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The Best Lens for Event Photography: 10 Picks for Every Event Shooter

Event photography is a great industry for both recreational and professional shooting opportunities. Whether you plan to shoot photos of small events like parties and weddings or large-scale events like concerts and sports games, having the right lens is sure to set you up for success. In this article, we look at the best lens for event photography for every kind of event photographer. Whether you’re on a budget, just starting out, looking for the best of the best, or you shoot Sony, Canon, or Nikon, we’ve got you covered!

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

Great for weddings and indoor events

The EF 85mm boasts superior image quality and construction for professional events photography.

Excellent maximum aperture of f/1.2.
Aspheric element to reduce distortions.
Versatile focal distance for various events.
No image stabilization.

Let’s start with a high-quality prime lens from Canon. The Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM is a versatile lens that could be used for a variety of event photography scenarios. Its 85mm fixed focal distance is great when you need to be close to the action and have space to move to create compositions – such as weddings or parties.

It also excels at low-light indoor photography due to the larger maximum aperture of f/1.2. This offers great control and when paired with a high-quality Canon DSLR, you will be able to take stunning shots with no background noise.

Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras - Fixed

In terms of build quality, this L-series lens features a fantastic ring-type USM autofocus system. This is upgraded from older Canon USM systems. As a result, you will be able to focus quickly and accurately on people and objects when they are moving. It also utilizes a floating optical system within the lens that includes an aspheric element. Therefore, you can expect minimum aberrations and distortion. The basic image quality should also be fantastic regardless of the situation.

If you intend to step up to a professional level, this is the best lens for event photography for Canon cameras.

2. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G

Perfect for low-light and indoor events

The AF-S FX 85mm is another versatile prime lens that is great for indoor events where lighting conditions are varied.

Great lens construction for sharp photos.
Fast and accurate SWM AF motor.
Large f/1.4 aperture for professional bokeh effect.
Relatively expensive.

For Nikon camera owners, a similar lens to the Canon EF 85mm is the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G. This is another premium prime lens with a versatile 85mm focal distance. At 85mm, you can still hone in on details while also capturing wider-angled shots. This is another great lens for weddings, parties, and indoor events.

As a G-series lens, it features an improved build quality with an excellent lens construction. This includes glass that has a nano crystal coating to reduce flare and ghosting. As a result, you can also expect beautiful images that are sharp from corner to corner. Combined with the maximum f/1.4 aperture, this lens will fare well in most low-light scenarios.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

For quick autofocusing, the AF-S FX 85mm lens has Nikon’s patented SWM (Silent Wate Motor). This motor is quiet, fast, and accurate. You should be able to capture the action easily and photograph moments in sharp detail. In terms of compatibility, this lens is suitable for Nikon’s FX full-frame DSLRs, but it can also work interchangeably with Nikon DX cameras.

3. Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

Great for action-packed indoor events

The Sony FE 85mm is a top prime lens that allows you to easily cope with low-light indoor situations and fast-moving action.

Superior G build quality.
Excellent image sharpness and clarity.
Fast SSM AF motor to capture the action.
More expensive than Nikon & Canon counterparts.

To complete the trio of 85mm lenses, we have the premium Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM. For Sony users, this is the best lens for event photography. It has it all – a high-quality build, a versatile focal distance, a large maximum aperture, and superior image quality. A small drawback is that it is more expensive than its Canon and Nikon counterparts.

However, for that price, you get a GM lens. Sony’s GM lenses have superior build quality and lens construction compared to their basic range. As a result, you can expect excellent image quality, sharpness, and clarity. With specialist elements and coatings, the images will look fantastic with minimum distortion.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens

For indoor events, this lens is also a beast. With a maximum aperture of f/1.4, you can easily adjust to poor lighting conditions. At the same time, this aperture will allow you to create fantastic professional shots with background separation and bokeh effects. This event photography lens sports Sony’s Super Sonic Wave Motor which will allow you to work quickly and effectively during ever-changing event situations.

4. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Budget Pick
Great for would-be event photographers

The EF 50mm is a great starting lens for those who are just starting to experiment with event photography.

Lightweight and compact lens design.
Great maximum aperture of f/1.8.
A fantastic budget option.
Not as sharp as it’s L-series counterpart.

We now move onto some budget options with the first option for Canon users. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is an incredibly popular lens. It is a good starting place for those who are entering the world of event photography. It may not offer the same quality as L-series lenses but it still performs great and has the right assets for events.

At 50mm, you will have to get closer to the action, however, it is considered one of the best focal distances for events and doubles as a great portrait shooter. This lens is also relatively small and lightweight so shouldn’t put any strain on your arms during those events that drag on forever!

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Despite this being a basic lens, it has a great maximum aperture of f/1.8. This will allow you to get professional bokeh effects, while also coping with low-light environments. The lens elements also have improved coatings and will give your images great color balance. You should also notice minimal ghosting and flare. Overall, this is a great event photography lens for beginners who are considering venturing into the niche.

5. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G

Suitable for an introduction to event photography

The AF-S 50mm f/1.8G is another solid budget option to start leaning event photography with.

Great maximum aperture of f/1.8.
Works well in low-light situations.
A lightweight and compact design.
Quality can’t compare to top Nikon lenses.

Similar to the Canon EF 50mm, Nikon also has a budget 50mm prime lens – the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G. This lens is similarly priced and a brilliant budget option for Nikon DSLR owners who want to develop their event photography skills. It also makes for a decent kit lens and can be useful in a variety of situations.

For event photography, this 50mm lens is better suited for intimate events where you have closer access to the attendees. So, in short, it’s great for weddings, parties, and baptisms. It also has a maximum aperture of f/1.8 – this means you can take fantastic shots with a bokeh effect, and effectively separate your subjects from their background. It also performs well in the nighttime and low-light settings as a result.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens

The optical system is not as good as the top Nikon lenses, but it will still provide sharp images. You can also expect to focus relatively easily on moving subjects using the SWM Silent Wave Motor system.

6. Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

Suitable for new events photographers

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 will allow new photographers to still take high-quality event photos on a budget.

Compact and lightweight for easy portability.
Excellent maximum aperture of f/1.8.
Aspheric lens elements to reduce distortions.
May not have the best AF system.

To complete our trio of budget lenses we have the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8. This lens looks fantastic and it has a great build quality despite its budget price. This FE lens is a great starting point for any Sony shooter wanting to get started in event photography.

It has a high-quality 7-blade circular aperture that allows you to get great background separation and bokeh effects. The lens also features several advanced elements including aspherical elements. These help to reduce distortions and make your images sharp and clear.

Sony - FE 50mm F1.8 Standard Lens (SEL50F18F/2)

If you want to attend an event on the fly without too much planning, this is also a good choice. This is because the lens weighs just 6.56oz and it is incredibly compact. While this lens may not compare in terms of raw quality to something like the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM, it is still a great lens for beginner event photography.

7. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM

Perfect for sporting and outdoor events

The EF 70-200mm is a superior lens for professional outdoor photography.

Superior image quality and sharpness.
Fast AF and utility with a tripod mount.
Durable casing for all-weather use.
Quite heavy and bulky.

We now move into the telephoto territory. Now, prime lenses are brilliant for weddings and smaller-space events, but telephoto lenses are really what you want to use if you’re shooting sporting events or large festivals, concerts, and outdoor events. This is why the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III is such a good choice.

This superior-quality telephoto lens is a great choice if you are looking to take your event photography to a professional level. It has a hefty price tag, but the improvement in quality and utility is certainly worth it. With a constant aperture of f/2.8 across the focal distances, you can still create bokeh effects and gain that all-important background separation.

This L-series lens also has a durable weather-sealed coating and improved durability. As a result, you can comfortably use it during outdoor events, regardless of the conditions.

The basic image quality is exceptional – regardless of the focal range, you can expect corner-to-corner sharpness and no distortion.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM Lens

For sporting event tracking, this lens also has built-in image stabilization and a tripod mount. You will be able to focus easily on fast-moving subjects and mount this bulky lens to reduce user fatigue.

8. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

Great for night-time outdoor events

The 70-200mm is one of the best Nikon lenses for outdoor event photography in low-light situations.

Constant maximum aperture of f/2.8.
Superior weather-sealed coating.
Excellent lens construction for sharp images.
Quite heavy at 3.1lbs / 1405kg.

A similar telephoto lens for Nikon users, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR is another amazing professional lens that excels at outdoor event photography. With a focal range of 70-200mm you can easily adapt to a variety of moments and still capture fantastic detail in the people.

This lens also has a host of useful features for larger events use. For starters, it is weather-sealed and can cope with nearly any weather condition. It also has a tripod mount so you can fix the lens to a tripod, instead of your camera, which is great because of the sheer bulk of this lens. You also get vibration reduction built-in – this works for up to 4 stops of image stabilization so you can easily track and capture moving objects during fast-paced sporting games.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens

With a constant f/2.8 aperture across the focal distances, you have great control and can even get good, well-exposed shots during any late evening sporting event. Overall, this is a superior lens that was built to create stunning, professional-grade photos.

9. Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM

Great for EOS R owners and sporting events.

The RF 70-200mm f/4 provides fantastic image quality and focusing for fast-moving sporting events.

Constant f/4 maximum aperture.
Superior lens elements and construction.
Fast nano-USM autofocus system.
Relatively expensive.

If you have a Canon EOS R camera, one of the best event photography lenses is the Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. There is an f/2.8 version of this lens also, but the f/4 version is much cheaper without sacrificing significantly on features and quality.

It features a superior lens construction including UD elements and ASC coatings. This effectively means that images have corner-to-corner sharpness, without any distortions. It also benefits from the nano-USM autofocus system. As a result, you will be able to focus and track moving people quickly. This makes it ideal for sporting events.

Canon RF70-200mm F4 L is USM (4318C002)

The constant f/4 aperture should also still give great control, although it may not perform as well as the f/2.8 version for low-light situations.

10. Nikon Z NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 S

A superior lens for night-time sporting events

The Nikon Z 70-200mm has a great set of features that make it perfect for outdoor sporting events.

Constant f/2.8 aperture.
Excellent lens construction for sharp images.
Great optical image stabilization to help focusing.
Relatively expensive.

Like the Canon RF 70-200mm, Nikon also has a premium telephoto lens for their Z cameras – the Nikon Z NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 S. This Z lens is the perfect event photo lens for Z users. It is perfect for outdoor events and sporting events because of the versatile focal range, constant f/2.8 aperture, and fast AF system.

The lens is both dust and drip-resistant, meaning a bit of nasty weather shouldn’t cause any damage. It also has an under-barrel tripod mount which somewhat negates its heavy and bulky design. For nighttime events, this lens also performs great with its high-resolution optics and maximum f/2.8 aperture. You should also be able to track subjects easily with the aid of optical image stabilization.

NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras

If you want to excel and create professional outdoor event photos, this Nikon Z lens is certainly a fantastic choice.

Which Event Photography Lens is Right for You?

The best lens for event photography for you depends on your circumstance. Consider what events you will typically be photographing. For example, if you specialize in outdoor sports events, a telephoto lens like the Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM or Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR would help you focus on the action in great detail.

If you are simply testing your event photography skills, a budget option like the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 could be a great starting point. For indoor, professional event photography, the Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM or Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G are excellent options.

Related Post: Event Photography Tips

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