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Best Canon Portrait Lens | Our Top 7 Reviewed & Compared

While Canon may offer some of the best camera bodies on the market, no camera is complete without a lens. However, with the massive list of lenses that Canon offers, choosing the one that suits your needs and style can be overwhelming. Not to mention, trying to navigate the lenses are specifically made for portrait photography.

Thankfully, we’re here to help you find the best canon lenses that will bring out the portrait photographer in you. We’ve compiled the best Canon portrait lens you could buy in every category. We’ll also go over the estimated price points and the primary factors you need to know when purchasing a lens, so you won’t have to take a shot in the dark!



Mirrorless Portrait Lenses (RF)

This section will look at the best Canon RF-mount portrait lenses. Generally, these mirrorless portrait lenses are lightweight and have a silent mechanism to keep your shutter quiet and speedy. And because of its image stabilization feature, your photo will still look clear and professional despite camera shake and shutter speed.


If you do photography for a living and plan to work in event photography or videography, this lens is for you! Although this lens is on the pricier side, the investment will be well worth it. The Canon RF 24-70mm is considered a general-purpose, wide-angle lens perfect for everyday use.

Often used in long distant, and wide shots, it is ideal for events where the photographer must be incognito. That is because the NANO USM technology makes focus and shutter quiet and quick. Meanwhile, the zoom range also makes it capable of capturing far-away portraits without micro jitters.

With an aperture of f/2.8, this lens will perform reasonably well in low-light conditions. It is sharp and produces sublime colors. In addition, its five stops of image stabilization allows for seamless, precise, and non-blurry photos and videos.

A 24-50mm focal length may be mid-range, but it is wide enough for action field events such as street, wildlife, and sports photography. So if you want a lens that is good for human and environmental portraits and does not fall behind when it comes to landscape photography and videography, then the Canon R4 24-70mm f/2.8 is a promising addition to your arsenal.

Specifications

  • Focal length: 24-70 mm
  • Aperture range: f/2.8-22
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.21 m (wide), 0.38 (telephoto)
  • Filter size: 82 mm
  • Dimensions (diameter × length): 88.5 mm × 125.7 mm
  • Weight: 900 g

Pros:

  • Flexible zooming options
  • No chromatic aberration
  • Quick and quiet focus

Cons:

  • Expensive price range
  • Slight vignetting in the corners


The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L is considered the best autofocusing portrait lens. It is robust, tack sharp with a shallow depth field, and has impressive performance in low-light situations. The 50mm focal length makes it great for headshots and leaves you with no distortion and slight flaring. It’s also a great portrait lens if you like to embellish your photo with smoothly blurred background details on top of a beautiful bokeh.

This lens also boasts a “Vibration Shock Resistance” that allows it to stay stable and focused even when put in turbulent situations. In addition, it has a control ring that is unique to Canon RF mount lenses. The programmable control ring helps you easily adjust functions with a click. It is also convertible to an aperture ring. Having fluorine coating is also a plus because it is excellent against moisture and grease, beneficial to long-term maintenance.

Despite being a mirrorless lens, it comes with some downsides due to the absence of image stabilization. Some reviews also critique it for being unable to detect animal eyes, consequently focusing on the nose during portrait shots. It is also worth noting that there is a pretty strong vignette. Although easy to clean up through editing, it is up to you to decide if it’s worth the extra step. Besides, some vignettes work well in certain styles!

If you don’t mind its chunky and heavy lens and hefty price tag, give Canon FR 50mm f/1.2 L a shot.

Specifications

  • Focal length: 50 mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.2-16
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.40 m
  • Filter size: 77 mm
  • Dimensions (diameter × length): 89.8 × 108.0 mm
  • Weight: 950 g

Pros:

  • Produces beautiful bokeh effect
  • Has control ring for easy adjustment of functions
  • Perfect for shooting portraits with minimal subject distortion

Cons:

  • Bulky and heavy
  • No image stabilization


Full Frame Lenses (EF)

The traditional EF lenses are as reliable as ever, a go-to for both novice and professionals. A full-frame camera always offers outstanding image quality and a wide range of focal lengths. It is easier to carry than RF lenses because they are more compact and suitable for travel photography.


The Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens is everything a beginner portrait photographer would enjoy — inexpensive, compact, and fast lens that provides exceptional image quality.

