We’re back for Day Two on Lenses. Are you all still with me? Thank you so much for all the comments in yesterday’s post. If you haven’t had a chance to read people’s comments from yesterday, I strongly urge you too. A number of people chimed in about their experience with lenses and what types of lenses have made all the difference for them. My vision for this blog is that we would all learn from each other, and I can’t thank you enough for continuing the dialog in the comments!

Someone posted a question in the comments yesterday and asked if we had ever shot with the Canon equipment, and if so, how did the L series lenses compare with the Carl Zeiss lenses. To answer their question, we shot with Canon for years and owned almost every L series lens available. When Sony approached us and said they were coming out with a line of camera bodies and lenses for pros to use, we were really interested. In the pro world you only hear people talk about Canon and Nikon. Sony didn’t put any pressure on us. They sent us the equipment to test out and asked for honest feedback. I wasn’t sure what to expect b/c I loved my L lenses. And I’m a super passionate person by nature, so I really have to LOVE something to get behind it. But oh my gosh, can I just say my jaw dropped open the first time I shot with the DSLR-A900 and Carl Zeiss lenses. We were shooting a wedding in Colorado, and I started freaking out! “Brian, come here, come here now! You have to see this! Look at this color. Look how sharp this is. Look how fast this is for 24.6 megapixels!” He was like “I know! I’ve been trying to tell you!” So yeah, to answer your question the Carl Zeiss glass is freaking amazing. I can honestly say that when we switched to Sony I haven’t looked back once. My Lulu, yes I named her b/c I’m so in love with her, is magic! And the icing on the cake is that Sony wants to continue to design cameras that make sense for women and the way women think. Yeah, I’m pretty much in love with Sony right now.

Yesterday’s blog took almost six hours to piece together with shooting images of the gear and finding shots that I took with specific lenses. At one point, I was starting to fall asleep, and Brian looked at me and said “Just finish it tomorrow. It’ll be fine.” Thus, here we are wrapping the lenses up.

There are two more lenses we brought with us to Thailand. We also bring these lenses to wedding and portrait shoots. Can you guess why?

Hint: They both have my favorite lens characteristic. Can you guess what the characteristic is?

Answer: If you guessed, Low Fstops/Aperture for buttery, blurred backgrounds, you were RIGHT!

If your shooting with a higher end DSLR that has a full frame sensor, you must, without question, rent or buy the Carl Zeiss Planar T 85mm/f1.4. Yes, 1.4! Can you believe how low she goes!

This is the lens that caught the shot of Blaze when I posted about how invisible he feels in America.

The sharpness is from the lens, not Photoshop. I also didn’t make the background lush and blurry in Photoshop. The wide open aperture of 1.4 creates that effect. The vibrant color is straight out of the Sony DSLR-A900.

This 85mm is a fixed lens which means that you can’t turn it to zoom in or out. If you want to get closer to your subject, you’ve got to move your legs and feet forward. But because it’s a fixed lens, the aperture is able to go down so much more. The 85mm is the perfect lens for low lighting, buttery backgrounds, and sharp, crisp candid shots. But think it through. Make an educated purchase.

If your camera isn’t a full frame sensor, this 85mm won’t let you get close to your subject. You may have to stand 6 ft back before you can get the lens to focus. So if you don’t have a full frame sensor camera yet, stick with the 24-70mm that we talked about yesterday. I remember going to a workshop when we were starting our business. Everyone raved about the 85mm lens. I figured this was the thing to buy, but I didn’t think about how limited this lens would be with my camera body at the time. My first camera wasn’t a full frame sensor. When using the 85mm, I had to be 6 feet away from my subject. I felt restriction instead of creative. Needless to say, I put the lens away and was more than happy with my 24-70mm, 2.8 Workhorse lens. It wasn’t until I upgraded to a full frame sensor camera that I understood why people felt inspired when shooting with an 85mm, 1.4 lens. I hope that makes sense. It’s information I wish I would have known when I was first starting.

The last lens is another fixed one. It’s the 35mm, f/1.4 G-Series Wide Angle Lens.

Unlike the 85mm, you can get in super close with this little guy.

