The 8 Best Canon Lenses for Portraits in 2019

Capture close-up shots with these laser focus lenses

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM

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

Canon

A top-of-the-line lens, Canon’s EF 85mm is part of their L-series of professional quality lenses. It offers an incredible product, delivering images with laser focus, beautiful colors, and image stabilization. It’s one of the most expensive lenses on the market, but its versatility makes it a worthwhile investment for keen photographers.

The 85mm is well-loved by portrait photographers, and this option delivers stand-out results in both indoor and outdoor shoots, as well as in low light settings. This lens is also built tough, sealed to resist moisture and dust. It creates sharp focus complemented by gorgeous bokeh effects (or blurred backgrounds) in shallow depths of field, offers accurate autofocus, and is built with Air Sphere Coating, which helps reduce flares and glare from challenging lighting conditions. Great for weddings, headshots, full-body shots, and even macro photography, this is a powerful short telephoto prime lens that will impress any photographer.

Take a look at other options with our selection of the best portrait lenses.

Best Budget: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

The Canon EF 50mm is a real winner — it produces high-quality images at a very affordable price point, and is one of Canon’s best selling lenses. For one, the 50mm makes use of STM, Canon’s Stepper Motor technology. The STM allows the lens to produce a smooth and quiet autofocus, and the near-silent focus is a great asset, especially if you plan to use the lens to shoot video.

The 50mm is also a prime lens, meaning it has a fixed focal length and the user can’t control the zoom. While this would be a disadvantage for shooting landscapes, it makes it a fantastic choice for portraiture, especially at close range. By having to manually walk closer to your subject to zoom, this lens helps you frame an engaging portrait with very high levels of detail.

Best Value: Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

If you’re after a Canon 85mm lens at a budget-friendly price, the 85mm f/1.8 delivers high-quality images with a clear focus, although it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of its f/1.4 counterpart in the L-series. However, it’s an amazing choice for budding photographers and is likely to impress experienced shooters, too. 

This lens offers an ultrasonic motor for quick autofocus, shoots well in low light, and its eight aperture blades create soft, blurry backgrounds to make your subject pop. It’s also lightweight and small enough to travel with. While the Canon 85mm f/1.8 offers exceptional value, it is not weather sealed to withstand dust and moisture, so this may not be the best option if you plan on a lot of outdoor shoots. 

Best Professional: Tamron SP 70-200MM F/2.8 DI VC USD

The Tamron SP 70-200MM F/2.8 DI VC USD boasts a wide range of useful features — its VC (Vibration Control) offers image stabilization, and the USD refers to Ultra Sonic Drive, or an autofocus motor. The end result is a fantastic portrait lens, at a cheaper price than the equivalent lens from other top camera brands. 

This 70-200mm lens, a top choice with professional photographers, produces high-quality shots, and its nine rounded aperture blades create the soft, blurred background often seen in portraits. Although some users report that the Tamron isn’t quite as polished as its competitors, the differences in quality are so small and hardly noticeable.

Best for Action Shots: Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM

Portrait photographers love shooting with 85mm lenses, as they offer versatility to shoot both headshots and portraits from a further distance with great accuracy, detail, and beautiful bokeh. The Sigma stands out in particular for creating stunning portraits.

The lens' depth of field means that even shots with subjects that take up most of your composition can still have a gentle, blurred background. It also has a fast aperture, useful if you plan on shooting sports or subjects in motion. Although this is a versatile lens, images may appear a little distorted if you’re shooting in a really tight or compact space. At just under two pounds, this is a heavy lens and not one you'd probably want to lug around all day at a wedding or shoot.

Best for Versatility: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L

The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L is a top choice with professional photographers looking for a high-quality lens, great for both portrait and telephoto zoom. But because the highest quality products come at a high price, this lens isn't the most budget-friendly option.

It offers Optical Image Stabilization, which reduces shaky, blurred images, perfect for if you're shooting without a tripod. It’s also durable and built to withstand dust and moisture, useful for outdoor shots. As with most lenses of this type, however, the Canon EF 70-200mm is large and weighs 3.17 pounds. Nevertheless, if you’re looking to splurge on a multipurpose lens, the quality of this product can produce exceptional portraits and photos. 

Best for Outdoor Shots: Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM

Amazon

If you’re in the market for a 135mm prime lens, Sigma’s offering is a solid choice, producing images with sharp focus and dreamy blurred backgrounds. The lens is also of high quality and feels solid and stable. It also wins points for beautiful color capture and quiet and accurate autofocus. 

A 135mm is great for versatility in portraiture, whether you're shooting headshots, outdoor street photography, or weddings. If you’re looking for a new lens predominantly for portraiture or even shooting architecture and landscapes, this is a strong investment to make in your hobby or business. It is a bulky and heavy lens though, something to consider if you plan on frequent travel with your camera.

Best for Close Range Shots: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM

If you plan to shoot close range portraiture, consider a macro lens. Canon’s EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM is a great choice if you’re shooting very close to your subject, or if you want a quality lens for both portraits and macro photography. It is part of Canon’s L-series, lenses designed for professionals. 

The EF 100mm is a short telephoto prime lens and contains the best of Canon’s technology, including internal autofocus, image stabilization for handheld shooting, and Super Spectra coating to help ensure accurate color capture. 

Users note that the noise from its autofocus is a small distraction, but overall, it’s a lens that both new and seasoned photographers will enjoy. It’s also a lightweight option at a mid-range price point.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best macro lenses article.

Our Process 

Our writers spent 6 hours researching the most popular Canon lenses for portraits on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 12 different lenses overall, screened options from 4 different brands and manufacturers, read 15 to 20 user reviews (both positive and negative) per product, and tested 4 of the lenses themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.