Canon RF 85mm lens options

Canon RF system remains closed to third party manufacturers, such as Sigma, Tamron, Samyang/Rokinon, Viltrox and others. It seems that Canon is maximizing it’s profit at the expense of it’s customers. This tactic may work for short term, but I am not sure this is winning strategy in a longer run, when Sony and L-mount offer plenty of choices for every need and budget. Many people entered Canon RF system assuming that third party lenses will be available in near future. Now, when Canon openly blocks third party autofocus lenses, some customers my decide to spend their money with more open system.

There is no doubt Canon has some excellent lenses in RF mount, but still there are some glaring gaps. Possibly these gaps will be filled, but without help from third party manufacturers it may take years and not everyone will enjoy the wait. Even more so, when there is no road map from Canon.

To illustrate this situation let’s see what choices Canon RF users have when in search for bright portrait prime lens. Here we have all two Canon RF 85mm lenses and two most popular 85mm primes adapted from Canon EF mount. Plus Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN for Sony E mount as a reference (note the large hood).

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  • Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM. This is my favorite lens from this list, light (500g / 1.1lbs), sharp enough for 20Mpix of Canon R6, with snappy AF (as long as you enable focus limiter), image stabilizer and a macro capability. But f/2 offers clearly less background separation that f/1.4 or f/1.2 and I miss it a lot. Priced at about 700€ it is a good entry level lens, if f/2 is OK for you.
  • Canon RF 85 mm f/1.2L USM. Super sharp and aberrations-free. At f/1.2 it can deliver nearly magical images. But the autofocus is not very fast, the lens is very heavy (1195g / 2.6lbs) and very expensive at 3200€. Not only it is out of reach of many photographers at this price point, it is also not very suitable for a travel lens with it’s weight.
  • Canon 85mm f/1.4 L EF IS USM adapted. Sharp, autofocus is snappy and it even has image stabilizer. With adapter becomes quite big and heavy (1060g / 2.3lbs). This might be currently best middle-ground option, especially when bought used, because price of the new lens is quite steep at 1800€ (+100€ for an adapter).
  • Sigma A 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM adapted. Pretty sharp and with autofocus only little slower than 85 f/1.4 L EF IS USM. It is very big and heavy, even more so when adapted (1240g / 2.7lbs), but the price is competitive at 1200€ (+100€ for an adapter).

What is missing here is a modern middle tier lens, such as Sigma Art 85mm F1.4 DG DN available for Sony and L-mount. This compact and light (630g / 1.4lbs) lens has very good optics, decent autofocus (comparable to Canon RF 85 f/1.2L) and is priced at about 1100€.

So this is clearly situation were third party manufacturers could help, making Canon RF system more attractive for customers and maybe preventing some of them from jumping ship.

NOTE: I’ve skipped some older or less popular options, such as Sigma 85 mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM. This is more than 10 years old lens which doesn’t match contemporary designs.

NOTE: Prices at the time of writing, without cashbacks and promotions.

05 January 2023