For Christmas, Jer surprised me with a new lens.  It is the 85 mm lens and I was literally petting it like Ceelo does with his pimp cat.  yeah.  I said that.

So I bribed kindly asked Will to come out one particularly sunny afternoon for me to give it a whirl.

I’ll explain this in layman’s terms (so all you professionals chime in if you have something else to add)…

I have a DLSR – which means I have a camera that I can switch out the lenses on.  Not a point n shoot.  I can control pretty much everything manually.  Specifically I have a Mark II – which I call Markie Mark…sometimes Wahlberg :)

This lens is a prime lens.  Prime lenses are ones you can NOT zoom in or out.  It’s fixed at a certain focal length…basically if I want to zoom in on Will, I gotta move my feet forward.  BUT the great thing about prime lenses is that they are typically very sharp.

So the conditions here were full sun…middle of the day type shadows…

and my subject was moving…a lot…

I wanted to test out the lens for portraits (which generally move less than a toddler who is a little too excited to get outta the house and throw sticks)…so under my conditions I went with an ISO of 400.  I set to AV (which means that I set the ISO and the aperture and the camera spits out the shutter speed for proper exposure)  – that way I can make sure Will isn’t putting harmful fungus into his mouth while I check my settings…

I tend to do that when shooting kids…use AV.  It helps especially if you are responsible for their safety (like a toppling baby who may not catch themselves if they are still learning to sit up by themselves) or for when you are alone in the snake-infested woods behind our house :)

Okay – so based on my very limited knowledge of prime lenses (I have a nifty fifty – great prime lens for the price & a 50mm 1.4 – sharp sharp lens that I love), this one was a little more tricky for me.

First – it’s 85mm…which means that I have to stand like 6 feet away to get this shot.  And to me, that’s far away when dealing with a toddler who I generally like to be within grabbing distance of…especially when in nature.  Hello!  I mentioned the snakes!

And I found it a little tricky to get it to ‘grab’ more depth in focus.  I had it set to f/4.0 which would normally get his lips, eyes and to his ears in focus with my normal lens…but with this lens, I probably need to play more to find that sweet spot of getting just that right focal point.

I found it especially sharp all the way back to this full length shot – which is nice because it would remind me to take more full-length portraits vs. all close ups.

BUT when it got too far away – not my favorite.  I think it just proves that it really goes by it’s reputation of being a portrait lens.


There were some moments when literally it was really easy and it captured the sharpness perfectly…

I loved it especially with back lighting – which I struggle with…so this encouraged me.

Of course, we had some shadow issues with the full sun…so it was a challenge to get far enough away from Will and still be able to manipulate him into being in shadows.  Imagine me saying – HEY Go get that stick over there! a million times…and then running away and running back to show him which stick and then runnning away to get the shot again.  It was a workout.

But you know that sweet blurred background that 50mm delivers – yeah…to me, it’s even more of a soft blur with the 85mm when you do closeups.  It’s purty.

Overall – I love it.  It’s gonna be great to use for outdoor shoots with more manageable subjects…like senior photos or maternity pictures.  I don’t think it would work for my newborn shoots – just simply because most of the times I work indoors for those.  And handling a toddler alone and running back far enough to get the shot didn’t make it ideal for me for Will’s photos.  I think in the end, the really sweet spot for it will be waist up portraits and closeup shots because the sharpness when set up correctly is AMAZING.

Okay – so there you have it – one little gal’s review on the lens.

Anyone else wanna chime in?

p.s.  For all of you starting out, I highly recommend beginner DSLRs like the Canon Rebel (Xsi
or Tsi) and READING YOUR MANUAL.  Also, Nifty Fifty
would be hands down my recommendation for work beyond your kit lens…



  1. Lesley says

    Thanks for the shout-out to the pimp cat. What is up with that thing??

    Great pics. I have a Nikon D3000, which is perfect for a beginner like me. I need to play around with lenses though.

  2. says

    Sick of taking pics with the iPhone, i got a mirror less micro four thirds. the Olympus PEN PL-1 ( http://amzn.to/xN5ohj ). I really want the PL-3 in a bad way, but I think I need to actually learn how to use the camera before investing that kind of moola. Came with a 14-42mm & and a 40-150mm. Having a lot of fun playing and learning and going on field trips with my mom to San Francisco for some color. Still, sooooo much to learn and I would really like a fixed lens. I already have some amazing pics of the kids so, so far, it’s been worth the investment. Plus it’s small and easy to carry,but I still have to option to change out the lenses.
    Thanks for posts like this, I learned something today!!

