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4.8 out of 5 stars
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
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697 of 717 people found the following review helpful
October 2006 Update:
I thought I owed this Lens review an update after shooting with it for almost a couple of years and having the pleasure of shooting with a variety of L Lenses: 70-200L, 16-35L, Fisheye, 50mm and the Kit lens. This is what I've found:

1) Bar none, the best "portrait" lens I own. There's just something about this 85mm focal length + f/1.8 that brings out detail....faces have so much dimension with this lens, they look 3 dimensional. When I want to get shots of my daughter that amaze, I use this lens. When I look at my picture archive on my computer, I can easily spot the ones taken with this 85mm. My friends, some of which who don't know much about photography, pick pictures taken with this lens as their favorites - they ask wow how did you get that picture? I have a few blown up pictures to 16x20 and 11x14 of my daughter for my parents from this lens which are magnificent.

2) I thought that when I bought my 70-200L I would never use my 85mm again, I was wrong. I routinely find myself putting on the 85mm and shooting pictures with it. Also, Its much lighter and less imposing than my 70-200L so when I just want amazing portraits, don't need the higher 200mm and don't want the weight, and want a real shallow depth of feel and out of focus backgrounds, I go for the 85mm.

3) I also have a 16-35mm L which I use quite a bit for inside shots and panoramas which stays on my camera most of the time but there's just a special look to the longer mm rating that you get which makes portraits just work better with the 85mm - so when I take off the 16-35, I usually mount this 85mm.

4) I really thought that between the 16-35mm L and the 70-200L, I'd never ever use the 85mm, I was wrong. There are wonderful advantages to this lens which make it a keeper for me....the construction on this lens has held up very well, after years it looks brand new. I do have a UV/Haze filter that I use as a protector I got from Amazon (about $25) - great value.

There's allot to be said for a non "L" lens which consistently winds up on my camera when I own several "L"s which cover the mm of this lens. To me, its an L: built like an L, color and saturation comparable to an L It's my "L" lens that doesn't have a red stripe.

Original Review:
I bought a 20D recently with the 18-55mm kit lens and to start out I bought a 50mm f/1.8 lens which really got me interested in the faster f/stops to blur backgrounds and take pictures in lower light. My kit lens was not fast enough (hard to blur background and hard to take pictures in low light) and both the kit lens and 50mm lens did not have Ultrasonic which made me miss focus more often with moving targets.

I looked quite a bit and found the 85mm f/1.8 lens. Although Amazon only had a few reviews, the photography forums I found were buzzing about how this lens should've been labeled an L lens. Pros might know why but 90% of the reviews I read said it was comparable to an L lens in quality and that it was very affordable.

I bought this lens and I have to tell you, I was very impressed with it right from the start. On construction, its heavier than the kit lens and the plastic 50mm II lens. It has a metal mount and very solid construction. If you look through it you can see allot of glass which tells you it has a wide aperture and consequently its much heavier than the kit lens or 50mm lens. But...its heavy in a good way. It balances the camera and makes it look like a real camera.

So what's good about this lens? For one, you can take great pictures in low light with the f/1.8. I photographed a stage play handheld with this lens and no flash (non allowed) and I got tremendous results. Ultrasonic helped with every picture in focus and all very sharp with vibrant colors, very nice saturation, and I used ISO 400 and I could even freeze the action on stage.

As a portrait lens, it really can blow the backgrounds into a very nice buttery blokeh and with the Ultrasonic - I haven't missed focus once. Its also wonderful for inside pictures with no flash. The F/1.8 is really versatile.

A few notes. If you're going to get a 70-200 L zoom lens, you might wind up not using this lens as much but for parties, its allot less intimidating than a big white lens. I hear this lens was designed a long time ago and not really designed for digital and that some strange effects can be seen with it on digitals. I have not gone looking nor experienced any of these. Its just a tremendous value at $350. I was not able to use this lens as a macro as it was not designed as such but I have thought of putting an extension tube on it to see what I get but haven't done so yet.

