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Canon EF 85/1.2L II USM Lens Review

by Philip Greenspun, February 2008

The Canon 85/1.2L lens is Canon's fastest and highest quality short telephoto lens. It is designed for full-frame digital SLRs such as the Canon EOS 5D (review). If you are passionate about portraits in available light, buy one right now from amazon.com, (compare prices).

What's so exciting about an f/1.2 lens? In medium light, the lens can produce an extremely shallow depth of field, throwing any background distractions out of focus. In low light, the lens supports reasonable motion-stopping shutter speeds without forcing the photographer to choose a high noise ISO 1600 or ISO 3200.

The lens was redesigned early in 2006 and now carries a "II" designation. The earlier version of the lens was a very high quality optic, but the new version, at a slightly increased price, offers improved autofocus speed and transmits focus distance information to the camera, increasing the accuracy of flash exposure.


What kind of photographer earns enough money taking pictures of people to recoup the cost of this lens? A wedding photographer. Here's how to use the Canon 85/1.2L at a wedding:

  • if the weather is sunny, have an assistant hold a diffuser cloth in a frame between the sun and the subject
  • have a second assistant hold a reflector underneath the subject to remove any shadows underneath the eyes
  • set the aperture somewhere between f/1.4 and f/2.0 for enough depth of field to cover minor focusing errors or subject movement
  • focus on the subject's eyes; viewers will accept the rest of the image rendered slightly soft

Magnification and Depth of Field

How close does the Canon 85/1.2L lens focus? Can you take a picture tightly cropped around a friend's head? You might need to bang your friend's head against the studio wall, then wait a few hours until it swells up to the size of a prize-winning watermelon. Maximum image magnification is 0.11X. On a full-frame camera, this is good for a head-and-shoulders photo, but not sufficient for a head-only picture (comparison: the 70-200/2.8L lens focuses down to a magnification of 0.17X). For studio portraiture, you might find it convenient to work with the EF 12 II extension tube. You'll lose the ability to focus at infinity with this tube attached, but maximum magnification is increased to 0.25X.

How about depth of field? At the five foot distance that would be typical for an upper body portrait, the depth of field at f/1.2 is only about one inch, i.e., at typical enlargement sizes and viewing distances, objects between 1/2" behind the subject's eyes to 1/2" ahead of the subject's eyes will be acceptably sharp. You'd better hope that the subject doesn't move, which unfortunately is the surest way to get terrible photos. As soon as the average person is forced to freeze, he or she takes on a strained expression.

What does this mean as a practical matter? Consider the 100 percent crop (below) from an EOS 1Ds Mark III 21 megapixel image, taken at f/1.2. The eyebrow is in sharp focus. The eye is soft. The full size image is at the lower left hand corner of the matrix below.

At f/2.0, the depth of field expands to roughly 3/4" on either side of the focus plane. At f/2.8, the depth of field is 1" on either side. Even at f/8, the depth of field is only about 3" on either side. Note that these numbers are for a full-frame body; see "Depth of Field and the Small-Sensor Digital Cameras" to understand how the numbers change with a Digital Rebel or similar camera.

f/1.2 f/1.4 f/2.0 f/2.8 f/4.0

Bright Viewfinder

In order to facilitate viewing, single lens reflex cameras keep the lens wide open until an instant before exposure. The brightness of the viewfinder does not depend on the aperture that you've set for the photo; the brightness of the viewfinder is determined by the maximum aperture of the lens. Mounting an f/1.2 prime lens instead of a typical f/2.8 professional zoom will send six times as much light to the viewfinder, yielding roughly an apparent doubling of brightness.

The shallow depth of field at f/1.2 also helps a photographer evaluate focus. Subjects will snap in and out of focus more dramatically than with a slower lens. The autofocus system also has an easier time working, especially on dimly lit scenes.

Image stabilization as close as the nearest tripod...

Canon doesn't put sensor-based image stabilization in its bodies and they didn't put an optical image stabilizer in this lens. The f/1.2 aperture helps by enabling the photographer to select higher shutter speeds, but to minimize camera shake you'll find yourself leaning up against door frames or using electronic flash. If you can't find a door frame, remember that you need a shutter speed of 1/80th of a second or less to freeze typical camera shake at typical magnifications.

