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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

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181 298474 Nov 9, 2015
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93% of reviewers $1,776.88
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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.



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Registered: Mar 29, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 973
Review Date: Nov 9, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,425.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Beautiful color, contrast and boken.
Extremely heavy, slow AF and expensive.

The images produced by this lens are beautiful, especially when shot at F2.8 or faster. One must remember that the DOF at such apertures are razor thin and AF cannot be relied upon if you don't hit the AF point accurately. The colors and contrast produced straight out of camera are breathtaking.

Nov 9, 2015
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Registered: Oct 25, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 364
Review Date: Sep 12, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp at all apertures Nice color balance with some pop Contrast Pleasant bokeh
Slow focus Narrow DOF

Sharp at all apertures. If you nail focus at f1.2, you can see that it's sharp, even at the borders. At f2 and faster, the bokeh is beautiful and pleasant with almost any background. Not distracting like some lenses. Color is well balanced and contrasty.

There is some magic with this lens. Friends looking at my photos keep telling me how great my photos are but I have to give credit to this lens.

One negative is that the focusing is slow and you really need to think ahead.

This is a really fun lens to use

Sep 12, 2015
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Registered: Oct 31, 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 108
Review Date: Jun 17, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: SHARP, beautiful colors, contrast, & BOKEH!, Excellent build quality
Slowish AF (But fast compared to the version 1), manual focus only when on a camera that's powered on, No weather sealing. CA (Potentially more than the first?)

This is one of my new favorite lenses. I love the look that it produces. The images are sharp and have pretty good contrast wide open, with beautiful Bokeh. The colors are beautiful, and match all of my other L lenses (16-35L, 24-70L, 70-200L, 100-400L, 24L, 35L) I don't know how Canon does it, but all the L's match, and all of them look beautiful.

Build quality is phenomenal. It really is build like a tank, and feels really great in the hand. I've shot with this on a 5D, and a 1DS, and it is amazing on both. I only wish it was weather sealed.

AF speed is relatively slow, but compared to the original (which I've used), it is much much faster. The original couldn't even track someone walking toward the camera at a regular speed, where as the version II usually has no problem. I've photographed people running and people cycling with decent results. The AF does seem faster on the 1D series cameras than the 5D. Perhaps this is due to the higher voltage battery used in the 1D series cameras? Its a lot of glass to move back and forth, and you can hear some sliding, but it is relatively silent.

Manual focusing with this lens is very interesting as it is focus by wire. It is much more responsive than the version 1, and actually is quite nice to use. The focus ring is buttery smooth. Only problem is that the lens requires power to focus, meaning it has to be on a camera body that is turned on and providing power to the lens.

The subject isolation ability of this lens, and the bokeh are fabulous. I love to pair this lens with the 35L. The 85L blows the 85mm f/1.8 USM out of the water in almost every regard (except AF speed where the f/1.8 is much faster)

This lens excels at portrait work, but is a lot of fun for street photography too!

Sample images: (1DSII, f/1.2) (1DSII, f/1.2) (1DSII, f/1.2) (1DSII, f/1.4) (1DSII, f/1.2) (1DSII, f/1.2)

Jun 17, 2015
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Registered: Feb 6, 2015
Location: Canada
Posts: 0
Review Date: Feb 6, 2015 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Large aperture, Bokeh, Focus Accuracy, Focal length more usable.
Open rear element

Here is a review from a happy daddy, who bought the lens mainly shoot against the kid for fun.

I bought it second hand in a great discount. After this purchase, I sold the 85/1.8. Now this is the lens sticking with my 6D camera.

When I used 85/1.8, I felt I still need a flash for the baby when shooting indoor at night with home lighting, because the ISO easily going up to 6400. With this lens, flash is not needed. This is the main reason I keep it. You don't want to use flash against the kid if you shoot at him very often.

Focus is accurate. After MFA, it's very sharp wide open.

With AI Servo mode, there is a hit rate for the moving kid. If he just sitting still, then the One Shot mode with continuous drive would be better. This is not an action lens, Ai Servo mode makes sense for slow moving kid, not for running, not for standing still.

The only thing I have to mention is, the habit is something difficult to change. When you install the lens to the camera, don't do it as you did with other lenses. Hold it over the mount, turn while not in touch, until it accurately matches. Don't put and spin to match.

Feb 6, 2015
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Registered: Dec 20, 2014
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 21
Review Date: Dec 20, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, DOF, bokeh, blur, size, looks
Focus speed, COMA

This lens is a real beast! It is big, it is heavy and has a huge front element (for its relatively compact size).

