Best Canon DSLR portrait lenses

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by David Em
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Canon is known as one of the world’s largest camera manufacturers. Learn what the best Canon lenses are for DSLR portrait photography.

Canon camera on a white table.

Top 8 Canon DSLR portrait camera lenses

Canon cameras are available in many different sizes, capabilities, and prices. They’re one of the most popular brands among portrait photographers, and their lenses are best-sellers.

Related: What’s a telephoto lens, and is it worth it?

Whether you’re new to portrait photography, or have been doing it as a career, using the best lens is important for capturing the perfect image.

1. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens

Side and long view of the Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens.
Photo courtesy of Canon.

Many photographers will say that you should never use anything shorter than a 50mm lens for portraits.

Related: Focal length comparison with examples

Yes, 50mm lens and longer focal lengths deliver exceptional results. However, there’s a time and place for shorter focal lengths.

The 35mm f/1.4 lens is an excellent portrait lens. It’s a wide-angle lens that can capture beautiful full-body portraits.

It’s also a good fit for environmental portraits, street photography, and fashion photography.

2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens

Canon 50mm f/1.8 camera lens.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Canon’s 50mm f/1.8 is also known as the nifty fifty. It’s one of the lowest-priced lenses that offer plenty of value.

Related: Why you need the 50mm f/1.8 lens

If you’re new to portrait photography or want to upgrade your kit lens without spending hundreds of dollars, the 50mm f/1.8 is a perfect choice.

With a maximum aperture of f/1.8, the nifty fifty performs well in low-light situations. It’s a trustworthy lens that can shoot beautiful photos with its aperture wide open.

The downside is that the lens is light and feels like plastic, which can cause it to feel cheap. For a lens, it’s relatively cheap. However, it produces excellent images, so don’t overlook it.

3. Canon EF II Telephoto 85mm f/1.2

Side view of the Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

With an impressive maximum aperture of f/1.2, the Canon EF II 85mm lens is the best all-around option for portraits. It can quickly take photos that have incredible sharpness and a shallow depth of field.

The 85mm f/1.2 is perfect for portraits because you can use a very shallow depth of field and focus solely on your subject.

It’s also a part of the L-series. It’s sealed against dust and moisture, which allows you to shoot in harsh weather.

4. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens

Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens.
Photo courtesy of Canon.

If you aren’t ready to spend thousands of dollars on an 85mm, consider the Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens. It has the same focal length, which allows you to stand further away from your subject than the 50mm lens, and looks great for half-body portraits.

It doesn’t have as large of a maximum aperture as the f/1.2. However, f/1.8 is still impressive. It’ll perform well in low-light and offers a solid shallow depth of field.

It’s about double the price of the 50mm f/1.8, and far less than the 85mm f/1.2. If you’re a beginner looking to start your lens collection, get this and the nifty fifty.

5. Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM macro lens

Side view of the Canon 100mm macro lens.
Photo courtesy of Canon.

Although the Canon 100mm f/2.8 is a macro lens, it’s also great for portrait photography. You can capture headshots, half-body, or full-body portraits depending on how much space you have to move around.

The 100mm macro lens has a magnification ratio of 1:1, which means what you’re photographing in real life is the same size as on your camera sensor.

When you’re shooting portraits, there won’t be any distortion, which means you’ll be able to capture flattering photos.

It’s also a part of the L-series, which means it’s weather-sealed and built to endure.

6. Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens

Side view of the Canon 135mm f/2 telephoto lens.
Photo courtesy of Canon.

The Canon 135mm f/2 telephoto lens is ideal for portraits. The maximum aperture of f/2 makes it the fastest lens in its class.

It has two ultra-low dispersion (UD) elements, which reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing. This improves the clarity and color accuracy.

The autofocus is fast and accurate, which means you’ll be able to capture sharp portraits.

Overall, the 135mm f/2 is one of the best lenses you can buy from Canon. It’s been around for almost 20 years and is still regarded as a top portrait lens.

7. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens

Canon 24-700 f/2.8 lens.
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

If you only want to carry one lens for a portrait shoot, the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 is the one to bring. It’ll cover wide-angle shots, and you can get close-ups at 70mm.

A great feature of this lens is the constant maximum aperture of f/2.8. Some lenses will decrease the maximum aperture as you increase the focal length.

However, the 24-70 lens by Canon remains constant, which allows you to shoot during low-light situations using any focal length.

8. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
Photo courtesy of Canon.

Canon’s 70-200 f/2.8 lens is a telephoto zoom. It also has a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, even at 200mm.

With such a wide range of possible focal lengths, this lens is convenient. The only downside is that it’s heavy because of the amount of glass it has.

The long and heavy lens can lead to camera shake. The Optical Image Stabilizer helps minimize it up to 3.5 shutter speed stops.

If you’re shooting outdoor portraits and have plenty of space, the 70-200mm lens is an excellent choice. You can get full-body shots or a tight crop depending on where you stand.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.

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