Constructed Solid. Solid feel, smooth focusing ring, distance window, autofocus with a real Ring USM. Five Stars! Amazon shipped fast on this for me - Great store.
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444 of 466 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2006
The answer is most likely yes; since its price make it the best value for a fast canon prime lens. But before you make the $350 plunge here are few useful things to know about how it can be used. Keep in mind that I use this lens on the Rebel XT (1.6 factor), which means it provides me with an angel of view similar to 135mm on film cameras.

SHARPNESS: Yes that's one feature you can count on when buying this lens. This lens produces very sharp pictures. So much so that it will blow away your 18-55 kit lens (if you have one) and all other zoom lenses. Exception to that are the L-series zooms. The sharpness difference will be obvious even in the smallest of prints (4 by 6). If you can't envision such difference then consider this. Sharpness can be viewed as contrast between the edges of different color objects. Hence, the sharper an image the greater the contrast in the edges between such groups of color. This lens captures the contrast in such setting better than most other lenses.

SPEED: This lens is blazingly fast. As such you will have the opportunity to shoot at higher shutter speeds wide open (remember the inverse relation between aperture and shutter speed). More importantly you gain the ability to shoot in low light situations (concert for example) and still maintain a decent shutter speed for handholding. Here's the best part, if you're like most new people to photography, you probably plan to take self portraits. This lens will give you that ability, as you will be able to buy few clamp on lights coupled with 100-150W bulbs and start shooting at medium ISO speeds wide open.

ANGEL OF VIEW: Assuming you will be using this lens on a 1.6 digital format consider that you will be having a tight crop, more like that of a 135mm lens on a film camera (1.6*85=136). What does that translate to in practical terms? You will have to stand 6-8 feet away from your subject to be able to cover their head and shoulders at landscape orientation.

SPECIAL EFFECTS: Here are two special effects you will find useful in this lens depth of field and compression. To some degree or another every lens offers depth of field, which can be summarize as having only the subject of interest in focus and the rest of the picture blurred. This lens is unique in that it creates a very shallow depth of field in which the subject is truly isolated from the whole scene. Set the aperture to 1.8 and focus correctly and you can achieve such results. More importantly the lens quality of such blur (known as bokeh) is outstanding as there are eight diaphragm blades that control the aperture opening vs. 5 or 6 in many other lenses.

As for compression, since the camera is a telephoto it will compress everything in its sight closer together to fit in its sight. For example, if you are photographing a person, their face will look wider and their nose will look smaller or flatter. Keep in mind that unlike some of the longer telephoto lenses (300mm for example) the effect with this lens is subtle and pleasant

SIZE AND BUILD: Its size and weight are perfect! It balances my XT very nicely. So much so, that I can take pictures at very low shutter speeds with this combination (though I don't find my self doing that that often with this fast lens). All this translates to comfort and confidence when I am shooting with this lens. The build quality is excellent, I find no inherit weakness in the design.

If you plan to photograph friends and family then this is the lens. You will take sharp pictures with the right kind of effects for portraits like compression and beautiful bokeh. The lens is fast and designed excellently for maximum control and comfort. You won't miss a shot because of shake with slow shutter speeds and even if you do (that's a big if) you can put its speed to use by dialing a higher aperture. It's only draw back is that it has a pretty tight angel of view on 1.6 factor SLRs. I can't think of any other prime in the non-L canon line up that matches this lens (other than possibly the 50mm 1.4). Truly an incredible value, buy it with confidence!

Ps. By no means does this review cover all the merits of this lens. To name a couple, the lens offers precise auto focus and low chromatic aberration. Rather, I covered the features that were most useful for its intended purpose; taking pictures of people.
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104 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2008
The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 II USM lens is a moderate weight (15 oz), very well built lens. It does not come with the appropriate hood, the Canon ET-65 III. You get both a lens cap and a mount cap, all packed inside tight conformal foam to protect the lens during shipping. There's also a very brief manual and the usual warranty paperwork.

The lens offers AF and manual focus, and allows manual focus even when AF is set to on, a very useful feature for low-light and other challenging focus situations. This is a USM lens, and as a direct consequence focus is fast and precise, just as you'd expect.

