Canon Switch Update :: All is Well

December 8, 2011 | • Gear & Gadgets Shop Talk


I recently wrote in length about my switch from Nikon to Canon. I thought I’d update you on a few things since making that switch.

#1 – Lately I find myself predominantly shooting with the 35mm f 2.0 and 85mm 1.8. You could weld one of those on each body and I’d be set for life I think. Except that 35mm f2. When I made the full switch I kept the “decent” Canon 35mm f2 and bought the crockstar 24mm 1.4 lens. I now wish I would have switched that decision. I’m just not shooting that 24 nearly as much as I thought I would. I’ll be replacing that 35 at some point. It doesn’t have to happen tomorrow because the f2 is still an amazing lens but I’ve tried the 1.4 and I know that would get welded to a camera body to never be removed. Live and learn right?

#2 – I really miss the in-camera multiple exposure feature in Nikons. I didn’t think I would but once you don’t have it you want it. Multiple exposure images are easy enough to do in post production but it takes the fun out of it. When doing it in-camera you either get it or you don’t and there’s lots of room for really interesting mistakes and WTF moments to happen that you just don’t get when doing it in post. Oh well. I don’t shoot it that often but I do wish I had it. The image above is a “triple exposure” done in post. I try to not tweak things too much. I want the chips to fall where they may as though I did it in-camera.

#3 – I thought I would shoot the 135mm f2 more than I do. I’m surprised I go to that cheap little 85mm 1.8 so often but that 135mm f2 lens is one of the finest lenses I’ve ever owned. For me I like to have a healthy amount of space to use that thing. Many of my assignments lately have had me in pretty tight quarters so it hasn’t been put to use that much but there is zero regret in getting that lens. Oh. Emm. Gee.

#4 – I do miss the D3 body but I’m still happy with my switch. Aside from that lens decision I would reverse I’m pleased with my switch. I most love having one complete system instead of two half assed systems. If I were to add anything to this kit it would be the 14mm f2.8 lens. That is a beast of a lens but I’m good without it.

And… I’m done with 35mm DSLR buying for a long time to come. Bring on the five dee mark three point two sub paragraph nine whatever. I’m good.



PS – Yes… I’m on my annual social media hiatus. I find I need to unplug from most things as we head into the darkness of winter. It’s my time to figure out what in the hell I’m doing with myself. That’s hard to do with all the noise. I’ll be blogging and despite it falling in the social media genre, I’m still on :) Hope you are all doing well!


  • d baker said on December 8, 2011

    When I first pulled up this image in reader it appeared that she had on angel wings. Amazing… as always!

  • Tim Graedon said on December 8, 2011

    Outstanding image and, as always, great practical advice. I recently picked up a copy of OneLight and it has already saved me some coin. Thanks for the insights.

  • Kevin said on December 8, 2011

    Love reading these posts as I’m a Canon shooter and it really helps to understand people’s philosophies on lens choices. I really want the 135 f2 because I’ve heard so many good things about it but I just think it would be too long on my 7D for most circumstances. The 85mm 1.8 is already pretty long on a crop sensor but it’s my go-to lens for most portraits. Absolutely. beautiful. lens.

    I’m currently saving up for a FF body…possibly the mark iii but I want to see what the release of the mark iii does to the price of the mark ii. If I had FF I’d be all over that 135.

  • Zack said on December 8, 2011

    @Kevin – I agree. 135 on a crop would be way too long. You’re smart to wait for a mkII when the three drops.


  • Tim McBroome said on December 8, 2011

    What do you mean by “two half-assed systems”?

