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85 L 1.2 Share your experience

Eugene Hertoghe

pro member
Hello all!
Looks like the family has found a new place here.
Thank you Asher! It all looks very promising!

It's my first post here so here we go:

I recently bought the latest version (II) of this lens. I do have the 85 mm 1.8 since a few years.
After reading so many raving reviews about the "L" lens I'm finding out that I have to learn to work with this lens. I've done already 4 life-style shootings with it (using also the 50 mm 1.4 and the 135 mm L f2) and my feelings are mixed.
I've had a lot of out of focus pictures with it (I was shooting between 1.2 and 1.8). I'm using it on my 1ds.
Could it be that the autofocus of the 1Ds needs calibration? Or is the autofocus just not accurate enough for so little DOF?
I also read that many owners use manual focus with this lens. So is that proof that the autofocus is not accurate enough?
Also when shooting at 1.2 the image is soft, yes painterly soft but still soft. At 1.4 it's already much better. Was I expecting to much?

I compared it to my 85 mm 1.8 and for sure when both are at 1.8, the "L" lens looks rasor sharp.
From f 2.8 on they come close to each other , but the "L" has still an edge.

Could owners of this lens (vI&vII) share their experiences?

Eugene
http://www.eugene-hertoghe.com
 

Tristan Tom

New member
The manual focus ring is actually better on the original version of this lens than on the MKII. It does take a lot of pratice and even still, not every shot will come out focused well. With that little DOF, you or your subject could move slightly and blow the shot easily. You can expect a lot of unusable shots if you are shooting at f1.2-f2.0. Shoot a lot of images and out of the lot, you'll get keepers.

If you want to test your focus, just shoot a newspaper or magazine at an angle and view the result. If what you focused on ends up in focus in the resultant image, you should be okay.

To me, it's a magical lens, I have the original version and see no reason to upgrade (at least not a $600.) reason.
 

David Bostock

New member
I'll echo what Tristan said. Most people buy it for the soft, smooth, creamy bokeh. But, the extremely slim DOF of this lens at 1.2-1.8 make focussing a challenge. Still, when you hit it, the results are dreamy. I have the Mk1 version and it's my favorite portrait lens. I also use it with extension tubes for soft focus closeup shots. It takes a little bit to master, but it's well worth it. I wouldn't trade it out for anything...

Cheers,
 

Olaf_Laubli

New member
Tristan Tom said:
You can expect a lot of unusable shots if you are shooting at f1.2-f2.0.
Fully agree with that. If you are new to this lens you should give it some time to learn the proper focusing technique. Personally I use it almost only in AF mode and always choose the most appropriate AF focus field instead of using the 'focus recompose' technique.

Still I need to shoot some similars for getting a final picture with perfect sharpness
 

Ed Peters

New member
It is a lens that when shooting wide open (why else did we buy it in the first place) has an extremely shallow DOF. Focus carefully! Did I mention Focus Carefully. You will be quite please!!
 

Olaf_Laubli

New member
It would be interesting to hear from others what focussing technique they exactly use with the 85L. Personally I regularly fail when trying to focus manually despite of excellent eye-sight.

The AF seems to be much better than my abilities.

Olaf
 

Tony Field

New member
Olaf_Laubli said:
It would be interesting to hear from others what focussing technique they exactly use with the 85L. Personally I regularly fail when trying to focus manually despite of excellent eye-sight.

The AF seems to be much better than my abilities.
I use the split image focusing screen on the 1D-IIn. In some cases, it delivers better results than auto-focus when you hav low contrast straight lines in low light. The 1D-IIn does not respond well when light is in the ISO 3200, F1.2, 1/100 second range or worse. The 5D seems to work better.
 

Will_Perlis

New member
"Personally I regularly fail when trying to focus manually despite of excellent eye-sight."

And have you done some careful adjusting of the diopter setting for the viewfinder? IMX that can give a huge improvement in manual focussing.
 

Tristan Tom

New member
"It would be interesting to hear from others what focussing technique they exactly use with the 85L"

First, I don't use the shutter button to focus, but rather the thumb button on the back of the camera. I use AF to get me close, then I fine tune the focus using the manual focus ring. I remember to take several frames because even if I think it's spot on, sometimes it's not.
 
Add me to the Ec-B Split focus screen club for manual focusing. I find using the regular screen impossible to accurately focus with, but love the split screen. It has its own limitations, but I can live with those over missed focus.

And I am definately a member of the wide open club, which only the 85/1.2 can achieve. I love the look of having my aperture between f1.2 and f2 with the 85/1.2.

