I tried using the 70-200mm but I couldn't stand how heavy it was and how far away I had to be from the model! Opinions? I was thinking between 85mm 1.2 or 50mm 1.2 ....or another lens? Any help would be much appreciated! I've been researching for weeks but everyone says they are both decent lenses!

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    (1) If you didn't like the 70mm because you had to get too far away why would you consider the 85mm at all? (2) One vital information is missing: do you shoot with a crop sensor or full format (135er) body (as crop has a factor of 1.5-2 to multiply with the focal length given for full-format-sensors)? E.g.: A crop of 1.5 would make your 70mm equivalent to 105mm full-format ... which is a bit on the upper end for portraits. – Leonidas Jul 15 '11 at 4:07
  • I have a canon 7d. I don't mind 70mm on the 70-200mm. It's the fact that I wanted the best background blur and I was told that zooming into 200mm would give the best blur rather then at 70mm. So this is why I didn't like the 70-200mm. I am fairly new to photography so bare with me haha – Christa Madison Jul 15 '11 at 4:17

There really isn't a "right length" for a portrait lens -- there's a "right distance" for a portrait shot. The "right lens", then, is the one that lets you frame the picture the way you want when shooting from the right distance.

A 70-200mm lens is a great fashion/beauty lens on a full-frame camera (like the 5D); you can stand at a distance that's very flattering to the model and crop in tight on just the face. On a 1.6x crop factor camera (like the 7D), you've either got to be quite a distance away, or crop in very, very tightly.

The 50mm and 85mm lenses fall well within the bounds of traditional portrait-length lenses on a crop-sensor camera. The 50mm fills about the same role as the 85mm lens would in the traditional full-frame world; the 85mm hits about the same spot as the traditional 135mm lens. I can't say a lot about the quality of the bokeh of either of those lenses (I haven't been a Canon user since the manual focus F1n went out of production, so you'll have to rely on online reviews like those at photozone.de), but I can tell you that there will be sufficient quantity of bokeh with either lens. Which one you'd choose depends on the kinds of pictures you want to take. The 50mm is good for half-figure or better; the 85mm is better suited for head-and-shoulder, but it's also great for full-figure shots if you have the room. And do yourself a favour by taking a look at the 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses, since they offer a significantly reduced depth of field for a lot less money than the f/1.2 lenses, and might be all you relly need.

For a very tight head crop, you might want to go a little longer than either lens -- and you might find that the 135mm f/2.8SF (soft focus) lens, which is a sharp lens when the SF is dialed to 0, is a versatile addition to your kit. When soft focus is right, it's right, and the effect from a proper soft-focus lens is better than what you can do in post.

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    I think for both arguments against the 70-200mm, a 50mm 1.8/4/2 would be the best bet. Even the cheap as chips F1.8 can produce some fantastic shots. – Nick Bedford Jul 15 '11 at 5:46

70-200 really is a great focal range for full-frame sensors, but your crop sensor makes that equivalent to 112-320, which is much less adequate.

What you can do, if you prefer keeping a zoom lens, is to find one for APS-C sensors who gives you the same ranges a 70-200 does on a full-frame, with a focal range in the vicinity of 43-125.

I have three in mind: the Sigma 50-150mm f2.8 (good rep), the Tokina 50-135mm f2.8 (legendary & hard to find) or the slower Canon 55-250 f4-5.6 (not enough bokeh!).

If you'd rather go for primes, I could recommend you the Canon EF-S 60 mm f/2.8 Macro lens (macro lenses make good portrait lenses).

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On my 7D I tend to rely on a Canon 24-70 f2.8L for portraits. Its a pretty versatile lens and f2.8 is wide enough to get good bokeh which is very smooth with the L glass. For better than this your going to need a couple of primes but good quality primes can get very expensive and the down side is you have to swap lenses a lot.

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If you've got the money, go for a dedicated portrait lens, like a 50mm or 85mm. If you don't, then you've better find a more usable lens for your toolbox.

Now, I've always been a fan of normal lenses - a lens that is neither zoom or wide. In traditional measurements, the magic number is about 50mm, on the Canon 7D however, the number is about 30mm. Normal lenses often have a wide aperture which will give you lots of bokeh.

On my 7D, my Sigma 30mm F1.4 is always on. Because the aperture is so wide, I can take pictures handheld in nearly all lights. It's been with me to concerts, press conferences and weddings.

It's worth checking out, and you will be surprised what you can do with a good normal lens.

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    Shooting tight headshots with a normal lens is going to force you to get uncomfortably close! Plus the wide angle of view is not flattering to facial features. Full length shots can work well though. – Matt Grum Jul 15 '11 at 9:59

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