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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

 
Lens Reviews / Canon Lenses i Lab tested

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
85mm $1,999
average price
image of Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

(From Canon lens literature) Retaining the impressive optical performance and large aperture of the original EF 85mm f/1.2L USM, this new medium telephoto lens uses a Ring-type USM, high-speed CPU and optimized algorithms to achieve an autofocus speed approximately 1.8x faster than the original. The high-speed AF and circular aperture create a shallow depth-of-field that brings attention to the subject and blurs the background, which is ideal for portraits and weddings. The floating optical system, which includes an aspherical lens element, suppresses aberrations and ensures excellent imaging performance.

Test Notes
(Sub-frame, on an EOS-20D)

We had more fun with this lens than many we test, its f/1.2 maximum aperture and super-soft bokeh (rendering of out-of-focus elements) make it a superb portrait lens, one that makes the background practically go away when you're shooting with it wide open.

That said, it isn't a lens that's tack-sharp wide open, at least not in the corners of the frame, even on a sub-frame camera. It actually is fairly sharp at the center wide open, but the softness in the corners is noticeable. Then again though, this isn't a lens you're likely to be shooting architecture or other subjects that demand crisp-looking corner detail with wide open. If you're using it to isolate your subject from the background, chances are that you'll be much more concerned with what's in or near the center of the frame than what's in the corners. Stopping down just a little to f/2 greatly improves matters though, and at that aperture, you can stack this lens up against most anything else out there, while at f/4 it's simply superb. Even at f/16 (where many lenses begin to diffraction-limit significantly), the 85mm f/1.2L is remarkably sharp across the entire frame.

Chromatic aberration is also quite good for such a wide-aperture lens, hitting a maximum of 0.033% of frame height at maximum apertuer, but dropping to 0.02% at apertures of f/2 or smaller. Light falloff or "vignetting" is about 0.4 EV wide open, dropping to about 1/10 EV at f/2, and even lower with increasing aperture. Maximum geometric distortion is an almost microscopic 0.07% barrel.

Mechanically, the build quality is excellent, and manual focus operation is very smooth and precise. Autofocus is likewise very quick, thanks to its ultrasonic motor. Do note that this is a big, heavy hunk of glass, it probably isn't a lens you'd enjoy hand-holding for a full day. (But what would you expect for 85mm and f/1.2?)

As noted, this was a really fun lens to work with, its ability to lose the background was just astonishing. (In fact, sometimes its depth of field wide open was almost too small, as we sometimes found just a slice of our subject's nose in sharp focus, with both the end of the nose and the face itself slightly soft!) This would be an ideal portrait lens on a full-frame camera, but serves very well for that use on a sub-frame camera as well, with an effective focal length of 136mm on cameras with a 1.6x crop factor. With a street price of over $2,000, this won't be a lens for the masses, but for pro portrait and wedding photographers, it could pay for itself in short order.

Full-Frame Test Notes:

Switching to a full-frame camera with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L, the usual sorts of things happen: Corner sharpness is slightly reduced, and light falloff ("vignetting") increases pretty markedly. You can see more softness wide-open, covering more of the image area on the EOS-5D when compared to the results on the 20D, but performance improves markedly when stopped down just to f/2.0, where the corners are only slightly soft. From f/2.8 to f/16, the images are very sharp across the entire frame. Maximum chromatic aberration on the 5D was quite low, regardless of aperture, ranging between 0.013% and 0.019% across the aperture range.

As noted, light falloff becomes quite pronounced when shooting wide open on a full-frame camera, hitting a maximum of just over 1 EV wide open, but dropping rapidly as the lens is stopped down. it hits 1/10 EV at f/2.8, and is under 1/10 EV for much of its aperture range. Geometric distortion is also somewhat higher than on a sub-frame body, reaching a maximum of 0.25% barrel, with an average of 0.11% across the frame.

