Shooting portraits on the EF mount can be as cheap as you want, or as expensive as you need. The great part about Canon’s lens selection is that there are options for shooters of all levels and use cases. You simply don’t have to spend a lot of money to take 100% professional portraits, but if you want to invest in a nice piece of glass (they hold their value longer than bodies), Canon has a great lineup of versatile pieces that will help give your portraits that extra edge.
Here’s the top 10 so you can determine the best Canon portrait lens for you.
1. Canon 50mm f1.8 II STM
It’s known in most circles as the “nifty fifty,” but forget the cheesy title: this lens takes great pics. At f1.8, it’s shockingly fast given the price. The image samples speak for themselves. Many people see shots taken by ehe nifty fifty and assume that the f1.4 must be better, but just FYI, they’re not. According to DXOmark, this f1.8 is actually bit better optically (f1.8 vs than the f1.4).
Other benefits include that the motor is quieter than before and it is a bit sharper overall. If you want a budget portrait lens, the nifty fifty is absolutely unbeatable in terms of value. Note that on a crop sensor camera, it corresponds to about 80mm, so it is pretty dialed in. For most users, the value here is undeniable and therefore this is undeniably the best Canon portrait lens for beginners. It will last you well until you are an intermediate photographer.
On a full frame, the look is natural, mimicking the perspective of the human eye.
- Praised as silent with its new stepping motor
- Clean and aesthetically pleasing image quality
- Fast autofocus
- Good bokeh
- Motor isn’t totally silent, can be somewhat distracting for video
2. 17-50mm f2.8 (Best for APS-C & Crop Sensor Cameras)
This Sigma lens is great for a multitude of reasons, but the biggest among them is that’s just plain sharp. Not only that, it’s versatile too. As we all know, using too much telephoto on a portrait can make your subjects look (ironically enough) a bit wide. That’s why this lens has such superb capabilities.
The Sigma’s range is particularly idea on a crop sensor camera because it can really go from a bit on the wide side to a more telephoto focal distance. With a steady f2.8 across the board, it’s also ideal for video shooters who need consistent lighting. Users love it for its sharpness as it is capable enough to work with 4K video. At this price, it’s a great value for someone who is looking for a lens that will work for both portraiture and zoom-able video shooting.
- Great for Canon cameras with APS-C sensors
- Four stops of stabilization
- Small size
- Quiet autofocus that’s very fast
- Praised as sharp and great for 4K videos
- Autofocus isn’t too loud, but it’s not perfect for using on-camera sound
- This international version doesn’t include a warranty
3. Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art Lens (Editor’s Choice for Full Frame Cameras)
There’s something special about the Sigma 85mm f1.4. This lens boasts sharp optics and it is currently the highest-rated lens on DXOmark.com, an objective source of lens optical quality. While the price may seem high compared to Canon’s f1.4 offerings, the Sigma Art lens is just something special. Users describe it as extremely sharp with attractive bokeh, and ultimately a lens that creates consistently beautiful portraits.
On a crop sensor, however, this lens is pretty intensely telephoto.
4. Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 (Budget Pick)
The 75-300mm isn’t the sharpest, and it doesn’t make for the best bokeh, but at this price, if you’re looking to take stunning shots, it drives a tough bargain. Once you start to hit the high focal lengths, things blur out very nicely, though perhaps a bit less attractively than a true portrait lens. Still, if you’re looking for that eye-popping look, the 75-300 can deliver at a cheap price. Plus, it’s great for outdoor stuff, like taking pictures of animals, or anything else that’s difficult to get close to.
- Fantastic range at a great price
- High quality construction
- Includes 1 year Canon warranty
- Optical quality is solid
- Minimum focusing distance is greater than four feet, won’t work for macro shots
- Lack of image stabilization means some shots can be extremely challenging, anytime the shutter speed isn’t very fast
5. 24-70mm f2.8
Another lens that isn’t exactly but drives a hard bargain nonetheless, the 24-70mm f2.8 is sharp as a tack and offers portait shooters and video users a great range of focal lengths to nail the shot. If you’re shooting on a crop sensor, this lens is pretty much portrait through and through. On a full frame, you’ll want to zoom in a bit to 35mm, at least, to avoid distortion. The shots speak for themselves, especially compared to Canon’s offering, at around double the price at ($1,749).
