Just another quick first impressions post on some equipment. I picked up the Canon 85mm f/1.2L II USM around the beginning of June, and I've been shooting with it for about a month. (I'm dealing with a shoulder injury currently so I took a break during the first half of July while dealing with physical therapy, and have been easing back into shooting over the past week.)
First thoughts; wow. One word sums it up perfectly. Just wow. For those of you who know this lens, you know exactly what I mean. This is a one of a kind lens that only Canon makes. Having a large aperture mid-range telephoto lens is extremely important for portraiture and event work as it is a good focal length for that type of work. The working range is just right; not too wide, but not too telephoto. Combine that with a fast aperture, or in this case, the bloody brilliant f/1.2, and you are getting some seriously thin depth of field and subject separation.
So my first reaction was, ok, sure. It's an f/1.2, but is it actually good at f/1.2? I'm here to tell you yes. It is stunning at f/1.2. It is significantly sharper wide open than the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, a popular alternative to the f/1.2. It out resolves the f/1.8 lens any day of the week. In addition, the colors and contrast are significantly better, and match all of the other L lenses. The 85L has a certain look to it that few lenses achieve. This lens has such a crazy ability to isolate your subject and completely blow out the background with beautiful bokeh even with full body portraits. Move in towards half body, or head shots, and the results are mind boggling.
- Price - ~4.5x more expensive than the 85mm f/1.8 USM.
- Size/weight - This lens is massive for a mid-range telephoto prime, and weighs a lot because of all the glass. However that is to be expected because of the aperture.
- AF Speed - It's slow. It's usable, but slow. The 85L II version is much better than the original though. I would avoid the original if you are photographing anything that moves. The original is too slow to even track a person walking towards the camera. The second version fixes this. If you need fast AF, go with the 85mm f/1.8. It's significantly faster, and arguably one of Canon's fastest auto focusing lenses.
- Chromatic Aberration - It's pretty bad, but then again, what do you expect for an f/1.2 lens. It's simple enough to remove in post, so it's not really an issue. The 85mm f/1.8 has just as bad chromatic aberration, so you won't see a difference between the two lenses on that regard.
As you can see, the 85L is massive. It makes the 1DS look small, and makes the 85mm f/1.8 look tiny. There's a lot of glass in that 85L, and the size of the front element is bigger than the 85mm f/1.8!
Overall, I love this lens. I couldn't go back to the 85mm f/1.8 USM after using the 85L. It's just that good, even after factoring in the price jump. This lens has lived on my camera since I got it, and I haven't regretted it once. Would I recommend it? If you've got the money and want the best 85mm lens that Canon has to offer, this is the lens for you. If you specialize in portraits or weddings for a living, this is the lens for you. If you shoot sports and need fast AF, this is not the lens for you. If you are just getting started shooting portraits, try the 85mm f/1.8. It is still a very good lens, and gives you an amazing amount of bang for your money. At f/1.8, you can still get nice subject isolation and bokeh. The f/1.2 just takes it a huge step farther.
To view other photos from this lens and view photos in high resolution, head over to my Flickr page where I have the photos posted in full resolution, and check out the results for your self!