Trial of the 85 G Master Portrait Lens
85 G Master first impressions
You know how it is when you get a new piece of gear, you have to use it immediately! Whether it's in the environment you really intend to use it in or not, you just have to pull it out of the shiny wrapper and take her for a spin. The 85 GM was no different.
I used to be into the whole unboxing thing, but after my first expensive lens came in and I saw what it did, I pretty much just rip stuff out of the box now and get to work, er I mean play!
Disclaimer: This is not a "tech-y" review. I am giving my real life experience with this lens. I can only compare it to what I have used. I am not a pixel peeper and am not here to give you specs on CA and vignetting. I used this lens as a photographer, and not a reviewer and that is where this blog stands.
My living room provided the best source of natural lighting, so I sat my wife down beside the french doors and started to shoot. Apparently, I had no idea my living room was small until trying to shoot more than just her face with an 85mm. But alas, I made it work. I had to switch from catching her stuffing her face with some great sidelighting, to moving to a wider part of the room to use the door as a backlight. My toddler wouldn't let me have speedlights or reflectors to help with lighting for more than about 10 seconds, so that was out of the question. Inevitably I was able to take a few natural light shots of my wife as a quick tester.
The G Master behaved beautifully. Looking at the monitor and watching the fall-off move so fluently across her face was breathtaking. 1.4, 1.7, 2.2 so crisp. 3.2? just as you would expect from a lens of this caliber.
The next thing I used to test it was a mask we got from bourbon street when my wife was modeling for another photographer's workshop during Mardi Gras. After our son went to bed one night, we decided it was time for a little fun of our own... nope, not that kind! I stuck the mask on a mirror and used a rotolight neo with a color filter for the key light and a phone light to light up the aluminum foil in the back. This setup allowed us to play around with different colors and placements.It is suffice to say I am very fortunate to have a spouse who is also interested in photography! When I uploaded the first few days worth of photos into Lightroom CC, I could see the beautiful bokeh and color rendering. A couple of trustworthy review sources had sold me on the sharpness and bokeh of this lens, and they were spot on. However, I own several Zeiss lenses and I opted for the G Master over the Batis 85 with a little reservation over the coloring because Zeiss are known for their gorgeous color rendering, which I love... Not an issue!
While taking candids of your wife and kid can be quite fulfilling, and setting up a product-type shoot and messing with various objects from around the house is fun, one can't really know the extent of their new lens until they put it to a field test. I knew I needed to get this baby out on the open road and really let her have it! it was time for a real test of this little beauty. Ten days into ownership I had a TFP model shoot scheduled and I knew it was going to be a great time to put it through the ringer!
With a gorgeous sky and beautiful muscadine vines as a backdrop, one has no choice but to make sure to capture it and not let it get blown out by over exposure. Again, I couldn't help but grab the 35 Zeiss and 85 G Master and basically switch back and forth. It was incredible comparing the responses of these lenses practically side by side.
I couldn't tell a difference in the speed of focusing between them. This doesn't mean there isn't any, and under other circumstances i might have, but we were on a time crunch , and I didn't feel that focusing was a problem at all. She would change poses in between shots, and I had no issue maintaining focus, i would give her direction and tell her to hold it, still no problem bringing her eyes right into focus.
Being a dedicated portrait prime, it definitely took a minute to adjust myself from shooting the 35mm which has been my go-to lens for several months now. I had been using the 70-200 for some of my portrait work, but It usually stayed on during those portrait sessions. So, needless to say, I kept finding myself having to backup and check my composition once or twice after each time changing out lenses. But that compression, holy cow how awesome!
I should mention that I normally stay between wide open and 2.8 on fast primes for a shoot like this, but for the sake of testing it out, I went through a range of apertures from 1.4 all the way through 5.6.
There are some features on the lens that are worthy of note besides the performance: It has an Aperture ring, which you can silence for video. It has a focus hold button that makes it easy to focus and recompose, or holding focus to take multiple shots without waiting to refocus. Another feature is the auto focus/manual focus switch that allows you to, well, switch from camera/lens autofocusing to manual focusing.
This thing is so much fun to play with. I have used the Canon 85 1.2 (on a Canon), the g master is no heavier, so I din't see the issue there. The noise I didn't notice inside while shooting, or outside while shooting. However, I did hear it while sitting there playing with it, and thinking about other's complaints about it., but I don't think it's enough to affect a shoot in any way...ever! Focusing was not an issueColor was amazing, and I have no problem throwing it in with the shots from my Zeiss' lenses. On more than one occasion, I shot with the 35 Distagon, and then the same scene with the G Master. Even with different lightsources, types of lighting, and different colored lights, the G Master held it's own against the brilliance of the Zeiss Distagon when compared in lightroom (I haven't printed anything yet). The sharpness is a no brainer! Tack sharp right where I want it. I love this lens!
Gear: Sony A7II, Zeiss 35/14, 85 GM, Flashpoint Rovelight monolight