Review: Canon 85mm f/1.8

barrel racing 85mm-1Who hasn’t given this classic lens a glowing review?  It’s renowned for stunning portraits and for being a very sharp lens.

But I couldn’t find a discussion that focused on its ability to shoot low light sports – and specifically – could it focus fast enough in low light to get the job done?  Even if the 85mm f/1.8 is a “bargain” – I’m still looking for good sports images.

Question: Could this be used as a stunt double for the Canon 70-200mm f/4L – that focuses fast, accurately, and is sharp – when the lights go low – all without breaking the bank?

The Philomath Frolic and Rodeo is a tough place to shoot.  bull riding 85mm-1When the sun goes down – and the lights go on – it’s pretty difficult to get photons on the sensor.   The 70-200mm f/4L is pretty good glass – but even wide open – it’s not fast enough for these conditions – unless the ISO is at or above 3200.  And as the last event of the evening is bull riding – it’s important to keep shooting.

So, I took a chance on Canon’s classic – and ordered it from Amazon (nobody locally had it in stock).  The lens hood wasn’t available – so I bought a rubber one that screws into the filter threads – not only does this help with flare – but at an event like rodeo – it can help keep dust off the glass.  It did the trick – but I’m looking forward to getting the actual Canon hood on it.

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening – I shot this lens available light only, handheld, and at or near f/1.8.

2009 daVinci Days - low res-3Bottom line: This lens works.  I was able to get good shots – it’s sharp – and it locked on quickly.

Of course, this is a fixed focal length lens – so I lost some zoom – but considering the alternative – I found this to be a reasonable trade-off.

Is it “L” quality?  Heck – I dunno –I’ll let others debate that.  Does it deliver usable images – yes.

And the weekend after the rodeo – I was shooting backstage at the daVinci Days festival in Corvallis.  Once the sun went down – and it was just stage lighting – I again pulled out the 85mm glass.  Even for the handheld shot of the Cart de Frisco at night – this lens performed very well.

And though this will likely be somewhat of a niche lens for me – it’s a keeper.

2009 daVinci Days - low res-8

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