Buying Guide: The best portrait lenses currently available
By Mason Resnick
February 18, 2013
Consider the 85mm lens. A moderate telephoto that covers the equivalent angle of view of an approximately 128mm lens on an APS camera and a 170mm lens on a camera with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, it is widely considered to be the ideal lens for portrait photography.
Why do so many photographers go to the 85mm lens for portrait work? The compression of its moderate focal length has the effect of faithfully capturing facial features without distortion (unlike shorter lenses), leading to more flattering images. Combine that with big maximum apertures that throw the background flatteringly out of focus and direct the viewer’s attention to the subject’s face, and the fact that even larger-aperture 85’s are relatively small and light (compared to zooms that cover the 85mm setting), it is truly one of the most useful prime lens to own.
85mm lenses are available from Adorama at a price range from around $270 to $4,500 and as with everything in life, you get what you pay for. Fortunately, there are many affordable 85mm lenses, and you can get pro-level glass for less than $500.
Adorama currently sells some 66 85mm lenses—a bewildering number—but in this series of buying guides we aim to help you whittle that selection down to the lens that make the most sense for you.
Let’s take a look at what’s available, along with image quality ratings based on tests conducted by DxOMark, Adorama’s test lab partner, an overview of each lens, and a look at what independent review sites around the Web have to say.
Click on the following links to get to the comparisons of 85mm lenses in mounts for your particular DSLR camera system:
Canon 85mm Lenses
Nikon 85mm Lenses
Sony 85mm Lenses
(Don't worry, Pentax and Olympus users: Round-ups of portrait lenses for your DSLRs are coming soon!)