Chromatic Aberration (CA). Yes, you can provoke it, but its limited and easily removed. Its a far cry from the Canon EF 85mm f1.8 USM in this regard. You can forget about CA with this lens, unless you are working for NASA or have an unhealthy fixation with such things.
Colour & Contrast. Both are very good, however, from my testing I am not convinced that this lens produces quite the full ‘L color’. It may have been the light when I tested it, but it reminded me more of the Canon EF 85mm f1.8 USM than other L lenses i.e. just a little more subdued. Not bad – very nice in fact, but a little different. I’d need to shoot more frames to be sure that its not all in my head.
Flare Resistance. I’ll be honest, I did not test this 🙂
Look. We all know this is very personal. People use terms like ‘clinical’ and ‘character’ to help them categorise lenses in terms of their look, but the problem is we are all using these terms slightly differently, or to mean different things entirely. Me, personally? I would say this is lens is clearly a very sharp modern optic, but it is not harsh and I do not find contrast excessive. It strikes me as very well balanced and ideal for ‘sharp portraiture’. Sebastiao Salgado uses this lens and I believe he shot most of his individual portraits with it during his Genesis project. You can see how, for that sort of subject matter and style, it was an ideal lens. He was not aiming for dreamy out of focus as can be achieved with the Canon EF 85mm f1.2 L II, but will almost certainly have used it at f2.8 on occasion to help create enough separation between subject and background to fix our attention in the right place. I’m sure he will have shot a good number of his people shots stopped further down too. After all, this is man who produces many utterly captivating portraits with a Leica R 60mm f2.8, which has limited potential for throwing backgrounds out of focus.
Image Stabilisation (IS). I would say that the 3.5 stops I have seen mentioned elsewhere is about right. At close distances, its not as efficient – that I could see – but if you’re a portrait shooter who works in dingy light, you’re going to have a significantly wider shooting envelope with this lens that the Canon 85mm f1.8 USM, for example. The IS works very sweetly and you never know its there apart from the subtle affect it has on the viewfinder image when you’re looking for it.
Value for Money. All of the above gets a whole lot more appealing when you consider its available in the UK for about £575 and about £500 when Canon offers a rebate ($800 in the US). It’s not a cheap lens, no, but that’s incredible value for money for such a flexible L series lens with great performance over such a wide envelope.
Conclusion. Rather than being a one trick pony, this lens is surely one of the most flexible prime lenses available by any manufacturer today. Its a 1:1 macro lens, a general purpose portrait lens and a landscape lens, with industry leading IS thrown in to boot. And it does all of these things extremely well and at a remarkable price point. By way of comparison, its $300 less expensive than the Sony 90mm f2.8 G Macro for the FE mount and if DxO ever gets round to retesting Canon EF lenses on the 5DSR, we’ll get a clearer indication of just how good this Canon lens is. Judging by some reviews using an optical bench, this Canon appears to be the better lens…