Best Canon Lenses For Portraits

Best Canon Lenses For Portraits In 2021

Portrait photography offers you a chance to take close and personal photographs of your subjects, especially your friends and relatives. However, it is a cumbersome task to find the right portrait lens. You have to take many things into account such as compatibility with your canon camera, your requirements, and of course, the budget. But – you don’t need to do the hard work. The best Canon lenses for portraits will enable you to take captivating portraits every single time.

Best Canon Portrait Lenses

Many photographers, even the experienced ones, struggle to take good portrait. They often use the wrong focal length or the lens altogether. It is pertinent to mention that you can capture stunning photos using lenses like telephotos and zooms. However, they are not as good for portraits as a good prime lens. And, Canon makes some of the best prime lenses in the world.

As you already know, zoom lenses have variable focal lengths. However, their aperture usually reduces to f/5.6 at the long end of the zoom. The outcome is a large depth of field which makes it rather hard to blur the background.

Fast prime lenses usually have apertures ranging from f/1.4 to f/1.8. These are fairly wide apertures, allowing you to easily blur the background and make the subject stand out.

Prime lenses also have fixed focal length as compared to zoom lenses. Therefore, they are much better at reducing or even eliminating the distortion. But – which focal length is most commonly used for portrait photography?

Most photographers prefer a focal length of 85mm for portraits. It enables them to fill the image for portraits having half-length bodies. Similarly, you don’t have to invade the personal space of your subjects by getting too close to them. This particular focal length provides enough distance for you to give directions and engage with the subjects.

A 50mm lens is a better option for portraits if you are using an APS-C camera. You will effectively get an 80mm focal length, which is very close to 85mm, thanks to the 1.6x crop factor.

The following lines compare the best Canon lenses for portrait photography.

ImageModel NameFocus TypeLens TypeCheck Price

Canon EF 85mm F/1.8


Ultrasonic


Telephoto


Check Price

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L


Ring-type ultrasonic


Wide Angle


Check Price

Canon EF 50mm F/1.8


Stepper motor


Standard


Check Price

Canon EF 50mm F/1.4


Ultrasonic


Telephoto


Check Price

Canon RF 85mm F/2 Macro


Autofocus


Telephoto


Check Price

Canon EF 85mm F/1.2L


Autofocus


Telephoto


Check Price

Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro


Autofocus


Macro


Check Price

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L


Autofocus


Normal


Check Price
Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L
Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L


Ring-type ultrasonic


Wide Angle


Check Price

Canon EF 85mm F/1.4


Autofocus


Telephoto


Check Price

1.    Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 USM: Top Value Choice for Full-Frame Cameras

best canon lenses for portraits

Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 USM is an affordable, lightweight, and small lens for portrait photographers. It is the best lens for full-frame Canon cameras such as EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS 6D Mark II. Similarly, you can easily use it with EOS 5DS and EOS 5DR as well as other ultra-high-resolution cameras as it is a “recommended lens” by Canon.

The lens comes with 8 diaphragm blades and thus, it has a relatively well-rounded aperture, rivaling that of Canon’s EF 50mm F/1.4 USM. However, it is comparatively better because it also features ring-type ultrasonic autofocus as compared to motor-based autofocus. The ring-type AF is not only much faster but very quiet as well.

You cannot expect spectacular sharpness at f/1.8. However, the lens can capture the hair and skin pores of the individuals with the utmost ease. Besides, the details in the eyes are truly remarkable. You can live without border sharpness in portraits. Instead, you often require bokeh or defocused sharpness on edges, which the lens achieves quite well.

Overall, the Canon EF 85mm F/1.8 is the best choice for full-frame users.

Pros
  • Ring-type ultrasonic autofocus
  • Small and lightweight
  • Top value for money
  • Best for full-frames shooters
  • Excellent details in the eyes
Cons
  • Sharpness is not spectacular
  • Hood bumps increase the price

2.    Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM: Best Lens for Portrait Canon

best canon lenses for portraits

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM has achieved celebrity status in the world of photography because of its multiple applications and uses. Almost every camera manufacturer has a version of this lens. However, Canon has the best of them all.

The current version of Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L offers a lot of improvements on its predecessors. It delivers impressive performance even though it is not that small or lightweight.

