I'm looking for DSLR and good portrait lenses. Budget - 2500$


1) Nikon D7000 + Nikon 85mm f/1.4D AF
2) Canon 7D + Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM or Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM (Not very good for crop but reviews shows that IQ is better than 50mm)

As for Canon 85mm II L, it is a little bit expensive right now.

3) Your suggestions....

I was considering the 1st variant, but I was confused about D7000's sharpness. Or is it better to find used FF: Canon 5D / Nikon D700 ? Any opinions?


Sorry, I should specify it more clearly, but Shizam has a point. I'm looking for good portrait lenses with not very big budget [2.5k $]. I understand that it would be good to invest at least 1K $ more. But let it consider for the future. So the question may be interpreted as

what you can suggest for such sum of money?


  • The question is a little open ended and subjective, you might want to reword it looking for people's experiences with the options. See the site FAQ for some info. – John Cavan Dec 16 '10 at 16:59
  • Could you clarify what your primary uses for the camera are? At $2500 I'm betting you have some specific uses for the camera (sports, wildlife, landscape, architecture, portraits, journalism, family...). – Shizam Dec 16 '10 at 17:03
  • Really, a question like this is too open. You need to have specific needs to be able to have a reason to choose between cameras, otherwise all DSLRs are certainly good enough. – Itai Dec 16 '10 at 17:31
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    I think there is a good question buried in here, it just needs to be polished a little. Right off the bat I can tell he wants a portrait kit and a FF body with 85mm + 135mm or 70-200 f2.8 is a good answer but the question needs to be clearer. – Shizam Dec 16 '10 at 17:37
  • Is that USD, CAD, AUD or something else? Either way, you need to add a lot more detail to rephrase this as a question that can have a correct answer. Product recommendations are always on the edge of being too subjective to fit with the rest of the site. – Rowland Shaw Dec 16 '10 at 21:29

Reading your question it looks like you're interested in portrait photography so some general body/lens suggestions for that type of photography would be:

Full frame sensor body (Nikon D700/Canon 5DmkII or the like)

  • FF will give a thinner apparent depth of field for a given aperture which is a desirable in many portrait situations
  • FF tends to have less pixel density which can give (among other things) smoother tonal transitions

Other things to look for in a body re:portraits :

  • Flash sync port for studio strobes
  • Live view, helpful for micro-focusing
  • HDMI output, great for showing what you're doing live
  • Built in flash IR/RF control so you can control off camera flashes wirelessly w/out extra gear

As for lenses 85mm and 135mm are the 'standard' focal lengths for torso and head & shoulders portraits respectively so a 70-200 f2.8 would work too. If you're looking at environmental portraits that include more of the surrounding area consider a 50mm as well, lenses to consider:

  • 50mm f1.8 (or f1.4), 85mm f1.8, 135mm f2.0, 70-200 f2.8

Most work will probably be done around f8 but by having a f1.8 or wider lens, when you decide to go down to f2 or f2.8 for thin DoF you'll still be stopped down which will offer increased sharpness.

To speak towards the canon 135mm vs 50mm, the 135mm f2.0 lens is a stunningly sharp/contrastly/colorful lens, we have one floating around the office which I use for employee portraits and its amazing. I use it for landscape too but thats a different story :)

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    100% agree on the 135 f/2 on a FF body! Sharpness and contrast are great and it's a very useful length too, you can obliterate the background without having to back up too far. – Matt Grum Dec 16 '10 at 19:41
  • I think its hard to get a quality FF body with a matchingly good lens for under 2.5k . I am a Canon user, 5DII + 50mm f/1.2 will cost you considerably more than 2.5k (unless you get second hand) – Gapton Nov 9 '11 at 16:43

To start, any nikon or canon DSLR is a "good" dslr.

Given your needs, I would say that the 50 f1.2L is overkill. The 50 f1.4 offers stellar performance for a fraction of the cost. I would say almost all photographers needing the 50mm focal range would be better off served by the 50f1.4.

Personally I would opt for a FF body, having used one for a few years now, I find portraits are a dream when you have a larger frame to work with.

A used 5D or even 5D mark II paired with the 85mm f1.8 would be a nice portrait kit.

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    +1 on the FF, you can find used ones quite easily these days. – John Cavan Dec 16 '10 at 21:07
  • Second the 85mm f/1.8 -- the f/1.2 is a nice toy if you can afford it, but it's not $US1500+ better than the f/1.8 unless you need to have near-zero DOF at typical headshot distances to make your style work. (Look, I loved the manual focus version because it was so-o-o easy to focus in low light on the F1, but it was just a rich kid's toy, really.) – user2719 Dec 17 '10 at 21:24
  • @Stan So you're saying if somebody does need razor thin DOF or half an f-stop more light then they're a rich kid? – Shizam Dec 17 '10 at 23:02
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    No, that starting with that lens because "it's the best" is a rich kid's approach. Technically, for most photographers, the f/1.2 offers nothing but extra weight and flare (the same problem haunted the 50mm f/1.0, which shared the same body and has been discontinued). Someone who chooses the lens because they need what it can offer over the f/1.8 (for "available darkness" shooting or infinitesimal DOF) is making the right choice. But for portraiture? Unless it's enviromental, I'd save money on the lens and put it into lighting/modifiers. – user2719 Dec 17 '10 at 23:15

Definitely get a 50mm "Nifty Fifty"

Whatever camera, and whatever other lens(es) you get, you will never regret buying this one.

  • definitely! :-) – akshay1188 Oct 29 '11 at 12:43

I prefer natural-light portraits to flash. My Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 takes great hand-held, flashless photos in light too dim for me to read the fine print in the Instruction Manual for my new Canon 7D. ;-) The sales person said the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens cost less but I'm glad I got the f/1.4. I have many photos that look great at f/1.4 and f/1.6 that may have looked "too grainy" at the higher ISOs needed for f/1.8.

  • Quite interesting, considering the difference is only 2/3 of a stop. Can you bring any comparative examples of f/1.4 vs. a grainy f/1.8 of the same scene? – Imre Oct 29 '11 at 14:31
  • @Imre. No specific photo examples, just an impression based on several thousand dim light photos of people. – Mark Jerde Dec 6 '11 at 17:11

Used 5D and the 135/2. Best value.

If you have money to spare, add the 50/1.4.

With this kit, you'll have the range for creativity and also be able to pull off low-light shots.

I would go full-frame, instead of the 7D, because you can get a shallower depth of field, because you can get in closer without cropping the subject.

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