Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Review

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens

Do you photograph people? Get a towel because the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L Lens review is going to leave you drooling.

Are you familiar with the Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens? When introducing the Canon EOS R and the RF mount, Canon's first full frame lens mount introduced since the EF (electronic focusing) mount was introduced over 30 years ago, Canon primed the pump with some knock-out lenses and the RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens was one of them. The RF 50 was not Canon's first f/1.2 autofocus lens, but stopping the previous f/1.2 lenses down to at least f/2 or f/2.8 was necessary to gain the resolution and contrast typically desired by professionals. Sure, the dreamy effect can be useful at times, but I much prefer sharp, high contrast results and the RF 50 F1.2 delivers this impressively at f/1.2.

In the RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens, the 5th RF lens to hit the streets, Canon's lens designers are again showing off how well the new RF mount, in conjunction with the latest technologies, can perform. The RF 85 f/1.2 is very similar to the RF 50 f/1.2 in most regards, but thanks in part to blue spectrum refractive optics, the RF 85 optically performs even better than the RF 50.

In addition to impressive image quality, the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens has the professional-grade L-series build quality we have come to love along with fast, very accurate AF. Combine those qualities with the outstanding image quality and the perfect-for-portraits focal length and the end result is that this will be the most-used lens in many portrait photographers' kits.

As with all RF lenses, you will need an RF-mount camera (the EOS R-series) to utilize this lens. The RF 85 F1.2 L is good enough to justify the purchase of an RF-mount camera solely to use it on.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Angle View

Focal Length

With a prime lens, you get one focal length and that focal length provides a specific angle of view. That angle of view drives focus distance decisions for desired subject framing and that resulting distance provides the perspective achieved. While there are many uses for an 85mm lens, the standout use is, as already alluded to, portrait photography.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Portrait with Horse Sample Picture

Primarily for perspective reasons, the classic portrait focal length range is from 85mm through 135mm (after FOVCF is factored in). An 85mm lens hits the bottom classic range figure on a full frame camera and, if a camera with an RF mount and an APS-C/1.6x format imaging sensor ever becomes available, the 136mm full frame angle of view equivalent is at the top of this ideal range. An APS-C format camera of course requires a longer working distance to get the same framing as a full frame camera (and therefore will have more depth of field and a less-strongly blurred background at the same aperture).

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Portrait Sample Picture

The "portrait photography" designation is a broad one that covers a wide variety of potential still and video uses ranging from moderately-tight head shots to full body portraits, with a wide variety of potential venues including both indoors and outdoors. Portrait subjects can range from infants to seniors, from individuals to large groups. Engagements, weddings, parties, events, theater, stage performances including concerts and recitals, families, small groups, senior adults, fashion, documentary, lifestyle ... all are great uses for the 85mm focal length. There is often adequate space in even a small studio for portraiture with an 85mm-provided angle of view. I have done entire senior sessions with a wide aperture 85mm lens and subjects always love the results from this focal length.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Horse Riding Sample Picture

That portrait photography is one of the best revenue-producing genres out there helps justify the acquisition cost of this lens (you cannot buy stock photos of most people). I also argue that no subjects are more important than people.

People in action are in this lens' capabilities. Some sports, such as basketball, can be captured with an 85mm lens, and thanks to the ultra-wide aperture, this lens can capture such action in very poorly-lit venues including gymnasiums.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Street Sample Picture

This is an inviting angle of view for street photography. This focal length can work very well for architecture, products (medium through huge), commercial, general studio photography applications and a wide range of other subjects.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Beach Grass Sample Picture

Regardless of the camera format being used, like most focal lengths, 85mm can be useful for landscape photography. Though few will want to carry the weight of this lens on long hikes into the wilderness, those using this lens for landscapes will be rewarded for their efforts.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Beach Sample Picture

Here is an example showing where this focal length falls within the range found in a 70-200mm lens:

70-200mm Focal Length Range Example

The 85mm focal length is modestly longer than the 70mm focal length found on the long end of many standard 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lenses and falls on the short side of what is offered by the 70-200mm zoom lenses.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Front View

Max Aperture

What no zoom lens can touch is this prime lens' max aperture. As of review time, f/1.2 is the widest aperture available in a current model autofocus lens and there are very few lenses of any kind available with apertures wider than that in the RF 85mm F1.2 L. The f/1.2 aperture is a big deal.

