How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

Started Nov 8, 2010 | Discussions
splitsecond Forum Member • Posts: 97
How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

I have used a newly purchased 85mm 1.2 II with 5d MK2 on a birthday party, shot at f/2, 1/100-1/200 shutter speed and iso around 1000, center focusing point AF only. The most pictures were out of focus, but if it was in focus, it produced very sharp image. I was aware that this lens is difficult to focus before the shooting, that's why I used above settings and tried to avoid paper thin DOF at f1.2-1.8, but the results were extremely disappointing. I had 80% of OOF, 10% soft, and 10% sharp pictures after all.

To Whom is more experienced with this lens and camera combination, my question is: how to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly?

 splitsecond's gear list:splitsecond's gear list
Sony a9
Trinimon Contributing Member • Posts: 516
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

With the 85L, if you're shooting 3/4 and tighter shots of your subject, even at f2.8 the DOF is pretty shallow and you can't focus and recompose. At f1.2 the DOF with a tight crop is crazy thin, enough so that if you focused on the person's nose, their eyes will be OOF. You will need to either spot focus and shoot without recomposing or fine tune with manual focus. Shooting a full body length, you have more DOF to play with. Takes a few sessions to get used to how narrow the DOF is!

expro Senior Member • Posts: 2,274
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?
2

as you know it's not really a party lens!

that being said I too have used it for parties and apart from when I've expected miracles from the lens in low light have achieved consistent focus with just one technique:

1. set f4
2. spot photo I want to take
3. focus on their eye with centre point only
4. don't recompose, think or do anything other than pull trigger...
5. later if necessary crop in LR3

one other thing to notice, if you use f1.2 and focus on eyeball itself then sometimes even when perfectly focussed the eyeball will not show up as focussed as everything else is blurred and distracts you... in these cases sometimes it's better to focus on where the skin meets the eye, the root of the eyelash, and then the photo 'looks' better focussed...

 expro's gear list:expro's gear list
Canon EOS R3 Canon RF 14-35mm F4L IS USM Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM
carlk Forum Pro • Posts: 15,940
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

Use AI servo and put the AF point on the target and shoot. Forget about f&r it will not work at this thin DOF. You probably need to restricted to use the center AF only on your 5DII. The non-cross type outer points won't give you very consistent focus.

 carlk's gear list:carlk's gear list
Nikon D800E Canon EOS 7D Canon EOS 50D Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED +6 more
andrewD2
andrewD2 Veteran Member • Posts: 9,512
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?
1

I have the 85L mk1, on a 1DsIII I pick a focus point on the target (eye if possible).

Tips 1) try a second press and refocus - once you have the focus close getting it to fine tune it just before you shoot can help, esp if the subject has moved a little in the time it took to focus the first time.
2) use AI servo and burst. Can't do that with focus recompose of course.

Btw, my hit rate was excellent at f1.4-f1.6, 80%+

Andrew

The Mad Kiwi Senior Member • Posts: 1,106
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?
1

Use a focus point, aim at the eye and the second you hear the focus lock sound press (don't jab) the shutter, don't wait for the subject to move, definately don't try to focus re-compose, that's a recipe for OOF shots all day long.

If the subject is moving like they would be at a party then use servo burst, again choose as focus point and put it on the eye.

Watch out for girls hair, a few strands in front of the eyes and that's where it'll focus, or young men with long hair as well for that matter (the kids of today).

 The Mad Kiwi's gear list:The Mad Kiwi's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Sony a7 III Sony a7R IV Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro Sony FE 85mm F1.8 +9 more
snooked123 Regular Member • Posts: 344
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

Initially I had a lot of problems with 85L mark 1 but than I started using my flash for AF assist and suddenly things improved many folds even wide open. I absolutely despise focus recompose and don't do it unless my 5d refuses to lock focus. I do use the outer focus points on the age old 5d but only with the focus assist coming from my flash.

Pultzar Senior Member • Posts: 1,532
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

You could also try using an LCDVF in live view with manual focus. This will be tough if the subject is moving, but if they are posing then you can be spot on.

Steve Balcombe Forum Pro • Posts: 15,835
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

If you want to use narrow depth of field in a practical situation then IMV you have to be able to see the focus in the viewfinder and think about it every time. In my case it's more likely to be hand-held macro than a very large aperture, but the principle is exactly the same.

The points already made - about focus/recompose, hair across the eyes, etc., are perfectly correct but if you can't see where the camera has focused you won't know what's happening. When focusing on the edge of the eye instead of the eyeball is critical, the tiniest movement of subject or photographer is obviously going to affect the accuracy. Personally I know I have a problem with 'drifting' forwards and backwards when looking through the viewfinder, maybe you do the same.

So if you are in a situation where you can't see enough (or don't have enough time?) to focus with the required level of accuracy and consistency, don't even try. Use f/4 and up the ISO speed - a slightly noisier shot with enough depth of field is a keeper.

maiaibing Veteran Member • Posts: 5,139
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

Difficult to know. Did you check your focus points afterwards using the Canon software?

