A detailed test of Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L against Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM on Sony A7R II

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jarek leo
jarek leo Contributing Member • Posts: 958
A detailed test of Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L against Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM on Sony A7R II

I published a post on 40 years of the development of Canon’s superfast portrait lens and a detailed test comparing Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L, which in terms of optical formula follows the design of the original Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical, against the current Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. Both lenses were tested on Sony A7R II – a full-frame mirrorless camera with high resolution sensor, which allows mounting of both Canon FD and Canon EF lenses. The test was an eye-opener for me: four decades have passed and so little has changed in terms of optical properties.

Let me summarize the results:

Distortion: Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L has very small barrel distortion while Canon EF 85 mm f/1.2L II USM is almost perfectly corrected.

Vignetting: Both lenses behave very similarly with visible – but still very low for such fast lenses – vignetting wide open, which disappears completely by f/2.8.

Chromatic aberration: Both lenses display visible bokeh fringing in specular highlight, which only becomes unobtrusive at f/6.7.

Bokeh: Quality of bokeh greatly depends on the background; when there are no specular highlights both lenses render creamy, clean backgrounds at and near full aperture opening; with highlights in out-of-focus areas, both lenses display some busy bokeh – onion rings attributable to aspherical lens in the design, and swirly bokeh attributable to poor correction of coma; Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L is worse off with onion rings, while Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM shows more distracting swirly bokeh. After stopping down, the 8-blade aperture mechanism renders octagonal highlights.

Flare: Dedicated lens hoods are very effective; still with sunlight near the image edge, some flare is unavoidable.

Sharpness and contrast: At f/1.2 both lenses show decent contrast across entire frame and good sharpness in the center, with edges clearly lagging behind; Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L is slightly sharper in the center but its edges show a little less sharpness than Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. The contrast of both lenses becomes excellent already when stopped down to f/1.7-f/2; sharpness in the center also improves very fast upon stopping down – at f/2 for Canon FD 85mm f.1.2L and at f/2.8 for Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. Edge sharpness catches up with the center at f/4 for Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM while Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L needs to be stopped to f/5.6 to achieve this feat. Optical quality take a slight hit already at f/11 due to diffraction.

Both lenses are non-IF designs so there is no focus breathing. Optically they are so close that photos taken from a tripod alternately are almost indistinguishable.

The test is testament to what Canon’s engineers achieved 41 ago when the first version of the superfast portrait lens was marketed. For Canon EOS users the choice is obvious, as Canon FD lenses cannot be mounted on their cameras without extensive modifications or use of an optical adapter. For mirrorless users, however, Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L is a viable choice, being much lighter and smaller, requiring only a cheap adapter to work (Metabones adapter for Canon EF lenses is much more expensive and AF is still disappointing with Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM). Also it is less likely to fail after years of use as no electricity is needed to operate it; the Canon EF lenses (both the first and second version) have “focus by wire” feature so if the motor breaks, it’s not only AF that is gone - manual focusing becomes impossible too.

Let me be clear: I love both lenses, and on a Canon EOS the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM works like a charm. On Sony A7R II I simply enjoyed shooting with Canon FD 85mm f/1.2L more.

You can see the entire test at my blog. The text is in Polish, but photos should be self-explanatory:




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