In an interview with Canon Europe, RF 85 lens designers shared some insight as to why an f/1.2 aperture was selected instead of the more common f/1.4:

"Although one may think there isn't much difference between f/1.2 and f/1.4 when just looking at the numbers, there is nearly a half stop of difference in brightness. Nearly 1.4 times more light is taken in, resulting in a whole new level in terms of design difficulty. A half stop difference may not seem like much, but when designing large aperture lenses such as f/1.2 and f/1.4, this half stop makes a huge difference in terms of difficulty of design." [Satoshi]

Kaishi adds "The combination of stunning sharpness in the focused areas and the extremely shallow depth of field of f/1.2 delivers unmatched images. Portraits that use the shallow depth of field of f/1.2 have a unique beauty. The widest aperture setting on the RF 85mm F1.2L USM delivers a beautiful bokeh quality not found on other lenses, and amazing resolution, embodying a new type of imaging expression in portrait photography. That is why f/1.2 was chosen."

Use ultra-wide apertures to stop motion, both that of the subject and that of the camera, in very low light levels and/or with low ISO settings. Use ultra-wide apertures to create a strong background blur that makes a subject pop from an even highly distracting background. Here is an aperture comparison example.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Aperture Comparison Example

At f/1.2, the foreground flower stands out against the blurred background flowers and the viewer's eye is drawn to nothing else. At f/16, the image appears to have been taken with a cell phone. Having everything in the frame in focus is sometimes desirable and f/16 has its role, but ... the blur at f/1.2 sets this lens apart. Compare your current 85mm lens' widest aperture to f/1.2.

Opening an aperture wider means larger lens elements and larger lens elements mean increased size, weight, and price. This lens incorporates those features.

Note that, especially under full sun conditions and especially with a bright white subject (such as a boat, wedding dress, or cresting waves on the ocean), a 1/8000 sec. shutter speed may be only marginally fast enough to avoid blown highlights at f/1.2. Shooting with a narrower aperture is an option, but a neutral density or, in some situations, a circular polarizer filter will darken the image enough for a 1/8000 sec. shutter speed to be adequate.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Full Sun

The above image was captured at f/1.2 and 1/8000 sec. while using a circular polarizer filter.

This lens' aperture changes are quiet and smooth, ideally-suited for video recording under changing lighting conditions.

The list of subjects not able to be stopped by a 1/8000 sec shutter speed is quite small.

Image stabilization is not featured in this lens and when f/1.2 is in use it is seldom needed. Watch for in-body image stabilization to arrive in future Canon mirrorless camera models.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Top View

Image Quality

Thanks to a development announcement, we knew that the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens was coming long before it arrived. Based on the performance of the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens (and all of the other RF lenses), we expected the RF 85 to be a great performer. Based on the RF 85's price, announced in the official press release, that expectation was raised to a new level. Then the MTF chart became available, strongly supporting this expectation, practically guaranteeing that the RF 85 was going to be an amazing lens.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens MTF Chart Comparison

Then the lens showed up.

When you buy an f/1.2 lens, you probably want to use it at f/1.2. While Canon has produced other 85mm f/1.2 lenses, none have been extremely sharp at f/1.2. This lens changes that. Kaishi states "We hope that users who have always stopped down a bit during shooting will enjoy the photos that can now be captured when shooting at f/1.2."

The Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens is extraordinarily sharp from the center of the frame into the extreme full frame corners wide-open at f/1.2. There is little need to stop down aside from increasing the depth of field and decreasing the vignetting. You can now have f/1.2 at 85mm and be excited by the impressive contrast and resolution of the results.

Let's look at outdoor-captured examples. The images below are 100% resolution center of the frame crops from images captured in RAW format using a Canon EOS R. The images were processed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to "2" (Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens).

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

f/1.2 | f/2.8   f/1.2   f/1.2

Be sure to find details in the plane of sharp focus to base your opinions on. The flower example was captured at minimum focus distance, showing that this lens turns in excellent sharpness even at this close distance. The crop of the eye was taken from the head shot portrait shared above.

Focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA), is not an issue with this lens.

