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Pet and Equine Photography with the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

09 June 2021

Pet and Equine Photography with the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

Sophie Drewicz is an equestrian photographer, a keen horse rider and a true animal lover living in West Sussex. Her passion for photography started 13 years ago whilst she was helping her father photograph weekly Polo matches, show jumping at Hickstead and other sporting events.

Sophie tagged us on Instagram recently to share the beautiful images she’d captured having hired the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM to use with her Canon EOS 1D IV body. She has a wealth of experience with a vast range of Canon equipment so we were keen to see how she felt this lens compared, and it seems she was delighted with the results! Read on for Sophie’s detailed report…

I am a professional photographer specialising in equine and pet photography. All my work is outdoor based.

From time to time my father obtains video & photographic equipment from Hireacamera; for both his work & mine. We have been very satisfied with quality of the hired equipment. The customer service is always five-star and the ordering process is a breeze; we would not want to go elsewhere.

I have a decent selection of Canon kit to work with – 1D bodies and EF lenses, but my go-to tools are: Canon 1D Mk4, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, EF 135mm f/2L USM & the venerable EF 85mm f/1.8. For field events I sometimes opt for the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM. For super bokeh I might use the EF 135mm or sometimes a EF 200mm f/1.8L to obtain superlative bokeh & colour – but they are cumbersome lenses to lug around. Some jobs however defy the kit; too dark, focal length is too short, subject never stands still – all combined in one! The nature of much of my work rules out tripods or monopods so slow shutter speeds and long exposures are a no-no; as is flash.

The fine art equine black background sessions I undertake provide a real challenge. The worst of all worlds – usually shot in dark barns or any suitable area that can provide a dark back-drop, on-site. To enhance the darkness, I prefer to use a high shutter speed but that often forces me to push a higher-than-normal ISO to 800+, which can lead to grainy images. I shoot RAW all the time.

For these sessions I tend to use my 85mm f/1.8 but this struggles to cope. I had considered the EF 85mm f/1.2L but decided the wide aperture without IS could be a problem. Reviews of the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM however, suggested that this might be THE lens for me – offering all the features required: the right focal length and a wide aperture coupled with IS. What's not to like! So, the lens was acquired from Hireacamera.

Paired with my 1D Mk4 I decided on two different tests; a bluebell wood shoot and a black background session. While using this lens I rarely had to go above ISO 200, even under difficult conditions, all the time maintaining a high shutter speed.

The day of the bluebell wood shoot was a typical UK spring day – miserable with no sun to be seen. Normally, to do this job I would use an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS but that often entails a hit of an 800 ISO. In contrast, the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS coped very well allowing me the luxury of a high shutter speed – to deal with a dog & horse moving around – without having to compromise the ISO. The lens was fast focusing even in the poor light, which is definitely a great plus when dealing with animals. The dark background shoot was a breeze with this lens. It ticked all the boxes for me.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this lens. I had read so many good reviews but it was not until I uploaded the photos onto my laptop that I could actually see the true quality of the images for myself. I was shocked, I could instantly tell how pin sharp the images were and the colours were beautiful. When zooming in, the quality was almost like having used a full frame camera. I could only imagine what sort of images this would produce on a full frame. With its nine blades the lens bokeh was superb – surpassing the 135mm, possibly on par with the EF 200mm f/1.8L – so smooth.

This lens has been a revelation. Despite all the lenses I have access to I cannot recall being so taken aback as I have been with this lens. Yes, it's heavy & bulky in comparison to my EF 85mm f/1.8, but it has a nice balance on the 1D body, plus I'm used to moving around with large lenses so for me, it's a superb fit for some with my challenging assignments.

We love it when we can help our customers realise their visual goals, although a huge part of Sophie’s success is down to her natural talent! We would like to say a big thank you to Sophie for sharing her amazing work with us, and for providing such a great customer case study. If you would like to try the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM for yourself, it is available for hire, HERE.

As always, if you have some images or video you’re particularly proud of, having hired our equipment, then please do share it with us via, or tag us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. We can’t promise to publish everything we receive but we love to see your work nonetheless!

Sophie Drewicz Links: