Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 USM L IS - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published April 2018


Canon always had a superb reputation when it comes to tele lenses. That's most obvious during sports events when looking at the press sector - white Canon L class lenses are dominating the scene here. Things are somewhat more balanced regarding medium tele lenses - traditionally many fashion photographers prefer Nikon - but Canon wouldn't be Canon if they didn't have something special here as well. The Canon EF 85mm 1.2 USM L II is the fastest (mass produced) 85mm lens around. In terms of bokeh, it is quite a beast but it's much less impressive in terms sharpness. Canon just released an alternative that is a little less ambitious optically - the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 USM L IS. It is, obviously, a bit slower - although f/1.4 is as fast as it gets over at Nikon and Sony. As such it's not quite as difficult to correct optical flaws which increase exponentially the faster you design a lens. At least on paper. That being said, it is the first of its kind featuring an image stabilizer so it may even surpass the 85mm f/1.2 in low light capabilities. Price-wise, it is not exceedingly expensive which is almost surprising these days. However, you still need to have some deep pockets thanks to a price tag of around 1600USD / EUR.

The build quality of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 USM L IS is superb as you can expect from a Canon L class lens. The lens body doesn't seem to be made of metal but Canon's high-quality plastics based on a metal mount. That size of the lens remains constant throughout the focus range and it does, of course, feature weather-sealing. The focus ring operates smoothly. The supplied lens hood is a bit disappointing - it is barrel-shaped but comparatively short.

The older Canon EF 85mm 1.2 USM L II has a comparatively slow AF motor. Fortunately, Canon was able to fix this on the EF 85mm f/1.4 USM L IS. The focus ring is manually coupled unlike on the f/1.2 lens which uses a focus-by-wire system. Full-time manual focusing (FTM) is, of course, available.
That brings us to the image stabilizer. Most users seem to be impressed by it and Canon claims a whopping gain of 4 f-stops. Maybe our sample was defective - despite showing a clearly stabilized view - but there wasn't too much in it. Shots taken at 1/20sec were not critically sharp.

Optical construction14 elements in 10 groups including 1x GMo aspherical element
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.85m (max. magnification ratio 1:8.3)
Dimensions88.6 x 105.4mm
Filter size77mm
Hoodbarrel-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)
Other featuresimage stabilizer, weather sealing