The people who use this lens are probably portrait shooters or wedding photographers. This lens is one of the best portrait lenses Canon offers.
It has a pretty low contrast which is not a bad thing at all. It is great for the skin tones.

The sharpness is already great at the wide open 1.2 aperture and will be getting sharper when stopped down. I think the sharpest aperture is around f/3.2. The maximum closed aperture is f/16. at 2.8 the 85LII is a tiny bit sharper then the well beloved 70-200LII.

The best thing about this lens is the part which ain't even sharp... the bokeh or the out of focus areas. This lens delivers an absolute great separation with outstanding bokeh (subjective). At 1.2 the depth of field is really thin which sets your object or person apart from everything else.

The IQ of this lens is absolutely stunning. The only part where this lens lacks in IQ is the amount of purple fringing which is pretty bad for a lens this expensive.

For some people it is quite hard to nail the focus with this lens. Focus and recomposing could end up in an out of focus photo because lens movements and the small depth of field.
The focus is extremely accurate, but also very slow. You can shoot sports with this lens, but you will probably be better of with a faster focussing lens like the cheaper 85/1.8 and 135/2.0

This lens is mostly used by portrait and professional wedding photographers who are shooting in low light or wants to create a beautiful out of focus background.

The 85LII is not for everyone. It's expensive it's slow focussing and it could be hard to nail the focus, but if you nail the focus right and you shoot at a wide aperture the results could be absolutely stunning.

Take a look at photos made with a FF camera and the 85LII lens, it is capable of creating stunning images!

Canons alternatives for this lens are: 85/1.8, 135/2.0L, 200/2.8L, 70-200/2.8L, and the pricey 200/2.0L
Other alternatives are: Sigma 85/1.4 Zeis, Otus 85/1.4, Samyang 85/1.4

Dec 20, 2014
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Registered: Oct 6, 2010
Location: Australia
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 23, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: F1.2 performance, sharpness, bokeh
slow autofocus, electronic manual focus, focus ring lacks damping

I bought this lens to be my definitive portrait lens for use at all types of photo shoots. I use it with both a Canon 7D and 5D III, and for most jobs use it in combination with a 35mm f/1.4.

This is a love hate lens for me. Optically it produces really beautiful results. It can be tack sharp even at f/1.2, has a beautiful quality to it's bokeh and rendering of colour and texture, and has a great focal length for portraiture.

On the downside it is very difficult to handle, and difficult to focus. It's short length and considerable weight make it and the camera feel unbalanced. The rear element is completely flush to the mounting ring, meaning changing lenses is a stressful exercise when on location. The slightest mistake would mean scratching or chipping the edges of the rear element. Autofocus is slow and somewhat unreliable, and the manual focus ring lacks damping, and has a lag between when you move it and the internal optics move into position (as the focus is electronic and not mechanical).

The lens is difficult to focus. So much so that I returned it to Canon for calibration thinking it might have a fault (it was returned with a note saying there was nothing wrong). On my 7D autofocus is a very hit and miss affair, and I often resort to live view focus where it is more accurate. On the 5D III autofocus is more reliable, but still with the speed of the focus being very slow and such a small depth of field, it can be very difficult to use (especially for portraiture of children or other things that move).

I'm not quite sure why Canon had to compromise so much in the design of this lens to achieve the result it has. Many other lenses come close in length and aperture without things like electronic focus and flush rear elements. Still, the lens is unique in the beauty of the results it produces, and I have not come across anything with which I would want to replace it.

Most images on my individual portrait gallery page were shot with this lens (and many from the other galleries on my website also):

Nov 23, 2014
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Registered: Feb 17, 2009
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 12, 2014 Recommend? | Price paid: Not Indicated

Pros: Sharp, amazing bokeh, nice colors, hard contrast
Slow af, strange lenshood, expensive

I own this lens and the Sigma 85 1.4.

I would recommend the Sigma above the 85 1.2L II because the price and the quality.
But this lens you have the budget and if bokeh and weather sealing is important. Otherwise GO for the Sigma. The AF is a lot slower than the sigma but for my feeling more accurate.
The Sigma has a little less bokeh, not a well build like the L, but beats a lot of other professional lensen and has a fast AF!

On my page al zoomed pictures from september are made with this piece of art!

This lens costs too much, is too heavy, too slow but the quality makes it one of my favourite lenses!

