You know why they call the 85mm the best lens for portraits?
First of all, the 85mm lens won’t distort the subject in any way. You can get as close as you want to your subject without creating wide distortion on the nose of jaws like what most shorter telephoto lenses do (yes, even on the 50!)
Second, most 85mm would come in very shallow depth of field, which is great for portraits because it can either isolate your subject form unwanted distraction, or add a dreamy and cinematic effect to your portrait.
Since 2010, the 85mm focal length has been my favorite studio/location lens when I shoot portrait, fashion and product. My first eightyfive was the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA, which I kept using even so much later on after switching to the Sony Mirrorless System (pairing it with Sony LA-EA4 A-Mount to E-Mount Lens Adapter). I love the cinematic, sublime and elegant feel from the shallow depth of field and the little touch of magic this lens makes when I shoot portraits.
Shooting with an adapter surely has it pros … and even more cons (heavy); but it was hard to find any other E-mount lens that was on par with this one. But not until later last year, when I had my hand on the new FE 85mm F1.8 G Master, that’s when I knew I had found the perfect replacement. All the G Master lenses give uncompromising quality, and so does this one.
This lens feels abit heavy mounted on the A7 series body (not as heavy as the Zeiss+adapter) but it feels right, sturdy and super professional in your hand. But quality wise: the image sharpness is superior, the color is vibrant and large 1.4 aperture makes the separation from the background simply brilliant. It comes in really useful when the background is a distraction and you want to isolate your subject from all the mess; and also when you’re shooting in a really low light condition. You still can do this with a longer lens, of course, but I find those ones (135mm and up) heavier and more difficult to hold still while not shaking (damn you caffeine laden limbs). Aside from the physical strain, also with such a long focal length you need to step back further from your subject, and this comes harder in narrow spaces; not to mention making the communication with your subject more difficult.
Sony A7Rii + Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master, 1/200, f/1.7By the way, I took this lens on my Euro winter trip earlier this year and it changed the entire way I shoot my travel photos (in a good way)! The lens reaches more distance than what I usually shoot, and it gives out sharp details in buildings and interiors. The compression of the lens makes the building looks tighter than from a wider focal length lenses.15