Photo by Oscar Ivan Esquivel Arteaga on Unsplash
Today we’re looking for the best portrait lens. We’re not talking about any specific brand of camera, but we will be checking out extremely high-quality lenses that work with a wide variety of different cameras, from Canon to Nikon and Sony to Kodak!
If you want more bang for your buck, and you want more quality for your portraits, it’s imperative that you upgrade to a quality portrait lens. The best portrait lens will bring your subjects to life in a revolutionary way that you simply can’t understand until you’re looking at the results!
If you’ve been shooting portraits without a lens, you’ll notice the difference immediately after your first photoshoot with an actual portrait lens. The big bonus with purchasing a lens designed specifically for portraits is that it’s more versatile than you might think. The perfect lens is of course going to allow you to magnificently capture any human subject in any kind of light, but you can use the lens for so much more than that.
Portrait lenses are fairly standard. You can usually use them for everyday photography, for showcasing real estate, for getting some great pics of architecture around the city, and even for macro photography while playing around in the garden. A quality portrait lens is going to save you money in the long run because you’ll have one primary lens to use in many different aspects of your photography.
Without wasting any more time, let’s dig in!
1. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
Topping off the list is a powerhouse of a lens from Sigma. If you’re looking for something that can take fantastic portrait photographs by using the best technology and the newest features, this is a lens for you. The hypersonic motor has been redesigned to offer even more power, giving you quick and accurate autofocusing in every situation. The hypersonic motor even allows you to manually engage in autofocus operations at any point in time.
This lens offers great bokeh for portrait photographers and superior resolution. It’s one of the best lenses for people who want to take artistic photos of other human beings! But that’s not where the capabilities of the lens stop. You can use it in all kinds of everyday situations. The lens is the best choice for anyone with a full-frame DSLR camera that offers a resolution of 50 megapixels and above. That’s the kind of quality you’re getting with this lens. If you have a cheaper camera that doesn’t push that many megapixels, you might be biting off more than you can chew with the Sigma 85mm Art Lens. It truly is a professional piece of equipment.
- Redesigned Hyper Sonic Motor
- Optimized Power Distribution
- Major Flexibility for Different Cameras
- Complete w/ USB Dock
- Incredibly Quick Focus Speed
- No Vibration Reduction
- May Need to Recalibrate After Purchase
2. Samyang SY85M-C 85mm F1.4 Fixed Lens
The Samyang 85mm Fixed Lens is a powerhouse unit that all professionals will love. This is not the kind of lens that beginners should try using when just starting their journey to becoming a professional photographer. The manual focus can be a serious challenge if you don’t know what you’re doing, and if all you want is to take photographs of family members, you’re better off getting a more inexpensive lens. This is the real deal, with superb image quality, an ideal aperture range, sturdy construction of glass and aluminum with 10 different lens elements in seven groups, and a minimum focusing distance of only 3.3 feet. The lens isn’t zoomable, but you don’t need it to be!
What’s really remarkable is how affordable the lens is. As a third-party company, you can use the lens with your Canon, Pentax, Sony, or Nikon camera. It offers superior performance in the face of all challenges. You get almost no chromatic aberration, the focusing is lightning fast, and the lens even comes complete with a lens hood, a lens pouch, and a cap. There’s even a one-year warranty to ensure complete customer satisfaction.
- Exceptional Minimum Focusing Distance
- Strong Glass & Aluminum Construction
- Silky Smooth Focusing Mechanism
- Almost No Chromatic Aberrations
- Beautiful Bokeh for Portraits
- Manual Focus is Challenging
- Not Ideal for Beginners
3. Nikon NIKKOR Z 85mm F/1.8 S Telephoto Lens
Nikon makes some of the best lenses in the business. This telephoto lens is significantly more expensive than the one we just looked at from Samyang, but it’s so quality in terms of power and performance that you’ll be happy to spend the money. The lens features a customizable control ring, it’s resistant to dust and drips, and it’s extensively sealed to make it one of the best outdoor portrait lenses available. The lens even features a nano-crystal coating and a nine-blade diaphragm. In simpler terms, the lens really works! This is a premium product that blends optical ingenuity with your own artistic flair to capture photographs so beautiful you’ll never run out of work as a professional portrait photographer.
