Marriage at 85 (mm) September 22 2015, 0 Comments

Using the Canon 85mm f/1.2L

Today's guest post comes from Richard Yerkes of divzi media.

Sometimes you have an experience with a product where all the puzzle pieces fall into place and you feel like the design of whatever it is you’re interacting with sets a new standard for how everything else should be. That was my experience with Canon’s 85 f/1.2L II.

While I had read a great deal about how great this lens was and had even seen pictures taken with the lens, I had always thought, “ok, this looks nice” never feeling like I had to try one. With a wedding shoot coming up I decided it would be a great time to challenge myself and see if there was anything to this lens.


(Spoiler alert: there is something special about this lens)

I always am careful to try out equipment before using it on a shoot (especially a paid one) to make sure that I understand how the equipment will respond in real world settings. I like to test for weaknesses and find out where it excels. I was incredibly impressed in the day leading up to the wedding at everything I threw at this lens.

While the focus is noticeably slow (especially compared to the fast zooms of the Canon trinity like the 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200 f/2.8’s), when it locks focus it is SHARP. Sharper than the 35 f/1.4 I tried out the week prior. I very much liked the 35 (even more than I expected), but I instantly fell in love with the 85. The creaminess of the bokeh was unreal. 

What struck me as most surprising was the weight of this lens. This thing is heavy. There is a LOT of glass inside (and I’m no stranger to big lenses used to shoot sports). It’s focus by wire meaning it needs electricity to focus and isn’t always as responsive as true manual lenses that move mechanically. But this lack of responsiveness is negligible when compared to the images that you can get out of this thing.

Pro Tip: If you’re thinking about using the lens outdoors and still want a dreamy bokeh effect, try a neutral density filter. A neutral density filter is like sunglasses for your camera and allows you to shoot at wider apertures without exceeding your camera’s maximum shutter speed. Doing so lets you maintain that dreamy look everyone talks about while shooting outside on a bright sunny day. You can find some in the $40 range (some are more, some less) but if your focus is outdoor shooting it’s a necessity.


(second spoiler alert: there is something REALLY special about this lens)

When it came time for the wedding, this lens performed beautifully. I took a little bit of a risk and shot at a very wide apertures (f/1.4) and was able to catch the bride and groom as they were preparing to come into the ceremony, both in crystal clear focus with a great amount of bokeh.

Photo by divzi media Shot with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L


This lens captured the all–important kiss moment beautifully.  Again, shooting at f/1.4, I was able to get sharp focus with the perfect amount of background blur.

Photo by divzi media Shot with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L


I was able to get great detail shots of the wedding cupcakes

Photo by divzi media Shot with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L


...and reception dancing.

Photo by divzi media Shot with the Canon 85mm f/1.2L


My biggest concern was using this lens to capture dancing as people tend to move so quickly. It performed better than expected here but still struggled locking focus with such rapid movement. When people were in one place for a few seconds, the shots it did capture were great.

In short, I was blown away by the performance I was able to get out of this lens.

Pro Tip: You need to try this lens.  

After my limited time with it I can say with certainty that I need to use this lens again and again and again.


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