Next we'll look at comparisons showing 100% extreme-top-left-corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. These images were manually focused in the corner of the frame.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

Again, these results are impressive.

When used on a camera that utilizes a lens' entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings, especially when an aperture as wide as f/1.2 is in use. At f/1.2, this lens produces a noticeable about-3-stops of corner shading. By f/2, the amount drops to about-1.5-stops and shading continues to decrease through f/5.6 where about-0.7-stops remains and this amount remains through the balance of the aperture range.

One stop of shading is the amount often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely-varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting can be corrected during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. This effect is often appreciated in portraiture, though a face falling in a darker area of the frame may not be as much appreciated.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the greatest amount as this is where the greatest difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right software and lens profile loaded, lateral CA is usually easily corrected (often correctable in-camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. Of course, it is better to not have the problem in the first place. Color misalignment can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a worst-case example, a 100% crop from the extreme top left corner of an EOS R frame where diagonal black and white lines reveal any color separation.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

There should be only black and white colors in these images and that is essentially what I see.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Design

This is a good point to drop in a discussion about the special optics present in this lens, specifically the "... blue spectrum refractive optics designed to greatly reduce the chromatic aberration that are common in wide aperture lenses. The BR optical element, first introduced in the EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM, is inserted into the lens and refracts blue light between the concave and convex lenses. This enables the convergence of the entire wavelength of light to one point, resulting in higher image quality from the center to the edges of an image." [Canon]

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to look for. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing while the spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

Bringing this point into real life, in the example below, look at the fringing colors in the out of focus specular highlights created by the neutrally-colored subjects. Any color difference is being introduced by the lens.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

While this example may not show absolutely perfect results (see the slight purple fringing on the bottom right?), these results are very impressive. This design works very well. This lens will keep the white wedding dress its proper color in the foreground and background.

Flare is caused by bright light reflecting off of the surfaces of lens elements, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes-interesting artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare in an image is variable and depends on the position and nature of the light source (or sources) as well as on the selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. The RF 85 F1.2 L features Canon's state-of-the-art coatings including Air Sphere Coating (ASC) for reduced flaring and ghosting. With a medium-count 13 elements in 9 groups (the EF 85mm f/1.2L II has 8/7), combined with a short telephoto focal length, we did not expect this lens to show itself completely flare-free. The amount of flare effects it produces with the sun in the corner of the frame is rather low, but you should expect to see these effects at narrow apertures.

There are two lens aberrations that are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point, instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma), or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). Remember that lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The image below is a 100% crop taken from the extreme top-left corner of an EOS R frame.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Coma

While the points of light in the corners are slightly streaked, these results are relatively good for lenses in general.

Linear distortion can make careful framing of subjects with straight lines more challenging and when those straight lines are along the edge of the frame, the distortion can become obvious in the image. Most modern lenses have lens correction profiles available for the popular image processing applications and R-series cameras have this correction available in-camera for RF lenses. While distortion can be removed using this correction, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level. Some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions must be reduced. Fortunately, few will find this lens' images requiring any correction as there is only a hint of pincushion distortion.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Sunset Sample Picture

As an example, a large body of water in the frame can create a line that should be rendered straight. This lens takes care of that task.

The blur and quality of blur seen in the out of focus portions of an image are referred to as bokeh. In the Canon Europe interview, Kaishi states "In terms of bokeh, a key point is that the minimum focusing distance is closer than that of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. The strong bokeh created by f/1.2 can be used to create new types of imaging expressions such as close-ups of areas decorated with jewels."

Satoshi adds "We try to ensure the bokeh shape stays round at the edge of the frame, and at such a large aperture the lens size needs to be considerably larger. I believe to a certain extent that users can see the improvements to the bokeh shape being cut out in the peripherals [compared to the shape on a DSLR]. That's because there is no mirror box on the Canon EOS R to block the light rays, which is one of the causes of this phenomenon."

"The strong bokeh produced by the large aperture of the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM is one feature of the lens. However, lenses with significant chromatic aberration suppression tend to have slightly clearer bokeh contours", according to Tomohiko.

Here are some bokeh examples.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Bokeh Example

At f/4, we see the flowers in the background taking on a pleasant appearing blur. The f/5.6 example highlights the blur quality of defocused specular highlights that remain relatively round in their shape and smoothly filled. Note that the colors remain neutral throughout this example featuring silver subjects.

