Canon users have a great crop of lenses for portraits to select from. Here are our recommendations among the models and focal lengths available
This is about the widest focal length used for portraits. It’s very good for full body shots and it’s also useful for environmental portraiture. It allows the photographer to capture some of the scene around the subject and give context to what they are doing.
Be aware that if your subject is too close to the lens then the features closest to the camera will be distorted. This can work to make stylised portraits, but often looks unflattering. You’re best off using the wide angle for portraits that emphasise scene, background and context.
1. Recommended: Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4
With its bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, the Sigma 35mm creates the kind of beautiful bokeh that makes great portraits pop.
Street price: around £500
2. On a budget? Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM
You can pick this lens up for a decent price, even more so if you buy second hand.
Street price: around £350
3. Got cash to spend? Canon 35mm f/1.4 L II USM
This recent announcement from Canon’s professional L series revamps a classic lens to include new Blue Spectrum Refractive optics, which Canon says will significantly reduce chromatic aberration and deliver sharper images.
You’ll hear plenty of photographers swearing by this focal length – there’s a reason Canon’s refreshingly cheap 50mm f/1.8 is so consistently popular. This natural-looking focal length allows users to shoot both tight headshots and wider portraits, and is therefore one of the most versatile portrait focal lengths available.
4. Recommended: Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4
It’s a little heavier than Canon’s own-brand lenses, but Sigma’s 50mm is super-sharp and produces excellent results.
Street price: Around £670
5. On a budget? Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM
Canon’s famous ‘nifty fifty’, this hugely popular lens offers photographers a fast maximum aperture for a great price. If you’ve got a little extra then Canon recently brought out a successor, the Mark II, but the first version is a perfectly decent little lens.
Street price: Around £90
6. Cash to spare? Zeiss Otus 55mm 1.4
If you want absolutely no compromise on quality then sell your car, and then someone else’s car as well, and get yourself some glass from the Zeiss Otus range. Impeccably well built, almost completely free from distortion – it’s an exceptional optic.
The compressed perspective of an 85mm lens allows you to easily flatter your portrait subjects, in contrast to the wider view from a 35mm lens. If you’re aiming to shoot headshots then this focal length of lens will be ideal, allowing you to really isolate your subject.
Of course, all that tightness does mean that you aren’t able to cram much scene or context into your images. If you think you might want to be shooting something more
7. Recommended: Canon 85mm f/1.2L II USM
This entry from Canon’s high-quality L series is a superb portrait lens that focuses swiftly and handles itself well in low light. Canon encourages users to get creative with it, so think about interesting and different portraits you could make.
Street price: Around £1,400
8. On a budget? Canon EF 85mm f/1.8
Of course, if you’re looking at less of a price outlay, Canon also make a very reasonably priced 85mm optic that handles itself well. The 85mm f/1.8 is pleasingly sharp even when used wide open, and delivers enough noticeably better quality than the 50mm to justify the extra cost.
Street price: Around £240
9. Cash to spare? Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus Lens
Once again, the big prize has to go to the Zeiss Otus series. It promises edge-to-edge sharpness and absolutely no chromatic aberrations, and is quite simply a stunning feat of optical engineering.