If you did and the focus at the focus point is off I strongly suggest you check for front/back focus and adjust accordingly. You should certainly have at least as many keepers as misses @ f/2.

Shooting @ f/1.2 is always risky business. Shooting @ f/2 should be a fairly safe bet.

splitsecond wrote:

I have used a newly purchased 85mm 1.2 II with 5d MK2 on a birthday party, shot at f/2, 1/100-1/200 shutter speed and iso around 1000, center focusing point AF only. The most pictures were out of focus, but if it was in focus, it produced very sharp image. I was aware that this lens is difficult to focus before the shooting, that's why I used above settings and tried to avoid paper thin DOF at f1.2-1.8, but the results were extremely disappointing. I had 80% of OOF, 10% soft, and 10% sharp pictures after all.

To Whom is more experienced with this lens and camera combination, my question is: how to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly?

 maiaibing's gear list:maiaibing's gear list
Canon EOS 5DS R Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM Canon Extender EF 2x III Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II +5 more
davidevans1 Senior Member • Posts: 2,046
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

I read this a couple of weeks ago, and wonder if it is of relevance here?

In the November edition of the UK BJP Magazine, there is a review of 85mm lenses, and in reviewing the Canon 85mm F/1.2 the reviewer says 'Micro AF adjustment is vital with the 85mm F/1.2 as the professional Canon bodies only see F/2.8 as the virtual aperture of the lens, so AF focus is never better than F/2.8 accuracy. Focus error wide open is the main reason that it's not an ideal £2,640 investment (£1700 street price) for owners of sub £1,000 bodies such as the EOS 550D. It is a natural pair with professional bodies, especially full frame 1Ds and 5D variants'
Is this correct, and is it widely known?

Reading the final sentence about the lens being ideally paired with pro bodies, I'm not clear whether ther article contained a missprint and should have said 'non professional bodies' instead of 'professional bodies' and the F/2.8 virtual aperture.
Does anyone know about this?
--
David

 davidevans1's gear list:davidevans1's gear list
Leica Q3
maiaibing Veteran Member • Posts: 5,139
New to me

newmoon2night wrote:

I read this a couple of weeks ago, and wonder if it is of relevance here?

In the November edition of the UK BJP Magazine, there is a review of 85mm lenses, and in reviewing the Canon 85mm F/1.2 the reviewer says 'Micro AF adjustment is vital with the 85mm F/1.2 as the professional Canon bodies only see F/2.8 as the virtual aperture of the lens, so AF focus is never better than F/2.8 accuracy. Focus error wide open is the main reason that it's not an ideal £2,640 investment (£1700 street price) for owners of sub £1,000 bodies such as the EOS 550D. It is a natural pair with professional bodies, especially full frame 1Ds and 5D variants'
Is this correct, and is it widely known?

Its news to me. And I have not heard it before. For my own sake I can say that I shoot a lot at very wide apertures and that I noticed no difference in focus accuracy when moving from my 400D to my 5Dii.

 maiaibing's gear list:maiaibing's gear list
Canon EOS 5DS R Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM Canon Extender EF 2x III Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II +5 more
ffabrici Senior Member • Posts: 1,447
The 1D bodies have increased AF precision with f2.8 or faster

The 1D bodies have increased cross-censor AF precision with f2.8 or faster - twice the precision, which is one of the reason I invested in f2.8 zooms.

maiaibing Veteran Member • Posts: 5,139
Re: The 1D bodies have increased AF precision with f2.8 or faster

If so, its just another confirmation that the 5Dii is not a pro body - as Canon also states.

ffabrici wrote:

The 1D bodies have increased cross-censor AF precision with f2.8 or faster - twice the precision, which is one of the reason I invested in f2.8 zooms.

 maiaibing's gear list:maiaibing's gear list
Canon EOS 5DS R Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM Canon Extender EF 2x III Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II +5 more
RustyRus Senior Member • Posts: 1,723
Re: The 1D bodies have increased AF precision with f2.8 or faster

I just bought this lens today....It is by far the most amazing piece of glass I have every touched.....It is tricky to get a 20 month old in focus at 1.2 but when I did....I was extremly impressed.

 RustyRus's gear list:RustyRus's gear list
Leica Q2 Ricoh GR III Fujifilm X100V Fujifilm X-H2 Fujifilm X-Pro3 +1 more
davidevans1 Senior Member • Posts: 2,046
Re: The 1D bodies have increased AF precision with f2.8 or faster

maiaibing wrote:

If so, its just another confirmation that the 5Dii is not a pro body - as Canon also states.

ffabrici wrote:

The 1D bodies have increased cross-censor AF precision with f2.8 or faster - twice the precision, which is one of the reason I invested in f2.8 zooms.

The article I quoted from BJP concluded

It is a natural pair with professional bodies, especially full frame 1Ds and 5D variants'

That comment suggests that it isnt just the 1D series that has better autofocus at F/2.8 and wider, but the 5D series also. However it didn't explain teh reasons behind the comments.

The article was written by David Kilpatrick, who I think won the UK Press PR & Stock Photographer of the Year 2009, and presumably knows what he's talking about.