Price: $849.99 (5 percent off MSRP)
- Praised as great and versatile lens
- Autofocus is usually rapid and accurate
- Solid with excellent build quality
- Better value than Canon L series
- One user had an issue with the aperture
- Some found the focus loud
- Zoom can be sticky
6. Sigma 30mm f1.4
This art lens is praised by both stills and video shooters alike. Its soft focus makes for aesthetically pleasing images for portraits and other creative use cases. It’s not for people who need to maximize their megapixels, but if you want that soft, dreamy look, it’s a great affordable option. For video, this lens has snappy autofocus and works well on a full frame or crop sensor, though it’s definitely more of a wide on a full frame, it’s not wide enough to be distorted.
- Lovely bokeh
- Autofocus works well for video
- Not the sharpest lens, but great for portraiture and artistic shots
- Quiet autofocus
- Includes pouch
- Highly recommended for new photographers and videographers who want to go to the next level
- Autofocus isn’t that fast for stills
- One user had an issue with consistency
- Some found AF to be on the loud side
7. Canon EF 100mm f2.8L Macro
This is a very particular lens for very particular users, but if it fits the bill, you will not be let down by the image quality. At 100mm, it’s very dialed in, so it won’t be very flattering for most people. At f2.8, however, it’s fast and ridiculously crisp. Needless to say, this lens kills for macro photography, but it would still be deceiving to say it’s versatile. This is a great addition to a robust kit, but it’s probably not the best if you’re just starting out your lens collection.
- Praised as superb macro and portrait lens
- Amazing sharpness when used at macro
- Lightweight compared to similar lenses
- Fantastic color and contrast
- No image stabilization
- Some users had issues focus at infinity
- Large weight
- One user found focal length and features limiting
- One user had issue with jumpy autofocus
- Some users preferred longer lens for top of the line macro
8. 50mm f1.2 (Prime)
It doesn’t get much faster than this. This 50mm f1.2 is perfect for full frame shooters. Wide-open it’s like taking pictures of heaven and separates your subject from the background beautifully. At f2.8, it’s as sharp as they come. The shallow depth of field is a great look for portraits and for video shooters, this lens is great for capturing all available light, which can also come in handy for certain creative portraiture situations.
- Superb quality for portrait photography
- f1.2 means lens is excellent for low light photography
- Tack sharp at f2.8
- For portraits and cinematography with a prime lens, it’s about as good as it gets
- Incontestably the best Canon portrait lens in terms of bokeh
- It’s 10 times the price of a nifty fifty, but it’s not 10 times the quality
- Lack of zooming means it’s a one shot wonder
9. 24-70mm f2.8L IS II (Zoom)
This zoom lens may lack the sheer range of the 70-200mm, but it’s a lot easier to carry, and for those of us not photographing deer, it’s more than enough reach. The optics are just as good. It boasts a tight feel, superb sharpness, and is very fast at f2.8. For a full frame shooter, this offers almost a full range of portrait-compatible shots, though personally, I’d start closer to 35mm. On a crop sensor, few would say that you can’t use the entire range for portraits. This lens is extremely versatile. It’s easy to describe it as a “stuck on the island with one lens” kind of kit. It does it all and very well.
Price: $1699 (11 percent off MSRP)
- If you had to pick just one lens this would be the one; versatile and excellent. It can do almost everything really well
- Fantastic image quality
- Fast autofocus
- Users love its color quality, corner sharpness, and fast focus
- Some may find 70mm frustratingly medium distance
10. 70-200mm f2.8 IS II (Zoom lens)
This iconic lens from Canon isn’t just famous, it’s basically the archetype of zoom lenses. It’s excellent in every aspect from its construction, focusing and zoom rings, image stabilization, and incredible speed given its reach. If this is within your price range, the biggest issue one may have with this lens is that it’s heavy. For anyone willing to carry it, however, it’s the best.
The image stabilization works for up to four spots and has a variety of modes for any circumstances where this won’t be too your favor (such as shooting video). Users love it for sports shooting, wildlife photography, and straightforward portrait shooting. It does it all. It’s not cheap, but it does pretty much eliminate the need to ever get a lens above 70mm again. On a crop sensor, this lens is a bit dialed in; for certain subjects it’s preferable to be a bit wider. However, on a full frame, this lens is incontestably the best Canon portrait lens.
Price: $1899 (10 percent off MSRP)
- Outstanding image quality
- f2.8 leads to decent low light performance and tack sharp images
- Multiple stabilization modes allow one to use IS to their advantage in variety of situations
- Quiet focusing motor
- 2.9lbs is a lot of weight to carry around
- Overkill for all but professionals and those in need of high optical quality
- Not parfocal meaning with zooming it becomes unfocused, thus worse for video
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