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Canon 3rd Party Lenses For Portraits

When venturing into portrait photography, the lens you choose plays a pivotal role in shaping the results of your images. But with so many choices many don’t know which to choose for the portraits they want to create. In this guide, I’m going t o help you select the best Canon 3rd party lenses for portraits 

I hope that sharing my experiences will help you make a well-informed decision, ensuring that your chosen lens not only meets your technical needs but also elevates your creative expression in portrait photography.

If you’re short on time or just want to know the best 3rd party Canon lenses for portraits,  the following are what I’d recommend to a friend:

Best 3rd Party Canon Zoom Lenses For Portraits

Best 3rd Party Canon Prime Lenses For Portraits

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Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens

  • Crystal-Clear Imagery: I was amazed at the lens’s exceptional sharpness, capturing every detail crisply across a range of scenes.
  • Vivid Color Capture: The colors in my photos were vibrant and true to life, a testament to the lens’s superior color reproduction.
  • Affordably High-Quality: I found this lens delivers a performance on par with pricier Canon lenses but at a much more budget-friendly price.
  • Tough and Reliable: Its rugged build quality impressed me, proving to be ideal for handling various challenging environments.
  • Swift and Precise Autofocus: The rapid autofocus system was key in snapping quick, spur-of-the-moment shots without missing a beat.
  • Adaptable for Multiple Uses: Whether shooting environmental portraits, wildlife, or low-light events like weddings, the lens was perfectly suited for all occasions.
  • Satisfies Professional Demands: Its quality and performance easily met the high standards required for professional photography.
  • Exemplary in Low Light: The lens’s ability to perform in difficult lighting conditions was outstanding, ensuring great shots even in dim situations.
  • Artistic Bokeh Effect: I particularly enjoyed the beautiful, soft background blur it created, adding an artistic touch to my photos.
  • Stable Shooting Support: The image stabilization was crucial, significantly minimizing camera shake and aiding in handheld shooting under diverse conditions.
Canon 3rd party lenses for portraits
Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens

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Wedding portrait captured with a third-party canon lens

Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC HSM Art Lens

  • Sharpness and Color Reproduction: I was thoroughly impressed with the lens’s sharpness and how it rendered colors. The images I captured were vivid and crisp.
  • Build Quality: The lens’s solid metal construction impressed me, reassuring me of its durability and long-term reliability.
  • Aperture: I particularly loved the f/1.8 aperture for its stellar performance in low-light scenarios and its ability to produce a shallow depth of field with pleasing bokeh effects.
  • Versatility: It performed exceptionally well across various camera bodies I used, including the Canon EOS R5 and Canon 5D MK3
  • Professional Look and Feel: The quality of the lens feels as robust as my Canon brand lenses. 
  • Focus and Zoom Control: The smoothness and controllability of the focus and zoom rings were exceptional, allowing for precise adjustments.
Canon 3rd party lenses for portraits
Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 DC HSM Art Lens

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close up portrait captured with the sigma 50-100mm

Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Lens

  • Image Clarity & Sharpness: I was amazed by the sharp, clear images this lens produced across various shooting scenarios.
  • Low Light Performance: Its exceptional performance in low-light conditions made me forget I was using it. 
  • Durable Build: The rugged and reliable build of the lens stood out to me, it feels ready for a variety of environments.
  • Autofocus Efficiency: I appreciated the rapid and accurate autofocus on my canon R5, when photographing unpredictable little kids.
  • Versatility: The lens’s effectiveness across both my old DSLR and new mirrorless body was particularly noteworthy. 
  • Bokeh Quality: The aesthetic and artistic quality of the bokeh in my photos was stunning.
  • Value for Money: At it’s price point, this lens is a very compelling alternative to the Canon Brand lens. 
Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 DG OS HSM Lens

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dramatic portrait of a woman captured with a 70-200mm lens

Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

  • Image Clarity & Sharpness: I really love the sharpness and clarity of this lens for environmental portraits where I want to include more of the background.
  • Low Light Performance: Its performance in low-light conditions is as excellent as I expected with it’s fast aperture.
  • Durable Build: I’m continually impressed with the rugged and durable build of this lens, which reliably withstands dusty and dirty environmental portraits.
  • Autofocus Efficiency: This lens paired  with the rapid and accurate eye AF on my R5 make it so I almost never miss focus. 
  • Bokeh Quality: The aesthetic quality of the bokeh really added an artistic touch to my outdoor environmental portraits.
  • Professional Quality: This lens feels and behaves like a precision instrument.
  • Value for Money: Superb lens and significantly cheaper then the Canon brand lens
Canon 3rd party lenses for portraits
Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

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portrait of a kid captured with a 35mm prime lens

Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

  • My Experience with Image Quality: I found the images incredibly sharp, clear, and crisp. The lens delivered high-quality results that were consistently impressive.
  • Bokeh: The bokeh this lens produced was amazing. It created a pleasing background blur that really accentuated my subjects, elevating the overall look of my photos.
  • Performance in Different Conditions: I was pleased with how well the lens performed in low-light conditions and at high ISO settings. Its versatility across various lighting scenarios was remarkable.
  • Build and Feel: Despite being somewhat heavy, the weight added a sense of quality and sturdiness to the lens. Additionally, its smooth and quiet operation was a notable advantage, especially useful in both photography and videography.
  • Chromatic Aberration Control: This lens managed chromatic aberration much more effectively than most other 85mm lenses I’ve tried, maintaining image integrity even in high-contrast scenes.
Canon 3rd party lenses for portraits
Sigma 85mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

