The 85mm prime lens has always been hailed as the perfect portrait lens. However, the popular 70-200mm zoom lens has been rising as a worthy contender. In this video, I’ll be comparing the two lens, and which one may be right for you.

Video: Which Portrait Lens is Right For You?

Ask me a few years ago and I would’ve picked the 85mm. With today’s lens technology, zoom lenses are able to match the aesthetic quality of prime lenses. Ask me now, and I’d say the 70-200mm hands down, but that’s just me. Depending on what you photograph, the 85mm could be the better portrait lens.

1. Comparing Aesthetics

Prime lenses are known for their bokeh. The Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 is the first zoom lens that gives the 85mm a run for the money. Here are several side by side bokeh comparisons of each portrait lens.

portrait lens 85mmportrait lens 70 200 mm

portrait lens 85 vs 70-200

2. What Are You Photographing?

portrait lens 70 200
Captured on 70-200mm.

If you are an event shooter, I would recommend the 70-200mm. The reason is versatility. The 70-200mm allows you to quickly shoot zoom in from various distances and the focus is lighting fast.

If you’re primarily a portrait photographer, the extra depth of the 85mm may be the best dedicated portrait lens. On top of that, if you photograph often in the evenings, the low light capabilities of the prime lenses will make a huge difference.

3. Distance to Your Subject

The 85mm lets me get great medium portraits from up close.

If you prefer to be closer to your subjects, the 85mm will help you get that beautiful blur from a short distance.

To get similar bokeh on a 70-200mm, I have to be quite far away.

To get the best bokeh from the 70-200mm, you’ll zoom in. That means you’ll have to be quite far from your subject. I captured this image at 135mm. Compared to the first image, you can see that I’m photographing from quite far away.

If you work in tight spaces or anywhere where space may be an issue, I’d recommend the 85mm.

So Which Portrait Lens Should You Get?

If you photograph both events and portraits, I’d say go for the 70-200mm. You’ll enjoy the versatility of the zoom while still capturing great bokeh at a distance.

If you photograph portraits with a focus on aesthetics, the 85mm wins hands down. You’ll enjoy the low light capabilities and the beautiful bokeh at closer distances.


I hope you enjoyed this article/video! Both of these are fantastic portrait lenses to work with and they leave me wondering what incredible lenses will be available in the future!

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