Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS Review and Comparisons | Dustin

Oct 4, 2012
2,669
17
www.dustinabbott.net
Hi everyone,

I’ve wrapped up my coverage of the new Canon 85mm f/1.4L IS. It’s a solid lens from Canon, but faces some stiff competition. I’ve done a lot of comparisons to other lenses as a part of this series, and I feel confident in my conclusions after all of that.

Written Review: http://bit.ly/85LIStwi
Video Playlist: http://bit.ly/85LISpl
Final Video Review: http://bit.ly/85LISda
Image Gallery: http://bit.ly/canon85LISig

Included in the playlist are comparisons to the Tamron 85mm f/1.8 VC: http://bit.ly/85LISiq2
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART: http://bit.ly/canVSsig85
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4: http://bit.ly/otusvcanon

Some interesting observations as a part of all this. Enjoy!
 

YuengLinger

EOS R5
CR Pro
Dec 20, 2012
3,541
1,997
USA
Dustin, I’ve waited to hear your conclusion after carefully watching all other segments. My gratitude for your many reviews, and my admiration of their quality and honesty, makes me reluctant to criticize, but you several times admitted that you had a copy that had one or more elements not properly centered. Whether the flaw was due to poor QC or an accident before you got your hands on the lens, I know from personal experience that slightly misaligned elements do aggravate sharpness and CA problems.

Whether or not one or two other reviewers agree with your IQ findings is besides the point--if you are determined to be independent. As soon as you realized you had a flawed copy, I believe you should have delayed the review until you had a better one. I’m perplexed that you went to such lengths to be thorough in the other segments, but then failed to mention the flaw in the conclusion (as a good segment of your audience likely just goes straight to the end). (If I missed the reference, I’m sorry!)

You might be right about the lens’s IQ shortcomings, slight as they are. I hope not because I went ahead and ordered. Next week I’ll see for myself. On the other hand, if you are wrong, I will always wonder why you didn’t pause when you realized there was a centering issue on your copy.
 

edoorn

EOS RP
Apr 1, 2016
355
330
nice review! I really enjoyed it, very thorough.

Used to shoot the 85 1.2 II but found it too slow, used a canon 85mm 1.8 afterwards but found the images to lack that bit of sparkle, tried the Sigma from a friend but found it very heavy and that particular copy to behave bad AF-wise on outer points (I know it's a sample variation thing) and I have been shooting the Tamron (trying to sell it, not much interest yet) for the last year. Finally, I ended up with the new Canon; I personally find the Canon to be, everything taken into account, the best allround performer.

In particular low light autofocus on the Canon is much better than my Tamron, so for event shooters, my feeling is the Canon is a pretty good bet. Everyone's mileage may vary of course and like you say, there's a lot to choose. from nowadays! Here's to a great 2018 with hopefully many reviews from your hand, I always enjoy reading them.
 
Oct 4, 2012
2,669
17
www.dustinabbott.net
YuengLinger said:
Dustin, I’ve waited to hear your conclusion after carefully watching all other segments. My gratitude for your many reviews, and my admiration of their quality and honesty, makes me reluctant to criticize, but you several times admitted that you had a copy that had one or more elements not properly centered. Whether the flaw was due to poor QC or an accident before you got your hands on the lens, I know from personal experience that slightly misaligned elements do aggravate sharpness and CA problems.

Whether or not one or two other reviewers agree with your IQ findings is besides the point--if you are determined to be independent. As soon as you realized you had a flawed copy, I believe you should have delayed the review until you had a better one. I’m perplexed that you went to such lengths to be thorough in the other segments, but then failed to mention the flaw in the conclusion (as a good segment of your audience likely just goes straight to the end). (If I missed the reference, I’m sorry!)

You might be right about the lens’s IQ shortcomings, slight as they are. I hope not because I went ahead and ordered. Next week I’ll see for myself. On the other hand, if you are wrong, I will always wonder why you didn’t pause when you realized there was a centering issue on your copy.

Subsequent tests revealed more consistency between the two sides (and I shot many, many comparisons). I no longer felt like the lens was decentered.

As for optical shortcomings - they are mostly centered around axial chromatic aberrations (longitudinal), and I haven't heard any reviewer that actually tests for that say that they didn't see them.
 

