Review: Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP (Canon EF Mount)

Relatively speaking, I’m sort of over the idea of super fast aperture lenses simply because most folks won’t be able to tell the difference with the photos–and that’s the case with the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens. But at the same time, I can’t argue with the fact that it’s quite a mystical marketing technique combined with the fact that so many lenses are really fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re shooting with an APS-C sensor camera then having super fast glass makes sense. But for full frame cameras, it doesn’t really matter. Most people can’t tell the difference between f1.2 and f1.4. Plus high ISO output these days is so crazy good that you arguably don’t need the extra stop. 

Nonetheless, the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is a fantastic lens in many ways. It’s part of the Rokinon SP lineup of lenses designed to take on the likes of Zeiss at a lower price point. So Rokinon gave this lens metal and rubber in its design. It is still a manual focus lens with AF confirmation, but if you’re shooting with this lens in a proper studio style, then you won’t need to worry about any of that stuff and you’ll also be needing to shoot far less frames. It’s a very studio and creator lens–and I’m sure a whole lot of photographers out there will love it.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Nice bokeh
  • This pretty unique matte like-color rendition that I wish lots of other manufacturers engineered into their lenses
  • Sharp image quality
  • Tough build quality, but no weather sealing
  • f1.2 aperture, which is still tough to work with

Cons

  • No autofocus, which I think that for a lens like this would put it over the top
  • I wish it had weather sealing built in

Gear Used

The Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens was tested with the Canon 6D Mk II and the Canon 6D.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from our news blog post for the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP

  • Mount: Canon EF
  • Model: SP85M-C
  • MSRP: $1299
  • Focal Length: 85mm
  • Maximum Aperture: F1.2
  • Coverage: Full Frame (FX)
  • Optical Construction: 10 Glass elements in 7 Groups
  • Aperture Range: F1.2-16
  • Diaphragm Blades: 9
  • Coating: Ultra Multi-Coating
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 31.5″ (0.8m)
  • Filter Size: 86mm
  • Lens Hood: Removable lens hood
  • Maximum Diameter: 3.66″ (93mm)
  • Weight: 37.0oz (1050g)
  • Length: 3.87″ (98.4mm)

Ergonomics

When you look at the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens, you aren’t supposed to expect a whole lot in terms of its ergonomic design. Arguably speaking, it’s designed to have a simple design. That means what you notice is the fact that there is metal incorporated into the exterior design. You’ll also spot the giant rubber focusing ring.

On the front of the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is a big front element that can hold an 86mm filter. That’s pretty darned large!

The Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens has very little in the way of controls on the lens. There aren’t any sort of switches on the side.

Build Quality

The Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is a giant step up for Rokinon, and I think that they should be commended for this. The lens incorporates a whole lot of metal on the outside along with a giant rubber focusing ring. If you felt this lens and a Zeiss lens while blindfolded, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two. However, Zeiss gives their lenses weather sealing–at least with the Milvus lineup. The Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens doesn’t have weather sealing. Why? I’m not sure.

Ease of Use

The Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is a manual focus lens, a telephoto focal length and has a very shallow depth of field. So it’s going to be very difficult to work with. However, when you work with it, you won’t be machine gun shooting the way that lots of photographers do. Instead, manual focus optics like this force you to work with your subject to get the best images that you both can with the least amount of frames. I’d like to equate it to a recent experience I had posing for the Penumbra Foundation. I needed to stay still and work with them to get the image right. Then when we were all ready I needed to sit still and let them shoot. I’d recommend that photographers work the same way with a lens like this and you’ll get one amazingly badass photo rather than a ton of slightly less badass photo.

Focusing

As I stated before, the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is a manual focus lens. There isn’t a depth of field scale on it. I recommend using Live View or the focusing points. With Nikon cameras, you’ve got the Nikon rangefinder system. You’re still absolutely best off pre-focusing and then touching up the focusing. You’re also probably best using this lens on a tripod. It’s a lens designed for very slow, methodical and careful work. I really like that.

Image Quality

One thing is undeniable: the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens has a very beautiful, cinematic look to it as does some of the rest of the SP glass. It’s tough to use but once you get it, you absolutely nail it and you know it. Let’s just dive into this.

Bokeh

The bokeh from the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is nice; but honestly I wouldn’t be able to tell much of a difference between the bokeh here, with Sigma, with Tamron, with Zeiss and Tokina. The bokeh isn’t distracting at all. It’s instead creamy and you’re bound to get beautiful out of focus areas with this lens at f1.2. But you can also get them when stopped down just a bit.

Chromatic Aberration

The Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens has no sort of color fringing or other issues that DPReview forum goers love to talk about.

Color Rendition

What I really love about the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is the color rendition. It has this almost matte look to it that I value quite a bit. It’s gorgeous and beautiful. It also means that I’ve got more versatility with the RAW files when I go to edit.

Sharpness

Wide open at f1.2, the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is very sharp. Stop it down and it will only get sharper. I can’t really complain about anything with the Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens. When you zoom out and look at the entire scene, the sharpness from this and many competitors probably won’t matter; but Sigma and Zeiss will both look sharper. Where Rokinon wins though is with the matte like effect that it delivers.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Sharp without being overbearing
  • Love the matte-like look
  • Love the fact that it slows me down quite a bit

Dislikes

  • Autofocus and weather sealing would have put this lens over the top

The Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens is an almost perfect lens. For portrait photographers, it encourages us to sit there and create rather than capture and collaborate necessarily. If you’re a medium format film shooting, then you’ll get this perfect. It’s a brand new lens in a digital world that abides by digital standards but that is designed to be used by a higher end shooter. And I genuinely appreciate that aesthetic. That’s where I’m also torn. I think that it could benefit from both weather sealing and autofocus. But if this lens had autofocus, then its usage would completely change and I’d end up with 200 photos then culling down to 5 rather than 20 photos and culling down to two or three.

The Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP lens receives five out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.