Best Portrait Lenses for Full-Frame Cameras

Portrait photography is a highly profitable genre. The best thing about it is you can use almost the same techniques to shoot several sub-genres, like corporate headshots, engagements, weddings, high school photos, business portraits and so on.

And its good money too if you are good with the marketing bit. But apart from the marketing bit, you will also need to have the right the equipment, i.e., the right portrait lens, the right camera, and the right light.

Today, we are going to look at some great portrait lenses. This is a listing of the best portraits lenses that money can buy.

1. Zeiss MILVUS 2/135mm (Editor’s Pick)

The Zeiss Milvus 135mm f/2 ZE Lens
The Zeiss Milvus 135mm f/2 ZE Lens

The Zeiss Milvus 135mm f/2 is a slightly improved version of the original classic design. This was an attempt at relaunching an existing line of lenses under a new name –Milvus. Most of these lenses were refabricated and were incorporated with varying amount of changes, except for the 135mm f/2; which kind of reaffirms its fantastic built quality.

This full-frame lens (currently available for both EF and F mounts) is an optical marvel. The maximum aperture of the lens is f/2 which should be able to tackle most lighting situations. The construction of the lens includes 4 anomalous partial dispersion elements. The lens features an apochromatic Sonnar optical design.

Zeiss Milvus 2/135 ZE f/2.0 135mm Manual Focus Lens (Canon EF-Mount)
  • Front and Rear Lens Caps
  • Lens Hood
  • De-Click Key
  • Limited 2-Year Warranty

On the flip side the Zeiss Milvus f/2 135mm is a manual focusing lens. For all you AF-S and EF-S fans, deep apologies. But if you trust your eyes and prefer to nail focus manually, have a steady working platform to work on most of the times (tripod) you will not miss the absence of autofocus.

You will also have no image stabilization with this lens. The lack of image stabilization will be felt when shooting in very low ambient light. Except for that, when the light is good, indoors or outdoors, image stabilization would not be missed.

Zeiss Milvus 135mm f/2 ZF.2 Lens (Nikon F-Mount)
  • Front and Rear Lens Caps
  • Lens Hood
  • De-Click Key
  • Limited 2-Year Warranty

Some of you would be wondering why this lens, despite missing image stabilization and autofocusing and a few other optical embellishments finds a place on this list. The reason is this is an optically very high-quality lens. It takes great pictures. That is something you will want to have as the first priority before anything else.

Speaking of performance, the Zeiss Milvus f/2 135mm is the right focal length for shooting great quality portraits with a full-frame camera. And there are plenty of opportunities to shoot portraits on a regular basis. With photographers looking for optical sharpness, distortion-free performance, and greater color rendition this lens is meant for photographers who don’t want to compromise on the quality. And that in itself makes this an “I must have this in my bag” kind of a lens.

Zeiss states that this is a weather-sealed construction. This means you are never going to have any headaches even if you use the lens outdoors particularly in inclement weather. This is a lens that is designed for the outdoors.

2. Sony SEL FE 1.4/85mm

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens

Designed for Sony’s full-frame camera systems, the Sony SEL FE 1.4/85mm prime lens has the smallest focal length that can pass as a proper portrait lens for the full-frame sensor. The lens comes as a fully loaded optical portrait option. The best feature of the lens is its fast wide aperture of f/1.4. Simply perfect for producing soft out of focus effect for the background, something that most portrait photographer’s dig.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens
  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Minimum Focus Distance : AF 2.79 ft, MF 2.62 ft, Maximum Magnification ratio (x) - 0.13 x, Focal-Length : 85 mm.Angle...
  • Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/16 , Filter Diameter (mm) - 67 mm
  • One XA Element and Three ED Elements, Nano AR Coating
  • Linear SSM Focus System.Weight:820 g.Dust and moisture resistant design.Angle of View (35 mm):29°

The construction of the lens includes one XA element and three ED elements. These elements suppress chromatic and spherical aberrations. It also includes a Nano AR coating as well to suppress flares and ghosting typical with wide aperture lenses. The lens comes with a built in aperture control ring as well. If you are a fan of old lenses, you would enjoy the extra control option. Finally, an 11 blade aperture diaphragm creates a soft beautiful background blur. To top it all the lens has a weather sealed design. This allows you to use the lens in inclement weather.