So, while things do get a bit more problematic in the corners of the frame on full-frame cameras, the Canon 85mm f/1.2L is still an excellent performer. If you shoot subjects in the short-telephoto range, and need to just lose the background, this is clearly the lens to own.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM User Reviews

7.3/10 average of 19 reviews Build Quality 8.1/10 Image Quality 7.8/10
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Excellent bokeh
    Expensive

    Hi everyone,

    I have just uploaded a video comparing Nikon 85mm f1.4 g vs Canon 85mm f1.2 for those who are interested : www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbWFTVX0OhI&hd=1

    reviewed January 17th, 2014 (purchased for $1,900)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    good portrait lens, good contrast, very sharp
    heavy, expensive, slow AF, non-IS

    I read much about this lens on the internet and was impressed by the sharpness and the buttery soft bokeh it produced with its shallow depth of field. Decided to jump in and bought a used one when it came up. At first, when I put it on my 5D mk iii, I thought I bought a defective lens. From f2.8 to f1.2 my target focus was consistently off. Back to the internet for more research and voila, I realized it was the operator and not the lens. Into my 5D's menu and played with the AF Microadjustment and changed my focus points for vertical and horizontal shooting. Big difference, bang on focus. The depth of field at wide apertures is insanely shallow. So getting those eyes in focus each and every time demands patience and discipline, both for you and the subject. And as a result the pay off is well worth it. Because it's a non-IS lens I wouldn't shoot less than 1/60th, when going to the wide apertures. This lens can be very demanding but many of the results in the f1.2 range can be very satisfying.

    reviewed January 4th, 2014 (purchased for $1,700)
  • 0 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    It's completely silent. Quieter than the f/1.4

    I needed the perfect lens to rent for a newborn shoot, I am a new & growing photographer. This lens exceeded my expectations! The photos turned out amazing! When I invest in my next lens THIS will be it! I was able to use it for SO much more than the newborn shoot!

    Pros:
    * It's completely silent. Quieter than the f/1.4
    * It has no problems focusing in the dark
    * It's highly useable at f1.2
    * It's sharper than the f/1.4
    * Colors are more saturated than the f/1.4
    * Images taken with this lens have higher contrast than the f/1.4
    * It makes the f/1.4 feel like a hunk of plastic
    * It comes with a hood

    More Detail : http://camera.babybi.com/detail.php?id_detail=48


    .

    reviewed May 13th, 2012 (purchased for $1,499)
  • 4 out of 10 points and recommended by (5 reviews)
    sufficient AF and built quality
    poor IQ wide open to f/4.0, very soft from 1.2 to 2.8, never gets tack-sharp

    Compared to the Nikon AF-S 85/1.4 this lens is rather soft and not as contrasty.

    From f/4.0 on this lens will satisfy my needs but gets never tack-sharp. Rather disappointing for this high price.

    I tested this lens against the older Canon 85/1.2 and the Nikon AFS 85/1.4.

    reviewed April 3rd, 2012
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    I have this lens and its one of the best L series Canon makes.
    None yet, I have owned for three + years.

    I think the above survey says it all!

    reviewed February 12th, 2011 (purchased for $2,000)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (19 reviews)
    extreme center sharpness at all apeture settings, accurate AF ,very good contrast and color even wide open
    a bit annoying distortion compared to the Zeiss 85f1.4ZE, huge size.

    just its size is a bit of issue for me and as many said it has very annoying electronic MF ring by wire.

    but it is still the best 85mm out there , it is sharper than the Nikon G , the Zeiss ZE , the Sony Zeiss ZA and the Sigma.

    and it has the most accurate AF in its class.

    but as some said , it is a bit too heavy and big for street night work or kids portrait , it may be too intimidating to some kids or even adults and it is not sealed like the new 24L Mk2 or Nikon 85f1.4G.

    so now , I have this Canon and Sony 85f1.4ZA and Sigma 85f1.4HSM , and use this lens when the ultimate central sharpness and contrast are needed or when really accurate Af is needed, other wise , I use my Sony Zeiss or my new Sigma 85f1.4HSM ,which has the fastest AF in this lens class.

    I used to use all MF Zeiss T* 85f1.4ZF2 and ZE but I sold both and I also sold the famous Zeiss T* f2 100 ZE since I found they are not as sharp as this 85LMK2 and the Sigma 85f1.4HSM is just as sharp as the Zeiss 100f2 with super fast AF.

    So, I dont use Ziess MF lenses in this range any more , I just use only one Zeiss lens now that is the Zeiss T*f2 28 ZE.

