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Canon RF 85mm F/1.2L USM Lens Review

John Riley is putting the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lens to the test - the latest lens to join the line-up of lenses for the Canon EOS R Full-Frame camera.

|  Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM in Interchangeable Lenses
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Canon RF 85mm F1,2 Front Oblique View | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 68.0 mm | ISO 100

Success or failure of any new system relies on quality, appeal and in the case of a camera system a good choice of fine quality lenses. The Canon EOS R mirrorless full-frame system already has 28-70mm f/2L, 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM, 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, 50mm f/1.2L USM and 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM lenses. These are now joined by the new 85mm f/1.2L USM lens, a very attractive proposition for a wide range of photographic applications, not least of course portraiture, social photography and landscape. The f/1.2 aperture also holds great promise for low light shooting. Using the 30MP EOS R full-frame camera body, let's see how the new lens handles and performs, especially considering that we have a relatively large lens on a relatively small camera.


Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM Handling and Features

Canon RF 85mm F1,2 Without Hood On Canon R | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 60.0 mm | ISO 100

The lens may look large on the EOS R, but in fact, weighs in at a reasonable 1195g. Balance is good, but, oddly, the design means that when placed on a level surface, the camera/lens combination is slightly unbalanced and rocks diagonally. This means that using, say, the top of a wall to stabilise a slow shutter speed needs some care and probably means holding the kit in position. On the plus side, manufacturing quality is very high and the whole is weather-sealed, an important benefit when on location.

Starting our tour of the lens, a generously sized bayonet lens hood is provided. There is a locking catch and the whole is secure. Within the bayonet, fit is a standard 82mm filter thread and a huge front element, as we might expect. This element is fluorine coated, as is the rear element, to repel water and grease.

The first control ring can be programmed for various functions. It is very slick in operation, with light but positive click stops provided. The first choice is selecting whether or not the ring is always live, or whether the photographer prefers it to only be active when the shutter release is half depressed. The ring can control exposure compensation, aperture, shutter speed or ISO. It can also be switched off.

Behind this is the manual focus ring, again very smooth, and electronic in operation. Focusing is down to 0.85m, or 2.79 feet, a maximum magnification of 0.12x.

Canon RF 85mm F1,2 With Hood On Canon R | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 48.0 mm | ISO 100

Finally, there are two switches. The first is the self-explanatory AF/MF selector and the second the focus limiter. The choice for focus is either full range or from infinity down to 1.5m. In fact, the USM focusing is very fast and extremely accurate, a very important point considering the minuscule depth of field available at f/1.2.

Optical construction is 13 elements in 9 groups. There is a UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) element and also a ground aspheric glass, more difficult to manufacture and more expensive than the more common moulded aspherics. Canon's Blue Spectrum Refractive (BR) optics are utilised to remove any colour fringing. The diaphragm consists of 9 blades, aiming for a rounder aperture and therefore improved bokeh.

The package seems quite bulky at first, but once put to use it is quickly apparent that it works very, very efficiently. The AF is so fast and precise that it is a pleasure to see the images just snap into focus and the success rate is accordingly high. The lens has no particular vices and is a total pleasure to use. The only omission would seem to be Image Stabilisation, so the shutter speed used will need to be watched.

Canon RF 85mm F1,2 Rear Oblique View | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 68.0 mm | ISO 100

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