The AF/Manual switch is in a reasonable location, close to the camera body. There is a range indication on the barrel of the lens behind a transparent window which serves to keep dust and debris out of the workings of the lens. Manual focus is controlled with a broad, easy to manage textured ring about mid-body on the lens. During focus, nothing external on the lens body moves or rotates, so there are no complications for using polarizing filters, and no concerns about the lens "pumping" air and so causing dust contamination in either the lens or camera with use.

The lens lacks any form of image stabilization. IS is showing up in more and more lenses, though for the price... perhaps this is one of the justifications for building IS into the camera body. I'm sure that this design wouldn't be anywhere near its current price point with IS added to the build. One last point is that since the lens is a fairly fast design, perhaps there is less overall need for IS (though that argument falls completely apart the first time you *do* need it!)

It takes a 58mm filter, though I highly recommend the use of the ET-65 III hood rather than a filter; filter use should be limited to polarizers, neutral density filters and so on, rather than keeping a filter on the lens with the idea of protecting it. Here's why: filters create a flat surface over the end of the lens that can (and often does) create low-level reflections. These are most apparent in low-light shots, but they are almost always there. In the case of a UV filter, no other benefit is gained (UV can't get through the lens system anyway) other than physical protection. The hood, however, keeps the lens out of harms way quite effectively, and it increases contrast and reduces flare at the same time by preventing light from entering the lens at high angles of attack. I have shot with both hoods and filters, and after decades of experience, I have to come down firmly on the side of hood technique. It only takes one shot ruined by a filter reflection to wake up to this reality; and hoods never, ever compromise an image. They're simply the best way to go. Finally, the hood for this lens is inexpensive, well worth the extra few dollars it costs.

Aperture is controlled by an 8-blade system. The available f-stops range from f/1.8 wide open to f/22.0 fully stopped down. MTF (sharpness) peaks at f/5.6, and vignetting is almost gone by that setting.

On my camera, an EOS 50D, resolution loss from diffraction effects begin at f/7.6, so in many ways, the "sweet spot" for this lens for me lands naturally at f/5.6. On a camera with a lesser sensel density such as the 40D, diffraction doesn't set in until higher f-stops, but you're beginning to lose sharpness from other effects, so I'd still call the sweet spot as f/5.6 (which also provides a fairly extensive depth of field) for shots where detail is the primary consideration.

For portraits, you'll want to go right for f/1.8 if lighting conditions allow in order to take advantage of the shallow and pleasing DOF isolation this lens is famous for; background blur is very soft yet very strong, while the in focus region remains deep enough to keep the important features of the face in focus from ear to nose. The loss of MTF at f/1.8 is noticeable, especially once you get a feel for how the lens performs at f/5.6, but in my opinion, the compromise is perfectly acceptable in a portrait context. There's another benefit as well; at 85mm, and especially on a crop body like the 40D or 50D, this lens allows you to get some distance from your subject which tends to make them more comfortable, while giving you the modest compression that is the hallmark of any telephoto lens. Portraits "pop" and backgrounds blur away with commendable speed. Head-and-shoulders work will put you at about eight feet, and as the lens can focus down to just under three feet, this gives you considerable control over framing without ever running into a limit imposed by the lens design.

This is also a truly excellent lens for not-very-wide field astrophotography, although at critical focus and maximum aperture, chromatic aberration will make itself felt on the brightest stars, which you will then have to compensate for. I have successfully used this lens to capture the the Orion nebula, Andromeda galaxy, Triangulum galaxy, and a number of other astro objects that range from the easy to the difficult, all using no more than a standard (non-tracking) tripod, this lens, and the EOS 50D. On a crop body, 85mm (136mm effective FOV) is definitely the place to be to compromise between star trailing and magnification, and the f/1.8 aperture allows fast enough exposures to eliminate trailing at ISO 1600 and above.

