Five of our favorite affordable 85mm primes for portrait photography

85mm prime lenses always used to come with pretty premium prices. However, times have changed. You can now buy 85mm primes that are ideal for portrait photography for less than you think.

If you want to break into portrait photography, but you’re on a budget, you need to look at the 85mm primes listed below. We know what you’re thinking. There must be some trade-offs to these affordable 85mm primes over more expensive options. Well, yes, that’s true; there are always trade-offs.

Some of these lenses don’t have weather sealing, and some are made entirely from composite materials. They’re still tough, but they might not have a premium feel. However, one thing you can count on is that the images you produce with these lenses will rock your portrait photography world. All of the lenses below offer the perfect balance between cost and performance. Let’s take a look at them.

Canon RF 85mm f/2 — The colors it produces are out of this world.

Canon decided to skip over f/1.8 and head for f/2 with this RF 85mm. It’s an odd decision, but the RF 85mm f/2 is still a fantastic lens for the price. Designed to work on Canon’s mirrorless cameras, this 85mm prime lens gives portrait photographers an affordable entry point into RF mount lenses. Make note, though — there is no weather sealing, which is a shame.

The Canon RF 85mm f/2 is a fast focuser. At f/2, images are tack sharp. The lens produces the gorgeous Canon colors we love. Even at f/2, bokeh is very nice. The RF 85mm also has a trick up its sleeve. This prime can do light macro work with a max magnification of 1:2. The lens also focuses as close as 13.8-inches. At under $600, this is a good choice for Canon RF portrait photographers on a budget.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S — It creates dreamy, creamy bokeh

Portrait photographers who shoot with Nikon’s Z series of cameras don’t have many 85mm lenses to choose from. However, the NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8 S just happens to be a brilliant budget-friendly option. Two extra-low dispersion elements keep chromatic aberrations and fringing under control, while the dual focus motors make the most of Nikon’s mirrorless autofocus systems.

Like the other 85mm primes in this list, the NIKKOR 85mm f1/.8 is lightweight yet still very well made. The body is made from composite materials, but it does feature a dust and moisture-resistant design. The optics are excellent. You’ll create portraits that are sharp, distortion-free, and that feature natural colors and gorgeous bokeh. It’s a little more expensive than others on this list, but at under $800, it’s a steal.

Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 (Sony E Mount) — A portrait photography powerhouse

The Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 is one of the biggest bargains for Sony shooters. Rokinon/Samyang have always made lenses with fantastic optics, and this 85mm f/1.4 is no exception. Portrait photographers who use this lens will be treated to incredibly sharp images and extremely pleasing colors.

As you can imagine, at f/1.4, you can completely obliterate the background and create exceptional subject separation, which is ideal for portrait photography. The lens focuses quickly on Sony cameras and it works well with eye and face autofocus features. To top it off, this lens costs under $600 and features weather sealing. This is a must-have lens when it comes to 85mm primes.

Panasonic Lumix S 85mm f/1.8 — One of the best lenses for portraits on any system

The Panasonic Lumix S 85mm f/1.8 is one of the best budget portrait lenses I have ever used. And trust me, I’ve used a lot of 85mm primes. The Panasonic 85mm f/1.8 is small, light, weather-sealed and ridiculously sharp when shot wide-open. The bokeh this lens produces is nice and creamy, and there are no chromatic aberrations or distortions to worry about.

Autofocus performance is fantastic and the motors are silent. This lens produces very natural colors, wonderful skin tones and it costs under $600. If you shoot with any L mount camera, this is a must-have portrait photography lens.

Sony 85mm F/1.8 (E mount) — This lens makes portrait photography easy

Portrait photographers who use Sony cameras are spoiled for choice regarding affordable 85mm primes. The Sony 85mm f/1.8 FE is a solid option for many reasons. This lens will give you corner-to-corner sharpness with minimal distortions even when wide-open. Being a first-party Sony lens, the autofocus speeds are crazy fast too.

The double linear focus motors allow this lens to take advantage of Sony’s excellent eye tracking. The lens is weather-sealed, and it features a customizable function button. The colors and bokeh rendered are also fantastic! This lens handles magnificently and performs like a lens that costs twice as much. If you want a lightweight first-party 85mm prime lens from Sony to take on your portrait shoots, take a closer look at this lens. It costs under $600.

Brett Day