Four 70-200mm Telephoto Lenses That Will Make Your Portraits Pop

70-200mm telephoto lenses are firm favorites with portrait photographers for good reason.

When it comes to portrait photography a lot of photographers like to reach for primes lenses thanks to their fast apertures and light weight. Telephoto lenses are also wonderful for portraits, especially 70-200mm variants. With the sweet spot for portraits really falling between the 85mm to 135mm range, 70-200mm telephoto lenses really lend themselves well to this genre of photography thanks to their amazing image quality, and fast apertures.

The great thing with using telephoto lenses for portraiture is also the compression factor. These lenses are capable of producing absolutely gorgeous bokeh and object isolation. Even the less expensive f4 70-200mm telephoto lenses perform incredibly well because of this. The other great thing about using a lens in the 70-200mm range is the fact that you can go from a 3/4 length shot to a nice, tight close up shot in seconds without having to move, or worry about losing image quality. Here’s a look at four of our favorite telephoto lenses for portrait photography.

 

Canon 70-200mm F4 L IS USM II

 

If you’re a Canon shooter, you’re in luck because one of the best telephoto lenses is made by Canon. The 70-200mm f4 L IS USM II is the perfect lens to have in your bag for portraiture. I know, you’re probably wondering why we didn’t list the f2.8 version of this lens, and the answer is because the performance of this lens at its price point is simply outstanding.

In our review we said:

“So what makes the Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS USM II so great? It has weather sealing, nice bokeh, great autofocusing abilities, sharp image quality, and it’s very light. In the hand, it feels great and you can easily carry it around with you all day if you wish.”

The Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS USM II is a modern marvel. The build quality as you would expect from a Canon L series lens is phenomenal, and the weather sealing means you can be out shooting portraits no matter the weather. Snow storm? That’s fine. Rain? No problem at all, you can shoot with confidence. The image quality is amazing. The colors reproduced are truly gorgeous, and you will positively love the skin tones.

Inside this lens you’ll find 20 elements in 15 groups, and 9 aperture blades. One fluorite and two UD lenses keep chromatic aberration and distortion under control nicely. The Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS USM II is also nice and light which means this lens is easy to use for long periods of time. Weighing in at 1.76lbs, this lens will not add too much extra weight to your camera bag, and it makes it far easier to use for longer sessions than the F2.8 version of this lens. The image stabilization also make this lens easy to use in low light situations too, so you can lower that shutter speed and shoot away with ease. Autofocus performance is very snappy too thanks to the USM motor moving all that glass around.

But what about the Bokeh we hear you cry. You have nothing to worry about here. Even though this telephoto lens only has a maximum aperture of F4, the bokeh produced is exceptional. Trust us when we say nobody will be complaining here. This lens will make your model separate from the background with ease. Just check out the image samples below to see for yourself.

Overall the Canon telephoto lens is really hard to beat. It is lightweight, easy to use, produces gorgeous bokeh and sharp images, and it has image stabilization and weather sealing. This lens is a winner.

Buy now ($1,299): Amazon

 

Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS USM II Image Samples

 

 

Pro Tip: Keep your lenses tip top shape by making sure you have a good quality lens cleaning kit. There is nothing worse (or more unprofessional) than turning up to a photoshoot with dirty glass. You spend a lot of money on your lenses so keep them clean.

 

Fujifilm 50-140mm F2.8

 

Fujifilm shooters have a telephoto great lens to use for portraits as well in the Fujifilm 40-150mm f2.8. This lens will have the equivalent focal range of 75-210mm on Fujifilm’s crop sensor cameras. This lens is solidly built, has weather sealing, and is a bokeh master.

In our review we said:

“This lens is tremendously sharp, both wide open and stopped down. With good light, it sings, and even as the good light goes away, it manages to stay on point.”

Inside the all metal body you are going to find 23 elements in 16 groups, and seven rounded aperture blades. Five ED Elements and One Super ED Element combine with everything else to produce razor sharp images from f2.8 and on. You’ll find little to no distortion or color fringing, and will absolutely love creamy bokeh that this lens is capable of producing. Colors rendered are something to behold especially when Fujifilm’s film simulations are used.

The weather sealing makes it so that you can shoot in all kinds of weather as long as you pair it with a weather sealed body such as the Fujifilm X-T3.  The lens also features Fujifilm’s great optical image stabilization too which is good for an extra 5 stops. Autofocus performance is great. We never had any issues nailing focus in good and bad lighting situations.

The 50-140mm f2.8 from Fujifilm is on the large size when compared to many other Fujifilm lenses but you’ll find that the lens still feels nice when attached to Fuji’s smaller camera bodies. The lens weighs in at a quite hefty 2.19lbs, however the overall ergonomics make this lens comfortable to use for long periods.

When it comes to portraits, or any genre of photography, you will be amazed by this lens and it’s overall performance. Subject isolation is incredibly easy thanks to the maximum aperture of f2.8, and the out of focus areas are rendered beautifully. When it comes to telephoto lenses from Fujifilm, this lens should be one of the first in your camera bag.