The f/1.2 example takes a look at the cat's eye bokeh delivered by this lens. As Satoshi discussed, this result is looking very good for the specs of this lens. The shapes are not perfect circles in the corners but not bad either. The Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS Lens is the one you want.

With an aperture blade count increase (from 8 to 9) over the EF 85mm f/1.2L II, distant point light sources showing a star-like effect have 18 points instead of 8. This is due to the odd (vs. even) number blade count. The points on these stars are coming from the blades of the aperture. Each blade is responsible, via diffraction, for creating two points of the star effect. If the blades are arranged opposite of each other (an even blade count), the points on the stars will equal the blade count as two blades share in creating a single pair of points. The blades of an odd blade count aperture are not opposing and the result is that each blade creates its own two points. Nine blades times two points each means 18-point star effects as seen below.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Starburst Effect Example

When stopped down, this lens' 9-blade aperture produces nice 18-point stars from point light sources

Overall, this lens produces outstanding image quality. There is very little left to want from this lens.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Top View with Hood


"The Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens uses the same ring-type ultrasonic motor (USM) as on the super telephoto lenses, which has the most powerful torque of any Canon lens, making focusing extremely fast despite the large optics." [Masami, Canon Inc.] The AF speed of Canon's EF 85mm f/1.2L II Lens was rather unimpressive, but with medium and short distance adjustments, the RF 85 focuses very fast. When performing a near-full range autofocus adjustment, you will notice some minor lag.

Under extreme low light conditions, focus is also slowed. This is normal, but normal happens in darker environments with this lens, thanks to the Canon EOS R's ability to focus in extremely low light levels (-6 EV with an f/1.2 lens). The R and RF 85 F1.2 L combination can focus on a bright star in a medium-dark sky. It can focus, with the AF assist light blocked, in darkness levels that I cannot see to safely navigate in. This performance is quite impressive.

Sometimes aiding in focus acquisition speed is a focus limiter switch, enabling the focus range to be limited to 4.9' (1.5m) - ∞ or permitting the full range.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens AF System

Especially when depth of field gets shallow, the importance of the combined AF accuracy of a camera and lens system is elevated and this lens performs very similarly to its RF 50mm f/1.2 sibling — impressively. Based on a substantial number of test images (over a thousand), I have found one shot AF accuracy from the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens to be very impressive.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Cantering Horse Sample Picture

In AI Servo tracking mode, this RF 85 and EOS R faced challenges as difficult as a cantering horse at near frame-filling distance and the RF 85's AF accuracy was again very good. Eye AF has performed wonderfully with this lens mounted on an EOS R.

From an audibility perspective, the RF 85 sometimes makes a light clicking/clunking sound during AF and a SHHHH can be heard amid longer focus distance changes. This lens is not as quiet during autofocusing as the Canon RF 24-105mm F4 L IS USM Lens, but it is not loud. Expect in-camera audio recording to pick up these sounds. The EOS R focuses this lens relatively smoothly (a benefit for video recording).

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Side View

The RF 85 F1.2 L has a focus-by-wire or electrical manual focus (vs. a direct gear-driven system) implementation of Ring USM. The manual focus ring electronically controls the focus of the lens. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in AF mode with the camera in One Shot drive mode, but the shutter release must be half-pressed for the focus ring to become active. Note that FTM does not work if electronic manual focusing is disabled in the camera's menu. The lens's switch must be in the "MF" position and the camera meter must be on/awake for manual focusing to be available.

With electronics driving AF, the rate of focus change caused by the focus ring can be electronically controlled and it can be variable, based on the ring's rotation speed. I never acclimated to that feature and with the R-series cameras, a linear (non-variable) adjustment speed can be configured. That's my preference and in this mode, the RF 85 F1.2 L's focus is adjusted very slowly with 360° of ring rotation taking it from minimum focus distance to infinity, allowing for very precise focusing capabilities aside from the stepping into focus behavior.

The focus ring is not huge but adequate for a prime lens of this size. The ring turns smoothly, with a light rotational resistance provided by the ring.

Moderate (normal) subject magnification/framing changes are seen in full extent focus range changes.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Focus Magnification Example

No focus distance scale is provided on the RF lenses introduced as of review time, but a digital scale can be enabled in the electronic viewfinder or LCD.

