Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L – review/comparison with EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM


"smells like turd"
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6 Nov 2023
Auckland, N.Z.
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Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L – review/comparison with EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM (on an EOS R5)

I’ve read/seen a number of reviews for these lenses and think it’s certainly useful to see others’ experience but if you do a comparison yourself you can better gauge how you feel about each.

1st impression: RF’s bigger! Both diameter & length are markedly larger than the EF version

Weight feels about the same between EF + adapter and RF counterpart. No real handling difference.

72mm filter Vs. 82mm thread size on the RF means the square footage at front is quite noteworthy

Shot types – although not shooting the exactly same subject, I had a lot of shots in the same environment, a Karate Dojo with windows for some natural light, and lots of fluro (flickering) light made for tricky & variable conditions. A few weeks ago I shot almost entirely the EF 85mm f/1.2L II that I own for a Kata tournament, then last weekend I hired a RF 85mm f/1.2L for the Kumite tournament at the same times of day in the same Dojo to see what the differences were.

Kata is essentially the students displaying various Karate moves in a number of choreographed routines, so reasonably easy to predict pose & position. Kumite on the other hand is basically two students doing their utmost to display their ability to hit their opponent & score points, so very unpredictable and fast-moving.

Focus method: - Servo AF with people & eye detect enabled. Perhaps in reflection this wasn’t the best, but figured keeping the same settings made for a better comparison rather than trying various combinations.


For the Kata tournament, I found the EF version was very slow, and hit-and-miss as to achieving focus when I needed it, even though the Kata was predictable and sometimes slow I found that often the camera either just failed to quite focus on the selected focus point, or found a person in the background far more interesting. When focus was spot-on, the results were excellent, but when not = meh. Either way a bit of a disappointment.

For the Kumite tournament I found the RF version focussing much, much quicker – but also prone to picking folks in the background rather than the main subject, so really not much change in behaviour. Some shots had focus point very specifically on the student with clear contrast to be able to use, and for some reason camera focussed elsewhere. Not sure why, but with the RF I found more shots that were underexposed due to lighting flicker

Conclusion: Both really great lenses although neither marketed as sports or action lenses, based on one day’s worth of shooting in relatively challenging lighting conditions I don’t think changing to the RF for me would be beneficial.

If I didn’t already have the EF version, the RF would be an awesome lens to have but at this stage I won’t be changing to the RF system.

(samples to follow - feel free to chip in with anything useful for the discussion!)
Size (note the RF has a filter attached)


Size II (for some reason the EF shuts down/removes with aperture wide open, whereas the RF closes)
EF 85mm f/1.2L II:

RF 85mm f/1.2L:
EF 85mm f/1.2L II:

RF 85mm f/1.2L:
Nice review.

Something others might like to see is what the bokeh is like with oof highlights as this is quite a nice way to get cool results with a fast prime.
With the standard background you have both seem to give the same sort to smooth oof effect, can't differentiate them.

On the grabbing background subjects with subject/eye detect I think this is something that crops up in lots of situations although normally occasionally, I have had it it with long lens wildlife stuff. I find selecting the subject with an initial alternative AF point normally resolves this tendency then you can let it run with the subject detect. A problem with the RF system is it starts with the lens at infinity at switch on and then searches in.

Did you have the anti-flicker shooting switched on?
Well, the RF certainly is a monster of a ball of glass.
I've always thought the EF was a lot.
Nice comparison joeseph.. Thanks for taking the time to post this.
Did you have the anti-flicker shooting switched on?
I don't believe so, but will check - the first tournament there I only saw a couple of frames of 200 that looked markedly lower exposure than the rest so I'd put that down as user error, but this last weekends' shoot had more so at one stage I ran a burst of shots to see the effect and I could clearly see one frame in a series of 5 or so that was underexposed & noted it was worse the further away from the windows I got.

Edit - confirmed anti-flicker was set to disabled.
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