Pho­to: www.pxhere.com

The main tech­ni­cal ingre­di­ent of a great por­trait is, of course, not the cam­era, but a good fast lens. In this arti­cle, we will deal with Canon por­traits: we will con­sid­er the most inter­est­ing offers for the main types of cam­eras and mounts from the leg­endary man­u­fac­tur­er.

Types of lenses and mounts

For por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy, lens­es with equiv­a­lent focal lengths from 50 to 100mm are most often used — they are espe­cial­ly good for shoot­ing faces, because they do not dis­tort pro­por­tions. The clas­sic and most pop­u­lar focal length for por­traits is 85mm.

Aper­ture is also very impor­tant: a wide-open aper­ture allows you to effec­tive­ly sep­a­rate the sub­ject from the back­ground and cre­ate beau­ti­ful bokeh. The most com­mon type of por­trait lens­es are fixed focal length mod­els — they usu­al­ly com­bine cool optics and high aper­ture.

Below we take a look at two of Canon’s best por­trait cam­eras for each type of cam­era: APS‑C DSLRs (EF and EF‑S* mounts) and full-frame DSLRs (EF mount), APS‑C mir­ror­less cam­eras (EF‑M mount) and mir­ror­less full-frame cam­eras. cam­eras (RF mount).

*Canon APS‑C DSLRs are com­pat­i­ble with both ded­i­cat­ed APS‑C EF‑S mount lens­es and full-frame EF mount lens­es.

The Best Portrait Lenses for Canon’s APS‑C SLRs

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM sits nice­ly on Canon’s more com­pact crop bod­ies. Pho­to: pixeL24.ru


  • qui­et aut­o­fo­cus;
  • excel­lent sharp­ness in the cen­ter at f / 1.8 and good through­out the frame at a cov­ered aper­ture;
  • light and com­pact;
  • low price.


  • slow aut­o­fo­cus;
  • soft pic­ture around the edges at an open aper­ture.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 is a clas­sic Canon por­trait lens and one of the most pop­u­lar lens­es in gen­er­al. This is large­ly due to its low price, thanks to which every­one can expe­ri­ence the ben­e­fits of lens­es with a fixed focal length.

The glass is very sharp in the cen­ter and slight­ly soft at the edges wide open, but if you stop the aper­ture down, the sharp­ness evens out across the frame.

The STM ver­sion adds a qui­et focus dri­ve to a clas­sic opti­cal design.

On an APS‑C cam­era, the equiv­a­lent focal length of the lens is 80mm, which is quite a bit short of the stan­dard 85mm for a shoul­der-length por­trait. How­ev­er, its super-bud­get price more than com­pen­sates for a small lack of focal length.

Alter­na­tive: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM


  • excel­lent sharp­ness and con­trast;
  • cool bokeh and per­for­mance in low light due to high aper­ture;
  • one of the most inex­pen­sive native lens­es with f/1.4.


  • slow aut­o­fo­cus;
  • glare and illu­mi­na­tion.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 is Canon’s faster vari­ant of the 50mm prime. It can be safe­ly record­ed in one of the best por­trait lens­es for the com­pa­ny’s APS‑C cam­eras: the lens is com­pact, fast and inex­pen­sive — it costs only 32 thou­sand rubles.

The lens is very sharp, but, like many por­trait primes, it is strong­ly affect­ed by flare and flare when shoot­ing against the light.

50mm f/1.4 also gives an EGF (equiv­a­lent focal length) of 80mm on APS‑C cam­eras — a ver­sa­tile option, although for head­shots it is bet­ter to take Canon full-frame SLR lens­es from the list below — they are com­pat­i­ble with crop cam­eras, although not as much com­fort­able due to the larg­er size.

The best portrait lenses for Canon full-frame DSLRs

Sig­ma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The Sig­ma 85mm f/1.4 por­trait lens can no longer boast of com­pact dimen­sions. Pho­to: gallery.ykt.ru


  • excel­lent sharp­ness;
  • strong assem­bly;
  • fast and smooth aut­o­fo­cus.


  • heavy;
  • only com­pat­i­ble with large 86mm fil­ter (hard­er to find, more expen­sive).

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 and Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens­es already men­tioned in the rat­ing for APS‑C cam­eras are also suit­able for the com­pa­ny’s full-frame DSLRs. How­ev­er, their focal length may not be as ver­sa­tile for full-frame por­trai­ture.

The Sig­ma 85mm f/1.4 Art has a clas­sic focal length for head and shoul­ders por­traits. In gen­er­al, this is one of the best lens­es for any avail­able cam­era man­u­fac­tur­er (for exam­ple, for Sony). This glass is char­ac­ter­ized by impres­sive sharp­ness and excel­lent per­for­mance in all respects. At the same time, the price tag for it is low­er than for sim­i­lar native lens­es.

The main dis­ad­van­tage is the impres­sive dimen­sions (length 94 mm, fil­ter diam­e­ter 86mm) and weight (630 grams). Although its weight­i­ness is explained by a strong met­al case.

If high cost is not an obsta­cle for you, Canon has a more com­pact and lighter native glass — Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM.


Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM


  • nice pic­ture;
  • good val­ue for mon­ey;
  • com­pact.


  • no hood includ­ed;
  • noisy aut­o­fo­cus dri­ve.

The same focal length, but a small­er aper­ture gives native Canon EF 85mm f / 1.8. It boasts an excel­lent price, is known for good pic­ture qual­i­ty and beau­ti­ful bokeh.

At full frame and open aper­ture, you can notice a lit­tle soft­ness in the cor­ners of the frame, but if you close the aper­ture, every­thing becomes fine.

This is a com­pact lens that weighs in at a mod­er­ate 425 grams for the class.

