Could you recommend me a budget portrait lens for full frame DSLR?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by alan_kovarik, Jun 27, 2011.

  1. I already have 28mm and 50mm. Now I need something above 70mm. Maybe zoom. Definitely with AF working with Canon EF DSLR (Canon 5D Mark II).
    Is there something usable bellow or around $200? (New or used lens)
  2. A beater (ugly grade) EF 85 1.8 USM is your ticket to bokeh nirvana. I sold my mint one with hood & box for $300 last year.
  3. Amen to that! 85mm 1.8 - can't beat it!
  4. Thats too expensive for me at this moment. I will buy this lens maybe in the future, but now I neet something cheaper for start.
  5. Alan, I agree the 85MM 1.8 is your best option. Consider buying used or selling an unused item to offset the cost. The best portrait lenses are fast with a max aperture of 1.8 or more (smaller number). Wide aperture lenses give the best background blur, which most portrait photographers seek.
    A cheap 50MM 1.8 will work, but the focal length is not optimum for portraits on a FF body.
  6. Depending on your luck (and lens prices are going up these days) a nice non-AI Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 is one of the all-time great portrait lenses and can sell for considerably less (a recent BIN asking price was just under US$90) than the 85mm f/1.8. A simple adapter will cost little and can be used for any other Nikon F mount lenses too.
    It will be focus open, close down for shooting and TTL metering in Av mode.
  7. Canon 85 F1.8 - if this is too expensive you have limited options. You might find an Olympus 85 F2 for around $200 (the Nikon Manual focus 85 F2 is likely to be more but is an option) but you will need a cheap adaptor - about $50 for either Nikon or Olympus.
    The only other things that come to mind are a Tamron 90mm Macro but in EF mount this is likely to be out of your budget (as is the Sigma 105mm Macro). You might just be able to find a Manual Focus Tamron Adaptall 2 90mm F2.8 Macro and then you can buy an adaptor for about $25-30.
    In general portrait lenses are not cheap for full frame as you cannot pull the 50mm F1.8 trick. The 85 F1.8 is actually a real bargain of a lens for the quality you get. Apart from specialist portrait lenses the best options are macro lenses of around 100mm. Indeed the Canon 100 F2.8 Macro is another great lens but a similar price to the 85 F1.8
  8. If you can't get a used Canon EF 85/1.8 and you want autofocus then your next best choice is a used Canon EF 70-210mm f3.5-4.5 USM. has a couple at under $200 USD. They have good image quality, are lightweight, and focus very quickly and quietly. At least in the 70-85mm range it is a relatively fast f3.5 for throwing the foreground/background out of focus.
  9. Do you really think the Canon $350 85 f/1.8 is too expensive for you $2700 Canon 5D Mark II?
  10. Save your money until you can buy a 100/2 or 85/1.8. Until then, use your 50mm, take a couple steps back and crop - if you crop to about 8MP, you will have a field of view of about an 80mm lens. The bokeh won't be as nice, but if you watch your background carefully, you will do well.
  11. Thanks for replies. Everybody is mentioning Canon lenses... What about Sigma, Tamron, Tokina lenses for Canon?
  12. Well because Sigma, Tamron, Tokina only make macro type (read: expensive) optics in the 85 to 135mm prime category. If $200 for a used 85 1.8 USM or 100 2.0 USM beater is too much, save up for a few months. Otherwise the only slightly cheaper alternatives are el crappo slow zooms or old manual optics with adapters.
    Another great affordable portrait lens is the EF 135 2.8 SF. Focus is a little slower than the 85 1.8 but it's still plenty fast and is pin sharp but with dial in diffusion. I sold a mint one for $275 not too long ago so I bet a beater ain't too far north of 2 bills.
  13. For $200? you are joking right? I'm not sure why you'd think you can find a decent piece of glass for less than $200 unless it's at an estate sale...
    The closest thing to a decent piece of glass you should expect to find in that price range is a 50/1.8. IMO, dump the 5D2, get a 5D + a Sig 50/1.4 and a 85/1.8. You'll be far happier when shooting portraits at least.
  14. As puppy says - the only way I can see you get under $200 with a quality lens is to find a used (old and manual focus) Tamron 90 F2.8 Macro with the adaptall system and buy an EF mount for it. The old Tamron system was designed for use on many manufacturers with a user changeable mount. Once the mount is added it stays on the lens so in use you do not notice it.
    If you want AF and automatic aperture you need an EF lens. There has not been a market for cheap primes in this focal length for many many years. You can buy a manual focus 135mm lens from long ago (say the Vivitar 135 F2.8) and add an adaptor - Contax, Nikon, Minolta and Olympus all work well and some adaptors even have an AF confirmation chip. On the 5DII you are likely to see quality issues with any of the cheap lenses. Unfortunately good lenses (even old ones) in this focal length are expensive. You might find a Mamiya M645 (medium format) 80 F2.8 for about $100 and add an adaptor for perhaps $50. This will actually give you a good quality combination although it is MF only. Sigma makes an 85 F1.4 and used to make a 105 macro but the 85 is almost $1000 and the Macro will be $350+ used. Tamron has their 90 Macro for about $400 new and the Tokina 100 Macro is about $400 new as well.
