Our Four Favorite 85mm Portrait Lenses Under $1,000 for Thrifty Shooters

Mirrorless cameras
These 85mm portrait lenses will take your images to a whole new level of awesome.

If you’re ready to step up to some new glass that will make your portraits shine, these 85mm portrait lenses will do the trick. 85mm lenses are perfect for portraits thanks to the levels of compression they give, their overall sharpness, fast apertures, creamy bokeh, and their versatility in regards to being able to shoot close up headshots and three quarter body shots with ease. The lenses we’ve chosen excel in all of these areas, and the best part is that they’re each under four figures when it comes to price.

We say it time and time again: you don’t have to spend a king’s ransom in order to get quality lenses. For under $1,000 (in some cases way under), you can get quality lenses that will perform at levels simply unheard of just a few years ago.

When you’re shopping for portrait lenses you need to be sure that the one you pick will perform flawlessly. The four portrait lenses listed below won’t let you down, in fact they’ll make your jaw drop every time you use them. Check out four of our favorite 85mm portrait lenses that cost less than a grand each.

 

Fujifilm 56mm F1.2

 

The Fujifilm 56mm f1.2 is a stunning lens that will wow you every time you use it. When it comes to portrait lenses 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.”

When used on Fujifilm’s APS-C based cameras, the 56mm f1.2 will have the equivalent focal length of an 85mm lens on a Full Frame camera. Inside the all metal body you’ll find 11 elements in eight groups, and seven rounded aperture blades. As we’ve come to expect from Fujifilm, the optics are out of this world.

The images produced by this lens are nothing short of spectacular. From f1.2 and on you’ll find edge to edge sharpness. The colors rendered are truly beautiful, and they’re only enhanced with the great film simulations found in Fujifilm cameras. As you would imagine, shooting at f1.2 will give you some of the creamiest, dreamiest bokeh around. You’ll find no color fringing or distortion either. This lens is a gem.

The lens is a little heavy compared to other prime lenses on the Fujifilm platform, but there’s a lot of glass here, so that’s expected. With that being said. this lens weighs 0.89lbs. The Fujifilm 56mm f1.2 feels nice in the hand; it definitely feels like a premium lens. You’re certainly getting your money’s worth here.

The lens is easy to use for long periods, and it balances nicely on the small, lightweight Fujifilm camera bodies. The 56mm f1.2 focuses fast too. In both good lighting, and low light scenarios you’ll have no issues locking on to your subject quickly.

If you’re a Fujifilm shooter who specializes in portraits, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t own this lens. The price is under $1,000, and it will produce images that will amaze you and your clients. It’s simply one of the best portrait lenses around. But do note: it isn’t weather sealed.

Buy now ($999): Amazon

 

Fujifilm 56mm F1.2 Image Samples

 

Mirrorless cameras

 

Pro Tip: Make sure your images are flawless by keeping your portrait lenses in tip top shape. Specs of dust, water spots, and grease on your glass can ruin images. This basic lens cleaning kit will help you clean up any issues quickly. Make sure you keep one in your bag.

 

Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art

 

There’s no denying that Sigma make beautiful lenses, and the 85mm f1.4 is a one of the best portrait lenses on the market. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 checks all the boxes when it comes to things we look for in portrait lenses (sharp images, fast aperture, fast to focus), and with it’s price right around $1,000, it has to be considered one of the must have portrait lenses.

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 that it’s not a small lens. It’s huge! There’s certainly no mistaking this beast and it’s 86mm front element. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM weighs in at 2.49lbs and because of this you’ll certainly know you’ve been using it after long sessions. Having said that, the lens feels nice in the hands and is easy to use. The large focusing ring offers a great place to grip the lens, and when it comes to manual focusing, the ring is easy to turn. Autofocus speeds are fast, and will give you no problems in both good and poor lighting situations.

Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art

Inside this lens you’re going to find 14 elements in 12 groups, and nine rounded aperture blades. No expense has been spared on the optics in this lens. You’ll get razor sharp images from corner to corner, and the creamy bokeh will make a tear roll down your cheek. You’ll not find a hint of chromatic aberration, color fringing, or distortion of any kind. You can go into any portrait shoot with this lens knowing the results will knock your socks off.

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 is built like a tank. The housing is made out of a premium grade plastic that will handle just about anything you can throw at it during everyday use, and there is the tiniest hint of weather sealing for good measure. You’ll be able to shoot outside in a light rain with no worries, just don’t take it into a downpour.

If you want one of highest quality portrait lenses on the market, you need to look at this 85mm Art series lens from Sigma. If you don’t mind carrying around a lens of this size, you’ll no doubt love having one of the sharpest portrait lenses around.