The best portrait lenses for Canon APS‑C mirrorless cameras

Canon EF‑M 32mm f/1.4 STM

This light glass per­fect­ly man­i­fests itself not only in the stu­dio, but also on the street. Pho­to: canon.com.by


  • excel­lent sharp­ness at an open aper­ture;
  • light and com­pact;
  • good lumi­nos­i­ty.


  • no hood includ­ed;
  • vignetting at f/1.4 and f/2.

The Canon EF‑M 32mm f/1.4 STM is a ver­sa­tile lens with a focal length equiv­a­lent to 51mm at full frame. This is a wider-angle lens than the clas­sic 85mm por­trait lens, but it’s still great for most sit­u­a­tions.

It has a high aper­ture, which is good for get­ting a shal­low depth of field (to sep­a­rate the mod­el from the back­ground) and beau­ti­ful bokeh, as well as for shoot­ing in low light.

The pic­ture at wide open aper­ture is very sharp, and when work­ing with a lens hood (unfor­tu­nate­ly, not sup­plied), the lens copes well with flare. Some users com­plain about pro­nounced vignetting at f/1.4 and f/2, but it decreas­es sig­nif­i­cant­ly at f/2.8 and dis­ap­pears alto­geth­er at f/4.

The lens step­ping motor ensures smooth and fast aut­o­fo­cus­ing. This is a com­pact and rel­a­tive­ly light (270 grams) mod­el that pairs well with Canon’s com­pact mir­ror­less cam­eras.


Sig­ma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Con­tem­po­rary


  • excel­lent sharp­ness and beau­ti­ful bokeh;
  • light and com­pact;
  • pro­tec­tion from adverse weath­er con­di­tions.


  • notice­able pin­cush­ion dis­tor­tion.

The Sig­ma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Con­tem­po­rary com­pact por­trait lens pro­vides an equiv­a­lent focal length of 89.6mm on Canon EF‑M mir­ror­less cam­eras. The fast aper­ture of f/1.4 is per­fect for both dif­fi­cult light­ing con­di­tions and effec­tive sep­a­ra­tion of mod­els from the back­ground in por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy.

The glass has excel­lent sharp­ness, also due to two aspher­i­cal and one low dis­per­sion ele­ments in the opti­cal design. Of the minus­es of the pic­ture, pin­cush­ion dis­tor­tion is notice­able in RAW files (par­al­lel lines in real­i­ty in the pic­ture come out con­cave), but it is eas­i­ly cor­rect­ed dur­ing post-pro­cess­ing.

Like the Canon EF‑M 32mm f/1.4 STM, it uses a step­per aut­o­fo­cus motor for pre­cise, near-silent focus­ing. This is a small (67x60mm) and not too heavy (280g) lens that works well on minia­ture cropped mir­ror­less bod­ies. In addi­tion to this, the lens body is pro­tect­ed from adverse weath­er con­di­tions.

The best portrait lenses for Canon RF mirrorless full-frame cameras

Canon RF 85mm f/1.2L USM

One of the best por­traits among all sys­tems and man­u­fac­tur­ers. But for a flaw­less pic­ture you have to pay well. Pho­to: pcmag.com


  • lumi­nos­i­ty;
  • the high­est pic­ture qual­i­ty;
  • weath­er pro­tec­tion.


  • expen­sive;
  • heavy.

The Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM is a top-of-the-line por­trait lens with pow­er­ful aper­ture and a very beau­ti­ful­ly sharp pic­ture. The RF ver­sion of the lens replaces the high­ly pop­u­lar EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM DSLR lens. In fact, apart from the weight (1195 grams) and the price (180 thou­sand rubles), the new lens has no weak­ness­es — Canon has invest­ed in it all its advanced devel­op­ments in the field of optics design, aut­o­fo­cus motor and body ergonom­ics.


Canon RF 85mm f/2 MACRO IS STM


  • opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion;
  • excel­lent sharp­ness and bokeh;
  • com­pact and light­weight.


  • rel­a­tive­ly low aper­ture;
  • no hood includ­ed;
  • no focal length scale.

As an alter­na­tive mod­el for full-frame mir­ror­less cam­eras, we sug­gest look­ing into the Canon RF 85mm f/2 MACRO IS STM. Long macro lens­es are gen­er­al­ly good for por­traits, and the RF 85mm f/2 MACRO is no excep­tion. It has built-in sta­bi­liza­tion (the only one on our list), mak­ing it par­tic­u­lar­ly good at han­dling a wide range of light­ing con­di­tions. This can help, for exam­ple, in shoot­ing street por­traits. It has a sharp pic­ture and nice soft bokeh.

At the same time Canon RF 85mm f/2 MACRO IS STM is com­pact and rel­a­tive­ly light for its class (500 grams). Its small size and silent aut­o­fo­cus make it a ver­sa­tile glass for a vari­ety of sit­u­a­tions.


There is a great por­trait lens for every Canon cam­era. At the same time, the com­bi­na­tion of excel­lent optics and high aper­ture does not always mean an exor­bi­tant price tag: for exam­ple, the Canon EF 50mm f / 1.8 STM will cost only 11 thou­sand rubles. But for lovers of pre­mi­um optics, there are suit­able options here, for exam­ple, Canon RF 85mm f / 1.2 L USM for 180 thou­sand.

Lighter and more com­pact lens mod­els are suit­able for crop cam­eras — Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM for DSLRs and Canon EF‑M 32mm f/1.4 STM for mir­ror­less cam­eras. For full-frame cam­eras, we opt­ed for the larg­er yet very pow­er­ful Sig­ma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM, some of the best por­trait lens­es of any man­u­fac­tur­er and sys­tem.


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