The extremely wide aperture of the lens ensures remarkable image quality. It especially excels in low light conditions and can give any other comparable lens a run for its money. Similarly, not many 35mm lenses can focus to whopping 11 inches. Therefore, it is also a very sharp lens despite being so wide open.

Also, keep in mind that only Tamron and Sigma equivalents can compete with this lens in terms of performance. However, Canon’s version offers far greater clarity and sharpness. When you combine f/1.4 with the 50 MP full-frame sensor, the most demanding sensor by Canon, you get the images of the highest quality.

In short, you can use Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L lens for any purpose including portraits. Rest assured the final result be simply brilliant.

Pros
  • Multiple applications and uses
  • Extremely wide aperture
  • Excels in low light conditions
  • Focuses to 11 inches
  • Very sharp lens
  • Remarkable image quality
  • Greater image clarity
Cons
  • Comparatively expensive

3.    Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM Lens: A Great Budget Choice for Portraits

best canon lenses for portraits

Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 STM is among the most affordable lenses for portraits. The lens has a 50mm focal length for full-frames that translates to 80mm for APS-C cameras. Weighing only 160grams and having dimensions of 69 x 39mm, it is also the smallest and lightest lens on our list. It is quite impressive considering it has a very fast f/1.8 aperture ring and a fairly long focal length.

The lens has an even smaller filter attachment thread at 49mm. However, the quite deeply recessed front element also means you don’t need to buy the ES-68 lens hood for this lens.

EF 50mm F/1.8 also has a very fast autofocus system. Other upgrades include seven diaphragm blades, and a metal mounting plate as compared to a plastic one. It also has a very well-rounded aperture and therefore, it easily eliminates or reduces the obvious pentagonal shapes caused by defocused light or bright objects when you stop a little. It has effectively solved this problem which destroyed the photos taken with previous versions of 50mm lenses.

The current 50mm lens also ensures less distortion and offers excellent performance when it comes to color fringing.

 The only problem with the lens is that it does not feature a focus distance scale. All in all, it is a pure bargain at this price.

Pros
  • Metal mounting plate
  • Well-rounded aperture
  • Small and lightweight
  • Very affordable
  • The very fast autofocus system
Cons
  • Comparatively noisier autofocus
  • No focus distance scale

4.    Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 USM: One of the Cheapest Lenses for Portraits

best canon lenses for portraits

First released back in 1993, Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 USM has finally started to show its age. It has quite a basic design compared to the modern lenses by Canon and other brands. On the flip side, it is a very cheap lens to buy though it is still more expensive than Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens.

However, the lens is still very popular among portrait photographers for three main reasons. It has an excellent build quality, a faster aperture, and a focus distance scale. Similarly, it has an ultrasonic autofocus system which many photographers prefer over the ring-type autofocus. The autofocus comes with a full-time manual override that is rare for this type of system. However, keep in mind that the autofocus is quite audible and a bit slow.

The apertures ranging from f/1.4 to f/1.8 usually have poor sharpness and the same is the case with this lens. But – you can argue that it imparts a pleasant softness to the portrait images.

Canon EF 50mm F/1.4 is a good option if you can live with problems like severe vignetting or slow autofocus. If not, we recommend going for EF 50mm F/1.8 lens and save even more money.

Pros
  • Small and lightweight
  • Cheaper than modern versions
  • More robust than 50mm f/1.8
  • Excellent build quality
  • Faster aperture
  • Focus distance scale
Cons
  • Disappointing image quality
  • Audible and slightly slow autofocus

5.    Canon RF 85mm F/2 Macro IS STM: Best Macro Lens that also Doubles as Portrait Lens

best canon lenses for portraits

As the name suggests, the Canon RF 85mm F/2 is a macro lens. However, it also becomes a great portrait lens for EOS-R cameras thanks to its focal length.

Experienced photographers normally use RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM lens. However, do keep in mind that it is a very expensive lens and not many people can afford it. We would recommend using the RF 85mm f/2 Macro lens if you are looking for a more affordable portrait lens for your EOS-R camera.

At first glance, it looks like a pure macro lens mainly because of its production ratio of 1:2. However, it does deliver exceptional portraits solely because of its focal length of 85mm. The lens also delivers extremely pleasing defocused backgrounds even though it does not have the fastest of apertures.

RF 85mm F/2 macro also has a well-rounded aperture thanks to 9 diaphragm blades. The minimum focus distance of 0.35mm is more than enough to capture stunning portraits. The lens is also incredibly sharp besides having an excellent 5-stop image stabilization system.

