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RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS: The Ultimate Portrait Lens for Bokeh Lovers

On 24 October 2019, Canon announced the RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS. While the new lens has the same fundamental design as the RF85mm f/1.2L USM, which is already on sale, it features a newly-developed Defocus Smoothing (DS) coating that promises unique bokeh with smoother edges, ideal for photographers who seek to shoot portraits where the background blends seamlessly into a beautiful, creamy blur.

RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS with logo

1) Introduction: A lens that seeks to provide better, smoother bokeh
2) About Defocus Smoothing technology
3) Shared features with the RF85mm f/1.2L USM lens
4) Key features and construction
5) Sample images

 

A lens that seeks to provide better, smoother bokeh

When Canon developed the RF85mm f/1.2L USM that is currently on the market, it prioritised the thorough removal of lens aberration, seeking to achieve optical resolution and sharpness in the in-focus areas. It goes without saying that the superb optical performance of this lens was also made possible by the large mount diameter and short back focus distance afforded by the RF mount.

Click here to read about: 6 Significant Features of RF Lenses

On the other hand, there are also many photographers who seek to create images that are not only sharp in the in-focus areas, but also carry soft, creamy bokeh in the out-of-focus areas. This is especially true for portraiture, flower, or food photography. The RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS is a special version of the RF85mm f/1.2L USM lens that caters to these photographers, providing a unique, smooth-edged bokeh that melts seamlessly into a background canvas, making subjects stand out even better.


Portrait photo of lady with streetlights in background

EOS R/ RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS / FL: 85mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.2, 1/160 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

All elements in the background, including the point light sources in the streetlamps and the leaves on the trees that line the street, melt into a uniquely soft, creamy bokeh that isolates the portrait subject beautifully. As a portrait lens, the RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS shows excellent depictive prowess.

 

Surprising bokeh quality, made possible by the new DS coating technology

The critical difference between the RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS and its counterpart with no DS is the newly developed Defocus Smoothing (DS) coating. This coating reduces the light transmittance at the edges of the lens, which smooths the edges of the bokeh. It is applied using Canon’s own vapour-deposited coating technology, in a way that ensures that transmittance is reduced progressively in a highly-controlled manner. As a result, the lens has the same high optical performance, contrast and chromatic aberration control as the RF85mm f/1.2L USM, even as it provides bokeh with softer, smoother edges that gradually melt into the rest of the background. 

DS coating and how it affects the look of the bokeh

DS coating and how it affects the look of the bokeh

The RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS features DS coating on two surfaces. If only one surface was coated, only side of the bokeh would appear smooth. Hence, the DS coating was applied to the surface of one lens element located near the front of the lens, and another lens element located nearer the back of the lens. This ensures the same distinct, smooth-edged bokeh all the way from the centre to the edges of the image frame.

 

RF85mm f/1.2L USM

Glasses against background with clear-edged bokeh circles

f/1.2, 1/125 sec
The image has a clear, sharp feel. The bokeh circles have clean, sharp outlines.

RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS

Glasses against background with smooth, soft-edged bokeh circles

f/1.2, 1/50 sec
The glass that is in-focus still appears clear and sharp, but the bokeh circles have gradual, fuzzy outlines that give the shot a soft, romantic atmosphere.

*Note: As the DS coating results in lower transmittance at the edges of the lens, exposure at maximum aperture is 1 1/3 stops darker than f/1.2. By updating the camera to the latest firmware, exposure control in AE will be performed appropriately.


The beautiful visual effect extends to video

Here’s an example of how RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS changes your shots: Bokeh light circles are beautiful, and they are a great way to spice up a night portrait. But when you have many of them, and the edges of the circles are all sharp and clear, it can make the image look more cluttered and harsher than you want.  

This won’t be an issue with the softer bokeh circles achieved by DS coating—even the bokeh circles located right behind your portrait subject won’t draw attention away from them. 

The best thing? You get the same effect in your videos. In video, unlike in still photos, the background moves too. Imagine: Velvety, delicate bokeh light circles floating gently in the background of your footage. Perfect for achieving that soft, romantic look.


Portrait with velvety bokeh lights in the background

EOS R/ RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS / FL: 85mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.2, 1/125 sec)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

 

It’s not just the bokeh that’s amazing

The RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS and the RF85mm f/1.2L USM share the same essential lens construction—the only difference is the DS coating. As such, you can expect to experience the same excellent optical performance boasted by the RF85mm f/1.2L USM on this version with DS. 

Their shared qualities include:

- Excellent rendering and contrast from the centre all the way to the corners
- BR and UD lens elements to keep chromatic aberration under control
- Air Sphere Coating (ASC) to suppress ghosting and flaring


You can learn more about them in:
RF85mm f/1.2L USM: An Ideal Lens Made Possible by the RF Mount

The RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS also features the customisable control ring that has become a staple on RF lenses, as well as the durable dust-proof, drip-proof build found on all Canon L-series lenses.  

* In order to use the RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS with the EOS R or EOS RP, a compatible version of firmware is required. You may download the latest firmware from:
EOS R
EOS RP

 

RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS: Key specifications and construction

 

RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS

Key specifications
Lens construction: 13 elements in 9 groups
Closest focusing distance: 0.85m
Maximum magnification: 0.12x
No. of aperture blades: 9 (circular blade)
Filter diameter: 82mm
Size: φ103.2×117.3mm
Weight: approx. 1,195g

 

Lens construction

RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS

A: Aspherical lens elements
B: UD lens elements
C: BR lens element
D: ASC (Air Sphere Coating)
Smudge-resistant fluorine coating on the front and rear lens surfaces

 

Lens hood: ET-89

Lens Hood ET-89

 

Sample images

Roses against creamy bokeh background

EOS R/ RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS/ FL: 85mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.2, 1/400 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

 

Model posing inddors

EOS R/ RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS/ FL: 85mm/ Manual exposure (f/1.2, 1/80 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

 

Model with flowers outdoors

EOS R/ RF85mm f/1.2L USM DS/ FL: 85mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.2, 1/200 sec, EV+0.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

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Find out more about RF lens technology and the other RF lenses in:
In Focus: RF Lenses

Trying to decide whether to buy the EOS R or EOS RP? Check out:
EOS R vs EOS RP: Which to Choose?

 


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