There are a lot of lenses that can be used as a portrait lens but you need to know the details before you start capturing people as subjects. However, there are few lenses that are not a good choice for portrait photography. Don’t panic if you don’t know the basics, because in this guide on the best Canon lens for portraits, we will provide you with all the information on portrait camera lenses and how to choose the right one for yourself.
Key Concepts In Portrait Photography
There are a few important concepts related to portrait lenses that you need to understand before you start looking for a suitable model. For example, what is the ideal focal length that is required to capture portraits? What is perspective and how does it help in portrait photography? You’ll get the answers to all these questions in this section of our guide.
The first crucial concept you need to understand is perspective. If you take a close up of your subject, the body part nearest to the lens will appear immensely enlarged with regards to the rest of their body; all because of perspective. Generally, the nose is that body part, it can make a few subjects uncooperative because nobody likes to see their nose enlarged. It can make the subject feel uncomfortable and it is an uneasy subject means the photographs won’t turn out well.
The opposite can also ruin your photographs. If you have set the lens far away from the subject, their features appear compressed. Some professionals prefer it more than the ‘big nose’ look, thus, they resort to longer focal lengths. But you need to know that being too far from your subject makes it hard to communicate. Other physical objects such as props or wall can also hamper the use of longer focal lengths.
2. Focal Length
The kind of perspective you want, determines the portrait lens’s focal length. Other factors that also have an effect include; subject framing and the available working space. If you are working on environmental portraits; where the subject is to be photographed in a particular environment, a wide-angle lens is preferred. For a tight head shot, a long telephoto lens is recommended.
According to conventional principles, 85 mm to 135 mm focal length range is suitable for portrait photography. Some of the best Canon portrait lenses offer focal length between this range. Some professional photographers also like using wider focal lengths, for example, 50 mm for full body portraits or 24 mm for group photos. Some prefer longer focal lengths for headshots (tightly-framed portraits).
Background is another necessary element in portrait photography. If you want to make your subjects pop; a blurred background will be highly suitable. Wide aperture and longer focal lengths will make blurring away a disconcerting background easier. But do remember that wide apertures will reduce depth of field.
If you want to click a perfect portrait, you need to achieve the right balance of background blur and depth of field. If you are shooting in a studio with a rolled paper background and studio strobes, then narrow apertures such as f/8 or f/11 are recommended.
Factors To Consider Before Buying The Best Canon Lenses For Portrait Photography
Here is a list of a few factors you need to think about before choosing the perfect portrait lens:
1. Do You Require A Zoom Lens Or A Prime Lens?
Prime lenses work very well for portrait photography because they offer a wide aperture as compared to a zoom lens covering similar focal length. This is beneficial for capturing photos with shallow depth of field. Prime lens is also good to work in low light conditions as it lets you take images with lower ISO or faster shutter speeds than you could using a zoom lens.
Prime lens is also recommended because of image quality as it has less elements than a zoom lens. It results in crisp images with more contrast and reduced lens flare. If you are on a tight budget, we recommend that you go for an inexpensive prime lens as it will result in better quality images.
2. Consider Your Budget
This is an important factor to consider as you need to prioritize what you want. If you want the best, you’ll have to pay more. Canon’s 50 mm lens range offers 4 great models that are priced according to the features each one offers. The 4 models range from $110 to $1600, so your budget will determine which model can make it to your shopping cart.
Expensive lenses produce crisper images with reduced flare. The construction quality gets better with the price, some expensive models are weatherproof and comes with autofocus mechanisms. There is a huge difference in image quality between costly and cheap zoom lenses. When it comes to prime lenses, the difference is not too much as even inexpensive models are pretty decent.
Another feature that determines quality-built lenses is the weight of the lens. The top part of the line lens is usually made of metal and weighs more than the cheap plastic lenses. A good-quality camera lens lasts decades, so it is recommended that you spend more now, as it will benefit you in the long run.
