Help please. Canon 50mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.8

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by ron_brown|6, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. I need a good Prime lens for my 400D for shooting some good closeup and portraits. I'm not a professional photographer so I can't afford more than a few hundred dollars. I'm stuck between a 50mm 1.4 and a 85mm 1.8. If any professionals or anyone with any knowledge of these two lenses could help with a little advice or opinion, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks all.....
  2. You can come close to the EF 50mm f/1.4 lens -- which is a very fine lens-- for much less money, if that's a problem. At least look at the EF 50mm f/1.8 (the "Plastic Fantastic"). It looks cheap, is cheap, and is both durable and a fine shooter, especially on an APS-C body. It can be bought used, usually, for under US$100 on eBay or slightly more with some guarantee from KEH, B&H, or Adorama and such.
    Also consider the other lenses you mention in good used condition. I personally would find the 85mm f/1.8 a little long for day-in-and-out portraiture on APS-C, but that's partly a matter of taste.
  3. The 400D sports a CMOS senor chip that measures 14.8mm x 22.2mm. If we mount a lens about equal to the diagonal measure of this rectangle, we realize what is termed as a normal view. For this camera, that is about 25mm. If we mount a longer lens, we get more magnification (telephoto). If we mount a shorter lens, we enter into the realm of wide-angle. Note that the kit zoom usually sold with this camera has a zoom focal length of 18 - 55mm. Note the approximate center of the zoom range is 25mm.
    Now for portraiture a moderate telephoto is considered best. This is because a longer than normal lens forces the photographer to back when composing a head and shoulder shot. This increased working distance delivers a preferred perspective that prevents the size of the nose from appearing too big and the ears too small. In others words a longer than normal lens is judged best. A s rule of thumb (not engraved in stone) 2.5x the diagonal is a good starting point. Thus 25mm x 2.5 = 62mm. The 50mm will slightly reduce the ideal camera to subject working distance whereby the 85 will force you to step back too far for comfort.
  4. Between the two lenses, the 85 is a far better buy. It autofocuses faster and is sharper than the 50.
  5. Between the 50mm & 85mm with the crop sensor, I'd think you'd be happier in the long run with the 50mm.
    You may also want to check into the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 for a bit more versatility and about the same money as the 50 f/1.4.
  6. I agree that 85mm is a little long for portaiture on an APS-C body, particularly indoors, and that therefore you'd be better off with the 50/1.4.
    Neither lens would be very good for close-ups, however, given their relatively long minimum focusing distances.
  7. Between the two lenses, the 85 is a far better buy. It autofocuses faster and is sharper than the 50.​
    +1 and ditto. It's a no-brainer decision to get the 85mm -- as long as you realize it's a definite telephoto lens on your 400D. You'll never regret the 85, the 50... I think you would. Some day Canon will fix all the problems the 50 1.4 has. Unfortunately I've been saying those words for too many years.
  8. Some day Canon will fix all the problems the 50 1.4​
    There is always the Sigma 50mm f/1.4, love that lens.
    some good closeup and portraits​
    The 85mm will do just fine. The 50mm will be more of a general purpose lens than the 85mm will, but if I were getting any 50mm, it would be the Sigma (or the f/1.2 Canon!).
  9. I prefer the 85/1,8 for head shoots and even head and shoulder over the 50/1,4. For larger parts is the 50 mm to prefer.
    A very flexible alternative to primes is the Tamron 28-75 2,8.
  10. I've got the full framer Tamron 28-75 2.8 and it as flexible as you mention on the Canon 60D, it definitely has its advantages. I use is all the time for portrait work in all kinds of lighting.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I have both lenses; and occasionally use a 400D.
    If you are making Portraits, when shooting indoors, the 50mm lens will be easier to work with, as the Shooting Distances will be easier to manage.
    Both lenses are quite sharp and for (most) Portraiture you will be working at F/2.8 or smaller and you can make very sharp images from either lens, at those apertures.
    However the 85/1.8 is noticeably “exceptionally sharp” at F/1.8.
    The 50/1.4 is reasonably sharp at F/1.4, on a 400D (as the smaller image sized sensor only records the guts of the Image Circle).
    “Close-ups” is a phrase which I ponder when I read it – if you mean: “a tight head shot” then either lens will do that more than acceptably – but you will be standing farther back with the 85/1.8 loaded: and the perspective (especially on the nose) will be slightly different, but often not at all noticeable.
    If you mean “close-ups” like getting close to “macro”, then a small investment in a set of Extension Tubes would be a good idea: Kenko sell a set of three. The extension tubes will work with either lens and provide a suitable working distances for “close-up photography".
    Certainly the EF85/1.8 has a faster AF than the 50/1.4, but I have not found the AF on the 50/1.4 all, that bothersome, to me: but yes it can be a pain in low light levels.
    You might consider that you can get the best of both Focal Lengths by considering buying the 85/1.8 and the 50/1.8mkII: do not be fooled by the price tag on the 50/1.8MkII, it can produce some very nice portraits.

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