Lens selection: 85 or 70-200

This note addresses the age-old dilemma in choosing a lens for portraiture.

Many photographers who are engaged in or plan to take photographs of people have the time to choose the first more or less serious portrait lens. Often the question rests on the choice between an 85-mm fix with a relative aperture of 1: 1.8 / 1.4 / 1.2 and a telephoto 70-200 / 80-200 / 70-210 mm and a relative aperture of 1: 2.8.

At one time, I had the same choice. With experience, it has come to understand that these types of lenses cannot replace each other, but can only complement... Therefore, I do not have a specific answer to this question, but still, if I wake up at night and ask the question '85 or 70-200? ', Most likely I will answer '70 -200'.

The choice between 85 and 70-200 is really difficult. Share your views on this in the comments, I'm sure almost everyone once thought about this.

Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Training/Consultations | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Telegram

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Comments: 67, on the topic: Lens selection: 85 or 70-200

  • Vladimir

    In fairness, I note that comparing the fix and zoom, in itself, is not correct. After all, a priori, one gives greater freedom, the other the best picture. Personally, I choose a fix. There is one handsome Sigma EX 85mm 1: 1.4 DG HSM, which gives a cool picture. He is even more uncomfortable with his inadequately large weight, but I would have chosen him in spite of the zooms.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      They do not compare here, but choose :)

  • wj

    In principle, other commentators have already chewed everything up above. Lenses are different and it is best to have both. I keep 85 / 1.8 and 70-200 / 4 on my farm. 2.8 zoom is too heavy and expensive for me as an amateur. Fix - for controlled conditions, zoom - for dynamics, since it has not only a wide range of focal lengths, but also much faster focusing.

  • Dmitriy

    It all depends on what you want to get as a result. Aperture (namely the ability to transmit light, and not in terms of the depth of field) in modern conditions does not have much significance. Further cameras will make noise less and less. Yes, and the noise itself is visible soooooo far not all those for whom the result is being made.
    Zooms provide convenience. I’ve been shooting for zoom for a long time. For many years I used 70-200 F4, now in the arsenal of 18-35, 50-150 and 150-600 Sigma. I’m shooting a report. And I’m shooting on the CROP, because the full frame for me is not suitable for size and weight.
    Such sharpness in photography is only needed in the subject. If it is straightforward, then you should use a macro lens.

  • Peter Sh.

    I can’t quite shoot portraits on the telephoto zoom.
    Somehow, everything goes wrong.
    On 85-ku it turns out right away what you need.
    Maybe because I rarely shoot portraits, and not in the studio.

  • Pastor

    I've made a pretty difficult choice for myself. There was a canon 85 1.2l and 135 2l. Both lenses were very pleasing. Both were reliable and of high quality. But then I bought 70-200 2.8lis2. And somehow unnoticed, both fixes moved to gather dust on a shelf. Comparison of head-to-head pictures rarely made a noticeable difference. I did not experience any noticeably higher sharpness in the fixes, or problems due to the lack of narrowness of the flu on the zoom. Accordingly, it was decided to sell expensive fixes and buy something more interesting, if I did not see a noticeable difference between fixes and zoom. In addition, it is much easier to carry out reportage shooting with a zoom, and a stub for shooting statics comes out more useful than aperture.

  • andrei2911

    My choice as a wedding man is Tamron 70-200. Sharp, but most importantly, very fast. Because Even shooting a walk takes place in a rather tense, closer to reportage mode, then AF speed is very important to me. In 70-200 it is much faster than any 85.

  • Basil

    You will also write a note “Choosing a camera - Canon or Nikon”. There will be another brilliant article.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      You laugh, and the problem is that with 85 and 70-200, that with Nikon-Canon is not easy. Almost every day they ask me what kind of 85 and 80-200, what kind of Nikon / Canon.

  • Denis Chekunov

    I recently use the 70-200 / 2,8 ring version, on the whole I'm satisfied, it's a bit heavy, every time I hold the device with my right hand I worry that the bayonet will break off, the center of gravity falls on the lens foot, it is a little inconvenient to hold the camera in this place, can anyone use what then additional handles - holders - brackets, share your idea.

  • Alexander

    I wonder why no one will remember one of the many 135 / 2.8 light televisions, and even better Nikon 100 2.8e, the size and weight of a fifty dollars.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Because there is no autofocus.

  • anonym

    Definitely Nikon.
    Definitely native 85ka 1.4G
    Or 105 / 1.4 for a change ...

  • Sergei

    A very relevant article, because now I am faced with the same choice, and more precisely: Nikon 70-200mm f / 2.8E FL ED VR or Nikon 105mm f / 1.4E ED AF-S or Nikon 85mm f / 1.4G AF-S (sigma 85 art is interesting, but it scares you with reviews about autofocus, which often smears and needs to be configured). The choice is difficult, and I want it from the latest line of Nikon glasses, the telephoto will certainly be more universal, I don’t know how much better the E version is better than VR2, but they write it focuses better and sharper, with one minus that it won’t suit an old camera. Lenses 85 and the new 105 1,4 I understand that for the thin component will be more interesting for the soul too. Purpose: I want a new uncompromising glass, for shooting a portrait, weddings, and reporting, there are already 50 1,4D and 24-70 2,8G available. Arkady, what do you think about this?

