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Looking to purchase a portrait lens for my 70D. 50mm 1.2L or 85mm 1.8?


Looking to purchase a 50mm 1.2L or a 85mm (not an L). Is there a big difference in these two lenses besides the price?


"Your comments are very mean and for no apparent reason!"


You must ignore this guy.  I do most of the time.   Not only rude, he is mostly misleading.  This causes me to reply in a PM a lot of the time.


At any rate, I am an owner of the ef 50mm f1.2L.  It is a lens above all others.  At this time nobody makes a lens like this.  Yes, it is difficult to use.  Yes it has a learning curve that some never master but if you do it is wonderful.  It has a steep entry price.  I will never get rid of mine.  And when you stop it down it is no harder to use than any 50mil but nobody buys a f1.2 lens to stop it down!  50mil works out well, maybe the best of all, on a cropper for portraits.


I also have the ef 85mm f1.2L. It too is in a class of its own. Nothing like it.  I had the 85mm f1.8 you asked about and I sold it in favor of the big f1.2L.  I also had the Sigma 50 f1.4 and 85 f1.4 both 'Art' lens and sold them both for the two big Canon's.  Now that's  me, how you react and use them will be totally different but like I said, there is nothing like them.


The down side besides the cost of the f1.2 lenses is heavy and big.  Both of these are that, I mean.  If you feel heavy is not for you than by all means take a long look at the 50mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.8.  Both cheaper and lighter and easier to master.  IMPO, don't buy the 50mm f1.8.  I wouldn't even consider it at htis point.  It is an entry level lens and you are well beyond that. Right? 



Stick around even if you just do a PM. I enjoy sharring knowledge with like minded folks.

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

Your comments are very mean and for no apparent reason!"


You must ignore this guy.  I do most of the time.   Not only rude, he is mostly misleading.  This causes me to reply in a PM a lot of the time.


I didn't make a mean or rude comment.  Someone else did the honors.  If pointing out that you need to understand both your lenses and your cameras is rude, then sign me up.  GUILTY.  BTW, your comment is the most offensive on this thread.

"The right mouse button is your friend."


For about one-tenth the price of the 50mm "L" lens you can get the 50mm f/1.8 STM lens which is decent image quality and better depth of field control than a zoom lens.


If you have an existing zoom lens set it to 50mm and 85mm and go around shooting, or at least composing, so you can see the view you get with each lens.


On a crop body the 85mm angle of view is equivalent to a 135mm lens on a 35mm film camera; may be too long for general portrait shooting  If you do like its perspective it is a great value; good image quality and reasonable price.


The 50mm f/1.2 is a very specialized lens. At f/1.2 DOF is very thin and it "suffers" from focus shift at certain distances and apertures. It is not a general purpose portrait lens; it is for pros who understand and can capitalize on its uniqueless.


If you are mentored into getting tis lens either ent it first or buy with a return privilege so you can try it out first.

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

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




You are actually on the right track in looking at 50mm and 85mm lenses for portraits.  The general consensus among nearly everyone who writes about cameras is that there is a "classic portrait length" and that it is a range of between 85mm and 135mm as those lenses look on a full frame camera.


On your 70d you probably know you multiply a lens's focal length times 1.6 to translate that range into the field of view you get on a crop body.  The analogous lenses for the range are therefore marked (approximately) by 50mm lenses and 85mm lenses.


In another, more perfect world most people would be familiar with the field of view angles various focal length lenses give and so the familiar rules of thumb and the writing on the subject would all eschew focal length millimeters in favor of degrees in field of view rather than translating FF to crop with the 1.6x multiplier.  For now though, this is the hand Earth has been dealt. 


I digress. 


The only thing about your post I think the others are reacting to is that you picked the top of the line expensive "L" series professional lens for the 50mm f/1.2 L option, and you selected the much lower cost non-L 85mm f/1.8 as the 85mm alternative.   No law against that but it might not be the only 2 lenses to look at.


There is a cheaper 50mm f/1.4 lens that would be a more traditional equivalent comparison for an 85mm f/1.8, and there is a very expensive 85mm f/1.2 L pro lens that you might more usually see compared with the pro 50mm f/1.2 L. 


