85mm f/1.2 L vs 70-200 f/2.8 IS L

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by alessandro.vasapolli, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. Hi,
    It's been a long time that I'm thinking about this 2 lenses...
    Obviously I can afford to buy only one and I wanted to ask you what you think is
    the best...
    I know they're both extremely good lenses but I have, unfortunately, to chose
    only one...

    I want to chose one thinking that, when is going to come, I'm gonna buy the
    sequel of the 5D, so Full Format (on the contrary right now I've got a 400D).
    I have the 50mm f/1.4 and is really one of the lens I like the best: I really
    love the small deep of field I can achive and the big aperture that makes me
    able to shoot in low light condition.
    I will use this lenses for portraits primarly and fashion shoot.

    I cannot decide because I love the big aperture of the 85mm but I also think the
    zoom 70-200 is really useful when you want to cut something out of the frame.

    Right now I have these lenses: 17-40 L, 10-22, 100-400 L, 50mm f/1.4, everything
    by canon.
    So I do not cover the range between 40-100 (if you do not consider the 50mm).

    What do you think would be a good choice?! Suggestions of any kind!?

    Thanks a lot for your time!

    Alessandro Vasapolli
  2. the 70-200 L much more useful, unless you do portrait work, in which case the 85 f/1.2
  3. I don't own the 85 f/1.2 but the 85 f/1.8, which is still a *very* good lens; but I do own the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. I use both with my 1DsII and would have to agree with Manuel; If you're mainly doing portraits - even though both the zoom and prime are great - I'd rather use the 85mm, personally. If on the other hand you plan to shoot outside a studio and do a few other things, the zoom is excellent and obviously more flexible. Since the 85mm f/1.8 is relatively inexpensive and *very* close in I.Q. perhaps you could consider that with the zoom. It's an excellent buy for the money and I'm sure you wouldn't be disappointed.
  4. Thanks for the answers!

    I want to shoot (mainly but not only) portraits and "fashion" images...
    I will not shoot only in studio but also outside!
    A lot of time I shoot in low lighting condition so I was thinking of the 85mm but I still don't know...

    With the zoom will I reach the same DOP of the 85mm at 1.2 if I shoot 200mm at 2.8?!

    Canon is going to release any new lens that can be compared to these 2 lenses?!
  5. I think you'll find that the 85mm f/1.2 has a *much* more shallow DOF than the zoom. So much so that you'll have to use very good technique. The DOF with an 85mm f/1.2 is razor thin.

    I'm certainly not aware of any new Canon lenses on the horizon but that doesn't mean there aren't any!
  6. Alessandro, I use a 40D with 70-200 IS 2.8 but am using the lens less and less often. I did not touch it now for a whole month. It's just that my shooting style change. Don't get me wrong, everytime I need the 70-200 range, it shines.<br><br>
    I am very much in the shadow DOF style now and thinking about getting the 85mm 1.2 along with the 5D MII when it's available. My other lenses are 10-22, 17-40, 50 1.4, 100mm macro 2.8, all Canon stuff.<br><br>
    I think if you get the 85mm L, you will miss the versality of the zoom, and certainly the IS as well. However, the 85mm L is undoubtedly the king of bokeh, if that is what you are looking for in your images. You cannot go wrong with either of them :-D.<br><br>
    Hope this helps,<br><br>
  7. The 85 f/1.2 is not known for fast focusing, the 35L f/1.4 is much better at that, the 50 f/1.2 is, also, faster then the 85. fredmiranda.com is a good source for information on lens by people who use them.
  8. With the zoom will I reach the same DOP of the 85mm at 1.2 if I shoot 200mm at 2.8?!
    If the magnification (on film/in the viewfinder) is the same, then focal length does not matter. Aperture will be the deciding factor, and the EF 85mm f/1.2 L USM is more then two stops faster than the zoom lens. On the other hand, a longer lens will produce an apparently stronger blur, because the angle-of-view is smaller and the background magnification higher. Decisions, decisions...
  9. Thanks a lot to all!

    The velocity of focus of the 85mm is really a big problem!?
    What about the quality of th pictures compared between the 85 and the 70-200?! Much more better for the 85mm ones, right!?

    I will shoot not only in studio but also outside, anyway always with plenty of time for "bulding" the image, so do you think the zoom, for its versatility, would always be very useful or I can use the prime without any problem?!

    Thanks again!
  10. Alessandro,

    In my view the two lenses are so dissimilar in application that making a comparison
    between them is pretty meaningless.

