Portrait Glass for a Canon 5D

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by d._schuler, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. I have a Canon 5D and I'm interested in buying a lens especially for portraiture (particularly bridal and photojournalism). I've just spent a ton on a few lenses and a new camera, so I'm hoping to really pinch some pennies on my newest glass purchase. Any ideas on the best portrait glass for a Canon 5D?
    Any suggestions would be very much appreciated. Thanks.
  2. You didn't list what you have currently. That might help cut focus (no pun intended) the suggestions a little.
    Something in the short telephoto range is what's usually recommended. What have you so far? I'm guessing you probably don't already have the 85mm L or you'd not be asking. There is a soft-focus 85mm that might be helpful for portraiture, since it softens some of the features... makes a nice portrait lens and doesn't cost what L glass costs.
  3. Thanks Thomas. I currently have two lenses: the 70-300mm f4 and the 18-50mm f2.8 (both by Sigma). I was just looking at an 85mm Canon, which was recommended to me by a photographer acquaintance. I'm currently building my collection, so I don't want to spend tons, but I am willing to sacrifice for quality. I just don't want to part with too much more money at the moment.
    Any suggestions?
  4. Canon 85mm f/1.8, much less expensive than the L-version and delivers stunning portraits.
  5. I thought that the Sigma 18-50 2.8 you already have would not work on a 5D.
    From the reviews that i have read, the Canon 85 1.2 or 85 1.8 and the 135 2 are the lenses for portrait on a full frame camera.
    The 50 1.8 is a good focal length for portraits on a crop sensor camera, it is the cheapest lens from Canon. So maybe you can start of with that.
  6. Hi Marcel, I don't know if the previous versions didn't work with the 5d, but I just recently purchased mine and it was a newer version (they had an older version available that I bought mistakenly and then returned). But my lens does work with my 5d, thank goodness.
    Thanks for the recommendations. I'm probably going to go with the 85/1.8.
  7. 'The best' and pinching pennies don't quite go together, but your Pounds/Dollars will go a helluva long way with the afore mentioned 50mm 1.8 and a 85mm 1.8 combo...
  8. Thanks Juergen, that seems to be the one I'm leaning towards. Do you know of any similar options by Sigma? At this point, I'll probably purchase the Canon, but it would be great if Sigma had a similar option for less. :eek:/
  9. Mike, why the two of them, as opposed to just the 85mm/1.8?
  10. Yeah, the 85, 1.8 is very nice.
  11. Off topic ... but ... regardless of which version of the Sigma 18-50/2.8 you have, none of the two version is intended to be used on a fullframe camera like the 5D. It does physically mount, and it will take images, but it will badly vignette. Look at the name of the lens ... it contains a "DC" designator. This is Sigmas way to indicate this lens is to be used on crop-1.6 cameras.
  12. Either the 85mm f1.8 or the 100mm f2.0 are ideal portrait lenses on a full frame camera and are essentially designed to be just that. There's no real need to pay for the 'L' glass in this focal length unless you really don't care about money or you rely on your gear to make a living. Even then the 'L' lenses are not strictly better options as both the lenses I mention are excellent and some of the best lenses Canon makes especially considering the attractive price.
    I use the 100mm f2.0 a lot, originally on a film camera but I continue to use it as a portrait lens on my crop sensor 40D. It has a 160mm equivelent in this case so gives things a flat 'fashion' look but still a good choice for me.
    The choice of 85mm or 100mm is really just up to preference, I went with the 100mm because it seemed a more versatile choice alongside a 50mm standard.
  13. What's wrong with using your 70-300 f4 zoom at say, 100mm?
    My 24-105 f4 performs nicely wide open at that focal length, nice bokeh etc. The 5D (original) also performs very nicely at high ISO.
    I think the fewer lenses you have to switch between, the more likely you will be to nail shots you'd otherwise miss while fiddling with rear lens caps.
  14. ALSO:
    - you can use your 18-50mm f2.8 at 50mm f2.8- a very usable focal length and aperture for portraits
    - keep in mind that the 85mm f1.8 shot wide open will leave you needing very critical focus due to the shallow depth of field. You'll probably end up stopping down a little bit, to 2.8 or 4 just to ensure that what you want in focus is indeed in focus.
  15. Rainer, thank you for that information. You're absolutely right, I didn't realize. Now I'm not sure of what to do with this lens...hold on to it in case I purchase another model camera (not likely in the next year, at least), or sell it. I haven't even used it yet. Frustrating.
  16. If you can take it back to where you bought it and swap it for something else, I would do that.
    I haven't tried the Sigma 18-50, but my Tamron 17-50/2.8 (which is also intended for crop-1.6 only) will vignette at every focal length when used on fullframe, not just a bit, but severe. I moved to fullframe recently, so I'm just selling all crop-1.6 stuff. A nice and relatively well priced lens for the 5D is the Tamron 28-75/2.8, which is in the same pricerange as your 18.50/2.8 Sigma.
  17. Thanks Rainer, I'm researching the Tamron right now. Looks like I'll be purchasing two lenses, now! Both of which I'll definitely research here on this site as well, before purchasing. :eek:/
  18. Dina, with very few exceptions, Canon EF lenses are optically better than EF-mount third party lenses. If I want a particular EF lens that I can't quite afford new, I pick up a used copy. You might wnat to consider doing likewise.
    I would concur with those who have recommended the 85/1.8 or the 100/2. I have the latter, and it's very good. Apparently, these two lenses have very similar characteristics. The 135/2 L is apparently stellar (some claim that it's the best prime Canon makes), and not too long for portraiture on a full frame body.
    My favourite portrait lens is the FD 85/1.2 L, but I'm afraid that I won't be shelling out almost two grand for its EF equivalent anytime soon!
  19. Dina, given what you have on hand, as others mentioned, the 85 or 100 are both good choices... and I can highly recommend the 135L... I have it, use it, love it, and am not sure how I'd get along without it. It plus my 24-70L are my two absolute favorites. Depth of field with the 135 can be beautifully played with... down to a hair-thin slice if you shoot wide open.
  20. The traditional "portrait" lens for 35mm was between 75-105mm. The 85mm lenses recommended are wonderful for this application on the 24x36mm sensor cameras like yours.
    However, you don't always want crispness and high contrast in a portrait. That's one reason Canon made a 135mm f/2.8 lens with soft-focus capabilities. It's a little long for portraiture, but the soft-focus feature can smooth a lot of wrinkles.
    Other "soft-focus" lenses exist. It should be understood that soft focus is not just out-of-focus, however (link ), so the effect is not precisely duplicated by blurring in post-processing.
    In any case, there was an interesting soft-focus portrait lens imported by Spiratone some years ago, and it sells for much cheaper than an EF 85mm. It was called the "Portragon" (100mm f/4). It will work with a T-adapter on any EOS camera. Another soft focus lens is something called the Sima Soft Focus lens, but it is somewhat less useful than the Portragon in my opinion, although with various "waterhouse stops " it provides a range of different effects.
    Finally, a bargain solution for a great portrait lens, though not a soft-focus one, is the Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 lens. Considered by many to be one of the finest lenses ever made by Nikon, it works just fine in manual mode with an adapter on EOS cameras. If you look for non-AI lenses, you can often pick this up very inexpensively.
    I expect that your wisest choice is to get one of the 85mm EF lenses, but these alternatives may be something you want to consider having in your personal kit for different kinds of portraiture.
    Manual focus is also not such a problem in portraiture, since you will often want to manual focus any lens to make sure the critical parts of the portrait (e.g., the eyes) are as sharp as you can get them. No AF can second guess this kind of focus.
  21. canon 85 mm f1.8 is a superb lens you will be very happy with it.
  22. Well, one way to make this decsion is to review the photos of high end photographers like Todd Laffler and Jeff ascough, and see what lenses they are using, and then use that as a guide. They each have images and interviwes here on photo net. Cost factor aside, the L lenses are superior, thats the way it is.
    So, for portraits, its pretty much 85 1.8; 85 1.2; or 135. The 85 1.2 is pretty much the defacto lens here, but its slow as a snail to focus, and costs a fortune. But it is the best. It just produces images that are different than the 1.8. Go to flickr, search the groups for the 85 1.2, and 85 1.8; you'll get a feel for the differences in images. Take a look on phot net for Todd Lafflers 85 1.2 images, they will also show you whats possible. The trade off is always $$$$.
  23. With full frame 5D one of the best and often overlooked portrait lenses is the 100mm 2.0. Depending on the application the 85mm, 100mm or the 135mm L 2.0 are all in the ball park. I've even seen some great portraits of shy subjects with the 200mm 2.8. Obviously the 70-200mm 2.8 covers the whole gamut. You certainly can't go wrong with the very fine 100mm 2.0. Good luck!
  24. The EF 135 2.8 SF is an excellent portrait lens on FF and one of Canon's bargains at $225 or so new. Without the dial-in soft focus enabled, it's tack sharp. Twist the dial to add soft focus effects. Although it uses an AFD motor, AF is very fast due to the internal focus design. Finally this lens is petite and easy to keep in your bag. Needs only 52mm filters!
  25. nrb