3. What Focal Lengths Do You Need?
The size of your camera’s sensor offers the answer to this question. Rather than read up in detail about different focal lengths and their specifications, it is better to divide lenses up into 4 categories. You need to decide what category of lens you are interested in, then you can begin to browse which models are available that are compatible with your camera.
4. Wide-angle Lenses
Wide-angle lenses are preferred for environmental portraits. Environmental portraits are those in which the subject is kept at a little distance from the lens in order to include the surroundings within the frame. They are usually not recommended for close-up portraits as they contort the subject.
Now that you’ve read some basics about portrait lenses, it is time to move on to product reviews. In this section of our guide on the best portrait lens for canon, we have compiled a list of the most popular portrait lenses manufactured by Canon, along with their features in detail. Various models have been reviewed, covering different price ranges to match the needs of all kinds of buyers.
Top 14 Best Canon Lens For Portraits 2021
1. Canon 85mm F/1.2 L II
The first model on our list of best portrait lens canon is an evergreen product. It offers ideal focal length for portrait photography, providing amazing perspective while enabling enough space between the photographer and subject. Canon manufactures some of the best f/1.2 lens, with other brands like Sony and Nikon unable to follow suit with such quick apertures, majorly due to the size of their lens mount.
An f/1.2 lens with great focal length requires a large diameter of glass to support it. Canon is on top of the game when it comes to prime lens because of its f/1.2 offerings. It provides you with an incredibly shallow depth of field and this is enlarged with the accompanying 85 mm lens. If you like shooting wildlife or any subject in momentum, this lens will provide you with some of the best shots.
It is no doubt that static subjects, clicked even in low light, will obviously be better. There one downfall though, it is a slow lens; which means that the colossal piece of glass moves extremely slowly and doesn’t provide enough contrast in the scene. If you shoot in controlled settings, the lackluster AF wouldn’t be a problem.
Despite this disadvantage, it is one of the best portrait lenses manufactured by the brand. If you require a large aperture, then this product is definitely worth a look.
2. Canon 50mm F/1.8 STM
The second model on our list of best lens for portrait Canon is a compact, lightweight, and reasonably priced Canon 50 mm f/1.8 STM. This one should certainly be a part of each photographer’s lens armory, irrespective of them being a portrait photographer. It is because it offers a safe focal length of 50 mm, not too wide to deform features, and too long to instill subject-viewer disconnect.
If you lie shooting with a full-frame camera, a 50 mm lens will work perfectly for you. This model gained quite a lot of popularity just after its launch because of its size, weight, and cost and it still can be found sitting inside a professional’s camera bag as a backup lens. It is easy to carry because of its compact size.
But reducing its value to a backup lens reduces its worth, as it is actually an incredible performer. It is fast to focus and provides great contrast. The STM in the title refers to Silent Stepper Motor, which is useful when shooting videos and using the in-camera mic. The STM won’t be of any use if you are engaging it portrait photography.
This model is a full package which can be used for many purposes, which is why it has been Canon’s number one selling lens since its launch. Its auto-focus is quick, exact, and silent and if you are a beginner, it will be easy to learn its manual focus. You just have to turn the ring as your finger presses the shutter halfway. It offers excellent image quality at an affordable price.
3. Canon 85mm F/1.8
This affordable, impressive, and advanced best Canon portrait lens may be all you need, whether you are a crop sensor or full-frame Canon shooter. It is included in this list because of its lightweight, decent price, focus ability, and contrast. It is certainly a better all-around choice than other clunky models.
If you’ve already checked out all the f/1.2 variants and feel that their limitations are more than the benefits, then look no further than the Canon 85 mm f/1.8. When it comes to image quality, it is quite similar to the Nikon version – extra-sharp across the frame, with amazing bokeh and quick auto-focus.
It is considered better than Nikon because you can override the AF just by turning the focus ring. Its manual focus adjustments are easier to learn as compared to Nikon’s AF/MF switch. Older Canon DSLRs that usually came with inferior high ISO performance, made it difficult for professionals to shoot in low light conditions using fast f/1.4 or f/1.2 lenses. But now, ISO performance has immensely improved.
