Hey guys. Today we’re going to have a look at the magical Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM, and I say magical for a reason. This beautiful piece of glass has helped me achieve some of the most beautiful portraits I have ever taken, and today, we’re going to talk about it.
I’ll let you know what it can, and can’t do, and who should buy it. And with that, let’s have a look at the aperture and focal length first.
Aperture & Focal Length
In This Article
As you can tell from the name, this lens has a fixed focal length of 85mm, and the aperture opens up to a maximum of f/1.2.
In terms of focal length, there are pros and cons to it being fixed. Obviously a variable focal length makes a lense more versatile, but a fixed one produces sharper images.
Also, since this lens is intended for portraits, 85mm is all you need, as it is considered to be the most flattering focal length. Different lenses will distort the image in different ways, and 85mm is generally agreed upon to be the best for portraits.
This, by the way, assumes you’re using an 85mm lens on a full frame camera. If used on a Canon crop sensor, an 85mm lens would be equivalent to 136mm.
If you want to achieve the 85mm look on your Canon cropped sensor camera, you’ll want to grab the Canon 50mm lens, as that’d be the equivalent of 80mm, which is close to 85mm.
The way that I’m arriving at these numbers is by multiplying the focal length of the lens by 1.6, which is what you have to do for Canon.
When talking about aperture, f/1.2 is super wide open. This lens will allow a huge amount of light in, thus allowing you to take noise free images in low light conditions.
If manually focusing, getting a sharp eye on your subject will be a bit of a challenge, but the Canon R5 autofocus is so amazing, that it’ll get the eye almost every single time.
Size & Build
Just like it’s cousin, the Canon RF 15-35mm f2.8 L IS USM, this lens feels really pro. It’s rare that I actually hold something this well built in my hands. It feels like it’s not only a beautiful piece of engineering, but that the people who made it actually care about quality.
This is of course a really expensive lens from Canon, so even though that is to be expected, it’s still an impressive lens to hold.
As you can see, the lens itself is thick, and much like its cousin, it looks comically large on the Canon R5 body. As if that wasn’t enough, you also get a massive lens hood with it.
The lens measures 4.62″ in length, just over 4″ in diameter, and weighs about 2.63lb, or just under 1.2kg. As a result, it will take up quite a bit of space in your bag, so when carrying it around, if you want to use the lens hood, it might be a good idea to invert it, in order to save space.
Now, let’s talk about image quality, both in terms of photos, and videos, starting with photography first.
As you might guess, this lens produces absolutely stunning portraits, which is specifically what it’s designed for.
The wide aperture also allows you to get more out of golden hour, as f/1.2 allows so much light in, that you’ll find yourself shooting near sun down, whilst still keeping noise at bay.
Allow me to show you some of the photos I’ve captured with the Canon RF 85mm.
Now that we’ve covered photos, let’s talk about video.
Given the absence of image stabilisation in this lens, it’s obviously not necessarily designed for handheld videography. As you can see from this B-roll of the Canon RF 15-35mm f2.8 L IS USM, things can get a bit shaky. The built-in stabilisation on the Canon R5 absolutely helps with that, but there are limitations.
You can obviously get some beautiful footage with this lens if the camera is on a tripod, and assuming you can get far back enough. If you’re filming an interview for example, if you want to get your subject’s head and chest in frame, you’ll probably have to be a good 9 feet away from them.
That’ll also make shooting handheld B-roll difficult, as most of the b-roll I shoot involves holding the camera in my right hand, and filming the product in my left hand. Due to the 85mm focal length, getting my entire hand in frame would be nearly impossible, which is why I use the 15-35mm lens for that.
Like its 15-35mm cousin, the RF 85mm lens has the usual AF/MF buttons on the side of it, and of course, the special control ring, which we’ll get to in a second.
In fact, on the body of the lens you will find two different rings, one for finding focus, and one programmable click control ring.
Using the Camera menu, you can program it to do different things, like change shutter speed, auto-focus mode, etc.
Unfortunately, from what I can tell, almost everyone disables it, as the positioning is a bit awkward, and you could accidentally touch it with your hand, thus accidentally changing settings in the middle of a shoot.
It’s a great idea from Canon to implement this ring, but in reality, it’s not super useful. If you personally use it, let me known down below how you’ve configured yours.
In terms of durability, given that it’s a lens, you’re going to want to be careful with it. The more advanced and impressive technology gets, the more fragile it tends to be, so taking care of your lens will ensure that you’ll be able to use it for years and years.
The first thing I did when I purchased it, just like with its cousin, is I bought a Sigma 82mm ceramic filter for it, to protect it.
The idea behind the filter is that if I accidentally bump it on a hard corner, or if something hits it, the cheaper filter can take the hit, thus protecting the very expensive glass element found underneath.
Given the astronomical cost of this lens, I’m more than happy to spend a little bit more on a quality filter, so that I can sleep easier at night.
Upon purchasing the lens, you also get the comically large hood I mentioned earlier, and a soft carrying pouch. The hood would indeed help with accidental bumps, but once you take it out of the carrying pouch, I’m not sure what the use for the pouch itself is.
If you have the kind of money that allows you to purchase this lens, you probably have a professional camera backpack for it.
As a quick side note, much like the 15-35mm lens, the front and rear glass on the lens is protected by fluorine, which is a smudge-resistant coating that repels moisture and grease. That is fantastic for the rear leans, but I keep my filter on anyway.
When it comes to weather sealing, the lens is protected from dust and splashes. That’s fantastic to know, especially if it starts to get a bit rainy during a shoot.
So, in conclusion, should you purchase the Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM?
If you want to do portraits, or headshots, this is a fantastic, flattering lens. If you want to film interviews, or make the kind of videos that allow you to have the camera on a tripod, this would work well, assuming you have enough room to back away from your subject.
Really, you could use this lens for basically any type of photography, though bear in mind that portraits is what it’s designed for.
If you want to film B-roll though, I’d have a look at its cousin, the Canon RF 15-35mm f2.8 L IS USM, which I’ve reviewed on my YouTube channel. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a similar EF version of this lens, have a look at my Canon 50mm f1.4 lens review.
Thank you for reading my review of the Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM. I invite you to have a look at some of my other articles. We have something for everyone, whether you’re interested in audio, or cameras and lenses. Alternatively, if you prefer video reviews, feel free to have a look at my YouTube channel.
Down below you will find all of the items I talked about in this article.