Best Canon Lens for Portraits – Buying Guide & Reviews

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Aside from a good quality camera, it’s important to invest in the best canon lens for portraits. Canon is one of the best lens and camera accessory manufacturers on the market and their lenses can instantly upgrade your camera and photography skills.

But, finding the best canon lens for portraits is not the easiest of tasks. That’s why we’ve put together the following guide with tips on the features you should look out for and a few reviews of the best options available on the market.

What is Portrait Photography?

Portrait photography is unique in that it requires you to focus on a particular subject or person. In the end, you want your picture to be a realistic reflection of the actual subject with little to no distortion. To achieve this aesthetic, portrait lenses are typically wider and feature a lower focal length.

A wider lens allows you to achieve an accurate, distortion-free shot. For instance, if you’ve ever tried taking a portrait of someone with a 500mm lens, you’ll notice that their facial features might appear larger than they are in real life.

You might notice the same thing with small objects that appear larger in the picture than they are in reality. A wider lens makes it easier to focus on the intended object without even trying. However, a wide-angle lens doesn’t deliver the same results when shooting large groups of people or a collection of objects.

Whether it is a group of animals or a floral arrangement, you need to make sure that everything is in the right proportion. Essentially, it’s important to consider what you’ll be shooting before you choose a specific lens so you can get the results you want.

What is Chromatic Aberration?

Chromatic aberration (CA) is also referred to as purple fringing and color fringing. It appears as a form of color fringing or halo above the subject or object which causes it to look slightly different than it dos in real life.

For instance, it’s not uncommon for a person’s silhouette to appear purple at the edges even though it’s brown in reality. This happens due to the lens’ inability to process different color wavelengths.

It’s important to pay attention to this effect when shooting a portrait because you want there to be a clear line between the background and foreground. CA is very common in images that are intended to create a significant contrast between the subject and its surroundings. Your ability to correct this aberration depends on the type of lens that you’re using.

We’ve made it a point to focus our reviews on lenses that are great at regulating CA. While experiencing CA is not exactly a train smash, it helps to have a lens that allows you to avoid this problem, especially if getting clear pictures is important to you.

Description

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM Lens

Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM - DSLR Lens

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens

Things to Look for When Choosing the Best Canon Lens for Portraits

Here are some things you should take into consideration:

Sensor Size

Next in our features to look out for when searching for the best canon lens for portraits is the sensor size of your camera. Remember that the camera body will affect the lens’ focal length.

Basically, this means that you could use the same lens and get different results depending on whether you’re using a full-frame or crop sensor camera. For instance, a crop sensor camera with a 50mm lens can easily deliver a focal length of 75mm.

Focal Length

Another important consideration to make when looking for a lens is whether or not it has the right focal length for your needs. When it comes to portrait photography, the focal length is dependent on a number of different factors including the number of objects or subjects in the frame.

You must also consider how much you want to include the background environment. Most portrait photographers opt for a 35mm to 200mm focal length range.

Number of Lenses

Zoom cameras are ideal for anyone that wants to only carry one lens at a time. The great thing about zoom lenses is that they provide you with different focal length options to choose from. For instance, you can shoot various frames with a 24-105mm lens without changing lenses or positions!

On the other hand, you’d have to bring multiple lenses in order to shoot various focal lengths with primes. A lot of professionals get around this issue by using two different camera bodies.

Related Post: For Avid Beginner And Professional Photographers Check out our Take on the Best Camera for Photography

Zoom vs. Prime Lenses

Lenses come in two main varieties, namely zooms and primes. Zoom lenses are available in a number of different focal ranges, including 24-70mm or 70-200mm, for example. The wide range offered by each lens means that it’s incredibly versatile on its own.

Zoom lenses are designed to simplify the process of shooting photographs in different styles without carrying a different lens for each type. Prime lenses, on the other hand, offer fixed focal lengths, such as 24mm, 35mm, and 50mm. This allows you to produce high-quality images with optimal clarity.

But, it also means that you’ll need to keep changing lenses in order to produce different types of photos. Prime lenses are usually lightweight and smaller than their zoom counterparts, which is why they’re so popular among photographers. Primes also offer maximum apertures which is an important feature for a serious picture-snapper.

Shooting Location

The amount of space available in your location can also play a role in how your photos turn out. A wider lens typically works really well in outdoor areas with a really wide space.

Opt for something like 70-200mm zoom or an 85mm prime lens if you’re shooting in a wide-open area like the beach or a large grassy area. Otherwise, if you’re just shooting in a really large studio or room in your house, then you should stick with a standard length such as 50mm.

People in the Photo

Don’t forget to consider the number of people or objects that are going to be in the image. For instance, shooting a large group of people requires a wider lens of about 35mm or more. Just keep in mind that you might have to deal with a fair amount of distortion with wider lenses.