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Sigma 135mm f1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

  • Bokeh: The bokeh this lens produces is phenomenal and unique. It transforms the out-of-focus areas into a dreamy, smooth blur that really makes the subject stand out.
  • Sharpness: I was immediately struck by the sharpness of the images. Every photo came out crystal clear, showcasing the exceptional optical quality of the lens.
  • Build Quality: Although I didn’t get to use this lens long term,  it was notable how durable and substantial it felt in my hands.
  • Cost-Value Proposition: Although this lens doesn’t have image stabilization, it’s image quality rivals the RF 135mm at a fraction of the cost.
  • Durability and Build: As is true with all Sigma art lenses, this one feels like it’s built to last, and I’m confident it can withstand the rigors of professional use.
Canon 3rd party lenses for portraits
Sigma 135mm f1.8 DG HSM Art Lens

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List of Other 3rd Party Canon EF Lenses For Portraits

Although the lenses I’ve detailed above are my top picks and the ones I’ve had extensive experience with, it’s important to acknowledge that there are other remarkable lenses available with their own individual strengths. In preparing this post, I also considered the following lenses.  If you’re inclined towards a particular brand or a specific focal length that suits your vision better, I wholeheartedly recommend you also rent (Borrow Lenses) these alternatives and test them out for yourself!

Alternative 3rd Party Canon Zoom Lenses

Alternative 3rd Party Canon Prime Lenses

Our Lens Selection Method: How I Chose the Best Third-Party Canon Lenses for Portraits

Focal Length

In crafting this list, I chose lenses within the 24-200mm range, a sweet spot for portrait photography that offers both wide-angle storytelling, mid range and intimate close-ups. Each selected lens needed an aperture of f2.8 or wider, essential for creating that soft, dreamy background that makes portraits pop. 

Canon 3rd Party Lens Autofocus

Autofocus is indispensable in portrait photography, especially when dealing with dynamic subjects like children. Its significance remains high even in more controlled adult portrait sessions where you have to get the shot. Therefore, every lens I recommend includes autofocus to ensure sharp, clear portraits. 

Canon 3rd Party Lens Compatibility With DSLR’s and Mirrorless Camera Bodies

A key limitation with many third-party Canon EF lenses is their lack of autofocus, largely due to Canon’s licensing policies. This means that while lenses like those from Zeiss might excel in image quality, their manual focus nature renders them less practical for portraits where autofocus is desired. If you’re using a Canon EOS R mirrorless camera, you’ll need an EF-EOS adapter to use these lenses. Adapted lenses retain their autofocus speed and accuracy, functioning seamlessly with both mirrorless and traditional DSLR EF mount bodies. For more insights, particularly on the autofocus capabilities of EF- EOS R adapters check out this post. 

Lens Speed

Choosing the ideal portrait lens involves several critical considerations to ensure that each photograph captures the essence and depth of the subject. In this selection, I’ve honed in on lenses compatible with full-frame sensors, coupled with an aperture of f2.8 or faster. The wider aperture not only allows more light into the lens but also facilitates a shallower depth of field. This effect is key in portrait photography, as it helps to isolate the subject from the background, creating stunning, eye-catching images with a dreamy, blurred backdrop.

Pros and Cons of Canon Third-Party Lenses

When considering third-party lenses for Canon cameras, especially for portrait photography, weighing the pros and cons is crucial. Here’s a brief rundown to help you make an informed decision:


  • Affordability: These lenses are often much more budget-friendly compared to Canon’s own lenses.
  • Good Image Quality: Despite the lower price, they generally don’t compromise significantly on image quality.
  • Autofocus: Many of these lenses offer fast and accurate autofocus, rivaling Canon’s EF lenses.


  • Autofocus Performance: These lenses will have slower and less accurate autofocus when compared to Canon’s new RF lenses.
  • Image Clarity: Edge-to-edge sharpness and optical aberrations will be inferior when compared to the flagship Canon RF Lenses.
  • Need for an Adapter: To use these third-party lenses on Canon mirrorless camera bodies, an EF-EOS R adapter is necessary, adding an extra cost and piece of equipment to manage.

Are Third-Party Canon Lenses Good For Portraits?

In summarizing my experience with third-party Canon lenses for portrait photography, I’ve found Sigma lenses to be an excellent choice. The Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 and the 50-100mm f2.8 stand out for their versatility and image quality. The prime Sigma 85mm f1.4 and 135mm f1.8 lenses also impress with their sharpness and beautiful bokeh, despite the latter’s lack of image stabilization.

These lenses provide professional-quality results at a more affordable price point than Canon’s own lenses, with some considerations such as the need for adapters and the compromise of slower autofocus when compared to the newest RF lenses. That said, for budget-conscious photographers, these lenses are offer superb image quality and performance considering their price.

Jason Guy

I am a portrait photographer based out of Sonoma, California. I create portraits for people of all ages with the goal of making images that are timeless. Portraits you will look back on decades from now, and still love them just as much then as you do today. While flattering lighting and pose are important, capturing how others see you is what I ultimately strive for.

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