The RF 85mm F1.2 L has a 33.5" (850mm) minimum focus distance that delivers a maximum magnification spec of 0.12x, a number that no one will be excited about (few lenses have a lower number). While these numbers are lacking luster, they are normal for this lens class and slightly improved from the EF 85mm f/1.2L predecessor's 37.4" (950mm) and 0.11x specs.

Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens15.7"(400mm)0.19x
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens33.5"(850mm)0.12x
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS Lens33.5"(850mm)0.12x
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens37.4"(950mm)0.11x
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens33.5"(850mm)0.12x
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens33.5"(850mm)0.13x
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens33.5"(850mm)0.12x
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens33.5"(850mm)0.12x
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens31.5"(800mm)0.12x
Tamron 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens31.5"(800mm)0.14x
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus Lens31.5"(800mm)0.13x
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus Lens31.5"(800mm)0.12x

A subject measuring approximately 11" x 7.3 (279 x 186mm) will fill the frame at the minimum focus distance. The coneflower in the aperture comparison shared earlier in the review was at this lens' minimum focus distance. It measured about 2" (50mm) in diameter

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Maximum Magnification Example

The USPS love stamps shared above have an image area that measures 1.05 x 0.77" (26.67 x 19.558mm), and the overall individual stamp size is 1.19 x 0.91" (30.226 x 23.114mm).

Magnification from a short telephoto focal length lens can generally be noticeably increased with the use of extension tubes, hollow tubes with electronic connections that shift a lens farther from the camera. As of review time, Canon does not have RF mount-compatible extension tubes available, but third-party options are becoming available.

The Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens is not compatible with Canon extenders.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens on Tripod

Build Quality & Features

The Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens has been designed to have the same durability as EF mount Canon L Series Lenses. Kaishi states "What we were unwilling to compromise on was the pro specifications of toughness and durability that an L-series lens should have. We want professionals and enthusiasts to be able to hold on to this lens and use it for a long time without worry."

While Canon's RF L lenses take on a slightly updated look, those familiar with EF L lenses will immediately recognize this lens' heritage, denoted by the red ring. In a lot of ways, this lens is similar to the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens.

Canon RF 85mm Compared to 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens

Here is a closer look at the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Product Images

MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

This lens has a fixed size; it does not extend during focusing. The RF mount is relatively large in diameter and, as usual, the lens diameter bumps out just forward of the mount. The lens diameter remains the same for a short distance, the ideal dimensions to avoid contact with the camera grip fingers, before bumping outward noticeably to a rather wide diameter — it is a handful. With the lens balanced in the left palm, fingertips can comfortably be used to adjust manual focus or the control ring.

The knurled control ring is new with RF lenses. This ring is configurable for fast access to camera settings including aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation. Note that the control ring is clicked by default and this ring's clicks are going to be audible in camera-based audio recordings. Canon offers a click stop removal service for this ring (at a cost). The focus ring is separated from the control ring by a small amount of space and with the diameter increase, along with a texture difference, it is easy to tactilely find the ring you want.

The AF/MF and Focus Limiter switches are flush-mounted on a very-low-profile switch bank, but just enough raised surface area is available for easy use, even with gloves. Interesting is that changing the AF/MF switch position opens the lens aperture momentarily when the camera is powered off and that the lens makes a faint noise (ear against the lens required to hear it) when the camera is powered up.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Mount

This is a weather-sealed lens, but not a waterproof lens. Weather sealing can sometimes save the day, even indoors such as when a drink is spilled.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Weather Sealing

Like most other recent L lenses, the RF 85 F1.2 L features fluorine coatings on the front and rear lens elements to avoid dust adhesion and to make cleaning easier. This is one of those features that goes unnoticed until something happens in the field (like a little kid poking their finger into the lens).

This lens features a quality plastic external construction with tight tolerance between parts. The density of the optics required by the 85mm focal length combined with an f/1.2 aperture gives this lens a solid feel. Increased weight is always a penalty for an increased aperture opening. This lens has the latter and therefore has the former as well. While you will know that you are carrying this lens, the weight is moderate but manageable.