Buy now ($1,399): Amazon

 

Fujifilm 50-140mm F2.8 Image Samples

 

 

Pro Tip: If you like using flash in your portraits, but don’t always like carrying around cumbersome softboxes, you should consider a small flash modifier. The Rogue Photography Flashbender 2 easily attaches to your flash via velcro, and allows you to get the light exactly where you want it.

 

Tamron 70-200mm Di VC USD G2

 

There are many 70-200 f2.8 lenses on the market, including those from Canon and Nikon, but the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 G2 offers the best bang for your buck. The Tamron 70-200mm Di VC USD G2 is built like a tank, and offers incredible image sharpness. You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this lens and first party offerings.

In our review we said:

“The Tamron SP 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 has absolutely fantastic image quality to it. It isn’t as saturated as the 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why I love it. Portrait and landscape photographers alike are simply going to love it.”

The Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 G2 is really a beast of a lens, and honestly for this price it may well be one of the best values overall when it comes to telephoto lenses. This lens sports 23 elements in 17 groups, and has nine rounded aperture blades that enable the user to generate insanely sharp images that exhibit beautiful, smooth, creamy bokeh. Like other telephoto lenses mentioned here, the Tamrom 70-200mm G2 also has some really great weather sealing, and it’s optically stabilized. In terms of tech this lens is packed to the rafters which is really crazy when you consider the price. On top of all of this, the G2 also comes with a class leading six year warranty from Tamron!

Images really are beautiful from this lens. They are really sharp from corner to corner, even when shot wide open. The focus motors are very quiet which means shooting in places where you have to keep the noise down is no issue, and the glass finds focus incredibly quickly, even in less than stellar lighting conditions. The vibration control (image stabilization) is good for five stops. I have personally been able to get sharp images with this lens handheld at 1/15th. It’s that good.

This is one of the best deals you will find when it comes to telephoto lenses. Tamron really hit a home run here, and have made a lens that is capable of great things. The best part is that it’s almost a grand cheaper than the same offerings from both Canon and Nikon, and honestly, only the hardest pixel peepers will be able to tell any difference in quality.

Buy now – Canon ($1,199): Amazon

Buy now – Nikon ($1,199): Amazon

 

Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 Di VC USD G2 Image Samples

 

 

Pro Tip: Make sure you have plenty of memory cards in your bag. You never know when you may leave one at the house, or when one may fail on you out in the field. Be prepared and buy some extras to keep on your person.

 

Sony 70-200 F4 G OSS

 

If you’re a Sony shooter and don’t mind standing out like a sore thumb, the brilliant, bright white Sony 70-200mm F4 G OSS is the telephoto lens for you. Like the reasons listed above for the Canon 70-200mm F4, this lens was chosen over it’s larger, and much more expensive f2.8 brother because of its price to performance ratio. This lens is absolutely stellar in every way, shape and form, and truthfully, f2.8 is not needed in most situations. This f4 lens is more than capable of delivering the goods.

In our review we said:

“When it comes to image quality, the Sony 70-200mm f4 OSS lives up to the Sony name and reputation of delivering incredible results. All across the board, you won’t have a major issue with the image quality. This lens renders images to be super sharp.”

The Sony 70-200mm F4 OSS G is hard to miss, but inside this nicely textured white body you will find 21 elements in 15 groups along with nine rounded aperture blades. On the outside of the lens you will find a myriad of switches that control everything from Image stabilization modes, to focus ranges. The focus and zoom rings are nice and large, and are nicely dampened for easy operation.

The lens weighs in at 1.8lbs which really is not bad for a lens like this that has optical image stabilization. Speaking of which, the image stabilization on this lens is fantastic! It’s good for five stops which again makes this a no brainer over the f2.8 version because you can just lower your shutter speed instead of having to shoot at 2.8. You’ll still be able to get sharp images. The autofocusing speed (even on older Sony bodies) is lighting fast. We never had a problem hitting focus.

Where you will really be amazed is when you check your images for sharpness. We had to do a double take when we first used this lens because the images made our jaws drop. When shooting at f4, the images are beyond razor sharp, colors produced are beautifully saturated, and there is no hint of fringing or distortion. The levels of bokeh that can be produced are simply amazing. You will be amazed that a 70-200mm f4 can produce such dreamy bokeh. Sony absolutely nailed it with this piece of glass.

If you are a portrait photographer, shoot Sony bodies, and want to save some money (a lot of it) buy the 70-200mm f4 G OSS over the f2.8 model. Your clients, and almost nobody else will know the difference, but your wallet certainly will. At over a grand cheaper than it’s bigger brother, the F4 70-200mm G OSS is a game changer. It’s one of the must own telephoto lenses on the platform.

Buy now ($1,398): Amazon

 

Sony 70-200mm F4 Image Quality

 

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.