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Got bokeh? Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS is a buttery background-blurring beast

Got bokeh? Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS is a buttery background-blurring beast
(Image credit: James Artaius / Digital Camera World)

Canon has officially announced the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS, the first ever Canon optic to receive a brand-new Defocus Smoothing coating for feathery soft rendition of background blur and bokeh.

The Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS has the same build and design as the standard Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lens, with the exception of the DS coating that softens the hard edges and outlines of circular highlights (often called ‘bokeh balls’) in images and video.

 What is bokeh? (opens in new tab)

The coating is “a vapor-deposited coating technology that has a high transmittance at the center and a low transmittance toward the periphery.” While it softens out-of-focus areas further, we were told that it would not soften the focal point, so in-focus areas of the image will remain pin-sharp and unaffected (unlike a soft focus lens, which this categorically is not).

However, a by-product of the coating and defocus properties of this lens is that its light transmission is reduced. So while it remains an f/1.2 optic in terms of depth of field characteristics, Canon tells us that its effective transmission is cut down by around one stop at the widest setting.

In all respects other than the special coating, the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lenses are identical

In all respects other than the special coating, the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM lenses are identical (Image credit: James Artaius / Digital Camera World)

Canon explained to us that the DS coating is applied to both sides of a single lens element within the lens. Intriguingly, we were told that if the coating is only applied to a single side of the glass then only one half of the bokeh circle would become defocused (leaving the other half sharp), so the pricey coating has to be implemented on both sides to create the full effect.

Since, as Canon UK’s product intelligence specialist David Parry told us, “the soft-edged bokeh isn’t for everyone,” the new DS version will sit alongside the manufacturer’s existing 85mm f/1.2L, giving consumers the choice as to whether they want it or not.

Launched back in June, the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM (opens in new tab) shares the same weather sealing, durability and comfortable operation as the new DS version. Both optics are identical in terms of build, ergonomics and specification, bar the new DS coating that affects the bokeh and transmission.

The Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS will be available from early December for £3,249.99 / $2,999; the non-Defocus Smoothing version is on sale now and is priced at £2,799.99 / $2,699.

Read more: 

Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM review (opens in new tab)
Canon RF lens roadmap (opens in new tab): everything we know so far
Canon EOS R review (opens in new tab)

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Dan Mold
Technique Editor

The Technique Editor on PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, Dan also brings his technical wizardry and editing skills to Digital Camera World. He has been writing about all aspects of photography for over 8 years, having previously served as technical writer and technical editor on Practical Photography magazine, as well as Photoshop editor on Digital Photo


Indeed, Dan is an Adobe-certified Photoshop guru, making him officially a beast at post-processing – so he’s the perfect person to share tips and tricks both in-camera and in post. Able to shoot all genres, Dan provides news, techniques and tutorials on everything from portraits and landscapes to macro and wildlife, helping photographers get the most out of their cameras, lenses, filters, lighting, tripods and, of course, editing software.