Gear Reviews / Travel / USA

Canon EOS 85mm F/1.4 L IS USM – USA Road Trip

1 Mar ’19

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Last month my partner and I did our first trip to America and it was mind-blowing. On top of my regular photo and video kit, I really wanted to test out the Canon 85mm F/1.4 IS USM L. I wanted to see how it performed and where it could be used in my usual workflow. Being a stabilised lens with a wide aperture I was looking forward to using it to shoot video handheld as well as stills and night time-lapse. Thankful that CameraPro let me field test this lens! All the images below were taken with the 85mm.

The Trip

We spent 3 weeks across 4 states travelling in “Pinball” our rental escape campervan. Although we had a rough itinerary we never really knew where we would be the next day and went with the flow (and the weather)! We started in Phoenix (Arizona) and finished 3500km later in San Francisco (California).

85mm f/1.4 test night shot san francisco

The Lens

As planned I shot a wide range of content with the 85mm. I really enjoyed how versatile it was, the focal length is not too long that you always feel you have to step back and it’s wide enough to still fit a lot in the frame. Rather than a clean shot, I was often searching for something to have in the foreground and by shooting at 1.4 it created a frame that gave you the impressions of “discovering” the view through a gap without it being too distracting from the main part of the image. Examples below are all shot at F/1.4 which helped capture as much light as possible during the blue hour or after sunset:

I also shot a mix of time-lapse and slow-motion video, the fact that it was stabilised enabled me some great handheld shots:

The Full Timelapse Compilation:

The Landscapes

It also really works as a landscape lens too if you want to compress the frame (see the Nevada road shot) or wide open to isolate one subject (the Joshua tree at sunset).

The arid scenery of Nevada and the Valley of Fire


A Joshua Tree in the early hours and golden light

In summary, although not practical for my science communications and field biology documentation projects (I need to be ultra-quick and the versatility of a zoom trumps everything else) it would sit well in my line-up of gear for my time-lapse work or projects where there are fewer time constraints and I can have extra time to create different content. I loved shooting with this lens and the shallow depth of field slow motion you can get when pairing it to the Canon EOS 1DX2 and filming at 100fps (or 50fps) handheld is superb.

The lens is weather sealed which I always value for my outdoor work and performed well in all locations (we were in deserts, in the snow, on the coast).

So now who is keen for a road trip?

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The Full Kit

Being a “car-based” trip I had a bit more leniency towards what to bring and split between 2 people we were always under the carry on limits for our packs (with the cheaper gear being safely stored in check-in). Throughout the trip, we don’t always have all of the gear on us and were packing in accordance with our daily activities, length of hikes, etc.

Here’s what I packed for the trip:

  • Canon EOS 1DX2 — AUSTRALIA  // USA
  • Canon EOS M5 — AUSTRALIA // USA
  • Canon 85mm F/1.4 IS USM L — AUSTRALIA // USA
  • Canon 16-35mm F/4 IS USM L — AUSTRALIA // USA
  • Canon 24-70 F/4 IS USM L — AUSTRALIA // USA
  • Canon 70-300 F/4-5.6 IS USM L — AUSTRALIA // USA
  • Canon 50mm F/1.8 — AUSTRALIA // USA
  • Sigma 35mm F/1.4 Art — AUSTRALIA // USA
  • 3 Legged Thing “Brian” Tripod, the old version.
  • Fstop Gear Tilopa BC, the old version I’ve had that one for 5years. This is the new and improved version — AUSTRALIA
  • Fstop Gear Dalston, my new go-to small kit days bag, I’ve done a review HERE
  • Data storage: All saved on an ultra fast Samsung SSD T5 1tb and backed up on another Samsung SSD.

The gear links above are affiliate links. If you buy through them you get the regular price and I receive a small percentage from that – this helps to support and continue my passion documenting wildlife and conservation and producing content for the channels.

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Nicolas Rakotopare

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