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FORUMS Gear Reviews Lens Reviews 
Thread started 04 Apr 2015 (Saturday) 13:24
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TOGGLE RATINGS BETWEEN ALL AND Hatch1921 (showing now: Hatch1921)
Overall Rating9.5
Overall Image Quality9.5
Value for Money8
Bokeh10
Sharpness9.5
Contrast9.5
Focusing9.5
Must Have8.5
Suitability to Intended Use10
Got What I Expected10
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List all reviews of Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, reviewed by Hatch1921

 
Hatch1921
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Post edited over 6 years ago by Hatch1921. (5 edits in all)
     
Apr 04, 2015 13:24 |  #1


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***Older review but still holds true today***


The 85L MKII is a very solid chunk of glass to say the least. However, the front element is no larger than the 135L or other 72mm sized lenses. It’s more of an illusion than anything. The weight, on the other hand, is not an illusion. It weighs in at 2 and 1/4 pounds. Add the weight of the 85L with the weight of your camera body and possibly a grip… and things start to get heavy. I do not find the weight to be a problem. The lens as mentioned is super solid feeling in your hands.

This lens has to have one of the smoothest focusing rings I’ve ever experienced on any lens. It’s almost to the point of feeling loose, but it really isn’t, it’s just super smooth. This truly helps when you want to manual focus the lens.


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Scary looking isn’t it… the back mount? To be honest, mounting the lens to the camera freaks me out a little, something I will have to get used to over time I suppose. Being exposed like it is, I take extra caution when mounting the lens to the camera body. The thought of scratching it makes me cringe. None of my other lenses worry me... this one… does. Just something to think about when you buy the lens… be careful.

IMAGE: http://www.hatch1921.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/0031.jpg

On to the meat and potatoes shall we. I’ve owned the Canon 85 F/1.8 lens twice now, and I enjoyed it while I had it. It’s a very nice lens, and if you are in the market for an 85mm, and the 85L is out of the range of your budget; I highly recommend it.

Prior to making the 85L purchase I bought the new Sigma 85mm F/1.4. I’m not opposed to third party lenses. I own the Sigma 50mm F/1.4 and the Sigma 180mm macro. I love them both. I had hoped the Sigma 85mm F/1.4 was going to do just about everything the Canon 85L could do or close to half the price.

Well… as luck would have it, I got a bad copy. I spent several days trying to micro adjust the camera to the lens. I had no luck at all. The lens showed erratic focusing issues. I sent it back to B&H Photo for a refund. Which I might add, was super easy as their customer service is topnotch in my book. I just didn’t have the confidence or the time/patience to buy another Sigma, test it, and hope it would perform. I needed the lens to be a winner right at the start. From the images I’ve seen being produced from other Sigma owners, the lens can be great.

I bit the bullet so to speak and purchased the 85L MKII. As I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, I had rented the MKI version of this lens and was not overly impressed with the performance. My thoughts have changed significantly since the purchase of the MKII version.

Performance
We all have our reasons for buying the lenses we own. In low light, you want a fast lens, something which will gather light and help you keep the shutter speeds up while taking the shots. Being this is an F/1.2 lens, it sucks in the light like no other. The bokeh, color, contrast, and how the lens resolves the images really stood out to me. The image below is from a recent session. It was shot at F/2.8 in the client's backyard. The trees in the background were distracting but knowing this lens. I could put the focus on her by shooting at a wide aperture. If I were to take this shot again, I would have either taken one step back to increase the depth or field, or I would have shot it at F/3.2 to make sure all the face were in focus. Notice how the nose is just slightly out of the focal plane. Still… I think it’s an acceptable image, and I kept it.

IMAGE: http://www.hatch1921.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/f_2_8_full.jpg

100% crop

IMAGE: http://www.hatch1921.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/f_2_8.jpg


It’s hard to describe how well this lens focuses. When the focus locks, it really locks on. It sounds strange typing this or describing it this way, but the lens just hits. It’s super sharp as well, and as I mentioned previously, the color/contrast the lens captures is outstanding.

