Canon’s gargantuan 85mm f/1.2L II, launched in 2006, is a legend. Maybe, then, it isn’t odd that Canon wouldn’t search to outright substitute it when it launched a brand new L-series 85mm. Possibly the 85mm f/1.2L II is simply too good to be supplanted, or perhaps Canon realized a brand new 85mm f/1.2 was merely impractical. In spite of everything, with the excessive ISO capabilities of contemporary full-frame cameras, is that additional half-stop past f/1.Four actually essential? (In the event you ask the engineers behind the RF 50mm f/1.2 for the brand new EOS R, the reply is seemingly sure, however we digress.)

Enter the EF 85mm f/1.4L IS, Canon’s newest skilled, portrait-length lens and, surprisingly, its first EF-mount 85mm with a most aperture of f/1.4. Beforehand, it provided each the f/1.2L and a lower-end f/1.8, skipping over the f/1.Four aperture that’s so well-liked amongst different producers, together with competitor Nikon and third-party rival Sigma.

It additionally is available in $400 cheaper than the f/1.2L, placing it neck and neck with the Nikon at $1,600. However a aggressive worth isn’t the one trick it has up its sleeve: Canon additionally graced it with optical picture stabilization (OIS), making this the primary stabilized 85mm prime. That’s nice information for video shooters and a particular plus for anybody. As we found throughout our time taking pictures it for this evaluation, whereas this is probably not fairly the legend that the f/1.2 mannequin is, it’s nonetheless a really succesful lens that any Canon shooter can be glad to name their very own.

Velocity or stabilization? We’ll take each, please

When optically stabilized lenses first hit the scene, a standard chorus amongst skilled photographers was, “I’d slightly have an additional cease within the aperture than two in stabilization.” The thought right here was {that a} brighter aperture allowed you to shoot a quicker shutter velocity, thus stopping each blur from shaky arms and from topic motion, whereas optical stabilization does nothing to forestall the latter.

This mindset has two shortcomings, nonetheless. First, it assumes {that a} shallow depth of subject will all the time be an appropriate tradeoff for gathering extra mild (taking pictures a wider aperture lowers depth of subject). Second, it doesn’t take into consideration the wants of the videographer — though, that is forgivable, on condition that no one was taking pictures video on DSLRs in these days.

The 85mm f/1.4L IS, nonetheless, rejects as false the selection between stabilization and a quick aperture, and we’re all the higher for it. The OIS is rated for Four stops of shake discount, nevertheless it additionally helps even at quick shutter speeds by making it simpler to border your shot within the viewfinder.

The brand new Canon 85mm f/1.4L  focuses blazingly quick and maintains accuracy on each shot.

Telephoto lenses amplify any hand shake, which exhibits up within the viewfinder, so the OIS is especially welcome right here, whether or not you expressly want it to shoot a slower shutter velocity or not. It allowed us to cease down and nonetheless get sharp outcomes with out worrying concerning the shutter velocity, one thing that had been an issue with the Sigma 105mm F1.Four Artwork, a lens we examined on the identical day.

This isn’t a direct comparability; the Sigma is an extended focal size and weighs over a pound heavier, however the level is that even on very quick lenses, we’d nonetheless favor to have stabilization. Ideally, different producers will take word, though this will likely not occur. With Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic all producing full-frame mirrorless cameras with inside stabilization, the necessity for stabilized lenses is waning for everybody besides Canon.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens In contrast To

Highly effective efficiency

One of many downsides of the 85mm f/1.2L was the sluggish autofocus. It had such giant components that wanted to maneuver so exactly to make sure correct focus huge open, that it simply couldn’t sustain with what we count on of contemporary lenses. The brand new f/1.4L has neither of these points, and focuses blazingly quick on each shot. It wasn’t all the time 100-percent correct, however this could possible be chalked as much as person error; hey, it’s not all the time straightforward to handhold at f/1.Four and hold good focus.

Canon EF 85mm f1.4L IS lens review
Daven Mathies/Digital Developments

The lens can be glorious for indoor sports activities, like basketball. Right here, the huge aperture, stabilization, and fast autofocus would all come into play. It’s a great focal size for that sort of labor, too.

Autofocus efficiency can also be one space the place third-party lenses are unlikely to maintain up. This can be a purpose to contemplate the Canon over the cheaper Sigma 85mm f/1.Four Artwork, one other lens that we liked in our evaluation. We haven’t shot the Sigma on a Canon physique, however AF efficiency, at the least on a Nikon, was a bit slower than the Canon 85mm.

