Want to know WHY you NEED an 85mm Lens?!

It’s no big secret that many photographers initially reach for their 85mm lens! I know adding 85mm lenses to my arsenal was a BIG deal! I researched my different options for months and came to love the idea of what the 85mm lens could do for my portfolio.

The best part about it and its focal length is what you see, is what you get. Literally.

Many times, camera lenses can distort an image, or don’t have that compressed look you may want to achieve in your photography. This combines both incredible image quality, artistic blur, and very little image distortion.

Read on for more great features of the 85mm lens and why you should potentially consider it as your next prime lens!

85mm Lens

85mm Focal Length

The focal length and shallow depth of field of the 85mm lens are really popular with portrait photographers! In fact, for many, it’s their go-to focal length lens on a session!

The minimum focusing distance or focal length with it is approximately 2.8 feet from your intended focal point.

This focal length means that while you’ll have to stand further back than when you use a 35mm, for example, the shallow depth of field has the potential for that bokeh and creamy background that many photographers desire.

If you want your subject to be bigger in your full-frame, the 85mm focal length and depth of field is a great choice!

The great thing about using a fixed one like this, it allows you to really get creative and use your feet! You can grab those close-ups while keeping your distance and also get those wider shots (if you take a few steps back)!

85mm Lens Photography

Distortion

The great thing about these camera lenses is that they accurately photograph the human face, meaning there is very little distortion. What IS distortion exactly? It’s basically when lines start bending.

These lines could start bending in ALL different ways, much like they do with a fisheye lens.  In the case of faces, wide-angle lenses sometimes distort facial features, making them uncharacteristically large or… distorted. This is a very straightforward option if you like consistency and accuracy.

Bokeh or Compression with the 85mm Lens

This option is WELL known to be great for compression and bokeh.  To make it short and sweet, the 85mm tends to make the background appear closer than it is while allowing the subject to really stand out.  This compression and bokeh allow your eye to go directly to where you want it to!

The more “open” your maximum aperture, the more blur you’ll get in the background! So if you’re going for the full effect, try and set your f-stop to 1.2 to 2.0!

Take a closer look at the leaves in this photo.  It shows the compression that can be achieved while shooting at a wide aperture or a fast aperture. The leaves show the different depths that can be achieved with one camera lens!

Does the 85mm Work in Low Light?

This option is great in low light situations. Why? It tends to “allow” more light than other models. I’ll save you all of the specific math, but the focal length, divided by the fast aperture, gives you an “area” of light.

So the lower the aperture, the more light it will allow into the full-frame camera.  So for example, an 85mm 1.4 is going to give you a better result than a 50mm 1.4.

Lighting results are also partially determined by our full-frame cameras as well, but this one definitely adds an extra lighting boost!

Prime models, in general, tend to be more able to handle low light situations. Read this great tutorial to learn more about prime lenses and what they are capable of!

This friendly piranha portrait was taken at an aquarium with virtually no light, other than the light shining into the tank. It was shot with an 85mm SigmaArt at ISO 3200, f/3.5, and a shutter speed of 1/125s.

Universal Options with an 85mm

The 85mm is known as a great portrait lens, but what many don’t know is that the 85mm is also considered a short telephoto lens! Many landscape nature photographers use it when photographing wildlife!

85mm Focal Length

It can be easily used for headshot photography, portraits, in same cases macro photography, landscapes, weddings, and events. Basically, it’s just a solid option all around!

Varying Makes, Models, and Prices (USD)

  • Canon f/1.2, Price: $1,900
  • Canon f/1.4, Price: $1600
  • Canon 85mm f/1.8, Price: $349
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8, Price: $476
  • Sony f/1.4, Price $1,7998
  • SigmaArt f/1.4, Price: $1,200 (The SigmaArt can be used with Nikon and other brands but remember to get the CORRECT version!)
  • Rikinon f/1.4, $290

*Prices are all based on the listings from the United States Amazon.com

What is better for portraits, a 50mm or 85mm?

Now, this is probably the hardest question to answer, as both are supremely popular among portraits and wedding photographers around the world. Here’s the thing, they both have amazing qualities, and you can’t go wrong with either!

The 50mm lens is cheaper overall when it comes to the 85mm 1.8 version. The 85mm is also a bit heavier with every version, so it depends on how much time you’ve been spending at the gym! The main thing you have to consider is the distance!

With the 50mm lens, you can be much closer to your subject, making it easier to communicate. With the 85mm, you’ll have to be roughly 4 meters away from your client.

The 85mm overall makes the face look truer to form (which I’m sure some people will disagree with). Overall, like I mentioned, you can’t go wrong, but I still reach for my 85mm before my 50mm based on the higher compression I get out of the two lenses.

Which Lens Is Best for Portraits?

Yep, you guessed it!

As many of us know, buying lenses during our photography journey can be a bit difficult.  Overall, the 85mm lenses, no matter the make, can be a really solid addition to any photographers’ arsenal!

Due to its overwhelming universality and clarity, you can grab it in ANY situation. The great part is, it’s also a great go-to if you’re on a budget! The 85mm prime lens is such a great universal option if you are looking to add dimension to your portfolio.

Check out this video if you want to see how the 85mm really delivers!