Which Is Better for Portraits 50MM or 85MM?

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    The question of which portrait photography lens is superior has been asked for decades. An 85 millimetre lens is considered by many photographers to be the best available option. A lens with a focal length of 50 millimetres is a sensible option for many other photographers. Which one of these fantastic focal lengths for portraits do you think would work best for you?

    When you are just starting out in photography, you will most likely begin by using the lens that was included with your camera (also known as the "kit lens") before upgrading to a zoom lens of higher quality that can cover the range of focal lengths that you require.

    There is no denying the fact that prime lenses are superior to zoom lenses when it comes to taking portrait photographs; however, it is possible to take excellent portraits using a zoom lens. In addition to having wider maximum apertures, which are perfect for isolating the subject of the photograph, prime lenses are exceptionally sharp and, on average, provide better image quality than zoom lenses.

    The ability to change the focal length of a zoom lens with just a simple turn of the zoom ring is one of the many advantages of using zoom lenses. However, when taking portraits, it is always best to choose a prime lens because of the characteristics it offers and to change the composition by moving your feet.

    It doesn't matter what you're working on in life, having the appropriate equipment for the task at hand will always make things simpler and the outcomes more satisfying. Therefore, if you are interested in portrait photography, a prime lens is the obvious answer; furthermore, there are three traditional portrait focal lengths that you should really give some serious thought to using.

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    The differences between a lens with an 85mm focal length and a lens with a 50mm focal length for photographing people will be covered in this article. Because we want you to have a clear understanding of the differences between the two lenses, we are going to walk you through several sets of images that are very similar to one another and were taken using both lenses. You should hopefully be able to leave this experience with a better understanding of which lens would be the most beneficial upgrade for you.

    50mm Lenses

    Which Is Better for Portraits 50MM or 85MM?

    The fact that many different manufacturers offer an f/1.8 version of this lens at a price that is not prohibitively expensive is one of the lens' most compelling selling points. In addition to this, it has a field of view that is comparable to that of the human eye, and because it has a wide maximum aperture, it is possible to take photographs with a shallow depth of field of a variety of different subjects.

    There are two primary variations of the 50mm lens that are widely available: f/1.8 and f/1.4. The latter enables a greater quantity of light to enter the lens while maintaining the same shutter speed, in addition to producing a shallower depth of field. If you are using an APS-C camera, a 35mm lens will give you the equivalent focal length of 52.5mm, which is the closest you will get. Users of the Micro Four Thirds system, on the other hand, will only need a 25mm lens to achieve the same focal length as a 50mm lens.

    When it comes to portrait photography, 50mm lenses are fantastic for full-length as well as waist-level portraits, and they can be used both on location and in the studio. This is because the lens has a wider field of view when compared to a lens with an 85mm or 135mm focal length, and because of this, you do not need to be as far away from the model in order to achieve these crops.

    If, on the other hand, your objective is to take a headshot or a head-and-shoulders portrait, getting too close to the model will actually distort their features, causing their face to appear too thin and their nose to appear disproportionately large. Therefore, a 50mm lens is not the best option for capturing an image of this nature.

    Advantages of 50mm Lenses

    The fact that 50mm lenses are available at very reasonable prices is one of their most prominent selling points.

    In point of fact, a brand new Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens can be purchased for less than $150. That's not too terrible.

    In addition to this, lenses of this focal length are compact and lightweight. It is essential for some portrait photographers to have a lens that is on the more compact side. A further aspect worthy of note is the sheer versatility that a 50mm lens possesses.

    You can use large aperture versions of lenses such as f/1.4 and f/1.2 indoors or in other low-light situations; however, you can also use them outside for activities such as sports photography.

    In addition, a lens with a focal length of 50 millimetres is perfect for both video and macro photography (if you reverse mount the lens).

    Last but not least, full-frame and crop sensor cameras can make excellent use of lenses with a 50mm focal length. It is important to keep in mind that the performance of a 50mm lens will be equivalent to that of a 75-80mm lens depending on the crop factor of the camera.

    Nevertheless, it is a reliable option regardless of the type of camera that you use.

