Whether you shoot with Fujifilm, Sony, Canon, or Nikon, there are 85mm prime lenses on each platform that are capable of producing some truly beautiful images when in the hands of portrait photographers. They are incredibly sharp, very fast, and produce gorgeous bokeh which really helps with subject isolation. The best part is some of the best primes in this focal length are under four figures.
In this article we are going to take a look at three 85mm prime lenses that will help you take your work to the next level. The lenses we have chosen are sure to wow both you and your clients.
Yes, there are cheaper 85mm lenses out there on the market that do a great job, on the other side of the coin, there are more expensive 85mm prime lenses out there too. The prime lenses in this article are all pretty much smack dab in the middle of the pack, offer excellent performance, and are still affordable for the working professional.
Sony 85mm F1.8 FE
Sony shooters are in for a treat with the 85mm 1.8 FE. Not only is it way under $1,000, it is also one of the sharpest lenses on the entire platform. At just $598 it costs three times less than the G Master 85mm, and only the biggest pixel peepers will really see a difference in overall sharpness.
In our review we said:
“This is in many ways, the absolute most perfect portrait lens for most Sony camera users. If you don’t need or can afford the 85mm f1.4 G Master lens, then the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE lens is a fantastic option. It’s sharp, has less saturated colors (only the Loxia is less saturated that this), focuses pretty well with most cameras (the Batis is fastest) and it has weather resistance.”
Inside the plastic housing you will find nine elements in eight groups, and nine rounded aperture blades. While the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE isn’t the best built lens in the Sony lineup it is still more than strong enough to withstand the odd bump or bang. The 85mm f1.8 FE also has some weather sealing too which means you can continue to shoot if the weather takes a turn for the worse. This lens weighs 1.1lbs and because of this it’s easy to use for long periods.
The lens produces ridiculously sharp images with nice natural tones, beautiful bokeh, and there isn’t a hint of chromatic aberration, or distortion. This is great because it means you’ll spend less time in post which is something we all love. The lens focuses nice and fast so you’ll have no need to worry about missing the shots you want.
In terms of bang for your buck lenses, the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE is hard to beat. When it comes to 85mm primes lenses on the Sony platform this one should definitely be on your shopping list.
Buy now ($598): Amazon
Sony 85mm f1.8 FE
Pro Tip: To really get the most of your portrait sessions, and out of your lenses you should really incorporate external lighting into your work flow. There are many affordable options for the Sony platform that are easy to use and offer excellent performance. This flash is affordable, and comes with a wireless transmitter. Use a Bowens mount S-Bracket and put it in a softbox for beautiful soft lighting. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your images.
Fujifilm 56mm f1.2
There is no doubt about it, the Fujifilm 56mm f1.2 is one of the sharpest (if not the sharpest) lens on the Fujifilm platform. When it comes to prime lenses for portraits on the Fujifilm platform, the 56mm f1.2 is the first one you should consider. It’s really just that good.
In our review we said:
“Fujifilm’s 56mm f1.2 is the sharpest mirrorless camera lens that we’ve tested. Not only that but it exhibits beautiful bokeh, pretty good color rendition, almost no distortion, focuses quickly, and is built well.”
On Fujifilm’s APS-C based cameras the 56mm f1.2 is the equivalent of a 85mm at f2 on Full Frames. Inside the all metal body you’ll find 11 elements in eight groups, and seven rounded aperture blades. The images produced by this lens are nothing short of spectacular with edge-to-edge sharpness even at f1.2, beautiful color rendition, creamy, dreamy bokeh, and no color fringing or distortion.
The lens is heavy when compared to other primes on this platform, but there is a lot of glass here. Weighing in at 0.89lbs the Fujifilm 56mm f1.2 feels nice in the hands, is easy to use for longer periods, and still balances nicely on the smaller Fujifilm camera bodies. Build quality is excellent as you would expect from a Fujifilm lens, but there is no weather sealing which is a shame. The 56mm f1.2 focuses fast (not as fast as the 50mm f2), but still plenty fast enough for a lens designed for portrait photography.
Here’s the bottom line. If you are a Fujifilm user and you shoot portraits for a living, this is the lens that needs attached to your camera. The price is under $1,000 and because of the outstanding performance, this is one of our favorite 85mm prime lenses.
Buy now ($899): Amazon
Fujifilm 56mm f1.2 Image Samples
Pro Tip: If you aren’t a fan of using external lighting you should consider using reflectors instead. Reflectors are cheap, very easy to use, and can make the world of difference to your portraits. Simply use them to redirect light back on to your subject so that you can fill shadows, and create nice catchlights in the eyes.
Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art
Sigma really make some beautiful lenses, and the 85mm f1.4 for both Canon and Nikon bodies is a work of art. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 checks all the boxes when it comes to things we look for in prime lenses for portraiture, and it’s right around $1,000. This lens is capable of producing images that will leave your jaw on the ground.
In our review we said:
“Sigma has always produced lenses with fantastic bokeh and this one is no exception at all. It’s beautiful, creamy, and incredibly pleasing overall. I truly can’t fault it.”
The first thing you’ll notice about the Sigma 85mm f1.4 is it’s size. It’s huge. Possibly one of the biggest (if not the biggest) 85mm prime lenses on the market. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM weighs in at 2.49lbs and because of this you’ll certainly know you’ve been using the it after long sessions, however the lens still feels nice in the hands and is easy to use. Autofocus speeds are nice and fast, and will give you no problems in both good and poor lighting situations.
The pain caused from the weight will be worth though because of the image quality. You can expect razor sharp images from corner to corner thanks to 14 elements in 12 groups, and bokeh that will make you shed a tear of joy thanks to the nine rounded aperture blades. The lens is built like a tank, and due to its size it could probably be used as a personal protection device (not that we would suggest that). The 85mm f1.4 also has a small amount of weather sealing so you can shoot outside in a light rain shower and not worry too much about it.
If you’re a Canon or Nikon shooter you’d be hard pressed to find a better 85mm prime lens at this price point. If you can get past the sheer size of this lens, we guarantee you will have one of the best 85mm prime lenses around.
Buy now Canon ($984.99): Amazon
Buy now Nikon ($1069): Amazon
Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art Image Samples