The Best 85mm Lenses for Portrait Photography We’ve Tested

Ora Sawyers

I don’t think most photographers can argue about the importance of 85mm lenses. They’re fantastic for portrait photography and even a little bit of sports or street photography. We’d know; we’ve reviewed a ton of them over the years. So we’re rounding up the best 85mm lenses that we’ve used for portrait photography. Specifically, we’re targeting folks who use mirrorless cameras in this round up. Take a look and our selection for the best 85mm lenses for portrait photography.

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The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

How We Chose the Best 85mm Lenses for Portrait Photography

Here’s some insight into how we chose the best 85mm lenses for this round up:

  • We’ve reviewed each of these lenses on our own after exhaustive tests. All the product and samples images are our own.
  • We chose the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE over the Sony G Master because, well, most folks can’t tell the difference between the two.
  • We’re choosing proper 85mm focal lengths for full-frame cameras.
  • In some cases, the best 85mm lenses we’re selecting have some special character to them. In other cases, they’re really the only ones available with weather sealing, fast autofocus performance, etc. Some lens mounts have more developed products than others.
  • Our site doesn’t pixel peep. We look at the images as a whole and we prefer character over clinical perfection. Clinical perfection forced us to have to edit for a while in post-production. Our philosophy is that you should spend more time shooting to get it right in-camera. So, when we talk about the best 85mm lenses, we mostly mean the ones that don’t lead to a lot of post-production in the photos.

Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM

Pros

  • Ultra-fast aperture
  • Snappy autofocus
  • Razor-sharp
  • Excellent image quality
  • Robust weather sealing

Cons

  • Lacks image stabilization
  • Heavy (hope you’ve been doing those bicep curls!)
  • Slight vignetting when wide open

In our review we state:

“Look at that beautifully creamy bokeh! When shooting with the Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM, the transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas is smooth and gradual. Portrait photographers who prefer to shoot wide open will love how this helps isolate their subjects from the environment.”

Sample Images

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Sony 85mm f1.8 FE (Yes, Not the G Master)

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • Fast focusing with the Sony a7r II and in good lighting it will focus quickly with the Sony a7
  • Nice feel; though not as great as the G Master 85mm f1.4 lens
  • Weather resistance built in
  • Compact size

Cons

  • Honestly, not a darn thing

In our review we state:

“Images from the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE are beautiful in many ways. This lens offers very sharp image quality though arguably as more muted than what Sony users are used to. Sony’s 85mm f1.4 G Master is the most saturated, while the Batis follows after that, then the Loxia and then the standard Sony FE.”

Sample Images

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Nikon 85mm f1.8 Z S

Pros

  • Sharp image quality
  • Weather sealing
  • Smallish size
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • It’s held back by Nikon’s autofocusing abilities (or lack thereof), but they’ve gotten better.

In our review we state:

“The photographers who most likely will be springing for the Nikon Z 85mm f1.8 are portrait photographers. However, we also have to make an exception for those who like to take candids while feeling like they’re a fly on the wall. An 85mm lens does a great job with that. With this in mind, those photographers will surely care about the bokeh. And with nine aperture blades, the bokeh on the Nikon Z 85mm f1.8 is fantastic. It’s creamy and beautiful, in fact I haven’t seen boken I’ve liked this much from a Nikon lens since using the 105mm f1.4 prime. Photographers will also be happy with the sharpness, the color, and the fact that there are no technical problems with this lens.”

Sample Images

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Panasonic 85mm f1.8 Lumix S

Pros

Cons

  • Very clinical image quality

In our review we state:

“In terms of image quality, the Panasonic 85mm f1.8 is fantastic. It’s a very affordable lens with good image quality. It’s very sharp and the bokeh is nice. But, while the colors will depend on the camera you’re using, the lens lacks character. Overall though, it’s the best of many worlds.”

Sample Images

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