Unlike the Zeiss I mentioned at the start of this discussion, the Sony 85mm f/1.4 comes with an auto-focus motor. The built-in motor on the Sony is a Linear Super Sonic Wave AF motor. It is capable of being used in both manual and auto modes. The focusing mechanism is internal and that means the barrel length never changes while it focuses.

There is also a very useful Focus Hold button. This allows you to hold the focus and have quick access to specific settings on the lens.

Related Post: Best Portrait Lenses 2019

3. Canon EF 1.4/85mm L IS USM

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM - DSLR Lens
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM – DSLR Lens

One of Canon’s most popular lenses, the EF 85mm f/14L IS USM is a prime portrait lens designed for full-frame Canon DSLRs. the 85mm is widely considered as one of the better lenses for portrait photography. Though there is a considerable difference in opinion as to which among the 85 and the 135 is the better choice. Personally, I prefer the 135mm on a full-frame. The 85mm certainly works better in tighter areas such as small studios and rooms where you are likely to work from a small distance. The longer focal length with its greater compression and tighter field of view is better suited for outdoors or larger halls and more spacious areas.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM - DSLR Lens with IS Capability
  • Canon's First 85mm L-series Lens with IS Capability.
  • Large, Bright f/1.4 Aperture.
  • Image Stabilization at up to 4* Stops of Shake Correction.
  • GMo Aspherical Lens with Air Sphere Coating Technology.
  • Lens Construction: 14 elements in 10 groups

The construction of the lens includes one GMo aspherical element. This takes care of spherical aberrations. The lens also has Air Sphere and Fluorine coatings. The first one helps suppress ghosting and lens flares. The later of the two prevents smudges, fingerprints and dirt from building on the lens’ front element. The aperture diaphragm is made up of 9 rounded blades. They produce beautiful background blur for your portraiture.

But the stand out feature of the lens is definitely its wide fast aperture. At f/1.4 this lens would be able to tackle almost any type of lighting that you come across. Except for star light.

Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by a ring type ultrasonic AF motor. This is quieter than the previous version of Canon’s AF motor. But at the same time it is not as smooth as the version that followed (STM). The lens also has full-time manual focusing override. This is a useful feature and I have spoken at length about it elsewhere on this website.

For O.I.S. fans this lens comes with stabilization. This is important only when you are shooting in very low lighting, be it indoors or outdoors. Image stabilization helps you to shoot at 2, 3 stops or even slower shutter speed to compensate for the lack of light in a scene and yet not risk your images becoming blurred. In the case of this lens image stabilization (optical) is rated at up to four optical stops. The EF 85mm f/1.4 is a dust and water resistant construction.

4. Sony FE 85mm f/1.8

Sony SEL85F18 85mm F-1.8-22
Sony SEL85F18 85mm F/1.8-22

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 is designed for Sony’s full-frame camera systems which come with the E mount. The lens has a maximum wide aperture of f/1.8. Slightly slower than some of the other lenses that I have discussed here. But for practical purposes and as long as the lighting is decent you shouldn’t have much issues shooting great portraits with this lens.

The construction of the lens includes a total of 9 elements arranged in 8 groups. These include one extra-low dispersion element which minimizes chromatic aberrations, improving color accuracy and sharpness. The exterior barrel of the lens has a –useful focus hold button as well as a MF / AF focus switch button.