  3. says

    My hubby Bill, we’ll call him bubba, just to make it fun… He got me the 50mm for Christmas and I’m in love. Serious love. So funny to grab for the lens and it not move…. But I love it so;)
    Totally random and slightly stalker… Need a roomie for haven? Are you going? I know no body. I promise not to fart ( without knowing it…) or burp too much;) let me know. Would love to hang:)
    Tracie from Kentucky :)

  4. Katie N. says

    TOTALLY unrelated to you post, but I saw this on the Today Show this morning and immediately thought of you. Have you seen this website??


    Specifically, have you seen that they offer a bacon-flavored milk shake?!

    Looks like you’ll be making a trip to Jack N the Box today! :)

  5. says

    Beautiful photographs as always! I admire your work!! :) I am a photographer as well. What is your take on fill flash for outdoor portraits? I aim to capture my clients an hour or so before sunset so shadows aren’t harsh, but sometimes their eyes will be dark if I don’t use the flash. And when I do use my flash, my shutter won’t go above 1/250 and am therefore forced to use a higher f stop which results in hardly any bokeh. :( How do you light your images so beautifully and still achieve the bokeh?

    • says

      Well there are probably a million ways to skin this cat – but for me, capturing those catch-lights was just using the right angles…having the light source behind me and having the subject look up so that the eyes sparkle is key. And since I have ZERO experience with fill flash, I can’t say that it is different or the same :(
      xo – kb

    • says

      When shooting, have your subjects face their shadows (if there is harsh sun) and make sure that you’re properly exposed…that always helps, you can also use a reflector (or even a white poster board) to reflect that light back onto their face. :)

  6. says

    I want a DSLR so much! I want to be a part of this conversation. Instead, I feel like Joey speaking French on Friends:

    Phoebe: Je m’appelle Claude.
    Joey: Je te flouppe Fli.

    We are blowing our life savings on a big six-month trip to Europe, which I think deserves a good camera, but Holy Mother of Photography, I can’t afford one like yours. I think my heart stopped when I googled the price just now. Soo, do I go with something like the Rebel? Or do I decide I don’t want to haul a big camera and lens(es) 24/7 for six months (since I would be too paranoid to ever leave it anywhere), and get something like the PowerShot?

    • says

      Tough call! I always tell folks that if you want to take the time to learn how to use a DLSR then go for a used beginner DSLR first – otherwise, there are great point and shoots that get great images! Good luck!
      xo – kb

  7. Katie says

    Katie: two nights ago I had a weird series of dreams, and one of them was starring you. I hope that’s not too creepy – I think you were in my dream since I ended up getting a camera as a birthday gift like an hour after reading this photography post, so you had been recently on my mind.

    Anyway, I dreamed that you revealed that you had finally gotten pregnant (!). I know that this something that’s very important to you in your life right now…and although in reality this may not end up happening very soon, I just wanted you to know that people are wishing good things for you (even subconsciously). Best of luck with everything!

    Other Katie

  8. Rosie says

    You probably have answered this elsewhere but do you shoot in what they call RAW or do you do jpeg or something else…….. Also could you do a post on how you store each shoot you do, do you need a lot of storage space and a really fast computer to save things and edit….. I do a shoot off my kids and take about 200 shots….but need tips on then getting through them all and editing etc……..I love taking pics and the end result but think I might be missing something in streamlining the way I sort through save and edit files…….

    • says

      I am probably the last person to ask…my system stinks. I am still working on it. BUT I know that on Clickinmoms they interview people about their process all the time – maybe check it out!
      xo – kb

    • says

      RAW is good to shoot in if you have issues with exposure (blowing out channels – whites, reds, etc.) JPEG is much harder to correct, whereas you can pull a RAW file into Adobe Camera Raw and use the recovery tool to fix any blown channels.

  9. says

    Awesome review! Did you by chance (or do you have a good resource) do a review in your 50mm? Just received this guy for Christmas and am looking for little suggestions and tips – just like the ones you offered in this post!

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