Welcome to the Canon Lens Wars Bokeh Showdown! In this showdown, we took 7 Canon prime lenses from the SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars series and compared them to each other to see which lens is the ultimate bokeh-licious lens!
- Canon 24mm f/1.4L II
- Canon 35mm f/1.4L
- Canon 50mm f/1.2L
- Canon 85mm f/1.2L
- Canon 100mm f/2
- Canon 200mm f/2L
- Canon 300mm f/2.8L II
For those that are new to the SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars series, be sure to check out the Lens Wars Teaser video and the entire series where we compare and choose our favorite lenses at every popular focal length.
So, let’s get this showdown on the road!
Watch the Canon Lens Wars Bokeh Showdown Video
Equipment Used in Canon Lens Wars Bokeh Showdown
- Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
- Tripod: MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Remote Trigger: Vello Shutterboss Version II Timer Remote Switch
Like all of our tests, we are comparing our images visually on a Dell U2713HM 27″ IPS monitor with the images fit to full screen.
What matters is what we can actually see without having to zoom in because after all, we want bokeh that we can readily see!
The Canon Lens Lineup
Canon 24mm f/1.4L Mark II
First, we have our delightful wide angle stubby-nubby princess, the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II. At a Wide Open Aperture (WOA) of f/1.4, this bokeh-licious lens has a delightful amount of soft and creamy bokeh, which is impressive for a wide angle lens!
However, it is noticeably a bit soft around our area of focus, our model. We also have a bit of “dreaminess” or haze when wide open, but still, a very usable image.
Canon 35mm f/1.4L
Next, we have the Canon 35mm f/1.4L. For a semi-wide angle lens, it has some pretty delicious bokeh!
Canon 50mm f/1.2L
Here we have the Canon 50mm f/1.2L and its delicious bokeh.
With its additional compression and more open aperture, its bokeh is also a bit more creamy than the 35mm 1.4.
Canon 85mm f/1.2L Mark II
Although the 85mm 1.2 has the same f/1.2 wide open aperture bokeh as the 50mm 1.2, it has much stronger bokeh. This is because the 85mm 1.2’s longer focal length creates additional compression that pulls background elements forward and allows objects to fall out of focus quicker!
But, it is also noticeably sharper when wide open than the 50mm 1.2, though it does still have a bit of dreamy softness. Still, pretty awesome though.
Canon 100mm f/2
The 100mm f/2 is also very sharp wide open, as you can see below.
However, it does have noticeably less bokeh than the 85mm 1.2, which is somewhat expected given the difference in maximum aperture.
Canon 200mm f/2L Mark II
Next up, we have the little monster, also known as the Canon 200mm f/2L.
This lens has amazing compression and a solid amount of bokeh that is worth its price tag.
Additionally, whether you are looking at the image in full view or zoomed in, the image that the 200mm f/2L creates is absolutely tack sharp with no soft dreaminess whatsoever! This lens is simply gorgeous!
Canon 300mm f/2.8L Mark II
Finally, we have the mighty giant, the Canon 300mm f/2.8L II.
It is also absolutely tack sharp and noticeably so when viewed full screen! Absolutely flawless when it comes to image quality.
The Lenses with the Most Bokeh
So which of these Canon lenses has the most uberly creamy bokeh? I actually have 3 favorites among these bokeh-de-beppo lenses.
Now personally, I prefer the 50mm 1.2, but if you are thinking about getting the 85mm f/1.2 then you might be better off going with the 35mm 1.4 so that you have a little more variance in focal length.
Either way, the 35mm and the 50mm 1.2 are very close in focal length, so I would choose one or the other, but not both. Since I shoot mainly portraits, I chose the 50mm 1.2 lens because it gives me a bit better extreme low light performance and has the focal length that is a bit more conducive to portraits.
Nevertheless, both are beautiful lenses.
It is probably by far my most favorite of the uber-bokeh primes. It is very sharp when wide open and its focal length, and as you can see from the model’s dress, when wide open, the 85mm 1.2 just looks a bit sharper than the 50mm 1.2.
Additionally, as you can see from the image below the 85mm f/1.2L Mark II at the 85mm focal length allows additional compression that will pull the background forward and create even more bokeh than the Canon 50mm f/1.2L .
The Canon 85mm f/1.2L Mark II is one of my top 3 go-to portrait lenses.
Finally, if you can afford it, the Canon 200mm f/2L gives you telephoto compression with amazing low light and bokeh aesthetics. The extreme compression and wide aperture create a look unlike any other lens out there, but it does come at a pretty hefty cost.
So the Canon 50mm f/1.2L, 85mm f/1.2L, and the 200mm f/2L are my top favorites because they create a unique aesthetic that is significantly different from professional series zooms at the same focal lengths.
The More Specialized Lenses
The other three lenses in this showdown are more specialized in their uses and are not necessarily the best option in their respective focal length.
For example, the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II is a beautiful prime lens that is wonderful in extreme low light. But based on the way I shoot, I generally am not looking to create a lot of bokeh with wide angle shots.
Typically, when I shoot wide angle, I am carefully choosing my composition and I am going for sharpness. So for me, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II takes care of that role for me.
Additionally, the 85mm focal length is also the more popular focal length for portraits, and therefore, if you have to sell your lens, you’ll have be able to retain more value with an 85mm lens.
If I need that 100mm focal length, I rather choose the Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS because it pulls double duty as a portrait and a macro lens.
Finally, we have the Canon 300mm f/2.8L II
This telephoto prime is a beautiful lens, but again, I generally don’t need that extreme of a zoom with that level of low light performance as it is very specialized, and the fixed focal length at 300mm limits its flexibility.
So, that’s it for the bokeh showdown! Be sure to check out the rest of the SLR Lounge Canon Lens Wars series to see which Canon Lenses are the best at each focal length.