Prime Lens Portrait Shootout: 24mm vs 35mm vs 50mm vs 85mm vs 135mm

Photographer Julia Trotti made this 7-minute video that shows how your choice of focal length affects your results in portrait photography.

Trotti photographed the same model using her Canon 5D Mark III and every prime lens she owns: a Sigma 24mm f/1.4, Canon 35mm f/1.4, Canon 50mm f/1.2, Canon 85mm f/1.2, and Canon 135mm f/2. The photos were the enhanced with her $25 Aspen Lightroom Preset.

For her first test, Trotti used each lens while she and her model stayed in the same spots.

The second series was of full-body shots in which the model fills up the frame (i.e. Trotti needs to position herself at different distances depending on which focal length is used).

In the third test, Trotti shot landscape-orientation portraits in which her model filled the frame from the knees up.

Finally, Trotti shot a fourth series featuring close-up portraits.

While the lenses can all produce nice results depending on the type of portrait and look you’re going for, certain lenses are less ideal for certain shots.

With the close-up portraits, “you can really start to see how the 24mm is not a super versatile lens,” Trotti says. “While the mid-length shots can have an interesting look to them, close-ups and full-length shots are quite unflattering as this lens or this focal length really distorts faces.”

But despite the 35mm focal length exhibiting quite a lot of distortion for close-up portraits a swell, Trotti often frames her subjects in the center with negative space at the top to “get away with it.” She says her 35mm is her favorite lens to shoot portraits with.