The lack of image stabilization makes this lens more of a portrait/blurred background champ than a low-light-without-tripod champ.


The Canon 85/1.2L incorporates a ring-type ultrasonic motor, for instant autofocus and the option of touching up the focus manually even in autofocus mode. The lens lacks internal focus so the front element moves forward and back slightly as the focus is adjusted. However, the front element does not rotate as you focus, making it easy to use this lens with polarizing filters.

Mechanical Construction

The Canon 85/1.2L has the kind of rugged mechanical construction that you would expect given the heavy chunks of glass inside. The lens lacks the rubber gasket around the all-metal mount that is typical of other L-series lenses, such as the 70-200/2.8 and 16-35/2.8. Do not expect better resistance to rain than you would get with an 85/1.8 or other non-L lens.

The lens barrel incorporates 8 elements of glass in 7 groups. One of those 8 glass elements is aspherical.

The diaphragm is an 8-blade design for nearly circular appearance in out-of-focus highlights. Filter size is 72mm and the clip-on ES-79 II hood is included.

The penalty for all of this quality is a shoulder-crushing weight of 1025g, more than 2 lbs. and twice as much as a Canon Digital Rebel body.


As digital camera bodies add more pixels, one wonders whether or not lens resolution will be the limit on image quality. At right is a studio test with the 85/1.2L at f/8, the aperture that produced the highest quality results on Canon's modulation transfer function graph (see link below). The body was the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, (compare prices) (review) set to "ISO L" (50) because we could not dial down the studio strobes sufficiently to use the native ISO 100 setting. The subject is Elsa Dorfman, Boston's best-known portrait photographer, with her 20x24" Polaroid camera.

Below is a crop from the original 21 megapixel image. The cropped image is presented at 100 percent, i.e., each pixel in the image below is one pixel from the camera. The crop image was filtered with Unsharp Mask at the following settings: 75 percent, 1 pixel radius, 0 threshold. It was then saved in .png format.

What's the limiting part of the imaging system here, the camera body or the 85/1.2L lens? Look at the lack of contrast and the softness of the "Fuji Photo Optical" lettering around the lens. These are not distortions that you would expect from the CMOS sensor in the 1Ds Mark III. These are typical problems that one expects at the resolution limit of a lens.


If your wallet and shoulder can't support the price and weight of the 85/1.2L lens, consider the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, (compare prices) (review). You lose one f-stop of speed, which means that you will need twice as much light, but the 85/1.8 is an excellent lens and balances better on the lighter digital bodies, such as the Rebel series.

If portraits are not the main objective of an assignment, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, (compare prices) (review) covers the 85mm focal length with superb image quality and image stabilization as well.

Alternatives in Other Systems

Nikon produces a very high quality 85/1.4 that is in between the Canon 85/1.2 and 85/1.8 in price and weight. There was a Pentax 85/1.4 lens, but it has been discontinued. Sony offers a relatively new 85/1.4 lens for their digital bodies. The Canon EOS lens mount is a bit larger than competitive lens mounts, which is why Canon has been able to produce crazy fast lenses such as the 50/1.0 and the 85/1.2.

How well does it work with the Digital Rebel?

This is an EF lens, illuminating an image circle large enough to cover a 24x36mm piece of film or the sensor in Canon's more expensive "full-frame" digital SLRs. The lens will work fine on a small-sensor body, but you will be carrying around ridiculously more glass than you need. On the plus side, the equivalent focal length will be closer to 130mm, which provides more telephoto compression of features and a greater working distance from the subject.

Would a 50/1.4 and a Digital Rebel work just as well?

Given that (1) a 50mm lens on a small sensor body gives the same perspective as a 75mm lens on a full-frame body, (2) a 75mm lens and an 85mm lens are awfully close in perspective, (3) an f1.4 lens is just as useful as an f/1.2 lens 95 percent of the time because it is so seldom that one wants to take pictures at f/1.2, and (4) a 50/1.4 and Digital Rebel body cost less than the 85/1.2L, ... why wouldn't a Digital Rebel and Canon 50/1.4 lens work just as well as an 85/1.2L lens on a full frame body?