    I'd say the 85mm f1.2 is a very specialist tool, ideally suited to full-frame posed portraiture
    unless used at smaller apertures when, frankly, you might as well start off by buying the
    85mm f1.8.

    The 70-200mm f2.8 is an excellent medium-to-long general purpose lens which has an
    enviable reputation in a whole range of photographic situations.

    If you need the 85mm f1.2, it will be to meet very specific needs, and you'll know exactly
    why it has to be that lens and no other.

    On the other hand the 70-200 lens (in whichever of its manifestations) is a lens that most
    photographers could use for a high percentage of their photographic time, in a variety of
  11. I think I'd vote for the zoom plus the 85mm f/1.8 as a good compromise. Or the f/4
    version of the zoom plus the more expensive f/1.2 prime. Or, how about getting the f/4
    IS lens and the f/1.8 prime?
  12. From your list of current lenses, it seems you like to shoot 'everything,' rather than
    having a specific style or specialized subject matter. In such a case, i guess the zoom
    would make more sense.

    But, of the lenses you list, none really have any distinctive, special optical qualities. The
    85/1.2L is one of the few lenses that has a bit of 'magic' about it. Your various zooms
    will 'get a shot.' The 85 1.2L might make a shot interesting or beautiful.

    I stopped using zooms a long time ago. When i first started taking pictures, i thought i
    needed to have all the lenses to cover the entire spectrum of focal lengths. Later on,
    as i got more experience and saw a lot more work by the photographers i most
    admired, i realized they did all of their work, typically, with only one or two focal lengths,
    throughout their entire careers. I only use a 35, a 50, and an 85. I could possibly find
    use for a 28 and a 105, but rarely, so i don't even bother. I believe a photographer can't
    really have a 'signature' when he dabbles all over the place.... Anyway, the 85 and the
    50 are what i prefer for photographing people. Fashion or portraiture. No, you can't get
    the same shallow DOF effects with a long zoom. For one thing, your camera-to-
    subject distance at 200mm has an effect. Secondly, the compression effect of the long
    telephoto will flatten the subject's face significantly. An 85mm lens gives you a small bit
    of flattering compression, but also preserves dimensional modeling.

    The 85/1.2 is also sharp at f1.2. I don't know how good the zoom is wide open. You
    might need to stop it down a little to get acceptable results. And, if you need the speed,
    the 1.2 will work better at lower ISOs, so you have less noise to deal with.

    No, the 85 is not a lens that focuses quickly. But, even though i have the first version, i
    have not felt a need to upgrade. It's fast enough for me.
  13. I did not read all the above post but I will just say what I know about the lens. I have never seen the 85 f1.2 so I really can not comment however its number speak for themselves.

    The 70-200 f2.8L IS would be much more usefull all around. I used mine on a 30D and a 40D. It was not until I placed it on the 5D did I realize its true worth and to me it made all the difference in the lens. The 5D/70-200 is my preferred portrait choice and second is the 85mm f1.8 if I would that extra shallow DOF. BTW the 70-200 seems to be best at and around 100mm.

    All that is not to say an 85f1.2 would not serve you well and I am sure will give a little extra that the 70-200 will not, however is that little extra worth it over what you lose by not haveing the 70-200. Something for you to think about.

    If you want a special lens to do a special job, then the 85f1.2 seems to be an excellent choice. I know I would LOVE to have one.

  14. I agree with the previous comments about the 85 1.2 focussing. Last month I was going to get this lens (the latest updated 85f1.2 mark II). When I put it on my 5D I was amazed at how slow it focussed. I mean SLOW! The dealer had a 1D Mark III and tried it on that too. Still slow. It was a deal breaker for me. I was planning on this lens to add to my 100F2 duties. The 100F2 focusses as fast as all other Canon lenses (virtually instantly) and is great for portraits. I also have the 70-200LIS but don't use it for portrait work.
  15. First of all thanks a lot for your kind explanations!

    Now, thinking about it a little bit, I have to agree with Derek Stanton: I have lenses to shoot everything but just to get the image. I think that with the 85mm, even though I will not have the flexibility of zoom, I would be able to add something different to my pictures. Probably is the same feeling I had the first time I used the 50mm f/1.4 and tried to work on DOF... Anyway, using the lens in the conditions I planned, I will not have problem going aroud so I don't actually have the need for a zoom (just keeping in mind the scope I will use this lens for). Thanks Derek for your comment, you really opened your mind!

    Now, down to the technical issue: HOW slow is the focusing?! Really I did not know this problem and is a little worrying to me... Is really a problem?!

