Do you need an 85mm lens?

Simple question, and I believe we’ve all been there before…

The 85mm lens is mostly recommended for portraits, people praise it for portraiture, I do understand why, but you can actually use it for a ton of things.

The first reason why people love it so much is the absence of distortion, warping and it’s respect for your model’s facial and body features.

People look great with this lens, the 50mm is maybe closer to what we perceive, but the 85 is not too far away.

I’ve talked about the precautions you have to take when using wide angle lenses in the past, if you take a look at it you might understand a little bit better what I mean.

> Dance photography, 5 reasons why you should go wide!

The 2nd cool thing about it is the distance between you and your model. You are not too far, no too close, you are not getting in the way and you are far enough to still be able to communicate with your model.

5D Mark III – 85mm f1.8
1/160s at f3.5 ISO200
BTS: Do with what you have – BTS Karate Photoshoot Feat. Jessica Hugues

5D Mark III – 85mm f1.8
1/800s at f2.5 ISO50
BTS: How I handle Natural light – Ballerina BTS video photoshoot

5D Mark IV – 85mm f1.21 mark II
1/200s at f7.1 ISO125

The third thing is that It has its own personality. I simply love the look. I love wide angle lenses, but sometimes you don’t want your background to be pushed that far away. You want it closer, you want a tighter shot and when I have a succession of vertical or horizontal lines, I almost always pull out my 85. It provides a look that is pleasing to me when I need to focus on my model.

5D Mark IV – 85mm f1.2 Mark II
1/250s at f5.6 ISO200

5D Mark IV – 85mm f1.2 mark II
1/200s at f7.1 ISO100

The fourth reason why you should own that lens is the shallow depth of field and the bokeh The 85 lets you fine-tune a little more the separation between your model and your background. Another great thing of being able to open beyond f2.8 is the option to shoot in low light conditions without pushing your ISO too high.

5D Mark III – 85mm f1.8
1/400s at f1.8 ISO160
BTS: Behind the scenes outdoor crossfit photoshoot

5D Mark IV – 85mm f1.2 mark II
1/125s at f1.4 ISO800
BTS: Prepare for the worst!

Last but not least, it’s a prime lens, even the cheapest models give amazing results, results that for me are noticeably better than most zoom lenses. I own the 1.8, I have worked with the 1.2 mark II on a lot of my recent shoots and both deliver amazing the results. Of course, if you have the money for the better-built weather sealed f1.2 go for it… if not the f1.8 will do the work!

You may have noticed that almost all of my examples do not specifically fall into the portraiture department. I use it for sports, circus shots, dance, it’s really a versatile lens. Like I said in my previous video on the duo 35 and 85 mm you can get a wide variety of shots and get the job done with only 2 lenses.

> The 85mm f1.2L II & 35mm f1.4L II, the only Lenses you need?

I loved the 85the minute I got it, forgot about it for a year or so and began using it again a lot recently.

Do you own an 85? Why? What is your favorite prime lens? Tell me in the comments below.

Do you need an 85mm lens?hazekware

4 comments on "Do you need an 85mm lens?"

  1. Amanda Dyvig on

    Do you ever use it for dancers in theaters? I just bought myself an 85 mm lens and have never really shot with a fixed lens but wanted the higher aperature as my theater during-show photos are always too dark or too blurry due to restrictions with my zoom lens! I love you photos so am feeling hopeful about the purchase and it’s purpose

  2. Amanda Dyvig on

    Have you ever used the 85 doe stage photos of dancers? Love all your dancer photos! I have struggled with photos in low light theaters of dancers due to limitations with my zoom lens. I have gotten an 85 lens to try the higher aperature and am seeing somewhat optimistic but is definitely not the conventional use of a fixed lens (and I’ve never used a fixed lens before so all foreign territory for me!)…any advice would be awesome! Atleast I know you understand some of the challenges of photographing dancers!

    • For stage performances, I rarely use fixed lenses unless I know beforehand how far I am placed from the action if I have a little bit of space to move. But I understand, keeping the ISO low, and getting tack sharp images in certain circumstances is a challenge. But it’s doable, if you are placed well and if you are not shooting crazy fast movements…

  3. Pingback: Should I Get 50mm Or 85mm Lens? – Erickkasysavane

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