June 22, 2018, 07:03:15 PM

Author Topic: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?  (Read 2694 times)

YuengLinger

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Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« on: February 27, 2018, 09:10:46 AM »
I've been using Canon's newest 85mm for about six weeks now.  I started out with it on my 5D III and was getting consistently great results, but, for the most part, I was using one-shot, single-point for subjects not moving much.  My AFMA value on the 5D III is -3.

Then I started trying the lens with faster moving subjects, working my way up to kids running straight towards the lens, and this is where I started noting more missed focusing.  Having watched Dustin Abbott's excellent AF review of the lens again, and just yesterday rereading the AF discussion by Bryan at TDP, I understand my experience is very close to theirs.

What surprises me though is the lower keeper rate on my 5D IV.  Other lenses, such as the very quick focusing 24-70mm f/2.8L II and the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II work BETTER on the Mark IV, as expected.  In fact, though I rarely attempted "action" with my (now sold) 85mm f/1.2L II, its AF was MUCH better on the Mark IV.

Another difference between the lens on the two bodies is the AFMA value.  Not only are the absolute values different, but it seems on the 5D IV my values tend to "float" a bit.  What I mean is sometimes -10 is right, other times -8 or even -7.  I haven't seen this on other fast lenses, such as the 135mm f/2L or the 35mm f/1.4L II.  Anybody familiar with shooting at f/1.4 knows that even a little bit front or back misses exquisitely sharp eyes, something I value highly in my portraits.

So that's my experience, and I'm hoping others who own this or other fast primes in the focal length range can share any insights or suggestions regarding best AF practices with such lenses.  Brainstorming the different performance on 5D III vs IV is also hoped for here!

Thanks!
« Last Edit: February 27, 2018, 09:30:30 AM by YuengLinger »

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Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« on: February 27, 2018, 09:10:46 AM »

Larsskv

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2018, 09:43:16 AM »
My experience with the 85 f1.4L for “action” is limited to street shooting of people in walking speed, and I have only used it paired with the 1DXII. My limited experience is that the AF performs better than any other L series prime lens I own (I do not own any super teles), for both still and moving subjects.

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2018, 12:24:05 PM »
I'm looking forward to seeing how the lens works for basketball this weekend.  I've used the 35L II and that works well, but the focal length is too short, and yes, the zooms (including the 24-70 f/2.8 II) focus faster and more consistently than the primes.  I know the hit rate will be significantly less than the 24-70, but the gym is lit primarily by skylights during the day, and last week it was cloudy, so my ISO reached 12800 at f/2.8 and around 1/250 s.

YuengLinger

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2018, 03:44:22 PM »
I'm looking forward to seeing how the lens works for basketball this weekend.  I've used the 35L II and that works well, but the focal length is too short, and yes, the zooms (including the 24-70 f/2.8 II) focus faster and more consistently than the primes.  I know the hit rate will be significantly less than the 24-70, but the gym is lit primarily by skylights during the day, and last week it was cloudy, so my ISO reached 12800 at f/2.8 and around 1/250 s.

Good luck!  Hope to see samples...!

hne

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2018, 04:14:08 PM »
I've seen no reason to doubt the AF speed and accuracy of the 85/1.4L IS on a 5DmkIV. That said, the fastest thing I've tried has been a child on a bum slide, which probably doesn't reach more than 15 km/h at best. At MFD the lens can barely keep up, but I can't frame properly. Not with a 25kg mass travelling towards my knees at a speed of 15km/h.
Preferred gear: 5D IV, 35/1.4L, 85/1.4L IS, 70-200/2.8L IS, Elinchrom RX
Backup: 5D II, 17-40/4L, 85/1.8, 100-400/4.5-5.6L, Yongnuo + 622

YuengLinger

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2018, 04:22:15 PM »
My problems with the 5D Mark IV and the 85mm 1.4L are not restricted to moving subjects.  My combination of lens and body just don't seem to get along as well as I wish they would--even for a subject that is moving only a little.  One or two shots will be fine, then a complete miss or two, then ok, then spot on.  And not just at max aperture, but up to f/5.6!  Compared to using with the 5D Mark III, kind of disappointing lately.