I have the 85mm f/1.8. It is a fast focusing light little lens. It is pretty sharp and opened all the way to f/1.8 it gives a very shallow depth of field. The f/1.2 will go even shallower, but I don't think you'd really look at an 85 shot at f/1.8 and very often be upset you could go no shallower. More often you will find you prefer to stop down a little to f/2.8 or so just to get both of a person's eyes to be in focus instead of just one sharp and one blurry. 


As for focal length I have shot both 50mm and 85mm on a crop. Both are great but the 85mm will be too long to use in some tight rooms where you can't back up far enough to fit your subject into the frame.  On the other hand the 85mm will give more background blur. 


Good luck. 


Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?


The "L" versions of the 50 & 85mm lens have extremely low focal ratio, can attain a very shallow depth of field, but (and this is important) they do not focus very quickly.  This means they are not well-suited to situations when you are shooting on-the-fly (e.g. action photography).  This is not typical of "L" series lenses... most focus quickly, but these two lenses are designed for shooting in controlled situations where focus speed is not important.


They are good for situations where you can take the time to make sure the lens has achieved accurate focus on your subject (not in a hurry).  And in those situations and when used properly, they do have a particularly gorgeous and smooth quality to the out-of-focus blur (bokeh) which is superior to most other lenses of the same focal length.


I'm a bit surprised that you're comparing a 50mm f/1.2L to an 85mm f/1.8 non-L.  I would have expected the question to be about two 50mm lenese (L & non-L) or two 85mm lenses (L vs. non-L).  So I'm not sure if you're asking about differences in the 50mm vs. 85mm focal length... or if you're asking about differences between the "L" and non-L versions of the lenses.


50mm (or longer) is a nice focal length for "portrait" shots when using an APS-C size sensor body.  When using a full-frame body, the longer 85mm (or longer) focal length is preferred for portraits.  But anything "longer" is nice.  There are photographers who do portrait shoots with the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens (and consider it their favorite).  I've done shots with my 300mm f/2.8L.  The "downside" to longer focal length lenses is that you have to be farther from your subject.  For environmental portraits (shooting out of the studio) these can often work well... but indoor shooting can be a problem because you need to get farther away from the subject to fit everything in and interior spaces may not be large enough.


While new photographers typically think of short focal length lenses as "wide angle" and longer focal lengths as "telephoto", another way to think of the lenses is that short focal length lenses "stretch" the sense of depth (sort of like the passenger side rear-view mirror on a car "Ojbects in mirror may be closer than they appear"... distances are exageratted (photographers who shoot interiors spaces sometimes select those lenses to make smaller spaces seem larger.)  Longer focal lengths offer "compression" ... the difference in distance between a moderately close subject and a more distant subject wont seem like it's that much (as if one is only slightly closer than the other).  But longer lenses also reduce the area of the background visible behind your subject and a side effect is that they also contribute to a shallower depth of field (depth of field refers to the range of distances both in front of and behind your focused distance at which subjects will appear to be reasonably focused.)  When you combine these two properties, it also tends to increase the amount of blur in the background (often in a very pleasing way that helps make the "in-focus" subject "pop" in front of a strongly blurred background.)


If in doubt... just "rent" the potential lenses before you make your purchase decision so you can try them out and see what you think.


Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da

"... but (and this is important) they do not focus very quickly."


This is very true of the 85mil but no so much of a issue for the 50mm f1.2L.  It might be a tad slower but not by much over the other 50mil offerings.  When you stop it down to, or past, f1.4 it is really not much different than any of the other 50mils Canon offers. 

Except is is much larger and heavier.  It is a far better lens than any other 50 made by anybody.  Including the Otus, IMHO, of course. Smiley Wink

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


Yes, I would recommend going with either the 85mm 1.8 or a 50mm 1.8 depending on whether you will be shooting portraits inside or outside. Both will be extended x 1.6 crop factor of your 70D so the 50 will function like an 80mm and the 85 will function like a 135mm. After you have gotten familiar with a prime lens and have considerable practice with it, you may want to consider a 50mm f/1.2 if you feel it will serve your purpose at that point. Getting a 50 f/1.2 now would be like learning to drive a stick shift with a Porsche. Also, the 50mm f/1.2 is a better fit for a full-frame camera. Just my opinion.