    When a few AF lenses match the Zeiss mf prime quality in this range , why do I have to choose MF Zeiss over those equally sharp fast AF primes from Canon , Nikon , Sigma ,Sony,etc?

    if you shoot very low light or need extreme center sharpness for portrait or studio work, this is the best lens for you.

    reviewed February 5th, 2011 (purchased for $1,600)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (9 reviews)
    The PERFECT lens for portraits.
    Slow autofocus.

    This lens was part of the reason I decided to go with Canon gear over Nikon, Sony, etc..

    It is the best portrait lens I have come across.

    Sharp even at 1.2

    Buy this lens if you have the money. I am not sure this lens is worth it if you are a casual photographer or even a pro, unless you really, really, really, love creamy bokeh.

    reviewed November 16th, 2010 (purchased for $1,800)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (12 reviews)
    Excellent image quality and uniqueness
    Focus by wire

    2010 Nikon AF-S 85 1.4G compared against the 85 1.2L II, both on a Canon 5D Mk II:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/genotypewriter/5057691550/

    Aspects compared:
    * Far distance corner sharpness
    * Far distance center sharpness
    * Bokeh (general and highlights)
    * Close distance center sharpness, rear and front bokeh
    * Close distance corner sharpness, rear and front bokeh
    * Relative illumination between the two lenses and vignetting, close-up and infinity


    Even at f/1.2 it's sharper than most high-end 85 1.4 lenses from other manufacturers. The build quality is solid when compared to the new Nikon 85 1.4G (see comparison above). Focusing is not the fastest but fast enough for most action.

    I only wish they made the focusing a mechanically coupled one instead of an electronic focus-by-wire system because the ring is too sensitive to mild touches and quickly changes focus (in MF). This makes it a bit difficult to use in street photography, etc. compared to other lenses and needs a bit of getting used to.

    reviewed October 6th, 2010
  • 0 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)

    good one

    reviewed May 19th, 2010
  • 0 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Very fast and beautiful
    some times misbehae and held

    http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/data/10/thumbs/1canon85f12ii.jpg

    reviewed May 11th, 2010
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)

    It is very good and great equipment for photography, I really need these kinds of cameras with high potential lenses, I am doing ccna, after the completion, I will start photography of animals in Africa forests;

    Matt John

    reviewed March 9th, 2010
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Great image quality wide open, wonderful bokeh
    Slow to focus, large minimum focus distance

    A very useful lens for portraits. Best for female portraits, especially on women with large, but non-dominating hairstyles.

    Also very good for night photography, if the subject is not moving quickly.

    Surprisingly useful for indoor sports where the subject has predictable motion, for example, gymnastics.

    The AF is much slower than on the 70-200 f/2.8 IS, though, making this lens less useful for fast-moving sports, such as basketball.

    Finally, while the DOF is great for video work on a 5D MK2, the lack of IS coupled with a relatively long focal length make for jittery images.

    reviewed January 5th, 2010 (purchased for $1,600)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (82 reviews)
    Sharp and Fast!
    No weather seals and somewhat slow AF

    Wonderful lens. With a fast lens like this you can do so much more with environmental portraitures.

    Here are some sample shots taken with the Canon 1D MkIII:

    Sample Shots

    -Lex

    reviewed March 12th, 2008 (purchased for $1,780)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (15 reviews)
    Very sharp through the entire aperture range. Un-matched light gathering power.
    Perhaps the slowish focus speed. Minimum focusable distance is rather long.

    This is such a neat lens to use. It's an enormous piece of glass and looks amazing on any camera. It's light gathering power in dim settings is completely unmatched -- the perfect lens for indoor, no-flash photos. This focal length is much more practical on a full-frame camera (Film, 5D, 1Ds) -- it's a bit too long on the cropped sensors for typical usages. The level of sharpness at the largest aperture (f/1.2) is surprisingly high.

    It's a pretty heavy lens (2.2lbs), but unlike the longer, forward-heavy telephoto lenses, it doesn't necessarily feel that heavy. The auto-focus is a bit slow, particularly when focusing from one end of the range to the other, but I suspect the big aperture tends to help the focus accuracy and once the lens is near the correct focus point, it's relatively quick to hit the mark.

    In Manual-Focus mode, the focus ring doesn't directly control the focus -- instead it's an electro-mechanical ring that impels the focus motor to move the element. It's quick to respond, but the sensation is certainly different.

