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Old Sep 3, 2010, 3:35 AM   #1
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Default which is best for Portrait EF 50mm or EF 85mm

Hi,

I am planning is buy Prime Lens to mount on my Canon 550D for portraits. I have found two lenses

1) EF 85mm f/1.8 USM (US$ 100)
2) 50mm f/1.8 lens (US$ 370)

The 50mm cannot provide zoom. I have to use my feet to move forward and backward

I have some questions
1) Is 85mm provide zoom?
2) What other benefits I got if I will go for 85mm

Please help in this regard.

Thanks
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 3:48 AM   #2
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I think you got the 2 lenses confuse. The ef 85 1.8 is about 370 and the ef 50 1.8 is about 100 dollars.

The ef 85 1.8 is the better of the 2 lenses. It is sharper, and focus allot faster.

Prime lenses do not zoom, the are fixed at the ranges.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 4:13 AM   #3
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for its price point the 50 mm 1.8 is a no brainer to me but the 85 will give you a longer reach and its sharper. in the end its down to price
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 7:17 AM   #4
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A "Portrait" lens is whatever lens you use to take portraits. There are different kinds of portraits. For environmental portraits and couples portraits, the 50mm is good but something even wider may suit your style better. The conventional wisdom, in the days of 35mm film, was that focal lengths from 85mm to 135mm were good for portraiture, with 105mmm being a good general purpose portrait lens. Given the smaller image sensor and angle of view of Canon APS_C dSLRs, that translates to focal lengths of from 53mm to 84mm. Therefore, you would probably do equally as well for conventional portrature with either of those two lenses, but something around 65mm might be a good idea.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 7:36 AM   #5
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Having taken a series of portrait shots myself, as a rank amatuer, I'd say the biggest problem is getting the lighting established. I read that the target focal length is 80-110mm with an aperature of 9 to 11, but this goes out the window without enough lighting to get it done.

I ended up shooting with the 18-55mm lens, using whatever settings fit the crowd that came in (as few as one person, as many as 9 at a time for this fund raising event). Since I was shooting with a tripod, a prime lens would require moving the tripod and in my case the lighting, making it even more difficult. 50mm on our T2i comes in at an effective 80mm, forcing us back a bit and correspondingly would require more light.

I guess a 'prime' concern is the type of portraits - head shots will be entirely different from full body poses from a lighting and focal length concern.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 7:48 AM   #6
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Other than what is already mentioned the 50mm has a 5 blade aperture where the 85 has 8. If you are shooting potraits where you want to diffuse the background the bokeh on the 85 is much better, its sharper, built better, has a faster focus with USM focusing. The backplate/lensmount on all but the older 50mm is plastic. The 50 gives decent bang for the buck but is built like a toy and has slower non USM focusing. If you only have $100 to spend then save more and get the 85 1.8, these two lenses are really in a different class.

Check out these two links.

50 1.8

85 1.8

If you need the 50MM focal length then go for this one instead.

50 1.4

Last edited by JustinThyme; Sep 3, 2010 at 7:51 AM.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 10:22 AM   #7
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Another option for the 50mm range is the Sigma EX 50 1.4, it does quite well even at max aperture and uses a 9 blade aperture for nice oof smoothness. But, it is large, heavy and pretty expensive.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 10:51 AM   #8
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Other options might be the Tamron 60mm f/2.0 Di II LD Macro ($450) (APS-C Only) and the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro ($500).
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 2:42 PM   #9
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Default 85mm

As mentioned the prices are reversed.

The 85mm is a much better portrait lens and better quality lens overall. As long as you have the room go with that one.
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Old Sep 3, 2010, 3:40 PM   #10
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As has already been said, if we take the lens quality out of the equation, you first really need to decide on what sort of portraits you want to do. Also, what other lenses do you have?

I have both the 50mm f1.8 (plastic fantastic) and the 85mm f1.8, but in honestly I don't use either all that much, and out of the 2 the 85 comes out much more as I use full frame cameras so it is a great length and can really throw the background out of focus. I mainly use my 24-105mm f4 and 70-200mm f2.8 for a portrait shoot on location, then if using a studio I go for the 24-105 nearly all the time.

I would say, if you are certain you want a zoom then get the plastic fantastic, buy one off ebay and sell it for the same price if you don't get on well with it and just see how you feel shooting a prime. Some people really like them, I have mixed feelings and on location I like to shoot a full length, 3/4 and head without needing to move much then will change position, for this I need the zoom. What I do like about primes is that it slows me down and makes me think about the shot more which can be very helpful. Shooting slower often means better quality.
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