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Thread: Canon EF85 f1.2L USM

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    Ausphotography Veteran rwg717's Avatar
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    Canon EF85 f1.2L USM

    I have read a few reviews on the EF 85 f1.2L and as I notice there are a few AP members who list this unit in their gear, I was wondering if anyone had a comment on these quotes:-

    "The biggest downside to the original Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L USM Lens was the very slow focusing speed. If you were shooting portraits, it didn't matter. But, a lens this fast begs to be used for indoor action sports."

    And then there's this:-

    " I've determined that this lens model will occasionally mis-focus completely. The lenses do not front focus or back focus consistently and mostly focus dead-on. But there is a random situation that delivers a completely out of focus shot."

    Are the above comments typical of this lens? As one of Canon's most expensive "black" lenses I was a bit shocked to read these apparent shortcomings and thought some members might be able to confirm that these criticisms are correct?
    Richard
    I've been wrong before!! Happy to have constructive criticism though.Gear used Canon 50D, 7D & 5DMkII plus expensive things hanging off their fronts and of course a "nifty fifty".

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    Any lens can miss focus, especially if you are careless or in a difficult situation. It's not a lens fault. Focus is determined by the camera, not the lens.

    As for focus speed, yes, it's an absolute dog. Forget shooting sport or even kids with it, it won't cope. Having said that, it's quite an amazing lens and worth having for it's optical qualities. I really think it should be used as a manual focus lens but that's just me.

    I'm not certain that the second (current) version is better as people seem to complain about significant CA wide open with the current version and I'm not sure this is an issue. I had the original EF 85mm f/1.2 as well as the FD 85mm f/1.2 and was quite happy with them however I eventually switched to Leica, specifically the R 80 Lux (F1.4), which although not as sharp as the FD or EF wide open it overtook the Canon lenses quite quickly and was 'better' for my purposes.

    If you want to shoot action of any kind then forget the EF 85/1.2 ver1.

    JJ

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    I've been spending alot of time with a mate who has had this lens permanently attached to his 5D MkII and yes he reports it as slow to focus, but perhaps the other issue is user error due to shooting at 1.2?

    But by golly he is getting sone absolutely beautiful shots with it.

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    I use the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM extensively for portraits.

    Yes, it's the mark II version, which offers improvements over the initial version, such as faster AF.

    I'm not the slightest bit interested in sports, but I have used this lens for bands, which is as challenging if not more so, as you're dealing with rapid movement in low light. While a lot of people would not recommend using such a lens for that type of application, it can be done; just be prepared for a lot more misses than hits and shoot accordingly. It takes more skill to shoot well with this lens.

    The 85/1.2L (II) is known for its slow, focus-by-wire AF, which is normal. The objective element moves, and it's a thick, heavy bit of glass. As above, the mark II offers faster AF.

    As for misfocus, I haven't heard of that being a particular issue, but I never looked into the first version.

    Note that if you're shooting at f/1.2 it is very easy to render your subject OOF, and more so if you're shooting at the lens's minimum focus distance.

    If you're interested in seeing what I've achieved with the 85/1.2L II, see my gallery of images captured with the 85/1.2L II.

    it consists of mostly portraits (some shot at f/1.2), but there are a few other images there too.

    If you're in the market for an 85L, you'd be better off going for the current version.

    For comprehensive reviews of both lenses, check out The Digital Picture. Here are the reviews you want:

    85/1.2L: http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...ns-Review.aspx
    85/1.2L II http://www.the-digital-picture.com/R...ns-Review.aspx
    Last edited by Xenedis; 16-11-2010 at 11:47pm.

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    I own the 85 f1.2 mkI. I though of trading it in for the MkII but there in hardly any difference and a huge price difference.
    Out of my 50 1.2 85 1.2 and 135 2 i would have to say my 85 would bring home the most keepers of portraits.
    it's a love hate relationship. i hate it because it's just so heavy i can't bring it travelling. slow AF as you know, also doesn't do what well to focus in low light as my 50mm does.
    but i love it because it just keeps giving me those amazing creamy photos.
    many photos on my site with it.
    Canon 5D MKII, 17-40mm f/4L, 24-105mm f/4L, 17mm TS-E f/4L, 24mm f/1.4L II, 50mm f/1.2L, 85mm f/1.2L
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    Many thanks learned members, this was sort of what I expected to hear, but I thought there was an "off-chance" the guy writing the review may have had no idea at all about what he was reviewing. When I read and condensed all the things you each have to say about the EF85 f1.2L the whole thing makes a lot more sense, actually I have more sporting lenses than I can use, I was more interested in the portrait aspect of the '85, the reviewer only mentioned the sport as a part of what I was trying to get at and each of you have addressed the problem.