My little brother had his first baby this year. After the baby was born, he called me and asked me what camera to buy and what lens to buy with it. I told him to get the Sony DSLR-A350. He is a newbie at photography, and as I said yesterday, that’s an incredible camera body to learn on. The color is fantastic. It’s light weight, sharp, fast. For the lens, I told him to bite the bullet, spend the $1300, and get the 1.4/35mm. He wasn’t sure b/c of the price, and it didn’t have a zoom! I’m happy to say that he trusted his sister :), and wow, you should see the shots he’s getting of the baby. They are awesome! The investment was a commitment, but he is capturing the mome
nts. And he’s loving photography!

With a low fstop, just like the 85 mm above, you can take some great shots in low light. This is one of my favorite Thailand images of Pascaline.

She’s at rest, while we wait for dad. The sun was setting so light was getting harder and harder to find. But with an fstop that goes down to 1.4, I can open up aperture and let a lot of light in. Opening up that fstop also makes everything in the background blurry. I hope I’m not being to repetitive, I just know it helps to hear the same thing a few times with new examples.

The 35mm, f/1.4 G-Series Wide Angle Lens is also great for taking close-up detail shots. Pascaline had a homeschool assignment where she had to take the Sony DSLR-A350 with the 35mm, open the aperture up to a 1.4, and capture an insect, crab or whatever else she chose. But she had to get in close and think about how she was blurring the background to tell the story of the critter.

She chose the mysterious sand crabs on the beach. They spend hours making tiny balls of sand.

In this shot, you can see the little white sand crab to the right. He’s almost smaller than the balls of sand he creates.

Their designs end up being these incredible star-bust patterns spread across the beach,

only to have it all washed away when the tide comes in. It has to be one of the great natural wonders of the world because every design is different. It’s like the crabs have their own fingerprint with each design.

Pascaline is eight years old, and she took the first two images. Not to bad for an eight year old. But a lot of it is the low fstop she had to work with. I basically set the aperture at 1.4, put it on Aperture Priority Mode (the A setting) so the camera would choose her shutter speed for her. And with the low fstop she was able to experience being creative with blur. For the two shots above, she was down on all fours getting super close to the crab’s designs. That’s what I love about this 35mm. You can get in super, super close and still get a sharp focus.

When we are shooting weddings, there are a couple more lenses that we have in our camera bag. I’ll save that info for another post. But if there is any bottom line to all of this info it would be this…everyone, even you, has the potential to be a great photographer. Everyone.

I can’t tell you how many times Brian and I have taught our photography workshops and had women break into tears b/c they realize that their lens and fstop range can really help them capture the images they see and want. All this time, they had been thinking the problem was with them. They weren’t good enough at photography or just didn’t have the eye. The creative artist within us does make a difference, but the right equipment helps too.

If you are thinking about buying a DSLR, my best advice would be to save up some money and buy the camera body WITHOUT the lens that comes with it (if you have the option, if not, don’t worry). BUT, then save up and buy your lens separately, and make sure it’s a lens that has a low fstop range. It will change your whole experience with photography. If you need proof, read yesterday’s comments. :)

I hope this was helpful. I love to talk about all this in plain English. Life is difficult right now with all that is going on around us. Photography is a wonderful outlet, and for many of us it is a lifeline. If you have always been drawn to photography, don’t let your heart be discouraged b/c you can’t seem to capture the shots you see. Try renting some of the equipment we talked about yesterday and today, and give yourself another chance. It is well worth it.

And don’t forget to email me your results! I love to see and hear about how your growing! My email is mera@merakoh.com.

xoxo, Me Ra

*Seattle Workshop Details are coming together! We’re looking at Saturday and Sunday, June 6th and June 7th, with a possible special Meet and Greet at our home on Friday, June 5th. I’ll keep you updated!


Our Refuse to Say Cheese DVD series is continuing to grow, faster than we know what to do with! In the midst of unpacking luggage, I jumped on a radio interview this weekend and talked about our DVDS for 30-40 minutes! It was wonderful!! If you haven’t ordered your own copy yet, check out our popular Instructional DVDs Refuse to Say Cheese and (They are BACK IN STOCK!! Yeah!!), our 101 Kits for starting or expanding a in , click on the titles of your choice!