Lens review

Canon EF 85 mm f/1.4L IS USM

17 March 2018
Arkadiusz Olech

11. Summary


  • excellent image quality in the frame centre,
  • very good image quality on the edge of APS-C sensor,
  • very good image quality on the edge of full frame,
  • slight lateral chromatic aberration,
  • lack of any serious problems with distortion,
  • negligible astigmatism,
  • low vignetting on APS-C,
  • silent autofocus,
  • very efficient image stabilization.


  • noticeable longitudinal chromatic aberration,
  • distortion level higher than that of direct rivals,
  • performance against bright light leaves a bit to be desired,
  • too high vignetting on full frame.
Canon had a lot of time to think about the answer to many well-done 85 mm lenses produced by their rivals. They didn’t have to compete with the extremely expensive and big Otus. It was enough they closed their optics specialists in one room with the Sigma A 1.4/85 and the Milvus 1.4/85 and let them outside only after they have designed something equally good, preferably better. Canon didn’t do that. As a result their lens is weaker than the Sigma in practically every testing category, sometimes very slightly so but still. The comparison with the Milvus is not so painful and yet the Zeiss manages to prevail as well.

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However, the Canon features three indisputable assets. Firstly, its image stabilization unit is very efficient and other f/1.4 rivals don’t have it at all. Secondly, it is physically smaller and lighter than the competitors. Thirdly, it does have the tell-tale name on its casing. There are still many photographers out there who consider all those Sigmas, Tokinas and Tamrons to be just cheaper substitutes of the real thing, instruments which fare well only in theory and in tests but in practice they are, and always will be, much weaker than any brand-name lens. If they purchase the Canon, they will be pleased for sure and small wonder – despite losing to the Sigma and the Milvus, the Canon remains a very good optical device. Only the standards were raised too high.