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How do I focus my Canon 85mm f/1.2 version II lens

MichaelVMichaelV Member
edited June 2015 in Canon
The 85mm is an awesome lens which most always produces great jaw dropping portraits. Problem is it doesnt always hit the focus for me. If I use the 85mm for an action oriented event, it misses the focus most of the time. However, if its for a sitting portrait I hit the focus every time. I tried out my Canon 85mm at a conference and I couldnt hit the focus at all. The subject standing at a podium. Under controlled conditions, posed shots, the focus is hit every time. At another event I saw a photographer use the 85mm. It didnt look like he was having much luck as I did.

Are we using a butter knife to turn a screw when we use the 85mm for event or action photography? Is this lens just made for posed controlled shots?

I am wondering about your experience in this matter.


  • Not sure if this helps or not Michael. I am not a sports shooter but do a lot of commercial work and events and a ton of portraits. My experience with the 85mm is this. With all my other lens' I use the center focus point then recompose as needed. With the 85mm, I have to compose my shot, then find the focus point I want to use and without moving pressing the shutter. It nails focus every time for me once I use the dial and find that focus point and it locks. Usually on the eyes. 
  • julieojulieo Member
    Silly question, but are you using continous auto focus and multi image shooting for the action shots as opposed to single exposure/single focusfor stills? Also, using back button focusing is very helpful. When having focus issues, a good friend told me to upload images to Nikon capture _ I'm sure Canon has the equivalent) Nikon capture will show your focus points in the image. That 85 prime should be nailing the focus every time.
  • Im going to do some experimentation today and Ill let you know how it goes.  It really dogs me that I have this fantastic piece of glass which works really well for posed shots, but when it comes to the action event it seems like the focus is not at all there.  I know the lens is not the issue.  I think its just a big piece of glass and takes a certain technique...more than just a push of the button and the focus is there.  
  • This is interesting. There's something about a moving subject that this lens doesn't like. JayCanon's work-around is also really interesting. I wonder why that works and why your focusing technique for other lenses doesn't work with this one? What's going on exactly? 
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    I accept that due to the wafer-thin DoF of the 85mm f/1.4 when shot wide open, that I will lose a certain number of shots. It's just the nature of the game.

    Also, my personal experience (and this is obviously circumstantial observation), is that with the Canon and Nikon 85mm lenses ... they are both a bit  slower to acquire focus than the 24-70mm f/2.8 zooms. So that alone means a more purposeful way of working with these lenses. 
  • ViccoVicco Member
    Hi, some tricks, that might help:
    - use the appropiate focus sensor point (and don't move your cam after focusing), so dont use focus-and-recompose
    - use back button focus
    - use servo AI and let the cam track a small while, before shooting
    - dont toucht the focusing ring on that lens, because you might change the focus manually, without wanting it
    - keep in mind: when focusing moving subjects, it is not about t <= 1 / focal length, because, even if you can hold still, your subjects might appear blurry, because _they_ move :-)
    - and anyway, at least for me, it is more like t <= 1 / (focallength * 2) ...

    Cheers, Vicco
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