Avoid using a super-wide lens if you want the people you’re shooting to appear as they are in real life. Otherwise, you might find that subjects on the edges look larger than the ones in the middle or center.

Bokeh

You ever notice how in certain photos the background can be blurry while the subject remains in sharp focus. This effect is known as bokeh and it happens when you have a larger aperture or lower f-stop.

If you really want to get an iridescent blur, you should consider a wider aperture of about f/2.8, f/1.8, or f/1.2. The larger your aperture the more shallow your depth of field will be and this produces better performance in low-light conditions.

Weight

It’s important to address weight because it can be a factor when you’re carrying around different lenses and even camera bodies. It’s particularly crucial to consider this if you plan to shoot in low light conditions or by hand. Keep in mind that high-quality glass doesn’t always translate to a heftier camera.

Most focal length/ aperture combos have been around for so long that they’ve since been updated with new upgrades. A lot of the newer models have a Roman numeral designation written on the lens. For instance, if you see an L designation on a Canon lens it means that you’re looking for professional-level quality.

Best Canon Lens for Portraits You Can Buy on Amazon This Year

The key to finding the best canon lens for portraits is to consider what you want to use it for and the different options available to you. In the previous sections, we covered all the different features to look out for when shopping for a new lens.

Now we’re going to provide you with helpful reviews of the best options on the market, based on in-depth research and testing. Enjoy.

1 – Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens Review

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This is a classic portrait lens that’s lightweight and comes with beautiful bokeh and exceptional optical quality. It’s incredibly easy to use and offers Super Spectra coating to prevent ghosting and flare.

It’s also weather-sealed to prevent interference when shooting outside and you can easily pair it with a crop frame sensor or a full-frame camera depending on your preferences. This prime is of regular length which means that it has a “natural” field of view that produces natural-looking images that are very similar to what you see with the natural eye.

This among many others is the main reason why 50mm is considered the best lens for beginner photographers. It allows you to learn at your own pace and experiment with different styles. It’s particularly popular among street and portrait photographers.

Pros:

72mm filter size
Full-time manual focus
Ultrasonic Motor (USM) lens
Weather-resistant properties

Cons:

The lens could use some re-calibration

2 – Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is III USM Lens Review

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This is yet another professional quality lens that excels at shooting portrait images at a wide distance. It’s also considered to be the best canon lens for portraits and wedding photography. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for non-portrait style photography because you can.

It allows you to explore various styles and experiment as you go along. Based on its features and how it’s built, this might be the best lens from Canon ever! We’d be remiss not to mention its durable construction, with fantastic optics, zoom optics and focusing.

Not to mention the amazing level of image stabilization it provides which is why it’s so heavy. It even comes with different image stabilization modes so you can use it under different conditions with ease.

Another feature worth mentioning is the auto-focusing which is quick to adjust to changing conditions. This lens also performs well in low light conditions without sacrificing sharpness. The focusing motor runs surprisingly quietly which allows you to stay discreet.

Pros:

Inner focusing system
One of the best canon lenses for family portraits
Resistant to water and dust
Coated with heavy-duty fluorine
Optical image stabilization
Constant f/2.8 maximum aperture

Cons:

Heavyweight

3 – Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM – DSLR Lens Review

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This is a very special lens that could easily be rated as one of the best canon lenses for portraits and landscapes. It comes with a combination of super quick f/1.4 aperture along with effective image stabilization. Although it’s different from other Canon-fit portrait lenses, it comes with the same weather-proof and rugged construction.

Thanks to its optical design, this lens is a bit more complicated than its predecessors, namely the Canon 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses. Other features worth mentioning include advanced ASC (Air Sphere Coating) and a nine-blade diaphragm to reduce flare and ghosting.

The only downside is that this lens is very heavy and weighs almost a kilogram. It doesn’t offer the same impressive sharpness as some of its competitors, particularly outside the frame’s center. With all that said, this lens still deserves to be on the list of the best canon lens for portraits.

Pros:

Minimum focusing distance of 85 cm
f/1.4-f/22 Aperture Range
The focal length of 85mm
Canon EF Full-Frame Telephoto Lens

Cons:

Quite pricey
Heavy to carry

4 – Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens Review

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The Canon EF 24-70mm zoom lens offers a truly versatile range that makes it an ideal choice for an undecided customer. It’s easy to fall in love with this lens and once you start using it, you’ll realize why it’s such a firm favorite with professional photographers.

It’s the best canon lens for portraits and landscape as well as the street, event and still life shots. It offers a high-speed CPU, a silent AF courtesy of optimized AF algorithms, and a lightweight design that makes it ideal for use on the go. All told, this lens is great for beginners and experienced photographers alike.

