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Canon 85mm 1.2L II

Amazing portraits, but at a hefty cost

Does this lens really need any introduction?  It’s legendary! Portrait photographers have built very successful careers shooting this single lens alone.  It’s hands down the best portrait lens Canon offers and you will pay dearly for it.  This Mark II version significantly improves the auto focus speed, however it’s not a fast focusing lens at all.  Obviously, compared to a manual focus lens it’s snappy.  But, most photographers will notice its sluggishness.  That being said we shoot it at ceremonies, receptions, and other fast paced photography situations and it keeps up well enough for us.

The lead optical engineer at Canon who led the design team also happened to be a fashion photographer.  Of course he had planned to design a lens that would be the ultimate lens for fashion photography.  It was even sold to the public as a fashion photography lens.  You can gush over pristinely photoshop’d 85mm II beauties in any of the popular fashion magazines. But, it’s Canon’s portrait and wedding photographers that really propelled this lens to the masses.  Once you’ve seen it’s magical results you too will be sold.

Canon refers to this as a large-diamater lens, and they aren’t kidding! This thing is huge! If you have used the 50 1.2L then you know how the 1.2 of that lens might seem gimmicky.  But, not here! This lens is massive, heavy and slow, comparable to a 70-200 in weight. However, you will learn to put up with these attributes once you’ve seen the dreamy amazingness that this lens creates! For me as a Denver wedding photographer, I require this focal distance.  For us, knowing there is no Canon equal puts our minds at ease when we must perform at our very best.

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Why we love this lens and alternatives

At our photography studio we are always striving to create the absolute highest quality photos.  This lens helps us achieve those goals and is a MUST have for every single wedding we shoot.  The build quality is very solid.  We can personally attest to the superior build quality, as our copy has hit the ground twice.  Thanks to the solid build, we picked it up on both horrific occasions and continued shooting with no issue whatsoever. We have also owned the 85mm 1.8, which we also highly recommend to photographers on strict budgets or just getting started. Oddly enough, the 1.8 is everything the 1.2 is not, light weight, fast to focus and very inexpensive for the incredible image quality it is capable of rendering.  However, knowing that you could be shooting with the L glass might torment you like it had tormented us.  Consider this investment and you will be rewarded. This lens is one lens that we have never regretted purchasing.

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More Resources

Are you interested in learning more about this lens? There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.

Canon – 85mm Tech Specs

Neil van Niekerk’s – Best Lens to change your portrait photography

History of the Canon 85mm