    85mm Lenses

    These relatively short telephoto lenses are typically offered with apertures of either f/1.8 or f/1.4. Because the second variety is quite a bit more expensive than the first, cost considerations are typically a factor in determining which to buy. Users of APS-C cameras require a lens with a focal length of 50 millimetres to achieve an equivalent focal length of 75–80 millimetres, whereas users of Micro Four Thirds cameras require a lens with a focal length of 45 millimetres to achieve an equivalent focal length of 90 millimetres.

    Because 50mm lenses are typically the least expensive of the three types of lenses available, owners of APS-C cameras are likely the luckiest group in this regard. Those who shoot with cameras that have a full frame or a Micro Four Thirds sensor will have to shell out a bit more money, but it will undoubtedly be money well spent for this focal length.

    Full-length, waist-level, and head-and-shoulders crops can all be achieved with the use of 85mm lenses, demonstrating the versatility of these lenses. You are able to take tighter headshots, but you must do so with caution because this can cause distortion of the facial features if it is not done correctly.

    An 85mm lens is ideal for shooting above-the-knee crops, head-and-shoulders shots, and everything in between when shooting in a studio; however, a 135mm lens would be the superior choice for shooting headshots that are more close-up and intimate.

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    Advantages of 85mm Lenses

    Even though 50mm lenses are very good, 85mm lenses offer a different set of benefits when it comes to portrait photography. In the first place, if you use a full-frame camera with an 85mm lens, you will end up with a portrait that appears very natural. In point of fact, if you hold your camera in a portrait orientation, look through the viewfinder with one eye while opening the other eye to look at the scene, both of your eyes will see virtually the same thing and there will be no distortion in the view that is captured by the camera.

    In addition, 85 millimetres is an excellent focal length for portraiture because it falls within the short telephoto range. This allows the photographer to be further away from the subject of the portrait while still capturing pleasing close-ups of the subject. In addition to all of those benefits, an 85mm lens has stunning compression.

    This indicates that the individual's facial features appear natural and pleasing to the eye, despite the fact that shorter focal lengths can make the forehead and nose appear more rounded. The longer focal length has the additional effect of bringing the background into closer proximity, which in turn makes the elements of the background appear to be larger.

    When shooting with a longer focal length, you will get stunning bokeh, which means that the background will be nicely blurred. This helps to separate the subject from the rest of the frame in the photograph.

    Note from the Editor: Having trouble deciding which lens to use? Find out why a lens with 85 millimetres is perfect for portraits.

    50mm vs 85mm Lens: Which is Best for You?

    Which Is Better for Portraits 50MM or 85MM?

    When it comes to head-to-head competitions of this kind, the answer to the question of which lens is better for you depends on the circumstances.

    If you are more interested in "on the go" types of portraiture such as travel photography, street photography, or wedding photography - endeavours that require you to have a lens that is versatile, small, and lightweight - then a 50mm lens is the way to go. This lens will allow you to capture a wide variety of portraits with a single camera.

    On the other hand, if you need a little bit more focal length for portraits of athletes while they are competing or if you like the compression that an 85mm lens provides for portraits that are more traditional in nature, then an 85mm lens would be the ideal choice for you.

    No matter how you cut it, a lens with a focal length of 50 millimetres is a fantastic asset to have in your camera bag. Your camera bag would benefit greatly from the addition of an 85mm lens as well.

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    Differences in Depth of Field

    One of the most significant distinctions between the 85mm lens and the 50mm lens is the minimum distance that must be maintained between yourself and the subject of your photograph. The minimum focusing distance of the 85mm lens is 2.8 feet, whereas the minimum focusing distance of the 50mm lens is 1.15 feet.

    Because of this, when using the 85mm lens, you will typically need to position yourself further away from the subject of your photograph than you would when using the 50mm lens. Even when both lenses are set to the same aperture, photographs taken with the 85mm lens typically have bokeh that is significantly less sharp than those taken with the 50mm lens. This is the case even when both lenses are set to the same focal length.

    It's even possible that you'll decide that different applications call for different strategies that you prefer. Because this is purely a matter of taste, you should immediately begin making mental notes about the kinds of photographs that typically appeal to you when you examine the work of other photographers. If you find that you are always drawn to the texture that has more creaminess, then the 85mm lens is probably going to be a better fit for you. Consider switching to a 50mm lens instead of a wider-angle one if you'd like to see a little bit more variety in the background.