    One surprising characteristic of this lens is the relatively long minimum focusable distance. The closest you can be is 3.2 feet! That's twice as far as with the 50mm f/1.2L, and still a 1/2ft longer than the 85mm f/1.8. This feels a bit limited, particularly when using it on a full-frame camera and you're trying to close-in on someone's face.

    Overall, a simply wonderful lens!

    reviewed October 12th, 2007
  • 4 out of 10 points and not recommended by (19 reviews)
    the excellent build , excellent color .
    the slower AF than the EF85 f1.8 , over priced.

    I got it from my dad and I tried it on and test with my new 40D.

    This is a good lens but not excellent as you might expect from its price.

    this lens is so slow , always miss a shot , I think the cheap EF85 f1.8 is a tad sharper than this over priced lens.

    I do not like the lens at all , if I bought it myself , I would sell it to get something elese but I did not buy it myself and so I would not have that kind of freedom with it , so this lens's got be lucky still in my room collecting dust.

    Dont waste your money on this kind of lens , you can do all things this heavy, bulky lens can do with the cheap EF85F1.8.

    I think the EF85 and EF135L are both much better lenses than this heavy weight lens.

    reviewed September 3rd, 2007
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (12 reviews)
    delivers a image impossible to achieve by any other method, excellent resolution
    high cost, heavy weight, vignetteing, somewhat slow focus speed

    (on a full frame camera)Vignetteing is significant, but not unreasonable for a lens this fast. Closed 1/2 stop (f1.4), the amount is virtually indentical to my 24-70 @ 2.8 and my 135 @ 2.0. The 85 is a very sharp, just fractionally behind my 135, at comparable f stops, at 200 % on an image of the news paper want ads test. It is an expensive lens, but terrifically fun to use and is often on my camera, usually wide open. I get more positive responses to images from this lens than any other because most people seldom see this degree of bokeh. I find the focus speed adequate although a little slow. I did have to send it back to Canon, twice, for adjustment when they finally changed the focusing barrel and the lens performs to perfection.

    reviewed January 1st, 2007 (purchased for $2,000)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Sharpness throughout image, short focus time, high detail, and bright.
    Crop factor makes it less usable as a portrait lens, heavier then it looks.

    This lens is sharp and fast; if I had a full framed DSLR it would be the ultimate portrait lens, but as it stands on my Rebel XT it is good almost exclusively as a short telephoto. It is bright at the cost of some weight, it is good to use in arenas or anywhere they do not allow 'professional' lenses or photographers, or lenses that look like a light grey 'L' lens. I rented this lens before I bought it, there are a number of sites that can help you with that, I would always recommend renting before shelling out this kind of money. This lens is built like a tank like most 'L' lenses. If you are using a crop factored camera and do portraits, dollar for dollar you cannot beat the 50mm primes, this lens yeilds slightly better photos (unless you are looking at edge sharpness at 100% the 85mm is hands-down the better lens at f/1.8 and beyond) at the cost of having to stand across the room instead of being near your model with a 50mm. All in all, if you have the money for this kind of lens rent it first, a lot of people drool over lenses like this, buy it, and then discover that with the crop factor it is not very handy, but on the good side if you buy it and decide to sell it on the second-hand market, it yeilds a high resale value.

    reviewed December 24th, 2006 (purchased for $1,700)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (6 reviews)
    heavy, large aperture, sharp wide open, fairly accurate focus-even on 20D
    heavy, expensive, slow focus, requires practice for wide open shots

    Lens is slightly faster focus than MK I and is fun to use.

    Successfully focused/composed shots wide open are of a very special look...but not easy to obtain

    For me it is the right length on a 1.6 crop camera..for face portraits. A little thought and preparation gets you a composition that has a smooth, smeared background that accents a very sharp subject. It does what I want.. in the faintest of normal light.

    Works nicely with a 12 or 25mm tube....for flowers.
    But the 100 macro is better suited...UNLESS you have
    some special need for aperture below f2.8.

    When putting the lens away, you should manually bring focus extension BACK into the lens body.. (camera MUST BE on) ..this seems to me to... be needed mechanically for protection

    Way too expensive

    reviewed July 15th, 2006
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (8 reviews)
    Sharp, excellent for low light work

    Excellent in all regards!

    reviewed June 10th, 2006