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Lens review

Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM

Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM
8 March 2011
Szymon Starczewski

1. Introduction

Originally posted 2011-02-14 on Optyczne.pl

If you own a Canon 35-mm reflex camera nowadays your selection of classic portrait 85 mm lenses is really large. The list can be started by the expensive but splendid EF 85 mm f/1.2L USM II – a lens you would look for in vain in other systems. If you are not as well off to afford it you can opt for a quite old (launched in 1992) but much cheaper EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM. Apart from that there’s also the offer of independent producers. The Sigma 85 mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM can be placed, when it comes to the price and fastness, right in the middle between the two 85 mm Canon devices. In the lowest price segment you can find the manual Samyang 1.4/85 and if you are able to spend a bit more you can get interested in the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85 mm f/1.4 ZE.

Most amateur photographers, no matter whether more or less advanced, will be interested in the cheapest devices in this group so the Samyang 1.4/85 and the Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM. The first one is faster, the second one features an autofocus and both are very popular. These two have been already tested by us. The test of the Samyang was published in 2009 and was conducted on full frame. The test of the Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM was published in April 2006 and it was conducted on the EOS 20D body with the sensor smaller than full frame. It didn’t answer such questions, so important nowadays, as the performance on the edge of full frame. We decided to catch up and check how the lens would cooperate with the Canon EOS 1Ds MkIII. Contrary to the photo below the lens wasn’t tested on the EOS 5D MkII.

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One thing is also worth mentioning here. The specimen, tested in 2006, was provided by Cyfrowe.pl and returned to that shop after the test. The specimen tested on full frame was bought over a year ago in one of shops in Warsaw. It was one single specimen available in that shop – it means you couldn’t pick and choose among many different lenses to find the best. Both tested devices performed differently in our tests and in the next chapters we are going to present the results we obtained in 2006 and now, for another specimen of the tested lens.

You are also invited to get acquainted with our test procedure, described in the article "How do we test lenses?" If you feel it’s still not enough, please go to our FAQ section where you can find some further explanation.


Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM - Introduction



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