  • Carl Zeiss

    What can you talk about here ?! Fix of course! Zoom is justified only for commercial shooting (weddings, events). Speed ​​and versatility of glass are important there. And the telezoom can provide all this. For everything else, just fix! Unsurpassed picture quality, and excellent bokeh, that is what we will have when using it.

  • Sergei

    I bought a Nikon 70-200mm f / 2.8E FL ED VR and I have no regrets. Here is the gain in many ways, although there were doubts before that. But! All the same, 85 mm 1,4 is necessary for other purposes, it does not replace it, but at the moment the lens works out some of the plots and tasks with a bang! I don’t know much of the differences in VR2, I never used it, but I like this very much, now my favorite lens, in the park are 50 1,4 and 24-70 2,8 of Nikon’s native optics.

  • Joe

    There was a case, I thought about Canon 85 mm f / 1.8 or 100 mm f / 2.8.
    As for 85 mm, there were doubts about sharpness and chromatic aberration on the open diaphragm. I thought that if you have to aperture to f / 2 or f / 2.8, then you can immediately choose a lens with such a relative aperture, especially since f / 100 looked more preferable in terms of sharpness and macro shooting in reviews and reviews of 2.8 mm (and also there is an older 100 mm f / 2, it is cheaper).
    It was already beginning to look after a suitable instance of 100 mm f / 2.8, but I got a good version of the Canon 80-200 f / 2.8L, which in the end I chose as more universal. I can not compare with 85 and 100 mm fixes due to the lack of experience in using them, but I like 80-200 both in color rendering, and sharpness (including with an open aperture), and the ability to separate the subject from the background if necessary (for portrait photos), and the nature of the blur zone of blur. Of the features, it is necessary to take into account dimensions and weight. I used it almost always in conjunction with a full-frame camera, I don’t want to install it on the crop just because of the weight and dimensions that are difficult to match with a light small camera. In comparison, he appreciated the lightness and compactness of the Tamron 70-300 f / 4-5.6, as well as an additional 100 mm focal length of 70-300, which are useful in some cases that are not related to human portraits (for example, when photographing birds).
    I should note that if the lens is chosen specifically for portrait shooting (and not as a universal solution for different occasions), they plan to shoot a lot, and it will need to be carried a lot with you, and even with other lenses, a second camera, flashes, spare batteries and other photographic equipment is probably more preferable to a more compact and lightweight fix 85 or 100 mm simply because of its greater ease of use.

  • Ivan

    Indoors, 85-ku cannot be replaced, but on the street it is not needed if there are 70-200 ...

  • Alexey

    I'm for 85.mm. I have an EF 85 f / 1,4L IS USM. Very cool lens, fast, sharp, with a stub. In general, I like and I do not need 70-200

  • anonym

    Well, the zoom is 85mm and 105mm. and 135mm. and even 200mm. focal, all portraitist focal in one bottle .;)
    In general, this is of course a joke, because each of the listed analogues in fixes has its own unique pattern, plasticity, midtones, and one 70-200 telezoom, although it covers all the focal ones, it will be boring than each fix separately.
    At the same time, when shooting with limited mobility, for example concerts, performances, performances, you don’t want to, and you can’t do without zoom televisions, even if you have all the focal televisions covered separately by fixes. You can of course shoot from two cameras on which fixes such as 85mm and 200mm will be screwed in, and all the intermediate focal lengths will have to be cropped, but this solution is dubious and inconvenient, a fast zoom telephoto will be more logical and easier.

  • Alexey

    Definitely a zoom. 85 does not replace 70-200 in any way.

    • Russell

      The question is, guys, it’s easier! Yes, the fix has a picture that is more approximate! But! But here, besides your voice, who else will see this !? especially if you do not compare in the forehead! A? That's it! The question is in two cases! the first case is the distance! Distance to the subject of filming! If it’s air, then the pepper is clear. Do not jump over the pond with an 85-pond! And 70-200 is just right! And the plot could be like that! In the room? So 85 ka and even longer than 70mm! Aperture in the world !? Ugh one stopar! Today it doesn’t spoil and the weather doesn’t pour! More often you squeeze one hole to the same 2,8! And then the nose’s sharpness will turn out to be sharp)) Well, the second variant of the case is the quality of blurring the back tobish BOKE!)) And again cognitive dissonance ))! Looking from what distance !? And again, remember that we clamp down to 2,8!)! And if it's open air, then who's stopping you from unscrewing the zoom by 150 and the same 2,8 will wash your back like 1,8! In short, apart from a certain drawing, there is nothing left in the dry residue! And who sees this drawing besides you! ?? This is a question of questions!))

      • Michael

        I have 70-200 f4 is. I want something to diversify the picture. Fix was one 50 1,8 and then already about 10 years ago.
        The 85th is interesting, the 100th is less interesting. I want to say that the focal 70-200 is quite convenient and comfortable for me. I can't even imagine how to shoot a portrait for fifty dollars ... With today's prices for the L series, I'm not ready to spend so much money. Advise the lens so that it is exactly different in the picture from. My 70-200

        • Roman

          Well, if you want to radically change the picture and the sensations from it - try to shoot portraits at an angle from 24 to 70. Another perspective, different possibilities, different angles. Flatness, especially at wide angle, tilt for dynamics. 70-200 is the correct close-up face and trash background. Or a belt-figure on the street and the background even more in the trash. And 24-70 is that very studio portrait or painting where everything is in sharpness and where you have to think over every object in the frame, over the background and light.

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