Nov 12, 2014
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Registered: May 18, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 101
Review Date: Aug 20, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Vibrancy, bokeh, sharpness wide open.
Weight, manual focus by wire, sorta crappy lens hood

Fabulous lens. I have used it for live dance for a long time. It absolutely will not focus from macro to infinity quickly - but with a little preparation it behaves quite nicely with multiple modes of Servo tracking. It was used with my 1Ds M3 for years and upgrading to the 1DX pretty much removed my gripes.

Low light and ridiculous high contrast stage lighting is the environment. The lens eats the settings alive.

Highly recommended for low light settings when you need fast in addition to high ISO.

I've used it as a portrait lens, but as that comprises so little of my work I'll leave it to others to tell me how slowly it focuses ;-)

Some examples of how the lens is used can be found here...

Aug 20, 2014
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Registered: Jan 8, 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 1604
Review Date: Jul 31, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: aperture, Bokeh, Contrast, color rendition,
Af speed thats about it, Rear element can easily be scratched.

The lens is a MONSTER. It's short fat and heavy. The AF speed and the rear element are really the only downfalls I see about the lens. If you have static subjects you'll love this lens. The lens can make any background vanish.

Jul 31, 2014
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Registered: Mar 28, 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 154
Review Date: Feb 13, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Great portrait lens, specifically designed as such. Smooth contrast, very flattering for portraits.
Slow focus, big and heavy, expensive, not as sharp wide open as I would like.

I have a love/hate relationship with this lens. On the one hand it is a great portrait lens, both for the shallow depth-of-field one can achieve by using its large apertures, and also due to the fact that its contrast seems to be perfect for skin tones. It is a tad bit soft in that regard (contrast-wise) and faces, especially if the subject matter has a lot of blemishes and/or wrinkles can look wonderful when photographed with this lens.
Aside from that I do not agree with the general opinion that it is ultra sharp wide open. It just is not. To me, while it is acceptable wide open there is a big difference once it is stopped down to at least F2.
It is also very slow to focus, big, and heavy for what it is.
Unless you want this lens specifically for portraits, you just may be better served by the 85 F1.8 Canon lens as that one is 1/5 the price, smaller, lighter and focuses MUCH faster. I have done comparisons and find that aside from the contrast, they perform very similarly.

Feb 13, 2014
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Registered: Dec 10, 2013
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 0
Review Date: Dec 10, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,900.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Extremely sharp, wonderful bokeh, very precise AF, great colors and contrast
Quite expensive, speciality lens, slow AF, electronic AF, not weather sealed, rear element can easily be scratched

The 85mm 1.2 clearly isn't for everyone.

Sure it has an amazing bokeh, it renders colors and contrast like no other lens, it's AF is very precise and it sharpness... let's say it's sharp like no other lens. If you shoot fashion with it you will spend a little more time in Photoshop because it so sharp!

However it comes with a few flaws… It seems like a very solid lens but it's not even weather sealed and the rear element is right on the surface of the lens (no border). It makes it very easy to scratch when mounting the lens.
Then there is the AF system. It's very precise (it'd better be when focusing at f/1.2) but slowish. If you need to focus from infinity to the closest distance, it will take about 1-2 seconds. With almost 2lbs of glass to move it is easy to understand why it's not so fast… Though it can be annoying if you shoot fast paced subjects (weddings, sports, events, etc.). Add to this fact that the AF is electronic (can't be used when the camera is switched off and no "mechanic feeling/response" when turning the focus ring) and you see why so many don't like the focus system of the 85mm L.

It surely is a wonderful lens. It's just not for everyone. I love to use it for on location portraits (crazy isolation/bokeh) and for studio work (very sharp and great color/contrast rendering).

Here's a recent engagement session I shot almost entirely with it (a few of the pictures are shot with a 24-70 2.8):

Dec 10, 2013
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Registered: Jun 13, 2003
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 53
Review Date: Jul 27, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,395.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp, sharp, sharp ....
Weight, cost. Purple fringing.

I read lots of reviews, hired a copy and then bought one.

I love it. It is silly sharp with a silly shallow DoF which is great to take 'different' shots. Colour and contrast are superb. Focus speed is not too bad really- just don't use it for sports. It is certainly far faster than a 180 macro !

Yes, it weighs a bit but balances well on a 5D3 without the need for the BG-E11 grip.

Beware of the rear element - it is level with the back of the casing and vulnerable to damage. The focus is electric so only works when camera on.

