A Look at the Best Portrait Lenses Out There

The most classically chosen portrait focal length is 85mm, which represents an excellent balance of all the characteristics sought after by photographers. However, portrait photographers will frequently employ a wide range of focal lengths depending on the look they are going for. This great video compares some of the best lenses at 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, and 200mm.

Coming to you from Manny Ortiz, this awesome video takes a look at the Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USMNikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E EDSony FE 135mm f/1.8, and Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM lenses. No doubt, these are all superlative lenses, and you can create fantastic images with any of them, but it is quite interesting to see just how differently each of them renders images, particularly as you get into the increasing levels of telephoto compression offered by the longer focal lengths. Even if you are not interested in dropping top dollar on these specific lenses, remember that the perspective you see from each focal length will apply to other lenses of the same focal length; it is just things like sharpness, bokeh rendering, maximum aperture, etc. that change. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Ortiz. 

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Daniel Medley's picture

There is life outside of wide open.

Just saying.

Daniel Escobar's picture

Whaaaaaa??? That's just crazy talk!

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I peek my foot out at f2.2 :P

Alex Yakimov's picture

If we define “3D rendering” as a separation between subject and a foreground/background via blur/color contrast, then all that glass is acceptable. No dramatic differences. Background blur depended more on the focal length rather then anything else. 85, 105 and 135 had similar blur pattern, perhaps pertaining to commonality in optical formulae. 200 had most pleasing blur, but it hardly could be called an environmental portraiture lens wide open, due to extreme blur - very interesting but highly unpractical glass, unless you need reach and butter and an osteopath (:

Troy Phillips's picture

I like 3D rendering to microcontrast over dof but I’m afraid that may be a thing of the past for most . The mirrorless realm has so many more possibilities other than extreme dof and a flat image from the new high element perfection lenses . And I do own a few of them in the Sigma art world . But I own old lead glass low element count f mount glass that renders a beautiful 3D image

Alex Yakimov's picture

agree. sigma is borderline falttish and offcolor to my taste, of course I am utterly subjective. I love 105 present in the video and 58mm f-mount pieces, not so much 85. I could not get my head wrapped around new z-glass quite yet. Tried, but not excited. which particular lead f-mount lenses do you consider beautiful?

Edwin Cobbinah's picture

Why would anyone compare lens of different focal length from different manufacturers with their respective camera bodies manufacturer. What's the main agenda cause I don't get it. This comparison is BS. I said it.

Andrew Eaton's picture

"Best Portrait Lenses Out There" is stretching it tbh… You just have to look beyond 35mm format :)

Jim Bolen's picture

I did a side-by-side of the Nikon 85 1.8 and the Tamron 85 1.8. Not even close. Bought the Tamron and couldn't be happier. Plus, it has VC.

David Pavlich's picture

I had that Tamron lens and sold it. Mistake!

Jim Bolen's picture

Did you calibrate it?

David Pavlich's picture

Yes. It was front focusing just a pinch. I should have worded my reply differently. It was a mistake that I sold it. It was a very good lens.

Jim Tincher's picture

I liked the look of the 105 and the 135... the bokeh balls with some of the 200 images were distractingly large and bright from the compression.

Sami Kallio's picture

105 and 135 shots were the best. Hard to give one or the other edge. 85 definitely the worst. Editing seemed different for the Canon lenses, darker and duller.