I was having breakfast with Canon Blogger, Jason Anderson one day and we were talking about lenses when I mentioned that my favorite for photographing people was Canon’s EF 85mm f/1.8. Jason said that he really wanted to own the EF 85mm f/1.2 I tested for Shutterbug magazine. There’s about a thousand dollars differences between those two lenses, which got me to thinking about why Canon doesn’t offer an 85mm f/1.4. as Nikon does for users of their system and while both Sigma and Zeiss offer one for the EOS mount neither is what you might call inexpensive.
I was browsing Adorama catalog and saw just what I was looking for: The Pro-Optic 85mm f/1.4 lens priced at $269.95. That’s less than the EF 85mm f/1.8 so I knew there had to be a catch in there somewhere. The lens is manual focus but then again so is the Zeiss 85mm which costs $1000 more! The Pro-Optic lens is also only recommended for use with Canon or Nikon SLRs that have a APS-C sensor size and the automatic diaphragm that we take for granted in most lenses is sorta semi-automatic. The minimum Aperture is f/16 and the design uses 9 Elements in 7 Groups. It provides a 28.3 degree angle-of-view and focuses as close as 3.3 ft. Filter size is 72mm and a lens hood is included. I decided to do a side-by-side comparison between the Canon EF 85mm f/18 and the Pro-Optic 85mm f/1.4 and, ya know, see what happens.
Pam Simpson modeled for this headshot made in my in-home studio while I testing the EOS Digital Rebel T4i. Lighting was from a Flashpoint DG600 300 w/s monolight at camera right with a white Flashpoint 16-Rib 86-inch parabolic umbrella mounted and a 32-inch reflector at left, although I’m not sure how much it added. Exposure was 1/100 sec at f/8 and ISO 400 for both shots. First I attached the Canon EF lens, then I made a few shots with the Pro-Optic 85mm f/1.4. This model lacks viewfinder focus confirmation but a second Nikon version offers it for a few bucks more. Can you tell which one is which? To help you decide, I enlarged a section of Pam’s eye. Now can you tell? (Answer at bottom of post.)
(The Pro-Optic lens shot is at right.)