Mini-review: Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Posted on August 16, 2007, under general.

While I was in New York, I bought two new lenses, a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM and a Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM. I’ll review the 10-20mm later, once I’ve used it more, this post is about the 85mm, which Colin recommended.

The main reason I bought this lens was to have a good, fast, flattering portrait lens, and so far I’m not dissappointed. It suits my needs very well. At maximum aperture of 1.8, it’s pretty fast, and it’s got quick & quiet auto-focus even in relatively low-light conditions.

Michele Taking a photo in Union Square
Johnny Girl in Union Square

The speed leads to both rich and deep shadows, and also soft lighting effects, which I like. It’s not quite as good for taking further-away outdoorsy shots, with some visible aberration around light sources. For example the streetlights and signs in these two photos:

Time's Square Time's Square

But with a bit of patience, with only slightly better light, it can be used for producing some great outdoor shots too, with as much richness as indoor shots:

Evil lair building

Like any f/1.8, it’s got amazingly shallow Depth of Field, which is great for taking artistic shots or highlighted portraits. You can see the DOF yourself in these two shots;



The depth of field varies depending on how close you are to the subject, the portraits above are reasonable examples of shallow depth of field for highlighting. Apart from the very basic UV protector I bought with the lens, so far I don’t have any filters which fit it’s 58mm size. Without using any filters though it’s still got excellent colour separation and contrast.

Repair work in Central Park

It’s a reasonably light and convenient lens, and it’s quietness helps too for taking photos without people noticing too much. At 85mm, it’s field of view – especially on a small sensor – can be frustrating. It’s not as verdsatile as the 30mm 1.4 (in other words, get that first). But at the price, it’s an excellent lens, ideal for people like me who don’t want to spend too much but taking good looking photos with a wide aperture. Great for portraits and street photography alike.

6 Replies to "Mini-review: Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM "


Donncha O Caoimh  on August 16, 2007

I think you’ll like the Sigma. I certainly do. That lens is on my 20D 99% of the time now and it’s great for everything from landscape with sweeping cloudscapes to close encounters with people on the street.


colmmacc  on August 16, 2007

I’ve been using the 10-20, though not nearly as much. ANd I’ve keeping a keen eye on all your shots with yours (one of the reasons I bought it!).

… are some early examples. I like it too, but I’m still getting used to the distortion, it forces subjects more towards the centre.


bunsandchouchou  on November 15, 2007

Great pics. I’m about ready to buy the same camera. You should be in advertising.


Daniel Condurachi  on April 30, 2008

In the near future I plan to get the Canon 85 1.8 to go with my new Canon EOS 450D. Thank you for your review. Those reviews like yours, real life ones, are so much more trustworthy and helpful than the standard labs reviews.
I heard that with Canon EOS 400D this lens needs some adjustments. So I suppose the same goes for Canon EOS 450D. Do you know anything about this. If you do, please help me. Thanks’!


Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM | Digital Camera Updates and Digital Camera Information  on May 8, 2010

[...] reviews the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM and writes; “It’s a reasonably light and convenient lens, and it’s quietness helps too [...]


Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM | Extreme Photographix  on May 9, 2010

[...] reviews the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM and writes; “It’s a reasonably light and convenient lens, and it’s quietness helps too [...]

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