    By the way Xenedis, what fab. images in your collection....mind blowing stuff and the links you gave me on reviews was where I was quoting from, thanks again all
    Richard

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    Quote Originally Posted by James Axford View Post
    I own the 85 f1.2 mkI. I though of trading it in for the MkII but there in hardly any difference and a huge price difference.
    Out of my 50 1.2 85 1.2 and 135 2 i would have to say my 85 would bring home the most keepers of portraits.
    it's a love hate relationship. i hate it because it's just so heavy i can't bring it travelling. slow AF as you know, also doesn't do what well to focus in low light as my 50mm does.
    but i love it because it just keeps giving me those amazing creamy photos.
    many photos on my site with it.
    Whooooshka.....have to agree (with everyone), tried mine out today, yep dead slow to focus and they call the 24-70 f2.8L "the brick", the 85 is a veritable "besser block"
    Richard

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    Another 85L user here. I have used it for sports. One Volleyball comp I left my 85 F1.8 to home by accident when I did a last minute bag repack so it was the 85L for the day. Provided I was trying to get static shots it was fine. I couldn't use it to track a moving player, but could pre-focus on a player waiting to receive serve and re-focus if they had moved a little bit. This was the key thing, not trying to make the lens elements move large distances to get focus. I also got shots of the setters in mid air this way.

    I echo the other comments about this lens for portraits, simply magic.
    Greg
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    I want u to take a look at this comparison here between the latest Sigma 85 f1.4 vs. the Canon 85 L, it is not a scientific test but a subjective testing done by a user in real world situations.

    http://hofferphotography.com/2010/11...on-85l-review/

    I do not use the 85L for wedding work as the ultra slow focusing means missed shots at crucial moments are inevitable, and manual focus at f1.2 is a hit and miss too

    From that review the Sigma seems to have much much better AF speed, so I will consider it strongly in the near future for wedding photography.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    I want u to take a look at this comparison here between the latest Sigma 85 f1.4 vs. the Canon 85 L, it is not a scientific test but a subjective testing done by a user in real world situations.

    http://hofferphotography.com/2010/11...on-85l-review/

    I do not use the 85L for wedding work as the ultra slow focusing means missed shots at crucial moments are inevitable, and manual focus at f1.2 is a hit and miss too

    Most impressive, for the amount of work he does I'd tend to accept the comparisons he has made....thanks for that
    Richard

    From that review the Sigma seems to have much much better AF speed, so I will consider it strongly in the near future for wedding photography.

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    the keg, hand grenade the chunk, i got one and as stated you cannot track moving targets with it....at extremes of it's focal length it is slow, but not so extreme and it will snap, at events like indoor basketball and the like you will need to prefocus but great results can be achieved, shooting at a wafer thin dof of 1.2 can often render someones nose tip in focus and oof all else.......

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikspics View Post
    the keg, hand grenade the chunk, i got one and as stated you cannot track moving targets with it....at extremes of it's focal length it is slow, but not so extreme and it will snap, at events like indoor basketball and the like you will need to prefocus but great results can be achieved, shooting at a wafer thin dof of 1.2 can often render someones nose tip in focus and oof all else.......
    Yep, all taken in, the quotes in the original thread just surprised me a bit because of the sheer price of this lens. Anyway, my use of it will be for tri-pod mounted portraits etc. so the slow focus isn't a problem. BTW, I like "the keg" as a name for it
    Richard

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    Now that I have such a comprehensive and expert respose to my original thread, I need some new opinions, is the 85 f1.2 a lens more suited to full frame cameras or 1.6X crop frame bodies? Whilst I realise this is largely governed by what you are trying to shoot, I'm thinking more of portraits. Perhaps it doesn't matter a "jot", just move the tripod back or forward to suit the scene
    Richard

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    Ausphotography Site Sponsor/Advertiser DAdeGroot's Avatar
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    I haven't read all the responses, so apologise for double-ups in advance.

    Yes, the 85/1.2L and it's successor, can be slow to focus, but it's a front element focus system and there's a LOT of glass to move.

    On anything less than a 1 series body (with the exception maybe of a 7D), the outer focus points may result in a mis-focus. This is definitely the case on the 5DII, and I suspect is the same on any body with the fairly ancient 9 point AF system.

    CA on the 85/1.2L II does exist, it's purple rather than red/cyan or blue/yellow, so correction is a bit trickier, but it's not massive and really only detectable when pixel-peeping or near enough to it.

    I'm told it's possible to shoot sport with it, but pre-focusing on where the action will be is essential.