The areas in which this telephoto lens excel include portraits, close-ups, tight video shooting, and headshots. You will always capture your subject in pure, natural beauty.
- Premium Lens for Pros
- Breathtaking Picture Clarity
- Extra-Low Dispersion Glass/Eliminates Fringing
- Newest NIKKOR Technology
- Not Great in Low Light
- Could Focus Closer
4. Sony SEL85F18 85mm F/1.8-22 Medium-Telephoto Prime Lens
Sony doesn’t mess around when it comes to creating the best lenses in the business. If you want corner-to-corner sharpness with every image, you want Sony’s 85mm Telephoto Prime Lens. You get direct control with every picture you take, plus a customizable focus hold button. The motor system provides fast and quiet focusing, and the aperture is perfect for getting that delicious background defocusing effect that all portrait photographers crave!
Unfortunately, this is a lens designed for Sony cameras. It’s really only going to work properly with an E-mount system. But if you have a Sony camera, you’re in luck. In fact, I would say this lens is such great quality that it’s almost worth it to go out and buy the Sony a7 to use it with! The build is impressive, the features are versatile, and it’s a great lens for those who are constantly mobile and need something compact and lightweight.
- Resistant to Dust & Moisture
- Smoothly Defocused Background
- Customizable Focus Hold Button
- Outstanding Quality + Versatility
- Super Lightweight & Portable
- Dedicated Sony E-Mount Lens
- Often Sold Out Online
5. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 Portrait Lens
You might be surprised that the final entry is an Olympus lens. But you shouldn’t be! This is one of the most affordable yet powerful lenses that you can use for a wide variety of applications. It’s incredibly fast, it works great for taking portraits, and because of its maximum F1.8 aperture, it’s ideal for low-light scenarios. It works fantastically when taking videos, it’s compact, super affordable, and designed so that each of your photos stands out with incredible detail and vivid color. The depth of field is phenomenal, and all your portraits are going to be at the professional level once you equip your Panasonic or Olympus micro camera with this lens!
The only issue here is that the lens is designed for micro cameras. It’s not going to be compatible with your large DSLR camera from Sony. Just be sure that before you make your purchase, you check the compatibility chart to make sure that it’s going to work. But assuming you have the proper camera, you’re going to get shockingly beautiful images thanks to this lens. And if you’ve been using your micro four thirds camera without a lens, you might just have a heart attack after making the change. This Olympus lens has a way of truly bringing your subject to attention – plus it’s fun to use!
- Best Deal at Lowest Cost
- Must-Have for Micro Camera
- Autofocus is Ultra-Fast & Accurate
- Small & Powerful
- Brilliant Colors
- Solid Build & Feels Comfortable When Shooting
- No Weather Sealing
- Only for Micro Four Thirds Camera Systems
Even though many portrait lenses are similar, there are still some things you need to keep in mind before making a purchase. For example, there are two types of lenses that you’re going to be considering for portraits. You have zoom lenses and prime lenses. A prime lens is great and offers superior clarity and image quality, however, the focal length is fixed. The zoom lens is much more versatile. It’s also more convenient if you’re looking to take a wide variety of photographs. You’ll never have to switch your gear when using a zoom lens.
Which one is best for you? Well, a lot of it depends on what exactly you’re doing and how professional you are. As a general rule, professional portrait photographers use prime lenses because the maximum apertures are usually faster. A prime lens is also easier to carry around when going from photoshoot to photoshoot.
That said, if you’re not into portrait photography for the money, you probably want to choose a zoom lens. The versatility makes it a better lens for traveling. It still takes remarkable portrait photographs, but it can be used for much more. You’ll also never need to switch out lenses, which is crucial for those looking to take their camera with them on the road!
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