For taking pictures in available light, the 50/1.4 and Digital Rebel would work reasonably well, with the caveat that a small sensor body will nearly always have more noise at high ISOs than a full-frame body. Where the 50/1.4 on a small sensor body is not equivalent to an 85mm lens used at f/1.4 on a full frame body is in depth of field. The 85mm lens at f/1.4 and 5' has a depth of field only +/- 0.5 inches. The 50mm lens at f/1.4 and 5' has a depth of field of +/- 1.5 inches. The dreamy look of the portrait may well be gone.

Where to Buy (or maybe rent?)

We're impatient, so we buy everything from amazon.com, (compare prices). If you have a specific short-term project that calls for a very fast 85mm lens and you didn't grow up on a money farm, consider renting from your local professional camera dealer. One of the great things about the Canon system is its popularity with professional photographers, which enables big city camera stores to run a rental business in the specialty lenses.



At f/2.8 the depth of field is still fairly shallow. The out of focus areas are smooth and not too distracting.

Handheld at f/4.5 and 1/160th, ISO 250 on an EOS 1Ds Mark III. Despite a bit of motion blur, there is enough detail in this full size JPEG to read nearly every word on the poster board.

f/8 and 1/250th on a sunny day at ISO 100. Look at the full size JPEG and scroll around to look at detail.

Boring Technical Details

Focal length 85 mm
Maximum aperture F1.2
Minimum aperture F16
Angle of view • Horizontal: 16°
• Vertical: 24°
• Diagonal: 28° - 30'
Lens construction 8 elements in 7 groups
Diaphragm blades 8
Closest focusing distance 95 cm (3 feet)
Maximum magnification 0.11x (not enough for tight head shot)
Distance information Yes
Image stabilizer none
AF actuator Ring USM (full-time manual focus built-in)
Filter diameter 72 mm
Dimensions (dia x len) 91.5 x 84 mm
Weight 1025 g (2.26 lb)
Max magnification with extension tubes EF 12 II: 0.25
EF 25 II: 0.45
Lens hood ES-79 II
Soft case LP1219
Extenders EF 1.4x II: Not compatible
EF 2.0x II: Not compatible

Text and pictures copyright 2008 Philip Greenspun

Article created February 2008

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

Vinu Yamunan , February 04, 2008; 01:11 P.M.

Nice review (as usual), Phil. The point about renting the lens is absolutely true. I have been able to use this lens in the past only because of rental companies and I have to hand it to them..

A plug for an excellent rental place for those in Texas (Dallas & Houston) Lighttec is an awesome resource for aspiring amateurs who can afford $25 per weekday or for the entire weekend and get to play with an 85mm f1.2L lens!

Thanks for the reviews!

yoni perlmutter , February 04, 2008; 02:01 P.M.

"The Canon EOS lens mount is a bit larger than competitive lens mounts, which is why Canon has been able to produce crazy fast lenses such as the 50/1.0 and the 85/1.2 . . . "

So how might this exlain the Nikkor 50/1.2 with it's smaller lens mount?

Joseph Wisniewski , February 04, 2008; 02:02 P.M.

I'd give the review an "A" for art, and an "F" for science.

I agree totally with your comments on the usefulness and the effects possible with this lens. But the review falls down in several places.

"Mounting an f/1.2 prime lens instead of a typical f/2.8 professional zoom will send six times as much light to the viewfinder, yielding roughly an apparent doubling of brightness."

A stock "bright screen" scatters so little light that the change in viewfinder brightness (and visible DOF) going from f2.8 to f1.2 is barely noticeable, not an "apparent doubling of brightness". The light from the outer portion of the lens's exit pupil just falls outside your eye's pupil. Even a "coarse ground" screen like Canon's Ee-S "super precision" or a KayzEye (wihtout OptiBrite) screen screen doesn't scatter light over a sufficient angle to result in an "apparent doubling". And those coarse ground screens are dimmer, to start with.

"The Canon EOS lens mount is a bit larger than competitive lens mounts, which is why Canon has been able to produce crazy fast lenses such as the 50/1.0 and the 85/1.2."