    Thanks a lot!
  16. It also takes special care to connect and disconnect camera because of the way it is designed, so it is not one of those lens that you can interchange quickly, read the reviews on it at amazon or fredmiranda. A lens designed for a special needs and effects.
  17. The 85 1.2L II will give you *unique* DOF. The main (or only?!) reason for buying this lens is using it at large apertures. The bokeh is simply stunning. However, it is not very fast and it is not very light (compared to 70-200 it is not too bad though). But it is an extraordinary piece of glass, you won't be disappointed. Here's a photo taken at f1.2. Good luck :)
  18. I suggest you rent both for a week from ZipLens (or your local shop). I recently rented the 85mm f1.2. This is a heavy lens, but not unwieldy. I had the mark II version, and did not notice that this was slow focusing. I wouldn't use it for sports, but for portraits and other street shots, it's just fine. I also rented the 135mm f2, which I thought would be the one that would spend the most time on my camera, but the 85mm rarely left it that week. It's an interesting and inspiring lens to use. I own the 85 1.8, and it's an excellent lens as well. I use it for portraits a lot and I really like it. Though the 85 1.2 is a more interesting lens, it's not worth 6 times as much to me at this point in my career.

    That said, the 70-200 2.8 IS is a monster. Many people use this as a walk-around lens, but after having that lens, a flash and a battery grip on my camera for a week, I could barely move my shoulders. I would much prefer to carry the 135mm f2 & the 85mm 1.8.
  19. I am fortunate to have both.

    Agree with all comments above.

    70-200 versatility (weatherproof, sharpness, focal length) vs 85's magic (super sharp, razor thin DOF)






    If I was forced to choose - I'd keep the 85.

    You still have the 100-400 which gives some long (but slower) versatility.

  20. Great shot, Oistein! I think Aubrey's idea is good - to rent before buying, if possible.

    I've been quite happy with the 85mm f/1.8 in terms of autofocus speed and it's not
    bad at all in the sharpness department when shooting wide open: http://www.photo.net/photo/7317150 You'd be paying almost $1,000
    more for the 1.2L.

    And yes, the 70-200 f/2.8L IS is definitely a heavy beast, but the best zoom I've
    ever used. It too is quite sharp, wide open - but you might want to lift some weights
    for a while before buying one. ;-)
  21. The velocity of focus of the 85mm is really a big problem!?
    Not for most portraiture applications. Yes, it's slow, slow enough that you probably don't want to use it to shoot sports. But for portraiture, you're often only looking for the AF system to make relatively minor adjustments to focus distance. Your subject isn't suddenly moving from 10m away to 1.5m away, for instance; they're more likely to move from 2.5m away to 2.4m away. And it doesn't take even a slow-focusing lens like the 85/1.2 long to make that sort of adjustment. As well, keep in mind that there have been two versions of the 85/1.2; while neither one offers speedy AF, the old one is supposedly about twice as slow as the new one.
  22. I have both lenses, as well as the 100-400. I got the 85 1.2 II recently after borrowing one for a day. I have been a zoom shooter since zoom lenses got good, but this may be the lens that brings me back to primes.

    This is just one of those rare lenses that changes the way you see things. It's easier to experience than explain, so I second the idea of renting both. Start with the 85 though, and you won't want to give it back.

    I don't do formal portraits, but I do walk-around candids, indoors and out, street scenes, and often shoot in low light conditions. I love what I get from this lens, but there are some trade-offs.

    The AF is a bit slower, even on a 1 series body, than you might expect, but is quite usable in most cases, even in low light. If the action is fast, you might miss some shots, but the keepers are killer. Regardless, at 1.2, you really have to pay close attention to exactly when and where focus is achieved, and be prepared to make minute adjustments if the situation permits.

    Bear in mind that the Mark II version of the lens is about 1.8x faster than the Mark I, so that's the one to get.

    Also note that you can only manually focus this lens when the shutter button is held down 1/2 way, so it takes a little getting used to. No big deal.

    In bright daylight, at 1.2, shutter speeds are unbelievably fast, even at ISO 50 or 100, so you lose a little creative control there, but this can be mitigated with neutral density filters.

    Given that portraiture is important to you, and that you generally have time to "build" the image, I would think that if you can truly only afford one of the lenses, the 85 is the better choice. Neither the 70-200 nor any of the lenses in your current arsenal will give you what you can get with this lens. Your 100-400 will cover some of the general shots you might otherwise have gotten with the 70-200.

