)
 

puffo25

EOS R5 - Fine art landscape, travel,astro and pano
Jul 18, 2017
112
33
56
italy
@PeteH, I agree with your extensive analysis which read with high interest. If and I want to get a very fast wide open lens I will buy the RF 50/1.2. Maybe one day I can find one used....lol. For now I spent already too much money. First I will use extensively what have with the R5 and than depending also on the final images results I will get with my corrent lenses I will make my final decision.
BR. Andrea
 

koenkooi

EOS 5D Mark IV
CR Pro
Feb 25, 2015
1,678
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Dear @PeteH, your feedback is very much appreciated.
I am just a bit puzzled now on the image quality. According to the dxo web site, Sigma Art 50mm F1,4 get a 44 score, while the EF 50mm f1,2 (35), EF 50mm f1,8 (35) and RF 50mm f1,2 (38) lenses. [..]

DxO uses the minimum aperture in its scoring, so if you take 2 identical lenses, but limit lens A to f/22 and lens B to f/32 when stopping down DxO will happily say lens A is better. This is why DxO says the 50mm STM is has 'better' IQ than the EF500L.
 

puffo25

EOS R5 - Fine art landscape, travel,astro and pano
Jul 18, 2017
112
33
56
italy
True @koenkooi. Agree. So, since my main scope for those lenses is to use them widly open (and to be use ainly at night/dark conditions) with my R5, shall I just not consider much the dxo scoring? For example will be the 50mm Art Sigma f1,4 almost as good at wide aperture as the Canon RF 50mm f1,2?
 

koenkooi

EOS 5D Mark IV
CR Pro
Feb 25, 2015
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I don't look at DxO at all, both opticallimits.com and lenstip.com do a much better job at objective measurements. And for RF f/1.2 price point I'd rent them first :)
 

PeteH

I'm New Here
Oct 5, 2020
10
15
It's hard to be definitive about "almost as good". There are differences; you'll need to decide for yourself how important they are.

For a more obvious example, the Canon EF 50/1.4 can produce lovely images, but it is demonstrably and measurably fairly soft wide open. it's not hard to imagine that some users might want something sharper. However, many others aren't too worried and happily use it wide open anyway. So different perspectives exist on what constitutes "sharp enough". For one person a lens may be perfectly fine, while another may consider it objectionably soft.

I haven't used either the Zeiss Otus or the RF 1.2. I think the RF is by a very small margin the sharpest of the three. I think the Zeiss Otus is about as sharp as the Sigma Art, but that the Zeiss may be better corrected than either the Canon or the Sigma for some secondary aberrations, which some people consider very important and others barely notice.

By any normal standard the optical performance of the Sigma Art is extraordinarily good - it was considered something of a sensation within the industry when it was launched. Speaking personally, it is not important to me that marginally better might be available elsewhere. However it might be important to you; some people prefer to know that they are using "the best". Or there may be reasons other than sharpness to prefer the Canon, such as bokeh or ergonomics.