Best Portrait Lenses

Review & Comparison, Last Update September 29, 2017
Ever wondered, what would be the best lens to get stunning portrait shots with your new DSLR or Mirrorless camera? We've done this job for you and have made a list of great lenses for different cameras to meet any specific demands. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2017
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Focal Length
Aperture
Number Of Aperture Blades
Image Stabilization
Weight
Warranty
 
PROS
Autofocus USM motor is quick and quite quiet.
CONS
The AF mechanism is reported to be a bit fragile. Don't drop it on hard floor, and it will be okay.
OUR VERDICT
This is one of best portrait lenses for Canon Full-Frame cameras in its segment. Whether it's a sunny day or a gloomy evening, it will provide you with the bright, sharp and creative images thanks to the maximum ultra-wide aperture and smart design.
detailed parameters
Focal Length
50mm for APS-C - 80mm
Aperture
Max: f/1.4 Min: f/22
Number Of Aperture Blades
8
Image Stabilization
No
Weight
0.64 lbs
Warranty
1 year
PROS
The aperture ring on the lens is a rare, yet welcomed feature. Lens is weatherproof.
CONS
The lens is more suitable for the full-body and waist-up portraits than for the headshots.
OUR VERDICT
Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR is an awesome choice for the Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. It works in any weather conditions due to the moisture and dust protection. Even more, the 9-blade diaphragm creates a charming bokeh that gives the portraits more artistic touch.
detailed parameters
Focal Length
35mm for APS-C - 52,5mm
Aperture
Max: f/2.0 Min: f/16
Number Of Aperture Blades
9
Image Stabilization
No
Weight
0.38 lbs
Warranty
1 year
PROS
Comes with the branded pouch and the lens hood.
CONS
The chart photos showed a tiny barrel distortion.
OUR VERDICT
Nikkor AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8G can surely be recommended for both beginners and advanced users with any Nikon DSLR. Choose the place, find a model, pick the best angle and get yourself tons of stunningly detailed portraits in no time.
detailed parameters
Focal Length
50mm for APS-C - 75mm
Aperture
Max: f/1.8 Min: f/16
Number Of Aperture Blades
7
Image Stabilization
No
Weight
0.41 lbs
Warranty
1 year
PROS
The metal barrel feels sturdy, reliable and just looks good.
CONS
The focusing mode can be switched only via camera menu.
OUR VERDICT
Use this lens together with your Sony mirrorless camera to achieve the highest level of details due to the built-in image stabilization. Additionally, the focusing process is very easy with the wide focusing ring.
detailed parameters
Focal Length
50mm for APS-C - 75mm
Aperture
Max: f/1.8 Min: f/22
Number Of Aperture Blades
7
Image Stabilization
Yes
Weight
0.45 lbs
Warranty
1 year
PROS
The light weight allows you to always have it on you.
CONS
The sliding forward edge of the lens might not retract when the camera is turned off.
OUR VERDICT
With the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens, you will never miss a moment to take a stunning headshot or a full-body portrait as you can always take it with you in your camera bag because it's small and lightweight. It also shows great results in shooting videos as the STM focus motor is quick and silent.
detailed parameters
Focal Length
50mm for APS-C - 80mm
Aperture
Max: f/1.8 Min: f/22
Number Of Aperture Blades
7
Image Stabilization
No
Weight
0.36 lbs
Warranty
1 year

What is a Portrait Lens

Unlike centuries ago, you can get your portrait done in a matter of seconds with a phone or a camera nowadays. However, the process of creating a beautiful portrait with a camera can still be considered an art. And the fine art requires the right tools. To take a dramatic, expressive shot with DSLR camera, photographers use different lens types and effects. Among photographers, the 50mm focal length is considered a standard for portraiture.

The lenses with shallow depth of field are commonly used to emphasize the subject and separate it from the background. To achieve this, you need to open the aperture wide - and the unfocused objects will be blurred, while your subject will stay sharp and highlighted. Of course, some zoom lenses offer 50mm focal length, too. However, there are only a few of them that can provide you with the aperture large enough and even fewer that won't cost you the earth. So, the lenses with a fixed focal length and low F-numbers at f/1.8-2.4 are the prime choice for the portraits.