Nikon produced three quite servicable f1.2 lenses, the 50mm f1.2 (reasonable priced and pupular for its bokeh), the 55mm f1.2 (weakest of the three) and the 58mm f1.2 aspherical NOCT (discontinued, but so in demand that used ones are going for 4x what new ones did 5 years ago). The only lens that the Canon mount made possible was the "publicity stunt" 50mm f1.0. Form what I gather, there was only one production run of that lens, and it took Canon over 10 years to clear them out of the warehouse and distribution channel so that they could announce it was "discontinued".

A minor note, if you don't mind a manual focus lens, there's now a Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Planar available in Nikon F and Pentax K mounts. And the "new" Sony 85mm f1.4 is also branded "Zeiss", but a slightly different rar focusing design to permit autofocus (although they still label it a "Planar").

And, as Mark U pointed out on the discussion forums, the point about the small-sensor bodies is incorrect.

"The lens will work fine on a small-sensor body, but you will be carrying around ridiculously more glass than you need."

The size and weight of a telephoto is determined by the size of the front elements, which is determined by the aperture and focal length. As you move deeper into the lens, element size is influenced by the sensor size, but the elements are getting so much smaller in the rear that the difference is negligable.

Philip Greenspun , February 04, 2008; 03:13 P.M.

To the folks who asked about lens mount size... I'm not sure that you're thinking about the geometry. An f-number is a ratio. The fact that Canon can fit a 50/1.0 lens on the camera does not mean that it could make a 300/1.0. The f/1 aperture on a 50mm lens is much smaller than the f/1 aperture on a 300mm lens. The fact that Nikon can get a 50/1.2 to fit on the (rather small) F-mount does not mean that they could make an 85/1.2. f/1.2 at 85mm is much larger than f/1.2 at 50mm.

Joseph Wisniewski , February 04, 2008; 03:55 P.M.

Philip, I didn't actually "ask" about the lens mount; I'm pretty clear on the issue.

You're discussing the geometry of focal length and aperture. What matters in this situation is the geometry of the exit pupil and the rear element. Draw a sensor as a 43mm line (that's its diagonal). Now draw the lens rear element as a 45mm line (I'm doing this from memory, but that should be the biggest rear element that will fit through the EOS mount) 39mm from the sensor. (Canon and Nikon share a 39mm backfocus, that's as close as the rear element of the lens can come to the sensor without hitting the SLR mirror). And finally, draw a 50mm f1.0 lens as a "simple" lens (not retrofocus), a 50mm line, 50mm from the sensor line.

Notice how you can draw lines from the edges of the lens to the center of the sensor and they will totally clear the rear element of the lens. Lines to other points on the sensor will have just a tiny bit of vignetting.

Now draw a simple telephoto as a 300mm line, 300mm from the sensor. You can draw the same lines from edges of lens to the sensor, and get the same result. Ray cones targeting the center of the sensor have a totally clear aperture, but those targeting the edges of the sensor are slightly occluded because they go outside the area bounded by the rear element.

Even if you go to more realistic lens designs, retrofocus wides and slightly retrofocus normals, or conventional Galilean telephotos, you're still dealing with moving the exit pupil and scaling it, so you're always dealing with the f number as a ratio of pupil size to distance, and you always construct the clearance to the rear element the same way.

Hope this clears it up for you.

Philip Greenspun , February 04, 2008; 10:19 P.M.

Joseph: Your command of theory is impressive. We are left, however, with the fact that Nikon makes 50mm lenses as fast as f/1.2. Canon makes f/1.0. Nikon makes 85mm lenses as fast as f/1.4. Canon makes the 85/1.2. Canon seems to be able to get an extra 1/2 f-stop out of their max performance lenses. Perhaps they have accomplished this via some means other than their (indisputably) larger lens mount.

You have a very compelling theory about viewfinder brightness and say "going from f2.8 to f1.2 is barely noticeable". I set the 85/1.2L to f/2.8, push the depth of field preview button and have no trouble telling that the screen has become darker.

Vivek . , February 05, 2008; 01:57 A.M.


Canon made a 50/1 lens. Canon made a 200mm f/1.8 lens. Leica make a 50mm f/1 lens.

Your assumption on the Nikon F mount being "small" for fast lenses is incorrect.