It’s not all perfect and there is one of a couple of issues, which is not unique to this lens. It's the CA or Chromatic Aberration. Notice in the shot above, her eyelashes, see the purple fringe creeping in? This is something, which can be handled in post, but it’s something you should be aware of. I think there have been improvements made to the MK2 version of this lens as it handles CA fairly well compare to the MK1 version. What you see above isn’t all that bad.
IMAGE: http://www.hatch1921.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/f1_2_full.jpg


This shot was taken @F/1.2 and very little of the image is in focus. Shooting wide open a couple of things you need to know. It’s difficult to shoot. The depth of field is so shallow it’s significant to square the eyes / face to the camera if you want both eyes in focus. Shooting technique (I’m still working on) is important as well. A solid base and controlled breathing will help.

For example… taking a shot with the Canon 5D2 at 5ft from the subject, shooting F/1.2 the total depth of field is .07 feet. So… any movement from your subject or if you move will cause you to miss the shot. Increasing your distance and cropping in post can over come some of the challenges if you have the headroom in post. Although very usable at F/1.4, I find shooting from F/1.6 on up to be more flexible.

IMAGE: http://www.hatch1921.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/f1_2.jpg


You can see now @ F/1.2 the CA is really pronounced. Lots of purple creeping in the eyelashes and even on the skin. She is fairly pale so it shows more here.


Final thoughts

So why would I choose this lens over another 85mm? I like having the ability to shoot at F/1.2 and I like the images being usable at F/1.2 I was never really satisfied with the Canon F/1.8 lens until I started to shoot from about F/2.5 on up.

Details/resolving power. The lens is sharp and just picks up all the details. It’s almost like shooting with a macro lens…almost. I think the colors the lens captures/produces are better than the Canon F/1.8. Again, if you own the Canon F/1.8 or are thinking about buying it, I like the lens, it’s great for what it does. I just think about the work I do and what the 85L offers, it’s a better choice for me. Color/contrast….the lens like my Canon 135L captures rich colors, and the images just come to life.

All the 85mm’s have CA issues. All have strengths and weaknesses. You just have to figure out which lens fits your shooting style.
All in all, it’s a large amount of money to invest into a lens but for me, it’s been well worth it. My Canon 135L was my baseline lens which I compared all other lenses to when it came to color/contrast/sharpne​ss and now I can say the Canon 85L F/1.2 MKII has all but replaced it as the winner in my lens bag.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d be happy to share some more thoughts with you about the lens.

Hatch


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PCousins
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May 09, 2015 17:31 |  #2

Again another great review and some excellent shots. I own this lens and agree with all your statements. It does take a while getting used to because of the VERY thin DoF when shooting near or wide open.

Was much more pleased with the results after I mfa'd the lens to my camera bodies. Yes CA can be a problem but can easily be sorted in PP.

Shooting this wide open at f/1.2 sucks in the light like no other. On Sunny days you will find that you will be at a shutter speed of 1/8000 and your shots will be over exposed. I use Neutral Density filters either ND4, ND6. I use Hoya Pro 1 series, reasonably priced and work well. What works well for me is using the centre auto-focus point, focussing on the eyes. Having the camera set up also for Back button focussing.

The 85L2 provides a distinct look that cannot be matched, not only in bokeh, but in the colors as well. It is a wonderful lens and although mean’t primarily for portrait work I use mine for all occasions. I love this lens and highly recommend it and agree with HATCH1921's ratings, just needs some getting use to. Practice Practice Practice.




  
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Hatch1921
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May 10, 2015 15:17 |  #3

PCousins wrote in post #17549859 (external link)
Again another great review and some excellent shots. I own this lens and agree with all your statements. It does take a while getting used to because of the VERY thin DoF when shooting near or wide open.

Was much more pleased with the results after I mfa'd the lens to my camera bodies. Yes CA can be a problem but can easily be sorted in PP.

Shooting this wide open at f/1.2 sucks in the light like no other. On Sunny days you will find that you will be at a shutter speed of 1/8000 and your shots will be over exposed. I use Neutral Density filters either ND4, ND6. I use Hoya Pro 1 series, reasonably priced and work well. What works well for me is using the centre auto-focus point, focussing on the eyes. Having the camera set up also for Back button focussing.

The 85L2 provides a distinct look that cannot be matched, not only in bokeh, but in the colors as well. It is a wonderful lens and although mean’t primarily for portrait work I use mine for all occasions. I love this lens and highly recommend it and agree with HATCH1921's ratings, just needs some getting use to. Practice Practice Practice.


Many thanks... glad you enjoyed the review. It's a fantastic lens! I would like to try the Zeiss Otus...when I win the lottery :)

Thanks again,
Hatch



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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, reviewed by Hatch1921
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