Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L Versus EF 85mm f/1.2L II: Which Is Better?

Portrait photographers who have shot with the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II will probably tell you about how wonderful that lens is. Having this particular focal length with such a wide aperture produces very unique and beautiful results. The new RF mount lens looks to take the crown for the best portrait lens, however. 

A recent video from Matt Granger compares the two flagship 85mm lenses from Canon. Both of these lenses come with quite hefty price tags. The EF mount is currently priced at $1,849, which is incredibly steep, especially when you consider the age of this lens. If that sounds bad enough, you may want to look away from the price of the RF mount 85mm f/1.2L lens, because that is currently priced at an astounding $2,699. The new RF mount lens is much larger than the older EF mount version; however, surprisingly, it doesn't actually weight much more. This is one of the things I noticed when I shot with the EF mount lens: it's small but very dense. The major issue with the older 85mm lens was that although it produced some of the best-looking bokeh, it wasn't the sharpest lens when shot wide open, not to mention the terrible chromatic aberrations. The RF mount lens seems like a huge improvement.

Check out the full video linked above to see how they compare to one another and don't forget to download the files directly from Granger's website.

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17 Comments

Jonathan Brady's picture

No need to watch the video, the RF version is an improvement in every conceivable way except for price and size.

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

Thanks, I was hoping the article will sum up, but no.
What useless post. I can't watch videos, so reading is what I'm expecting going here. my mistake, it's now a Youtube portal only.

Usman Dawood's picture

The article is highlighting the video. It would be less than of me to put the content in the article when Matt has put so much effort into producing the video. Watch it when you can because his videos are excellent and worth spending time on.

Farhad Farajov's picture

Usually Matt produces good videos, but this one is definitely not one of those.

I Actually prefer the look of the EF 85 1.2L II. I print to 17x25.5 and that's about it, even with crops, the marginal amount of detail the RF offers. is lost on a print or any monitor where it will be displayed. More importantly: The EF 1.2L II is noticeable more 3 dimensional, the subtle cues to the eye in tonality convey the effect of 3 dimensions better. Ofcourse, if you need edge sharpness wide open, the RF will serve you better, in which case get both. But You won't see it on the EF 85 1.2 ( i don't personally ) and you'll have more depthful rendition with superior tones which will be noticeable at any viewing size, even instagram. The benefits of the RF will be only noticed when doing extreme crops of the corners.

The RF is very close second to the EF 1.2L II, with the EF 85 1.4 L further behind, and the sigma in last. Looking at the nose, it looks very flat on that sigma. The EF and RF 1.2L are indeed close, but the EF 1.2 has the edge to me, looking at the nose they look the most 3D.

Ian Goss's picture

“… very unique …”? No such thing.

Alex Yakimov's picture

It is a nice demonstration of good ol' glass. New is a bit better, but not radically better.

Tony Clark's picture

Didn’t bother watching the video because a 85LII was replaced by the 85L/IS more than two years ago.

Usman Dawood's picture

The 85mm IS is an f/1.4 lens and was not a replacement. Even the price points are different with both f/1.2 lenses sitting with higher prices.

Alex Yakimov's picture

1.4 has a better focusing speed.

Jonathan Brady's picture

True. Everyone knows f/1.4 = f/1.2

Mark Webb's picture

I compared four 85mm lenses here, and kept all the settings identical. The 1.4 lenses were brightened by .03 stops in LR. RF takes the cake in every regard if you ask me. Look at the edges of the sidewalk and the the fence on the left. It's sharper yet smoother than any of the others. Also nothing to show CA here but that's one of the main benefits as well.

In order: EF 85mm 1.2L II, EF 85mm 1.4L IS, Sigma 85mm Art, RF85mm 1.2

Usman Dawood's picture

You know I didn't think I would but I prefer the EF 85mm f/1.2II over the look of the other lenses. I own the sigma and love that lens but in the comparison above the EF Canon lens looks really good.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I like the 4th, RF. The bokeh is so much smoother.

Mark Webb's picture

And then some wide open wedding shots with the RF

Love seeing real world real use examples. Great shots

Eric Crudup's picture

I like the rendering of the EF better. If the autofocus wasn't so slow I'd buy it over the RF for my EOS R.