But I will continue to experiment with various settings, scenarios, etc.

johnf3f

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2018, 06:12:28 PM »
Have you tried turning the IS off?

IS slows down the initial AF lock and impairs tracking on all my current and past IS lenses which is why I don't use it anymore.

If you are not using IS then ignore this post. ;)
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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2018, 06:12:28 PM »

jd7

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2018, 07:11:00 PM »
Another difference between the lens on the two bodies is the AFMA value.  Not only are the absolute values different, but it seems on the 5D IV my values tend to "float" a bit.  What I mean is sometimes -10 is right, other times -8 or even -7.  I haven't seen this on other fast lenses, such as the 135mm f/2L or the 35mm f/1.4L II. 

It would be surprising if the absolute AFMA values were the same on two bodies, of course, but if your AFMA values  are consistent on your 5D3 but inconsistent on your 5DIV, maybe it would be worth getting your 5DIV checked out by Canon?  Is it still under warrranty by any chance?  I guess if your 135L and 35L II are not showing the same problem, that suggests the 5DIV is OK, but at the same time if your 85 1.4L is fine on your 5D3, it does seem to point to an issue with the 5DIV at least when used with the 85 1.4L.

Hope you manage to get it sorted out.
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Viggo

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2018, 07:46:13 AM »
I use the 85 IS with the 1dx2 and have struggled with kids bum sliding like described above. It’s not as epic AF as the 35 L II by any means, but I find it kind of different for different scenarios. I find it to track very well and infinitely better than the 85 f1.2 and the 1.8, but with sudden changes in speed or in overcast weather it’s not top notch.

I recently posted a thread about snowy weather and tracking and I struggle compared to the 35 and 200 f2 I used to have, different types of lenses and most importantly price, but some times I feel the 85 should be better.

If someone can share their AF settings for different scenarios that works I’ll be very thankful ;D
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YuengLinger

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2018, 11:53:36 AM »
I use the 85 IS with the 1dx2 and have struggled with kids bum sliding like described above. It’s not as epic AF as the 35 L II by any means, but I find it kind of different for different scenarios. I find it to track very well and infinitely better than the 85 f1.2 and the 1.8, but with sudden changes in speed or in overcast weather it’s not top notch.

I recently posted a thread about snowy weather and tracking and I struggle compared to the 35 and 200 f2 I used to have, different types of lenses and most importantly price, but some times I feel the 85 should be better.

If someone can share their AF settings for different scenarios that works I’ll be very thankful ;D

Thanks, V, I was hoping you'd share!

Larsskv

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2018, 12:10:13 PM »
I use the 85 IS with the 1dx2 and have struggled with kids bum sliding like described above. It’s not as epic AF as the 35 L II by any means, but I find it kind of different for different scenarios. I find it to track very well and infinitely better than the 85 f1.2 and the 1.8, but with sudden changes in speed or in overcast weather it’s not top notch.

I recently posted a thread about snowy weather and tracking and I struggle compared to the 35 and 200 f2 I used to have, different types of lenses and most importantly price, but some times I feel the 85 should be better.

If someone can share their AF settings for different scenarios that works I’ll be very thankful ;D

Hmm... I haven’t experienced any issues with the 85L f1.4, but struggle a bit with the consistency when using off center focusing points, when using my 35LII, even on still subjects.

Nelu

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2018, 01:13:22 PM »
I'm looking forward to seeing how the lens works for basketball this weekend.  I've used the 35L II and that works well, but the focal length is too short, and yes, the zooms (including the 24-70 f/2.8 II) focus faster and more consistently than the primes.  I know the hit rate will be significantly less than the 24-70, but the gym is lit primarily by skylights during the day, and last week it was cloudy, so my ISO reached 12800 at f/2.8 and around 1/250 s.

