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Original Series

Our Favorite Portrait Lenses | Gear Talk Episode 4

By Joseph Cha on August 6th 2014

Lenses for Shooting Portraits

Whether it’s for newly engaged couples, families, or concept shoots, Pye and I are constantly shooting portraits. We find ourselves gravitating to a couple of lenses and we wanted to share with you what our favorite portrait lenses are and why. Check out the video below to see our favorite portrait lenses!

Our Favorite Portrait Lenses | Gear Talk Episode 4

My Favorite Portrait Lenses: Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1

Because of its maximum aperture, unique bokeh, and rendering of colors, this lens has become my favorite lens to go to when shooting portraits. It’s one of my lenses in my favorite portrait lenses kit, and the first lens I put on my camera when I’m shooting for leisure.

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Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss T*

When I switched from Canon to Sony, one of the first lenses I bought was the Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss T*. The focal length and maximum aperture made it the perfect lens for portraits, and it comes with me on every session. No matter the subject, background, or time of day, I can always count on this 135 to deliver stunning results.

135mm collage

Pye’s Favorite Lenses: Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 II

The Canon 85mm f/1.2 II is a jewel in Canon’s professional lens lineup, and if you’ve ever used it, you know exactly why. It renders some of the most beautiful bokeh, and it’s surprisingly usable and sharp when shot at f/1.2. It does come at a price (it’s their most expensive prime that comes in black!), but if you’re mainly shooting portraits, then it’s worth every penny.

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Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

This lens is a staple in any photographer’s kit, and for good reason. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II is versatile, has excellent optics, and has an amazing Image Stabilization motor. I can also get amazing image compression with this lens when shooting at 200mm.

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We hope you enjoyed this episode of Gear Talk. Be sure to subscribe to our Youtube Channel for more! If you want to see us talk about any gear in particular, let us know in the comments!

About

I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Aaron Cheney

    Beautiful images! I love the 85mm

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  2. Michael Moe

    great advise!

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  3. Chuck Eggen

    Love the look of that Zeiss (Sony) 135mm. Hoping Sigma will add a 135mm to the Art line.

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  4. Jeff Morrison

    good read

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  5. Mark C

    As a Nikon shooter, I’m a bit jealous of Canon shooters for their 135mm f/2 lens! Apart from this, I’m happy shooting with my 85mm f/1.4G but occasionally need a bit more reach. The 70-200’s are incredible lenses. If only they could make them lighter!

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  6. Aidyn Chen

    85mm is a fun lense to work with. Longer than the 50mm and shorter than the 135mm. Very nice and natural feel to the result.

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  7. Bob Roman

    I have both Canon lenses so they are a known quality to me however I just added a Sony a7R myself and I just love the image quality. I did want to ask why Cha prefers the 135 1.8 vs say the Zeiss 135 2.0 Apo Sonnar. Really enjoying the gear talk series, keep up the good work. PS. For Pye – I also found the ISO changing unintentionally until I remove it from the wheel and assigned it C2.

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  8. claude laramée

    I rented the Canon 70-200 mm and shot fashion in studio, story telling outdoor then lifestyle in the same day and was amazed by the sharpness and versatility… But you got to watch for the DOF at 200 mm 2:8 !!! Also (surprisingly) not heavy to carry around + fast focus ( on a MK II ).

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  9. Cy Sawyer

    I agree with Pye, I typically use my 85 1.4 (Nikon) only at wide open or near, otherwise though I like the compression the 70-200 provides.

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  10. Phil Bautista

    135L FTW

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  11. MARTIN MIANO

    great lenses …..i much agree.Looking forward to a bang for your buck lens episode

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  12. Mads Helmer Petersen

    I´m happy about my 70-200 mm f2.8 II – think it´s perfect for portraits

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  13. Rafael Steffen

    I love to shoot with a 85mm because it provides amazing out of focus quality, but the 70-200 is just amazing in terms of the possibilities.

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  14. Kurk Rouse

    would love a 70-200

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  15. Austin Swenson

    I would love if Sony had an 85mm for my A7, hopefully that will be out soon, but I have to also agree with Pye on the 70-200. The bokeh is great on those when you stay at a low aperture, and it gives you a workout.

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  16. Stephen Velasquez

    I am loving these positive user experience reviews, it feel a little differnt from the norm.

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  17. Asad Qayyum

    I’d tend to agree with Pye’s choice; i can’t get enough of the 85mm.

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    • Ben Perrin

      I have a love/hate relationship with that lens. I love the look it produces but I hate how sluggish it is. I tend to go for the 135L instead if space allows for it. If the 85 was a bit faster I don’t think I’d ever take it off!

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