I've just Googled a question and come up with this thread http://community.the-digital-picture.com/photography_gear1/f/7/p/2012/15238.aspx , which goes some way to explaining how Canon autofocus sensors work on different camera models (follow the thread through to the last post). However it doesn't explain why ANY Canon model would focus more accurately at wider than F/2.8. Unfortunately I couldn't get teh pdf in the thread to open.
--
David

 davidevans1's gear list:davidevans1's gear list
Leica Q3
lemming2008 Regular Member • Posts: 488
Re: The 1D bodies have increased AF precision with f2.8 or faster

ffabrici wrote:

The 1D bodies have increased cross-censor AF precision with f2.8 or faster - twice the precision, which is one of the reason I invested in f2.8 zooms.

The center AF point on the 5D2 is a cross-type sensor as well. Don't know how it compares to the 1D body sensors, but it is more accurate than the other 5D2 AF points. This is why many people recommend using center AF for the 5D2.

splitsecond wrote:

I have used a newly purchased 85mm 1.2 II with 5d MK2 on a birthday party, shot at f/2, 1/100-1/200 shutter speed and iso around 1000, center focusing point AF only. [...]

I use my 5D2+85L combination at events regularly. It took a bit of time to get used to it. It's not an action lens, it's a portrait lens. It's slow to focus, so if people are moving around you may never catch up -- you need them to pose for you. And while it's tempting to make use of that wide aperture you paid for, realistically I usually shoot around f2.5 to have enough DOF for a single subject.

If you set AI Servo and center focus point, and make an effort to take multiple shots when possible, you will get some stunningly sharp shots and that wonderful 85L bokeh. The one problem I've found using center focus is that if you are shooting two people posing together, your natural tendency is to place that center point between the two of them.

I have not microadjusted my lens, it already yields great results.

 lemming2008's gear list:lemming2008's gear list
Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EF 35mm F1.4L USM Canon EF 85mm F1.2L II USM Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM +3 more
gurbally Contributing Member • Posts: 876
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

But Canon has been making lenses faster than f2.8 for long now. I can't believe professional Canon bodies see f2.8 as the virtual aperture of fast lenses like 85mm 1.2II?

I use 85mm 1.2II on my 5DII without any problems ever. I use it mostly at 1.4 or 1.8.

newmoon2night wrote:

I read this a couple of weeks ago, and wonder if it is of relevance here?

In the November edition of the UK BJP Magazine, there is a review of 85mm lenses, and in reviewing the Canon 85mm F/1.2 the reviewer says 'Micro AF adjustment is vital with the 85mm F/1.2 as the professional Canon bodies only see F/2.8 as the virtual aperture of the lens, so AF focus is never better than F/2.8 accuracy. Focus error wide open is the main reason that it's not an ideal £2,640 investment (£1700 street price) for owners of sub £1,000 bodies such as the EOS 550D. It is a natural pair with professional bodies, especially full frame 1Ds and 5D variants'
Is this correct, and is it widely known?

Reading the final sentence about the lens being ideally paired with pro bodies, I'm not clear whether ther article contained a missprint and should have said 'non professional bodies' instead of 'professional bodies' and the F/2.8 virtual aperture.
Does anyone know about this?
--
David

kevindar
kevindar Veteran Member • Posts: 4,625
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?

make sure your lens is focusing properly. I was just at a birthday party, same combo, shot between 1.2-1.8, and for reasonably stationary objects, had better than 80 percent hit rate. I have never had much of the problem with the lens honestly on 5d2. I always use center, and never recompose with this lens when shot wide open (almost always)

 kevindar's gear list:kevindar's gear list
Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM Canon EF 85mm F1.2L II USM Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L II USM Canon EOS 80D Sony a7R II +25 more
lazerbean Regular Member • Posts: 225
Re: How to focus 85mm 1.2 II properly ?
1

The 85mm 1.2 is a notoriously difficult lens to use at its largest aperture - if you're really critical about sharpness, expect most images to be slightly out of focus.

AF microadjustment would be my first stop, just to rule that out.

The rest is mostly about technique, as others have pointed out.

Still, it's difficult. Some of the above posters that are downplaying the difficulty level can't be very critical about sharpness at 1:1, as perfectly focused images ARE elusive. But usually worth the effort.

Servo, burst, spot focus point on the eye, no recomposing should give better results.

The most foolproof technique if the situation allows for it is to put your camera on a tripod and do live view, zoom in on the models eye on the display and do manual focus. The optical viewfinder in itself will not allow for precise enough manual focus with this lens. You need magnification to really see what you're doing (I have perfect vision and still can't tell when the image is 100% properly focused by just looking through the viewfinder. It's not a matter of eyesight, but rather of giving your eye sufficient info to work with to really tell the difference between a 95% focussed image and a 100% focused image).

I wouldn't use this lens at 1.2 for events, it's simply not an action lens. The AF on this lens is so slow that I would prefer almost any other L zoom covering the same field of view to the 85mm 1.2 for action. Or save a ton of money and buy/use the 85 f1.8 instead, its focussing faster. As others have pointed out, the 1.2 is a specialized portrait lens, and should be treated as such.

Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads