Specialism is the practice of focusing on one area of expertise and mastering it rather than being a jack of all trades. With that idea in mind the coveted 85mm focal length specializes in creating sharp images with very little distortion while successfully separating the subject from the background. For this reason alone, it is often revered as one of the best all around portrait lenses.
85mm lenses are medium telephoto lenses with wider apertures that allow them to perform well in lower light conditions. Essentially the wider the aperture the faster the lens is and the greater the subject-background separation. Combine that with desirable compression and magnification and the result is velvety smooth bokeh which is highly sought after in the photography community. The focal length is also very true to life, meaning that it delivers an image very reminiscent of your perspective as there is very little distortion.
The Canon 85mm 1.2L II lens is affixed to my full frame camera more than 90% of the time. Whether shooting in the studio or utilizing natural light, shooting beauty or fashion, this is a lens of choice because of its versatility. The intermediate proximity between my camera and subject is far enough away that I don’t feel like I am hovering over them, yet close enough that we can still clearly communicate. The tighter field of view of the 85mm is perfect for portraits and beauty work, yet it can still capture striking full body angles decently with adequate detail. These lenses are notoriously sharp.
85mm lenses are much more than merely a portrait lens. The adaptable depth of field and lower light capabilities provided by the 85mm makes it a great choice for weddings, boudoir, product, food and still life photography. From its vantage point, it is easily manipulated to finalize the overall look and mood of the shoot.
If you are looking to add a versatile go-to lens that produces beautifully sharp images with the ability to create creamy bokeh, the 85mm is a perfect choice.
Below are some of our recommendations.
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.8
- Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
- Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
- Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG Art Lens
- Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 D VC
- Zeiss Batis 85mm f/ 1.8 for Sony E Mount
- Lensbaby Velvet 85mm f/1.8