In this review, we'll point out the advantages of different lenses for the portrait photography. Right before we start, you might also be interested in our other lens guides for the best wide-angle lenses for Canon, zoom lenses for Canon and macro lenses for Canon as well.

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Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Seeking Perfection

This is one of the most popular lenses for Canon SLRs. The first model was introduced in 1993 and quickly became so successful and widespread among photographers that the barrel design hasn't been changed since then. The "EF" mark tells us that it's compatible with all Canon EOS cameras, including Full-Frame DSLR. Note, if it's mounted on the APS-C sensor camera, the resulting field of view will be closer to 85mm due to the crop factor.

Anyhow, this 50mm lens is awesome for several solid reasons. The key features here are the diaphragm and aperture. At f/4.0 and larger, you are getting very shallow depth of field. As a result, even if there are some objects in the fore- or background of your subject, they will be effectively put out of focus and blurred. If you want to add a bokeh, just switch to aperture priority or set it manually to f/1.4 and the 8-blade diaphragm will swirl the light behind the subject and produce the round-shaped dots of light for you.

Overall, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens is excellent for shooting waist-ups and full-length portraits. As for headshots, you should consider the fact that 50mm focal length shows a bit distorted perspective, compared to a human eye. So, it might take some training to get them right. In our experience, you can't always trust the autofocus in any lens when it comes to the light photos with shallow DoF. In this case, the Full-Time manual focus comes in handy as you can tune the sharpness closer or further away even when the AF is on. At any rate, try not to drop the lens or camera on the floor as the AF mechanism is reported to be a bit fragile, although this can be said about any lens. Anyway, if you are going to take photos outdoors on a shiny day, don't forget to grab the hood to reduce the sun glares. We recommend Canon ES71II Hood that was designed specifically for this lens.

All in all, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens has already proved to be one of the best choices for taking portrait photos in bright and dim lighting conditions. At the same time, the Full-Time manual focus will allow you to fully immerse yourself into the process and capture the smallest details and the mood of a sitter.

Review of Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens for Canon DSLRs

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User Manual     Manufacturer


Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
 

Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR

Classic Trick

Fujinon is the brand of Fujifilm company for its photo and TV camera lenses. This one is designed for the Fujifilm mirrorless cameras of the X-series. In our opinion, 35mm focal length - even on the APS-C sensor - is best suitable for group photos, full-body and waist-up portraits. The blurring is sufficient to highlight the subject at the maximum f/2 aperture. However, sometimes the blur may not look soft enough. Thankfully, it is fully compensated by the diaphragm system, as the 9 blades produce smooth round bokeh that will give your pictures a beautiful aesthetic touch. The aperture can be controlled manually with the large corresponding ring placed closer to the camera - the same way as on the old-school lenses. It's a shame, other manufacturers opted not to install it anymore as it's way more comfortable to use the ring, considering the small body of the mirrorless cameras, where all of the sliders and buttons can be somewhat small. The next feature will excite extreme photographers: the lens can work at down to 14° F cold and features the moisture and dustproof barrel. You can take it with you on a ski resort and get amazing headshots in the snow. 

Feel free to explore the real possibilities of Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR Lens. It boasts a quick autofocus that will come in handy when you are taking family photos with the kids. However, the real potential of this lens can be fulfilled in extreme conditions due to the thought-through metal barrel design and its protective properties.

Review of Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR Mirrorless Fuji Lens

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Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR
Fujinon XF35mmF2 R WR
 

Nikkor AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8G

One for All

Nikkor is the Nikon company's brand for their lens products. So it's kind of obvious that this lens is designed for the Nikon Full-Frame sensor cameras, although it also works with APS-C format. Note, that if it's mounted on a cropped sensor camera, the angle of view will be equivalent to the 75-80mm lens on a Full-Frame camera. Speaking of the optic qualities, the diaphragm has f/1.8 F-number - a common standard for portrait 50mm lenses. With it, you will easily accentuate the focus on a subject by blurring the background due to the shallow depth of the field. One of the strong points of this lens is the Silent Wave Motor. It is a special focusing mechanism that universally works with any Nikon DLSRs. Also, by switching the slider from the manual to M/A mode, you will be able to tune the focus any time you want, similar to the Full-Time Focusing mode in other cameras. When you let the focusing ring go, the AF will kick back in and continue its work.

