Sony has one of the best lens lines for mir­ror­less cam­eras of any man­u­fac­tur­er. Pho­to: thephoblographer.com

Por­traits are dif­fer­ent: some­one loves clas­sic stu­dio shots in per­fect light­ing, some­one at a con­cert is try­ing to “reach out” to the artist, and some­one prefers night neon cyber­punk. For all these sit­u­a­tions, Sony, Sig­ma and Tam­ron have some great por­trait lens­es. Let’s fig­ure out which “glass­es” are best suit­ed for your Sony cam­era.

What should be a good por­trait lens
Clas­sic por­trait fix (native)
Clas­sic Por­trait Fix (Third Par­ty)
Tele­pho­to fix
Tele­zoom for por­traits
For por­traits in the envi­ron­ment

What should be a good portrait lens:

  • good cen­tral sharp­ness (depends on the over­all qual­i­ty of the optics);
  • mod­er­ate tele­pho­to focal lengths. The equiv­a­lent focal length of 8mm is con­sid­ered a clas­sic for por­traits, but for some gen­res, “wider” and “nar­row­er” glass­es are bet­ter suit­ed — more on that below;
  • good lumi­nos­i­ty. For lens­es with a fixed focal length — from f / 1.8, for zooms — from f / 2.8;
  • the abil­i­ty to blur the back­ground and cre­ate beau­ti­ful bokeh (direct­ly depends on aper­ture and focal length — faster and longer lens­es blur the back­ground more pow­er­ful­ly).

Classic portrait fix (native)

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

The lens is large, but on full-frame bod­ies it looks more or less bal­anced. Pho­to: cameralabs.com

When talk­ing about Sony por­trait lens­es, the first thing that comes to mind is a lens that Sony itself calls the “ulti­mate por­trait fix”. This is the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM. It’s hard to argue with this char­ac­ter­is­tic: a fast lens of the pro­fes­sion­al G Mas­ter series (lens­es with top qual­i­ty optics, accu­rate aut­o­fo­cus and con­ve­nient con­trols for pro­fes­sion­als) with a clas­sic por­trait focal length — what more could you want from a por­trait lens?

Cool sharp­ness, cool bokeh with the abil­i­ty to pow­er­ful­ly blur the back­ground to visu­al­ly high­light the mod­el. With such aper­ture, you can work in a vari­ety of light­ing con­di­tions: from ide­al stu­dio to night shoot­ing on the street.

Cons — high price (137 thou­sand rubles at the time of writ­ing) and rather big dimen­sions (the lens weighs 820 grams).

If you’re will­ing to sac­ri­fice aper­ture but get a small­er, cheap­er lens, the com­pa­ny has a great option — the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. The lens costs and weighs half as much, but at the same time pro­vides more than a decent pic­ture for its mon­ey.

Classic Portrait Fix (Third Party)

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sig­ma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art was pro­duced not only for Sony, but also for Canon and Nikon. Pho­to: sigma-global.com

The main com­peti­tor of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM will not be the Sony 85mm f/1.8, which we not­ed above, but the leg­endary Sig­ma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. We have already spo­ken about this “glass” more than once, but it would be a crime to miss it in such a rat­ing.

At a cost one and a half times cheap­er than the native lens, it pro­duces a pic­ture no worse. Its main prob­lem is the weight of more than a kilo­gram. Some­times the lack of sta­bi­liza­tion is also reproached, but, first­ly, the com­peti­tor from Sony also does not have it, and sec­ond­ly, most of the com­pa­ny’s cam­eras are equipped with in-car­cass sta­bi­liza­tion.

If you are not a fan of “heavy met­al”, the same Sig­ma has released an updat­ed mod­el — Sig­ma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN. This por­trait lens is much more com­pact and lighter (640 grams), while it demon­strates excel­lent sharp­ness at all aper­tures and does not com­plain about chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion (green and pur­ple fring­ing). True, you will have to pay more — at the time of writ­ing the arti­cle, the price is 120 thou­sand rubles.

Telephoto fix

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8GM

Includes a pow­er­ful lens hood that saves from glare and flare. Pho­to: bhphotovideo.com

If you are look­ing for a lens for close-up por­traits (for exam­ple, head­shots), then tele­pho­to fix­es give the most inter­est­ing pic­ture with a very shal­low depth of field (and, accord­ing­ly, pow­er­ful back­ground blur). The Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM is a fast prime that few can seri­ous­ly com­pete with in terms of opti­cal qual­i­ty.

At the same time, for its focal length, it is very light (950 grams) — 30% lighter than the near­est com­peti­tor Sig­ma Art 135mm f / 1.8 (1230 grams). It focus­es quick­ly, so it is well suit­ed not only for por­traits, but also for wed­dings, sports and var­i­ous events.

Video­g­ra­phers will also appre­ci­ate it — the aper­ture ring can work with­out clicks to cre­ate smooth tran­si­tions.

Telezoom for portraits

Sony FE 70–200mm f/2.8GM

With this lens, you can take por­traits of not only peo­ple, but also wild ani­mals. Pho­to: dpreview.com

If you’re look­ing for a more ver­sa­tile zoom tele­pho­to lens, Sony has the Sony FE 70–200mm f/2.8 GM pro­fes­sion­al fast lens. Such a “machine” will be good for shoot­ing por­traits at con­certs and var­i­ous live events when you need to “reach out” to a per­son. Excel­lent aper­ture makes it pos­si­ble to shoot in reportage (unpre­dictable) con­di­tions, while in size it is more like a fix — it is con­ve­nient when work­ing in crowd­ed places. Fast and accu­rate focus­ing plus an opti­cal stub on board. Don’t ask about the price — more than a quar­ter of a mil­lion rubles.

A more bud­get-friend­ly alter­na­tive is Tam­ron’s 70–180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD. Of course, it is not so “long” in terms of the range of focal lengths, but it is just right for por­traits. The lens has excel­lent aper­ture, and the body is rel­a­tive­ly com­pact — this tele­pho­to weighs 815 grams.

For portraits in the environment

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM

A cool uni­ver­sal fix for street por­traits and more. Pho­to: dpreview.com

For “in con­text” shots – street por­traits and por­traits in the envi­ron­ment (for exam­ple, for por­traits of pro­fes­sion­als, when you need to make it clear what a per­son is doing by includ­ing their work­place in the frame), we will need a wider angle lens.

But too wide-angle optics are not the best choice for por­traits (due to per­spec­tive dis­tor­tions that do not paint human faces), but 35mm is just right.

The Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM is equipped with pro­fes­sion­al optics that help you main­tain sharp­ness at any aper­ture. At the same time, a pow­er­ful aper­ture is great for night city por­traits with neon signs and urban aes­thet­ics.

GM series optics cost decent mon­ey, so you can sac­ri­fice a lit­tle aper­ture and take the uni­ver­sal Sony FE 35mm f / 1.8. This is a com­pact lens with fast aut­o­fo­cus and excel­lent sharp­ness at max­i­mum aper­ture. It has beau­ti­ful soft bokeh, although chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion can be notice­able in high con­trast sit­u­a­tions. But giv­en the demo­c­ra­t­ic price tag — it costs about 60 thou­sand rubles — this small draw­back can be safe­ly for­giv­en.

Read also:

Chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion: what is it and how to remove it

The Best Alter­na­tive Lens­es for Sony Cam­eras: Sig­ma, Tam­ron and More