Canon EF 85mm lenses comparison

Discover their performances in infrared photography

The 85mm focal length is dear to my heart: from portrait to landscape or architecture details, I really appreciate the angle of view it offers alongside my 35mm lens. The Canon EF 85mm lens line-up consists of three models to suit all budgets and biceps (we’ll come to that later). In this new article, I will compare the performance of each of them in infrared photography.

Let’s go !

A few points before we start

Of the three lenses tested here, only one is my property: the Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 USM. The Canon EF 85mm F/1.4 IS L USM and Canon EF 85mm F/1.2 II L USM lenses were lent to me by Canon France for a few days.

The results presented come from rigorous field tests, and have not been modified for any commercial reason.

Comparatif objectifs Canon EF 85mm en infrarouge

Handling and ergonomics

I was used to the lightness of the Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 USM… With the F/1.4 and F/1.2 versions, I reach a higher level of know-how! The two Canon EF 85mm F/1.4 IS L USM and F/1.2 II L USM lenses are built like tanks, and their weight is affected. But performance has a price, and such wide apertures impose particular optical construction constraints.

Handling and portability are therefore impacted. Exit the long hikes with your camera around the neck. With respectively 950g and 1kg on the scale, these F/1.4 and F/1.2 versions will be more manageable in the studio than outside.

Hotspot analysis

Hotspot is the most commonly defect observed of infrared lenses. Basically, it is a light spot of more or less intensity, accentuated by the closing of the diaphragm and generated by the multiple internal reflections of the infrared radiation in the lens and on the surface of the sensor. Kolari Vision website explains the phenomenon very well.

The presence of hotspots is increased by the selectivity of the infrared filter used: the phenomenon is more likely to be observed at the highest wavelengths.

To verify the presence of hotspot on the three lenses that interest us here, I photographed a white wall homogeneously lit at different apertures, from the largest to the smallest. The results are presented side by side for a given aperture.

The filter used is the 850nm from Kolari Vision. No corrections have been made except for the lens profile integrated into my camera. The test device is a full-spectrum unfiltered Canon RP.

These results allow me to rank the three lenses in order of sensitivity to the hotspot, from the most sensitive to the least sensitive:

  • Canon EF 85mm F/1.4 IS L USM: diffuse hotspot visible from F/2.8 and impacting from F/4.
  • Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 USM: diffuse hostpost visible at F/4 and impacting from F/5.6.
  • Canon EF 85mm F/1.2 II L USM: diffuse hotspot from F/8 and impactful from F/11.


In the end, only the model opening at F/1.2 can be used in infrared photography, the other two models suffering from stonger hotspot. I will therefore only focus on the Canon EF 85mm F/1.2 II L USM in the rest of this article.

Internal infrared light leak

Some lenses integrate with electronics that emit a low level of infrared light signal. This is particularly the case with Canon’s new range of RF lenses, as studied by Kolari Vision.

Here I did not observe any internal light leakage due to the electronics of the Canon EF 85mm F/1.2 II L USM.

Sharpness analysis

The Canon EF 85mm F/1.2 II L USM is known for its high-flying performance from wide open, and its fame is not lacking in infrared. From F/1.2, great sharpness is present on the focus area, with no fringing or loss of sharpness on the edges. And this, regardless of the infrared filter used.

Below, you can observe the rendering of a statue photographed at F/1.2, and its 100% crop on the focus area. No sharpness adjustment was applied in post-processing.

This lens will therefore give you as much satisfaction in infrared as in classic photography, if you can make the concession of its weight.

What is the best Canon 85mm lens for infrared?

In conclusion, of the three 85mm lens models offered by Canon, only the F/1.2 version can be used for infrared photography. Its use in infrared portraiture is optimal, and can occasionally be extended to landscape or street photography.

Let’s finish this article with the portfolio of images taken with the Canon EF 85mm F/1.2 II L USM at 720nm and 500nm.

To go further

Through my expertise in infrared photography, I offer a wide range of IR photo and video recording services for your scientific projects and artistic shootings.

Discover the relating offers by clicking on the following link :

I have built a pack of 7 LUTs dedicated with infrared processing.

These LUTs are optimised to work with Ligthroom Classic and deal with white balance, RGB channel mixer and precise adjustments with this software.

They also work well with other photo and video software.

If you want to use some of the pictures in this article for illustration or commercial purposes, contact me directly by presenting your needs and the desired types of use. I will get back to you as soon as possible with a suitable commercial offer.

Discover my other reviews

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