Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 USM L IS - Review / Test Report - Sample Images & Verdict
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Sample Images

Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Exposure 1/640s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/1.4
Exposure 1/8000s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure 1/80s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure 1/200s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure 1/320s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 100
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/1.4
Exposure 1/8000s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/1.4
Exposure 1/8000s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure 1/1600s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Exposure 1/5000s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure 1/1000s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/8.0
Exposure 1/400s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 100
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure 1/640s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure 1/200s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length 85.0mm
Aperture: f/5.6
Exposure 1/4000s

Competition

Most users will decide between three different lenses in this class - the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 USM L IS (to the left below), EF 85mm f/1.2 USM L II (center) and the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART (right). There are further fast 85mm f/1.4 lenses from e.g. Zeiss and Samyang but these are manual focus lenses and therefore usually in the exotics realm. In terms of sheer optical qualities, the EF 85mm f/1.2 USM L II is certainly inferior but it is faster still and the bokeh is also a tad better. Interestingly the old lens is much shorter. The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART gives the Canon lenses a run for the money and it is the sharpest of the gang. On the downside, it struggles a bit in terms of focus accuracy and it's an even bigger brick to carry.

Visual comparison courtesy of camerasize.com.

Verdict

We weren't overly thrilled by the characteristic of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 USM L II. While being a bokeh monster, it has issues e.g. in terms of sharpness and AF speed. The Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 USM L IS does fix of these shortcomings. It is quite sharp at f/1.4 and reaches great results at medium aperture settings. That's on a 50mp sensor = at 21mp the quality is generally superb. Lateral CAs and distortions are low. The amount of vignetting sticks to the common characteristics in the class - reads: it's visible at f/1.4 but not extreme. The quality of the bokeh is generally excellent except for highlight discs that deteriorate a little too "early" in the image field in our book. Bokeh fringing is a common issue in this lens class and the Canon lens can't hide from this either.

Mechanically, the lens shows no real weakness. It is built to professional standards including weather sealing. Some may raise an eyebrow due to the use of (high-quality) plastics on the lens barrel but it's a non-issue really. It also helps in keeping the lens weight at a sane level.
For whatever reason, Canon decided to "shrink" the lens hood. While most users tend to use lenses without a lens hood anyway, those who do will be probably annoyed by this decision. Technically the hood could surely be twice as deep. The (optical) behaviour in backlit situations - to be precise: stray light from outside the image field - is better than average though.
The image stabilizer didn't really work too well for us (although there was clearly IS action visible in the viewfinder). Given the positive feedback from users, we tend to believe that this was an issue in our specific sample though. The AF is both very fast and silent.

Given the sum of its qualities, it is a no-brainer to give the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 USM L IS our "highly recommended" badge. It is facing tough competition from the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART lens but the Canon lens has the benefit of providing more consistent focusing results.

Optical Quality at 50 megapixels: No rating at this stage
Optical Quality at 21 megapixels:
Mechanical Quality:
Price/Performance:
      
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