    Differences in Framing

    In addition, you should spend some time contemplating the material that makes up your backdrops. When you use a lens with an 85mm focal length, the resulting image will have a subject that is more prominently featured in the frame. On the other hand, using a lens with a focal length of 50 millimetres will produce an image that shows a greater amount of the background (though not nearly as much as shooting with the Canon 24mm lens).

    Do you enjoy the challenge of climbing to the peak of a mountain for a photo opportunity? You might want to take into consideration purchasing a 50mm lens in order to get a clearer picture of the landscapes and vegetation in the background of the subject of your portrait (s).

    Do you, on the other hand, frequently find yourself attempting to hide the background in the photographs you take? Do you shoot on location, where the backgrounds can sometimes be unpredictable and/or out of your control? In that case, you should probably think about purchasing the 85mm lens.

    When you combine the shallower depth of field of the 85mm lens with the closer framing of your subject, the 85mm lens is outstanding for the creation of beautiful portrait images in virtually any setting. Your wedding photographs will become your most prized keepsake after the big day.

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    Which Is Best for Portraits? 50mm or 85mm Prime Lenses? 

    Which Is Better for Portraits 50MM or 85MM?

    Primers with a focal length of 50 millimetres and 85 millimetres are the two lenses that portrait photographers, whether they are beginners or veterans, will always reach for first. Both of these lenses have a lot of great qualities, and despite the fact that their focal ranges are not that different from one another, the results that they produce will be very different from one another, and they both have the best applications. Following the short break, we are going to have a brief discussion about both lenses, and I will explain when you should make use of each one.

    One of the best features shared by prime lenses with focal lengths of 50mm and 85mm is that excellent examples of either focal length can be obtained for a reasonable amount of money. You will be blown away by the quality of images captured with prime lenses like the 50mm f/1.8 and the 85mm f/1.8 for just a few hundred dollars each if you are just starting out in the world of photography.

    When it comes to the price, however, the sky is the limit; you are able to spend significantly more on these primes lenses. This is true just as it is with everything else in life. You have the option of selecting a lens with a faster aperture, such as the Canon RF 50mm f1.2 and RF 85mm f1.2 primes. Additionally, there are options from third parties that are reliable and slightly more affordable, such as Sigma (50mm f1.4, 85mm f1.4), and Rokinon (50mm f1.4 85mm f1.4). Therefore, select one that is within your financial means, and if the need arises in the future, you can always upgrade. Now, let's take a more in-depth look at both prime lenses with focal lengths of 50mm and 85mm.

    50mm Prime Lenses

    Because of their versatility, user-friendliness, and excellent price-to-performance ratio, 50mm prime lenses are frequently one of the first prime lenses that many photographers will purchase for their cameras. Although 50mm prime lenses are commonly thought of as all-purpose lenses that can be used for a variety of photographic applications, such as event photography, landscape photography, and street photography, they are in fact exceptional lenses for portrait photographers. Because of their crisp optics, quick apertures, and the versatility with which they can easily capture a wide range of subjects, photographers should make sure to have a collection of 50mm primes in their lens library.

    When it comes to taking portraits, prime lenses with a focal length of 50 millimetres are ideal for capturing full-length and three-quarter length images. Because 50mm lenses have a slightly wider field of view than other lens focal lengths, they allow you to photograph more of the surrounding area. If you are trying to tell more of the story that is behind the shoot or if you are in a beautiful location, it is especially helpful to have the ability to capture more of the scene in your photographs. With a lens that has a wider angle of view, you will discover that you have more options available to you compositionally as well.

    In addition to being fantastic for 3/4 and full-length body shots, prime lenses with a focal length of 50 millimetres are also quite good for close-up photography (if you like to get nice and close and in your subjects personal space). However, they can unquestionably be utilised for a shooting experience that is more tailored to the user. One thing to keep in mind is that although prime lenses with a focal length of 50 millimetres can be used for head and shoulder portraits, photographers should be aware that this focal length will not be as kind to facial features when used for close-up shots as lenses with an 85 millimetre focal length would be.

