Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS review

With Defocus Smoothing, the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS turns the stock RF 85mm bokeh beast into a bokeh behemoth

Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS review
(Image: © James Artaius / Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

The Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS is almost identical to the standard RF 85mm f/1.2L. As expected, it trades light transmission for impossibly buttery-smooth bokeh – and, somehow, it also possesses even greater sharpness. If background blur is more important to you than low light performance, this Defocus Smoothing optic has the smoothest bokeh you could ask for. The question is, is it TOO smooth, and is it worth an extra $300 / £450?


  • +

    Even sharper than the RF 85mm!

  • +

    Beautiful image quality at f/1.2

  • +

    Built like a tank

  • +

    Gorgeously smooth bokeh


  • -

    Much pricier than RF 85mm

  • -

    Reduced transmission at f/1.2

  • -

    Overbalanced on the EOS R

  • -

    Is the bokeh TOO smooth?

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Confession time: the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM DS is this reviewer's most anticipated lens of the year. As a fan of exotic lenses, such as the Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 Softfocus, this has been an eagerly anticipated highlight of 2019 – with suitably lofty expectations. 

As a bonus confession, the 'standard' Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM is this reviewer's favorite lens for the Canon EOS R. Yes, it's too big and heavy for the body. Yes, it really could do with image stabilization. And yes, it's eye-wateringly expensive… but it's also an eye-wateringly great performer, capable of dreamlike and pin-sharp portraiture that somehow makes the price tag palatable. 

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.