The lens comes with a hood and a pouch for transportation. However, the list of accessories can't be complete without a UV filter. As this Nikkor AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8G is only available with a polarizer filter on Amazon, you can grab Tiffen's 58mm one to protect the glass from the dust and the camera sensor from the hazardous UV rays. Also, it reduces the blue hue on the photos as well. In other words, it's imperative to have such a filter for each of the lenses from your collection.

Concluding, this camera can be recommended not only for advanced users but for beginners too. It will provide you with the perfect-looking portraits while the universal lens mount will ensure that you can use in the long run, even if you buy a different Nikon DSLR camera.

Review of Nikkor AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8G Nikon DSLR Lens

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User Manual     Manufacturer


Nikkor AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8G
Nikkor AF-S FX 50mm f/1.8G
 

Sony SEL50F18/B 50mm f/1.8

Steady Hand

Sony 50mm f/1.8 Lens is designed for the mirrorless cameras from Alpha NEX series. With the 50mm focal length and f/1.8 diaphragm, it is a solid choice if you are looking for the lens to shoot portraits with a Sony body. Still, it has a couple of peculiar details that made us include it in this review. First of all, the lens has the built-in image stabilization system called Optical SteadyShot. It's incredibly useful in any conditions as sometimes a light tremble in your hands can smear the shot. But with this lens, you can set the higher F-number to increase the in-focus range. The second thing to note is the housing of the lens - the barrel is made of the light aluminum alloy. When you touch it, the cold metal feels like a really expensive and high-quality device. By the way, the focus ring is a lot bigger in proportions to the barrel when compared to the other lenses, which is good when you need to quickly tune a focus just a bit.

As for the package, along with the usual caps, you also get the lens hood that reduces the lens glares. However, it adds about 70% of the lens size.

After all, Sony SEL50F18/B is one of the best portrait lenses for Sony Alpha NEX-series cameras. In a matter of seconds, you can get clear, sharp shots of your model thanks to the wide focus ring and the built-in image stabilizer.

Review of Sony SEL50F18/B 50mm f/1.8 Sony Mirrorless Lens

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Sony SEL50F18/B 50mm f/1.8
Sony SEL50F18/B 50mm f/1.8
 

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Sharp and Smooth

In 2015, Canon presented a new 50mm lens with f/1.8 aperture, designed for a Full-Frame sensor and also compatible with the APS-C cameras. Although the company already had a similar and popular EF 50mm f/1.8 II model, this one features a special STM focusing motor. When your camera hunts for a subject, it produces almost no sound. Moreover, even in AF-mode, you can grab the ring and adjust the focus at any moment. The STM also smoothens the transition from subject to subject, so it's a great choice if you want to shoot a video with your camera, too.

The increased amount of the diaphragm blades is yet another advantage over its predecessor. The 7 blades create a small circular blur at the max aperture. The SuperSpectra glass coating diminishes the lens flares and improves the overall picture quality. Still, if you are looking forward to using it on a sunny day, you might need a hood. In this case, the ES-68 Lens Hood by Canon is exactly what you need.

Also, the lens itself is ultra-light. Despite having the metal mount, it weighs only 0.36 lbs. So, if you prefer handheld shooting or just don't own a tripod yet, then it will be a real catch for you. It is fast, sharp, and, above all, comes at an affordable price.

At the end of the day, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM is the universal portrait lens for beginners and amateurs who own a Canon DSLR. Thanks to it, you'll be able to capture all face expressions and the smallest details of your beautiful models. Try it out and you'll be pleased with the results.

Review of Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Canon DSLR Lens

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User Manual     Manufacturer


Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
 

Sources:

1. Picking Your Portrait Lenses, eBay. February 16, 2016.

2. Jeff Meyer What is the best aperture and focal length for portraits? TechRadar. January 23, 2014.

3. Anton Orlov Selecting a Portrait Lens With Correct Focal Length, PetaPixel. January 4, 2016.

4. Andrew S. Gibson How to Choose the Perfect Portrait LensDigital Photography School.

5. Jake Hicks The 50mm Lens: One of Best Classic Portrait Lengths, Photo.net. August 2015.

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