Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II Vs. Bell & Howell 85mm f/1.4

Canon 85mm f:1.2L ii USM vs Sigma 1.4 vs Pro Optic 85mm f1.4 Comparison-2

Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II Vs. Bell & Howell 85mm f/1.4. If you’re looking to purchase one of these lenses you can buy the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L ii USM EF from Adorama or Ebay and the Bell & Howell 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF MC from Adorama or Ebay. It helps me if you purchase it through one of these links here in this review. When you purchase through these links it financially enables me to devote time to develop this site further. Thanks for the help! -Todd

Canon 85mm f:1.2L ii EOS vs Sigma 1.4 vs Bower 85mm f1.4 Glass-4 Canon 85mm f:1.2L ii EF vs Sigma 1.4 vs Rokinon 85mm f1.4 Comparison-3 Canon 85mm f:1.2L ii EOS vs Sigma 1.4 vs Bell Howell 85mm f1.4 Mount-5

Both of these lenses are very impressive, so either one will give you amazing results with no regrets. If you are on a budget then the Bell & Howell is an optical steal of a deal for the price. However if money is not an issue or if you shoot professionally then the Canon L is the way to go.




100% Crop





100% Crop


100% Crop


Mechanically both lenses are very well built with sturdy parts. The Bell & Howell is a fraction of the weight but that is expected for a manual focus lens with smaller elements.

Ergonomically the Bell & Howell is solid, feels great in the hands, and the focus glides great. However being manual focus this can be a pain if you are in a rush to get your subject tack sharp, especially at larger apertures.
The Canon L has auto focus which is great, but if you need fast focus this lens is not it either. The focus through is so large that it takes quite a while to go from minimum to infinity. Also if you are focusing and just touch the focus ring you will put out the focus and might not even notice. I hate this! Also the lens hood is attached to the focus ring so if you touch the hood you will throw off the focus again.

Contrast wise the Canon L has way better contrast right across the board. The biggest issue I have with the Bell & Howell is that it struggles with contrast the entire time. I was hoping for a lot more contrast then this and you can only recover so much in post processing while keeping it looking natural.

Sharpness wise they are both very sharp and the Canon L is sharp at all stops, but is beat up a bit at larger stoops from chromatic aberration. The Bell & Howell while very sharp around f/2 on, does some funny things right away. At f/1.4 it is sharp with a lack of contrast making it look less sharp. As it sharpens up and picks up a bit of contrast stopping down a little it then shifts a little early. If you intend to shoot large apertures with this lens then that is good because at f/5.6 onward it already begins to take a hit optically with diffusion. By f/9 the diffusion is pretty heavy and by f/16 to f/22 the images almost become unusable in my opinion. It is rare for a lens to diffuse around f/5.6 as most lenses will show diffusion around f/9-16 area. However if you intend to shoot this lens at larger apertures the lens performs very well and is very sharp.

Corner sharpness between the two at f/1.4 are almost the same with the Canon L having a tiny bit more contrast.

Both lenses have very little vignetting and the Bell & Howell has a lot less vignette at all stops.

Both lenses have great bokeh and are very smooth without hard rings. The Canon L has a slight edge of larger and smoother blur. Both are bokeh kings.

The Canon L has a 3D Pop effect which is very unusual, similar to some Zeiss lenses and which I still have not seen in any other Canon lenses so far. This is not a sharpness or contrast phenomenon but is definitely present in this L lens. The Bell & Howell does not have this 3D Pop effect thereby leaving the images looking a little flatter in comparison.

The Bell & Howell definitely out performs the Canon L with chromatic aberration which is one of the best features of the lens. I really appreciated this about the Bell & Howell.

With my white balance locked into a manual temperature you can really see the Bell & Howell is a lot cooler then the Canon L. When shooting Jpeg one might want a warmer white balance but when shooting RAW I tent to want to shoot cooler. I find this help in post processing so the Bell & Howell being cooler was a plus for me. Both lenses have really nice colour but the Bell & Howell loses some colour due to the lower amounts of contrast.

It seems the Bell & Howell’s focal length was not a true 85mm but actually pushed closer to 90mm no matter what focus range it was shot at. I have not read about anyone having this experience so I’m not sure if it was just my copy. However this is a good thing for me because I would prefer a longer f/1.4 focal length.

Both lenses are definitely worth looking for and are some of the best 85mm lenses present today. If you love playing around with manual focus lenses then you will love the Bell & Howell. If you need auto focus then it might not be for you. Other then that, the only reason I would suggest one lens over another is what you can budget for. In this situation you get what you pay for, however if you don’t mind manual focus then you are definitely getting more then you pay for with the Bell & Howell.
The Canon L is definitely better optically but costs about $1500 more.


Did this review help?
My hopes are to take the time to continue developing this website with more test photo based reviews. If you are ever interested in purchasing a lens or other photography equipment please do so through these links here in this review. I would buy the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L ii USM EF from Adorama or Ebay and the Bell & Howell 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF MC from Adorama or Ebay. This helps support my family and allows me to take more time for the site. The best part is this site is free for you and I link good deals I find!

Sometimes these links will actually give you better deals then typical retail prices! I personally buy from the links I have listed whether looking for new gear or fun old stuff. I can personally attest to their good & safe service from years of experience. Thanks again to you, our readers, for supporting us! -Todd