    If you like your portraits to have a little bit of bokeh, you can absolutely achieve that look with 50mm lenses. This is because the majority of 50mm primes have a fast aperture of at least f1.8, which allows you to create excellent subject separation as well as excellent subject separation. When choosing a lens to purchase, you should keep in mind that the aperture speed has a direct correlation to the quality of the bokeh produced by the lens.

    It is likely that you will find the 50mm focal length to be beneficial if you absolutely must use a prime and you prefer to have a variety of options available when it comes to portraiture. With these lenses, you can easily take full, 3/4, and tighter shoulder and up portraits, and if you so desire, you can create some nice bokeh while doing so. If you value versatility above all else and prefer to get physically closer to the subjects you photograph, 50mm prime lenses might be the right choice for you.

    85mm Prime Lenses

    When it comes to portraiture, 85mm prime lenses are typically considered to be much more traditional lenses. As a result of the increased levels of compression that they provide, the fact that they do not distort the face and facial features, and the increased levels of subject separation, this focal length is loved and adored by a great number of people. Yes, if you are interested in bokeh, this lens is the one that you should reach for rather than a 50mm lens.

    Even though 85mm primes can be used for the same kinds of shots as 50mm lenses (full length, 3/4, and headshots), you need to be much more aware of your surroundings. The longer focal length will make it difficult for you to pull off some of these shots if you are shooting in a space that is too cramped for you to move around in. Because of the telephoto nature of 85mm lenses, you will need to position yourself further away from your subject in order to achieve the same types of shots that you could with a 50mm lens; therefore, you should keep this in mind as well.

    Because of the high levels of compression it offers and the fact that it does not cause any distortion to facial features, the 85mm focal length is ideal for use when photographing portraits. You will be able to create much more flattering portraits of your subjects by using distortion control and compression to help soften facial features. Let's face it: everyone wants more flattering images of themselves. Compression, which is a quality of telephoto lenses, will also assist in making the background appear closer, which can really help your subject stand out from the background. This look is one that a lot of clients want to see in their photographs these days.

    If you want to completely eliminate the background from your photograph, you should use an 85mm lens and shoot with the aperture wide open. It is also possible to keep more of the surrounding environment in focus by selecting a slower f-stop; however, the final result will depend entirely on you and the artistic direction you choose to take. Since we are talking about extremely shallow depths of field, it is important for you as a new photographer to be aware of the fact that shooting with the lens' maximum aperture wide open will also be slightly more difficult than doing so with a 50mm lens because of the extremely shallow depths of field. Even though this is made easier by the more sophisticated eye AF found in more recent cameras, it is still something you should be aware of. If you are a portrait photographer who prefers to concentrate more on 3/4 shots and much tighter headshots, we would strongly suggest that you invest in an 85mm prime rather than a 50mm prime.

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    In Conclusion

    As can be seen, prime lenses with a focal length of 50 millimetres and those with an 85 millimetre focal length share quite a few characteristics; furthermore, both are excellent options for portraiture. They are both capable of capturing full, 3/4 length, and tighter headshots, and they both have fast apertures, which means that you will not have any problems shooting in low light conditions. Both of these cameras are capable of capturing full length, 3/4 length, and tighter headshots. The following are some of the most important distinctions that must be taken into account:


    • Less expensive and typically more compact than 85mm lenses
    • If you plan to shoot in confined areas, this option is preferable.
    • Ideal for situations in which you want to record more of your surroundings.
    • Perfect for photographers who enjoy getting up close and personal with their subjects
    • A little bit more adaptable; it works well with a wider variety of musical styles.


    • Images that contain less of a blurred effect on the subject's features are more attractive.
    • Compression is a key factor in the creation of surreal backgrounds and stunning bokeh.
    • Perfect for photographers who like to work in open areas
    • Ideal for headshots and portraits at a length of three quarters.

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    You are not going to make a mistake by selecting either of these lenses. Because each of these uses is distinct from the other, your camera bag should ideally have enough space to accommodate both of them. But if you are unable to do that, you should consider your spending limit, your prefered shooting style, and the kinds of portrait photos you like to take, and then proceed from there. When it comes to portraits, you can't go wrong with either of these focal lengths.


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