Canon 85mm f1.2 L vs Fujifilm XF 56mm f1.2

I took a break this past year from Canon, sold off all my gear and made a complete switch to Fujifilm.  I bought the Fujifilm X-T2 and the X-pro2 as well as their 16mm f1.4, 23mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4, 56mm f1.2 and 90mm f2 lenses.  I’ve been quite happy with their system and it’s opened up a whole new avenue for me, in photography, allowing me to shoot everyday and carry their cameras with me, all the time.  I absolutely love my Fuji system, and will never go without them.  However I do miss the robustness of the Canon system and the skin tones and color, when using Canon L series glass.  So I decided to re-add Canon back into my camera setup, in the form, of the Canon 6D, 85mm f1.2 L and the 50mm f1.2 L.  

I thought it might be fun to do a comparison of the two portrait lenses, between the two systems.  The Canon 85mm f1.2 and the Fuji XF 56mm f1.2, the 2 most incredible portrait lenses out there.

It’s important to note, that I decided to post the the photos, completely unedited, to give you a sense of what the pictures look like right off the camera with no color correction of any kind, exported out of Lightroom.  I know that other RAW editors, handle RAW differently than Lightroom, but because the vast majority of users, use Lightroom, I thought it would be appropriate to see how Lightroom interprets, both RAW formats.  You can easily match color between examples, but for this exercise were going to keep them as is.

Something you will notice right away between the Fuji and the Canon is their RAW color interpretations.  Canon tends to have a warmer hue, while the Fuji tends to be a bit cooler.

For this test, I used the Canon 6D body and the Fujifilm X-T2 Body.

I’d also like to note, that this is in no way a scientific comparison article.  This is more of a casual side by side comparison, when taking the same or similarly framed, pictures, with the two different cameras, and to see the differences between them.  That’s all.  This is not in any way which camera is better, as I own both and love both of them, for their strengths and weaknesses, which we can talk more about at the end of this article.

Canon 85mm L @ f1.2

Canon 85mm @f1.8

Fujifilm XF 56mm @f1.8

In this first example (shown above), normally with this framing, and how close I am to the subject, I would most of the time, shoot between f1.8 and f2 aperture settings. So I compared two shots, in that aperture range.  But I also wanted to see how sharp the image looks and gooey the bokeh might look like for the Canon in full frame, wide open.  So I added that in as well.  As you can see both cameras hold up really well.  If color matched, I think they would look even closer.  The only thing I see the Canon has ahead of Fuji is a slight creamier bokeh, which is expected from a full frame with nice glass, compared to the cropped sensor of the Fuji.  However it’s very slight.  I also feel that the Fuji is slightly sharper in this example, but this most likely has to do with the difference in sensor size and how that impacts equivalent focal lengths, and what that looks like.  We’ll talk more about that further in this post.

Canon 85mm L @ f1.2

Fujifilm XF 56mm @f1.2

In this example, I decided to try shooting wide open with both cameras as I was far enough away from the subject, and felt I could get as much of the subject in focus, as I could.  Just from an aesthetic stand point, you can see the bokeh is a lot softer and creamier with the Canon.  This is again the inherent advantage between a full frame sensor and a cropped sensor.  But with that said, the Fujifilm aesthetically holds up extraordinarily well, and has nice bokeh, especially for a cropped sensor, with great subject separation.
Another thing I noticed is that the Canon had a little bit softer edges on the top.  Again, if I stopped down a bit for a composition like this I would probably get a sharper result, but it’s interesting to compare.  The Fuji wide open seemed fairly sharp edge to edge. 

Canon 85mm L @f1.2

Fujifilm XF56mm @f1.2

Shot these two wide open.  Fairly equal sharpness.

Canon 85mm L @f1.2

Fujifilm XF 56mm @f1.2

Again…wide open on both.

