Save 40% On inPixio Photo Studio 12 - Now 29.99

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Interchangeable Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the medium telephoto Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Interchangeable lens.

|  Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM in Interchangeable Lenses
 Add Comment

Handling and features

Canon EF 85mm F1 8 (2)

This medium telephoto lens from Canon sports a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture and ultrasonic silent focusing that is performed internally for around £315.

Canon also make another lens at this focal length. Their 85mm f/1.2L costs a fair bit more being priced at around £1700 though. It does sport the fastest maximum aperture of any lens for this focal length though.

Sigma also offer an 85mm medium telephoto optic, with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 and silent focusing which costs around £700.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Handling and features

Canon EF 85mm F1 8 Lens (1)

Weighing around 425g, you can tell there is a fair bit of glass inside this lens, thanks to the fast f/1.8 maximum aperture. Still it isn't overly heavy and the lens balances extremely well on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II used for testing. The lens barrel is constructed mostly from high quality plastics and the lens mount is metal. Build quality overall is very good. It may not be up to the weather sealed standards of Canon's 'L' series lenses, but it is certainly good enough for most people's requirements.

Filters can be attached via the 58mm filter ring. As focusing is performed internally, this filter ring does not rotate during use, making this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. Autofocus is very quick and finds a subject without hunting under a wide range of conditions. Manual adjustments to focus can be made at any time thanks to the ultrasonic focusing motor and the manual focus ring is well damped making it a pleasure to use. The minimum focus distance of 85cm is typical of lenses of this focal length and aperture, which may be a little too far away for frame filling close ups of smaller objects, but is perfectly suited for portraiture.

Canon EF 85mm F1 8 (4)

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Performance

This lens puts in an excellent performance as far as clarity is concerned. Sharpness in the centre is already very good at f/1.8 and approaching good levels towards the edges. Stopping down the lens improves clarity across the frame and peak quality is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8, where the sharpness in the centre is outstanding and exceeding excellent levels towards the edges.

MTF @ 85mm
MTF @ 85mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are also well controlled. At their worst levels they reach half a pixel width towards the edges of the frame at f/1.8. This level is very low and shouldn't be visible, unless you really go looking for it.


Chromatic Aberration @ 85mm
Chromatic Aberration @ 85mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is also very well controlled, especially for a wide aperture lens. At f/1.8 the corners are only 0.94 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/3.5.

Distortion is virtually non-existent. Imatest managed to pick up 0.207% pincushion distortion, although you would be hard pressed to see it with the naked eye.

No lens hood comes supplied with this lens, which is a shame as strong light sources outside the frame can cause a marked loss of contrast. Shooting into the light, this lens holds its own admirably, only producing flare and loss of contrast in very severe circumstances.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Sample Photos

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Verdict

With the price being only £315, this lens is a cracking bargain for those looking for a very capable lens for portraiture that delivers excellent sharpness with low levels of chromatic aberrations and distortion.

Also worth mentioning is the good build quality and fast auto focus speeds, making this a compelling choice if you are looking for a lens of this focal length to add to your collection.

The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 is a cracking bargain for those looking for a very capable lens for portraiture, and delivers excellent sharpness.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Pros

Excellent sharpness
Virtually no distortion
Low CA levels
Fast auto focus

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Cons

No lens hood supplied


Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF USM
Focal Length85mm
Angle of View0 - 24
Max Aperturef/1.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size58mm
35mm equivalent136mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus85cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens caps

View Full Product Details



MPB Start Shopping

Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, MPB.

It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.

Other articles you might find interesting...

Canon RF 100-400mm F/5.6-8 IS USM Lens Review
NIKKOR Z 800mm F/6.3 VR S Lens Review
Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE II Lens Review
Tamron 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III-A VC VXD Lens Review
A New Micro Four Thirds Ultra-Wide Angle Lens From Panasonic
Sony Updates Popular Sony FE 24-70mm F/2.8 GM Lens With 'Version 2'
Meike Mini Prime Cine Lens Set For RF Mount Now Available
Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III VXD G2 Lens Review


paulashby 13 10 1 United Kingdom
22 Jul 2011 12:30PM
This is a superb lens, worth every penny spent on it, a great portrait lens.

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.