Is $2,700 Fair for Canon’s New Lens?

Is $2,700 Fair for Canon’s New Lens?

Canon’s new RF 85mm f/1.2 L has been officially announced, along with a hefty price tag. Considering the specifications and market this lens will compete in, is the price fair?

First, a little about the lens: it’s the latest twist on Canon’s storied 85mm portrait lens, refined for the RF mount and featuring the first RF-mount implementation of Canon’s BR optics, which are designed to reduce chromatic aberration. The lens has a very fast aperture, along with a correspondingly heavy weight. It actually picked up another 1/3 of a pound over the EF mount 85mm f/1.2.

Overall, this lens fits squarely into Canon’s RF mount lens strategy, which could be summed up as wider apertures and higher performance at any cost. Along with the 28-70mm f/2, this lens is meaningfully heavier than the EF version it replaces, but promises to the highest levels of optical performance.

Based on all the specifications, it’s clear that Canon sees this lens as a continuation of the legacy 85mm f/1.2 lenses from the EF mount. So, comparing it to its predecessors reveals some interesting similarities. First is the price, since at $2,700, the RF version is very expensive for a prime lens under 200mm. This isn’t without precedent, however, as the original EF 85mm cost $1,500 at release, which when adjusted for inflation, would be over $3,000 today. Next is Canon’s expected user of the lens, with Canon again identifying portrait photographers as the key buyer.

Where things get interesting is when you consider price and expected use case against other options in the market. Back in 1989, when the first version was introduced, it was very unique. Now, however, there are many more fast prime options, both from Canon and 3rd party manufacturers. Canon’s EF 85mm f/1.4 features image stabilization, 1/2 pound less of weight, and a price that is $1,200 lower. While the RF lens will probably be sharper, and is claimed to have less chromatic aberration, the EF f/1.4 seems to be a much better match for the existing RF bodies size and budget. Sigma’s well regarded 85mm and 105mm Art lenses can both be bought for less than Canon’s RF 85mm.

While these alternate options aren’t the latest in lens design, they are substantially cheaper. While they don’t reach f/1.2, that aperture can sometimes be more bragging rights than useful, considering the razor thin depth of field it comes with. Gear choices always bring compromises. Fortunately, the compromises inherent to the RF 85 are clear: heavier, larger, or more expensive than other fast short-telephoto primes, but with excellent IQ and the fastest aperture available.

One last consideration is that this isn’t Canon’s only 85mm prime for the RF mount. A version with defocus smoothing, to produce “beautifully smooth defocused bokeh”, is also announced, but still lacking many details. I’d expect this to be even more expensive, but if you’re in the target market, it may be even better suited to your purposes.

Canon’s RF mount strategy has been a point of personal contention for me. I’ve felt that the lenses are following a much clearer strategy than the bodies, where Canon’s optical engineers are free to create the highest performance optics, without restriction. Looking at the lenses announced, clearly no concession has been made for weight or cost. While neither weight nor cost are out of line with the precedent lenses, Canon’s RF lens offerings could be described as 10% better for 50% more cost. For many photographers, I don’t expect this tradeoff will be desirable, but for a smaller portion, they are offering lenses you can’t get anywhere else. To answer the title question: yes, $2,700 is fair, considering the relatively unique niche this lens occupies. Even if you are in that niche, however, it may be worth considering some of the alternate options that have come out since Canon first introduced the 85mm f/1.2.

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44 Comments

Performance can justify the price but will this lens out perform other top 85mm’s on the market by $1000?

Alex Coleman's picture

I suspect for many users, no, it won't.

Spy Black's picture

It really just comes down to if someone wants it bad enough or not. Price-wise, this is the new normal.

Tell me what this lens can do better than an 1,4.

Will this be nearly $1000 better than Canons current 85 1.2L 🤔. If so, what does that say about the current L lineup quality 🤔. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Michael Aubrey's picture

That depends on what $1000 better means for the current 85 f/1.2L. The current lens was originally designed for film and it's actually sharper on film/thin sensor stack modded camera than it is on a normal one.

EVF is working in burst mode at a much usable speed with RF mount on EOS R than EF mount with adpater (twice less freezing with RF) which makes burst usable with moving subjects.