On the down side, even with the split focus screen it frequently takes me 2-3 pictures to nail the focus for a portrait head shot. I always just hope that one on the mark has the best facial expression.
 

Michael Mouravi

New member
I use * button for AF and assist button for center focusing point. With both my 1D and 1D Mark IIn the lens focuses perfectly most of the time (I have the original version, not markII).

I don't share the opinion that one can expect a lot of misfocused shots from this lens, however, it does take some practice and discipline to hit perfect focus every time. If your AF is separated from shutter button, make sure you don't move after focusing.

For me it turned out to be a perfect "training" lens. After using it extensively, all of a sudden even the shots from my zooms became better focused.

AF on your 1Ds is certainly accurate enough even with such shallow depth of field.

Try a few focusing tests to make sure your system works well, then it's all about practice :)
 

Mark Adams

New member
I use the thumb button to focus. I'm always on a tripod with the Bogen joystick (the one where you release the grip and everything freezes). I agonize over focus, I use the center focus spot and recompose, if I am shooting a tight head this can be problematic because of the changing distance when you move the camera. With a FF camera like the 1ds the grouping of focus spots is too much in the center of the frame for focusing on eyes in a vertical shot and I don't trust my eyes anymore so I focus and recompose. With the 85 1.2 you better pick the correct eye to focus on and even then the focus can change from the front side of the eye to the back side. I shoot a bunch of frames re-focusing each shot. Sometimes I fine tune manually after recomposing. I am always disappointed when I look at the Raw frames in the ps browser, they are never as crispy as they are in the viewfinder but they usually sharpen up well. I find that often 1.2 is too shallow and can be a little distracting or look too contrived and in these cases I stop down to 1.4 or 1.8.
 

Olaf_Laubli

New member
Michael Mouravi said:
it does take some practice and discipline to hit perfect focus every time.
Guess this depends primarily on the subject. With static subjects and a good technique a hit rate well above 90% should be no problem. But for dynamic people shots at f/1.2 a hit rate around 75% is already very good in my experience. Maybe less coffee and cigarettes would help to improve my score...

Olaf
 

Michael Tapes

OPF Administrator/Moderator
Michael Mouravi said:
For me it turned out to be a perfect "training" lens. After using it extensively, all of a sudden even the shots from my zooms became better focused.

AF on your 1Ds is certainly accurate enough even with such shallow depth of field.

Try a few focusing tests to make sure your system works well, then it's all about practice :)
Good points, well said!
 

Roger Miller

New member
Magnification More Important Than Aperture

Keep in mind that magnification has much more affect on depth of field than does aperture. You really shouldn't be shooting at f/1.2 if you are doing a portrait extreme closeup. The DOP will be paper thin for that kind of high magnification and, even with perfect focus on the part of the photographer and the camera, you are unlikely to have adequate DOF. If you were shooting full length fashion with a six foot tall model and allowed three or four feet of space above and below the model, then you might be able to get away with an aperture of f/1.2. So, use some common sense with this lens and check some depth of field tables before you use it on your first shoot.

To demonstrate the relative impact of magnification, aperture, and lens focal length on DOF, I did some DOF calculations a couple of years ago and here's what I found: For a magnification of 0.04593 (which records a 2-ft tall object on a 36mm high sensor), an aperture of f/8, and a lens focal length of 100mm, the DOF was 7.822176. If the magnification was cut in half by increasing the distance between the subject and the camera from 7.47 feet to 11.61 feet, the DOF increased 293.5% to 30.77708 inches. If instead of changing the magnification, I had changed the aperture from f/8 to f/11, the DOF would have increased only 41.7% to 11.08328 inches. But if I'd changed only the lens focal length (keeping magnification at 0.04593 and aperture at f/8), then the DOF increased only 0.57% to 7.867008 inches.

What all of this means in the real world is that you can ignore lens focal length. It has virtually no impact of DOF. Magnification, however, makes a huge difference. Since image composition will dictate what magnification you will use, the only effective control the photographer has over DOF in the real world is the aperture setting. But, in selecting the aperture, you must be aware of what your choice of magnification has already done to the DOF. For extreme closeups, the DOF is already razor thin and there's no way you can get away with an f/1.2 aperture. With the 85mm f/1.2 lens, there are times when it will work well wide open (full length body shots) and other times when you'll have to stop down considerable (for close ups).
 

