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Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Review Date: Mar 5, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $325.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Fast AF, Great Bokeh and DoF Control, Compact Size with Solid Build, Photos are Mistakable for L Glass

Wow, am I glad I bought this lens. I used to be all about zooms until I discovered the joys of wide apertures. I had my 50/1.8 always on my 30D until this came along. Although Iíd been wanting something more wide angle, I needed a portrait and sports lens more. A lot of people talk about walk around lenses and this lens is fine for me. I can always find an interesting way to shoot something with being able to have the nice DoF control of 1.8. Indoors, the 1.6x camera crop makes it a bit long for anything but upper body portraits, but obviously you can do the math on that before getting this beauty.

Its size is very nice. Itís about as long as the camera is thick, so itís very compact and light but it still feels really solid. I dropped this lens (attached to my 30D) from waist height right on its front onto a snowy sidewalk. Aside from some dings, thereís absolutely nothing wrong with it. Iíve also had it out in the snow where itís gotten pretty soaked and there are no issues whatsoever. I thought for sure that the focusing ring would be a little harder to turn, but itís just like new still. The USM truly is next to silent as well.

AF is about twice as fast as the 50/1.8 and about half as fast as the 70-200/2.8, which I expected just based on the prices. (I base this off of how easily the lens focuses on something in the background of what Iím shooting and back to the subject itself in AI Servo). I think my 30D might need to be calibrated, or lowlight AF is just not too good on the 30D because I was shooting indoor cycling and I was pretty let down that very few of my shots were sharp. Outside, AF is great and Iíve shot passing cars wide open and theyíre very sharp.

Itís nice that the 50/1.8 is so cheap, but having full time manual focusing is so nice on my 85 (and every other Canon EF lens). I find f/1.8 on my 85mm to require manual focusing at close distances because I donít want any misfocused shots. Iím actually trying to not rely on AF as much because manually focusing makes me slow down and compose better. Plus, close up portraits wide open need the attention so you get the eyes in perfect focus. The bokeh is nice and lights are very round.

I think this stacks up VERY well against L glass, especially for the price. Of course the 85/1.2 is an experience of its own that I havenít had. I couldnít think of any way to improve this lens and it has never let me down. I got it for $325 on a rebate from Canon and itís already paid for itself a couple times. That makes me VERY happy.

Just try to find someone that doesnít recommend this lens.

Here are some of my best examples of its sharpness and bokeh.