The wide f/1.8 aperture impresses even in low-light situations. It allows for precise, selective focusing and out-of-focus background blur, ideal for headshots and shoulder portraits. The center sharpness, shading, chromatic aberration, and distortion performance are also above average despite its affordable price.

However, some autofocus enthusiasts frown upon EF 85mm f/1.8’s focus-by-wire manual focusing. Focus-by-wire is a system that requires you to twist the focus ring to activate an electric motor that will move the glass to achieve sharp focus. This process is more time-consuming and prone to human error, especially in high-speed situations.

Although compared to the usually preferred autofocus lenses like the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L, manual focus gives you a more precise focus control. Canon also did a great job ensuring the focus is quick and quiet by using Ultrasonic Motor. All things considered, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens is an excellent steal for its price and superb image quality.

Specifications

  • Focal length: 85 mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.8-22
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.85 m
  • Filter size: 58 mm
  • Dimensions (diameter × length): 75.0 × 71.5 mm
  • Weight: 425 g

Pros:

  • Inexpensive price range
  • Compact and easy to handhold
  • Has image stabilization

Cons:

  • Manual focusing is more prone to human error
  • Unflattering for motion photography


Ultra zoom and sharp images are the two most promising features Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS offers. It is known for its stellar telephoto zoom and additional image stabilization, often used by photographers who work in a brisk environment where the subjects are constantly in motion and long-distance shots are needed. You can also use this during the day or night without a flash, and you’d still get an outstandingly sharp image with quick and precise focus.

Because of its weather sealing feature, you do not have to worry about dust or moisture messing up your photo. If your hands get sweaty, fingerprints are easily wiped off because of the fluorine coating.

There’s a catch… the 70-200mm isn’t the most portable lens to carry around. It’s a hefty beast weighing close to 1.5kg, making an unideal travel lens. The price tag is also more on the expensive side, so we’d recommend this lens moreso for intermediate or professional photographers.

If you have the budget to spare, the Canon EF 200mm f/2 is the bigger brother of the 70-200mm, a highly regarded L-Series prime.

Specifications

  • Focal length: 70-200 mm
  • Aperture range: f/2.8-32
  • Minimum focus distance: 1.2 m
  • Filter size: 77 mm
  • Dimensions (diameter × length): 88.8 × 199 mm
  • Weight: 1490 g

Pros:

  • Versatile zooming range
  • With image stabilization
  • Suitable for day or night photography

Cons:

  • Heavy and extremely bulky
  • Not for beginners


Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L is a distortion-free killer ultra-fast portrait lens. This L-series lens is traditionally compact and gives up-to-par images. Its weather sealing feature, which is unique to the L-series, makes it even more appealing.

The simple aspherical design of the optical lens helped decrease the reflection of the sensor, resulting in sharp images with good contrast. However, it is still not as sharp as its more expensive counterparts, such as the EF 50mm f/1.8 ll Lens and Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, but it does not fall behind either. Super Spectra coating was also applied to minimize ghosting and flares.

The absence of a stabilization feature can be off-putting, but since the aperture is wide enough, it minimizes the risk of blurring due to camera shake.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L still comes with disadvantages, and it’s really up to you to decide if you can do away with these compromises. Nonetheless, you’ll get your money’s worth with its /1.2 aperture, which leaves you with beautiful bokeh and a good color gradient.

Specifications

  • Focal length: 50 mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.2-16
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.45 m
  • Filter size: 72 mm
  • Dimensions (diameter × length): 85.4 × 65.5 mm
  • Weight: 545 g

Pros:

  • Nice colors and contrast
  • Well-controlled flare
  • It comes with weather sealing

Cons:

  • Can misfocus, especially for long-distance shots
  • No image stabilization


The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 II USM is every photographer’s favorite. This one is renowned for being a versatile lens because it borders between tight and wide so that it can be used for everything from street photography to portraits.

This new version of the 35mm f/1.4 is so outstanding that it replaced the iconic 1998-era Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM Lens, which was referred to as a “mainstay with a lot of photographers” and a “tough act to follow.”

