Why Every Photographer Should Have an 85mm Lens in Their Bag

The 85mm lens is genuinely a very versatile lens that can be of use to any photographer.

Do you have an 85mm lens in your bag? Some photographers may think that this is a lens that is too specialized for a variety of shooting situations. But in truth, these lenses have been improved over the years to include better options, weather sealing and things like even closer focusing. And no matter what camera system I’ve been on, I’ve had an 85mm lens in my bag that has become a staple that I’ve needed.

Here’s what I think every photographer needs an 85mm lens.


It’s obvious that the 85mm lens is important in the world of portraits. Though some photographers like longer lenses, an 85mm lens arguably provides the most versatility. Why?

  • It cuts down a lot on distortion
  • Bokeh
  • Closer focusing
  • The shorter focal length gives you a lot of room to work with
  • These lenses are typically small

And beyond this, there hasn’t been a single 85mm lens put out in the past 10 years that has been terrible for portraiture.




An 85mm lens for sports? Well, yes. I never thought so, but then I had the opportunity to shoot with photographer Patrick Murphy Racey. He taught me that if you’re shooting basketball, the 85mm lens can be the perfect option for a number of instances.

Obviously this isn’t going to work with football, but it’s possible to make the most of a lens like this.



Candid Moments

Street photographers and photographers that are scared to shoot candid moments can rely on an 85mm lens. It allows you to truly just capture the moment because you’re far enough from most subjects and can be inconspicuous. To that end, I recommend that every photographer doing this check their intentions.


The Bokeh


The bokeh of an 85mm lens is gorgeous. You can use this to tell a better story and to really direct where people pay attention in the frame. This is the standard in cinematic story telling and you’ve got the same thing going on here with an 85mm lens.



The Sharpness

85mm lenses in the past 10 years have improved quite a bit when it comes to their image quality. Across the board, in the past 5 years or so these lenses have vastly improved because of the major innovations to optical designs and technology.


Some of Our Favorite 85mm Lenses

Model: Grace Morales

Sony 85mm f1.8 and 85mm f1.4 G Master: Sony’s 85mm lenses are fantastic. There is a budget option that is solid and then a higher end version for the folks who demand that. Read our review (f1.8 and f1.4).

Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art: When the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art was released. We were very excited. If you’re looking for the standard in 85mm DSLR lenses, this is the one to get. Read our review.

Tamron 85mm f1.4 Di VC USD: Tamron stands out a whole lot from the pack because of the integrated weather sealing in addition to the image stabilization. You can’t go wrong with this lens. Read our review.

Rokinon 85mm f1.2 SP: The f1.2 lens is the one to get if you want all the bokeh; but it’s manual focus. Read our review.

Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus: If you’re looking for the top of the line. Read our review.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.