While the RF 85 appears longer than many other options (and there are a lot of 85mm prime lens options), it must be considered that most of those other options require a mount adapter to be used on a mirrorless camera and the adapter adds size and weight. The DSLR cameras are larger than the mirrorless cameras, offsetting at least some of the difference.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens33.5(950)3.5 x 4.3(89.8 x 108.0)772018
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens42.2(1196.3)4.1 x 4.6(104.1 x 116.8)822019
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS Lens42.2(1196.3)4.1 x 4.6(104.1 x 116.8)822019
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens36.2(1025)3.6 x 3.3(91.5 x 84.0)722006
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens33.5(950)3.5 x 4.1(88.6 x 105.4)772017
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens15.0(425)3.0 x 2.8(75.0 x 72.0)581992
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens23.3(660)3.4 x 3.3(86.4 x 84.0)772010
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens39.9(1130)3.7 x 5.0(94.7 x 126.2)862016
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens28.9(820)3.5 x 4.2(89.5 x 107.5)772016
Tamron 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens24.7(700)3.3 x 3.6(84.8 x 91.3)672016
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus Lens42.4(1200)4.0 x 4.9(101.0 x 124.0)862014
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus Lens45.2(1280)3.5 x 4.4(90.0 x 113.0)772015

For many more comparisons, review the complete Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

Again, there are a lot of lenses on that list. Let's look at some visual comparisons, starting with Canon's current 85mm lenses:

Canon 85mm Lens Comparison

In the above image, from left to right, are the:

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Lens
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens

Moving on to the brand-competitive lineup:

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus Lens
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens
Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus Lens
Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens to other lenses.

Don't forget the max aperture difference where applicable and again, remember that non-mirrorless lenses require a size- and weight-adding adapter to be used on mirrorless cameras.

Yes, we can add another lens to the list of those utilizing 82mm filters. Not terribly long ago, this was not a popular filter size but today 82mm is quite common among high-quality lenses including this one. Filters of this size are not inexpensive or small but they likely can be shared among the lenses in a pro-grade kit. Lenses with smaller filter threads can utilize 82mm filters using a step-up filter adapter ring.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Angle View with Hood

Canon includes lens hoods for all L-series lenses and, with very few exceptions, you should always use them (and not in reversed position). The ET-89 is the hood model that comes with this lens. This is a semi-rigid plastic hood with a plastic-molded ribbed interior designed to avoid reflections. It offers a great amount of protection from both impact and from flare-inducing bright light. The round shape enables the lens to be placed upright on a trustworthy flat surface, including with a camera mounted.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Case

Canon includes the soft-sided LP1424 drawstring pouch in the box. This is the same model shipped with the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens and a couple of other Canon L lenses. This pouch offers protective padding on the bottom, but the sides are unpadded, offering primarily light scratch and dust protection.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Cap

Price and Value

The old adage "You get what you pay for" has long held merit and once again applies here. Great lenses are seldom cheap and this one does not break that rule. The RF 85 F1.2 L has a price tag high enough to keep it out of the hands of most casual photographers, giving professionals that own it an edge in the marketplace. Professionals will appreciate how this lens can differentiate their work and many will not balk at this expenditure. This is a bread and butter portrait and wedding photography lens.

Can't afford to buy this lens? Or simply can't justify doing so? Rent it for those special occasions.

As an "RF" lens, the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens is compatible with all Canon EOS R series cameras. Canon USA provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens was sourced from Canon USA.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Side View with Hood

Alternatives to the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens

The list of alternative 85mm prime lenses (if the camera model is not considered) is huge and facing the project of comparing the alternatives is a bit daunting. I'm going to select a handful of models for comparison and direct you to the lens comparison tools featured on this site to compare those I don't include.

