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Treating a 85mm like a wide angle?


Hello all,

Just wondering if anyone has used the 85mm sorta like a wide angle in portrait sessions? The 28-70mm interest me for this reason, but the 85mm is beautiful. Anyway thanks for the input. 



It would help to have some more detail:
What camera model are you using - it makes a difference
There are multiple versions of both of the two lenses to which you refer:
Which 28-70 are you referring to?
Which 85mm are you referring to?

cheers, TREVOR

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"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

I’m shooting with the R5 and RF 24-105mm L. What I mean is, sometimes in portrait sessions I like to incorporate the environment as well as full body images. I can do this easy with the RF 28-70 but wondering if this is easily achievable with RF 85mm. I assume I would just stand further away with the 85mm to achieve this. 

Yes.  If you need to incorporate more within the frame and will not be doing panoramas, you will only have two options:

  1. Move further back.  Clearly, some cons here: your subject will be smaller in the frame, depth of field will not be as shallow (if wanting to minimize DOF is a goal).
  2. Use a wider angle lens.  Can lead to distortions in faces when doing headshots, especially if using focal lengths at around 50mm or less.  Though the subject can now be larger in the frame.

Camera: EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L
Lighting: Profoto Lights & Modifiers

Thank you! A few things (and I may be answering my own question here). My work as a portrait photographer is picking up and I  figured I’d invest in the best portrait lens (85mm). Creativity I love it but not fond of it being a fixed lens. Figured the 28-70mm would be a better option but it’s at F2 not F1.2. Basically I love the results of the 85mm at 1.2 but the 28-70mm is more versatile. Also, going through my camera roll, most my portraits aren’t going above 60-70mm and I have the RF 24-105 L already. 

Are you using a full frame camera or crop sensor? While there's no absolute rule for capturing portraits, you typically want to be in the 70 to 200mm range on full frame (or 44 to 125mm on crop sensor).

"Best" focal length is also very subjective.  Personally, I prefer 135mm (full frame).  What I did was looked at various headshots of the same exact subject taken at multiple focal lengths between 70 and 200 while keeping the framing the same.  I just liked the look of the 135mm the best.  You may want to do the same to see which specific focal length you may like best.

If you're going to vary between headshots, head & shoulder, half-body, full body, then having a zoom will definitely make life much easier.

I recently posted a topic about minimizing depth of field.  Note that the list doesn't include any f/1.2 lenses at the top.  So if your goal is to obliterate the background, there are many options.  Though I also now have to ask if that is your goal.  i.e. you mentioned wanting to include more within your frame.  But if shooting at a narrow depth of field, any extra background elements will all be out of focus.  Seems like a competing requirement.


Camera: EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L
Lighting: Profoto Lights & Modifiers

Thank you. All very good points. I shoot full frame (R5). This probably won’t help your question but sometimes I want to obliterate the background and sometimes I don’t. Other times I like to shoot at F8-F9 so yea lol. 

I assume I would just stand further away with the 85mm to achieve this. 

This should work, simplistically; however, to get a full-length picture, you're going to need to stand quite a way back.  This means you will need a big studio.

But worse than that, standing back will create a very flat perspective, making your model look flat and 2-dimensional.  This is generally not what you want for portraits.

A lot of people will tell you that perspective depends on your lens; they are all wrong, and this right here is why it matters.  Perspective depends on the camera-subject distance only.  So, what you really want to do is:

  1. Place your camera the right distance from the subject to get the perspective you want.  This might be 6 feet for some people, maybe 10-15 feet for people with stronger features.  1-3 feet if you want them to look like a clown.
  2. Pick the lens that gives you the composition you want; a longer lens for a head shot, a wide lens for a full-body shot, etc.
  3. Take the pic.

Not everyone has a massive set of lenses to choose from for step 2; this is where a zoom can really help.  So all in all, I think I would have to recommend the zoom.

People say the 85mm is the "best portrait lens", but that's only because they're making a bunch of assumptions; like that you're going to take a head-and-shoulders shot only.  If you want to be more creative -- and it sounds like you do -- then more focal lengths should be a much better answer than moving the camera.

Thank you for the help. I’ve made the decision to go with the 28-70mm. It fits my creative style more. Now I’ll wait for the rumored 28-70mm MK ll lol. 

If you buy anything expensive, the MK II will appear soon after... 😉  You're welcome!

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