    If you get anywhere close to $400 you may as well buy the Canon 85 F1.8. Unfortunately most of these lenses hold their value used. Here is a review of using the Mamiya 80mm (the F1.9 is better but out of your price range). I use mine on a Tilt Shift adaptor and while perhaps not as good as the Canon 90 TS it works very well. The quality is very good on the 5DII so while it is inconvenient it will work and you should get the lens and the adaptor (not the tilt shift they are about $450) for under $200.
  15. Look for a used Vivitar/Phoenix/Cosina brand 100mm f3.5 macro. Build quality is only average, but optically it is quite good. Even when new they weren't much over 100 USD.
  16. Just a question to satisfy my own curiosity...
    Why would you put a $200 piece of glass on a $2700 camera?
    Personally, I'd rather a $2000 piece of glass on a $900 camera...same budget, better results, (supposing you know how to use both the camera and lens to their fullest potential).
    Being a Nikon shooter, but knowing the Canon system fairly well, I think everyone here is pointing you to the proper lens...the 85mm f/1.8. Great lens, budget minded, and one of the most commonly used focal lengths for portraits. Spend the extra money and get the right glass the first'll save you money in the long run.
  17. BTW, what do you think about Samyang 85mm 1.4 for Canon?
  18. Doesn't the Samyang 85mm have manual focus and stopdown metering?
  19. Doesn't the Samyang 85mm have manual focus and stopdown metering?​
    Yes, but at a whopping $280, it's beyond the Alan's budget anyway.
  20. Look for a used Vivitar/Phoenix/Cosina brand 100mm f3.5 macro. Build quality is only average, but optically it is quite good. Even when new they weren't much over 100 USD.​
    Excellent suggestion. However, I would change your wording from "Build quality is only average" to "Build quality is downright disgraceful". I have this lens and use it on my 5D2. The image quality really is excellent, far beyond what most people would expect. I think this is probably Alan's best option. Not only will he have a great portrait lens, he'll have a good macro lens too. Just be careful not to drop it!
    Why would you put a $200 piece of glass on a $2700 camera?​
    Er... because it's economical and the image quality is great? I regularly use my £70 Canon 50mm f1.8 and my £99 Soligor 100mm f3.5 on my 5D MkII with great results.
  21. BTW, what do you think about Samyang 85mm 1.4 for Canon?​
    I think JDM had the right idea. I've owned a Nikon 85mm f1.4, 105mm f2.5, and 135mm f2.0 for years. On full frame (film, Nikon D3, Canon 5D II) the 85mm f1.4 is the least used of the three, by far.
    • I prefer the 135mm focal length, and it's the one most likely to get used when I'm already psyched up for "big and heavy", i.e. I've got the D3 out.
    • I prefer the image quality (bokeh of the OOF part of the image, sharpness for the in-focus part), weight, and size of the 105mm f2.5 Ai-S, and it's the one that spends the most time on the 5D II.
    • On an APS camera, I prefer the 85mm f1.4. On a Canon 1.6x crop APS, it's a 135mm f2.2 equivalent, but more compact than a full 135mm f2.0. But on a FF, it's a lens I acquired long after I got the more crucial 135mm focal length well under control. It's a "specialist" lens, the 105mm or 135mm is a "generalist".
    The 105mm f2.5 has also got something few zooms have: it's unintimidating, especially on the diminutive 5D II. There are subjects that freeze when they see something like the D3 or a 1Ds III and a 135mm f2, or worse yet, a 70-200mm f2.8. A friend of mine refers to the hood on that as a "claw", instead of the more common term "petal hood".
    Oh, and as far as the "stop down metering" issue...
    It's portraiture, you're not blasting away on motor drive, you're thinking, and you're talking with your subject. You've got time, relax, meter, focus, chill...
  22. Ditto on the Phoenix/Cosina 100mm f3.5 Macro.
    I had one of those from B&H used for $120 (Pentax AF mount). The mechanical quality is amazingly bad (Canon EF 50mm f1.8 class, probably worse and definitely much noisier) but the optical quality is pretty good, I could not tell any difference between it and the Pentax 100mm f2.8 Macro (or for that matter my current Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro).
    One thing though at f3.5 the bokeh is nowhere as pleasing, and it's a bit hard-edged. Macros are not really designed for good bokeh though, but for flat field at close distances.
    That said I have both the Canon 100 Macro and the 85 1.8 and.. the 85 is a much better portrait lens. It AF's a tiny bit faster, but the f1.8 aperture is gorgeous. the 50mm f1.8 @ 1.8 has somewhat.. unpleasant bokeh, that the 85 does not have wide-open. I use the 85 at around f2.2 though to sharpen it up a bit, there's some veiling and loss of contrast at 1.8.
