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Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Review Date: Oct 26, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,664.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Proper focus = very sharp results, allows you to play with DOF like few other lenses, available light shots there were nearly impossible before...become possible, good color/contrast
A bit heavy on the CA wide open (expected), "focus-by-wire" design (camera must be powered up to rack it back to minimum length for transport), hood attachment system a bit wonky (it spins with the ring when using MF), quite spendy, quite heavy, AF is more for stationary subjects, a bit of an attention grabber in the wrong environment (street photography in dubious circumstances), massive amounts of glass during AF can fool a battery into calling it quits early (circuitry), rather crap minimum focus distance

There's really little to compare this lens to, so I can't tell you how it "stacks up" against the competition.

What I can say is this: it's damn sharp if your focus is on. But, you really need to pay attention to this at 1.2 because I find the camera viewfinder will gives me a bit more "DOF" than the lens will actually render.

This thing lets you place focus and depth cues, especially for "nearer" rather than farther objects, according to your wishes, it's that simple. I'm not overly concerned about the "bokeh" rage of late but it does really give a smooth background that a lot of my other glass won't do.

It's very easy to pick on this lens for a number of reasons - the heft, the price, the CA wide open, the focus speed, the mechanism it uses to do so (electronic focus, no manual clutch), the odd pinch-snap hood.

But that's part of what it is to have a 1.2 aperture available, and when you start nailing shots with this lens, and I mean proper focus, proper exposure, all the requisite stuff that leads what we called a "well-exposed negative" in the film era, the 85 II produces really great files (JPEG or RAW) straight out of the camera.

I got mine for a great price during last year's rebate, it was an expensive impulse but I felt that value might never come again. Having used it for nearly 9 months, I would pay current asking price, without hesitation, if I needed to buy it again.