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DSLR portrait lens EOS 60D


Looking for some advice in lens buying for a canon DSLR!

I'm looking at getting a portrait lens but I don't know much about finding one compatible with my camera and the canon site is quite hard to understand in terms of this. I'm also unsure whether they stopped making lenses for older cameras as none I looked at were compatible (mine is an EOS 60D).

Can anyone offer any advice on getting an affordable portrait lens for this camera, and where I might be able to get one if canon doesn't make them for older models etc.




For the 60D a good “portrait lens” would be the 50mm f/1.8 or slightly longer the 85mm f/1.8. 

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X Mark III, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, Pixma TR8620a, LR Classic


My favorite portrait focal length is 135mm due to its compression.   A 50mm f/1.8, while a very inexpensive lens, would give you an 80mm field of view equivalent on your EOS 60D, but would still lead to facial distoritions if doing headshots.

I would personally go with John's recommendation of the 85mm f/1.8 (field of view equivalent of 136mm on your EOS 60D).  Not as much compression as an actual 135mm, but portraits will be rendered much more nicely with the 85 vs the 50.

One thing I did before picking up a portrait lens was to check out how various focal lengths would render faces.  I don't have the website offhand anymore, but one showed the same person (headshot) captured with lenses ranging from 24mm to 200mm.  I personally found the 200mm too flat for my taste.  But others may find that focal length very pleasing.

Finally, you may also want to consider working distance.  Longer focal lengths will require you to back up more.  Especially on a crop-sensor body like you have.   Here, something like the 85mm would be a better choice if working in tight spaces.


EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L, 600EX-RT (x6), ST-E3-RT
EOS C70, RF 24-70 f/2.8L IS, EF-EOS R 0.71x


On a 60D I would prefer a 50mm over an 85mm and certainly a 50mil would do better than a 135mm. A lot better! (over 210mm equivalent FL).   IME, even on a full frame camera, a 135mm is not easy to use unless you have a large studio to shoot in. And, if you do have a large studio and step back you wind up with the same appearance as you would of using an 85mm on a FF or 50mm on a 60D and being closer. A smaller space.

Yes, I have all three. EF 50mm f1.2L, EF 85mm F1.2L and EF 135mm F2L.

BTW, one of the best portrait lens just might be one of the EF 70-200mm f2.8L zooms. I use mine a lot of the time anymore. Come to think of it most of the time!  Although a tad bit long, IMHO, for a 60D but again if the studio is large enough the 70mm (112mm) end will do just fine. The plus there is it is a multi-tasker and not a uni-tasker like a dedicated portrait lens might be.

On that thought Sigma used to make, discontinued now but available used, the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM APO Lens. It would be perfect on a 60D.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!


Canon 60D is an APS-C format DSLR that can fully use both EF and EF-S lenses. But because of the smaller sensor format, you will likely want different focal lengths than someone using a full frame camera like a 5D Mark IV.

While certainly not a hard and fast rule, a "portrait" lens is usually a short telephoto. There are MANY of those available for 60D.

50mm lenses make for a good "short portrait" lens (much like an 85mm on full frame). There are the affordable Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, the mid-grade EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and the premium EF 50mm f/1.2L. 

On a 60D, 85mm make for a good "long portrait" lens (much like 135mm on full frame). There are plenty of these to choose among, too. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM is a mid-grade lens, while EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM and EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM are a couple of more premium option.

The shorter lens may be better if you have limited work space, such as a small studio setting. It also may be better for head and torso portraits, or for couples. The longer focal length might be preferable for more candid shots taken from a greater distance, or for tighter head shots, so long as you have sufficient working space.

Lenses in this range of focal lengths are used because of the way they render peoples' faces. Shorter focal lengths tend to exaggerate facial features, while longer focal lengths tend to compress them.

This is not to say that other focal lengths can't be used. For example a 35mm or 28mm might be wanted for full length portraits, especially couples like a bride and groom. The wider lens also may be useful for environmental portraits, which show a lot more of the person's surroundings, such as their home or workplace. The key thing with shorter focal lengths is to take care not to get too close to the subject and not to compose with them too near the edge of the image, which can cause strong exaggeration and distortion.