  • Zack said on December 8, 2011

    @Tim – Go check out my blog post about why I switched. You’ll see. :)


  • Carlos Bruno said on December 8, 2011

    Dunno … but so much you’re talking and explain yourself about your change for the dark side of the force looks like you’re in a huge regret. Well … all of us make mistakes once in a while (like I thought I could handle weddings).
    But you’ll be OK … the 4 lbs 7 inches behind of your lenses is the real commander and artist … and about it, Gee … you’re good.
    just couldn’t understand, having a good friend like Joey L. to show you his guns, why don’t you go for the medium format at once. STOP to be so cheap. WE KNOW what you can produce with a Brownie (the cookie box … not the camera per se), so man … invest on the last frontier for us to see on the next cover of a Rolling Stones mag:
    IMAGES – ZacK Arias … the man with a goatee on his chin … a pigeon on his arm … and no f@$%# idea where is the arrow on FedEx logo that everybody says is there.
    :) Tons of love pal.

  • Zack said on December 8, 2011

    Carlos – Are you reading my next blog post? :)


  • Michael Montalto said on December 8, 2011

    Thanks for the update and be well Zack. Happy Holidays to you and your family. -mM

  • Patrik Lindgren said on December 8, 2011

    Well the 35mm is the best focal length. I havent tried Canon´s 35 but i have a D3 and i bought Nikon´s 35 f1,4 and well, it´s just the best. I bought the 85 as well and actually sold my 24-70. So it´s primes only for me, it´s a lot more fun to work with, i have to be more active since i need to actually move my ass to get the picture i want.
    It´s the classic photojournalistic length, it´s a keeper for sure.
    Hope you´ll see the light in the dark tunnel soon.

  • Tom Bricker said on December 8, 2011

    I just loaded flipboard on my iphone and wondered when you were going to blog again. I’m only feeling sad because I haven’t spent much time shooting lately. Winter doldrums? Perhaps. I’ve two shoots this weekend.

    Love the image. See you on

  • nate parker said on December 8, 2011

    that’s cool. but how bout this, since you don’t have to weld them on the bodies what about the kick ass 100 f/2.8 macro is- it rocks for vid with the gyro (make sure use external mic cause of the noises) and is real pretty for portraits, and of course the uber cheap nifty 50 1.8 (light as a feather for walking around and wicked sharp), and i’m totally infatuated with my new used 24 3.5 ts-e (i would own the 45 and 90 as well if i could). Ah, lenses.

  • Ben Jacobsen said on December 8, 2011

    Consider the rokinon/samyang (and ~10 other brands) 14mm 2.8. Optically it’s great. It’s got some distortion quirks, but there’s a LR profile out that fixed them. Yes it’s MF, but with a lens that wide it’s not that hard to figure out. Tons of fun on a limited budget.

  • Mike said on December 9, 2011

    Hey Zack, you’ve been hinting at buying MF. Is there a reason you’re not just renting instead? I mean, doesn’t it get billed back to editorial and commercial clients anyway?

  • Zack said on December 9, 2011

    @Mike – Rent? Buy? Rent? Buy? I’ve been back and forth on this one a lot. Thing is, renting a digital back, camera, lenses, and all that is quite expensive. Typically more than $500 a day. A lot of the jobs I’m currently working on don’t have that in the budget so I’d have to eat the cost. I’ve been going back and forth on the medium format digital thing for three years now and I am about to pull the trigger. I shot my first MFDB three years ago and started the process of finding a way to justify it and afford it. It has taken three years but I’m “almost” there. Almost. There are deals to be had if you can find them.


  • Adam Malcolm said on December 9, 2011

    Some interesting words there, especially with the 24mm and 135mm! I realised the other day that I’m actually doing what you suggested in what I think was a Creative Live class, instead of buying the 5D MK II, buy the MK I, get the 50mm 1.8 and the 85mm 1.8. Guess what’s in my bag? exactly that. Didn’t even intend to. Originally had the Mk 2 but sold it for more than I paid for it to get an older body and better glass.

    I can’t find a single second hand 35mm F/2 in the UK, not one. I’d go right for the 1.4 but what you once said about ‘earning it’ has really stuck with me, I could have had the 16-35mm but I don’t feel like I had earned it, and it’s a slow zoom! I’m really desperate for something wider than 50mm though… but 24mm is definitely too wide.

  • Zack said on December 9, 2011

    @Adam – Look for a nice 28mm 2.8 as a wide. Those go pretty cheap.