It is especially favored for its swift, soundless autofocus system. Manual focusing is made easier with the aid of the seamless focus ring, ensuring a comfortable experience for the user. Meanwhile, slight rear element movement supports its instant autofocus performance, ideal for immortalizing split-seconds moments. Chromatic aberration is also reduced by pioneering the use of Blue Spectrum Refractive optics. 

The downside is its high price and bulky build. Regardless, this 35mm is sharp and versatile and will prove to be a staple in your photography arsenal.

Specifications

  • Focal length: 35 mm
  • Aperture range: f/1.4-22
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.28 m
  • Filter size: 72 mm
  • Dimensions (diameter, length): 80.4 × 105.5 mm
  • Weight: 760 g

Pros:

  • Good combination of stellar sharpness and central focus
  • Exceptional bokeh that makes the subject pop-out
  • Minimized distortion and chromatic aberration

Cons:

  • Bulky and heavy
  • On the pricey side


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The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is the go-to lens for many Canon users because it has just about everything you’ll need – ranging from a wide 24mm to a tight 70mm, all while maintaining a constant F/2.8 aperture throughout. It will become one of your new favorite lenses, with excellent optical performance, quick and quiet autofocus, robust and weather-sealed construction, and a fairly compact design.

This lens makes a great option for avid Canon photographers because of its versatile focal length, boasting a 24mm wide-angle up to a 70mm short-telephoto zoom range. However, it does not have image stabilization, making it unfit for handholding and videography. The lens is a little difficult to extend, so it would require enough torque to push it while zooming, but thankfully the rubber band is there to make it easier to rotate and use. It may be pricey, but its top-notch build quality, optics, and autofocus make it a delightful purchase.

Specifications:

  • Focal length: 24-70 mm
  • Aperture range: F/2.8-22
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.38 m
  • Filter size: 82 mm
  • Dimensions (diameter × length): 88.5 × 113 mm
  • Weight: 805 g

Pros:

  • Impressive range and aperture
  • Good sharpness and contrast
  • Very low chromatic aberration and minimal distortion

Cons:

  • Increased vignetting at maximum aperture
  • No image stabilization
  • Very expensive price range


Buyers Guide: Factors To Consider When Purchasing A Canon Portrait Lens

Focal Length

Focal length refers to the optical focus distance of the lens and the image sensor. It is measured as “mm.” Focal length is vital because it identifies two main things: magnification and angle of view.

Magnification tells you how large your subject is. Narrow angles and high magnification requires a long focal length. In addition, the zoom model or lens is named after its zoom range (i.e., EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM). Prime lenses, on the other hand, have fixed focal lengths and are thus named after a single number.

On the other hand, the angle of view pertains to the area limit your lens can capture. It is highly connected to magnification because the more you zoom out, the wider the area scope is. For portraits, an 85mm focal length is ideal.

Aperture

Aperture is the lowercase “f” next to your focal length. It describes the size of the opening in your lens that allows light onto the sensor when you take a photograph. It measures how much light gets through — the lower the aperture, the larger the opening size. Thus, more light comes in. This results in a more exposed photograph. If you can utilize more light on a photography scene, you can shoot in lower light conditions without compromising shutter speed (slower shutter = motion blur) or high ISO (high ISO = grain).

With a lower aperture comes a shallower depth of field. Tight apertures are ideal in portrait photography because it allows you to create focused shots of your subject with a gorgeously blurred background. A lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 is high-speed, making it ideal for flash photography and taking pictures in dark places.

If you have flash, you have more versatility with aperture because having a high-speed lens allows you to shoot in lower light conditions without external light. Having a faster lens also gives you more flexibility with using higher shutter speeds, balancing the exposure with a low aperture. On the downside, faster lenses are more expensive.

Our advice? If you usually shoot in places with plenty of natural lighting, an f/4 is the preferable aperture. However, if you want a lens capable in various environments, sticking to an aperture of f/2.8 or under is recommended.

Sensor Types and Sizes

The camera sensor is important because it is the mechanism that takes light to generate an image. The sensor types to choose from are:

  • Micro Four Thirds: Four-thirds has an 18 mm × 13.5 mm image sensor size. It is mirrorless and more compact than its counterparts. Suitable for taking good quality videos without the size and price caveat.
  • APS-C: APS-C typically has a 23 mm x 15 mm image sensor size and a narrower angle of view. It is cheaper in comparison to a full-frame.
  • Full-frame: Full-frame has a 35mm (36 mm x 24 mm) maximum image sensor size, the largest as of 2022.