    Also consider that your 10-22 EF-S won't work on the 5D, so that might provide a little extra funding when you upgrade bodies. If you can get two lenses, suggestion about getting the 85 and 70-200 f/4 isn't a bad idea.

    My subjective, non-scientific take is that the pictures from the 70-200 2.8 have a little more pop, but the f/4 isn't far off, and has the advantage when it comes to size, better IS, and minimum focusing distance.

    Paul Wasserman
  23. Short of renting all of the lenses you want to buy, hereメs an article that may help you out (Review of 85mm lenses). It actually mentions all of the lenses that have been discussed in this thread. If you do rent, make sure you know what versions of the 85/1.2L you are renting has there are differences.
  24. I have the 85L and the 70-200mm f/2.8L. If I had to give up one of them, I'd give up the 70-200mm, even though it's much more versatile. The 85L is something special, while the 70-200 is just a really good, sharp zoom lens that covers a range of focal lengths. I can make the 85L look like the 70-200 by stopping down to f/4 or f/5.6, but I can't make the 70-200 look like the 85L, no matter what aperture or what focal length.

    If you like the 50mm f/1.4 because of the shallow depth of field it offers, then the 85L will rock your world. It's not just the shallow depth of field, it's the overall look of the photos.

    You have a good long zoom in the 100-400. Yes the 70-200 is something you may want to add to your arsenal later on, but I think that the 85L has that something extra you are looking for. It will even be better on full frame once you make the upgrade.
  25. These two are really apples and oranges. The newer version of the 85 1.2 has Canon's biggest lens motor, I am told, and so the reason that the AF is slow is not because it is underpowered. There is simply a lot of glass to be moved. It is quite a massive lens, and the DOF is so shallow wide open that I rarely use it at 1.2. In the hands of a master, however, the 85 1.2 really can shine.

    I use the 70-200 2.8 IS four or five times more often than the 85 1.2, but I am strictly an amateur who does not do serious portrait work. For that reason, I will probably sell the 85 1.2. I really love the 70-200 because of its versatility, but it is not a small lens. In fact, both lenses are quite heavy, although the 85 1.2 is, of course, wide and squat, not long like the 70-200. They both cost about the same, as I recall.

    The 85 1.2 can, of course, be used outside the studio as a fairly short (for a telephoto) prime lens, but it seems that most people who buy it buy it as a portrait lens. Unless portraiture is your passion, I would personally buy the 70-200.

  26. The 85F1.2 makes excuisite and attractive images optimized for F2.0 - F4.0 at the distanse of 1,5 to 7m, distortion is next to none and uniform thro the most of the range. The colors are also good in most of light conditions. The imaging quolity is at the Canons best.

    70-200F2.8L is more like a general and universal tool of acceptable high quolity. Do not expect an expert editor to be impressed with its image works.
  27. Hi!
    First of all, really, THANK YOU, for all your very kind comments!
    Your explanations have been very useful to me...

    I guess I'll get the 85mm because, like many of you said, it's a special lens that can make picture look different from every other lens, while the 70-200 is just a beautiful, but still normal, zoom.

    A few more question:
    How do I identify the mark II version!?
    Do you know a good online store, with good prices, that ships in the US in less that 2 week?!
    I saw the pictures posted by Jems Dean (thank you about that): with the 85mm I can stilll achive the results I see in the picture taken with the 70-200, right? I have just to close the aperture and have a some distance between my subject and the background, right?!

    Thank you a lot!

  28. For that amount of money, and on full frame, I would lean toward 135mm f/2 and 85mm 1.8 myself.
  29. "I guess I'll get the 85mm because, like many of you said, it's a special lens that can make picture look different from every other lens, while the 70-200 is just a beautiful, but still normal, zoom. "

    I would not call it a "normal" zoom. As far as zooms go, this is Canon's finest lens.

    I own the 70-200 IS 2.8L and it is fantastic. Only lens I own that has better IQ and bokeh is the 300 IS 2.8 L. If you look at the thread about favorite lenses, it is the most commonly mentioned lens. The 85 1.2 is a "special application" lens - the DOF at 1.2 is almost too thin for most portraits IMHO.