Sony SEL85F18 85mm F/1.8-22 Medium-Telephoto Fixed Prime Camera Lens, Black
  • Wide F1.8 maximum aperture enables beautiful defocusing effects
  • 9-blade circular aperture creates beautiful round defocused bokeh
  • ED glass element for corner-to-corner sharpness,Minimum Focus Distance:2.63 feet (0.8 m)
  • Double Linear motor system for fast, quiet and precise focusing. The maximum magnification ratio is 0.13 and the angle...
  • Direct control w/ customizable focus hold button and AF/MF switch.35 mm equivalent focal length (APS-C):127.5

There is no built-in image stabilization on the lens. But that should not be a deal breaker. As long as you shoot with a sufficiently fast aperture you wouldn’t miss it, even in low light.

Speaking of focusing, the lens’ auto-focusing is powered by a double linear auto-focusing motor. The motor will render focusing performances very smooth. Overall lens construction is good. The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 is technically the younger sibling to the more robust built (and expensive) f/1.4 lens.

Still on the aspect of comparison, the f/1.8 lens is rated very highly by DxOMark when compared to the higher rated f/1.4. Build quality is not equivalent to its more illustrious older sibling. Despite the dust and moisture resistant tag you ought to be careful when using this lens in inclement weather as it is not completely weather proof. Overall build quality, however, is good enough to hold its own.

5. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

Sigma’s Art series lenses are widely revered as the finest among its contemporaries. The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens is the ideal portrait length for photographers who prefer a shorter focal length sans the weird distortions. The 85mm is widely considered as the shortest proper focal length for shooting portraits on a full-frame camera.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Nikon F (321955)
  • The Sigma 85mm 1.4 DG HSM Art is the latest addition to the world renowned Sigma Global Vision Line
  • It has equipped newly designed hyper sonic motor (HSM) for nimble AF control, 1.3 times better torque of its predecessor
  • Compatible with the Enthusiast APS-C Nikon D7100, D7200, D500, and D3100, D3200, D3300, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500 DSLR...
  • Minimum Focusing Distance-33.5inch. Maximum Magnifications-1:8.5. Angle of View (35mm)-28.6°

The construction of the lens includes two low dispersion elements and one aspherical element. An anomalous partial dispersion / high refractive index element is also used in the construction. They take care of distortions and aberrations. The lens also comes with Super Multi-layer coating, a treatment that suppresses flares and ghosting from affecting the performance of the lens. The lens aperture diaphragm is composed of 9 blades producing a rounded lens aperture opening for beautiful bokeh. Sigma has used TSC (Thermally Stable Composite) material that don’t change dimensions even under extreme temperature changes.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF Cameras + Sigma USB Dock with Altura...
  • KIT INCLUDES: Sigma 85mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens + Sigma USB Dock for Canon + Altura Photo Venture Camera Bag + SanDisk...
  • COMPATIBLE with all Canon Cameras, including EOS 7D Mark II, 70D, 77D, 80D, Rebel T3, T3i, T4i, T5, T5i, T6, T6i, T6s,...
  • SIGMA AUTHORIZED DEALER. Includes Sigma USA 4-Year Warranty.

The maximum aperture of the lens is f/1.4. Extremely wide and extremely fast for shooting anything hand-held in decent light. In bright sunlit conditions you will never miss O.I.S. Even when shooting in dark conditions, performance is super sharp. Plus, you always have the option to increase the ISO number and compensate for the lack of ambient light in the scene. In good light the optical performance of the lens is brilliant. One of Sigma’s signature features incorporated in the lens is the USB dock. This is what enables you to upgrade the lens’ firmware from time to time.

Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by a Hyper Sonic AF motor. The AF mechanism comes with a full-time manual focusing override. This feature is useful for selective focusing adjustments even though the AF motor is engaged.

6. Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Sigma 135mm f1.8 DG HSM Art
Sigma 135mm f1.8 DG HSM Art

An optically sharp lens is the perfect foil for a high resolution full-frame camera. For portraitures and for that matter any other genre of photography this pair is a lethal one. The Sigma 135mm f/1.8 is a very sharp lens.

This is yet another prime lens designed for the avid portrait photographer. The 135mm is probably the best of the three focal lengths that are primarily used for portrait photography.

Then again this is just a subjective statement and will be contested by those who swear by the 85mm or the 105mm for that matter.

