Have you ever wondered what would be the best lens for portraits?
In the age where we can see beautiful portrait shots at every corner, you have probably asked yourself what it would be like to capture the ultimate picture of another person and, more importantly, what gear is required for such an endeavor.
Even though the internet is full of selfies and close-up face shots, we still don’t have many helpful buying guides on portrait lenses.
With that notion in mind, I have made a list of the best lenses for portraits so that you can choose the optics you need to achieve that ultimate shot.
The first optics on the list is designed with seven elements in six groups and seven diaphragm blades. It sets a minimum focus distance of 1,48 feet and has a 47-degree angle of view. The maximum reproduction ratio is 0,15x. Nikkor packs an exclusive Nikon Silent Motor (SWM), which compensates well for the lack of optical image stabilization.
I was genuinely impressed by the silky smooth bokeh the lens produced, especially when compared to the overall subject sharpness it was able to achieve. The color distribution is magnificent, and even though the lens falls into a modest price range, it deserves to be the best lens for portraits, mainly when the wide aperture is accounted for in the equation.
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens offers excellent performance under low light, and I didn’t have problems capturing fantastic portrait shots handheld, even with a limited light source. Another plus is the lack of fringing, ghosting, or vignetting issues.
I also didn’t face any problems with distortion, and the sharpness is present across the frame. Since it is not a high-end model, the design is solid, but it does give an impression of a lower class. However, considering the price and many excellent properties, I would call it a great bargain.
- Powerful aperture
- SWM motor
- No distortion
- Lack of OIS
The next optics in line come with 16 elements in 12 groups, together with nine diaphragm blades. It has a maximum magnification of 0,15x, with the minimum focus distance set at 15,75 inches.
It utilizes three “F” low dispersion glass elements and three “S” soft dispersion elements for improved distortion control and flare reduction. The autofocus system of this lens is by no means intended for sports activities, but as a portrait lens, it does a phenomenal job of capturing a moment.
The focus is rock-solid, especially considering the lens’s amount of glass. With that in mind, it is safe to say that it is one of the heftiest lenses in the category, but it is worth it since you can achieve great optical superiority.
The 40mm focal length is a sweet spot for capturing incredible, artistic portraits, which is one of the reasons why this Sigma 40mm f/1.4 is on the portrait lenses list.
It enabled me to frame the main subject in focus crisply and clearly while achieving a smooth background. Furthermore, the color rendering and contrast are also on point, with a natural look that pops out in the right spots. The chromatic aberrations are well managed, with slight flares now and then.
- Powerful aperture
- Precise focus
- Solid design
- Artsy focal length
- Lack of OIS
- Lens Type: Normal
- Mounting Type: Canon EF
- Focal Length Range: 50mm
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.45m
- Weight: 1.28 pounds
- Dimensions: 2.6 x 3.39 x 3.39 inches
The best Canon lens for portraits comes with eight elements in six groups and eight rounded diaphragm blades. It sets the closest focus distance at 1,48 feet and has an angle of view of 46 degrees. Although it doesn’t have optical image stabilization, it packs a USM focusing motor combined with a powerful f/1.2 aperture which works together to create mesmerizing portraits.
I achieved extreme sharpness at an f/2.8, but at an f/2, I pulled off the most artistic portraits imaginable with a shallow depth of field and crisp, crystal-clear subject focus.
Since an f/1.2 is a vast aperture, the focus is placed on how blur and color distribution affect the result while caring less about spherical aberrations, which could be spotted in some instances.
It is tough to achieve an ultimate result even with an f/1.4, which is another reason why this “L” lens made the best Canon 50mm f/1.2 lens for portraits list. The overall photo quality is exceptional, which is expected from a lens in this price range.
The autofocus is very precise and silent, so you could even utilize the lens for videography. In the design compartment, it is safe to say that it deserves a straight “A” since it is water and dust resistant and has a robust appearance.
- Exceptional focal length
- Fast focus
- Artistic look
The second edition of Nikon’s line-up is constructed with 14 elements in nine groups and nine diaphragm blades. Nikon 105mm f/1.4 has a minimum focus distance of 3,28 inches and a maximum magnification of 0,13x. The angle of view sits at 23° 10′ for FX-format and 15°20′ for DX-format.
The lens lacks a vibration reduction feature; in this specific case, it helps because there is no delay due to stabilization. On the other hand, due to its wide aperture, this Nikon portrait lens captures a lot of light, and the focus is relatively fast.
It made the best lens for portraits list because it offers versatility, distance, and mobility to move freely. The minimum length is solid, and the lens does a reasonably decent job when you shoot from your hands. The colors pop at 105mm, and the contrast is perfect.
I mainly used it above an f/2, but you can achieve an artistic look at the maximum opening. It is a sharp optics that offers a shallow depth of field at the same time. The one “issue” is the “E” category of the lens since a handful of older cameras don’t have the option to control the aperture, meaning that it has to be used wide open.
- Versatile focal length
- Wide aperture
- Overall sharpness
- Accurate focus
The Sony 85mm f/1.4 last optics on the list are designed with 11 elements in eight groups and 11 rounded diaphragm blades. It sports an angle of view of 29° and a maximum magnification of 0,12x.
The minimum focus distance is 0,13x. The lens is equipped with a linear SSM focus system that does a phenomenal job in subject tracking and accurately delivering results. Color rendering is one of the reasons why Sony made the best lens for portraits list.
It also offers impressive subject isolation while providing smooth defocusing backgrounds. Despite the enormous size and extra weight, the optics are worth the investment since you get the high-end portrait lens from Sony.
The aperture is excellent and can ensure amazing portrait shots even during blue hours. The sharpness is mesmerizing, so even if your end goal is not to do portrait photography, you will love how the pictures turn out.
The contrast is rock-solid, and I have yet to notice fringing or vignetting issues. The build quality of the lens is professional, with a nice finishing touch, and feels good in the hands. Some may object to the bulkiness, but it adds to the professionalism, and the extra glass is there for a good (optical) reason. All Sony portrait lenses are incredibly high quality and durable.
- Great focus system
- Wide aperture
- Overall sharpness
- Smooth background
Getting your hands on a good lens for portraits is not an easy task in a market that offers unlimited choices. However, by reading the guide outlined above and following your photographic inclinations, you can make a quality purchase of the optics, no matter which brand of camera you have.
Pay attention to what is more important to you – traditional professional portrait look or artistic expression and then choose accordingly. One thing is sure – no matter which lens from lens you choose, your portfolio will improve in no time.
Now choose the lens best for your style and improve your photography skills. Check out this option if you’re still unsure which lens to choose.
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