I just shot a couple of High School basketball games and my hit rate is around 40-50% on a Canon 5D Mark IV.
I think the lens works really well (my AFMA is -6) but it can struggle with players running directly to you at close distance.
Other than that, I love how bright, clean and sharp the images are!
My settings are: T= 1/1000s,  A=1.4, ISO between 2000 and 3200.

I also used the lens for volleyball, which is way harder to shoot that basketball, with a very good success rate.
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YuengLinger

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2018, 02:02:15 PM »
Hi suspect that some of my problems, especially the completely out of focus shots in between good ones, might be coming from my fingers slightly turning the focus ring. I'm trying now to find a grip that holds the lens steady but doesn't result in my fingers moving the ring.

Also, I think my expectations might have been a bit high.

As for having more problems on the 5D Mark 4, is it possible the AF system is too fast for the optical elements to keep up with? Could the older, slower AF system on the 5D III be a better match?

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2018, 02:02:15 PM »

Nelu

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2018, 02:12:30 PM »
Hi suspect that some of my problems, especially the completely out of focus shots in between good ones, might be coming from my fingers slightly turning the focus ring. I'm trying now to find a grip that holds the lens steady but doesn't result in my fingers moving the ring.

Also, I think my expectations might have been a bit high.

As for having more problems on the 5D Mark 4, is it possible the AF system is too fast for the optical elements to keep up with? Could the older, slower AF system on the 5D III be a better match?

I recommend using the back-button focus and following the subject at all times. Also, for focusing I would suggest either 4 AF point expansion or 8 AF point expansion, as suggested here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0i2_CHhp9Q4
Nelu
« Last Edit: February 28, 2018, 02:18:45 PM by Nelu »
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YuengLinger

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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2018, 12:31:33 AM »
Thanks for so many suggestions!  Some have been helping. (Note  I've tried back-button earnestly several times in the past, but it doesn't work for me.  Using two fingers at a time makes me jerk the camera at the moment of capture. And I'm not having issues with any other lenses.)

I did make sure my AF sensor was blown free of dust, which might have helped.  I don't seem to be completely missing as much now.

The 4-point expansion does help when subjects are the right size within the frame, meaning not too far away for kids.  And kids are down low, obviously, so they are going to have all kinds of busy backgrounds.  But this is for action.  Trying to take a half-body or head shot at f/1.4 and nail the eye means single point.

Practice is helping.  I'm being much more careful not to inadvertently move the focus ring.  (Though the lens feels well balanced, great in my hand, for some reason, the placement of the focus ring on this one particular lens is a problem for me.  It was also on the 1.2L, but that one allowed simply disabling the manual focus completely--and for very good reason.)

I'm also accepting that consistently nailing focus on the eye of a moving target at f/1.4 is just hoping for too much!  So that means once the subject is getting closer than full body, or maybe 3/4 body distance, being stopped down a little helps a lot.

Still not sure what to do about the IS when shutter speed is faster than, say, 1/1000th of a second.  I turned it off for the test in the attached photo.  I'm getting the feeling it does interfere in a certain range of shutter speeds, but a "feeling" isn't much to go by.

Another thing I've noticed, when using outer points, especially in portrait orientation, it helps tremendously to not tilt the camera in relation to the subject too much, even if the subject is not moving.  In other words, unless my focus plane is roughly parallel to the subject, I get some front focusing.  Shooting down on to a child is one scenario where this happens.  If I kneel down and keep things lined up, AF even in outer points is working well.  Why I've not noticed this on other lenses, not sure.  Could be that at 85mm, f/1.4, I'm close enough for the problem to be obvious, whereas with, say, a 135mm at f/2, it's harder to shoot downwards towards a child because the subject would be too close.  And at 35mm f/1.4, DoF is a little deeper.

Attached shot taken at ISO 100, 1/2000th, f/2, 4-point expansion, AI Servo Case 1.  He was running towards me pretty fast and then slowed just as I took this one of a series  (He saw a helicopter!)  I don't think the subject would have benefited much at faster than f/2, but I guess the monkey-bars would have been blurred out more.


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Re: Optimizing AF with the Canon 85mm 1.4L IS?
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2018, 12:31:33 AM »