The fact remains, however, that the 135mm f/1.8 is a fantastic lens for portraitures. The slightly longer focal length (as compared to the 85mm) makes the facial features more realistic. But being a medium telephoto lens, and the fact that it has a wide aperture of f/1.8, the lens will be useful for other genres as well.

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF (240954)
  • A new large Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) delivers ample torque to the focusing group for outstanding speed, ensuring...
  • This state-of-the-art prime lens touts a dust and splash proof mount for guaranteed performance in any condition and its...
  • A stunning compression effect makes the Sigma 135mm F1.8 Art the ideal portrait lens while its large aperture help with...
  • Like each and every Global Vision Lens, the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art is handcrafted at our single factory in Aizu,...

But there are some drawbacks and the chief among them is that this is a lens that requires space to work with. The long focal length means the angle of view is smaller. The subject needs to stand further back in order to be photographed.

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens for Nikon F
  • A new large Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) delivers ample torque to the focusing group for outstanding speed, ensuring...
  • This state-of-the-art prime lens touts a dust and splash proof mount for guaranteed performance in any condition and its...
  • A stunning compression effect makes the Sigma 135mm F1.8 Art the ideal portrait lens while its large aperture help with...
  • Like each and every Global Vision Lens, the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art is handcrafted at our single factory in Aizu,...

The integrated Hyper Sonic Motor powers the auto-focusing mechanism of the lens. This is a very smooth and accurate AF motor and should give you plenty of good captures in any kind of lighting situations.

The construction of the lens includes a total of 13 elements arranged in 10 groups. These include 2 FLD element, 2 SLD elements and Super Multi-Layer coating. The FLD and the SLD elements improves the color accuracy and overall sharpness of the images by reducing chromatic aberrations. The Super Multi-Layer coating is what ensures that the lens does not suffer from lens flares and ghosting when shooting with wide aperture.

The thermally stable composite material used in the construction of the lens ensures that the lens is able to sustain extreme temperatures without changing in dimensions. The aperture diaphragm is composed of 9 rounded diaphragm blades which ensure that the lens is capable of producing very beautiful background blur for your portrait shots.

7. Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens

Tamron SP 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD lens
Tamron SP 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD lens

The Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 is a full-frame lens designed for both the Nikon F mount as well as the Canon EF mount. Di suggests that the lens is designed for full-frame systems and VC suggests that the lens comes with Tamron’s version of the image stabilization (Vibration Compensation). In real life situations the performance of Tamron’s VC is quite good. It does lend the lens an extra 3.5 stops of working freedom in terms of shutter speed when shooting hand-held.

Tamron AFF016C700 SP 85mm F/1.8 Di VC USD Lens (Black)
  • Superior resolving power and attractive bokeh
  • Fluorine Coating and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Electromagnetic diaphragm system
  • fast and accurate focusing
  • New SP Design.Dust Removal Blower System

The construction of this lens consists of one LD element and one XLD element. These take care of aberrations, improving sharpness and color accuracy. The lens also has eBand and BBAR coatings. Fluorine coating has also been used which ensure that the lens is able to Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM - DSLR Lens with IS Capability resist dust and finger prints which are a prime reason for the front element becoming dirty and smudgy.

Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by a USD AF motor. The lens comes with full-time manual focusing override as well. Auto-focusing performance in general is very good. Performance is good even in some difficult lighting scenarios when the subject is backlit.

The 9 blade aperture diaphragm creates very beautiful rounded bokeh for your subject’s background. Finally, the lens has decent weather sealing as well. Probably not at par with some of the other lenses that I have discussed here but not bad either.

8. Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2

This is the first zoom lens that I have listed here in this discussion. And that too a third party lens. Tamron, from being a relative outsider just a few years back have come back strongly to churn out a series of lenses that have revived interest in its product line.

This Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens has a focal length range of 70-200mm and is designed for the full-frame camera.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Nikon F Cameras + Tamron Tap-in...
  • INCLUDES: Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens + Tamron TAP-in Console for Nikon + AirBag Packable Bag and Camera...
  • A POPULAR TELEPHOTO ZOOM for a variety of shooting applications, this lens is characterized by its bright f/2.8 constant...
  • COMPATIBLE with all Nikon Cameras, including D500, D3100, D3200, D3300, D3400, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500, D5600, D7100,...
  • TAMRON AUTHORIZED DEALER. Includes Tamron USA 6-Year Warranty.

The maximum aperture of the lens is f/2.8. The focal length range of 70-200mm makes this ideal not only for portraits (the entire popular range of 85mm all the way to 135mm is covered) but also for other photography purposes.

The construction of the lens includes one XLD element and five LD elements. These suppresses color fringing, increasing sharpness and color saturation as well as eliminating any aberrations. The lens also incorporates BBAR and eBAND coatings. These coatings suppress lens flares and ghosting ensuring that the lens is able to handle the most common issues that plague fast aperture lenses when they are used in bright conditions and wide open.

Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens for Canon EF Cameras + Tamron Tap-in...
  • INCLUDES: Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens + Tamron TAP-in Console for Canon + AirBag Packable Bag and Camera...
  • A POPULAR TELEPHOTO ZOOM for a variety of shooting applications, this lens is characterized by its bright f/2.8 constant...
  • COMPATIBLE with all Canon Cameras, including EOS 7D Mark II, 70D, 77D, 80D, Rebel T3, T3i, T4i, T5, T5i, T6, T6i, T6s,...
  • TAMRON AUTHORIZED DEALER. Includes Tamron USA 6-Year Warranty.

The lens features a 5 stop optical image stabilization system. This allows the lens to be used hand held in very low light condition without having to bump up the ISO number. My only complaint is the relatively ‘slower’ aperture of f/2.8.

Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by a ring-type ultrasonic silent drive auto-focusing motor. This technology ensures that the auto-focusing performance is smooth and quiet. The lens also comes with full-time manual focusing override for those moments when you want to precisely lock focus yourself because the AF performance is not giving you what you want.

The body design incorporates materials which are not the usual that you would expect from other OEM lenses. The texture induces the same kind of problem which you would face with your smartphone, that is after you have used it for a while – completely filled with fingerprints. The lens has been given some amount of weather sealing. It is not completely weather proof though.

9. Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

Sony FE 90mm f2.8 Macro G OSS Lens
Sony FE 90mm f2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

The Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 is a versatile lens. This is a dedicated macro lens designed for the full-frame Sony cameras. Having said that the 90mm focal length makes this a good choice for the purpose of shooting portraits. Being just a shade longer than the 85mm length which makes a nice focal length for shooting portraits and at the same time the macro abilities means the lens is a versatile one.

Sony SEL90M28G FE 90mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens for Mirrorless...
  • A perfect match for α7 series, 35mm full-frame E-mount cameras, 90mm Macro with a bright F2.8 maximum aperture, Nano AR...
  • Minimum Focus Distance : 0.92 ft (0.28 m), Maximum Magnification ratio : 1.0x, Focal Length : 90 mm. The angle of view...
  • Optical Steady Shot image stabilization for handheld shooting, Instant manual/auto focus selection via a sliding focus...
  • Corner to corner sharpness w/ Advanced Spherical elements, Super ED glass w/ multi-coating reduces flare and ghosting,...
  • Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) for quiet, precise focusing; Weight: 602 g (21.3 oz)

The construction of the lens includes 2 extra low dispersion elements including one Super ED element. These takes care of chromatic aberrations, increase color saturation and improves overall image sharpness. There is also an aspherical element that takes care of coma, field curvature and monochromatic aberrations. Additionally, a Nano AR coating ensures that the lens is able to suppress flares and ghosting when working in bright conditions.

The maximum aperture of the lens is a decent f/2.8. For a 90mm lens the maximum aperture is decent but not at par with some of the other lenses that we have seen on this list. F/2.8 would produce decent quality background blur (bokeh).

