Under $1000: The Affordable 85mm Primes That Are Bokeh Beasts

If you are planning to jump into the world of portrait photography, you might want to check out these affordable 85mm primes.

There is a huge misconception about portrait photography (and many other genres of photography) that you need to spend boatloads of cash on very fast lenses to be able to create portraits that will stun people: this simply isn’t true. There are 85mm primes on the market that produce razor-sharp images with stunning bokeh that won’t break the bank, but these lenses are often overlooked. If you are planning to get into portrait photography, don’t let photography elitists make you believe that you need to spend thousands. Trust us when we say that the 85mm primes we share with you after the break are more than good enough for most.

The 85mm primes we list below punch well above their price; we can promise you. You’re going to find lenses here with genuinely excellent optics that produce sharp images, beautiful bokeh, and gorgeous colors. Most of the 85mm primes we list here are well under $1,000, so if you’re a working photographer, you’ll be able to pay for these lenses with just a couple of photoshoots. You’ll be pleased with the performance of these lenses, and your clients will be delighted with the results. Whether you’re a seasoned portrait photographer, or if you are planning to start once we can go back outside, you owe it to yourselves to check out the 85mm primes below.

Rokinon 85mm F1.4 AF FE

Lens deals - Rokinon 85mm f1.4

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • More affordable than Sony’s higher-end option: it’s $699
  • Good image quality
  • Smooth bokeh
  • Sharp image quality
  • Nice colors

Cons

  • Lacks weather sealing. This has been a consistent problem of Rokinon’s. Editor’s Note: Rokinon has updated their specs to say that there is weather sealing.

Buy now Canon EF: $599

Buy now Nikon F: $549.99

Buy now: $649

Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary (84mm Equivalent on APS-C)

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • Lightweight & compact design
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • One of three widest maximum aperture (f1.4) lenses currently available for Crop Sensor Sony E Mount (besides Sigma’s own 16mm and 30mm offerings)
  • Dust and splash-proof design with a rubber gasket integrated found around the lens mount
  • 35mm equivalent focal length of 84mm very nearly matches the 85mm focal length preferred by many portrait photographers
  • It’s less than $500

Cons

  • Lacks optical stabilization
  • Pincushioning is especially noticeable in RAW files, although correctable during post-production
  • While mountable to Full Frame Sony Mirrorless cameras, the lens will only work in crop sensor mode and will otherwise vignette severely, but we expected this

Buy now: Sony E: $429

Nikon Z 85mm F1.8

85mm primes

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Sharp image quality
  • Weather sealing
  • Smallish size
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • It’s held back by Nikon’s autofocusing abilities (or lack thereof), but they’ve gotten better

Buy now: $796.95

lightroom presets
Captured with the Fujifilm X-T3 and the 56mm f1.2

Pro Tip: On the surface, portrait photography looks like it would be an easy genre to step into, but there is a lot more to it than one might think. If you are thinking about stepping into portrait photography, we highly recommend you teach yourself some of the basics first, like what makes a good portrait, how to nail focus, how to light, and so on. This book, from Chris Orwig, is an excellent resource and will teach you all you need to know about how to get the most out of your gear and your subject.

Canon 85mm F1.8 Lens

85mm primes

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • It’s nice and small and feels good in the hand
  • Good build quality that will suit the needs of the portrait genre
  • Fast and quiet when it comes to autofocus
  • Produces great bokeh that’s bound to please
  • Incredibly sharp optics once stopped down a hair

Cons

  • A little soft wide open but it’s not terrible at all
  • The small MF/AF switch

Buy now: $349

Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art

85mm primes

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • A bit of weather sealing, though not much
  • Superb sharpness
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Lots of micro-contrast

Cons

  • It’s massive

Buy now Canon EF: $984.95

Buy now Nikon F: $989

Sony E: $949

Rokinon 85mm F1.2 SP

85mm primes

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Nice bokeh
  • This pretty unique matte like-color rendition that we wish lots of other manufacturers engineered into their lenses
  • Sharp image quality
  • Tough build quality, but no weather sealing
  • F1.2 aperture, which is still tough to work with

Cons

  • No autofocus, which we think that for a lens like this would put it over the top
  • We wish it had weather sealing built-in

Buy now Canon EF: $799

Pro Tip: Taking portrait images is one thing, but editing them is a whole different ball game. There’s a lot to take into consideration when it comes to editing portraits such as getting skin tones and color grading correct, and skin retouching. It doesn’t have to be difficult, though. This Workflow extension for Photoshop will add an easy to use control panel to the user interface that will help you control all of these things and more with a single click. Make life easier on yourself and save some time by grabbing a copy for yourself.

Fujifilm 56mm F1.2 (84mm Equivalent)

85mm primes

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Super sharp wide open. In fact, this is the sharpest lens for mirrorless cameras that we’ve tested
  • Excellent resolution and sharpness when studio lighting is used with it
  • Dreamy bokeh
  • Great feel in the hand
  • In good to fair lighting, its focusing abilities are about as fast as the company’s 35mm f1.4 offering
  • Almost no reason to stop it down, and you’ll be encouraged to shoot wide open

Cons

  • Even though it is an f1.2 lens, we wish the aperture were faster
  • Misfocusing happens a bit more than we’d like it to in low light situations

Buy now: $999

Sony 85mm F1.8 FE

85mm primes

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • Fast-focusing with the Sony a7r II and in good lighting, it will focus quickly with the Sony a7
  • Nice feel, though not as great as the G Master 85mm f1.4 lens
  • Weather resistance built-in
  • Compact size

Cons

  • Honestly, not a darn thing

Buy now: $598