I'll skip the sweet stuff and go directly to things I disliked:
1, The focus by wire FTM ring. I understand that the lens is actually moving ALL but one elements -- that's a lot of glass-- while focusing but I'd still prefer a stiff, heavy, mechanically connected FTM ring than the loose slippery electronic focus by wire system. Since the electronic FTM on this lens is pretty much useless I always disable the 'electronic manual over-ride ' feature in my 1DS settings menu.
2, The moving front group. I'd prefer a fixed front group or at least somehow extend the outer barrel so the front can be contained within the outer barrel while focusing. I hate to manually 'reset' the lens back to infinite after each session. And a extended outer barrel (maybe by around half an inch) will also make the lens body easier to grip while using large 1D series bodies.
3, No weather seals.
4, The AF/MF switch. It's too small and difficult to use especially with gloves on.
This is a special lens, you can tell it's a 85/1.5 from the first glimpse of a picture but there's still much room to improve. so, a mk. III, please?
March 22, 2014
very fast but at a cost.
I love this lens, the DOF is extremely low as one would expect. I can shoot in near total darkness as long as I have a light for focus assist. Ambient light looks true and beautiful!
With that said however this lens is the worst of all I own for backlit subjects. The chromatic aberration is awful, and it is nearly impossible to focus. Keeping in mind manual focus only works to around 4.0 I find myself constantly using auto, which is fast and fine most of the time, but very time consuming and annoying with an even slightly backlit subject.
I wouldn't trade this lens for anything, but for variable light situations, I would always carry a backup.
October 25, 2013
I read the reviews on this lens and the 1.8 and thought a long hard about making the extra expenditure. Many people wrote about the 1.8 that they could not see any reason to buy the 1.2, to them I say then you should not. This lens was meant to shoot at 1.2 and when you do it is a marvel to behold. I also read that the focus was slow and not accurate. Yes it is a bit slow but plenty fast for portraits, I also use it when photographing musicians during concerts. It also is almost a requirement for weddings. As for the inaccurate focus that really is not true but you really must know and pay attention to what you are doing when shooting at 1.2 and close to your subject because the depth of field is so very narrow, but that is why you buy a lens like this. Learn to use it right and it will reward you with amazing photographs. People just look better with this lens. As for the complaints about it being heavy I don't find it bad at all, the weight feels good and I am reminded of the words of Joyous in the 13th warrior when Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan complains that the sword they gave him is too heavy...grow stronger. Okay I am just joking here a bit. Sure it is a bit heavy but that is a lot of glass. The price, well you get what you pay for it seems a lot when you fork over the cash but after you shoot with this lens you forget all about the money. This is a specialty lens and when used within that specialty it truly shines.
July 25, 2013
The Portrait Lens
This is a Canon’s flagship and THE portrait lens. Most of things that were said about this lens are true and I won’t repeat what were said over and over, but I wrote MY OPINION on those issues.
SLOW FOCUS SPEED: People say it’s slow but I say it’s precise. I agree the auto focus is slow but it’s almost the speed of 135L (which is known to be blazing fast) in low light. When I got used to it, I didn’t pay too much attention. For portraits I rather have precise focus than blazing fast focus. Surely I had some hit-and-misses once in a while, but the rate is very low. When it misses focus, it’s forgivable, and never had out-of-wack focuses like I experienced with 35L or 50L.
SHARP FROM F1.2: Yes, it’s sharp from f1.2, and sharper than 50L but not a huge margin.
HEAVY CHROMATIC ABERRATION: Not as ugly as 35L on extreme high contrast. Bokeh fringing (ghosting image at f1.2) is much better controlled than 50L.
GREAT BOKEH: Yes, indeed.
GREAT IMAGE QUALITY: Yes, indeed. There’s that WOW factor in the images that comes out of this lens.
GREAT COLOR: I was surprised by how this lens renders skin tones. It’s not too saturated like 24L or 35L. And it’s different from how 50L renders the color. It’s not too contrasty. It’s just right and clean. This, too, confirms that a proof of Canon’s intention of 85LII as a portrait lens.
NO WEATHER SEALING: When considering this as a portrait lens especially for weddings, you don’t really have to worry too much about shooting in a dusty windy rainy snow blizzard. Just don’t use it when some crazy couple try to get married under some crazy extreme conditions. I rather keep the cost down without it.
FOCUS-BY-WIRE SYSTEM: Only thing I don’t like about this system is that I always have to remember to move the extended barrel back in to its place before turning off the camera. Even the camera is on, a focus ring doesn’t function at AF position unless you press the shutter button half way to override the focus. (Actually I have to read a manual to figure that out.)
SOFT OF THE CORNER: I wouldn't be concerned unless using it for landscapes.
EXPOSED REAR ELEMENT: Just be careful when you install the lens.
HEAVY: It is heavier than 24-70 2.8L surprisingly, but still not a brick like 70-200 2.8LII.
NEED IS: I must admit that almost all the photos that I shot under 1/80 shutter speed had motion blurr. But I never had a problem with 85f1.8. So maybe it’s my wimp arms are not strong enough to hold this lens. I can see that it will be a lot more price increase with IS if Canon makes it, and it’s already expensive itself.
I used to think EF 85mm f1.8 is a cheaper version of this lens, but I learned that 85LII is a whole different breed. You can tell that by the “Focus-by-Wire” system itself. While f1.8 version is all around player with fast focus, 85LII seems to be designed a specific purpose, which is a portrait. And in fact it makes me want to shoot nothing but portraits and mainly at f1.2, probably up to f2 at most. There is pros and cons for many people with this expensive lens but it’s absolutely okay because I think this is not a lens anybody can buy and use for whatever situations. But for me, I’m surely glad that I finally got it. It is a beautiful lens.
February 21, 2013