    I would definitely get the 70-200. I also own the 100-400, which I like, but its nowhere near as good as the 70-200. At 100mm and 2.8, for instance, you can take some amazing portraits.
  30. I'm sorry, I did not say "normal" meaning that it it just like any other zoom, I meant that the 85mm can give me something extra that the 70-200 cannot.
    I know the 70-200 is the finest zoom possible and I will plan to have one, but, now, having to pick just one I will go for the 85mm...
    I know I have to renounce to the flexibility of the zoom but I think that, for my porpoise, I can do that..
  31. I see that KEH has an EOS 85 1.2 II ("Excellent") for less than $1500 right now. I would try it. They have a "no questions asked" returns policy if you don't like it. They also have the first version. Be sure not to order the now ancient FD version if you go the used route! It will never perform in a satisfactory manner with an EOS mount, even with adapters.

  32. If you really need the 85mm f1.2 L then you must have it. I have the Mark II and it is just fantastic.
  33. 70-200IS f2.8 is for fast AF, sports shootings.
    85L2 is for portraits, not for sports shootings.

    You want to have fast AF and portraits, buy both lenses.
  34. Take a look at the 24-105. I love mine. Great lens that spends a lot of time on my 40D. I have the 10-22, 24-105, and 100-400. I love this lens set. Covers many, many, situations.
  35. I'm sorry, but this is like comparing a Mercedes Racing Car with a Mercedes 4x4. Both are excellent cars, but neither will perform particularly well on the others territory.

    The more versatile 4x4 (70-200) will do a resonable job on the road, but the racer (85/1.2) can't even get out of a gravel trap, let alone climb a mountain.

    I feel you'll be diappointed with either, as you'll still be hankering after the other.

    So I'd recommend going for the 70-200/2.8 and then either saving for the 1.2 or settling for the 1.8 (which is an excellent lens in its own right). Of course, I'm saying that not having experienced the 1.2...

    If you can only afford one, then maybe you want to think about specialising into a specific genre, which only calls for one of the lenses.

  36. Hi Alessandro... I have both lenses (the IS version of the 70-200 2.8L) and acquired them just recently. I agree with the others on the thought that they both have singular or exclusive application particularly suited situation. For portraits, the 85 will give you more flexibility to play around with the DOF though it takes a while to master the f/1.2 but the results will blow you away. The slow focus is manageable but hey, portraits will usually require the subject to be still most of the time anyway. It is a league all its own and nothing compares to the beauty of the bokeh. Simply stunning! So sharp even wide open! No words to describe the dreamy bokeh it's almost like as they say an impressionistic painting. Here's some of my shots I took of my pomeranians one afternoon using the 85 1.2L II @ 1.2 with my ff 1Ds Mk3:

    With regards to the 70-200 2.8L IS, it really depends what kind of fashion shoot - is it an event or studio photoshoot? I generally use the 24-105mm f/4L IS for a staged fashion event simply because I don't want to bring along a monopod with me due to weight of the lens and coz it's hard to position myself to take in obtaining better results. Photos are so vivid, sharp and aperture, well, great but a 3.5 aperture would be nicer! The 24-105 should be unbeatable as a travel lens, though. A lot of professional staged fashion photographers are saying now that the 70-200 4L IS is the one to beat in shoots such as this. But for studio photoshoot, the 2.8L IS version would be the perfect lens. Good luck!
  37. Alessandro, assuming you've now purchased the lens and used it extensively, what are you thoughts on the lens? Any regrets or disappointments?
  38. Hello Alessandro,
    So finally what lens do you get. I am also considering between this 2 guys in a month and not yet decided. I love portrait but i mainly use for life photos such as my child and what i have seen for nicely shot. An expert from cambridgeincolor Colin aslo advise me to go ahead via 70-200f2.8IS even he has both lens.
  39. Hello Alessandro,

    Wondering what lens you chose and what your experience has been in choosing.
    I have owned the 50 f1.4, 50L, 24-70L, 85LII, 135L, 100f2, 70-200L non IS.
    I now only have one lens, the 85 f1.2L because this focal length is best suited for what I shoot most often being headshots. When the economy improves I will start to rebuild my collection of glass. Although I greatly miss the images I can get with the 135L and the walk around fun I have with a 50, I would get the 70-200 L IS simply for its versatility.
    The focus speed of the 85L has never been an issue for me. I shoot with a full frame 5d, 1dsmk3 If on a crop I would stick with the 50L.
    The 85 f/1.2 L II has the best image quality of all the lenses I have used. It gives very crispy images, awesome color and contrast, flare resistant and unparalleled background blur. If you want your images to magically "pop" then the 85LII is for you.
    or you can always rent...

    Actors Headshots Los Angeles
  40. i have the 85mm 1.2 i shoot portraits street photography fashion and weddings with it.

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