  23. alternatively you can get the M42-mount Jupiter-9 f2. I had one of those before. It's an ancient pre-WW2 Sonnar formulation. The bokeh is a bit busy though, at the time it was all I had and I thought it was great, but frankly the Canon 85 has better bokeh and AF's!
    Jupiter-9's can be had cheap (or used to, under $100) but they are mechanically terrible, like a Russian tank - you can't break them, but focusing them will tax your fingers and your patience. And of course manual stop-down as well. I used mine at f2.8 to f4 most of the time and didn't bother to focus wide-open then stop down (just used it stopped-down all the time).
  24. Any lens you've got can be used as a portrait lens - just take portraits with it.
    My personal view is that a gifted portrait photographer will take good portraits - insightful, revealing, etc - with anything. Someone who doesn't have that gift will not take such portraits even with the best lens in the world on their camera. Have a look at the work of Jane Bown, portraitist for the Observer for over 40 years - she used a Rolleiflex at first, and since the 1970s an Olympus OM SLR with a standard lens.
  25. You are right Tom. A lot of good portraits can be done wtih my 28mm and 50mm lenses (long shots, medium shots), but sometimes you need tighter shots. I also have 135mm Carl Zeiss Jena 3.5. Good cheap lens, but shooting with manual focus could be very tedious :)
  26. why would you buy a Hummer and can't fill up the gas every other day? I'm in the wrong thread. :)
  27. Peter Langfelder has made a practical suggestion and a good one.
  28. If you cannot afford a $300 lens, then you might want to consider selling your 5d2 and get a 5dc. It is just as good in the IQ department. And you free up $1000 to go towards stuff that matters most. You can get that 85 1.8, a flash, and another cheap zoom like the 28-105 USM II.
    Failing that, just save up. I am reminded of a bloke that drove around in late model sports car that went to a track day with Wal Mart tires.
  29. I'd agree that the Jupiter (née Sonnar) 85mm f/2 is another good alternative. I've got a couple of them in various mounts and the IQ is outstanding, I think equal to the German originals, and the newer ones have newer lens coatings as well. A more expensive (nowadays) copy of the Sonnar was made by Nikon after the war, after the German patents were open to the world's use.
    Old lenses can be stiff, but I think Orlando just needs to work his lens, perhaps with a mere whiff of naphtha to loosen it up. At the worst, a good dis-assembly and cleaning will probably make it like new. My Jupiter-9s don't have that problem, which honestly I have more trouble with on the pre- and post-WWII copies of any lenses. The old ones were sometimes lubed to make them smooth, and the stuff has 'set' up.
  30. Some of you (Philip To, Marcus Ian, Richard Snow, Chinh Nguyen) could phrase their opinions a little more friendly.
    Anyway, there's nothing woring with using cheaper glass on a more expensive camera.
    It's an interchangeable lens system. You can put the best glass you can afford in front of it for your most precious subjects and when the subject is less important or the funcings are low you can use whatever lens you like.
    That said, in the price range the OP is searching there's not a lot of choice in the Canon range. I like the suggestions of second hand off-brand manual focus lenses (like the nikkor 105) and I second the suggestion of a second hand Canon EF 135 2.8 SF.
    Good luck, Matthijs.
  31. I like the comments like this one...
    Do you really think the Canon $350 85 f/1.8 is too expensive for you $2700 Canon 5D Mark II?​
    It makes a lot more sense when you keep in mind that a 5D is a very cheap camera, comparable to an old EOS Elan 7, under $300. It simply comes boxed with $2,400 in film that you had to purchase up front.
    So, from that point of view, yes, $350 primes are "exotic" for Elan and Rebel owners. Not that you don't see some unusual combinations, but sure, $100 lenses like a "plastic fantastic" "nifty fifty" 50mm f1.8 are perfectly at home on a 5D II, just like a used $100-150 Nikon 105mm f2.5.
  32. $ 2400 in film.
    That's -I'd say- (2400 / 5$ per roll plus development * 36 exposures) 17.280 shots.
    Hmmm... I think I hit that within 12 months of owning one.
    Interesting view of things.
  33. I recommend the zoom EF 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM. It is really impressive lens with Canon 5D and it cost around $200 for like NEW. I have one and I agree with the score given by DXO Lab. test.
  34. I have used the 28-135mm both with my Elan II and 50D for portraits (when I didn't have any other primes), and I think it can give reasonably sharp images wide open. It also covers the range from 80-135mm which worked great for me for different types of portraits. A used one shouldn't cost too much more than $ 200...
  35. One approach not metioned is to use your 50mm lens at 85mm distance or whatever and CROP the image file. The 5dII has plenty of pixels to permit this for all but very large prints. Meanwhile save your money for an 85mm f:1.8 lens. KEH currently has a good used one for $350.

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