I carry this lens nested in a large camera bag (a Tamrac 5612 Pro 12, *highly* recommended); I rarely put the lens on the camera until I am ready to use it, and when I am done, I take it right back off, cap it, and bag it without wasting any time or motion. I do both the assembly and disassembly "blind" in the bag, using the bag top to shield the camera and lens from the wind and environment as best I can manage. The lens has a raised alignment dot that makes blind assembly practical. It's the size of the overall investment that drives this behavior, of course; both the camera and a lens like this deserves -- demands -- good care and that is just what I try to provide.

Physically speaking, this lens isn't as large as you might think. Canon did a great job of packing a lot of glass (nine elements in seven groups) into a decent form factor of 3" diameter by 2.8" long; even with the hood mounted, this lens provides a fraction of the intimidation factor of, for instance, the 70-200mm f/2.8L. But at 85mm, it can still "get in there" and catch a lot of action without forcing you to crop to extremes. It's light enough that you can shoot for quite a while before fatigue sets in, an issue that will rear its head in any situation that goes on a while, like a wedding or a play (and that low-light capability is great for stage work, where a flash annoys literally everyone.) Plus it is black, and so looks more like it is designed as part of the same camera system, unlike the L's with the white bodies. That's also less distracting in a dark theater.

I can honestly say that this is definitely one of my favorite lenses. I have a fair collection of primes to compare it to, some of which are L glass, and I've got some great L zooms as well; yet for portraits, I inevitably turn to this specific lens as it outperforms everything else I own in the successful shooting methodologies I find myself returning to over and over. Frankly, at the price, I think it is perfectly fair to characterize this lens as a "must-have"; if you're ever going to shoot a portrait, trust me, this is the lens you want (even over the 85mm f/1.2L, which has far too narrow a depth of field for most reasonable portraiture, though you can't beat it for light-gathering.) Like Canon's 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, the 85mm f/1.8 is one of those where you're left scratching your head as to why it doesn't have an "L" designation. It is an outstanding performer.

If Canon were to re-do this lens, I'd like to see them add image stabilization, and perhaps some modern anti-CA elements, as this is the one area where this lens occasionally bites the photographer in high-contrast situations. Until that day, though, this lens is unmatched by anything else in Canon's line for price/performance, and I can't imagine anyone ever regretting its purchase.
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180 of 193 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2007
I hang out with friends a lot and up to this point, most of our photos together have been under flash conditions. Mostly because we hang out in the evenings, in someone's home. I bought this for my Rebel XT mainly for the great reviews and the impressive entry price! Although the reviews were already mostly positive, I took some time playing with the lens to get used to its characteristics. Since this forum is replete with technical reviews, I would like to share my impressions instead. I primarily rely on reviews, myself, to help me make purchasing decisions, so here are my thoughts on the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens.

PROS:
1)I'm a fan of Steven Soderbergh and love how he made it look like he shot Ocean's Eleven with natural light. I wanted the same effects for my get-together photographs and boy did I get them! I shoot mainly in RAW now and apply the Tungsten filter when I import them into CS2 and they look phenomenal!

2)After correction, skin tones look very natural and the lighting makes the captured moment look like a captured moment. Not a forced moment like when a blazingly bright flash is involved. (Sorry I don't know how else to illustrate it...)

3)The bokeh on this lens is dramatic, not distracting. My friends love the photos I take with this lens but the just can't put their finger on why...

4)The 85mm is solid. Compared to my XT kit lens, the 85mm feels like a 'real' lens with solid movement and loads of glass inside (which you can see when you peer into its very large front lens).

5)The shooting distance is very comfortable for your subjects, as they do not feel like you're crowding them with your camera. (More on this below in Con).

CON(just one!):
1)Sorry, this is not really a con, but more of a warning mostly to other amateurs out there who may be looking at this for the price. It may be pretty obvious to most, but this lens does not feature a zoom range. Meaning if you want your subject's head to look bigger in your viewfinder, you must walk towards them or have them come closer to you. Conversely, if you want them smaller in the VF, you must walk away from them etc...since this was my first fixed lens, I had to get used to it a bit. This is not the lens for you if you want to take group photos in low light situations in small room.