Pros:

Comes with autofocus
Features 38cm minimum focusing distance
The aperture range is f/2.8-f/22
The focal length is 24-70mm
Canon EF full-frame standard zoom lens

Cons:

Barrel distortion is too much at 24 mm

5 – Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens Review

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Since this is an “L” lens, you can expect a plethora of significant upgrades when compared to its predecessor. It has a rugged, weatherproof body that’s perfectly complemented by an optical formula.

Some of the most notable upgrades on this lens include an all-new hybrid Image Stabilization system which is able to compensate for angular and shift movements alike. This means that it provides 4 camera motion stops at normal distances with a reproduction distance of 1:1.

Thanks to its incredible image stabilization, this lens offers enhanced usability, especially when using a hand-held camera. If you’re going to do micro photography then you’ll probably use a tripod. However, this isn’t always possible and this is where image stabilization comes in.

Pros:

Features Hybrid Image Stabilization
1:1 magnification
Amazing Bokeh effect
f/28 fast aperture

Cons:

There have been complaints of packages that arrived with incomplete components

What Are the Types of Lenses?

Here are the main types of lenses:

Standard Lens

This type of lens offers an angle of view that’s super-close to the human eye. It’s a 50mm lens with a 58-degree angle view. Opting for a lower focal length on this type of length results in a wide-angle with anything over it results in a telephoto format. Standard lenses are incredibly versatile and can be used for portrait, street and landscape photography.

Wide Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens differs only in terms of width from the fisheye. It’s usually between 14mm to 35mm with an angle view of 64 degrees to 84 degrees. These lenses have a similar issue with distortion but they offer a really large perspective that’s convenient for architecture and interior shots.

Fish-Eye Lens

A fish-eye lens typically contains a wide focal lens that ranges from 4.5mm to 14mm with an angle view of 180 degrees. This means you can get full or half rotation as you like. These lenses typically come with heavy distortion because the sensor has to process a lot of information at once. Fish-eye lenses are perfect for wide panoramas and skyscapes.

Telephoto

A telephoto lens is designed to shoot far-away objects or subjects. They range from 70mm – 300mm and 34° – 8° which is known as telephoto, to 300mm – 600mm and 8° – 4°, known as super-telephoto. The telephoto mode is ideal for portrait photography while super telephoto works perfectly for astrophotography and action photography.

6 – Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS Telephoto Lens Review

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The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS telephoto lens is driven by an ultrasonic motor with a super-fast and accurate aperture. Another benefit of this lens is AI Servo tracking which comes on when you’re shooting in-motion subjects or objects.

It has an internal focus that doesn’t rotate or extend to the front element. This lens doesn’t work with front-mount filters and attaching them is very costly. Experts say that it’s easier to use plus it comes with Full Time Manual (FTM) as well.

It also features a switch that limits the user’s focus to two positions. You have the option to switch to full-range focusing which starts from 6.2 inches to infinity. There’s even a Focus Preset feature that comes along with this telephoto lens which enables you to focus on a particular distance.

Pros:

Best canon lens for portraits by far
Image stabilization
Beautiful bokeh
Sharp wide-open

Cons:

Weighty
Pricey

7 – Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L is II USM Lens Review

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The Canon EF 70-200mm F4L IS II USM is the latest offering from this prestigious company and a new iteration of the traditional f/4 lens. It’s specifically designed for APS-DSLR and full-frame cameras from Canon.

It’s made from weather-sealed materials that allow it to maintain a consistent aperture of f/4. This is in addition to a built-in three-mode and 5-stop image stabilization system which allows you to focus for a distance of up to 1 meter. You can magnify it to a maximum of up to 0.27x.

The AF works fast while the ultrasonic focus motor runs very quietly. It’s coated with Super Spectra to reduce the level of flare and ghosting when taking pictures. All elements are coated with fluorine which is resistant to moisture and dust alike.

This lens has an optical formula with 20 elements that are grouped into 15 elements including 2 dispersion glasses and a fluorite one. There’s also an iris diaphragm that comes with 9 curved aperture blades.

Pros:

3x Image Stabilization Modes
Durable enough to work in harsh conditions
Resistant to water and dust
Comes with one fluorite element
Features a duo of UD elements

Cons:

It doesn’t come with a mounting rig

8 – Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens Review

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This is one of the best canon lenses for portraits. The company designed it for its APS-C camera range specifically. It has a fast aperture of f/2.8 which means it’s able to maintain the same speed through the whole zoom range. In fact, this has a full-frame range of 27-88mm which makes it light years ahead many of its competitors.

This is a bulky lens for sure and it weighs about 645g. However, it still fits like a glove even in the smallest Canon SLR cameras. The design of this lens might seem outdated with its gold “ultrasonic” ring and focal length markings.

It’s definitely not as sleek as newer Canon lenses and its image stabilizer is not as advanced. It’s worth noting that you may need to purchase the hood separately and make peace with the fact that it’s not weather-sealed.

