Does this budget-priced portrait lens make the grade?
May 15, 2012
Pro Optic has updated its 85mm f/1.4 budget prime. What does the new version, with it’s new aspherical lens formulation, provide in performance enhancements? So what else to do with an 85mm lens but take a portrait or two!
The Pro Optic 85mm f/1.4 ASPH lens is available exclusively from Adorama in Canon and Nikon mounts for $319.00. I had the opportunity to do a portrait and fashion shoot for the Adorama Learning Center with Cory Nova—a model with some wild red/pink hair. Here's what I learned about this intriguing lens.
The first thing I noticed when handling the new Pro Optic 85mm f/1.4 is that it seems smaller and lighter than the previous model. The focus ring still has little play and turns very smoothly. Like the previous model I wish it had a bit more resistance, but in actual use I didn’t have to worry that much about my focus leaving off. Like the previous model the Nikon version will provide focus confirmation, but the EOS version of this lens does not. I really do hope that Pro Optics will address this disparity between the two versions of this lens. When shooting with a Canon, my workaround for the lack of focus confirmation was to use Live View for all my focus with this lens when shooting at f/1.4.
The big news here is that the Pro Optic 85mm f/1.4's optics are vastly improved over the previous model. On the screen, the images were punchy and crisp. This made focusing in live view quite an easy task. The lens also improves on it’s predecessor by providing an image with far less chromatic aberrations and a cleaner, smoother Bokeh with beautiful rolloff when shooting a portrait. Overall, the lens does what it is designed to do in these situations, and does it well.
Model Cory Nova shot George Hurrell style using the Pro Optic 85mm f/1.4 ASPH at f/1.4.
Would I personally own the Pro Optic 85mm f/1.4 lens? If I used Nikon gear, and I'm on a tight budget, I would certainly consider it on the basis of the fast aperture, focus confirmation, and temptingly low price—although nothing compares optically to the the Nikkor 85/1.8 G (available at Adorama), which has AF and is worth the extra dough if you can afford it, or the spectacular pro-oriented Nikon 85mm f/1.4D IF AF lens (also available at Adorama) for portraits with uncompromising quality. If I owned a Canon, I'd be concerned about the lack of focus confirmation (you can get this feature in the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4T (stocked by Adorama), but it'll cost you about $900 more), but on the other hand, the Pro Optic is about $100 dollars less than the mid-market Canon 85mm f/1.8 EF (on sale at Adorama) and the performance is similar.