Longer focal lengths certainly can be used, too. Sometimes compression is desirable. For example a lot of fashion photographers like to work with longer focal lengths. On a 60D this would be 135mm and 200mm lenses... or possibly even longer. Canon's EF 135mm f/2L USM lens has near legendary reputation, though is a long lens requiring a lot of working space on an APS-C 60D.

You've probably noticed that I haven't listed any zooms. There are a couple reasons for that. One is that few zooms offer any larger than f/2.8 aperture, and even those tend to be pricey. Prime lenses can be a lot smaller (less intimidating to subjects), more affordable and can offer larger lens apertures. Often portraits are done with large apertures in order to strongly blur the background, to make the subject stand out. This is especially true for location work, where you have less control over the background than you do in a studio. Some types of portraits also go for a "dreamy" look, which the large aperture helps achieve.

But there are also instances where a zoom can be valuable. Kids and pet portraits often require very fast shooting where the versatility of a zoom can be quite helpful. Indoors I might use a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (either version), but outdoors with kids and pets an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L (any version) may be a better choice. A very affordable option is the Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens. Dating back to the days of film and one of the first lenses to feature image stabilization, it's sort of a "sleeper" that was often sold as a kit lens with various cameras. As a result, even though it's now discontinued there are A LOT of them around and they are pretty inexpensive... Yet the are very good performers! The 28-135mm has very good image quality, fast autofocus, helpful stabilization and a nice zoom range for portraiture. I've used several copies of the lens myself, over the years. I also know of at least two professional portrait photographers who swear by it! Nothing fancy... just a very capable lens that does the job well at minimal cost.

Again, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to portraiture. In addition to all the above there are 45mm, 90mm, 100mm and 105mm lenses that might serve well for portraiture. For example Canon has made an excellent mid-grade EF 100mm f/2 USM in the past (another discontinued lens).

There also are macro lenses that some people choose to serve double duty... both for portraiture and for close-up/macro work. Canon's EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM and EF 100mm f/2.8 USM are a couple mid-grade options... while the EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is a more premium choice. One bit of caution... macro lenses tend to be very sharp, capturing every little detail. Not all portrait subjects appreciate that!

Even Tilt-Shift lenses (also called Perspective Control) like Canon's TS-E 45mm f/2.8, TS-E 50mm f/2.8 and TS-E 90mm f/2.8 (both versions) also can be used for portraiture, although they are manual focus lenses so will be best used with stationary subjects in a more deliberate setting. Tilt-shift lenses offer some interesting effects with the plane of focus. 

All the following were shot using various lenses on APS-C format cameras like your 60D...

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens at f/2


Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens at f/2


Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens at f/4.5


Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens at f/48004825444_36a483588e_o.jpg

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + Canon EF 1.4X II (700mm combo) at f/5.68305087664_15ef99dcc6_z.jpg

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens at 30mm and f/1127237793139_7ccfb586a6_o.jpg

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens at 58mm and f/1139014943361_a970a8c5a5_o.jpg

Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens at 117mm and f/7.16269756447_685d9e5e0c_o.jpg

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens at 160mm and f/5.6


Some of the lenses mentioned above are discontinued, so will only be available on the used market. Also check for refurbished lenses at the Canon website. Those are little different from buying new (same warranty), but will save you a few $.


In terms of which lenses are compatible, I wrote an article about that which may help:

Will Lens X Work on Camera Y?

The 60D has an EF-S lens mount.  It will work fine with EF or EF-S lenses.


Compatibility is easy. Your EOS 60D will use ANY AND ALL Canon EF or EF-S-mount lenses ever made. There were  many non-Canon lenses made too, though there isn't the 100% function guarantee you have with a Canon-brand lens. 

True, EF and EF-S probably aren't being made anymore, but the used market offers a vast selection. There are a number of top-notch used photo dealers where you can find hundreds of lenses. KEH, Roberts (UsePhotoPro), MPB are three of them. Conditions ranging from Mint down to Rough. All guaranteed. There's also eBay where you can find good price deals, but no guarantees.

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