Travel Technology – A brief wander into Zürich featuring the Canon 50mm F1.2
“Life, The Universe and Everything”
- In the beginning I begun to write this trip report. This made a lot of people very angry, and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
- First action of being 42 – Coach 210, British Airways Galleries South
- BA710 London to Zürich in Club Europe
- A brief wander into Zürich featuring the Canon 50mm F1.2
- Mostly Harmless – The Zürich Airport Observation Deck
- The Aspire Lounge, Zürich Airport (B/D Dock)
- BA717 Zürich to London in Club Europe
- The Race, The Coach, The Cold
- Six by Nine? Forty Two?
With me off the plane, I followed the signs to arrivals and the exit. Whilst I intended to spend some time at the airport, on the ground floor of a terminal isn’t my exact idea of comfort – or spotting opportunities.
Exiting the plane, I was deposited in the D Dock section. This necessitates a hike around the airport to immigration
One thing I liked as I was heading to arrivals was the rubber travellator. Like the ones in Heathrow Terminal 4, they’re bouncy when you walk on them
Bounce, bounce, bounce…
Clearing this – I arrived at the border, and cleared it electronically. That done, I was in luggage delivery area and the final duty-free shop.
I cleared the Green channel and entered Zürich Airport. With that done, I headed to the cash machine to get money out.
These days, for small transactions like this, it’s easier to hit the ATM for spending money – rather than going to a currency exchange place.
Also, skip the currency exchange places at the airport. But then I told you all that earlier this year.
With some spending money in hand, I had two options.
- Go and watch planes straight away.
- Go into Central Zürich and have a walk… and get some chocolate.
With return fares to Zürich costing the best part of CHF 13.20, I sighed and tapped my credit card for a fare.
Oh yes – their ticket machines support contactless payment. That’s handy to know. And they’re mostly harmless.
As we’re in town, I thought I’d show you more of the Canon 50mm f1.2 lens and a few of the tricks it can do.
So – a quick introduction – Canon make up to four different 50mm lenses for various different purposes and prices points. And all have positives and negatives.
- The F1.8 Mark 1/Mark 2- Cheap as chips and you’ll get lovely images during the day. Downsides – it’s plasticky as hell (and that’s including the new version). Light as heck, but has a loud autofocus motor. And cruddy bokeh. Best found on the second-hand market.
- The F1.8 STM (Stepping Motor) – an upgrade from the original. Whilst it retains the same optics, the lens has more blades, leading to better bokeh.
- The F1.4 USM- A lot better build wise, and still get lovely images in low light and semi-decent bokeh. The Ultra Sonic Motor used isn’t totally silent, but better than the STM/Mk 1/2 models. Fairly decent weight.
- The F1.2 – Welcome to razor-sharp shallow depths of fields and creamy bokeh that f1.2 can give. Whilst the lens swallows light for breakfast, it is slow… and rather heavy.
In the past, I’ve owned a lot of the 50mm’s (except the STM version), and the range is very useful one, as 50mm can be considered what the eye can see comfortably and naturally.
So a standard lens gives a lot of creativity options (shoot what you see), with the f1.2 opening up some serious depth of field and bokeh options. And at f1.2 – that’s razor-sharp at one point, down to coming into focus.
Here’s an experiment I did with it, where the focal point was fixed on the top present. The depth of field in the first one is tight, with it changing as the aperture increases. (I’ll put the results in a gallery one day for you to play with).
There are plenty of reviews for this lump of glass, but how does this lens work out in the field?
From a handling perspective, you do know this lens is on the body. On a 6D, you’re lugging 1.3kg on your shoulder – which during a day, can be a fair old weight.
The autofocus motor, whilst silent, is a lot slower – and in some situations, does hunt a lot for a focus point.
So, some things to bear in mind. Let’s go exploring, and a short walk around Zürich.
We’ll start off in Zürich Station.
So what to see here? Light in odd positions everywhere, with a bit of burn out on the far left. The rest of the image is nicely controlled.
I found a footbridge to cross, which had love locks. Some interesting targets ahead.
To drive an f1.2 in these conditions, you need to really consider a neural density filter. Of course, muggins doesn’t have one to hand when travelling. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative.
A 50mm gives a nice rounded view of the world, with minimal distortion and to my eyes – always looks “right”
Flair is reasonably controlled, with no stripes of light.
Even the train station looks passable in this light
The train shed is well-lit in this photo… and of course… a little chilly.
Whilst this isn’t a fair test (least of all the lens was working waaaay above f2), I’m adding a few pictures in from the trip to show you what you can do with it at f1.2
F1.2 is also another thing: a light monster. It means if you like taking pictures from a plane at night of cities… you can do it handheld and at high shutter speed (and disposing of a lot of blur).
It also works at low speeds when passing terminals and planes
This is a light test of the lens (and I’m still working out how to use it), so here’s my first thoughts on it.
The lens is a monster – make no mistake and it can swallow light for breakfast and can make images full of creamy goodness, with just the right amount of sharpness if you aim the autofocus points correctly.
But, it does have limitations.
Whilst f1.2 is a wonderful thing to have, you pay a major penalty in weight and autofocus speeds. In the studio or in controlled environments, this doesn’t matter much. In the street where conditions are changing all the time and you need to move fast, this isn’t helpful.
In some cases – you might want to aim for a Canon f1.4 or even the f1.8.
And there’s one thing I haven’t talked about yet – cost. (US prices B&H Photo, UK prices Wex Photographic)
- 50mm f1.8 STM – US$125 / £106.00
- 50mm f1.4 USM – US$329.00 / £349.00
- 50mm f1.2L – $1,299.00 / £1,272.00
This isn’t a pick up and buy lens in my opinion – it’s one that needs a lot of thought before picking it up. If anything , you’re paying for at magic f1.2.
If you’re planing on a day walking around a city, go for the f1.4 or f1.8 – your shoulder will thank you for it. If your work is taking you towards evenings, night or very detailed work – the f1.2 is worthy of consideration.
I’ll have a full write-up later in the year and about some of the applications I use this lens for (least of all, this is becoming a fast favourite of mine in the studio).
But test it before you buy it. It could be an expensive purchase for minimal benefit.
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