50mm or 85mm for portraits?

Started Jun 12, 2013 | Discussions thread
Jeff Peterman
MOD Jeff Peterman Forum Pro • Posts: 12,852
Re: 50mm or 85mm for portraits? - Yes.

As you've said, the 85 mm is the equivalent of about 135mm on the crop body. This can make it a little too long for a portrait lens, but it can also be OK if you want mostly head shots or can step back for a wider view.

The 50 mm f1.8 is a very sharp lens. But it has two problems: relatively slow focusing and a worthless manual focus ring. The 85 mm f1.8 has neither of those problems and is a great lens. As you mentioned, getting an 85 mm f1.4 could be a waste with kids (and many other subjects) because depth of field can be so narrow that it is hard to have enough of the face in focus. Plus, non-Canon lenses often have the slower focusing mechanism found in the 50 mm f1.8, which with moving kids can make it hard for you to lock focus in time for the shot.

One other lens to consider is the 60 mm f2.8 macro. This is a great lens - very sharp (even wide open) and very fast focusing, AND is also a very useful macro lens. While it does only open to f2.8, the lens is sharp enough to make that a usable aperture - with the 50mm f1.8, you may need to stop down a little for sharpness.

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