Source: pexels.com

What is the best lens for por­traits? Each pho­tog­ra­ph­er can present his own require­ments, depend­ing on his style and the specifics of the work. But one require­ment is com­mon to all, it is set by the genre itself. Por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy is demand­ing on the qual­i­ty of the optics, and any pho­tog­ra­ph­er who wants to shoot por­traits should invest in a good lens.

In this arti­cle, we will ana­lyze what you can choose, take into account dif­fer­ent types of mounts and choose the optics that will serve you well and for a long time:

How to choose a portrait lens?

The main task of a good por­trait lens is not to dis­tort the per­spec­tive. The clos­er an object is to us, the larg­er it appears. If you shoot por­traits very close to the mod­el, then the pro­por­tions of the face and body will be dis­tort­ed.

In sec­ond place is the degree and qual­i­ty of blur­ring the back­ground in order to sep­a­rate the sub­ject from the back­ground. To do this, por­trait optics must be fast.

Although strict­ly speak­ing, a por­trait can be made with absolute­ly any lens: from fish­eye to super-tele­pho­to. Anoth­er thing is how long you have to mess around dur­ing shoot­ing and post-pro­duc­tion.

In por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy, it is impor­tant to cor­rect­ly focus. Source: pexels.com

It is best to shoot por­traits at a dis­tance of 3–5 meters. At these dis­tances, por­trait lens­es will take pic­tures in which the per­son is cropped to the waist. There­fore, por­trait lens­es have a nar­row field of view, which depends on the focal length of the lens and the size of the cam­er­a’s sen­sor.

The work­ing range of focal lengths for full-frame matri­ces is 70–135mm. Less — get ugly dis­tor­tion of pro­por­tions. More — you have to move too far from the mod­el. When shoot­ing a large facial por­trait on a 50mm lens, you will get notice­able dis­tor­tions in pro­por­tions and per­spec­tive for an atten­tive view­er. There­fore, such lens­es are best used for bust, half-length and full-length por­traits.

If you are using a cropped cam­era, then these val­ues ​​\u200b\u200bmust be mul­ti­plied by the crop fac­tor. The clas­sic range of focal lengths for such matri­ces is 50–85 mm.

So what kind of lens do you need for a por­trait? Usu­al­ly lens­es with a fixed focal length are cho­sen. Their main advan­tage is the pres­ence of a wider max­i­mum aper­ture. This allows such lens­es to beau­ti­ful­ly blur the back­ground. In addi­tion, lens­es with a fixed focal length pro­vide bet­ter image qual­i­ty than zoom lens­es in the same price range.

Top por­trait lens­es for por­traits for dif­fer­ent mounts

And now let’s look at what por­traits are obtained with dif­fer­ent lens­es:

1. Sig­ma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art

The lens is made main­ly of black­ened met­al. Source: cameraegg.org

Avail­able for Canon EF mount cam­eras. Weight — 417 grams. The fil­ter diam­e­ter is 77 mm. 9 aper­ture blades. The lens focus­es quick­ly thanks to the HSM motor, even when shoot­ing in dif­fi­cult light­ing con­di­tions. Open­ing the aper­ture pro­duces sharp shots across the entire field of the frame, mak­ing the lens an excel­lent solu­tion for shoot­ing in low light. Aper­ture gives an increase in detail, but it is achieved to a greater extent by increas­ing the depth of field. The lev­el of chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion is low. Vignetting is notice­able only at f / 1.4 and f / 2, and the lev­el of black­out is small. Bokeh is cor­rect and soft.

2. Canon RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM

Avail­able for Canon RF mount cam­eras. The lens weighs 500 grams, has 9 round­ed aper­ture blades, which gives a nice back­ground blur pat­tern. Despite the Macro in the name, the max­i­mum zoom ratio of the lens is 1:2 (clas­sic and more expen­sive macro lens­es shoot in 1:1 scale). The aut­o­fo­cus dri­ve lasts longer than the ultra­son­ic ones and is a lit­tle noisy dur­ing oper­a­tion.

The lens has two adjust­ment rings. One of them adjusts the sharp­ness, the oth­er is pro­gram­ma­ble and allows you to inde­pen­dent­ly assign an adjustable para­me­ter: for exam­ple, the aper­ture val­ue, shut­ter speed or ISO.

The range of focal lengths of por­trait lens­es for full-frame matri­ces is 70–135 mm. Source: www.unsplash.com

The lens is equipped with an opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem that com­pen­sates for 5 expo­sure lev­els.