    I'm on the market for a EF 85 f1.8 for my 5D portraits too. In the meantime I'm using manual focus tamron 90 and 90 elmarit for this purpose and I like the results. Tele-zooms like the 80-200 or 28-200 can do it too.
  26. 135L
    Save your pennies and you will be rewarded.
  27. It might be best to use the equipment you have allready got, before spending more money on lenses, if the 18-50 works I wonder if its 50D you have not a 5D.
  28. I would also recommend the 85mm f1.8 as a great, reasonably priced portrait lens. However, if I was in your shoes and with limited glass, I would take a long look at the 100mm f2.8 Macro lens. As well as being a wonderful macro lens, which would open up new horizons for you, it is also an exemplary portrait lens. It's a useful focal length and perspective for portraits (between the often recommended 85mm and 135mm focal lengths), has good bokeh and extremely high IQ (as good as or better than any of the zooms - L or not).
    The 100mm f2.8 macro is only around $100 more than the 85mm f1.8 - that's a small price to pay for a lot more functionality.
  29. For a FF camera, my choice would be between a 100mm and a 135mm. John suggested the 100mm 2.8 macro which is a great lens, but even less expensive is the 100mm 2.0. This lens wide open is outstanding for portraits. If you don't mind a longer focal length, the 135mm 2.0 L. is a terrific portrait lens as well, however it is much heavier & more expensive than the 100mm 2.0.
  30. I recently purchased the Canon EF 85/1.8, and it's a lovely portrait lens - very sharp, right from max aperture, and with beautiful bokeh and color rendition. Pix from it have the instantly recognizable look of output from a great, as opposed to decent, lens. Case in point: pix from my EF 28-105mm, at 85mm, vs from the 85/1.8. The 28-105 is a nice lens, with decent sharpness and contrast; the 85 is a great lens.
  31. For the 5D I would suggest the 85 F1.8 or the 100 F2 are a marked step up from zooms. I use the 24-70 f2.8 and the 70-200 f2.8 canons and the 85 F1.8 is a significant step up. On the FD series I have the 85 F1.2 and the 135 F2.0. As Mark Pierlot points out the FD85 F1.2 is an amazing portrait lens and I suspect the EF 85mm F1.2 is even butter but it is $2000. You will probably find 135mm is too long. The FD135 F2.0 that I have is a great lens (in those days it was not considered L series) but is a bit too long for most portraits. The 18-50 is too short unless you are looking for unusual portraits.
  32. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I'm interested in buying a lens especially for portraiture (particularly bridal and photojournalism)."