In general, it is one of the best Canon lenses for portraits if you are willing to use a relatively slower aperture.

Pros
  • Reasonably priced
  • Doubles as a 0.5x macro lens
  • 5-stop image stabilization
  • Well-rounded aperture
  • Extremely pleasant defocused background
  • Perfect focal length for portraits
Cons
  • Only f/2 maximum aperture

6.    Canon EF 85mm F/1.2L II: Top Canon Lens for Portraits

best canon lenses for portraits

You would find a lot of 85mm lenses on this list because it is the best focal length for portraits. As such, Canon EF 85mm F/1.2L is one of the best Canon lenses for portraits ever.

The lens has a high quality and a very fast aperture. As a result, it provides an ideal low depth-of-field for portraits. It is also weather-sealed and you can use it int the outdoors without any worries. It also suppresses and decreases ghosting and flaring with the help of Super Spectra coating.

You can use the lens both for APS-C and full-frame cameras. It offers a very smooth bokeh while sharpness is also very good albeit for defocused areas.

As you may expect, the build and image quality of 85mm F/1.2L is excellent just like all other L-series lenses.

The lack of image stabilization is a major downside in our opinion. However, you can always use a good tripod to resolve this problem.

Pros
  • Superfast f/1.2 aperture
  • Excellent image quality
  • Great build quality
  • Weather sealing
Cons
  • No image stabilization
  • Very expensive

7.    Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM Lens: Best Wide Angle Canon Portrait Lens

Most people won’t recommend a 35mm lens for portraiture. They think it is a very wide focal length for a portrait lens. However, you can create many different types of portraits with Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro lens.

It is the best lens if you move a lot during the photo session. The lens enables you to capture your subjects as well as their environment in your portraits. The superfast f/1.8 aperture means the lens performs brilliantly in low light conditions as well. Similarly, it is very sharp in almost all conditions.

Another benefit of having this lens is the ease of use. It is a very small and lightweight lens that you can easily carry with you. It is worth mentioning that most reporters use this lens for their news portraits as well.

You can maintain a reasonable distance from your subjects if you use this lens. Besides, it offers a much wider view than 50mm or 85mm lenses. You get a natural perspective of the scene as a whole.

The best thing about the lens is that it has minimal distortion, unlike other 35mm lenses.

Pros
  • Good build quality
  • Excellent image quality
  • Best for reportage portraits
  • Best wide-angle lens for portraits
Cons
  • Audible autofocus
  • Comparatively low focus speed

8.    Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM: Best Canon Lens for Outdoor Portraits

Canon EF 70-200mm is one of the most popular portrait lenses for sports and wildlife portraits. It features a Focus Ring Limiter and image stabilization system that is quite useful for panning. Both these features make sports and wildlife photograph a delight.

However, it is also the best portrait lens for Canon in the L-series category. It ensures perfect subject-to-background distance, enabling you to have captivating out-of-focus backgrounds. As a result, you can beautifully separate your subjects from their background or environment. It delivers similar results no matter you are shooting in a studio or distracting locations such as roads and parks. In simple words, it is the best lens for outdoor portraits.

The lens is also second to none when it comes to flare suppression and image clarity. It especially excels while shooting back-lit objects.

Some people do have complaints about focusing but overall, it is a very reliable lens for portraits.

Pros
  • Ideal focal length for portraits
  • Panning-friendly image stabilization
  • Best-in-class portrait lens
  • Greater flare suppression
  • Enhanced image clarity
Cons
  • Autofocus could be better

9.    Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II Lens: The Most Versatile Lens for Portraits

Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II is among the best Canon lenses in general. 24-70mm is also the most versatile focal length. It is a perfect choice for photographers who have no idea what they are going to get. However, you would eventually fall in love with this lens just like thousands before you.

You can use this lens for almost everything you can think of including still photos, events, landscapes, and of course, portraits.

It has a fast and silent autofocus thanks to the high-speed CPU. The optimized autofocus algorithms also ensure it performs to its full potential every single time.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II is incredibly easy to use and handle. It is extremely portable as well which is impressive considering the coverage and performance it offers. Both novices and experienced photographers can use this lens with the utmost ease.

