Eight Fantastic 85mm Lenses for Portrait Photographers

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss Rokinon Sigma 85mm f1.4 three way comparison (1 of 3)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 3.5

The 85mm lens–it’s a classic and one of the most popular focal lengths for portrait photographers. This focal length is highly valued for many reasons–but above all else it compresses the view of the portrait subject just enough to render them flattering while allowing the photographer to maintain a close, intimate proximity to the subject. Beyond this, everyone loves bokeh and focal lengths like this offer lots of it.

We’ve scoured our Reviews Index to find and compile some of our favorite 85mm lenses just for you and have also included sample images from each of our reviews.

Nikon 85mm f1.8 G

Nikon 85mm f1.8 g

In our review, we state:

“The Nikon 85mm f1.8 G is a modern update to an old lens, and Nikon indeed did a fantastic job with it. For the price, it is very sharp, fast focusing in most situations, silent, and built extremely well. As a budget level lens, it is really hard to beat…”

Buy Now: Amazon $499.95

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer nikon 85mm f1.8 on d700 (6 of 6)

Pro tip: Using a flash with a lens will render sharper images because of the way that flash duration works. This basically tricks the camera into thinking that you’re shooting at a faster shutter speed than you really are. Plus it adds what are called specular highlights.

Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus

Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus

In our review, we state:

“It goes without saying that Zeiss’s 85mm f1.4 Otus deserves an Editor’s Choice rating. Essentially, they took everything about a portrait lens and made it better. This lens exhibits exemplary image quality all across the board based on what is actually practical for a working photographer.

Is it a lens for everyone? Of course not. It’s a lens designed for studio and fashion work–and it really shouldn’t be used for very much of anything else. But if you have the money to get one of these or the 55mm f1.4 Otus, we’d tell you to reach for the 55mm unless you really want to get portraiture work done. Even so, the 55mm is versatile enough for portraits.”

Buy Now: Amazon $4,393

Model: Grace Morales

Model: Grace Morales

Rokinon 85mm f1.4

Rokinon 85mm f1.4

In our review, we state:

“Overall, the quality of the Rokinon 85mm is very, very good and I actually believe that wide open, it’s better than my Canon 85mm F/1.8. The lens has some of the best skin tone renderings I’ve seen to date and also renders other colors very well. In contrast from my Canon lenses, the colors are a bit more muted and less punchy but there is a bit more contrast to the images.”

Buy Now: Amazon $269

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 85mm f1.4 review ray flash photos (10 of 13)

Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis

Zeiss 85mm batis

In our review, we state:

“Like many other Zeiss lenses, there is very little to complain about here. This lens doesn’t offer color as vivid as other Zeiss lenses, but again we have to come to expect that. You’ll be playing with the color versatility of the files quite a bit in post-production if you’re a stickler about your colors the way that I am. However, with the Vivid camera profile setting, your images will be pretty darn punchy though not typically ideal for portraits.”

Buy Now: B&H Photo $1,199

Chris Gampat The PhoblographerZeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions image samples (1 of 6)ISO 4001-1600 sec at f - 1.8

Pro tip: After you focus with an 85mm lens, shoot quickly or be very careful with your breathing patterns. The slightest shake with a wide open lens can throw off the plane of focus on your subject.

Sigma 85mm f1.4

Sigma 85mm f1.4

In our review, we state:

“Next to its 50mm cousin, the Sigma 85mm F/1.4 may be one of the best values on the market at the moment. Sigma has done a great job at filling the gap between Canon’s current offerings. The Sigma 85mm F/1.4 sits nicely between the  Canon 85mm F/1.8 and the Canon 85mm F/1.2 in price, but I think it is much closer to the Canon 85mm F/1.2 in performance. If you wanted to do a comparison, you would really have to put the Sigma up against the Canon 85mm F/1.2. Yes, the Canon 85mm F/1.2 is one of Canon’s flagship lenses and it would most likely beat the Sigma in most tests, but you are also going to pay more than double the price for Canon’s L glass. If you are seriously considering purchasing the Canon 85mm F/1.2 or even the Canon 85mm F/1.8, I would strongly suggest you take a look at the Sigma 85mm F/1.4. I think you may be surprised by the results.”

Buy Now: Amazon $969

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 85mm f1.4 EX with Kodak Portra 400 (2 of 11)

This image was shot using Kodak Portra and a flash. Give it a try!

Sony Carl Zeiss 85mm f1.4

Sony 85mm f1.4

In our review, we state:

“In the end, we really can’t have any major complaints against the Sony 85mm f1.4. The build quality is impeccable, the image quality overall is something to brag about to all your friends, and it’s a lens that you will never get tired of using. Despite all this, it can come with a very high price tag depending on the season and it can be loud to focus. Otherwise though, you’ll get your money’s worth for this lens.”

Buy Now: Amazon $1,698

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A99 images with 85mm f1.4 (7 of 8)ISO 400

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f1.4

Zeiss milvus 85mm

In our review, we state:

“The sharpness that this lens offers is perhaps the best balance of both sharpness and softness that I need in a portrait lens. You don’t want a portrait lens to be too, too sharp. The Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus is the company’s sharpest, then the 85mm f1.4 Otus, then the 135mm f2 and then this one. But even so, the numbers are negligible in real life situations (i.e. not pixel peeping like I read about DPReview’s forum goers talking about our site yesterday.)

Wide open, this lens is sharper than the offerings of any other manufacturer. When stopped down, the performance evens itself out a bit more. Zeiss does this without adding micro-contrast to their lenses either; so you’re getting just pure sharpness.”

Buy Now: B&H Photo $1,799

Model: Natalie Margiotta

Model: Natalie Margiotta

Samsung 85mm f1.4

Samsung 85mm f1.4

In our review, we state:

“We’ve spent a very long amount of time with Samsung’s 85mm f1.4 and we have to say that it’s seriously beautiful. When combined with the Galaxy NX’s ability to send an image straight to someone it becomes something that you’ll fall in love with even more for its ability to help you create beautiful images.

This is something that is great for street photography shooters, fashion shooters, and those that put a really big emphasis on their mobile photo presence. In fact, there are professional Instagrammers out there.”

Buy Now: Amazon $999.99

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 review images (2 of 3)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 1.4