Autofocusing on the lens is powered by Direct Drive SSM system. The system is smooth and is fairly accurate. It is silent too. But the problem with this lens’ auto-focusing is that it has to travel a long way between macro and far infinity when you are set to macro and trying to shoot portraits. In normal mode (non-macro) the problem is non-existent.

The lens comes with OSS (Sony’s version of optical image stabilization). In real life shooting situations you will need OSS (Optical Steady Shot) for both portraits and for other genres you may wish to experiment with. This is because the f/2.8 maximum aperture isn’t as quick as some of the other lenses that we have discussed here.

10. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM

The second zoom lens that we have included in this list, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 is an L series lens and has optical image stabilization built into it. The focal length range of the lens covers the most essential focal lengths of 85mm, 105mm and 135mm.

This lens will work wonders regardless of the place you are shooting in. Tight places or on open fields, this lens is a great solution for every shooting scenario you have in your mind. Plus, this is an L series lens and therefore comes with very good weather sealing too.

The construction of the lens includes 1 Fluorite element and 5 UD elements. Fluorite element in the construction of the lens practically takes away all chromatic aberration. On top of it the Ultra-low dispersion elements are there for additional support. The lens also incorporates a Super Spectra Coating which suppresses flares and ghosting when shooting in bright conditions, in turn improving the overall color rendition and image sharpness.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
  • 70-200 mm focal length and 1:2.8 maximum aperture
  • Lens construction consists of 23 elements in 19 groups (1 fluorite and 5 UD elements)
  • 34-Degree - 12-Degree diagonal angle of view
  • Inner focusing system with USM and full-time manual focus option
  • 77 mm filter size. Extenders Compatible

Image stabilization on the lens is rated at 4 stops giving you an incredible amount of option when shooting in low light situations. There are three different types of image stabilization loaded into the lens with each of them ideal for a specific shooting situation.

The lens is powered by Canon’s ring-type Ultra-sonic Motor. Ring type is a reliable and quick AF motor that nails focus every time. The lens has internal focusing which ensures that the barrel length remains the same throughout the focusing range. Additionally, the lens comes with full-time manual focusing override.

11. Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Apo Planar T* ZF.2

Zeiss Otus 85mm f1.4 Apo Planar T ZF.2
Zeiss Otus 85mm f1.4 Apo Planar T ZF.2

The Zeiss Otus 85mm is a fantastic and has been ranked number 3 on the lens sharpness rating by DxOMark with ratings point of 49 and a lens sharpness of 35. There are many things positives for this lens among a few downsides as well.

The lens construction includes 1 aspherical element and 6 anomalous partial dispersion elements. The lens features an apochromatic planar optical design. This design is a very complex architecture which reduces lateral chromatic aberrations (LCA). In fact this lens is able to focus three colors (out of the 7 in the visible spectrum of light) on to the image plane which produces superlative image quality, higher color saturation and better contrast and sharpness. The overall lens design incorporates a floating design. The lens also has been treated with the Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating which is capable of suppressing lens flares and ghosting.

Resultantly, the lens produces stunning portrait images with truer colors and beautiful background blur, thanks to the wide open f/1.4 aperture. The exterior construction is robust and demonstrates an all-metal robust design. This lens is more than capable of surviving the occasional bag handling and rough rides. In one word this is one of the, if not the best 85mm lens you could buy for shooting portraits with a full-frame camera.

One final thing. This is a manual focusing lens. The focusing mechanism is internal which means when you turn the focusing ring the lens barrel length won’t change. Manual focusing lenses are an acquired taste. Not everyone is adept at using them quite right. But for those who have been bred on manual focusing lenses these lenses are the only way they known how to focus. In your case even if you are dependent on an AF lens, the Zeiss will not disappoint you.

12. Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 ZF.2

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f1.4 ZF.2
Zeiss Milvus 85mm f1.4 ZF.2

The Zeiss Milvus is the cheaper younger sibling to the Otus f/1.4 that we just finished reading about. One thing that certainly goes against the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Apo Planar T* ZF.2 is its price tag.

