Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Field Test 1, and Quito Photo Stroll 2

Woman, Plaza del Teatro, Quito


Last Sunday was about more than just great music. The Ecuador Jazz 2015 Festival was winding down, which was my primary motivation to head to Quito’s Plaza del Teatro where I joined a couple thousand people to watch, listen, sing and sway along with Como Asesinar a Felipes and Totó La Momposina, a musical contrast that made the afternoon all the more memorable. The former, a frenetic and gritty experimental jazz / hip hop fusion act from Santiago, Chile; the latter Colombia’s cool Queen of cumbia.

The crowd made it easy to blend in, or at least not stand out as much when walking around with a camera. A good opportunity, I decided, to finally give my new lens its first field test.

The entire exercise was ad-libbed; only last night, when I finally sorted through the rest of the photos, did I realize that there was much more that I should have shot, done and tried. No matter, the music was phenomenal. There will be ample other opportunities for Field Test 02.

So why did I settle on the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM?

I needed a prime lens to join the two zooms I travel with. It had to be small and light, have a wide aperture, a long slate of good reviews on its optics and come at a decent price.

All research roads led to this Canon offering, part of its arsenal since 1992. It’s not particularly new –not that it needs to be—but it has managed to compile a solid track record over the past two decades that met all my criteria:

  • reviews on half a dozen websites were overwhelmingly positive
  • at just 425g (under a pound) it is light;
  • at just 72cm (2.81in) long it’s unobtrusive;
  • its 85mm focal length is ideal for a “carry around” portrait lens;
  • at f/1.8 will perform adequately in low or minimal light;
  • and the price, $369.00 from Amazon, fell within the confines of my definition of ‘decent’.

The first thing I noticed was how fast it focused. (Actually, that’s not true. The first thing I noticed was how different it is shooting with a prime lens after using nothing but zooms almost exclusively for nearly a decade.) The next was its exceptional sharpness in one of the first images I took in the Plaza, the lead shot of the beautiful young woman above. (Specs: ISO 400, 85mm, f8.0, 1/125sec).

Nine more photos are below.

A little more about the images: all were shot RAW, high resolution, 5184 x 3456 original output on a Canon 60D. Post-processing in Lightroom was quick and minimal, mainly to tweak exposure when absolutely necessary. With just a couple exceptions, none are cropped. All were exported at 1500x pixels on their long side, at 90% quality then reduced to 900x after upload.



Two men and a bike, Plaza del Teatro, Quito

Two men and a bike, Plaza del Teatro, Quito. ISO 400, 85mm, f9.0, 1/200sec


Newspaper reader, Plaza del Teatro, Quito

So nice to see people reading newspapers. ISO 200, 85mm, f1.8, 1/1250sec


Led Zeppelin making his move, Plaza del Teatro, Quito

Led Zeppelin making his move. ISO 200, 85mm, f1.8, 1/640sec.


Saxophone player, Pichirilo Radioactive, Plaza del Teatro, Quito

Crop - Saxophone player, Pichirilo Radioactive, Plaza del Teatro, Quito

Saxophone player for the Ecuadorian band Pichirilo Radioactive, uncropped, and below it a crop at 1:1. Excellent detail. ISO 320, 85mm, f5.0, 1/250sec.


Couple reading newspapers, Plaza del Teatro, Quito

More Sunday reading. ISO 100, 85mm, f/6.3, 1/100sec.


Sucre National Theatre detail, Quito

Detail from the Sucre National Theater. ISO 100, 85mm, f1.8, 1/6400sec.


International Women's Day 2015 at the Plaza del Teatro in Quito, Ecuador

This one you may have seen before, last Sunday’s Pic du Jour on the occasion of International Women’s Day which was also featured on the Instagram group EverydayEcuador. But since every day is women’s day, here it is again. ISO 200, 85mm, f1.8, 1/2500sec


Ozzie Fan, Plaza del Teatro, Quito

There’s an Ozzy fan in every crowd. ISO 200, 85mm, f1.8, 1/1250sec.


SebaBala (l) and Koala Contreras of Como Asesinar a Felipes in Quito, March 2015
SebaBala (l) and Koala Contreras of Como Asesinar a Felipes in Quito

And another encore by Como Asesinar a Felipes. ISO 200, 85mm, f1.8, 1/2500sec.

Field Test 02 coming soon, promise. In the meantime, would love to hear about others’ experiences with the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM.

And for the record, the lead photo serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the 424th straight, and for Wall, this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge.

Quito Photowalk I was here.


More Stories
Recuerdo Profundo by Jimenez Deredia
Scab Cab Ride