Canon 85mm 1.8 review


Canon 85mm f1.8

Canon 85mm f1.8

canon 85mm 1.8

Introduction – Canon 85mm f1.8

The Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens is a very interesting lens from Canon. The Nikon version with ultrasonic focusing is much more expensive. The Canon lens is quite affordable. The main function of this lens is portraits, this is a classic 85mm portrait lens. The lens can be used on Full frame and Aps-C cameras as well. On Aps-c we have a tighter view which I prefer for head shots, while on Full frame we have a wider portrait focal length for full body or group shots as well.

85 or 50mm ?

This is the question of many I think. The extremely popular 50mm lenses are also used for portraits. The versions today are the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II and the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM lenses, if I not mention the higher end f/1.2 or f/1 lenses. The 50mm lenses are also can create very nice portraits, but you need to go much closer with 50mm, if you want closer headshots. On the other hand if you want full body portraits or group photos on a crop sensor camera the 50mm is perhaps better. Another difference is the bokeh or out of focus blur is much more creamy with the 85mm. The bokeh with 50mm lenses are more nervous, and the cheaper version has a 5 blade aperture which creates pentagonal highlights instead of normal round highlights. The 85mm has 8 aperture blades as the higher end f/1.2 cousin.

Official name – Canon 85mm f1.8

The official name of the lens is Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM

Compatibility – Canon 85mm 1.8

The lens is compatible with Canon Fx and Dx cameras as well.

Specifications – Canon 85mm 1.8

Focal length range: 85mm
Optical formula: 9 lens elements in 7 groups
Brightness: f/1.8
Angle of view: / degree (Fx / Dx)
Aperture range: f/1.8-22
Minimum focusing distance: 0.85m (2.7′)
Weight: 425g (14.99 oz.)
Dimensions: App. 75 x 71.5mm ( x “)
Aperture diaphragm blades: 8
Magnification: 1: 8
Filter thread: 58 mm (non-rotating)


The 85mm focal length is a classic portrait range. On a crop sensor camera you can make tight head shots from 2m. If you go little further you can make not so tight portraits shots as well. The field of view is around 2.73m from 10 meters. The view on the Full frame camera is not so tight, it is about the same as the classic 50mm lenses on a crop sensor camera.

Optical qualities – Canon 85mm 1.8 review

The Canon 85mm is a very nice lens. The lens is famous about it’s very nice out of focus blur or ‘bokeh’.

Optics – Canon 85mm 1.8

The Canon 85mm is a very sharp lens. At f/1.8 aperture the image is a little soft, but even here absolutely usable (see samples), after at f/2 starts to get visibly sharper, and tack sharp at f/4. The colors the lens produces are great, the contrast level is also very good. The lens has some Chromatic aberration and can have flare problems as well. The hood is a good idea here. The above mentioned smaller problems wouldn’t stop me buying this lens.
canon 85mm 1.8
Canon 85mm 1.8 at f/1.8 ISO100 1/2500s yes it is f/1.8 such shutter speed at overcast weather at ISO100.
canon 85mm 1.8 2
Canon 85mm 1.8 at f/1.8 ISO200 1/1250s
canon 85mm 1.8 4
Canon 85mm 1.8 at f/2 ISO200 1/400s

Build quality – Canon 85mm 1.8 review

The lens is very solidly build, with a metal mount. The manual focus ring is very pleasantly can be used. The filter size is 58mm. The lens is internally focusing. What is good that the lens is relatively small and light, compare to the brighter cousin. The hood is strange. It is not a usual type, must push from two sides to put on the lens, but this is not the main thing. It is loosely rotating after “fixing” as well.

Bokeh – Canon 85mm 1.8

canon 85mm 1.8 3
The bokeh is very nice. You cannot do this with the 50mm. The contrast is also very good and I think it is also not possible to achieve this level of contrast with the 50mm lenses at f/1.8, at least not with the two cheaper versions. I like very much when the image is ‘pop’.

Autofocus – Canon 85mm 1.8

The Autofocus is quick and silent ring-type ultrasonic focus. The closest focusing distance is 85cm. The autofocus is really quick. In some low contrast situation it can hunt, at least on my Canon 30D, which doesn’t happen with the 200mm.

Price/performance – Canon 85mm 1.8

The lens has an extremely good value, partly you can earn money with portraits more than with anything else. The optical quality is exceptional, as the bokeh, which you cannot achieve with anything else at this price range. Together with the quick and silent USM drive is a very good bargain.


I won’t list Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms as alternatives, but in reality this is the alternative for many photographers. The zoom is much bigger, heavier, slower in terms of brightness, but undeniably much more versatile. I am much more of a prime lens guy. The Canon 200mm f/2.8 USM II is very sharp even at f/2.8, but the 85mm is f/1.8. This is a huge difference. Even if we use the prime at f/2 it is a full stop difference.
There are many prime alternatives as well.
The Canon 100mm f/2 is a very similar lens, soon I will write a comparison between the two lens. In short they are very similar. The 100mm is noticably longer, little bigger and heavier, sharper at f/2 than the 85mm at f/1.8 but at f/2 quite similar.
The Canon 135mm f/2 is a little different lens with two ED elements, but the difference is not huge. If you are on a budget the 85mm is much cheaper, smaller and lighter, and also very good even wide open, with excellent fast autofocus and very nice bokeh.
The only more serious drawback is the 85mm is purple fringing, if you want to avoid that the Canon 100mm Macro is also an alterantive, without fringing, but not so nice bokeh, but with very good Macro performance, even with teleconverters.
The Canon 200mm is a little longer, not so useful for portraits than the 85mm, but has stellar quality, one of the best lens Canon has ever manufactured.


-Excellent image quality,
-nice contrast,
-silent and quick USM drive,
-relatively light and small


-chromatic aberration

Verdict – Canon 85mm 1.8 review

The Canon 85mm 1.8 is a high quality, relatively affordable lens, with excellent picture quality, highly recommended !

 Posted by at 12:24 pm