A lot of wedding photographers now are happy to shoot with the f/1.8 even in low light or in the dark, because the AF performance is better than the 85 mm f/1.2 model. If fast glass and extremely fine depth of field is not necessary to you and you are accustomed to portrait photography in artificially lit studios, then you should seriously consider purchasing this model.
4. Canon 135mm F/2L USM
It is one of the classic Canon portrait lenses that was released almost 2 decades ago and still doesn’t require an update. A lot of professional users still claim that this is simply one of the best Canon lenses of all time. You may be wondering, why is it still so popular? Its because it is optically splendid, shades and contrast are impressive, and bokeh when shot wide open makes the background setting blend in a creamy whirl of colors.
You will notice the 8 diaphragm blades generate marvelous circular bokeh, if you zoom in to check images captured with this lens. Its auto focus is accurate and fast, plus ergonomically this lens feels amazing attached to even the latest Canon DSLRs. One flipside of this lens is that it isn’t lightweight or small in size as many latest models are nowadays, but its ergonomics and build quality is great.
What makes it suitable for portrait photography is its 135 mm classic focal length. It imparts a flattering effect to the face and body of your subject. This product is indeed great value for money for the kind of pictures it can produce. It is simply one of the best Canon lenses for portraits.
5. Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 Is II
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 is a unique portrait lens as it is super convenient because you won’t need to move your feet anymore, but it weighs a ton. Usually, f/2.8 zoom lenses are huge and heavy because of the amount of glass attached to allow you to adjust focal lengths at a constant, fast aperture. This model is ideal for portrait photography, if attached to a full-frame or crop sensor DSLR by Canon.
While this list has been endorsing prime lenses until now for portrait photography, this one is a zoom lens with plenty of advantages. You just need to twist the zoom ring once and you can go from medium to high crop on your subject, offering versatility cum expediency in one. As zoom lenses are generally expensive, this one too belongs to the high-end range.
This model has been the choice lens for all types of photographers; sports, event, wedding, portrait, etc. It is considered the best Canon lens for portrait photography because it can create a flattering photo of a subject, enlarging the compression between background and subject elements. For example; if you shoot your subject in front of Washington Monument, it can make the background seem closer to the subject and create an enthralling environmental portrait.
However, if you are on a tight budget and looking for something easy to carry because you are a frequent traveler, then we do not recommend this model. For more casual use, the Canon 70-200 mm f/4 may be a better option for you. If you shoot portraits usually in well-lit studios, then you can manage with the f/4 model.
But if you want all round greatness and can afford to spend a couple more hundred dollars, then don’t think twice, as this lens definitely won’t disappoint you.
6. Canon 50mm F/1.2L
This is another best Canon lens for portraits that has gained immense popularity among professionals, and is the reason behind more DSLR shooters switching to Canon over the years. It provides some three-dimensionality to the images that other brands can’t emulate. You may be wondering, what’s so great about this Canon lens? Simply put, if you are a portrait photographer who needs an all-purpose lens to start with, this is a fine investment.
It is a bit expensive, but its versatility makes up for the price. It is a 50 mm lens, but it can be used as an 80 mm equivalent on a crop sensor Canon body for flattering portraits. The greatness of this lens lies in its splendid f/1.2 maximum aperture. It can transform out of focus elements into an ocean of smoothness, while simultaneously maintaining the subject in sharp focus to accentuate it.
It provides excellent image quality and its auto-focus is far better than most of the previously mentioned models. It is a bit heavy, but still portable enough to be carried around. It doesn’t leave much room for error. Its manual focus override is easy to learn as you just have to press the shutter halfway and turn the ring.
It is the most versatile model for portrait photography available on the market. It is a gem of a lens because of its wide aperture of f/1.2 and great auto-focus features. If you can afford it, it should be among the top models on your wishlist.
7. Canon Ef 85mm F/1.4L IS USM
Canon EF 85 mm f/1.4l IS USM offers the widest aperture in an IS lens, which is why it is one of the best Canon lenses for portraits. It freezes action in dim-light situations as it helps to make your subjects leap out from deflecting backgrounds with an extremely strong blur. It gives a good perspective for portraits because of its 85 mm focal length.
