Butterflies and how too much of a good thing leads to disappointing photos. I would like to thank someone (Gruber/DF???) for posting a link to this incredible article, which ultimately led me to picking up the 50mm f/1.8 lens. Since posting my semi-review, much discussion has been spawned. John Gruber/DF, Duncan (post 1 and post 2), and Fraser all have written some thought provoking words on the subject and I hope to drop some more semi-clueless observations in the coming days.
Thank you to all that have commented. I know that my photography skills have improved in the past week as a result.
Coincidental with our visit to Missouri, it appears to be Monarch Migration Season in the midwest.
At least, there have been many (4 in this picture alone) monarchs feeding on the milkweed planted in the garden border.
Absolutely gorgeous butterflies.
In this particular closeup (which I find more interesting than the traditional closeup from behind/above), it looks like the monarch’s body is covered in little paint splotches.
Zooming in on the full sized image, even the eyes have little faint white spots.
This image was taken with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens; 1/200th of a second, f/4, ISO100.
This little guy — I do mean little, less than 2″ wide — is one of the species Pyrgus Communis or Pyrgus Albescens (checkered skipper or white-checkered skipper).
Gorgeous little butterfly found in the fields below my parent’s house. This one was kind enough to stop for a moment on a nice big green leaf and pose for me.
Again, a shot taken with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens; 1/160th of a second, ISO100, f/3.5.
Again, diving into the full sized image reveals one very hairy little flittery bug! The detail is pretty amazing.
Even the leaf edge is hairy!
This little guy is a mystery butterfly (or moth?) that Roger captured earlier today. This is a Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus c. clarus). (Identification by Philip Koenig, Missouri regional coordinator for Butterflies and Moths of North America. See www.butterfliesandmoths.org/ for more information. (Phil: Thank you!))
By “captured”, I mean that he walked up to it and picked it up. Because he could. And you and I could not. Seriously. Later in the day, he walked in with a dragonfly. Have you ever tried to catch a dragon fly? I did. Once. Found it impossible.
Anyway, zooming into the full size, the little guy is quite striking. Veiny wings and fuzzy body. Looks like a big paint splotch. Cool refractive, multi-faceted, eyes.
But, wait, compare the background of this photo with the background of either of the previous two (the background of the monarch in particular).
Big difference. In the monarch photo, the background is big blobs of color goop with no real discernable form. But in this photo, the background has weird scallops or scales of green and white.
The monarch photo was shot at f/2.8, this one at f/2.0 — that is, the monarch photo had a larger range of depth in focus than this photo, yet it also features a considerably less distracting background (even though the background has more colors and details to start with!).
This was shot with Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens; 1/4000th of a second, f/2, ISO100.
This image served the purpose of capturing Mystery Flutterby, but the actual image would have been vastly improved by shooting with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens. Investing just that extra 2000th of a second that would have been required by the 100mm lens would definitely have been good ROI!
Of course, the 50mm is not a macro lens and the 100mm is a damned good macro lens. Stupid photographer, no donut!
Here is another random butterfly that we encountered upon our walk in the woods.
This little guy was amazing. Wings closed, it looked just like a rough spot on the bark of the tree; the outside part of its wings were grey and textured identically to the tree.
When the wings opened, this gorgeous golden red surface was put on display.
This is another photo snapped with the 50mm lens at 1/320th of a second, f/5, ISO200.
I also think that this shot would have been vastly improved by the 100mm lens.
Oh, and here is a bonus photo for the 2 people that made it this far. Can you spot the moth in this picture?
It is a relative closeup, so it is pretty easy. When I was walking in the woods, the little guy popped out of the leaves and landed on the tree right in front of me. It took me a good 2 minutes to figure out that the bump on that one branch — out of many other branches — was not actually a knot in the branch at all!
This was taken with the 50mm lens — all I had on the walk — using the flash to fill in the image; 1/60th, f/4, ISO200. Not bad, really. And, given that I wanted to capture the hidden moth in the context of the larger tree (though this iamge is slightly cropped), the 50mm did just fine.
Anyway, this means that I’m either going to have to decide which lens to live with for any given walk in the woods or I’m going to have to carry along my camera bag with the 50mm and the 100mm lenses at hand.
Given the subject matter that I’m typically want to use the 100mm lens with is either about to move or already moving, I guess I will leave that lens on most of the time and pop it off when I want to use the 50mm to capture something low light / wider angle / more portrait like.
Update: As Vivek pointed out, my primary complaint with the 50mm is that the bokeh sucks when taking Macro like shots. That is, when shooting a closeup with a wide open aperture, the background will be out of focus. With the cheap f/1.8 (and its five blades that control aperture), the background blur is a bit pentagonal. Compare it to the monarch shot at the top — the bokeh is gorgeous.
Vivek points out that the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens — which can be had for about $300 — has much better bokeh.
Looking through all of the images I have taken with the Canon 50mm f/1.8, most that have poor bokeh would have been better served by using the 100mm lens.
So, really, the question — for me — is do I go ahead and spend the extra $225 on the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens?
Yes — it very likely is worth it, given the number of portrait like pictures I take where a very nice fuzzy background is critcally important (the ubiquitous fuzzy christmas lights for holiday season, for example).
Anyone need a slightly used 50mm f/1.8? I can’t really see keeping both.