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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

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177 282464 Dec 20, 2014
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93% of reviewers $1,784.94
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9.72
7.93
9.6
85II

Specifications:
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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Bonbridge
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Registered: Dec 20, 2014
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 3
Review Date: Dec 20, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp, DOF, bokeh, blur, size, looks
Cons:
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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wadefr
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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
Cons:
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):

http://www.ashleyphotography.com.au/individuals.html







Nov 23, 2014
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aestiva
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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
Cons:
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 http://facebook.com/totaalfotografie 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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chmod
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Registered: May 18, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 66
Review Date: Aug 20, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Vibrancy, bokeh, sharpness wide open.
Cons:
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...

http://www.idyll.com/8512









Aug 20, 2014
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Dpedraza
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Registered: Jan 8, 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 797
Review Date: Jul 31, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,500.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: aperture, Bokeh, Contrast, color rendition,
Cons:
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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Jay968
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Registered: Mar 28, 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 96
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.
Cons:
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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dkyeah
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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
Cons:
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): http://quentindecaillet.com/blog/4123-photographe-mariage-vaud-laura-samuel-engagement-cully-lavaux.html


Dec 10, 2013
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John57
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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 ....
Cons:
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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Leican
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Registered: Jan 28, 2006
Location: Italy
Posts: 9
Review Date: Apr 4, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, brokeh,
Cons:
Heavy
Apr 4, 2013
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dantewaters
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Registered: Apr 23, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 166
Review Date: Apr 3, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent contrast, great color rendition, tact sharp, lovely Bokeh,
Cons:
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)
http://500px.com/photo/28802861

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


Apr 3, 2013
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clickclack
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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.
Cons:
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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fingerling69
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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.
Cons:
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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kezeka
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Registered: Feb 18, 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 1584
Review Date: Jan 26, 2013 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: superb bokeh/sharpness/color/contrast, can take images with a full moon and ISO6400 if you have a streetlight within a few blocks. Nails focus every time.
Cons:
Slow AF. And I mean seriously slow. I have seen sloths move faster than this AF.

This lens is always a mixed bag of chips for me. On the one hand, it takes flipping phenomenal photos if you subject will stay still long enough for the AF to lock on. Hell, even if they don't the image will still look amazing. Even at f/1.2 it is plentifully sharp - at f/2.0 its a razer-blade corner to corner. You will never think to yourself "I could use more subject isolation" at f/1.2. It makes easy work of portraits - aim for the eyes and kiss the wrinkles on most of the face goodbye (and the background). You will be able to take pictures using a single candle for a light source at night, embarrassing all of your friends trying to use their lesser lenses to get that amazing night shot. Hell - this is THE available light lens to have.

So whats the drawback? The disgustingly "deliberate" AF. I have found it less frustrating on a 1DIII body than a 5DII. Even on a good day, it takes some work to nail focus on a moving subject with this lens. You learn to anticipate it and find tricks to get it to lock on, but there are still a not-insignificant number of out-of-focus shots after I use this lens for events. When people come up with kind terms like "deliberate" to describe a lenses AF - know that they mean "sometimes I want to throw this lens out a window because it is SO SLOW to focus." For those of you thinking that you can manually focus this lens faster keep in mind that it uses focus by wire technology that lags ever so slightly behind your movements with the focusing ring (read: frustrating).

Also, the lens hood latches on to the rotating focusing ring. Because this lens is full-time manual focus override capable, you can't rest the hood on an object unless you keep REALLY still (the depth of field at 1.2 will be thrown off if you breath).

So then, why do I use this lens more than any other? It nukes backgrounds and creates the most amazing subject isolation of any lens I have used (no, I haven't used the 200 f/2.0). Nothing else is able to produce images quite like it in my experience. Even if the AF is slow, I just overshoot events with it so that I know I have at least one frame in focus. It is a great lens, it just isn't for everyone.

Sample photos:
http://smu.gs/X0y23I
Subject isolation:
http://smu.gs/14hRLl0
Portrait:
http://smu.gs/14hRVsB
Scenery (mountain w/ polarizer):
http://smu.gs/14hSliD


Jan 26, 2013
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Vancouver47
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Registered: Sep 24, 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 395
Review Date: Nov 25, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,850.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Produces isolation with beautiful backgrounds in a way no other lens can quite match.
Cons:
Heavy, slow to focus on all but the 1Dx and likely the 5D3. Flimsy hood. Cameras must be on to retract the front element to put it away.

I had not considered adding a review for the 85L II while I was using it on a 5D and 1D4, slow AF and inconsistent AF were a problem for me, particularly with portraiture. I mostly used it as a walk around lens. I know that seems odd, but I found that quite mundane still life scenes could be made far more interesting with the lenses ability to isolate an interesting element of the scene.

The 1Dx AF (and I assume the 5D3 AF) have changed all that. AF is much faster and more accurate. AI-servo is definitely useable now, which allows me to use it at parties and receptions in a way that used to produce 20% keepers for me, but now well over 50%. Hand held wide open with people moving around was not a strong suit for this lens in my hands. It is now with the 1Dx.

As an aside, I would highly recommend using Tape's FocusTune software to set MA for this lens. I never could quite settle on a correct MA with the FocusAlign alone. There is no doubt now and MA is clearly +2 compared to the uncertain +5 to +7 before (1Dx). I haven't reset MA on the 1D4 yet. The 5D front focuses a bit.


Nov 25, 2012
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vscd
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Registered: Sep 3, 2012
Location: Germany
Posts: 5
Review Date: Sep 3, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Nice Bokeh and sharpness from f1.2 on.
Cons:
No sealing, electronical focus only and heavy lateral CA.

I just wanted to add some notes to the review from Dawei Ye:
>Canon has historically struggled implementing IS on fast primes
>and only since 2012 has IS been implemented on a prime lens
>below 200mm focal length

That's not true. The 100mm 2.8L Macro is a nice portraitlense, too
(even if it's mainpurpose is the macrodistance). It offers a
fantastic Hybrid IS with up to 4 stops.

I can't even approve the fact that the 50mm 1.2 is sharp wide
open. The 50mm 1.2 is a bad lese on open apertures... not
unusable while doing "art" but otherwise nothing to buy
(http://www.traumflieger.de/objektivtest/open_test/canon_50_12/5dmark2_chart.gif)

The 85mm 1.2II is a fantastic lense if you want the last out of your
pictures. All others who own the 85mm 1.8 should keep it... the
price/value tag is unmatched.


Sep 3, 2012
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Thomas Richter
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Registered: Jun 17, 2012
Location: Germany
Posts: 1
Review Date: Jun 17, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp already at f1.2, amazing bokeh, one of the biggest temptations since Canon makes lenses...
Cons:
Nothing that I wouldn't call a feature...

I bought this lens in conjunction with upgrading from 40D to 5D3, and the results that this combination delivers - even after only a few days of playing with it - are absolutely amazing. It balances very well on the 5D3 with BG. Indeed it is recommended to use AI Servo for focusing and not try to shift frame when shooting wide open. That said, the new 61 AF-points of the 5D3 and their flexible settings arrived at the right time :-)

Jun 17, 2012
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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
177 282464 Dec 20, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
93% of reviewers $1,784.94
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
9.72
7.93
9.6
85II


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