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Canon EF 85/1.8 – Obsevations and Opinions
by Ken Batiuk from Toronto, Canada
THIS LENS was purchased to fill the gap between my 50mm macro and 100mm macro lenses and in a few months has replaced the 100mm as my go-to short telephoto of choice. It's image quality, moderate focal length and significantly smaller size compared to the 100 are the main factors in this shift.
I use the 85 on a 5D primarily for landscape and urban landscape, have found it to be particularly effective in isolating certain subjects with a very pleasing out-of-focus background (bokeh). In fact, that's one of the first things which struck me about the lens...at larger apertures it produces a kind of creamy out-of-focus image—almost painterly in quality. To my eyes it's different and more pleasing than the 100mm in this respect. This lens is as much an interpreter as as it is a recorder of subject matter.
As for general image quality, I've found it to be pretty much the equal of my 100 macro, a lens I consider to be very good indeed—corner to corner on full frame. Though decent enough at f2.0 and 2.8, sharpness seems to get critical by around 5.6. In the f8 to f16 range, where I use it much of the time, it just sings! Distortion is highly corrected and by f2.8 there is no noticeable vignetting in an average scene. Chromatic abberation is pretty well zero, something I can't say of my other lenses, (though the 100 is pretty decent in that regard).
Before getting the lens I read various user reviews and was concerned about the potential for problems with back focus. The very first test I performed was to check for this condition. I was very happy to verify that my new lens focused bang on the money.
Construction seems decent enough, though not quite in the "L" class. Nevertheless, you can't deny the value for your dollar (exchange rates notwithstanding). If I had a bone to pick it would be the lens shade, something I consider a necessity. Apart from feeling that it should be included with the lens in the first place, I find the plastic spring-loaded clip-on mechanism to be less than inspiring. A snug bayonet attachment would have been much better (and probably less costly to produce). That aside, the shade is very effective when in use and conveniently stores in reverse on the lens.
All in all, I'm very pleased with this addition to my little family of lenses. I'm fairly critical when it comes to my glass, and I'd recommend this optic to anyone interested in a quality fixed focal length short telephoto.
As for a rating, the lens shade issues keep me from giving it a 5 and there is no 4.5 option, so 4 stars it is.
—No, I haven't abandoned the 100mm. Macro photography remains a part of my work and the 100 is just too good (at all distances) to part with. –KB