Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Optically nearly perfect
  • Exquisite sharpness at f/1.2 right across the frame
  • Beautiful defocused areas
  • Essentially distortion free
  • Virtually no color fringing or chromatic aberrations
  • Excellent build quality
  • Customizable control ring and focus limiter
  • Size and weight make for awkward handling on EOS R/RP
  • No image stabilization
  • Hard-edged bokeh balls in some situations
  • Focus noise from AF motor can be an issue for video

The Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM is about as removed as it could be from the sea of small, light mirrorless lenses we’ve seen in recent years, whose handful of optical foibles are intended from the outset to be masked by in-camera corrections. It’s unashamedly big, weighty and pricey, and those photographers prepared to tolerate this will be rewarded with exemplary performance.

There’s little to grumble with its build quality, and the stated weather resistance is reassuring. Focusing speeds are impressive - albeit not class-leading - for a lens this substantial. While the motor itself isn’t the quietest – and consequently not really suitable for use during video recording – speed and accuracy is arguably more important here than discretion. Manual focus users may prefer a more tactile focusing ring, but the process of manually focusing itself is positive, particularly once you adjust the focusing ring’s response and call on the various in-camera focusing aids.

Still on the subject of small niggles, photographers mixing stills and video would no doubt have appreciated being able to click and de-click the lens’s Control Ring on demand, while those intending to use the lens for non-portrait use on occasion may have wished Canon had found space somewhere inside this beast for Image Stabilization. Image stabilization is of course absent in the current EOS R bodies, but (we're told) will be added to the lineup in future.

For now, minor frustrations aside, this lens shines brightly. Very brightly. Sharpness is superb wide-open, and this continues to be the case as you close down the aperture. Optical aberrations are either absent or minimal enough that they hardly matter. Color fringing, commonly a problem with such fast aperture lenses, is essentially absent thanks to the 'BR optics' element. Heavily defocused areas are rendered beautifully, although portrait shooters might want to wait a while to see how the 'DS' variant of the lens compares when shot at the widest apertures.

We frankly can't think of any issues, aside from price and weight, to not recommend this lens. We expect it to serve many professionals and enthusiasts alike for years - or decades - to come.


Scoring

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM
Category: Telephoto Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Autofocus
Ergonomics and Handling
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Canon RF 85mm F1.2L lens approaches optical perfection. It's tack sharp wide open, and central sharpness peaks by F2. Canon's 'BR optics' element ensures little to no color fringing in out-of-focus areas and also increases sharpness. Autofocus isn't silent nor is it speedy, but for portrait and wedding photographers, you couldn't ask for a better 85mm optic.
Good for
Portrait, lifestyle and wedding photographers.
Not so good for
Videographers wishing to use autofocus with internal or nearby microphones.
92%
Overall score

Sample Gallery

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