I do have/use a 9.8cm f/1 lens (made for an aerial camera) on Nikon bodies. Yes, it does focus to infinity and the front elements are huge while the rear element is quite small.

Sample shot taken with a Nikon D70 at f/1:

Window light

Edit: In response to the later post of Joseph- Front element (not filter thread size) is 78mm, rear element 18mm (yeah!), conveniently arrived in a T-mount. So, the rear element is well clear of the F mount registry. Sydney Ray's book (ISBN: 0 240 51540 4) discusses various possibilities (not this particular lens).

Terry Smith , February 05, 2008; 06:53 A.M.

Canon had an 85/1.2 L in the FD series even though the lens mount was a bit narrower. And Canon had a 58/1.2 Super Canomatic R lens on the Canonflex in 1962 which was carried foward into the FL line a couple years later. The FD, FL and R lenses all had the same bayonet. The differences between them were the location and number of pins that projected from the back of each lens series. And remember that the Nikon F and Canon R-FL-FD mounts were designed about 30 years before the EF mount arrived.

I have had the EF 85/1.2L for over 10 years and it's truly an excellent portrait lens and has other interesting possibilities as well. I also have the Canonflex lens mentioned above and all the others up to 400/4.5. along with lots of other stuff to go with them.

Joseph Wisniewski , February 05, 2008; 08:33 A.M.

Vivek, that's both a beautiful shot and a fascinating concept. Can you tell me more about the lens? What is the rear element diameter, and how far is the rear element from the image plane at infinity focus?

Joseph Wisniewski , February 05, 2008; 09:12 A.M.

Philip, as Joe Richards pointed out, Canon also made the 85mm f1.2 in FD mount. On a thread about your review in the Canon forum, Fred C mentions that Zeiss also made a 50mm f1.2 in C/Y mount. Those mounts have the same restrictions on the size of the rear element and the allowable back focus as the Nikon F mount does. So, there are no issues with the F mount prohibiting an 85mm f1.2.

I don't consider f1.0 an issue, at all. As I pointed out, there was one production run of the Canon 50mm f1.0, and it took a decade to sell off that one run. If it were any more of a flop Canon would have had to melt them back down for their glass. If Nikon wanted to make an f1.0 lens, there are optical designs to reduce the rear element size (basically, a positive Galilaean system after the main lens). It's a pretty trivial expense, considering the cost of the front elements of the 50mm f1.0 (large, deeply curved, and every time you go up a stop, you double the precision requied in the lens grinding to maintain resolution). Topcon actually used this design in their 58mm f1.4 "UV Topcor" to reduce vignetting (it's a really weird lens, as I recall, the rear element is only about 22mm wide, when 35mm would have easily fit through their lens mount. I'll have to look at my specimine tonight).

But seeing the blazing success Canon had with their 50mm f1.0, and the fact that Nikon's own 50mm f1.2 sales lagged to the point where they discontinued the lens, I'm not expecting to see Nikon try for any f1.0 lenses. As I said, it was a publicity stunt, and these days, both Nikon and Canon are trying to make sure their publicity stunts are more "sellable" (Canon diffractive optics, Nikon's 200mm f2.0 and 14-24mm f2.8, for example).

As far as I'm concerned, taking a 1Ds and mounting both the Canon 85mm f1.2 and the Nikon 85mm f1.4 (with adapter), Nikon chose very wisely in making the 85mm f1.4 instead of a 1.2. Dismiss it as sample variation, if you like, but the only thing the Canon could do that the Nikon couldn't was open up to f1.2. The Nikon was the clear winner in terms of bokeh, sharpness, and contrast.

The thing that amazed me, until I read George Parris post, was how much faster the Nikon 85mm f1.4 on a Nikon D2X focuses than a Canon 85mm f1.2 on a 1D II. George mentions something I did not know, that the 85mm f1.2 is "unit focusing", the whole dang thing moves forward and back to focus, just like the older Canon FD version and the Zeiss C/Y version (and the older manual focus version of the Nikon 85mm f1.4). The AF versions of the Nikon, Sony, and Contax N 85mm f1.4 are all rear or internal focusing. Even with Nikon and Sony "screwdriver" AF, they move. Now, I don't know if making the Canon 85mm an f1.2 made the elements so thick that there isn't enough space between them for interal focusing, but it's a theory worth exploration...

Ilkka Nissila , February 05, 2008; 10:53 A.M.

These superfast lenses are usually inferior stopped down to their slower siblings. I am not sure if these lenses are made for rational reasons ;-) They're not a real alternative to the slower lenses for general purpose photography. When photographing wedding ceremonies in dim rooms, I think it is usually preferable to increase the sensitivity of the camera than use f/1.2. On the Nikon D3, an f/1.2 lens can be focused reliably accurately only by using Live View with zoom, in which case good results are possible provided that nobody moves. I cannot see any difference in the viewfinder image when stopping down from f/1.2 to f/2 but the difference between f/2 and f/2.8 is perceptible. Perhaps the Canon EOS 1 series focusing screens are different in this respect. When shooting at longer than close-up distances I think the maxium aperture is more useful and manageable, and autofocus can also be used effectively. I'm not against fast lenses by any means, but there is a sweet spot here and it's not f/1.2.

Philip Greenspun , February 05, 2008; 12:19 P.M.

Ilkka: Notice that I said "Canon has been able to produce crazy fast lenses" not "crazy good lenses". My goal in showing the images at different apertures was to underline the fact that f/1.2 requires such high precision focus as to be impractical for most real-life situations.

I hadn't tried your f/1.2 versus f/2 viewfinder experiment until just now. On the 1Ds Mark III, my experience is similar to yours with the Nikon D3. The difference is negligible between wide open and f/2. f/2.5 is the widest aperture where the viewfinder becomes significantly darker.

Sheldon Hambrick , February 05, 2008; 05:14 P.M.

"So how might this exlain the Nikkor 50/1.2 with it's smaller lens mount?"

A 50/1.2 is not a 50/1.0.

Jonny Mac , February 05, 2008; 06:29 P.M.

Ikka read some more reviews of this lens. For example, from Castleman: "At apertures wider than f/2.8, the f/1.8 (85mm) lens has slightly lower contrast and sharpness than the f/1.2L lens."

So, what you say may be true for most crazy fast lenses, but not this one. f/1.2 may not be the sweet spot, but for this lens it is pretty damn sweet. Until you have tried it you won't believe it. This lens is awesome at full aperture and stopped down.

Ken Schwarz , February 05, 2008; 08:08 P.M.

The pictures in the article do a great job showing what this lens is for. The difference between f/1.2 and f/1.8 or even f/1.4 is obvious, and is the main reason to buy it. The contrast is incredible, even wide open, lending an apparent sharpness even though little is actually in focus. It's a special effect, and one that you don't see all that frequently because it's so expensive and specialized. I think that this lens is a great reason to buy into the Canon system.

Vivek . , February 06, 2008; 02:02 A.M.

Agree with Ken. There is a HUGE difference between an f/1.4 and an f/1.2 lens in terms of image rendition and the ease/difficulty of using it for picture taking.

Michael Tuomey , February 07, 2008; 05:10 P.M.

also agree with ken regarding the special nature of this lens, but i have noticed significant chromatic aberration shooting from f1.2 to about f2.8 with the 85L. this is not so troubling with portrait use but it often is an issue for outdoor flower shots, for example. i enjoy my 85L but it's not without faults that seem inconsistent with its price.

Ken Schwarz , February 07, 2008; 09:47 P.M.

Yes, this lens (and many others in the Canon system--even "L" lenses) have chromatic aberration in out-of-focus high-contrast transitions. It's easy to see: just shoot some newsprint at f/1.2 and look at a 100% magnification. Text in the plane of focus will be black-and-white, as expected, but text in front and behind the plane of focus will have a strong green and magenta cast to the blur. You can see it in the article's shots if you look for it in the hi-res downloads. At normal magnification, it's usually not a problem, but it can be quite noticeable and even objectionable for high-contrast, outdoor shots, as Michael says.

Mubeen Mughal , March 02, 2008; 12:31 A.M.

Working with a Digital Rebel:

Well Phil, the lens doesn't change optically, so the perspective remains the same, it's just that we get a crop from an image that would have been a full-frame image, so everything else remains the same, except that the crop shows a "smaller portion - hence crop" of the would-have-been-full-frame image.