I don't get what you are trying to tell.

Hmm I thought both Canon and Nikon were marketing the adapters that offer native performance since it’s the same company. 🤔 almost seems like snake oil. I have heard reports from both camps saying eyeAF tests aren’t fair without “native” lenses but those 1st party “native” adapters...

Alex Coleman's picture

I haven't heard that referenced before- do you have a source that claims that?

Alex Coleman's picture

That's what I think many users have to evaluate for themselves.

We have the declining ILC market and Sony to thank for the jump in pricing. Sony's 85/1.4 GM is $1800 and the Canon EF 85/1.4 is currently $1500. When Canon, Nikon and Panasonic entered the FF MILC race, they saw it as an opportunity to reset their pricing.

Alex Coleman's picture

As I mentioned, adjusted for inflation, this is the price Canon has been charging for this type of lens.

Martin Peterdamm's picture

just bought a 10k $ laptop because of inflation

Alex Coleman's picture

Not sure the point you're trying to make here. I'm saying that this isn't Canon resetting their price point. At each introduction, their 85 1.2 has typically been around $3,000 in 2019 dollars.

"Is $2,700 Fair for Canon’s New Lens?"

nah, but im not the target audience. im no fan of oem products. I buy only what I must to get the photos I want.
I used to prefer OEM lenses. today I prefer tamrons zooms and sigmas art primes.

Alex Coleman's picture

Third party lens makers can provide a ton of value for certain lenses.

EL PIC's picture

Creating Mirrorless Cameras and Lens to Replace DSLR’ s already in place ...
SCRAM ... WHAM ... BAAM ...
NO THANKY MAAM !!

Some will buy it irrespective of what anyone says.
They always do.

Nick Rains's picture

What's 'fair' go to do with anything? "Buy or buy not" as Yoda would say.
'Cost' and 'Value' are only loosely connected and depend very much on context. There is also an assumption here that Canon would have taken into consideration what the marketplace considers 'fair' - nah, I don't think so. Remember, Canon don't need to justify the price - you do, after you buy it!

Alex Coleman's picture

You're reading far too much into the use of the specific word fair. In this context, it's a question of whether the lens is still worth the amount they were charging at introduction of the 85mm f/1.2, given the number and quality of competing lenses now on the market. So yes, is it fair to still charge $2,700, given the direct competition from Canon's own f/1.4 and other fast, short telephoto lenses?

Nick Rains's picture

OK, fair to whom? You said "...is it fair to charge $2700 given the direct competition etc etc..." Well, yes it is. From Canon's perspective.
I don't think there is any misunderstanding over the use of the word fair in the article - if you mean something else, maybe clarify that.

Alex Coleman's picture

Considering the website's audience is photographers, they're the implied answer to your question of "fair to whom". In the article, I make the case that the lens is overpriced considering the suitable alternatives and so it doesn't present a fair value for users.

Nick Rains's picture

And I make the case that buyers collectively decide what's 'fair' for them; and thus do or do not buy. Canon think it's a fair price, for Canon, based on R+D, manufacturing costs and what they think people will pay. Why would they set a price that's fair to their buyers?

Alex Coleman's picture

Buyers don't collectively decide what is fair- the decision is unique for each individual. For some, they have the budget and no desire to compromise, for others, they may want to consider Sigma Art or Canon's 1.4 offering.

This article provides them with some information about the lens and it's competition to help them make an assessment as to whether the price is fair for their needs.

The price of a lens isn't fair or unfair.

Alex Coleman's picture

Sure it is, if you use the colloquial definition of fair. Does the lens present a fair value for $2.700 when compared to new lenses on the market since the price point was established?

David Pavlich's picture

'Fair' is relative in many ways. I know Canon shooters that use L glass exclusively regardless of the competition's prices. Price is but one variable. Durability, resale, consistency of manufacture, service, all make up reasons for their choice. I can't afford all L glass, but my two most crucial lenses are L. No compromise there.

Alex Coleman's picture

Those are all good things to consider when buying gear- I think that's driven the debate behind Godox vs Profoto, for instance. Even if you want to stay with Canon L glass, you could consider the 85 f/1.4 as a strong competitor, particularly on price and features.

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