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 too many useful buying guides on portrait lenses.
With that notion in mind, I have made the list of best lenses for portraits, so that you can choose for yourself the optics you need to achieve that ultimate shot.
The first optics on the list is designed with seven elements in six groups, along with 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 has produced, especially when compared against 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 on the best lens for portraits, especially when the wide aperture is accounted for in the equation.
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens offers a great performance under low light, and I didn’t have problems capturing awesome portrait shots handheld even with a limited source of light. 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, when you consider the price and many great 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, along with three “S” low 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 when considering the amount of glass in the lens. 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 awesome optical superiority.
The 40mm focal length is a sweet spot for capturing awesome, artistic portraits, which is one of the reasons why this Sigma 40mm f/1.4 is on the portraits lenses list.
It enabled me to frame the main subject in the focus, crisply and clearly, while achieving a smooth background. Furthermore, the color rendering and contrast are on point as well, 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
The best Canon lens for portraits comes with eight elements in six groups, along with 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 was able to achieve 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 an extremely wide 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 certain cases.
It is very difficult to achieve an ultimate result even with an f/1.4, so that 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 the lens of 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 it has a robust appearance.
- Exceptional focal length
- Fast focus
- Artistic look
The second edition in Nikon’s line-up is constructed with 14 elements in nine groups and, with 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 taking place. On the other hand, due to its wide aperture, this nikon portrait lens captures a lot of light and the focus is rather fast.
The reason it made the best lens for portraits list is that it offers versatility, distance, and mobility to freely move. The minimum distance is solid, and the lens does a fairly decent job when you shoot from your hands. The colors pop quite well at 105mm, and the contrast is very good.
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, along with 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 delivering results with accuracy. The color rendering is one of the reasons why Sony made the best lens for portraits list.
It also offers amazing subject isolation while providing smooth defocusing backgrounds. Despite the hefty 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 it can ensure amazing portrait shots even during blue hours. The overall sharpness is mesmerizing, so even if your end goal is not to portrait photography, you will love how the pictures turn out.
The contrast is rock-solid and I am yet to notice fringing or vignetting issues. The build quality of the lens is professional, with a nice finishing touch and it feels good in 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 extremely 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 an unlimited number of 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 – standard professional portrait look or the artistic expression and then choose accordingly. One thing is sure – no matter which lens from the lens you choose, your portfolio will improve in no time.
Now choose the lens that is best for your style and improve your photography skills. If you’re still not sure which lens to choose, check out this option.
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