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If you had your druthers, would you shoot portraits with an 85mm or a 135mm lens?
Personally, I like the 85mm option, but I know plenty of photographers who would never take an 85mm over a 135mm.
Of course, I know many other photographers that would opt for a 50mm for portraits over either of the other two, so really, it's different strokes for different folks.
But if you're on the fence between a long 85mm and a much longer 135mm for portraits, this guide might just help you make a decision!
Here's a few factors to consider in this best portrait lens comparison...
Want to upgrade your lens but don't have the cash for a brand-new one? Search for quality used lenses and save some money!
Best Portrait Lens - Consider Your Style
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A lot of what should determine whether you shoot with an 85mm or a 135mm lens is your personal photography style and workflow.
For example, if you like to be physically closer to the subject to facilitate a more personal interaction, an 85mm lens is the way to go.
On the other hand, if you like to give the model a bit of room to do their thing, yet still have a nice, tight composition, a 135mm lens is the better choice.
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Another aspect of this personal style stuff is how you want the images to look.
The longer the focal length you use, the more compressed the scene will be. That means the model will appear to be thinner at 135mm than 85mm. That also means that the background of the portrait will have a greater level of blur with the longer lens.
So, if you really want to trim down your subjects and have uber blurry backgrounds, the 135mm option might be best for you.
Best Portrait Lens - What are the Space Restrictions?
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Building off the previous point, if you're cramped for space in a small studio, an 85mm lens is clearly the better bet...
After all, there's no point in investing in a 135mm lens if you can't physically get far enough away from the subject to actually take their photo.
On the other hand, if you typically shoot outdoors and space isn't an issue, a 135mm lens is a fantastic option.
Find the right lens for your camera (and save some money while you're at it). Find your ideal lens now.
Best Portrait Lens - Think About Versatility
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When I invest in a lens, I prefer that it be something that I can use for different things.
For example, I use my Nifty Fifty for landscapes, portraits, street photography - you name it.
For me, the more versatile lens of the two is the 85mm, and that's true for one simple reason: it's easier to handhold.
At 135mm, I have to use a tripod, otherwise I find I have trouble finding and maintaining proper focus.
This isn't to say that an 85mm lens is the easiest lens to shoot with handheld, but it's certainly easier (for me anyway) than the 135mm.
Best Portrait Lens - What's Your Budget?
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Money doesn't grow on trees for most of us, so budget will be a central consideration in your quest for a new lens.
Granted, part of the difference in price is the difference in aperture size - f/1.4 vs f/2. Yet apart from that, you're looking at lenses that are of comparable construction, optical quality, and features, with the 135mm costing $600 less.
Of course, you can potentially save a ton of money if you buy a used 85mm or 135mm lens, so much so that you might find that you can afford both if you buy used.
You never know what you can find, so taking some time to search used inventory won't hurt anything.
If you're still on the fence about whether an 85mm or 135mm lens is best for portraits, check out the video above by Vivian Choi.