Putting the Canon RF 85mm F1.2 Lens to the Test

Video Producer, Lane Peters, Takes to the Track to Review Canon's Latest RF 85mm F1.2 Lens


Canon’s new RF 85mm F1.2 was made specifically for their new full-frame mirrorless cameras, the EOS R and EOS RP. If you haven’t had a chance to work with these systems, you should give them a try. Canon’s approach to these new systems signifies a large departure from their DSLR line. The change is radical, not only in ergonomics but also in the operating system as well. I found that once I understood where the control settings for basics functions were, (white balance, AF modes and exposure settings), the whole system felt much quicker, and more natural, compared to something like a 5D Mark IV. Photographic companies are moving towards a complete mirrorless future, and Canon’s introduction of the RF 85mm shows that commitment.

I create a lot of videos for new products such as this, and as part of that, I get to test out these products in a real-world environment.

For the Canon RF 85mm, I was looking for three things specifically.

  1. How quick the AF mode was.
  2. How sharp the lens was, wide open at F1.2.
  3. The quality of the fall-off at F1.2

For the overall test, I went to a local track with an athlete and used an EOS R body.

Photographer at track taking photo with Canon 85mm F1.2

Image by Andy Marsh

Auto Focus

To test the overall quality of the Auto Focus, I set the AF and shooting modes to continuous, and turned on facial recognition. I then had Holly run straight at me multiple times.

I was really surprised out how quickly the lens focused and tracked the face as she sprinted directly at me. This is one of the more difficult things autofocus can do. I was able to rapid fire, and get tack sharp images nearly every shot.

Canon RF 85mm - Continuous AF and shooting modes with facial recognition turned on. Photographer: Lane Peters Athlete: Holly Semanoff

Canon RF 85mm -Continuous AF and shooting modes with facial recognition turned on. Photographer: Lane Peters Athlete: Holly Semanoff


I shot mostly between F1.2 and F2.8 and cranked the shutter to 1/8,000 to make get rid of any motion blur and to create a soft background.

At wide open apertures, fine details such as eyelashes and skin texture were prominent and sharp. Occasionally I would get a shoe or a hand in focus instead of the face, but whatever was in focus, was tack sharp.

Photograph of runner showing the sharpness of the Canon 85mm 1.2

Holly Semanoff Photo by Lane Peters 


The fall-off (transition from sharp to out-of-focus) is exceptional. The 85mm is built with a rounded 9-blade aperture, which helps create a super smooth background blur and a high-quality bokeh. I was really pleased with how the lens handled when I began shooting portraits of Holly at the end of the day. - RF 85mm with a Profoto B10.

Photo of runner dripping sweat using Canon 85mm 1.2

Holly Semanoff Photo by Lane Peters 


The look an 85mm achieves is one of my favorites and is really an essential part of any photographers toolkit. So, if you’re a Canon shooter that’s thinking about moving to mirrorless, this lens should be a huge motivator to switch over. If you’ve already got an R or RP, the RF 85mm F1.2 is essential for any portrait, low-light, or close-range sports photographer.

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