Let's start with Canon's previous 85mm f/1.2 lens, the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. The image quality comparison is easy to discern — the RF is considerably sharper at f/1.2. Especially impressive is that the RF lens is approximately as sharp at f/1.2 as the EF is at f/2.8. The RF lens has less chromatic aberration. The EF lens shows roughly 0.5-stops less peripheral shading in the corners at f/1.2. With a higher lens element count, the RF lens shows more flare shapes in our test at narrow apertures, but it seems to show less veiling flare. Neither lens shows much linear distortion, but the small amounts they have are reversed in type with the EF lens having very minor barrel distortion and the RF having very minor pincushion distortion.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L vs. EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens comparison shows the RF lens weighing 6.0 oz (171g) more (42.2 vs 36.2, 1196 vs. 1025g) and measuring considerably larger (4.1 x 4.6" vs. 3.6 x 3.31", 104.14 x 116.84mm vs. 91.5 x 84mm). Of course, use of the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R takes back some of that difference. Along with the RF's larger dimensions comes a larger filter size, 82mm vs. 72mm. The RF lens has 9 aperture blades vs. 8. The RF lens focuses faster and slightly closer and it has a focus limiter switch. The EF lens extends with focusing and is not weather sealed. The RF lens is priced considerably higher.

Can you manage with an f/1.4 max aperture? If so, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens is worth considering. The image quality comparison shows that, while the EF lens is quite sharp, the RF lens is still sharper wide open. The EF lens has slightly stronger pincushion distortion.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L vs. EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM Lens comparison shows the RF once again the larger and heavier option. Overall, these two lenses share a lot in common. The RF lens has 82mm filter threads vs. 77mm and has a focus limiter switch. The EF lens features image stabilization and is priced a 4-figure amount (in USD) less.

Another f/1.4 lens I wanted to compare the RF 85 to is the highly-revered, manual-focus-only Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus Lens. In the image quality comparison, discerning between the different test cameras becomes the biggest challenge. These two lenses are performing very similarly with both wide open, f/1.2 vs. f/1.4. The Zeiss design shows fewer flare effects in our standard test scenario.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens vs. Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus Lens comparison shows the two lenses having essentially equal size and weight. The Zeiss Otus lens uses less-common and larger filters (86mm vs. 82mm). With a metal exterior, the Zeiss lens seems more ruggedly built and has a slightly higher maximum magnification (0.13x vs. 0.12x). The Canon lens is weather sealed. How do you make the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens look like a bargain? Compare its price to the Zeiss Otus' price.

Want the f/1.2 aperture but can utilize a 50mm focal length? If so, the Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens becomes a comparable. In the image quality comparison, the 85mm lens tests sharper in the center of the frame. The 50 has about 1-stop stronger peripheral shading at f/1.2 than the 85.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Canon RF 85mm vs. 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens comparison shows the 85 to be the larger and heavier lens. The 50 has one more aperture blade than the 85 (10 vs. 9), takes smaller filters (77mm vs. 82mm), and has a considerably higher maximum magnification (0.19x vs. 0.12x). The 50's price is a bit lower.

Let's pick one more lens to compare, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens. In the image quality comparison, it is difficult to discern a winner at wide-open apertures. The Sigma lens shows significantly more color blur.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens vs. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens comparison shows the two lenses, though differently shaped, being similar in size and weight. The Sigma lens has a much larger focus ring and uses less-common and larger filters (86mm vs. 82mm). The Canon lens has a focus distance range limiter. All will appreciate the Sigma's far lower price.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens Front View on Camera


Meet your new favorite portrait lens.

When purchasing a prime lens (vs. a zoom lens), the focal length significantly determines what that lens is best used for and regarding the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens, Kazuto Ogawa, president and COO of Canon USA states "We envision this product as being the quintessential workhorse lens for portrait photographers of all skill levels." Portrait photography is incredibly popular, the number of 85mm lenses available hints at the popularity of this focal length, and so often, 85mm is the ideal choice for portraiture, providing the ideal subject framing at a distance that creates a pleasing perspective.

Especially at f/1.2, this lens' image quality is outstanding. Not long after posting the image quality results for this lens, I received an email from one of the first RF 85 L lens owners: "Thank you again very much for posting the early test shots of the RF 85 1.2L. I bought it and I am extremely happy with it. Insanely sharp lens with spectacular, painterly bokeh. The best money I ever spent!" [Dejan K].

The 85mm and f/1.2 combination creates a gorgeous look with a strong background blur and the AF system's accuracy critically supports the shallow depth of field this combination provides.

This lens is not small, light, or inexpensive, but if you are serious about portrait and wedding photography, the RF 85 should be in your kit. You'll need an EOS R-series camera to mount this lens on, but the Canon RF 85 F1.2 L Lens is good enough to justify a camera purchase.

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