It offers great image quality and delivers sharp pictures even in extremely low light conditions because of its image stabilization feature. Do you like fast image capturing because you usually shoot fast-moving objects? Then this one is the ideal model for you, because it features accurate and quick auto focusing to capture photos quickly.
If you shoot in extreme weather conditions, its lens flaunts a dust and weather-proof design. This Canon EF full-frame telephoto lens provides an aperture range of f/1.4 to f/22, with a minimum autofocus distance of 85 cm. It features round aperture blades and weighs about 35 oz (or 950 g).
8. Canon Ef-m 32mm F/1.4 STM
The EF-M lens was built to foster greater creativity with its high-quality optics for capturing portraits, different subjects, and candid shots. It offers a wide-open aperture and a 51 mm focal length so you can get more creative with your photos. Both these features allow for shooting in low-light conditions.
The lens boasts an aspherical design with 14 elements grouped in 8. These elements are responsible to bring out intricate details and edge-to-edge crispness in your pictures. It even features Super Spectra Coatings to aid you in getting rid of random light. If this special coating isn’t there, your images can look washed-out because of the stray light entering your frame. It also gives your images less accurate shade.
This Canon EF-M telephoto lens offers minimum focusing distance of 23 cm and an aperture range between f/1.4 to f/16. It features 7 rounded aperture blades and weighs only 8.3 oz (or 235 g). It is definitely one of the lightest portrait photography lenses available on the market.
It works well with all sorts of cameras available in the EOS M range. It is available in a design quite similar to other EF-M optics. It is lightweight and easy to carry, so you need not worry if you are a frequent traveler. If you want great image quality and maximum portability, then this is probably the best Canon portrait lens.
9. Canon Ef 50mm F/1.4 USM
This best portrait lens by Canon provides a maximum aperture plus quick focusing system, delivering amazing performance when shooting portraits. This 50 mm lens is equipped with Gaussian optics and dual lens components with greater refraction for crisp photos at f/1.4. It features extremely fast and almost silent auto-focus because of its Ultrasonic Motor (USM).
You can change your focus in AF mode and instead, opt for a full-time manual override function. It flaunts a virtually rounded diaphragm for a delicate, more even blur in specific areas of your pictures. This feature accentuates clear objects located in the foreground against a softer, blurry background.
For accurate color contrasts in your images, the lens comes with Super Spectra Coatings. The coating is important because they provide less flare as well as ghosting. Other key specifications include; f/1.4 to f/22 aperture range, 8 rounded aperture blades, and 45 cm minimum focusing distance. It is a lightweight product as it weighs only 10.2 oz.
10. Canon Ef 40mm F/2.8 STM
Canon EF 40 mm f/2.8 STM is a prime lens that is more than just a portable portrait photography lens. it features quick aperture for dim-light shooting and more control over depth of field. It allows you to shoot with reduced or more focus due to its f/2.8 to f/22 aperture range. There won’t be any need for flash for handled shooting in low-light conditions as the lens offers quick aperture.
This Canon full-frame telephoto lens features 7 rounded aperture blades and requires 30 cm minimum focusing distance. It also provides smooth autofocus in video recordings due to its advanced Stepping Motor Technology (STM). This feature is supported by the Movie Servo AF mode for compatible Canon DSLRs.
It is a versatile camera, and its 40 mm focal length makes it ideal for travel, landscape, street, and portrait photography. You’ll get great image quality due to the Super Spectra Coating on the lens, and the aspherical design.
11. Canon Ef 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM
Most of the portrait lenses that have been mentioned on this list so far are prime lenses, so now it is time to review some of the best zoom lenses for portrait photography. The Canon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8 is zoom lens that features wide aperture with a focal length of 24 to 70 mm. It also features advanced optics, quick and silent autofocus, 9 rounded aperture blades, and full-time manual focus for easier use.