YuengLinger

EOS R5
CR Pro
Dec 20, 2012
3,541
1,997
USA
TWI by Dustin Abbott said:
YuengLinger said:
Dustin, I’ve waited to hear your conclusion after carefully watching all other segments. My gratitude for your many reviews, and my admiration of their quality and honesty, makes me reluctant to criticize, but you several times admitted that you had a copy that had one or more elements not properly centered. Whether the flaw was due to poor QC or an accident before you got your hands on the lens, I know from personal experience that slightly misaligned elements do aggravate sharpness and CA problems.

Whether or not one or two other reviewers agree with your IQ findings is besides the point--if you are determined to be independent. As soon as you realized you had a flawed copy, I believe you should have delayed the review until you had a better one. I’m perplexed that you went to such lengths to be thorough in the other segments, but then failed to mention the flaw in the conclusion (as a good segment of your audience likely just goes straight to the end). (If I missed the reference, I’m sorry!)

You might be right about the lens’s IQ shortcomings, slight as they are. I hope not because I went ahead and ordered. Next week I’ll see for myself. On the other hand, if you are wrong, I will always wonder why you didn’t pause when you realized there was a centering issue on your copy.

Subsequent tests revealed more consistency between the two sides (and I shot many, many comparisons). I no longer felt like the lens was decentered.

As for optical shortcomings - they are mostly centered around axial chromatic aberrations (longitudinal), and I haven't heard any reviewer that actually tests for that say that they didn't see them.

Hmmmm...Imagine how many YouTube viewers are going to be hyper alert. Did you mention this change of heart elsewhere?
 

Larsskv

EOS R
Jun 12, 2015
848
295
The 85LII is the lens that has produced my most beatiful and loved pictures. Still, GAS hit me today, and I ordered the new 85L IS. The faster AF, IS and weather sealing was too tempting, plus also my curiosity to compare them side by side.

I have no concerns about the weaker contrast, sharpness or CA compared to some of the competition. Those qualities never bother me on the 85LII. I am very curious to see how they compare in terms of the end results - how the images look, and if the new lens can create that quality i so much appreciate with the old one.

Thanks Dustin, for your thorough and fair reviews.
 
Oct 4, 2012
2,669
17
www.dustinabbott.net
DaviSto said:
Persisting with the review of a lens copy that you judged to be faulty does seem quiet perverse.

Hmmm, I don't recall ever saying the lens was faulty. In an early test, I wondered about a mild decentering, but subsequent tests (of which I did many) demonstrated that I was getting even results on both sides.

Beyond that, as I checked the results of others using the lens, I found that my findings were within the frame of reference.

No perversity here...
 
Oct 4, 2012
2,669
17
www.dustinabbott.net
YuengLinger said:
TWI by Dustin Abbott said:
YuengLinger said:
Dustin, I’ve waited to hear your conclusion after carefully watching all other segments. My gratitude for your many reviews, and my admiration of their quality and honesty, makes me reluctant to criticize, but you several times admitted that you had a copy that had one or more elements not properly centered. Whether the flaw was due to poor QC or an accident before you got your hands on the lens, I know from personal experience that slightly misaligned elements do aggravate sharpness and CA problems.

Whether or not one or two other reviewers agree with your IQ findings is besides the point--if you are determined to be independent. As soon as you realized you had a flawed copy, I believe you should have delayed the review until you had a better one. I’m perplexed that you went to such lengths to be thorough in the other segments, but then failed to mention the flaw in the conclusion (as a good segment of your audience likely just goes straight to the end). (If I missed the reference, I’m sorry!)

You might be right about the lens’s IQ shortcomings, slight as they are. I hope not because I went ahead and ordered. Next week I’ll see for myself. On the other hand, if you are wrong, I will always wonder why you didn’t pause when you realized there was a centering issue on your copy.

Subsequent tests revealed more consistency between the two sides (and I shot many, many comparisons). I no longer felt like the lens was decentered.

As for optical shortcomings - they are mostly centered around axial chromatic aberrations (longitudinal), and I haven't heard any reviewer that actually tests for that say that they didn't see them.

Hmmmm...Imagine how many YouTube viewers are going to be hyper alert. Did you mention this change of heart elsewhere?

Truth be told, it was mostly others who inferred that the lens copy was faulty, not myself. The only thing I said was that after one test I wondered if there was a mild decentering, which subsequent tests showed to not be the case. My methods in this review have been very well documented, and I feel confident in my conclusions.
 