ALL-IN-ALL:
I love this lens. I love how dramatic my pictures come out in their natural settings. The bokeh adds so much more emotion to each photo. And since you can shoot with such a wide open aperture, you'll catch the moments when they happen without it blurring away from a too-slow shutter speed or a bright flash of blinding light! (Please buy an inexpensive UV filter for this since the front lens is so big, it will easily get scratched and damaged.)
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73 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2010
Before I get into the review, let me give a quick primer on Canon lenses for those of you who may be looking at this lens for your first Canon and are not really familiar with the "L-series..." comment in my review title. Canon lenses can be grouped into 3 basic categories - EF and EF-S non USM, EF and EF-S with USM, and L. The EF-S lenses are specifically designed for Canon cameras using the APS-C sensor (the Rebels, the 7D, the 10/20/30/40/50D). The non-USM versions of these lenses are traditionally considered 'kit lenses' (ones that are packaged with cameras - for example the 18-55 EF-S or the 55-250 EF-S that often come with the Rebel series) and are traditionally considered 'beginner' lenses. They lack the ultrasonic motor driven autofocus (USM) and they aren't manufactured to the same optical standards as Canon's better lenses - this isn't a knock on the lenses, because the fact is that Canon needs a series of lenses that fit the specific price range these lenses occupy. For the casual photographer these lenses perform great. From these you move into the EF or EF-S USM lenses that use the ultrasonic motor driven autofocus - they are quieter, faster focusing, and also a bit more solidly constructed. Consider these the 'mid-range' lenses in terms of price and performance, with some lenses in this category excelling to the point where they could be used without any reservation in professional settings. Finally you have the L-series - these are Canon's top of the line lenses (when you watch a sporting event and notice the sea of white/cream colored lenses on the photographer's cameras you are seeing L-series glass in action). I own several L-series lenses, with my favorite being the 24-70 F2.8 (read my review on it if you are interested in this lens). These lenses are expensive - prohibitively expensive to many - but if you can save up for one, you won't regret the purchase. Note that this little primer didn't mention image stabilization - this feature can be found in each category of lens - I tend to think that people put too much emphasis on it, but it can certainly be useful.

Now, on to this lens. The 85mm F1.8 would fit into that 'mid-range' category in regards to its price. Performance-wise, however, this lens is professional grade without question. It's L-series counterpart, the 85mm F1.2 is about $1300 more expensive - and while the jump to a max aperture of 1.2 is nice, many people just don't see it as being worth the additional cost when compared to this lens.

The 85 F1.8 is pin sharp across its entire aperture range, producing beautifully blurred backgrounds and extremely shallow depth of field at F1.8 on both full frame cameras like the 5D and 1Ds series and on crop factor bodies as well. It is a hugely popular portrait lens - I'd go so far as to say it is a "must own" for a portrait photographer. At F1.8 it produces crisp eyes in portraits with silky smooth backgrounds - turning something as simple as the front yard into a perfect backdrop for a portrait. For beginners - the number after the "F" is the aperture - the lower the number, the wider the hole the light goes through and thus the more of the lens that is used. Many lenses tend to be a bit softer when they are set to the max aperture for that lens because it requires more of the lens to be used in focusing the image, letting imperfections at the edges of the lens come into play and impact sharpness. I've been extremely pleased with the sharpness of this lens its max aperture.

Additionally - on a crop factor body like the Rebel series (or the 50D or 7D), this lens has an effective focal range of 136mm (85 x 1.6 = 136 - contact me personally if you need help understanding why I did this calculation - you can get my email address by going to my website - [...]). This makes it a decent mid range telephoto lens with - being able to shoot at 136mm at F1.8 is great for indoor sports photography such as basketball. Again, for beginners, the more light your lens can let in (the lower the max aperture number) the faster your shutter speed can be indoors.

All in all, this lens is extremely versatile. This lens and the 100mm F2.8 macro (the older version) are the two non-L series lenses that I have no reservations using in ANY professional situation. I cannot recommend it enough and if you plan on doing any portrait photography you owe it to yourself to pick this lens up. For the price, its performance simply cannot be beat.