Canon 85mm L @f1.2

Fujifilm XF 56mm @f1.2

So in this example above, again, looking at the different inherent sensor size differences, the Canon has a bit shallower depth of field, because of it’s full frame sensor.  On the Canon, at the same distance from the subject, as when I shot with the Fuji, you see that there’s a bit of soft focus on the top portion of the frame.  This definitely is a characteristic of the lens when shooting wide open.  A much narrower depth of field, then with the Fuji lens.  Because of that, the Fuji comes in sharper, especially in portrait oriented pictures, when shooting wide open.  I would most likely have stopped down, to 1.8 or so, to gain back some shorpness in the frame, but again interesting to see how the lenses react in these environments.

Canon 85mm L @f1.2

Fujifilm XF 56mm @f1.2

On this last example, I feel they are fairly comparable.  Again with a slight shallower depth of field on the Canon.


The purpose of this test mainly was to see how well, the Fujifilm system compared, to a more expensive and widely used system like the Canon DSLR.  When you compare the 85mm f1.2 L lens which is twice the price of the Fujifilm XF 56mm f1.2, I think this test proves that the margin in quality is quite small.  And I think this shows how well made, and optically well crafted, the Fujifilm X lenses stack up to the other systems, especially comparing higher end lenses.  
In comparing color from RAW files, I would say that the Canon has a slight edge to this comparison.  Specifically in skin tones, which is widely talked about.  I’ve used quite a bit of Canon lenses, and I have to say that the L series, definitely renders color in a very pleasing way and this 85 is no exception.  
It’s also known that Lightroom has had its problems processing or initially reading RAW Fuji files.  Perhaps we may see this change, if using other RAW converters like, Capture One, but in the case of Lightroom as our test platform, Canon wins.  However, the Fujifilm system is no slouch when it comes to color, and when using JPEG files with Film Simulations, this is where the Canon falls behind, when using SOOC or “straight out he of camera” files.
This particular category was something I was most curious about between these two lenses.  I read so many opinions about how sharp or how soft the 85mm L lens can be, and I knew from my experience with Fuji, when I switched, that I felt noticeably sharper images.  I would say I still feel that way.  But that’s not to say I didn’t achieve extremely sharp images on the Canon equal to the Fuji.  I would just say I achieved more consistently sharper images, on the Fuji system, when wide open.  But this is partly to do with the full frame sensor being bigger and with a narrower depth of field, so it just requires to keep an eye on where that focus area is and also stopping down when needed to achieve the sharper image.  
Also keep in mind that an f1.2 lens on a cropped sensor, is technically equivalent to an f1.8 on a full frame sensor which explains why a full frame camera can achieve shallower depth of field when shooting wide open, but at the expense of a narrower depth of field, meaning less focus in the frame.  But if you look at my first example, where I stop down both lenses, we start seeing comparable sharpness.  I think in general when you work with full frame, you have to keep an eye on your technique at keeping sharpness and focus when shooting wider apertures, where it might not be as pronounced an issue when working in crop sensor mode.  With that said, I would say, inherently, both lenses are extremely sharp and I would almost put them at a tie.
I would say in this category they are definitely at a tie.  Both focus relatively slow, especially in low light, but when they do lock in, they lock into focus very well.  Accuracy is also about the same in both as far as I could tell.

So there you have it.  A very casual study on two very high-quality portrait lenses within two popular camera systems, I currently use.  As you may have gathered, the 56mm f1.2 lens is quite the opponent to the 85mm L lens in all the categories.  At about roughly half the cost of the 85, the 56mm has plenty of shallow depth of field, fairly nice and gooey bokeh, consistent sharpness at f1.2, and solid color rendition, compared to other mirrorless systems.  
I love both lenses and both camera systems.  But if you wanted to look at the best price performance combo, it’s clear that the 56mm is a great win for the Fujifilm users and for those that were looking past the fence on the other side, to see how much more they are getting with a Canon L lens, they are getting, much shallower depth of field, better color rendition, especially in the skintones, slightly better bokeh and premium solid build on the lens, including weather sealing.  

I hope this article is helpful for those on the fence, trying to switch to Fuji, or for those trying to figure out, how to keep their Canon.  As you can see, there are options, and no choice is bad.  They are both phenomenal camera systems.

- Peter

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