Canon 85mm vs 85mm DS: Is Canon’s ‘Defocus Smoothing’ Worth the Price?

Portrait photographer and YouTuber Alex Barrera recently went out and shot a full side-by-side comparison of the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L and the RF 85mm f/1.2L DS lenses. His sample photos can help you decide if Canon’s “Defocus Smoothing” is worth the loss of light and the extra $300 it’ll cost you.

Barrera has actually bought and owned both of these lenses. He bought the 85mm f/1.2L initially, sold it to get the 70-200mm f/2.8, and then missed the lens so much that he bought the lens again, opting for the “DS” version of the lens the second time around.

The DS lens is optically identical to the regular L version of the lens, with one exception: a “Defocus Smoothing” coating that, in Canon’s opinion, “improves” the look of bokeh in your portraits. Of course, not everyone agrees on which looks better, so Barrera rented the regular L version and went out shooting with both so he could create the side-by-side sample gallery below.

This is almost entirely a matter of preference, so scroll down to see if the “softer” more diffused bokeh of the DS version is worth it for you. For each pair of photos, the first was shot with the regular lens, the second with the DS variant:

One note for those of you who read our previous coverage and know that this coating can cost you as much as 1.5 stops of light when you’re shooting wide-open: Barrera says that there was no difference in low-light autofocus performance between the two, despite the light loss. It seems Canon’s latest autofocus update really is all it’s cracked up to be, and the EOS R had no trouble keeping up.

To hear all of Alex’ thoughts on these two lenses and why he believes the DS variant is worth the extra $300, check out the full video up top. And if you want to download all of the above photos (and more) in full resolution so you can pixel-peep to your heart’s content, click here.

Image credits: Photos by Alex Barrera and used with permission.