The Classic Canon 85mm f/1.8


In 1992 I was shooting weddings as a freelancer trying to build a photography business. I owned two EOS Elan film bodies and a handful of glass. When Canon released the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM for less than $400, I knew I had to have it.

It immediately became my primary portrait lens, low-light compliment to the 50mm f/1.8, and soft background wonder. Even though my Canon bodies have evolved over the years - shooting now with a 5D Mark II and 70D - this lens has remained in my camera case. I still reach for it when I need to capture that perfect portrait.

IMG_0698-leah-with-85mm.jpg Leah before a big commercial photo assignment. Canon 85mm f/1.8 set to f/2.8 on a Canon 5D Mark II. Photo by Derrick Story.

The lens basic specs are modest:

  • Lens construction: 9 elements in 7 groups
  • Diagonal angle of view: 28 degrees (at 30 feet)
  • Focus adjustment: Rear focusing system with USM
  • Closest focusing distance: 2.8 feet
  • Filter size: 58mm
  • Dimensions: 3 inches in diameter, 2.8 inches long
  • Weight: 15 ounces

It all hangs together like a timeless black suit that fits perfectly.

When I started shooting with Micro Four Thirds also, I sold many of my Canon lenses. The one optic that I doubt that I'll ever let go of is that original 85mm. Its quality and dependability has gained my trust over 20+ years of assignments.

This is what I love about great glass. Camera bodies my come and go, but a classic lens is for life.

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