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wide aperture 85mm field of view portrait lenses

in order of ability to have narrow depth of field

lens lens mount FF eq. DOF min. focus AF speed Eye Detect AF IS weight price $US notes
Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 Canon 85mm f/1.2 0.85m fast yes no 1196g $2699 focus limiter; superb lens sharpest full frame 50mm f/1.2 available
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II Canon 85mm f/1.2 0.95m slow 0.5s no no 1025g $2199 1.8EV vig; 1% barrel; soft edges; 0.14px CA; some LoCA; 2016 model
Samyang XP 85mm f/1.2 Canon 85mm f/1.2 0.8m MF with AF confirm no no 1050g $ some vig; 0.56% pincushion; mildly soft edges; minimal CA;
Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 0.95m MF no no 680g $ 1980's L version does not have aperture ring but earlier 1970's SSC version does; some LoCA;
ZY Optics Mitakon 85mm f/1.2 MF Canon/Nikon/Sony 85mm f/1.2 1m MF no no 921g $799 2015 model
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4G Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 0.85m fast best Eye AF IBIS 820g $US1799
Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 0.85m mod. fast no 4EV 950g $US1599
Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G Nikon 85mm f/1.4 0.85m mod. fast no no 595g $1599 1.8EV vig; 0.5% barrel; sharp edges; focus shift when stopping down; 0.7px CA; bokeh a tad nervous; some LoCA;
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART any FF 85mm f/1.4 0.85m fast HSM Yes, on Sony E no 1130g $1199 perhaps the best 85mm lens optically!
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AF Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 0.9m USM no no 570g $US720 announced June 2018
Zeiss Otus T* 85mm f/1.4 ZF/ZE any FF 85mm f/1.4 0.8m MF! no no 1200g $4390 2014 model; Apochromatic optical design to minimise CA almost none LoCa; 1xASPH; Planar optrical design with floating focus elements; not weathersealed! small amount of focus breathing; no aperture ring; no distortion; mild gentle vignetting; lovely bokeh but some cat's eye;
Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZF/ZE any FF 85mm f/1.4 1.0m MF! no no 570g $1290 1.7EV vig; 0.1% pin; soft edges; 1.4px CA; good bokeh but foreground a tad nervous; very pronounced LoCA;
Samyang/Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 MF lens any FF 85mm f/1.4 1.0m MF! no no 635g $299 1.8EV vig; 0.4% barrel; softish edges; 0.6px CA; nice bokeh but no rounded blades; mod. LoCA;
Tamron 85mm f/1.8 VC Canon 85mm f/1.8 m USM no Yes g $
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 Canon 85mm f/1.8 0.85m fast USM 0.2s no no 425g $419 1.7EV vig; 0.24% barrel; sharp edges; 0.3px CA; very obvious LoCA; bokeh nice but not circular blades
Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Nikon 85mm f/1.8 0.8m fast no no 350g $499 1.6EV vig; 0.2% pin; sharp edges; 0.7px CA; nice bokeh; noticeable LoCA
Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 R Fuji X 85mm f/1.8 0.7m fast no but face detect no 405g $999
Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 MFT 85mm f/1.9 0.23m MF! no YES via Olympus cameras 571g $999 2.4EV vig; 1.4% barrel; v.soft wide open; sharp at f/2.0; excellent at f/2.8 but soft corners still; 0.07% CA; minimal LoCA; high spherical aberration,coma and astigmatism; bokeh not great; blades not circular;1)
Leica APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 Leica-M 75mm f/2.0 0.7m MF! no no 430g $3400 0.9EV vig; 0.3% barrel; soft edges; acceptable edges at f/4; 0.04% CA; no coma but mod. astigmatism; 2)
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 on APS-C any APS-C 80mm f/2.3 0.45m fast no no 505g $499 0.8EV vig; 0.6% barrel; sharper edges than the Canon wide open; 0.7px CA; outlining effect on bokeh with some nervousness; mild LoCA; pronounced focus shifts when stopping down 3)
Canon 50mm f/1.4 on APS-C Canon APS-C 80mm f/2.3 0.45m fast no no 290g $399 1EV vig; 0.4% barrel; v.soft edges; 0.5px CA; onion effect on bokeh; mod. LoCA; 4)
Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens MFT 90mm f/2.4 0.5m fast YES Olympus cameras IBIS 410g $1200
Panasonic Leica DG 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron lens MFT 85mm f/2.4 0.5m fast YES Olympus cameras Optical IS 425g $1599 2.2EV vig; 0.05% pin; a little soft wide open; extremely sharp at f/2.8; minimal CA; some LoCA; no focus shift; no coma; minimal astigmatism; nice bokeh; good flare control wide open;
Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS Sony E-mount 75mm f/2.7 0.39m fast no but face detection? YES 202g $299 1.6EV vig; 0.3% pin; v.soft edges, corners extremely soft; best at f/4; 1.3px CA; nice bokeh; mod. LoCA; 5)
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II Canon 85mm f/2.8 1.2m fast no YES 1490g $2499 0.9EV vig; 0.9% barrel; sharp edges; 0.7px CA; reasonable bokeh, a little busy; mild LoCA;6)
Olympus m.ZD 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens MFT 90mm f/3.6 0.5m YES Olympus cameras YES via Olympus cameras 115g $399 0.5EV vig; 0.6% pin; sharp edges soft corners; 0.7px CA; nice bokeh; mild LoCA; corner coma but resolves at f/2.5; minimal astigmatism
Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro lens MFT/FT 100mm f/4 0.24m 1:2 macro slow - mod. no YES via Olympus cameras 300g $499 0.6EV vig; 0.3% barrel; sharp edge-to-edge; 0.02% CA; nice bokeh; minimal LoCA; corner coma but resolves at f/2.5; minimal astigmatism; slight coma corners; weathersealed; 7)

which is best?

