Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

85 vs 24-70
85/1.2L II vs 24-70/2.8L

The top reasons I chose Canon was because of insane L primes, out of all the lenses out there, the one I’d always wanted was the 85L, as it is arguably the best lens for portraits. The price of this lens has gone up over the years, especially after Canon introduced the Mark II version. Recently the price went down a little bit, so I picked it up soon as that happened. After shooting with it for a few weeks, all I can say is that I should’ve bought this lens long time ago.

The lens however is not for everyone, it is expensive, heavy, large, AF is relatively slow if you’re used to other fast L primes and zooms. The minimum focusing distance is 0.95 meter, which is probably farther than what you’re used to. It is also a very difficult lens to use if you don’t have strict shooting discipline. Shooting anywhere close to wide open requires expert focusing techniques, especially if you have a camera with AF-points pattern that doesn’t make sense for portraits; focus-and-recompose is not an option when operating with an inch of depth of field. But if you know what you’re dealing with, this is one amazing lens. Some images I shot with the 85L:

Puerto Vallarta for Mia's wedding
f/1.8 1/2000s with B+W ND4 filter

Puerto Vallarta for Mia's wedding
f/1.4 1/100s

Puerto Vallarta for Mia's wedding
f/1.2 1/500s

ninja espionage
5D Mark II, 85/1.2L II, f/1.2, 1/50s, ISO 6400

caliber photowalk
f/1.6

caliber photowalk
f/1.6

chihuahua
f/1.8 1/3200s, B+W ND4 filter

farmers mkt
f/1.4 1/800s, B+W ND4 filter

Before I got in the world of L primes I thought a fullframe body with a 24-70/2.8L is a really good setup for serious photographers. But after shooting with L primes, I can say that the 24-70 is not even close to the sharpness, contrast, and quality (especially bokeh softness) of the 50L and 85L. Now, for the serious photographers, I think the perfect Canon starter “kit” is the 50/1.2L with a full frame body. With foot works, it is pretty much a 24-70, only much faster and better image quality. I am seriously considering selling my 24-70L for a 35L now. I do like the 24mm end though, but the 24L is not nearly as good as the 35L. If I didn’t have the 85L I would get the 50L for sure, but they’re a bit too close and expensive to own both. I also upgraded my 100/2.8 Macro USM to the new L version with IS, will talk about that in my next post.

btw, the 85L is very cheap right now, lowest price in the past few years:

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8 Responses to Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

  1. @seoulfully November 15, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    Going to walk around with my 50/1.4 on my 5d2 for awhile. See if I can live with it (at 1/4 the cost of the 50/1.2L, i think i might be able to. Haha)

  2. Kevin Tse November 22, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    I also bought this lens, but couldn't handle it…I always use the centre AF focus point and focus on my 2 1/2 years old boy eyes. Using One-Shot focus, with auto ISO and F1.2. But the result is always blurred and not sharp enough. (Using AV mode), any advice would be great!

  3. inotgoodeither November 24, 2009 at 7:11 pm #

    yeah, umm, here's some advice, learn to shoot, then get big boy lenses. if you can't focus correctly, then it's not a gear issue, it's a your skill issue

  4. meqlo March 7, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    great images I want an 85 1/2….and your talent, great photos.

  5. Moritz January 13, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    great photos and really good blog post. Investing so much money for a lens can be a hard decision… Thanks for sharing your experienes.

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  1. Things I Use 2013 Edition | ayn blog - December 30, 2013

    […] every time I use it. My 3 primes have served me well and I’m very happy with my setup: 50/1.2L, 85/1.2L II, 100L. I sort of want the OM-D E-M1 with the 17/1.8, but it’s hard to justify the […]

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