Learning to love the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro Lens
21 / 01 / 23
This is a blog about how I grew to love the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro lens. It was not an easy journey....
I picked the lens up was when I bought the Canon R5 when it was 1st released in the Summer of 2020 and for quite some time I did not like it at all. I loved the form of the lens as it's tiny and weighs very little so on the Canon R5 it felt much lighter to any macro set up that I had been using previously.
For more details and specifications of the site can be found on Canon UK website here.
Anyone who is reading this is probably aware of my macro style of photographing insects in the wild but trying to 'create studio' like stacked images whilst the insects are in a torpid state during the early morning. My two old faithful lenses for doing this is the 'EF Canon MP-E 65mm' and the 'EF Canon 100mm f/2.8 L macro'. I have had both of these lenses for over 10 years and have sort of dialled in my won style of using them.
The robber fly I photographed in Bulgaria 2022 and is a robber fly species I've been looking forever for! A bumble bee mimic robber fly. This image demonstrates the style I have been using for some time. I found the robber fly just as the sun was about to rise over a mountain so knew I had minutes to work with before the sun hit the fly and it woke up and went about its day. So I quickly went to work and created a number of images and created this stack. (for more details about stacking go to this old blog)
When I first got this RF 35mm macro lens I sort of defaulted to my usual style of macro which was a mistake as this lens does not lend itself to that style so well. In this example it sort of shows what I mean.
- At 35mm you have a bigger depth of field so those clean green backgrounds of out of focus grass become messy and distracting
- As this is macro lens with magnification of up to 1:2 you are generally not focusing so close so again gives you a bigger depth of field
- At 35mm you have a much wider field of view so often pulls part of the sky in which in this type of image just becomes a distraction
So basically I had to un-learn a lot of what I had in my head re macro photography and learn to utilise the above points to create an entirely different image!
- Now I use the wide field of view to show the environment that the subject is 'living in' rather trying to make it all about the subject
- Now I use the bigger depth of field and embrace it using a tiny aperture to create and even bigger depth of field and therefore allowing me to create a relationship between 2 more interesting aspects within the image (for example one morning last year I saw this amazing cloudy sky and thought I wonder if can find a dragonfly to incorporate with that dragonfly, luckily my local pond is very close)
In this example of a dewy Four spotted chaser dragonfly I took earlier in 2022 again I have tried to show the dragonfly in its environment at the side of the river Aire (again taken locally). Also as the image is taken early in the morning just at sunrise I'm able to with the wide field of view able to show that it's at sunrise creating a different dynamic to the image and creating a totally different look and feel to the image to what I have been doing.
I'n not saying that one style is right and one is wrong just that it's an other way of creating images and another creative angle.
The next example was also in Bulgaria 2022 (what a trip that was and heading again in 2023 tour can be found here)
Normally on finding a robber fly I would be putting on the MP-E 65mm and doing a detailed close up shot but as this one was perched in a patch of oxeye daises I thought that the wider field of view would create something quite different and unique
Another aspect of the lens which is worth noting is that this lens is f/1.8 so you can also create some beautiful shallow depth of field shots and with this mushroom shot I have tried to use that effect. Shot at a wide aperture to give it a dreamy type of feel with those in and out of focus autumn colours.
I have found that the focus peaking on the R5 is really useful to get the right bit in focus for this type of shot and also the image stabilisation on the lens allow you to get away with very slow shutter speeds.
The lens does really open up a whole load of different imgae types which I would never have thought of a few years ago. Here is a sort of butterfly image and portrait all rolled into one from 2022 Bulgaria trip with Harry one of the participants in the back ground!
It will be interesting to see what I can create this year. Shortly I'm heading back to Sweden and hoping to use the lens to capture aurora borealis with frozen icicles and this will be the perfect lens to try this.
As a final image and again showing the versatility of this lens a recent image from Abisko. I had tracked a snow hare in to the woods behind where I had been living and as I thought about the photograph I wanted to take (snow hare with aurora) I was like what is my longest lens with a super wide aperture so the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro Lens was used to create this rather unique shot...
Well I hope that was a useful read and if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below.
All the best, Oliver
BTW I teamed up with the School of Photography to create a very extensive macro photography course and that can be found here.