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Canon 85mm Battle | 85mm 1.2L vs. 85mm 1.4L vs. 85mm 1.8

By Wendell Weithers on February 17th 2018

The benefit of buying into an established system such as Canon is the availability of options at nearly every conceivable focal length. But they aren’t merely available; each option is unique and performs well. For every budget and every need, Canon’s catalog of lenses has amassed a wealth of choices for native mount and adaptive shooters over the decades.

But, you may ask yourself….. “Self, which one is right for me?” This post won’t fully answer that question but, it can help. Kaiman Wong, formerly of DigitalRev fame and presently of his own, takes Canon’s 85mm lenses out the test their Bokeh characteristics. And if Bokeh matters to you, this video is worth a look.

As expected, the f1.2 has the “creamiest” bokeh, but in other tests, such AF speed, sharpness, the 85mm 1.4 performs best. The 85mm 1.8 IS has a respectable showing and, for the price, provides an incredible value.

This video is just the kind of lens lust testing you’d expect from Kai, giving off a fun retro DigitalRev-ish vibe. In short, Canon’s 85mm lens offerings give you the choice of the “affordable” lens (f1.8) that outperforms its price. The “Premium Peerless” lens (f1.2) that offers the unique combination of quality and a timeless aesthetic. And finally, the “New Money” lens (f1.4) that provides the latest in technological advancement: image stabilization and modern optical performance.

[REWIND: Canon vs. Nikon Showdown: Battle Of The Top 85mm Lenses]

Canon 85mm 1.2L

Canon 85mm 1.4L IS

Canon 85mm 1.8

Here is the price breakdown of the three:

Canon 85mm 1.2L – $1,899

Canon 85mm 1.4L IS – $1,599

Canon 85mm 1.8 – $369

Third Party Alternative

Adding stabilization to primes is a welcomed feature in modern lenses and particularly useful for a high-resolution sensor that lacks its own. However, this feature is not ubiquitous and if it is a must-have feature for your work as a Canon shooter, your only other option is the Tamron 85mm 1.8. With this lens, you lose the f1.4 aperture, but you’ll spend nearly 50% less.

Tamron 85mm 1.8 – $749

85mm Lens Articles

Lens Review: The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 | Pint Sized Powerhouse

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art Review | The Beauty Of This Beast

 

Wendell is based in Atlanta where he shoots events, portraits, and food photography. He also supports his wife Andrea as she runs their cake design business, Sweet Details.

Instagram: Wendellwphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Sada Domonkos

    One thing is missing and its really important to highlight the differences between  the 85 1.2 I and the II version… 

    the 1.2 I is a snail…. the II is a faster snail :) 

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