The lens cap­tures small details per­fect­ly, some too well, which can high­light facial imper­fec­tions. In gen­er­al, sharp­ness in the cen­ter of the frame is good already at full aper­ture. At f / 5.6‑f / 13, it reach­es a max­i­mum. Back­ground blur qual­i­ty is excel­lent up to f/11.3. Vil­trox AF 85/1.8Z

Vil­trox AF 85/1.8 Z lens­es are mul­ti-coat­ed with Nano HD coat­ing to reduce ghost­ing and flare, reduce aber­ra­tions and enhance col­or repro­duc­tion. Source: https://nikonrumors.com/

A bud­get Chi­nese por­trait lens that is avail­able for the Z mount of Nikon cam­eras. Weighs 540 grams, has 9 round­ed aper­ture blades. The fil­ter diam­e­ter is 72 mm. Equipped with STM auto focus, it is not silent, but very qui­et. The focus­ing lens unit does not move very fast, but rather smooth­ly. The min­i­mum aper­ture is 1.8, the max­i­mum is 16.

The lens is sharp. There are some arti­facts at full aper­ture, but the pic­ture improves when you stop down. Bokeh is smooth and soft. Chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions are min­i­mal. Vignetting dis­ap­pears at an aper­ture val­ue of f/3.2.

4. Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF‑S Nikkor

Suit­able for almost all cam­eras, espe­cial­ly for SLR mod­els.

Avail­able for Nikon F‑mount cam­eras. Weighs 350 grams, has 7 round­ed aper­ture blades. The fil­ter diam­e­ter is 67 mm. Equipped with auto focus using SWM-dri­ve. The min­i­mum aper­ture is 1.8, the max­i­mum is 16.

Even wide open, the lens deliv­ers excel­lent image sharp­ness in the cen­ter of the frame. It’s low­er at the edges of the image, but lev­els out at f/4. At the same time, vignetting is strong, which per­sists up to f / 5.6. Chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions are bare­ly notice­able and are present only at the edges of the frame. Bokeh is soft and even.

5. Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

Avail­able for Sony E mount cam­eras. The lens weighs a lot — 820 grams. The opti­cal design of the lens con­tains three extra-low dis­per­sion lens­es that min­i­mize axi­al chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion. The lens has 11 round­ed aper­ture blades, mak­ing the aper­ture very round and improv­ing the soft­ness of out-of-focus areas. The fil­ter diam­e­ter is 77 mm. It has dust and mois­ture pro­tec­tion. The min­i­mum aper­ture is 1.8, the max­i­mum is 16.

Aut­o­fo­cus is fast but noisy. The bokeh is very soft and high qual­i­ty, thanks to the 11-blade aper­ture, round high­lights are obtained with­out con­trast­ing edges. The lens is sharp even wide open.

6. Sony FE 135mm f/1.8GM

Por­trait tak­en with the Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM. Source: https://fstoppers.com/

Avail­able for Sony FE mount cam­eras. The lens weighs 950 grams. The diaphragm con­sists of 11 blades to ensure the cor­rect shape of the flare in the bokeh. The lens is equipped with an aut­o­fo­cus dri­ve that allows you to focus from the min­i­mum focus­ing dis­tance to infin­i­ty in no more than one sec­ond. The fil­ter diam­e­ter is 82 mm. It has dust and mois­ture pro­tec­tion. The min­i­mum aper­ture is 1.8, the max­i­mum is 22.

At almost all aper­tures, the lens gives the same high detail, con­trast and does not allow aber­ra­tions. Fur­ther aper­ture does not increase detail. The depth of field will only increase, so visu­al­ly indi­vid­ual details will become sharp­er. The lens gives good bokeh, sep­a­rat­ing the main sub­ject from the back­ground. How­ev­er, the back­ground can be left read­able by clos­ing down the aper­ture.

7. Fuji­film XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR

The com­pact size of the Fuji­film XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR lens­es are great for mir­ror­less cam­eras. Source: https://www.patricemichellon.com/

Avail­able for Fuji­film X Mount cam­eras with cropped APS‑C sen­sors. This means that the actu­al focal length of such a lens will be one and a half times larg­er and equal to 135 mm.

The lens weighs 540 grams. Its diaphragm con­sists of 7 round­ed petals. Equipped with step­per aut­o­fo­cus. The fil­ter diam­e­ter is 62 mm. It has dust and mois­ture pro­tec­tion. The min­i­mum aper­ture is 2.0, the max­i­mum is 16.

The lens­es are coat­ed with Elec­tron Beam Coat­ing. It increas­es the light trans­mis­sion of glass­es and pre­vents the for­ma­tion of halos and reflec­tions.

The lens shows good sharp­ness from wide open and main­tains it up to f/13. Sharp­ness does not drop much from the cen­ter to the periph­ery. Chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions and dis­tor­tions are absent even at an open aper­ture. The lens does a good job of blur­ring the back­ground, but hep­ta­he­drons some­times slip on the front due to the num­ber of blades on the aper­ture.


Most of the lens­es list­ed in this arti­cle are mul­ti­func­tion­al and can be used for more than just por­trait lens­es. We tried to select essen­tial tools for the work of pro­fes­sion­als, begin­ners and ama­teurs, and we hope that the mate­r­i­al was use­ful.


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