    It's equally at home on a full-frame, APS-H or APS-C sensor body, but obviously becomes a tighter crop with the smaller sensors. So equally obviously, to get the same framing you would need to move further away and thus increase your depth of field and therefore lessen the beautiful creaminess of your background blur.
    Dave

    http://www.degrootphotography.com.au/
    Canon EOS 1D MkIV | Canon EOS 5D MkII | Canon EOS 30D | Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM | Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM | Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM | Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM | Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM | Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L & some non-L lenses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post

    I do not use the 85L for wedding work as the ultra slow focusing means missed shots at crucial moments are inevitable, and manual focus at f1.2 is a hit and miss too
    Whereas I have used the 85L to great effect at weddings, but usually for the posed shots after the ceremony. During the ceremony the 70-200/2.8L IS is my weapon of choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DAdeGroot View Post
    Whereas I have used the 85L to great effect at weddings, but usually for the posed shots after the ceremony. During the ceremony the 70-200/2.8L IS is my weapon of choice.
    yeah that might work for u but not good enough for me, posed shots right after ceremony might last about 30 mins max, and I didnt see the use of it for that either since I dont shoot groups at f1.2 its a waste, other lenses like my 70-200 L, or 24-70 for example will do the job better. But it is exceptional for creative shots or for couple/individual shots on location - when time is not of the essence.

    I had a quick test of the new Sigma 85 f1.4 yesterday, and hands down I am willing to say it is a lot better than the Canon 85 L, much faster and accurate focusing and lock, lighter and smaller which is great, and no diff in IQ. I dare say this will be a weapon for wedding photographers soon once ppl see the benefits it has over the Canon 85 L - and inspires more confidence in shooters in dark and low light environments. I will possibly buy one next month when I am in HK for shoots.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DAdeGroot View Post
    I haven't read all the responses, so apologise for double-ups in advance.

    Yes, the 85/1.2L and it's successor, can be slow to focus, but it's a front element focus system and there's a LOT of glass to move.

    On anything less than a 1 series body (with the exception maybe of a 7D), the outer focus points may result in a mis-focus. This is definitely the case on the 5DII, and I suspect is the same on any body with the fairly ancient 9 point AF system.

    CA on the 85/1.2L II does exist, it's purple rather than red/cyan or blue/yellow, so correction is a bit trickier, but it's not massive and really only detectable when pixel-peeping or near enough to it.

    I'm told it's possible to shoot sport with it, but pre-focusing on where the action will be is essential.

    It's equally at home on a full-frame, APS-H or APS-C sensor body, but obviously becomes a tighter crop with the smaller sensors. So equally obviously, to get the same framing you would need to move further away and thus increase your depth of field and therefore lessen the beautiful creaminess of your background blur.
    Indeed, I have just discovered the purple caste, not severe but how to get rid of it? Try not to make the string too long, I don't usually fiddle with this element too much so might take a bit of coaching?
    Richard

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    there are many ways you can remove purple fringing, by selectively reducing the saturation in the magenta channel, or by using lens correction features of a raw converter like DXO. There are many theories about what cause Purple fringing ranging from the absurd to the statistically improbable. But what I do know is that it seldom appeared on film, it's only on digital sensors where it rears it's ugly head.

    I don't really use my canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II all that much, At the moment I have been using the Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R modified to fit on my 1DsMK3. I find the manual focusing of the Leica lens to be a world apart from manually focusing the 85L, which is frankly, a terrible lens for manual focusing. On APS-C DSLR cameras I typically use a 50mm f/1.2 lens. The pentax 50mm f/1.2 I have used has very well controlled CA/PF considering it was made at the height of the film era.
    Last edited by Othrelos; 11-12-2010 at 10:46pm.

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    Ausphotography Site Sponsor/Advertiser DAdeGroot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    yeah that might work for u but not good enough for me, posed shots right after ceremony might last about 30 mins max, and I didnt see the use of it for that either since I dont shoot groups at f1.2 its a waste, other lenses like my 70-200 L, or 24-70 for example will do the job better. But it is exceptional for creative shots or for couple/individual shots on location - when time is not of the essence.
    Focus isn't so slow that you can't use it in those circumstances. Post wedding shots for me are usually 30mins to 1hr depending on the couple.

    I have noticed that the focus speed and accuracy is greatly improved on a 1 series body. The 5D struggles on the outer focus points so a different technique is required.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rwg717 View Post
    Indeed, I have just discovered the purple caste, not severe but how to get rid of it? Try not to make the string too long, I don't usually fiddle with this element too much so might take a bit of coaching?
    Richard
    I find LR3's lens profile correction does the job admirably.

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