Pros
  • Easy to use and handle
  • Very portable
  • Excellent image quality
  • The most versatile Canon lens
  • High-speed autofocus
Cons
  • No focus adjustment

10. Canon EF 85mm F/1.4L IS USM: The Best Canon Portrait Lens for DSLRs

Canon EF 85mm F/1.4 IS USM is the best Canon portrait lens for DSLRs if you only use Canon lenses. It offers the L-series build quality and performance along with 4-stop image stabilization.

The lightning-fast aperture ring makes Canon EF 85mm F/1.2 the greatest of the portrait prime lenses. However, we recommend EF 85mm F/1.4 for reasons like weather-sealing, even faster autofocus as well as being very small and lightweight.

One of the best features of the lens is 4-stop image stabilization. It comes in very handy when you are taking handheld images in the dull ambient light. The image stabilization ensures consistently sharp images regardless of the light conditions. All these features make EF85mm F/1.4 an excellent choice for wedding portraits.

The lens also has 9 diaphragm blades compared to 8 diaphragm blades of the bigger and heavier f/1.2. Therefore, you get a better-rounded aperture when you have to stop a little. As a result, the defocused pinpricks of bright spots and lights cannot produce visible octagonal bokeh discs which are a major problem when you use f/1.2.

Pros
  • L-series build quality and performance
  • 4-stop image stabilization
  • Weather-sealing
  • Superfast autofocus
  • Lightweight and small
Cons
  • Marginally less tight depth of field

Things to Consider while Choosing the Best Canon Lens for Portraits

You need to consider a lot of things while choosing the best lens for portraits irrespective of the brands.

Zoom versus Prime Lenses

Zooms and primes are the two main types of lenses. Zoom lenses are more versatile than prime lenses because they have variable focal lengths such as 24-70mm and 75-300mm. You don’t need to change the lens for taking different types of photos if you have a zoom lens in your armory.

Prime lenses, on the other hand, delivers superior image quality and clarity. However, they lack flexibility because they have fixed focal lengths such as 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. Prime lenses are also comparatively smaller than zoom lenses, and thus, easier to use and carry. However, some prime lenses can be quite heavy. They also have faster maximum apertures, making them a firm favorite among professional portrait photographers.

Focal Length

Best Canon lenses for portraits often come with a focal length of 85mm. However, it is not always the right focal length for you. The choice of focal length depends on things like number of subjects, the place where you are shooting, how close you will get to the action, and the surrounding environment. Portrait photographers commonly use focal lengths ranging from 35mm to 200mm for their portraits. It depends on the photographer’s preference and style as well as your subject.

How many Lenses You Want to Carry

Zoom is the best candidate if you want to carry only one lens for your next shoot. As mentioned above, you don’t have to change a lens for different framing styles if you use a zoom lens. Similarly, you seldom have to change your position while shooting as well. On the other hand, you will have to carry multiple lenses if you want to use different focal lengths but only use prime lenses. Some photographers resolve this issue by having more than one camera with primes lenses of different focal lengths mounted on them.

How many People a Photo will have

You must consider a wide-angle lens such as a 35mm lens if you want to include a lot of people in the photo. However, wide-angle lenses are known for distorting the images. The problem intensifies once you go wider than 35mm. You must not use a super-wide lens if you want to ensure the people in the middle and on the edge of the photos have the same proportions. Another solution to this problem is to just move back and you can add as many people as you want in the frame.

Available Space

A wider lens is the logical option if you are shooting in a studio or other confined spaces. Your lens options will increase considerably if you plan to shoot in wide-open areas. In such a case, you can use an 85mm prime lens or a 70-200mm zoom lens to the great effect. A lens with a shorter focal length such as 50mm will do just fine inside your home or studio.

Bokeh

Best Canon lens for portrait photography will always deliver excellently blurred backgrounds, commonly known as bokeh. You will get more bokeh if your lens has a larger aperture and a lower f-stop number. You must look for lenses with a wider aperture such as f/1.2 or f/1.8 if you want to create a good bokeh in your images. A larger aperture also enables excellent low light performance besides creating a shallow depth of field.

Final Thoughts

With this, we sum up our guide to the best Canon lenses for portraits. You have plenty of good lenses to choose from when it comes to portrait photography. These lenses come with various focal lengths and in different weights and sizes. However, all of them are suitable for creating portraits in different conditions. All you need to do is to ascertain your requirements and where you want to shoot. Only then you will be able to get the right portrait lens for you.

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