For less chromatic deviation and color clouding, it features Super UD and UD components in its design. It flaunts two kinds of aspherical lenses that pull off less spherical deviation over your pictures and offer the full zoom range. It even features optimized coatings for better color contrast and reduced ghosting.
Due to its ring-type USM and optimized AF algorithms, this EF lens offers quick and quiet auto focus. The 9 aperture blades make sure that the background remains soft. This is a dust- and water-proof camera lens that can withstand any kind of weather condition and provide high shot capacity.
12. Canon Ef-m 55-200mm F/4.5-6.3 IS STM
Aside from thee EF-M prime lenses range, Canon also manufactures a few zoom lenses for its mirrorless models. This model is part of the brand’s mirrorless lens range. It features image stabilizer that prevents blurry images due to camera shake. The feature also allows you to use up to 3.5 stops of slow shutter speeds for shooting in low-light situations.
Among the EOS M lenses range, Canon EF-M 55-200 mm is the longest telephoto zoom lens. Its high zoom range makes it an ideal lens for portrait photography and for clicking other types of shots. It offers fast and accurate auto focus via its advanced STM technology.
The lens also features advanced optics, so that your images are sharper, have dynamic contrast, and vivid colors. Other specifications include: 7 rounded aperture blades, 1 m minimum focusing distance, and f/4.5 to 4/32 aperture range.
If you are looking for a reasonable zoom lens, look no further than Canon RF 28-70 mm f/2 L USM. It is one of the latest additions to the brand’s mirrorless lens range. It is the best portrait lens for Canon that works great with the brand’s EOS R system. It will deliver exceptional performance when attached to an EOS RP camera.
This RF full-frame standard zoom lens offers aperture range of f/2 to f/22 and 9 rounded aperture blades with a minimum focusing distance of 39 cm. It offers the same performance, durability, picture quality, and versatility that you get from 28 mm, 50 mm, and 70 mm prime lenses.
It offers quick performance and excellent optics. Its built-in control ring allows you to change your shutter speed, aperture opening, and other settings. Because of its weather-resistant design, it works well in dusty or windy weather conditions. However, it is not a good choice if you prioritize portability, as it weighs more than 50 oz (1430 g).
14. Canon RF 24-105mm F/4 L IS USM
The last model on our list of best Canon lenses for portraits is ideal for shooting portraits to the EOS R system. It delivers great performance, and provides excellent image quality with intricate details due to its high zoom range. Great image quality is a guarantee because of its large diameter, maximum aperture of f/4, and L-series optics.
This RS lens offers smooth, fast and silent autofocus due to NANO USM technology it is equipped with. It is lightweight and quite compact, but don’t let its compactness fool you, because its well-balanced form flaunts a wide zoom range. Its zoom range delivers spellbinding performance in various conditions because it offers wide-angle, normal, and telephoto lengths.
It features 9 rounded aperture blades with a minimum focusing distance of 45 cm. It is auto focus and image stabilization enabled and doesn’t even weigh much (about 25 oz). It includes aspheric and UD components for distortion and astigmatism correction. It generates soft backgrounds and accentuates the subject, hence, it is greatly suitable for portrait photography.
If you are looking for a mid-range, lightweight portrait lens that delivers excellent performance, this model is worth a look.
Best Canon Lenses For Portraits – Tired Yet?
We hope that now you are on the right path to choose the best Canon portrait lens for your camera. Keep all the important factors in mind before beginning with the selection process. Prioritize some features to make it easy for yourself to purchase a suitable model. In this we have tried to include all the basic information about portrait lenses, but if you still feel that you need to know more, you are encouraged to peruse more information.
Always remember that getting excellent results with your portrait photography is not limited to the lenses mentioned on our list. Portrait photography is not limited only to focal lengths longer than 50 mm, so you may try looking for other suitable models to match your requirements.
Good portraits can be captured using wide angle lenses, macro lenses, prime lenses, or whatever you currently own. But if you need something more professional, then it is better to spend some money and invest in a product which is specifically built for portrait photography. All the best with your purchase!