85 mm lens test

photo gear

I was able to test some 85 mm lenses at doubleyoushop in Brussels Yesterday.

I would like to buy an 85 mm lens as portrait lens, and wanted to have some comparable results of different makes.

the tested lenses are:

the Canon EF 85 mm f1.8. A lens selling at about 370 Euro’s here in Belgium

the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85 mm f1.4 ZE. A slightly wider max aperture, selling at 1050 euros approx.

the Sigma 85mm f1.4 for Canon. Also at 1.4 slightly faster than the Canon, selling price 889 euros.

test setup was very limited, the view from the frontdoor of the doubleyoushop, and the car that was there, in front of the roundabout.

first, to give you an idea on the scene, full images, reduced size.


Canon 85mm f1.8 at 2.8

Carl Zeiss at 2.8

Sigma at 2.8

following are some 100% crops of the different images:

first, wide open, 1.8 for the Canon, 1.4 for the other 2

one at the center, one for the bokeh of the background -in the canon image, there’s a car passing by- :

then at 2.8, one at the center of the image, one for the bokeh in the background:

then, all three at f9, one at the center, one at the edge of the image:

for me the results were quite surprising. I had at least expected more difference in the Carl Zeiss. They are often praised for a superb sharpness and better color rendition. This test proves none of the two statements. Neither did the Sigma impress me. Both show huge chromatic abberation (color shift at highlights) the Zeiss a bit blueish, the Sigma in Pink. They do not visually prove to be sharper than the Canon, and the Canon costs less than half the price of the Sigma, about a third the price of the CZ.

Ideally I should have been able to test these lenses also with a portrait subject, since this is the intended use, but unfortunately the occasion did not allow for this.

I would like to thank the vendor at Doubleyoushop for its willing cooperation, since I have not been a customer before in this shop, and still I could, without questioning, test all three lenses.

for me it is clear that the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 is a very good choice, for a very reasonable budget.

I hope this test will be of help to those out there, looking to buy a 85mm lens.


10 thoughts on “85 mm lens test

  1. Thx for sharing these test results with us.
    I’m looking forward to see some pictures once you’ve bought a 85 mm lens !

  2. Ik ben 1 van de eersten ben die zo’n Sigma 85mm f1.4 heeft gekocht (okt 2010). Perfect exemplaar en heel tevreden van. Uiterst scherp wijd open, best rond F2.0 gebruiken (beste trade off). Geen focus problemen.

  3. Thank you for the results.

    Could you comment on how you focused the CZ?

    This lens (like many other fast lenses) is known to exhibit quite a lot of focus shift. If you don’t use magnified live view with the lens stopped down, you are unlikely to reach the lens’ capability. It could be argued that the same is true of the Sigma.

    The apparent CA is fairly typical for a fast lens looking at a specular lighlight. The apparent chromatic abberation can be be caused by a number of issues including saturation of the sensor pixels. Spherochromatism is also common in fast lenses – so if you’re slightly off in focus of a highlight, purple or cyan fringing can result.

    Bruce, Toronto

    1. I know I didn’t have the perfect setup. In fact I should have been able to take the lenses with me, put up a tripod, and yes as you suggest, use live view mag. to focus. No I haven’t. I’m quite familiar with manual focusing, on my 135 f2, which is also very critical -but perfectly sharp- when used wide open. I have the super precision focusing screen on my 5D. So this is the best I could make of it. Fact is that in the pictures I took, the CA appears clearly more on the CZ and Sigma. In a real life shoot there’s not always the possibility to work with Live View either, is there. If someone would be willing to borrow me his CZ 85 mm, I’m willing to rework the entire test over. … Thank you for your comment, and apparently in depth knowledge of lens faults.

Comments are closed.