  • Luis Murillo said on December 9, 2011

    I agree with Carlos and I’ve seen your medium format work, should totally make the switch to a larger format. Personally I love using medium format over 35mm or the crop sensor on my digital camera

  • Daf said on December 9, 2011

    Nikon D800 just around the corner.
    Switch back…. ?

  • Guido said on December 9, 2011

    Hi Zack, take your time. It’s good to take care of your self and step back once in a while.
    I know it’s a bit late now, but reading your post now, I was wondering what happened with the Cyber Monday Sale of the OneLight DVD. I tried the link, but somehow didn’t get through. I figured it was a bit too busy, so I tried some later, but still the same. Was it indeed that busy on the site, or some hickup in the system, or…?

  • Zack said on December 9, 2011

    @Guido – Sorry you missed it. Anything involving PayPal was slow on cyber monday. We will be having another sale soon to clear out our stock of the current DVD to get ready for a new one coming out next year.


  • Andy said on December 9, 2011

    I really enjoy you comments about going more “off-line” and figuring out yourself once a year because that is exactly how I feel. Whenever I feel that blues, I go watch your Transform video and I’m all set for another while, thank you! :)

  • Hunter Harrison said on December 9, 2011

    Thanks for the nice update Zack. I seem to remember that you previously said that you would not need fast glass. I think you reasoned that you could lessen the cost of the switch by avoiding the really fast lenses and their high cost. However, now you seem to be changing. Is it because you want the speed, or is it an overall image quality issue. Or maybe a change in style?

    I know what you mean by 35mm vs. 24mm. I’m on Nikon and have the 35mm 1.4 (love it). I use it way, way more than the wide-end of my 24-70mm, and not just because of the aperture. 35mm at wide apertures just rules the roost.

    Have a nice Christmas!

  • Zack said on December 9, 2011

    @Hunter – Typically the super fast lenses (beyond 1.8) are a better build quality and that is why I want the 35. I don’t really need the 1.4 and would rarely use it but the build of the lens and the quality of the glass is superior. But I don’t necessarily want every 1.4 or 1.2 lens. I can’t for the life of me justify the 85mm 1.2. Between the 1.8 and 1.2 it isn’t worth the money for me. A 1.4? Maybe. If there’s a middle ground between the 1.8 and 1.2 I would take a look at that. I know there are 3rd party 1.4’s but I’m not interested in those. I only want Canon glass… or Zeiss. They make an 85 1.4 but it’s MF only.


  • Todd said on December 9, 2011

    LOL I totally hear you on the social media hiatus thing. For me, I’ve personally been blowing way too many hours during the day between tumblr, facebook, twitter, and my blog – it’s time for me to switch it into high gear and get back into work mode again. Tough to stay balanced with it all. We all know that most computer based jobs mean 25-50% of the day blown screwing around on the internet… but when you work for yourself that’s not always necessarily a good thing.

  • Paul said on December 9, 2011

    Interesting post (and blog in general)…

    I’ve got the 17-40 f/4 L that I bought to use as a landscape lens but having upgraded to FF, the wide end completely blows my mind and realistically I shoot mostly portraits anyway. I can’t justify the 35mm L (although I’d love to) but I’ve been sitting on the fence with whether to gamble on the samyang or buy the canon f/2 (but as stated, here in the UK they just don’t seem to be available).

    Do you find its vignetting a problem? My cheap 50 vignettes a lot, but I mostly like it.

  • Zack said on December 9, 2011

    @Paul – I love vignettes so I don’t mind. :)

  • Edd Carlile said on December 9, 2011

    Much to think about from this post.
    (and responses!)

  • Carlos Bruno said on December 10, 2011

    Don’t loose ANY of your posts since your seminar was called “1/3 Light”! Hehehehehe …
    I still in my memory the day we met at Jason’s studio parté in NYC (2010 … the last one by SmugMug) and you turn to me and said: “Hi … I’m Zack”.
    And I: You’re f*king kidding right? EVERYONE here knows who YOU are dude!
    Meg just laugh behind of us …
    SO … when will be the trip to Brazil? People there is getting dumb … Dane Sanders already went there … “fast trick” huh?