I'm happy to answer any and all questions (that I can) about this lens or cameras and lenses in general. Again, my email address can be found at my website.
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75 of 82 people found the following review helpful
This was my second prime lens, the first being the "I-am-prime-too-50/1.8" lens and I specifically bought this to shoot a badminton tournament (and more for the future). FYI, badminton tournaments are definitely 1.8 situations at ISO 1600 and no flash permitted. And what a lens!

The focus is absolutely sharp, crisp with gorgeous bokeh to make the subjects stand out. I took photos of professional badminton players (USA rank 1-5) and emailed it to them. Even though I am a serious amateur, they replied back saying the photos were gorgeous and amazing, and loved it. I shot the complete tournament at 1.8 ISO 800/1600 and have absolutely pleasing results.

On just one or two occasions, the focus was hunting, but I would put that down as a one off occasion as there was aboslutely very challenging situations - moving subjects in low light. The focus is quick and absolutely smooth, no noise at all.

The lens is compact, not at all heavy and is perfect portrait lens. My only disappointment is that it comes without a hood, and even if I buy a Canon hood, it does not have the same look as other (say, Tamron 28-75 2.8 hood is a really good looking hood) hoods.

The relationship between the background and the foreground is something that impressed me with this lens, especially for an 85mm focal length. The lens makes the subjects stand out and you dont need to stop down for sharpness. I know I am going to keep this baby at 1.8 at all times in future.

This in concert with my 50 1.8 for wider angle situations like awards and group snaps, the photos are absolutely stunning. The reviews I received for my photos are pretty good, thanks to this lens with my 20D.

I am sold on primes now and will probably end up buying more primes than zoom lenses. Go on Canon, put a red ring around it!

Definitely 5 stars.

Other lenses considered before this purchase - 85/1.8, 100/2, 135/2L and to a small extent, 200/2.8L. Finally chose the 85/1.8 due to the 1.8 and the effective focal length on 20D with 85mm. No buyer's regret, I am very pleased with my purchase now.
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11 Mar 2009
This is a comparison of 85/1.8 and 135mm/2L.
Ive had this lens for 3 yrs now and have taken so many portraits with this, simply put, amazing results every single time. Never been able to find fault with this lens or the images. Image quality has been consistently awesome, consistently 5 stars. The only lens that bests the images from this lens is my 135/2L, but that is of an entirely different league and shouldn't even be compared to this lens. Merely stating that for academic interest. Even then, the three places that the 135mm beats the 85 mm are
1. Sharpness - 85mm is very sharp, 135mm/2L is simply a notch above.
2. Saturation - 85mm is good, 135mm/2L is much better, image has a pop. But then again, 85mm has half a pop too!
3. Bokeh - Again, 85mm has a lovely bokeh, esp @1.8 and 2. However, the 135mm is in an entirely different league, one simply cannot, should not compare.
Now, the $350mm lens compared to the much more expensive, much higher quality lens worth $925 is completely unfair. However, I would give the 85/1.8 4 stars assuming the 135mm is the gold standard with 5 stars.
If this review second rates the 85mm, that is certainly not my intention. I have consistently enjoyed shooting with this lens and will continue to have a lot of fun.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2004
Probably the best lens for the money from Canon. Good build quality, very fast and quiet AF thanks to ring USM, good bokeh (background blurring), good color and contrast. Sure it is not as good as 135/2L or 200/1.8L, but at this price range you cannot find a 2nd lens come close in picture quality and overall performance. I have several Canon lenses and this one provide the best price/performance ratio. This should be on top of your lens list if you are considering EOS system.

Pros:

Sharp even at f/1.8, very sharp @f/2.8

Very fast (f/1.8) for the money.

Very fast and quiet AF thanks to Ring USM.

Good build quality.

Good picture quality.

Cons:

No bag come with lens.

No lens hood.

135/2L is still a better choice for portrait if you have the space for it.