Pros:

Curved aperture
Image stabilizer
Maximum aperture of f/2.8
Quick and consistent autofocus

Cons:

Doesn’t come with weather seals
It’s sort of large and bulky

9 – Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens Review

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This is Canon’s first RF-mount lens to come with the company’s EOS R series cameras. This is a proper kit lens with all the qualities you’d expect when using a full-frame imaging sensor camera.

There’s no denying that this lens is highly functional and offers the same focal length range as the best in the business. This lens offers sharp and accurate AF, superb image quality, built-in image stabilization, and a standard focal length range.

This is all packed within a modestly sized frame with a solid build. It’s also affordable considering the features and quality construction it offers and it’s incredibly versatile which makes it ideal for the Canon R-series cameras.

Pros:

Resistant to moisture and dust
Built-in image stabilizer
Has reduced distortion and chromatic aberration
Comes with 3 spherical lenses and one super UD glass element

Cons:

There have been complaints about the lens’ defective power aperture diaphragm

10 – Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens Review

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This is a good canon lens for portraits that are constructed from weather-resistant and durable materials. It’s ergonomic and easy to use with two ultra-low (UD) dispersion elements that are within the optical highlights. It’s also coated with Super Spectra while the front and back have fluorine coating to protect from dust and moisture.

This is a full-frame lens which means it has a 108-degree viewing angle and works similarly to a zoom lens that has a 10mm range. It’s perfect for the APS-C camera because it goes the extra mile which makes up for how limiting it is.

Rest assured that this is a pro-grade standard lens with a super-wide focus ring. It functions in a smooth and fluid manner, and you’ll enjoy blur-free and smooth images thanks to the built-in image stabilizer. There’s a filter attachment thread included in this lens which is a pleasant surprise and nice to have.

Pros:

This is the best canon lens for photography
Curved 9blade diaphragm
Offers superb color balance
Great AF mode with focusing precision
Comes with full-time manual focus

Cons:

This lens can be defective

How to Shoot Portraits

Here are some tips that may be useful when shooting portraits:

(1) – Learn to How to Pose

The way you position your subject will determine the arrangement of your portrait. Try out various poses before you settle on one so you can figure out the perfect style, facial expression and pose for your photo.

(2) – Try All Angles

Explore your subject from various angles, from the ground, above and the sides. Of course, you’ll want to get up close and personal and get creative with how you frame the picture.

(3) – Take Advantage of Daylight

Nothing beats the beauty of a shot taken in the best conditions, and that’s why the “Golden Hour” is the coveted time of day for photographers. To get the best natural light, shoot during dawn or dusk. Avoid taking pictures in bright sunlight or you might need extra tools and contraption to get the perfect shot.

(4) – Make Eye Contact

It’s also important to consider the direction of your subject’s eyes. Make sure the person you’re shooting focuses on the area just outside of their field of view, or ask them to look at an object within the frame.

(5) – Know the Difference Between DP RAW and JPG files

The usual JPG file format is ideal for immediate images, whereas the DP RAW format works really well for in-depth work as you’re able to edit and enlarge your portrait prior to printing.

(6) – Retouch the Portrait

The great thing about digital photography is that it allows you to edit and improve your photos as you go. Luckily, dedicated photography software such as Canon Digital Photo Professional comes standard with all EOS cameras and it enables you to retouch and edit portraits with ease.

(7) – Learn More About the People You Will Shoot

Take some time to “interview” your subject prior to the photoshoot. This’ll give you a better idea of what their most natural expressions and behaviors are. This will also help to make them feel comfortable during the shoot.

(8) – Don’t Stop Learning

Consider using the Canon Companion app which will help optimize your skills through inspiration guides, challenges, and personalized content.

(9) – Shoot in the Right Location

Every photoshoot has a specific energy and aesthetics that works with a certain location. Think about the type of scene you’re trying to create and make sure your environment perfectly complements the mood and overall theme.

(10) – Try to Get Closer

Once you and your subject are comfortable and in the groove of things, get up close and personal, as tightly cropped images can create a very powerful effect. Try out different effects such as cutting out the background during the editing stage etc.

Conclusion

Description

Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS Telephoto Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L is II USM Lens

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens

Well, there you have it! That was our guide on how to find the best canon lens for family portraits, landscapes, street and event photography. We hope that we’ve provided you with all the tips you need to find the perfect lens for portraits. Most of the lenses featured in our list of reviews are versatile enough to be used for all these different purposes.

However, if we were to pick just one option that ticks all the boxes in terms of quality, functionality, and ease of use, it would have to be the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM – DSLR Lens. This lens is a great investment as it offers the quickest aperture and effective image stabilization.

It’s weather-proof and allows you to shoot in different conditions thanks to the Air Sphere Coating. We were also quite impressed by its optical performance, not to mention having a focal length of 85mm. In our opinion, it’s definitely one of the best canon lenses for portrait photography.

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