  • this all depends on which camera you have, how you are going to use the lens, what subjects and what is most important to you
  • the Zeiss Otus T* 85mm f/1.4 ZF/ZE lens gives nice bokeh excellent sharpness (both of which are now available in many modern lenses) and the least CA and longitudinal CA of any of these lenses if that is important to you, but it is very expensive, manual focus only and doe not have weathersealing, so most photographers will go for more versatile and affordable options.

environmental fashion / wedding distance full body shots

  • when shooting full length shots of people at some distance, the 85mm f/1.2 lens is a winner as it is most able to separate your subjects from the background although one would be hard pressed to see a substantive benefit over a 85mm f/1.4

most other portraits

  • you need sufficient depth of field (DOF) to ensure the subject's ear to tip of nose is in focus, this means ANY of the above lenses will provide sufficient depth of field (DOF)
  • important problems include:
    • AF accuracy:
      • dSLR systems by their nature have inaccurate AF systems which require microcalibration particularly when using such shallow depth of field (DOF)
      • this is not an issue with mirrorless camera systems using CDAF
      • some lenses have spherical aberration resulting in pronounced focus shifts when stopping down and this also causes inaccurate focus
      • furthermore, when dealing with narrow DOF, moving the camera so the AF region is on the subject to lock AF then re-composing will result in inaccurate AF
      • mirrorless camera systems with CDAF allow AF region to be selected almost anywhere in the frame, not just the central region as with most dSLRs, and nearly all now also have face detection AF
      • Olympus cameras go one better with eye detection AF and allow you to select WHICH EYE the camera should detect and lock AF on - this is a truly awesome feature, although it does rely on the subject being relatively still for about 0.5sec
    • AF speed:
      • generally not a major issue for most portraits, but the Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens takes 0.5secs to AF and this could be problematic and make it difficult to use
    • edge-to-edge sharpness:
      • other than the Cosina f/0.95 lens, most of these lenses are very sharp wide open in the centre
      • but you generally want the sharpest part of your image to be on your subject's eyes and these are rarely in the centre, hence good sharpness towards the edges allows more creative compositions
      • the MFT options were generally the best in this regard
      • the Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS was terrible, and even the super expensive Leica Summicron had soft edges wide open
    • close focus:
      • the ability to focus even closer than the usual 0.85m allows added versatility
    • camera shake:
      • this is particularly a problem when shooting in low light or, with fill-in flash which may limit shutter speed to 1/180th-1/200th sec in many cases
      • the addition of image stabiliser significantly increases the versatility in either of these scenarios to ensuring camera shake is minimised
      • very few prime lenses under 300mm focal length have optical image stabiliser, although the Panasonic Leica DG 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron lens does have it
      • Olympus cameras give you the world's best image stabiliser with ANY lens including any of these prime lenses
    • vignetting:
      • most of us love to add a bit of vignetting to our portraits so our subjects take the emphasis in the image
      • BUT we DON'T want optical vignetting as this means our subject who is often not in the centre, will be darker than the centre, and then we have to boost the exposure to compensate, adding digital noise in the process
      • most of the above lenses have a LOT of vignetting (almost 2 stops) which can be very annoying
      • most of the above lenses have nice bokeh although some have a little bit of nervousness
      • some have troublesome longitudinal CA (LoCA) which rears its ugly head in the foreground or background blurred imagery
      • some have troublesome lateral CA which is problematic on bright highlights - personally I found this to be an issue with my Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 wide open and it seems to be a problem with the Zeiss lenses
      • remember too, that the degree of background blurring and transitional blurring (as distinct from depth of field (DOF)) is more dependent upon the actual aperture not just the full frame DOF effective aperture

indoor sports

  • fast moving subjects are still more easily tracked with AF using a dSLR than with a mirrorless camera systems although this is rapidly changing
  • if C-AF tracking is your style, then perhaps a pro dSLR or pro mirrorless with a f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens is the way to go


  • astrophotographers value low optical aberrations so that their stars have a nice shape, this means minimal astigmatism and coma8)
  • preliminary reports suggest that the Panasonic Leica DG 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron lens has these aspects very well controlled and thus it may well be the best of these lenses for this type of work, although, historically, astrophotographers do not like lenses with optical image stabiliser as these elements tend to degrade the image, and the strong vignetting will require correction frames to be shot.
    • if you are going to relatively “lose” 1.5EV due to vignetting, the Olympus m.ZD 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens will probably give similar aberrations and exposure with sharper images when shot at f/2.5 compared to the Panasonic at f/1.2 or f/1.4.
photo/lenses_85mmfast.txt · Last modified: 2021/03/24 08:53 by gary1

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