Roger Miller

New member
Not Sharp Enough for my Taste

Mark, it's hard to tell how sharp your image is because it's a low resolution version of the original, but it looks to me that the model's right eye is out of focus. The only thing that appears to be in focus is the model's left eye. For most portrait work, that wouldn't be acceptable. I made some assumptions about your image (that it was not cropped, that the camera was a full frame 35 mm, and that 11 inches of the subject took up 24 mm at the focal plane giving a magnification of 0.08590). I then calculated the depth of field for f/1.2 and found that you would have only about one third of an inch of DOF. That just isn't enough for good portraiture in most cases, even if both you and the camera are capable of focusing accurately on a specific part of the subject. If you would have shot at f/11, you would have had an extra three inches of DOF (3.2785 inches DOF, to be exact). That amount of DOF would be more appropriate for keeping both eyes in sharp focus at the close range that you were working at (i.e., the high magnification you were using) and would have still managed to blur the background. The whole point of my first post in this thread was to remind people that magnification is the most important variable in determining DOF and it must always be acknowledged when discussing DOF issues. The 85 mm f/1.2 should not normally be shot wide open with such high magnifications because, not only aren't you likely to be able to keep enough of a three dimentional object in focus, any small error on your part or on the camera's part could throw every thing out of focus. For what it's worth, if you reduce the magnification such that a 6-foot tall model takes up 28 mm at the focal plane, then you could shoot at f/1.2 with a DOF of 10 inches. That's good enough for some fashion work and full length "portrait" work. So, as I said earlier, don't try to use this lens wide open at high magnifications if you need more than a small amount of DOF or if you or the camera can't consistantly obtain accurate focus with the paper thin DOF inherent in high magnification work. But at reasonable magnifications, the lens should work fine at f/1.2 and will put less pressure on you and your camera to focus accurately.
 

Mark Adams

New member
Roger,
It's clear we have different approaches to photography. I'm sure your calculations are correct. It's a big world and there is plenty of room for more than one approach to shooting photos. I try to keep an open mind, try different things and let my aesthetic sense be my guide. This photo and many more from this shoot, most shot at 1.2 and 1.4, are for sale on Getty Images and have sold numerous times. I have never felt that, my way was the only way or the best way, just my way and I try not to be too critical of the approach others pursue. Let's just agree to disagree.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Mark Adams said:
Roger,
Mathematical calculations notwithstanding this lens works great for headshots at 1.2.
This picture shows how we need to experiement with new poses.

The eye in focus leads the subject out of the b.g. and introduces us. Here smile is welcoming. We want to learn more about here. I like such intriguing pictures.

Whenever some part is undisclosed, we can have fascination or questions.

Now would it be better with both eyes in focus? Better for what?

As it is, it works to capture my interest. With both eyes clearly engaging me, I might feel differently about the subject.

I have a motto, "Don't think! Try."

Asher
 
The image shown is exactly what I personally like about my 85/1.2.

At f1.2 with that short DoF it adds a nice depth effect. It reminds me of how I look at some one when close up. My only style difference (and this is just me) would probably go with a portrait orientation to the shot, otherwise this is the kind of thing I personally go for with Head shots for the models I do.

I have tried a few shots with aperture at f1.8, f2.0 or 2.4 in order to get the head all in the DoF, but like the f1.2 better for some reason that has nothig to do with science, but only with the artistic effect. But only if I hit the focus right on, that is the only problem I have with f1.2.

Just my opinion,
 
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John Ferguson

New member
The image shown is exactly why I sold my 85 1.2, one eye in focus and mushy nose. I can deal with only one eye in focus, but the mushy nose is not flattering.
 

Roger Miller

New member
My Summary (and an Appology to Mark)

Mark, I appologize if I implied your image wasn't "good." That wasn't my intention. In fact it's a terrific image and when I first saw it, I was thinking what a great image it would be for a model's zed card (it captured her great simile and personality) or for advertising. I only ment to use it as an example of the problems the lens can cause at f/1.2 for portrait work where both eyes are usually expected to be in focus. Obviously, this lens is not for the timid of heart and one poster even sold his lens because of DOF problems. The lens is considered by most people to be a "portrait lens," but I think few people would be successful shooting this lens wide open for closeup portrait work. Your creative work is a different animal all together. And, as I've tried to point out, when used at lower magnification (such as full length fashion work) where a typical lens might not have a wide enough aperture to throw the background well out of focus, its f/1.2 to the rescue.

