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Canon 85mm EF 1.8

Canon’s best for the buck!

The Canon 85mm EF 1.8 is a total gem! For it’s price point it really can’t be beat for portraits, in our opinion. Regardless if you shoot it on a full frame at it’s native 85mm perspective or on a crop sensor equivalent of 135mm it’s perfect for blurring backgrounds and making your subject pop. Its shallow depth of field creating aperture of f/1.8 makes it possible to conjure up whimsical awesomeness of a much more expensive lens that will make images you will love.

This lens is sold as a consumer series product, although it is often used in professional studios with great success. In comparison to it’s bigger brother the Canon 85mm 1.2L, it’s quite zippy in the autofocus department, and certainly much less obtrusive than the behemoth L. It’s also priced at $419 at the time of this writing, which is a fifth the cost of Canon’s L 85mm at $2099. This serious price discrepancy has photogs all over the internet comparing these lenses with great regularity.

Regardless which lens you choose, we love the 85mm focal distance and shoot over 40% of our wedding photos at this range. This makes it absolutely required for every wedding that we do. Most wedding photographers tend to opt for the zoom options for obvious reasons. Yet many will still bring an 85mm for the portrait session. The reason is it’s ability to capture the shallow DOF that we’ve grown to love so much, while making the subject look so flattering.

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Portraits

If you were to single out the 85mm’s strongest skill it would undoubtedly be portraits. Being at the start of the telephoto range it offers the benefits of compression with a still more normal perspective. This, combined with the super fast aperture, gives the photographer the ability to totally separate the subject from the background. This is not only beautiful for the final image, but it’s also sometimes required when less than ideal shooting locations present themselves. We use the 85mm focal distance for every portrait session in concert with a few other lenses. But, in actuality, it’s completely possible to do an entire portrait session with this single lens alone and achieve incredible results.

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Night Vision

Sometimes you find yourself in a very dark reception hall for your wedding day photography. Instead of shooting lots of flash, and disrupting the scene we will opt for a faster lens like this with a higher ISO setting on the camera. This lens is pretty usable at f2 and can achieve a very artistic look while performing in very low light. Paired with the Canon 6d and the 85mm EF’s lighting fast autofocus makes the photographer feel as if they practically have night vision! This is a very useful tool in situations that might require it.

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Final Thoughts

If you shoot weddings or portraits you should consider this focal distance as a must have. If you are on a budget this diamond in the rough can make magical images that are sure to please clients! Most Canon shooters have owned in the past or currently own this lens and for good reason. It’s truly an awesome buy, if you have champagne taste and are on a shoestring budget this by far the best choice for you.

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*Past Love: We no longer carry this lens in our bag and have upgraded to Canon’s 85mm 1.2L. We actually only owned this sweet lens for 2 short weeks, after playing with it a little and seeing the incredible applications it could take on we were sold. We sent the 85mm EF back and made the plunge into Canon’s ultimate portrait lens the 85mm 1.2 L II.

More Resources

Are you interested in learning more about this lens? There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.

Canon –  Canon Tech Specs