  • claude etienne said on December 10, 2011

    Hi Zack,

    Happy to hear about the new dvd coming out next year. I have the One Light DVD and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Considering that you have already provided us with so much learning material with the DVD, and the Creative Live classes, I’m really curious to see what you have in store for the next DVD. I hope we’ll at least get a preview soon. In regards to medium format, I assume that the Pentax 645D is the cheapest digital solution out there.

  • Zack said on December 10, 2011

    @Claude – It is. I’ve looked at the Pentax several times but it lacks a good selection of leaf shutter lenses for high speed flash syncing. Hassy’s got to 800th and Mamiya/Phase One can get to 1,600th. That’s pretty spectacular and needed for the work I do.

  • Derek Tipton said on December 10, 2011

    I think they have all these lenses for Nikon, and you get the multi-exposure…..

  • Zack said on December 10, 2011

    @Derek – Yep. But Nikon doesn’t have that amazing 21mp 5d sensor. That’s the “film” of today. :)

  • Frank Grygier said on December 10, 2011

    Hello Zack, Merry Christmas to you and your family. Would you consider making Transform 2 this winter? I was inspired by your first film.

  • Richerd Reynolds said on December 12, 2011

    Hello Zack, sorry for the late chyme in, just coming out of a crazy four days of shooting. Not to sound like a chest beating Nikon fanboy (after all the ONLY reason I own a Nikon is because if felt more comfortable to pick up), but in regards to your comment to @Derek… what about the D3x with the 24.5 mp sensor? I haven’t compared it with the Canon, is it a price point thing or a quality thing?

    Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family. God bless.

  • Zack said on December 12, 2011

    @Richerd – It is definitely a price issue. At current prices I can have 3.6 5d camera bodies for the price of one D3x. I have three product sets running full time in my studio and I need two bodies with me in my kit so that’s five bodies I have right now and I’m looking at adding another for a back up to the product sets. Six D3x bodies would cost me $48,000!!!! OMG. Six 5d’s are $13,200. That’s a savings of more than $34,000. For $48,000 that’s a lot of Canon bodies, glass, and iMacs to tether them to instead of just paying for bodies and I still haven’t bought lenses and computers. I have full kits for studio and location and iMacs for less than just going for 20+MP Nikon bodies. Not only does it make sense, it makes dollars! :)

    AT $8k a body you’re on your way to medium format at that point which will kick the ass of the Nikon. That’s my next jump. Instead of buying another 5d I’ll probably take one out of my kit and drop a digital medium format in there. I’ll then be set on camera gear for at least the next five or more years.


  • Clark Lara II said on December 15, 2011

    Great shot Zack! Glad to see some photos from the workshop. Hope all is well.

  • zmn said on December 16, 2011

    great opening shot. but can`t help thinking it would be twice as good if you`d be able to shoot it with longer lens throwing lights mostly out of the frame. Or maybe just opposite – making it with a very wide lens to hide em behind,

    I`m considering if it would be logical and generally sane to buy upcoming D4 with its great ISO performance (like an even more improved d3s does) to beat most low light situations, which I currently prefer to shoot.

  • gene said on December 18, 2011

    time out. time out. tiiiiiiime out.

    the f/2? the sub $200 canon 35mm f/2? that f/2? so every time i was being a nerd snooping through exif info and saw 35mm it was THAT f/2?
    cause if so that is immensely encouraging to this penny pinching college student thats been dreaming of one day saving enough for an L lens. “if its good enough for zack, its good enough for me” might become a mantra.

    but question. after my 18-135mm kit I saved up and got the 85mm and was debating between either the 35mm (now f/2! not 1.4) or the 24-70mm. I feel like which ever lens I choose would ultimately decide the trajectory or lack thereof of my hobby/parttime/career/lifeambition… so maybe i’ll get the f/2 then pick up some strobes….or all in on one lens….at this point i forgot what i wanted to ask…

  • Zack said on December 19, 2011

    @gene – Yes. The cheap 35mm f2 is the one I use right now. It’s a great lens.

