Fast Glass


So, Santa found his way to Kongo’s Treehouse in San Diego yesterday and the simpering simian found a wonderful surprise in his stocking.  Kongo got his first true “fast glass” from Mrs. Kongo, a Canon EF 50mm f1.2L USM prime lens.  The monkey has been dropping hints about this piece of camera kit for some weeks and was thrilled to finally get it.  He has other Canon “L” lenses, of course, and he likes them all, but he was really longing for a true piece of fast glass with the depth of field and low light capability that comes with a 1.2 f-stop.  He’s not disappointed and, yes, he has read the reviews that state a much less expensive 1.4 might be just as sharp in some cases but he had his heart set on the big daddy.

So he headed off for some low light conditions at the zoo today to test it out.  The above image of a clutch of silver-leafed monkeys behind glass on the Monkey Trail was a perfect spot to test the new lens.  This image was shot at f1.8 with an ISO setting of 400 and a shutter speed of 125.  Wowsers.  On Kongo’s 70-200 f4 L lens the shutter speed would have been about 15 and everything would have been blurry.  Not today.

The silver leafed monkeys are fascinating to watch and today was a special treat due to the presence of a newborn arrival.  Baby silver leaf monkeys are orange!  Who knew?

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Since these monkeys are behind glass and are actually about 30-40 feet away from  visitors, Kongo close cropped these images from the 50mm format to get an up-close feel for the image.  The sharpness and clarity didn’t lose a beat.  He’s very, very happy with the lens.


A close up portrait of an orangutan with what looks like a wig on the side also came out great.  One thing the monkey is learning about this lens…at f1.4 you really have to be careful what you’re focusing on because at close distances you can find yourself with one part of an eye in focus and the other part slightly out of focus.  Very, very shallow depth of field.

The other thing to keep in mind when using fast glass is that when you get in sunlight, the 8000 shutter speed setting is likely to be too slow!  Even at an f-stop of 16 which is as high as this prime lens goes you’re in danger of blowing out your photo.  In situations like this you have to put sunglasses on your lens and strap on a multi-stop of ND filter.  For now, Kongo is staying in the shade.

Click on the images to see a larger size.  Even at the stepped-down resolution Kongo uses for blog postings, these images are wonderfully crisp and clear.


The lens is wonderfully sharp and bright.  Kongo loves the colors and has figured out that its pretty much OK to crop down and up the scale if you need to and you won’t lose any resolution.

Now, Kongo usually gets what he wants for Christmas.  After all, he’s a good little monkey.  But he was having doubts and had actually steeled himself to be happy and chipper if the lens didn’t find its way into the monkey stocking.  He admits to going to his account at B&H photo where he had the lens on his wish list and checked his past orders to see if Mrs. Kongo had actually purchased one.  The lens wasn’t there!  Turns out, Mrs. Kongo is wise to the monkey’s ways and had ordered the lens from another store.  Never underestimate the wife of a monkey.

Kongo truly hopes all his gentle followers got their wishes on Christmas morning and he sends along his best hopes to everyone for a safe, prosperous, and joyous New Year.

Travel safe.  Have fun.


8 thoughts on “Fast Glass

  1. Wowsers! Lucky monkey must have been very good this year. The colors in the photos really pop. I especially like the birds and tea garden pond – just beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Pam. When Kongo is good, he’s really good…and when he’s bad, well…let’s just say he can be a handful. Mrs. Kongo has him well tamed, as you know! Here’s hoping you and Richard have a wonderful New Year.

  2. Lovely shots of the silver-leafed monkeys, Kongo. I am a big monkey lover, so these shots absolutely delighted me! They look very preoccupied with their new orange addition, not paying too much attention to you. Congrats on the Christmas present, well deserved and well played 🙂

  3. Enjoy your new lens! 😀 1.2 must be really hard to focus though, but it’s perfect for low light, i hope you have a lot fun with it and i’m looking forward to see what photos the monkey will make with its new toy! 😀 Many greetings and best wishes for a happy 2015!

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