Buy now Canon ($981.37): Amazon

 

Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Image Samples

 

 

Pro Tip: If you utilize a speed light in your portrait workflow, you’ll benefit greatly by being able to get that light just where you want it. The Rogue Flashbender 2 is the perfect way to manipulate light. It’s attaches to your flash quickly, and it’s easy to modify, which means you can light your subject perfectly every time.

 

Sony 85mm F1.8 FE

 

Just how Sony can sell this lens for the price they do astounds us. Really. Portrait shooters on other platforms have to pay twice the price for a lens of this quality, so believe us when we say that Sony shooters are in for a treat with the 85mm 1.8 FE. For just $598 you can get one of the sharpest lenses on the Sony platform. It’s one of the most affordable 85mm portrait lenses on the market, and it’s right up there with lenses that cost two and three times more when it comes to overall performance.

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’ll find nine elements in eight groups, and nine rounded aperture blades. While the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE may be cheap, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. The plastic feels nice in the hands and is pretty durable. It will certainly stand up to daily use, and will be just fine with the odd bump or bang.

The 85mm f1.8 FE also has some weather sealing which means you can continue to shoot if the weather takes a turn for the worse. It’s not going to survive a hurricane or a nor’easter, but having a little protection is better than nothing. The Sony 85mm f1.8 FE weighs in 1.1lbs so it’s light and manageable for longer shoots. The overall ergonomics of the lens make it a joy to use, and it balances well on the cameras we tested it on (Sony A7 and A7r II).

Now for the good stuff. This lens produces ridiculously sharp images. Only the most hardened of pixel peepers will be able to tell the difference between this lens and the 85mm f1.4 G Master (and that lens costs three times as much as this beauty).

The colors rendered from this lens are natural and the all-important skin tones look great. You’ll get beautiful bokeh when shot wide open, and there isn’t a hint of chromatic aberration or distortion. The lens focuses fast so you’ll have no worry about missing the shots you want. Good light, bad light: it never misses a beat.

When it comes to portrait lenses for Sony shooters you have a lot to choose from, but honestly, the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE is hard to beat. You’re going to get sharp images with beautiful colors, and bokeh that’s positively dreamy. It’s an absolute bargain.

Buy now ($598): Amazon

 

Sony 85mm F1.8 FE Image Samples

 

 

Pro Tip: Make sure you’re prepared for your shoot by keeping plenty of spare SD cards on your person, or in your bag. SD cards can fail, and the last thing you want is to be left on location without a spare.

 

Tamron 85mm F1.8 Di VC USD

 

Tamron has really upped their game over the last few years, and their offerings are not only built incredibly well, but they produce beautiful images too. The Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD is a solid option for portrait photographers who want excellent results without spending a fortune.

In our review we said:

“For what it’s worth, the Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD wipes the floor with everyone else’s lenses except for the newest offerings from Zeiss.”

The Tamron 85mm f1.8 is a stunner in every department. The lightly textured all metal body feels great in the hand and is a step above the rest when it comes to fit, finish, and overall durability. The lens is weather sealed so you can shoot your portraits no matter what the weather is doing. Inside the housing there are 13 elements in nine groups, and nine aperture blades. Photographers used to suffer with slightly weaker images from third party lenses when compared to lenses from the big boys, but that’s not the case here.

Extremely soft light.

Images from this lens positively sing. The bokeh is nothing short of wonderful. It’s dreamy, creamy, and smooth all night and all day. The images are a tad sharper than the Sigma 85mm f1.4, and the colors are very true to life. There is a tiny amount of color fringing; one click of your mouse in Capture One 12, or Lightroom it vanishes into thin air.

The 85mm f1.8 from Tamron is light too. Weighing in at 1.5lbs, this lens is easy to use. It will sit well on the front of your Canon or Nikon DSLR, and won’t cause any issues. The autofocusing speeds are another win for this lens. In both good and low light situations the Tamron is super quick to acquire focus. It’s as fast as any Canon or Nikon offering, which has not always been the case in the past. It’s just another testament to just how far Tamron lenses have come.

The Vibration control will also help you shoot with ease in low light situations. When all of these features combine, you’ve got one outstanding lens in your hands.

For $749 this is one heck of a lens. It’s super sharp, has gorgeous bokeh, and great color rendition. The weather sealing, and its build quality along with everything else makes this one of the best portrait lenses you can get.

Buy now Canon ($749): Amazon

Buy now Nikon ($749): Amazon

 

Tamron 85mm F1.8 Di VC USD Image Samples