    I personally would not recommend the 24-70 until they come out with a new version of it. I can’t stand that lens. A 35 and an 85 do pretty much everything I need.

    The 35 f2 and a light would be a great way to go. IMHO.


  • alex d'angelo said on December 19, 2011

    Hi Zack, I’m a great fan of u for years, and love your refreshing videos. But can I just tell you what I really think mate: holding back nothing. Chase Jarvis is an arrogant, and somewhat condescending human, and I don’t know why u swapped from nikon to canon. Buy a D3s & 85mm, 300mm for faces, fisheye, and 50mm, and the rest on studio equipment. U are a great man, and I just dont understand why u would switch to canon, or feature with jarvis. Both shout, “I”M THE BEST, LOOK AT ME” when really its the real Zack we all wanna see, shooting with a mamiya or d3s. I refuse to talk bullshit. Respect zack. Some laughed at Leica, now leica laughs at them. I would love an honest reply to my email too please mate. Thank you mate. Alex

  • Zack said on December 20, 2011

    @Alex – I’m just not following you here. Huh?


  • Derek Clark said on December 20, 2011

    Glad to see you’re happy with your switch Zack. I don’t know how you put up with a dual Nikon/Canon set-up.

    The best decision I made in 2011, was to buy the (Nikon) 35mm 1.4G and 85mm 1.4G. I already had the 50mm 1.4G. I think buying lots of lenses is the number one waste of money in photography. Get the best 3 or 4 lenses that you can afford and keep your kit simple! Good glass is an investment! I won’t be changing the 1.4’s for a long time. I might swap my 24mm f2 for the 1.4 next year though, but I’m not sure if I use it enough???

    All the best for Xmas and 2012 from here in Snowy Scotland.

  • Dustin Levine said on December 21, 2011

    Just curious if you have your 5D Markk II’s gripped or Not gripped?? I know it is a personall preference, but just wondering how you shoot with it. Thanks, and keep up the awesome & inspiring work.

  • Zack said on December 21, 2011

    @Dustin – They are gripped. I like having the extra battery on board and the vertical shutter release.


  • Matthew Finnigan said on December 30, 2011

    Who cares if Zack uses Nikon or Canon, he takes great photos with either

  • Fotograf Håkan Ivarsson said on December 30, 2011

    A wonderful picture. So easy but so special. Great job!

  • Ivan Boden said on January 3, 2012

    Excellent post on your gear/economic choices. Looks like you’ve made some wise decisions. It’s easy to get caught-up in lusting for the next great lens or camera body. Gear does matter, but does not super cede talent, skill and creativity. You’ve got all three!

  • sehmuzb said on January 3, 2012

    I’d say Welcome to the Canon side but you were already there (halfway). My kit has 35 f2, 85 f1.8 and 50 f1.8. When I’m shooting people that’s what I use on my 7D. If I had 5D I’d add 135 since it is the best damn EF lens out there. I recently watch your latest creative live sessions where you discuss why someone should buy lenses and how their photography dicatates the need for the body and lenses.

    On the same token you should consider the Medium Format. If you are in the studio most of the time and shooting slowly your photography can justify the MF. Otherwise it is not practical and worth spending that money. If your projects does not cover the cost of the MF then you are getting to GAS territory, and you know what this means right?

  • Zack said on January 4, 2012

    @Sehmuzb – Just upgraded to a Phase One. Can’t say enough great things about it. I knew it was soon in my future. A great deal came along on one that I couldn’t pass up. I’ll blog about it at some point!


  • Rio said on January 4, 2012

    Hi Zack, i love your work. to be honest, i always see your website to get me motivated to take more photos. and the most loving part is when you decided to change to canon. not because that i don’t like nikon, its just now i can follow you on the same setting and set up , gear wise.

    my only question : how do you deal with canon ‘no’assist beam condition compare to nikon? while you are using remote shutter like Pocket wizard? especially in very very low light condition?