Subjectively beautiful

It’s clear that Canon poured some effort into the optical design of this lens. It makes use of a comparatively intricate components with 14 components in 10 teams, an enormous step up from the eight components and 9 teams of the 85mm f/1.2L. Canon’s press launch went on concerning the “giant diameter, high-precision molded glass aspherical lens” and a few type of super-advanced new anti-reflective coating.

Pattern photographs taken utilizing the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens on a Canon 5D IV. Daven Mathies/Digital Developments

Regardless of all of this, it weighs lower than the older 85mm, at slightly below 2.1 kilos, though it’s a bit longer at about Four inches. It’s truly a bit larger and heavier than the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, however that’s to be anticipated — it wants room for that stabilization system, in spite of everything.

From an goal standpoint, we’d say the lens is superb, however simply shy of fantastic at f/1.4. Large open, it’s not fairly as sharp because the Sigma Artwork lenses we’ve grown so keen on, which is noticeable in advantageous particulars like eyelashes. Moreover, sharpness fades out towards the perimeters of the body, though it will hardly be noticeable in the true world until your topic is on the acute periphery. Nonetheless, it’s one thing to consider for those who’re going to mount the lens to a 50-megapixel EOS 5DS R and hope to get probably the most out of that sensor (we examined it on the 30-megapixel 5D Mark IV).

The reality is, taking pictures within the vary of f/2.Eight to f/Four is absolutely the place the 85mm f/1.4L IS lens works its magic.

Chromatic aberration is properly managed, however does nonetheless present up at f/1.4. Just like the sharpness falloff, it’s hardly noticeable in real-world conditions, however you’ll see it on some high-frequency particulars with sufficient distinction. Vignetting can also be current on the wider apertures however isn’t unhealthy, and as we’ve mentioned earlier than, is one thing we truly like on portrait lenses. What’s extra, it’s fairly straightforward to right in submit, so it’s hardly a disadvantage.

On the plus facet, by f/Four the lens is impeccably sharp, the vignetting and chromatic aberrations have vanished, and it nonetheless produces a shallow depth of subject appropriate for portraiture. Whereas the bokeh isn’t fairly as creamy easy as what we’ve seen from the likes of the Sigma 105mm F1.4, the Canon nonetheless renders defocused areas fairly fantastically all through the aperture vary, and we’re actually stepping into the realm of non-public choice right here.

It’s tempting to all the time shoot huge open if you paid good cash for that quick aperture, however the fact is, taking pictures within the vary of f/2.Eight to f/Four is absolutely the place this lens works its magic. It makes use of 9 aperture blades, up from Canon’s normal eight, which produces rounder blur circles. It’s humorous if you catch your self reviewing photographs and considering, “Wow, that shallow depth of subject at f/1.Four appears to be like nice!” solely to test the metadata and see the shot was made at f/4.

The lens is impressively sharp right here, a noticeable enchancment over f/1.4, and pictures nonetheless look beautiful — plus, you give your self barely extra leeway with the main focus. Sure, the paper-thin depth of subject of f/1.Four generally simply can’t be beat, so we’re glad the choice is there, however we might urge you to withstand the temptation and save f/1.Four for when you really want it.

Our Take

The EF 85mm f/1.4L isn’t the sharpest quick telephoto we’ve used, nevertheless it does come shut. What actually makes it stand out is the optical stabilization, which makes this one of the vital distinctive portrait lenses you should buy. We understand not everybody wants stabilization on an f/1.Four lens, however we have been grateful to have it. That Canon saved the worth to a (considerably) reasonable $1,600 can also be welcome, though we additionally understand this places it properly with out of attain for many non-professionals.

Is there a greater various?

There may be actually one very compelling one: the Sigma 85mm F1.Four Artwork. At simply $1,200, it simply bests the Canon on worth and it additionally occurs to be certainly one of, if not the, sharpest 85mm lenses ever made. Nevertheless, it does lack optical picture stabilization and the sharpness differential decreases at smaller apertures. In the event you don’t want the OIS, the Sigma is likely to be the best way to go; for those who do — particularly for those who shoot numerous video — then we’d lean towards the Canon.

How lengthy will it final?

Canon has by no means allow us to down with the construct high quality of its lenses, and this new 85mm is every part we’ve come to count on kind the L-series. The 85mm f/1.2L II is 12 years previous and nonetheless operating, so we don’t count on Canon will substitute the brand new f/1.4L for a few years to return.

Do you have to purchase it?

If, like us, you’ve been ready for the right mixture of stabilization and quick aperture, then sure. This isn’t essentially the very best purchase for each photographer — it’s laborious to argue with the $1,200 Sigma — nevertheless it does provide a singular mixture of options merely not discovered elsewhere.

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