At over $4K that lens is way above the reach of most photographers, and we are talking about a single focal length and that too for a manual focus lens. But if your life depends on a portrait lens and you need the absolute best that lens will never let you down.

The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 ZF.2 is probably a compromise in that sense. And we are talking about a Milvus lens!

The construction of the lens constitutes 7 anomalous partial dispersion elements and features a complex planar optical design. The lens uses a floating elements system. This mechanism ensures that the lens retains its sharpness across the focusing range. Zeiss has used their T* Anti-reflective coating that suppresses lens flares and ghosting. Plus the Nikon version (ZF) has a manual aperture ring with a de-clicked feature that makes manual aperture changes a smooth function. The Canon version (ZE) does not have that.

Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Milvus ZE Lens for Canon EOS DSLR Cameras
  • Eve mount lens/full-frame Format
  • Aperture range: f/1. 4 to f/16
  • 7 anomalous partial Dispersion elements
  • Complex planar optical design
  • Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating

This is yet another manual focusing lens and features a large rubberized and smooth manual focusing ring. The highlight of the lens is definitely the large f/1.4 wide open aperture. It is the perfect tool for selective focusing or subject separation from the background. Additionally, the lens’ wide open aperture will also ensure that you are able to make nice clean exposures even in low light situations.

13. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

Canon EF 85mm f:1.2L II USM Lens
Canon EF 85mm f:1.2L II USM Lens

Canon’s crown jewel of portrait lenses the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM is optically a fantastic design. It comes with an incredible f/1.2 wide open aperture. If you plan on using it wide open on a bright sunlit day, you will run out of shutter speed on most cameras. You will need a ND filter just so that you are able to use it wide open. Unless it is a new moon night, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM will continue to lock focus and continue to make images.

The f/1.2 is an incredibly wide aperture to play with. Most amateur photographers will struggle with the shallow depth of field. If you plan on using this manually, you better have very good eyes or focus peaking on your camera. Otherwise you will end up struggling with the narrow margin of error and most of your image will end up being out of focus.

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens with Altura Photo Advanced Accessory and Travel...
  • INCLUDES: Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens + Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack + Altura Photo Compact 62-Inch Monopod +...
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE LENS: The EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM delivers simply astonishing low-light performance. Featuring the robust...
  • CANON brand accessories included: Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM Lens + E-72 II 72mm Lens Cap + Lens Dust Cap E (Rear) +...
  • COMPATIBLE with all Canon Cameras, including EOS 7D Mark II, 70D, 77D, 80D, Rebel T3, T3i, T4i, T5, T5i, T6, T6i, T6s,...
  • CANON AUTHORIZED DEALER. Includes Canon USA Warranty.

That said, the 85mm because of its wide aperture will thrive in situations where you need beautiful blurry backgrounds. The 8 diaphragm blades produce nice rounded bokeh. The construction of the lens includes 8 elements arranged in 7 groups. This includes a high precision Aspherical lens element. The lens incorporates a floating optical system.

Related Post: Best Bokeh Lenses

Auto-focusing on the lens is powered by Canon’s Ultrasonic Auto-focus Motor. This is a smooth and surefooted AF system that nails focus accurately almost all the time. But having said that the speed of auto-focusing is not a match for some of the other lenses Canon makes. Thus, this is a great lens for portraits, but not so great for any other fast action moments.

The lens comes with full-time manual focusing override which is useful when shooting in a low contrast and or low light situation. Using this technique you can correct the focusing on the fly without having to flip a switch to change focus mode first.

Being an L lens has its obvious advantages. The EF 85mm f/1.2 does have good moisture resistance and dust resistant construction. However, the lens does not have any image stabilization. One would imagine that this lens lever needs any image stabilization, unless of course you are shooting outdoors on a new moon night.


Note: As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Certain content that appears on PhotoWorkout.com comes from Amazon. This content is provided ‘as is’ and is subject to change or removal at any time.

Leave a Comment