Part 3 in the RF vs EF lens series is all about L series prime lenses. EF prime lenses were among the best available during the heyday of EF mount. How do these legendary lenses stack up against the new L primes in Canon RF mount? Read on to find out!
Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Vs. Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM
The old Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L is great lens but it is portrait lens first and foremost. If it is used like this it doesn’t have a lot of obvious flaws. Focused at or near infinity it is pretty bad wide open due to corner softness and aberrations like coma and CA. Not only is it soft at the edges of the frame it isn’t very sharp anywhere in the frame at f/1.2, particularly on modern high megapixel cameras.
The new RF 50mm f/1.2 L USM takes everything up a notch. The lens design has been extensively updated to modern standards and is well corrected for all the typical aberrations. It is low distortion, high sharpness, and largely aberration free even at f/1.2.
The new RF 50mm f/1.2 is one of the best 50mm lenses available on the market. This is mainly achieved through the use of corrective elements in the lens design. The addition of ultra low dispersion glass and multiple aspherical elements results in a much larger and heavier lens than the previous EF 50mm f/1.2 L but it is vastly more performant.
The old EF 50mm f/1.2 L was released in 2007 and has never been updated despite being a highly flawed lens. It is used a lot for portraits by pros because they like it. But it has kind of run it’s course. People don’t just want a fast 50mm for portraits anymore, they want a fast 50mm for street photography, landscapes, and even astrophotography. The new RF 50mm fits the bill for each one of those genre’s perfectly. There’s no doubt here, the new RF 50mm f/1.2 L blows the old one out of the water.
Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM Vs. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L USM mk II
The EF 85mm f/1.2 L is an excellent lens with legendary status in the Canon EF system. It was a mainstay for portrait shooters for many years. And it was also the object of intense fascination among many who couldn’t own one for themselves. The 85mm f/1.2 series started with FD mount, and these Canon 85’s have since been the benchmark for 35mm film and digital as the ultimate bokeh kings. Canon has a great heritage to live up to with their new RF lens.
Well, the new RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM is in another, completely different league. While the new RF 50mm f/1.2 L is a strong performer, the RF 85mm is even stronger. It’s virtually as perfect as a lens can be. Every conceivable aberration has been engineered to be barely perceptible even on Canon’s highest resolution cameras.
Stopped down it is at or near the theoretical maximum sharpness for the given aperture. The new breed of RF lenses are built around the idea that the lens should get out of the way and produce a clean and accurate rendition of the scene. Of course Canon being Canon they have their own flare for how they like to do things. Even so, this lens is still one of the most optically corrected 85mm lenses that exists right now.
The old EF 85mm is a lot cheaper but the new one is very, very good. For some uses they’ll be hard to tell apart, and for others they’ll be as different as night and day. The same story applies to the new 85mm as did the new 50mm lens. It’s not just a portrait lens anymore, it can do any kind of photography whether it be astrophotography or food photography. Portrait photographers are probably biting their lips right now, but it’s true, the RF 85 L is the best Canon 85 yet made.
Canon RF 135mm f/1.8 L IS USM Vs. Canon EF 135mm f/2 L USM
Like I said at the beginning of the article, most Canon EF L primes are legendary among Canon photographers. These lenses helped get Canon in the minds of photographers and keep them there.
The EF 135mm f/2 L is probably the most legendary EF prime. It’s famous for being tack sharp wide open unlike the 50mm and 85mm primes. Since it has the advantage of a longer telephoto focal length it generates just as much if not more background blur for portraits.
If you doubt it’s legendary status just realize that it has been on the market, unchanged, for 27 years. It survived the end of film and the rise of digital and it still delivers the goods. Heck, it’s from the last century! It’s older than many of the people reading this post. This really is your grandaddy’s lens!
The new RF 135mm f/1.8 L has big shoes to fill but it does manage to do so. Like the other 2 RF L primes mentioned so far the optical corrections have been cranked up to the maximum. There is no CA and the lens is sharp wide open corner to corner. It’s a lens that would meet every expectation of quality for every photography job. I think this would be an absolutely stunning astrophotography lens. With the 135mm focal length it will do a solid job of targeting some of the larger objects in the sky. But that is far from being the end of the story. This lens is stunning for everything it is pointed at. Period.
Canon also added in OIS to this lens giving it stabilization on any of the RF camera’s and the highest grade of stabilization on any RF camera with IBIS.
This is where Canon really had to hit a homerun and they did. The new RF 135mm f/1.8 L IS USM is potentially not just the best Canon prime ever made, but the best prime lens available from any company. The only downside is the price. It’s over double the price of the old EF 135mm f/2 L. But that really shouldn’t be too much of a shock considering the performance it offers. Comparing it to the RF 85mm f/1.2 L the RF 135mm f/1.8 is actually well priced. I think it is a superior lens to the 85.
Super telephoto L primes?
I won’t talk about the super telephoto lenses too much in this post except to say it’s much the same story. The RF primes are just that little bit better compared to their EF forebears. But the EF lenses were already best in class so it’s no surprise that the new versions are also good.
RF mount hasn’t been fully fleshed out with L class primes yet, wider angles such as 24 & 35mm have been rumored. So for now, that’s the end of our 3 part series on RF Vs. EF lenses. I didn’t cover every single lens in the lineup, just the most popular and most purchased lenses. I think the picture is clear if you will; RF lenses have surpassed EF by and large. There is still room for improvement, particularly with the size of the 50 and 85 f/1.2 primes, but the RF lenses are largely top of the class either on value or sheer performance.
Whatever lens you choose, have fun with your photography. Get out there and do it, that’s the most important thing.
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