Eugene's original post asked why he was getting so many out of focus images, whether he should focus manually, etc. Hopefully, he now realises that, with this lens, he has a tiger by the tail and that not everything can be in focus at f/1.2 when doing closeups. Manual focus is desirable in dim light, but a different focusing screen in the camera may be needed. Otherwise, auto focus is probably better. As Mark pointed out, using the center AF to focus and then recomposing can cause focus errors (Canon specifically warns that you should not do this) but sometimes you don't have a manually selectable AF point where you need it and you have to take some chances with a percentage of out of focus images. It's also important that the distance between between the camera and subject not change between the time focus is locked and the actual exposure (especially when manually focusing or using the * button). Mark said he used a tripod for the image he showed us and the model's pose helps lock her head into position to prevent movement. Both the photographer and the camera/lens system must perform flawlessly when shooting closeup at f/1.2 and, even then, a percentage of shots are going to be unacceptable.

Tim, you said you'd have probably shot Mark's image vertically. I checked the math, and for a vertical format at f/1.2 you'd have a DOF of 0.16 inches. Good luck!
 

Mark Adams

New member
Roger,
Thanks for the kind words. You needn't have apologized. I posted this pic because I thought it illustrated what the 85 1.2 looked like when used as a close portrait lens. I love the look of this lens at 1.2 and having said that I also own the 85 1.8 because it's about a third of the weight, focuses faster and is also a sharp lens. I pull out the 1.2 when I want to shoot available light and I want the very elegant boketh this lens creates up close and wide open.
 

Mark Schafer

pro member
I'm in the process of getting a 85mm II.
I did use the first Version since last Summer (05) and was very happy with it (I just want the quicker focus and distance feedback for Canon flashes).
So today I’m on my 3rd copy and keep comparing it to my old 85mm and the focus is somewhat disturbing.

I manually select the focus point in the middle (Most accurate) and have the lens auto focus (and shoot several times, to eliminate any focus "miss"-calculation), which it locks in (Exposure 1/250-1/400, f 1.2).
Now i compare the Vers. 1 to 2 and Vers. 1 is much better:
My 1st copy back focused 1 about 1 inch (at a focus distance of about 4 feet) send back to Canon ,
The 2nd was just bad, period and
My 3rd copy now has quite vivisible color fringing and the focus seems much softer (even that the focused part is the sharpest of the entire picture), what gives?

Did i grow up loving Schneider lenses and my Quality standards are just screwed, is Canon’s quality control non-existent, and are the new 85mm just not as sharp?

I'm planning of returning my lens and testing out the other (8) lenses at my local canon retailer got in toady (Or should I wait a couple of weeks for a fresh batch from Japan?).

Any suggestions
Mark
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
This is a question for Chuck Westfall and for the Canon service center.

I'd send the lenses back if they don't meet specs.

Asher
 
Hi, Asher & Mark:

It's pointless to discuss this without sample images.

Best Regards,

Chuck Westfall
Director/Media & Customer Relationship
Camera Marketing Group/Canon U.S.A., Inc.
 

Mark Schafer

pro member
Sample of the last 85mm i tested this morning

First of, i'm impressed that Chuck already contacted me and we're communicating.
Second, i want to thank Fotocare, and Tom specifically, to let me return the lenses and to be eager to work out this problem.

And last, to keep the board in the loop, here are some tech specs & crops:
Canon 1Ds M2 on tripod, 100asa, 1/30 @ f1.2, the (central) focus point was the center of the "M".
Both RAW images were converted in ACR, some highlight recovery (-0.45), linear, no sharpening, to Adobe RGB 16 bit.
Then converted to 8bit JPG, 10 quality, no sharpening (And they look like the tiffs).

The full frame is a reference of the entire scene, developed with the same settings, smallest possible file size, 8bit from RAW, saved as JPG, 10 quality.

The scene (North window on street level to the right)


Frame xxxxx0039. is the Version II lens


xxxx0040 is the version 1 lens


And quite honestly, all the other 3 lenses i tested are very similar, one was a different batch # and the last 3 are from the same batch (00048xxx)
 

Mark Schafer

pro member
another lens, another day 85mm, 1.2

Just for the record, a different situation, 800ASA, 1/200, f1.2, focus on "Second Edition".
With lens Vers. 2 you can't even make out the authors

First frame, my old 85mm


Second frame Vers. 2 (That i returned today)
 
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Mark Adams

New member
Mark,
When I look closely at the comparison images it seems that at least part of the problem might be that the newer lens is focusing further into the picture. Look at the fuzz underneath the "e" in management. It seems sharper in the newer lens. In fact "ment" seems sharper on the new lens. On the pics with the C stand if you look at the left edge of the stand, left of "studio" the edge seems sharper in the newer lens. I think this may be what others have referred to as "back focusing". I'm not sure of that but it looks as though the newer lens is focusing past your focus point and I think this is something Canon can fix. As to whether you should need to send a new lens back to Canon so it works right, well that is another question.
 
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