Andrew Van Beek is an Ottawa, Canada based wedding photographer, portrait photographer, and commercial photographer.  Andrew has been shooting professionally for the last 12 years with roughly 400 weddings, and thousands of shoots under his belt. For the last 3 years he has been researching the use of small mirrorless cameras and lenses for more professional work.

In my last Fuji vs Canon lens comparison, I compared the Fuji 23 and 35mm lenses, to the Sigma 35mm F1.4, and Canon 50mm F1.4. In that comparison I was using the Fuji X-E2 and Canon 5D Mark III. You can see the results HERE.

For this comparison, I was curious to see how different the results would be between Canon’s 85mm F1.2 and the Fuji 56mm F1.2. Both are considered to be top in quality for both companies and are meant to be a top notch portrait lens. In the case of the 85mm, we get a true 85mm F1.2 on a full frame camera while with the 56 F1.2, we get an 84mm F1.8 equivalent on a 1.5x APS-C cropped sensor. I tested the 85mm using the Canon 5D Mark III and the 56mm F1.2 using the Fuji X-T1.

On paper, this should mean that the images from the full frame sensor should look more rich, have more detail and should have shallower depth of field. At least this is what one who knows camera gear would guess. The one thing that holds true is that the 85mm does indeed have the ability to have a more shallow depth of field. Other than that…

Image Quality

All the other differences that I could see between the images had less to do with the lenses and more to do with the camera sensors, how they are configured (whatever that means), and the way that Adobe Lightroom interprets the RAW files. Files from either camera look perfectly normal when you first open them in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW (ACR). Open them up side by side and the Canon files look really yellow, hazy and strangely over-exposed, while the Fuji files look pink and a bit too contrasty. This isn’t to say that I dislike either, but I couldn’t help but notice that this is how they looked compared to one another. All is easy to fix in RAW and with simple pre-sets.

The following 3 images were taken in studio with the help of Melanie Shields of Melanie Shields Photography. Melanie is also one of my studio partners at Third Floor York.

The first 2 images were taken with the 5D Mark III/85 F1.2. The first one shows a little added blur due to the shallower depth of field. The second 2 look very similar. As usual, while shooting at F1.2 on the 5D Mark III, most of the images that I shot were soft but I did have one that I could use. Because of this issue, I rarely shoot wider than F1.8 anyway. Conversely, the 56 F1.2 is almost always tack sharp at F1.2 but the depth of field is like F1.8 on full frame anyway.  Lighting was provided with 3 Cheetah V850 lights. 2 with Photek Softlighter II diffusers and one (to the right) with a MagMod grid. I chose these lights because they can actually be powered low enough to be used with 2 cameras that have slow shutter sync speeds, shoot at F1.2, and in low indoor light. Most studio lights would have to be gelled in such conditions to lower their output.

Canon 85 F1.2 @ F1.2
Canon 85 F1.2 @ F1.8
Fuji 56 F1.2 @ F1.2

I’m not exactly sure why but the differences in depth of field seem much more pronounced on the following 2 images. Both are shot at an “equivalent” aperture of F1.8 but the 85mm demonstrates more shallow depth. This doesn’t make me prefer it, but it is different.

Canon 85 F1.2 @ F1.8
Fuji 56 F1.2 @ F1.2

One bonus of shooting with a cropped sensor is that when you actually want everything more in focus, it requires less light. The image below was taken at F2.8 with not a lot of available light. At 100%, everything is incredibly crisp.

56 F1.2 @2.8
56 F1.2 @2.8


Camera Handling

The last time I did a camera comparison it was between the Fuji X-E2 and the Canon 5D Mark III. Things have changed quite a lot on the Fuji side with the release of the X-T1. While the image quality is the same, the X-T1 has made things more appealing from the point of view of a professional photographer. The best additions over the X-E2 are the addition of a tilting LCD which allows for shooting from camera angles that are a true pain with a fixed LCD (and even worse, with poor or no live view), as well as a world class electronic view finder (EVF). The latter addition is a big deal for those who have long griped about having to look at an LCD or small EVF.

The 2 things that differentiate the 5D Mark III and the X-T1 for me are the focus speed, and the time between one shot and the next. With the 5D, it’s possible to focus and shoot and focus and shoot again in about 1/2 second. This is very handy when shooting at F1.2 on an 85 and not fully trusting the focus or if things (like my subject and me) aren’t completely still. When not focussing between shots, there is no hesitation. This is particularly great when trying to capture ever-slightly-changing facial expressions.  In this exact situation, the Fuji focusses noticeably slower, and actually blacks out between shots so that you can’t see your subject and shoot again until you see them again. You can however, shoot at 8 FPS and get lots of in between looks, you just can’t see them while shooting. These facts force you to shoot more deliberately. This doesn’t bother me that much but could drive some people crazy.  The one bonus is that the Fuji never misses focus so you also don’t feel as compelled to shoot as much.

In summary, these are the pros and cons that I found when comparing the Canon 5D Mark III with the 85mm F1.2 with the Fujifilm X-T1 with the 56mm F1.2.

Canon Pros

  • Very fast focus
  • Very fast shot to shot speed while focusing in between.
  • Very shallow depth of field while wide open (F1.2)
  • Beautiful image quality
  • Optical view finder (this is not considered a plus for me but is a very big deal for many)
  • Great battery life

Canon Cons

  • Focus is fast but not always accurate at F1.2. It’s easy to blame the user in this case but either way, shooting that wide is a pain
  • No ability to see exposure before shooting so images often a little off.
  • Both the 5D Mark III and 85mm F1.2 are big and heavy
  • No really useful live view for shooting stills
  • No tilt-able LCD screen
  • No wi-fi
  • Expensive

Fuji Pros

  • Very accurate focus
  • Images are gorgeous and almost indistinguishable from a full frame image.
  • Camera and lenses are much smaller and lighter than DSLRs.
  • Cost of X-T1 and 56mm vs Canon 5D Mark III and 85mm F1.2 is about 1/3.
  • Tilt-able LCD screen and very useful in many situations and tucks away nicely when not in use.
  • Live view on the LCD and in the electronic view finder. This is great for seeing exactly the exposure that you are getting.
  • Handy wi-fi for transferring files for the social media addicted.
  • Wi-fi also useful for controlling the camera.
  • Due to cropped sensor, it’s easier to get everything in focus in lower light and wider apertures (it’s not always a con people)

Fuji Cons

  • Focus speed can hold you back but is fine for portrait work and workable in general.
  • Buttons can be a little annoying to find since they are quite recessed compared to most cameras. This is easily fixable by putting little adhesive enamel drops on the buttons that you want to find easily. Hey don’t mock me, it works!
  • Battery life is about 1/5 that of the 5D.
  • When you really really want super shallow depth of field, it’s not as available as on a full frame.

All of these pros and cons mean that I will continue to use both systems for professional work and I have the added bonus of having the Fuji system for more personal work and travel. I will never drag 2 Canon full frame cameras around Africa, Asia, and South America again!



What cameras and lenses were used for the 2 images below?



See Also:

Comparing the Fuji X-E2 and the Canon 5D Mark III

Using Fuji X Lenses vs Canon Full Frame Lenses