BillB

EOS R
May 11, 2017
1,393
659
TWI by Dustin Abbott said:
Truth be told, it was mostly others who inferred that the lens copy was faulty, not myself. The only thing I said was that after one test I wondered if there was a mild decentering, which subsequent tests showed to not be the case. My methods in this review have been very well documented, and I feel confident in my conclusions.

The discussion by the lens developers that has been posted seems consistent with your findings. Sharpness was one of several factors considered in designing the lens. Other factors included weight and cost, along with general usability. Also, center sharpness was emphasized over corner sharpness because of the use of 85 mm for portrait work.

So the real questions would seem to be whether the 85 f1.4 IS L is sharp enough for the work at hand and whether the fact that other lenses are sharper has any practical significance. Pretty much inevitably, in reviews, and especially in the following discussions, the practical significance of performance differences tend to get lost. Of course, the practical importance of differences comes down to a judgement call, and people can and do differ.
 
Oct 4, 2012
2,669
17
www.dustinabbott.net
BillB said:
TWI by Dustin Abbott said:
Truth be told, it was mostly others who inferred that the lens copy was faulty, not myself. The only thing I said was that after one test I wondered if there was a mild decentering, which subsequent tests showed to not be the case. My methods in this review have been very well documented, and I feel confident in my conclusions.

The discussion by the lens developers that has been posted seems consistent with your findings. Sharpness was one of several factors considered in designing the lens. Other factors included weight and cost, along with general usability. Also, center sharpness was emphasized over corner sharpness because of the use of 85 mm for portrait work.

So the real questions would seem to be whether the 85 f1.4 IS L is sharp enough for the work at hand and whether the fact that other lenses are sharper has any practical significance. Pretty much inevitably, in reviews, and especially in the following discussions, the practical significance of performance differences tend to get lost. Of course, the practical importance of differences comes down to a judgement call, and people can and do differ.

Your conclusion is exactly right, and frankly, I don't think sharpness is the issue. I do believe that in some situations the axial CA will be an issue, but I wouldn't hesitate to purchase the lens myself based on a sharpness "issue".
 

bluenoser1993

EOS RP
Jul 11, 2012
210
17
Thanks Dustin, the reviews are greatly appreciated. I thought I would be all over the new 85 when it was announced, but the comparisons really showed me the Tamron is good enough for my uses. Then the opportunity to buy a store demo for $700CAD with full warranty made it a no brainer. Very excited to get using it.
 
Oct 4, 2012
2,669
17
www.dustinabbott.net
bluenoser1993 said:
Thanks Dustin, the reviews are greatly appreciated. I thought I would be all over the new 85 when it was announced, but the comparisons really showed me the Tamron is good enough for my uses. Then the opportunity to buy a store demo for $700CAD with full warranty made it a no brainer. Very excited to get using it.

The Tamron's performance is surprisingly strong in my comparisons. Watch for a four way showdown that I'm releasing later this week.
 

YuengLinger

EOS R5
CR Pro
Dec 20, 2012
3,541
1,997
USA
Dustin, after using the lens for over a month now, I want to say that your review prepared me 100% for its strengths and (minor) shortcomings. While mine might have been slightly sharper and less prone to CA than your copy, otherwise, and most especially regarding AF performance, I have felt like I already knew what owning this lens would be like--thanks to your comprehensive work.

Thank you!
 

Sporgon

5% of gear used 95% of the time
CR Pro
Nov 11, 2012
4,301
975
Yorkshire, England
Many review sources found that the Tamron 85 SP suffered from focus shift and that could be a big practical difference between that and the Canon lens. I don't think Dustin mentions it in his review though, so I presume he didn't find it an issue during his very practical review methods, but others certainly did.

On the back of Dustin's advice on the accuracy of these latest Tamron's AF I bought the 45 SP and it's an interesting and quite versatile lens, with no FS. I find that the vast majority of people do not want portraits where just one eye is in focus, and so when close I want smaller apertures; focus shift is something I just can't tolerate.
 
Oct 4, 2012
2,669
17
www.dustinabbott.net
YuengLinger said:
Dustin, after using the lens for over a month now, I want to say that your review prepared me 100% for its strengths and (minor) shortcomings. While mine might have been slightly sharper and less prone to CA than your copy, otherwise, and most especially regarding AF performance, I have felt like I already knew what owning this lens would be like--thanks to your comprehensive work.

Thank you!

That's great to hear...and I'm glad you enjoy the lens.