Why are 85mm photographic lenses so expensive?

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For many photographers, having an 85mm lens in their tool kit is crucial. You can capture stunning images in multiple genres with this focal length, including landscapes and portraits. And although a bit more difficult to carry around than a 35mm or 50mm, 85mm lenses are surprisingly versatile in terms of the shooting angles you can use them for.

Unfortunately, 85mm lenses are also quite expensive. The cost can put off many photographers shooting on a budget, causing them to either decline to buy the lens or save up and wait a little longer before doing so.

But why is the 85mm lens so expensive? Are there cheaper options? Let’s find out.

How much do 85mm photography lenses cost?


Close-up photo of an 85mm lens

The costs of 85mm lenses vary depending on the manufacturer of the camera you are using. But generally speaking, you can expect to pay at least $400, and often you’ll have to cough up a lot more.

Take Canon as an example. If you want to buy an EF f/1.8 at this focal length, you will pay $499.99 if you buy from the official store. Meanwhile, Nikon’s NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 lens, which works on its mirrorless cameras, costs around $695-$800.

Some manufacturers offer several types of 85mm lenses with different specifications. For example, some lenses have a wider maximum aperture, giving you more control in low-light situations.

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Why are 85mm lenses so expensive?


Photo of a camera lens on a black background

Now that we’ve looked at the cost of 85mm lenses, you probably want to understand why manufacturers are charging you such a high price. Several contributing factors cause 85mm lenses to cost more than some other focal lengths; below, you’ll find five of the main ones.

Production costs

If you shake your fists in anger at manufacturers who charge so much for their lenses, you have to remember that these companies are – well – companies. Businesses need to make money, and products that cost more to manufacture will command higher prices for the consumer.

When creating 85mm lenses, manufacturers of photographic equipment have to undergo intensive production. Companies should consider the entire phase, as well as sending the lens around the world, when determining the costs, both to you and to them.

You’re probably considering buying an 85mm lens if you clicked on this article, and let’s face it, your main reason for wanting one is so you can take better pictures. Although the overall quality of the lenses plays an important role in the price, we cannot ignore the image related aspects.

Yes, you can take great photos with cheaper lenses. But equipment with higher image quality tends to cost more, and you can capture fantastic photos with the 85mm in several genres.

When you buy 85mm lenses, you’ll also notice that those with wider apertures come at an even higher price. Manufacturing costs play a part in this, but the ability to take better images in more challenging conditions is another factor.


Quality

Whatever product you buy, you will pay more if the quality is higher. You’ll notice this when shopping for clothing and accessories, and the same goes for electronic and photographic equipment.

Many photographers praise the quality of 85mm lenses beyond just their images. The lenses are generally well constructed and durable, although they are not weatherproof. And if you buy an 85mm lens with weather sealing and stronger construction, you can expect to pay more than for the basic versions.

Requires a more advanced skill set

As you progress through the photography ranks, you’ll notice that some gear requires more technical skill than others if you want to maximize your experience. Entry-level cameras are fairly easy to learn, but a more advanced mirrorless version will require additional learning.


While most lenses take great photos, you’ll have a longer learning curve with some. The 85mm is one of them; when you’re on the go, you’ll quickly realize that you need to be more selective with what you include in your photos. Additionally, you will need to think about things like image depth and more.

Most photographers buy an 85mm lens for a specific purpose, while 50mm and similar lenses have more general applications. So it’s natural to expect the 85mm to cost more.

Tax

Depending on where you live, you may have to pay more for 85mm lenses due to sales tax and other regulations. For example, items sold in Norway are generally subject to 25% VAT on top of the retail price.

If you live in a country with a high VAT, you might want to consider buying an 85mm lens elsewhere. You can either drive there or search for a marketplace that delivers to you; for the latter, you may have to pay higher shipping and import fees.

Can you find more affordable 85mm photography lenses?


Photo of a person taking photos outdoors in winter

After reading this far, you will better understand why 85mm lenses cost more than many other focal lengths. Can you find cheaper options? In short, yes, and the three subsections below will reveal some of your choices.

Third party lenses

Manufacturer’s lenses usually have the best image quality and several other specifications. However, you can find a selection of third-party 85mm lenses that do a great job for a fraction of the price.

Viltrox camera lenses are a good example. For a FujiFilm camera, you can buy an 85mm f/1.8 lens for $399. The lens is not weatherproof, but its construction is excellent. Plus, you get a good quality lens hood included.

Samyang is another third-party lens maker, and you can buy waterproof and non-waterproof lenses from the company. Prices vary, but you can get lenses for $250 or less.

Viltrox and Samyang create lenses for several camera brands.

Refurbished and used lenses

If you don’t mind getting a new lens, you can save a lot of money by buying a refurbished version. In most cases, refurbished lenses work just as well as completely new ones; you may have to deal with a few cosmetic issues, such as scratches, but that’s okay.

For example, Canon sells some of its refurbished 85mm lenses for $399, which is $100 less than the price of a new one.

85mm lenses are expensive, but worth it

85mm lenses cost more than many different focal length lenses, but the price is worth it if you plan to use your equipment regularly. You can capture unique portraits and landscape photos and even use your lens for less conventional types of photography, such as street shots.

After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of why 85mm lenses come at such a high price. You’ll also get some ideas on how you can save money when buying one to make sure the cost doesn’t stifle your creativity.


Photo of an 85mm lens on a table
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