Also using a full-frame lens on a crop sensor doesn't magically multiply the focal length of the lens, unless the lens is specifically designed for a crop-sensor (eg. Canon's EFs 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 on a Rebel, which then does behave like a full frame 16-35mm on a full-frame.

Tim Street , March 02, 2008; 07:55 A.M.

I use the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM on My D-Rebel and for the money I get alot of bang for my buck. Now if I had one of the full frame sensor Digitals then the 85/1.2 L glass lens would be the perferred lens.

"Alternatives If your wallet and shoulder can't support the price and weight of the 85/1.2L lens, consider the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, $315 (review). You lose one f-stop of speed, which means that you will need twice as much light, but the 85/1.8 is an excellent lens and balances better on the lighter digital bodies, such as the Rebel series."

James Thomas , April 07, 2008; 02:48 P.M.

Very technical, most of which I do not understand, and don't want to. I use this lens as standard on one body, the other is permanently fitted with the 100-400mm. I use all sorts of other lenses but I do like the 85mm. True it's heavy, slow to focus and a bundle of money - but the results are really rather good, to the extent that my local pro-lab have commented on it recently! I've tried the Tamron 90mm DI macro, which feels too light and small - especially on a 1VHS - and is very noisy when focusing but produces good images, but you just can't get away from the build quality and the general smooth action of this thing.

Ed Rodgers , June 18, 2008; 02:31 P.M.

I have recent experience with the 5D and various focusing screens.

The stock screen is etched so that it is equivalent to f/2.5. Pattern in the screen actually "stops down" the image. Any wider makes 0 brightness difference. (and 0 focus difference, hence the need for the precision focus version.) With other screens, (I.E. the 'S' precision focusing screen, or also a true ground glass screen), wider apertures do make a difference. Look through the front of the lens with the stock screen and observe the circle that is close to where the aperture blades are at f/2.8.

1D and 1Ds stock screens may vary.

J. Harrington USA (Massachusetts) , December 17, 2008; 06:38 P.M.

I understand the 85MM 1.2 is sometimes bought specifically for astrophotography.

I'd like to hear responses from anyone who has used it for such.

I've done astrophotography with the Sigma 20MM 1.8 and my Canon 50MM 1.8.

Wide open, both of those show flaring of stars (points of light turning to blobs of light) especially in the corners.

Otto Haring , August 21, 2009; 10:14 P.M.


It is a nice review. However I would add that the lens has some back-front focusing issues. I have a it on a Canon 5D and sometimes pictures are totally out of focus. My Canon 28-70 or 17-40 never had this kind of problem...Any suggestion? I have a few examles at www.usafromabove.com Furthermore, it is a heavy lens!!! :):):)

Otto Haring , September 17, 2009; 04:18 P.M.

I would like to correct my previous post. Actually, the focusing issue was my fault. It took me several weeks until I finally learned how to use this lens. Disregard my previous comments. I was an idiot! It is a killing lens!!!! You can see the pictures it produces on my site. http://www.haringphotography.com Look for the blond girl and the guy on the beach in the engagement session. The wide lens was the 35L but the others belong to the 85L 1.2 I hope it helps.

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Paul Marbs , June 14, 2010; 08:20 A.M.

 "On the plus side, the equivalent focal length will be closer to 130mm, which provides more telephoto compression of features and a greater working distance from the subject. "

Not true. It just crops the image. If anything telephoto compression is reduced as you would have to back up to gain the same FOV as a FF sensor.

Leo Jonkers , September 16, 2010; 10:20 P.M.

A nice review, but you say the following : "On the plus side, the equivalent focal length will be closer to 130mm, which provides more telephoto compression of features and a greater working distance from the subject."

Greater working distance OK, but more telephoto compression is false. A crop camera crops, that is the only difference. It gives you more DOF, the crop factor X the F value. An F2.8 on 1.6 crop-factor camera gives you an DOF F2.8 x 1.6= F4,48. But it does not compress the 85 mm into a 130 mm.

Ozkan Ozmen , January 17, 2014; 09:16 A.M.

Thank you for this excellent review.
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

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