Sensor size is also essential because photo quality depends on how much light is taken in and used. When buying a lens, check the sensor format to learn the sensor’s shape and size. 

Although more expensive, larger sensors have bigger pixels, translating to better photo resolution. In addition, photography noise is minimized.

Lens Type: Zoom Or Prime?

The type of lens you buy will depend on the shots you want to achieve. Do you want a tight portrait lens? Or a more versatile wide lens? There are two main types of lenses to consider:

  • Zoom: Zoom has a variable focal length. It is versatile because it can cover broader perspectives, but sharpness may vary depending on the brand.
  • Prime: Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, and generally boast faster and larger apertures. It is lighter and produces sharp images even in low lighting. It is also exceptional in capturing clean photos and has a shallow depth of field. This makes prime lenses the better choice for portrait photography.

Some other lens types you might want to consider are:

  • Standard lens: This is what you refer to as the Kit Lens, which comes with your camera. It has below-average specs, though you might still get good shots if you have some sick photography skills.
  • Telephoto zoom: This is commonly used as a second or third lens because of its wide range of magnifying options.
  • Superzoom: This all-in-one lens is for general use because of its well-rounded but average specifications. Although it is wide-angle, it has low-light performance and average photo resolution.
  • Wide-angle zoom: This lens is often used for landscape photography or environmental portraits because of its extendable wide-angle view.
  • Macro lens: This has a fixed focal length, but it is advantageous in capturing microscopic objects due to its extremely close-functioning ability.
  • Fast prime lens: It captures much light and works well in low-light scenarios. It has excellent blurring and optics.

Lens Mount Type

Lens mount type tells you if your Canon lens is compatible with your camera. Thankfully, you can quickly check this by looking at your camera’s user manual. An important note to remember is that lenses only fit cameras of the same brand except for some 3rd party manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron that produce lenses compatible even with Canon. Here are some other lenses exempted from the Canon-only-rule:

  • Micro Four Thirds: Developed by Canon, Panasonic, and Olympus
  • L-mount: Developed by Canon, Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma.

The top two lens mounts to choose from for portrait photography are RF lenses and ES lenses. If you want something modern and has excellent image stabilization and shutter speed, go for the mirrorless RF lenses. EF lenses are compatible with many Canon cameras if you’re into traditional lenses. It has great focus and an equally beautiful bokeh revered by professional photographers.

 

Conclusion

Ideally, when we talk about what we want in portrait lenses, we want razor-sharp focus, a large aperture, and something lightweight and portable. However, with many quality choices, there cannot be a single Canon portrait lens hailed as the “finest” one. Besides, there is a wide range of customers, professionals and beginners alike, who have different preferences. We compiled the best lenses you could choose from for every purpose and price point to dial down the options.

For our top Canon lens picks:

  • Best Overall: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L ll
  • Best Budget: Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L
  • Best Zoom: Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS
  • Best Prime: Canon RF 50mm f/1.2 L

However, buying a lens can get overwhelming if you do not understand the camera-jargons detailed in the specifications. For a quick rundown, here are some other factors you must keep in mind when choosing a lens:

  • Focal length: Pertains to zoom range and angle of view. For portraits, 85mm is recommended.
  • Aperture: Measures how much light gets through. The lower the aperture, the better.
  • Sensor: Converts light into images. 35mm maximum size ensures quality resolution.
  • Lens Type: Zoom for versatile magnification, prime for portrait photography.
  • Lens Mount Type: RF lens for mirrorless, EF lens for full-frame.

Although we love Canon, cameras and lenses aren’t the only basis for a quality photo. The best Canon portrait lenses combined with skill, a compelling subject, and good light make a great photo. After all, creativity is what matters first, and then gear comes next. But that doesn’t mean you won’t need the best lens that would suitably help you channel that creativity.

What are you waiting for? Make your memories last, and invest in a portrait lens that suits your style!



If you do photography for a living and plan to work in event photography or videography, this lens is for you! Although this lens is on the pricier side, the investment will be well worth it. The Canon RF 24-70mm is considered a general-purpose, wide-angle lens perfect for everyday use.



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