  • Zack said on January 4, 2012

    @Rio – The lack of AF assist kills me on the Canon. In low light I stay with the center AF point in the viewfinder because it is the most accurate of the points. It is also the one most likely to find and lock on something. I also keep a small flashlight in the bag or I use a flashlight app on my iPhone 4 as an AF assist light. I shine the light, lock focus, move the light away and fire.


  • Jonathon Talley said on January 5, 2012

    Hi Zack, Thanks for taking the time to stay connected with your fans. Quick question on the 35… It’s focusing motor is a regular micro drive, you don’t find it too slow? What is your thoughts on the 28 1.8, it’s price is more but it’s build quality and AF speed seems to be alot better and still much cheaper than any L. I’m currently on the 60D but was looking for a walk-around prime with future ambitions of the 5dmkii.

  • Zack said on January 6, 2012

    @Jonathon – Y’all aren’t “fans”. You’re my colleagues. :)

    I do find the 35 to be slow. I’ve never shot with the 28 so I can’t say for certain. If I was on crop sensors then I’d be all about that 28mm focal length. If I were you I’d see if I could rent it from or and try it out for a week before you buy it.


  • Michael Hunter said on January 6, 2012

    Love you work and your teaching style. I have a used Canon 50mm f1.4 if you’re still interested. The focus ring is a bit stiff but it works ok & the glass is fine… You can have it S&H if you give me some 1-on-1 criticism of my portfolio sometime… (I’ll probably regret it)

    Ping me an email if you’re interested.

  • Randy said on January 10, 2012

    Hi Zack, refreshing to see a Nikon->Canon switch after the chorus of photographers doing the opposite flooded the internet a year or so ago. The 35, 85 and 135 are my bread and butter lenses, alongside the useful 24-105. Now if Canon could just make a cameras to focus in this dim light…

  • kristi said on January 14, 2012

    Trey Ratcliff recently waxed on and on about the new 3rd gen cameras that are around and just around the corner….interesting thoughts……might want to save the $8k

  • Mikael said on January 25, 2012

    Hi Zack! Saw you on scott kelbys (tacky) show with your new phase one :) Congrats! Felt a bit sorry for you because of those gearheads. They did not even use your competence. To be honest, the show was a waste of time.


  • Blaise said on January 29, 2012


    I’m with you on your lens choices. I also own the 35 1.4, 85 1.8 and 135 2.0. Most used lens is the 35 1.4, then the 85 1.8 and the least is the 135L.

    But then sometimes I put it back on and WOW – it’s beautiful. I just like working closer to people or cropping less – and the 85 works better for me than the 135…


  • Stephen said on February 8, 2012

    Hi Zack, do you have any AF issue with the 24mm f1.4L II ?
    I heard people say it can front focus sometimes, is that a real issue for you?

  • Zack said on February 8, 2012

    @Stephen – Nope. Not an issue for me.

  • Stephen Bunn said on March 28, 2012

    I use a 35F2 and 851.4 on tow Nikon D700’s to shoot weddings and although the 351.4 would be nice, I dont think I will getting due to the fact the 35F2 is small small and light and that certainly more important than 1.4 to me. With the release of the Canon 5D Mark3, I must say I am tempted to jump, never realised than Canon offered a 35F2, I think I would be more than happy with 35f2 and 851,8 ion Canon side. Thanks for writing this…. some food for thought for me.

  • Gideon Buurma said on April 14, 2012

    Hi Zack,

    I’m curious, are u still pleased with the Canon setup while Nikon has introduced the great D800?

  • Zack said on April 16, 2012

    @Gideon – I’m still happy with my switch. The D800 doesn’t appeal to me. They’ve crammed too many pixels into too small a space for my needs. I’d rather shoot a 30MP medium format camera than that one for true sharpness at high resolution. The D4 looks amazing though!


  • Gideon Buurma said on May 9, 2012

    Hi Zack,

    Have u seen the pictures of the D800? They are mind blowing sharp! Some even say it’s better then the PhaseOne. (i don’t really know because i don’t own a D800/PhaseOne) I’m shooting a D700 and a V1.

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