It is a specialist lens which makes you think - it is great. I bought it along with a 50 f1.2 and 135 f2 to try and stop using zooms for a bit Smile

Jul 27, 2013
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Registered: Jan 28, 2006
Location: Italy
Posts: 13
Review Date: Apr 4, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, brokeh,
Apr 4, 2013
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Registered: Apr 23, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 279
Review Date: Apr 3, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent contrast, great color rendition, tact sharp, lovely Bokeh,
Slow to rack focus moving from one subject to the other, a bit weighty

The Canon 85mm 1.2 L in short is a great lens. It's great because it has excellent contrast and color rendition, the colors are well balanced and look great. It also has beautiful bokeh (the shape of the out of focus areas). When stopped down to 1.2 the area of focus is hairline thin that even though eyes are in focus mouth and nose can be out of focus.

Now onto the slow focusing this lens isn't a point and focus on every subject right away type of lens, you have to find its sweet spot or in other words stay at a certain distance and take the shots you want. Many say it's slow because for it to rack focus or pull focus from one subject to another at different distances it has to shift a lot of glass and that does take a few secs which for many is too slow. So at it's sweet spot it's fast and I love it.

This was shot at the sweet spot (within 2secs of me seeing it)

The 85mm 1.2L gets a 10 in my book!!

Apr 3, 2013
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Registered: Oct 8, 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 13
Review Date: Mar 3, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,999.00

Pros: With me, none.
Very, very heavy. Abysmally slow AF. Front focusing. Hood mounted to front lens group. Electronic manual focusing has no tactile feedback. No automatic retraction of front lens when turning-off camera. Lens did not work on my 5D Mark III.

Hello! I started photographing in 1962 (nineteen sixty-two) while in the 7th grade. I was 13 years old and used a Rolliecord TLR and a Weston light meter. So, yup, I'm old (63). What I didn't realize was that that moment in time was the beginning of a life-long love of photography which resulted in my using a myriad of equipment and taking thousands of film photos.

I know what this lens is capable of producing via internet postings on this site. I read of its foibles was positive that given my skill set that those issues could be handled. What I truly discovered was that it's a fully compromised piece of glass from a mechanical sense. Having had many Nikon and Zeiss lenses, as well as some medium grade 3rd party glass, I'm familiar with how to use each type. No problem.....

What was surprising was that it did NOT work properly after being mounted on my camera: it grossly underexposed every shot that I took, regardless of where the photo was taken as well as the lighting condition (really dark settings excluded). I checked ALL of my settings on my camera; all were nominal. This lens is in Canon's listing of recognized lenses (of course) and that registration was shown in the camera's menu. So, I remounted a Canon 50mm f/1.8 (original version-still registered...) and all was perfect. Hmmmmm.... I checked the manufacturing date and it was August 2012--so, all okay from that standpoint.

Although the above problem could have been from user error, I'm inclined to think not, as I've been using many types of digital cameras since 2007 and have never had this problem.

Given the L series of lenses and the quality control that is required, I'm sure that it passed all of their tests. So, the reason for it not producing a properly exposed image with my Mark III is perplexing.

In conclusion, I'm exchanging it for Canon's 35mm f/1.4 USM. It is a very different type of lens perspective, but from what I have read here it's a gem.

I wish that this lens was a keeper, as I think that 85mm is a great focal length for many types of shooting. I'll have to check-out Canon's other 85mm listing(s).

Mar 3, 2013
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Registered: Jan 24, 2013
Location: Australia
Posts: 8
Review Date: Feb 23, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Tack sharp from F1.2. Build quality, Bokeh.
fly by wire focus can be incredibly slow to focus. No weather sealing.

I recently hired one of these gems to do a birthday party for a niece of mine. As many others have said, the AF is slow, so slow it's almost painful. To me it makes the 50 F1.2 AF feel like a race car in comparison.

For portraits it's not a problem, it locks on and the photo's are stunning, tack sharp with wonderful colour renditions and beautiful bokeh.

Candid portraits on the other hand - especially young ones who like to randomly and spontaneously go from 0 to 100 mph in a blink of an eye I found far more tricky, almost frustrating, but as with portraits, if and when the focus locks on you usually nail the shot.

I found the weight of the lense to compliment the body (5d mark 3) rather than throw it out of balance like some lenses do.

I've read complaints about where the red alignment dot is located, and whilst it's not in the most convenient of places, I think you'd have to be a butcher to scratch or mark the rear element given it's slightly recessed below the mounting ring.

Would I purchase this lense? Absolutely, once the funds allow for it.

Feb 23, 2013
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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
181 298474 Nov 9, 2015
Recommended By Average Price
93% of reviewers $1,776.88
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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