    Firstly, assuming you (can) / will replace the Sigma 18 to 50 DC, I suggest, the replacement be the EF24 70 F2.8L or, as money seems the major consideration then look at the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG HSM or the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG MACRO.

    It seems to me priority should be to correct the 18 to 50 purchase error - what you choose as a replacement for that lens, impacts upon the question being asked and in fact if you will then have the need, or funds to purchase another lens anyway.


    That said, “Favorite Portrait” lenses are quite personal – but for “Bridal Portraiture” using a 5D, I use 50/1.4, 85/1.8, 100/2.8 Macro and 135/2L: the most flexible of that set, if one lens only is to be purchased, is the 50/1.4, as it can accommodate Full Length with long train, to a close Half Shot with little foreshortening when used close in, and still enough feel of compression at full length, if the lighting is held soft enough, the DoF controlled and, consideration is given to the postion of the Subject's head. 1/4 profile seems to work very well at Full Legnth Portraiture, employing a shallow DoF.

    I do not know exactly what you mean by “Photojournalism Portraiture” but if you are addressing the definitive (historic) Photojournalist approach to Portraiture – the 50 is also the answer, perhaps even a 35.

    On a budget, the Canon options are the 50/1.8MkII and the 35/2, both will work well on the 5D.

    IMO the 50/1.4 is a better Portrait lens, (than the 50/1.8MkII) because of better Bokeh, especially when used, from F2.2 or F2.4 through to F3.5 or F4 – mainly I think, because of the extra blades.

    But as I implied above, if you get a 24 – 70 F2.8, likely this purchase needs a big re-think, especially if you do not see the requirement to use any (prime) lens, at an aperture wider than F2.8.

  33. I just picked up the 135mm 2.8 used for $150. I is a sharp lens on my cropped sensor.(like 200mm 2.8) It would work great for you on your 5D.
  34. I like the working distance to subject of my 100mm 2.8 for portrait. It is very sharp I some time soften the image in PS a bit depending on subject.
  35. Dina, I second the suggestion of using the 70-300 wide open. And if you have enough room when shooting, I daresay even at 200mm wide open, you'll get some very good bokeh. Distance of subject from background also plays a big role, of course.
    <p>I would, as William rightly said, address the 18-50 issue and, once done, use the resultant kit to figure out what works and what doesn't as far as focal lengths are concerned and what you hope to achieve. No need going out to buy the excellent lenses proposed here if they are not what you NEED but rather what you THINK you need.

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