Canon should have put a red ring, L aka, on it to let let us feel even better.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2005
I just bought two high quality lenses for my Digital Rebel and what a difference this makes over the kit lens which I wish I hadn't bought. I bought this one mostly for indoor and outdoor portraits of my kids and dogs. It is just amazing! I was surprised by how much difference a good lens can make. I've been playing around and I took tons of shots of my kids today and the portraits are amazingly clear with GREAT background blur -- I feel like a pro. If you use the aperature priority setting and play around, you'll see that you too can make professional level background blur even if you barely know what you are doing (this would be me). In short, invest in a good lens. Don't forget to multiply the focal length by 1.6 if you have a digital canon camera -- 85 mm is really 135mm or so, really a telephoto type lens. Great for portraits!
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2007
This lens has been my main lens since April 1996 (receipt still in my bag!) and is always on my camera. I'll never forget the first roll with this lens after being used to the normal small zooms---the colors, crispness, and limited depth-of-field amazed me. They still do. At that time I was using an Elan and a 28-80 4.5-5.6 usm. I since had moved to an Elan IIE, then an A2E, then a 1N-RS (still have) and finally a Canon 30D digital, purchased last month. The 85mm f1.8 usm has remained through all of these, being my main lens for all this time. Its quality has not diminished one bit.

The focusing ring is a huge plus---you can fine tune at any time once the camera has selected a focus. This is very handy during portraits when you really want to have the eyes in focus at the moment the shutter is pressed.

The huge points to this lens are color saturation, crispness, fine-focus ability, and the extremely small depth-of-field obtainable through the 1.8 aperture. Incredible lens in every aspect. Oh, and from the front the glass and open aperture is massive looking, making those 4-5.6 zooms look the size of pupils in the eyes of the person whose portrait your taking. I kid you not, you won't believe the look of this thing from the front. The rear glass is huge too, allowing for the 1.8.

A couple more thoughts---I have the 200mm f2.8L lens, which is another fantastic lens. It has the pro glass, and the images I get with the 85mm f1.8 actually rival those made with the 200mm L lens. It is very hard to discern a difference. I cannot say that about the 28-105 3.5-4.5 or the 75-300usm zooms in my collection. Those are zooms and not a prime, which is the big reason, but still, image quality differences are huge. It is one of my main hang-ups about using one of my zooms----when I do and after I look at the images, I always know that they could have been crisper, with more pop and pizazz if I had only used the 85 or 200. That is why I really like to stick with the primes.

For the future, I am planning on purchasing a zoom L lens or two, most notably the 24-70 f2.8L, and the 17-40 f4L. Then I will be able to get the quality of images I am used to with my prime lenses. Good luck with whatever you decide. If you go the route of the 85mm f1.8, you won't regret it. I've loved my since 1996!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2010
I wanted to upgrade my nifty fifty, and was choosing between 50mm 1.4, this lens (85mm 1.8) and 100mm 2.8 macro (non-L) or 100m 2.
While I've yet to try 50mm 1.4, I've read enough reservations about it to decide to pass (especially since at the time I still had 50mm 1.8 in case I needed that focal length), so in the end it came down to 85 or 100. The macro in 100mm was tempting, even though I'm not a big fan, but it's a fun feature. 85, on the other hand, was faster, and as someone who prefers to shoot with available light, it was a big plus.
I ended up deciding that either lens was going to be great, and went with the cheapest, which was 85mm. It's fantastic. If you're thinking about upgrading from 50mm 1.8 - you'll be blown away. It's silent, it's sharper, focuses much better, better color and contrast, beautiful bokeh, a pleasure to handle.
I have since tried the 100mm, my friend and I swapped our lenses for a little while, and I must say, I still prefer my 85, and friend now wants one too.
I love this lens so much, I've learned to work around certain focal length limitations (I have to move a lot more than with a zoom, and stay further back than with 50mm), so I just sold my 50mm 1.8 because I just could never bring myself to put it on my camera: I figured, I'd rather miss a shot or two due to focal length, but nail 90% of the shots I do take, than get more shots taken, only to throw half of them away because of focus problems.
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