The Best Portrait Lenses for Every Camera Brand


posted Thursday, December 14, 2017 at 9:00 AM EDT


Portraits are one of the most popular styles of photography, and if you want to take your portraiture to the next level, you'll want to look at a fast prime lens with a mid-range or short telephoto focal length. Many cameras, both DSLRs and mirrorless models, come with kit zoom lenses that feature narrower apertures -- something like f/3.5-5.6 -- which, while certainly capable of taking a portrait, won't easily give you that portrait "look," that isolated subject, that shallow depth of field, that creamy, blurred background.

It'd be wonderful just to say, well, here's the best portrait lens... but with multiple camera brands as well as budgets that folks need to consider, there's no one single answer. Below, we've compiled recommendations for fast, portrait-appropriate prime lenses for every major camera brand, each with an affordable, budget-conscious choice and then a high-end, premium selection.

Without further ado, let's go…




Best Canon Lenses for Portraits

Canon 85mm f/1.8


Though it's not the newest lens on the block -- debuting back in 1992 -- the Canon 85mm f/1.8 is, nevertheless, an excellent compact portrait lens, and one that won't break the budget with a price around $350. Offering the classic portrait-friendly 85mm focal length (on full-frame cameras), the 85mm f/1.8 offers very good image quality performance, even wide open, though corner sharpness at f/1.8 is understandably quite soft. Stopped down a bit, the lens shows impressive sharpness. Other optical qualities, such as CA and distortion, are very good, though vignetting is an issue at wider apertures on full-frame cameras. AF performance is also quick and quiet, too, making it a good choice for situations with moving subjects. All in all, if you need a full-frame-format portrait lens for your Canon DSLR and don't want to spend an arm and a leg, this is a sure-fire winner.
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Canon 85mm f/1.4L IS


For many years, the crème-de-la-crème of Canon portrait lenses was the EF 85mm f/1.2L II. A massive, expensive, but oh-so-nice ultra-fast 85mm lens, the f/1.2L II lens was and remains a stunning lens. Wide-open it produces dreamy images with razor-thin depth of field. But, with all that glass to move, the AF speed is a major hindrance when you needed to photography anything moving. This year, however, Canon introduced a new 85mm L-series lens: the 85mm f/1.4L IS. Although it doesn't get to that dreamy f/1.2 aperture, the new 85mm L-series lens is overall much sharper wide open than the f/1.2L II optic thanks to newer, specialized optical elements and lens coatings.

What's more, the autofocus on the 85mm f/1.4L IS is significantly faster than the older model, making it appropriate for even moving subjects. Plus, the inclusion of built-in image stabilization helps in low-light as well as handheld video shooting. Best of all, despite the newer design, better optical quality, faster AF and I.S., the 85mm f/1.4L IS costs less than the f/1.2L II -- it's still pricey, but $1,600 is better than nearly $2,000. For Canon photographers, here's your solution for the best Canon portrait lens!
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Best Fujifilm Lenses for Portraits

Fuji 50mm f/2 WR


Fuji shooters wanting a portrait lens on a budget should look no further than the compact 50mm f/2 WR. Offering an approximate 75mm-eq. focal length, this tiny lens offers stunning sharpness, even wide open and across the frame with little corner softness. Distortion, CA and vignetting are all extremely minimal.

Despite the lower price tag, this lens is lightweight yet very sturdy and even features weather-sealing like more expensive lenses (hence the "WR" in the model name). Priced under $500, this tiny lens won't weigh you down, nor drain your wallet, yet you'll be capable of capturing stunning portraits.
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Fuji 56mm f/1.2


Now, if you want the ultimate, fast-aperture portrait prime for your Fuji mirrorless camera, the 56mm f/1.2 is the lens for you. Offered in two varieties -- a standard model and a unique "APD" model with an apodization filter for supposedly improved bokeh -- we're recommending the standard version. For one, the regular 56mm f/1.2 is significantly less expensive ($900 vs $1400), and secondly, we didn't really see a significant difference in the background blurring of the APD model -- at least not enough to warrant the jump in price. Plus, the APD model is not compatible with many of the Fuji cameras' hybrid on-sensor phase-detect AF systems, so the APD model is forced to use slower contrast-detect autofocus. Overall, the non-APD 56mm f/1.2 is a more versatile, more affordable option that still captures amazing images.

Optically, the 56mm f/1.2 is very sharp, even at f/1.2 and in the corners, which is amazingly impressive. For razor-sharp images, you'll need to stop down some, but fear-not, f/1.2 is still excellent. Vignetting is not an issue, nor is distortion and CA. The 56mm f/1.2 is fantastic. Build quality is equally nice, with a sturdy yet still lightweight feel despite the wide aperture and 11 total elements. The lens, interestingly, doesn't feature weather-sealing, but that's our only real complaint.
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Best Nikon Lenses for Portraits

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G


Similar to its Canon counterpart, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is their wallet-friendly, full-frame portrait prime. At under $500, it offers Nikon shooters excellent optical performance and even some degree of weather sealing (there's a gasket on the lens mount) without an exorbitant price tag. Wide-open, images offer really good sharpness, even on a full-frame camera, although for tack-sharp images, stopping down does help. CA and distortion are quite low while vignetting is, as expected, noticeable at wider apertures. Despite having an AF-S designation and generally quick AF speeds, the 85mm f/1.8G isn't as fast as some of Nikon's higher-end AF-S lenses, so bear that in mind for any fast action you may shoot with this lens. Overall, though, this lens is an excellent value for Nikon portrait photographers on a budget.
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Nikon 105mm f/1.4E


For our high-end pick, you'd think it would be obvious to pick the faster 85mm f/1.4G lens. However, based on our lab testing, the lens' sharpness wide open is a bit underwhelming for a $1,600 lens. So instead, we're recommending the longer 105mm f/1.4E. Although it's longer than the standard 85mm focal length, the telephoto 105mm lens is still within the realm of portraiture, offering nice compression and distortion-free images. Combined with the bright f/1.4, the 105mm captures images with extremely shallow depth-of-field and excellent subject isolation. And most importantly, the lens is extremely sharp even at f/1.4! Corner sharpness is a bit soft at the wider apertures, which isn't that surprising and is likely a positive characteristic for many portrait shooters. Sharpness does improve across the frame as you stop down.

Design-wise, the 105mm f/1.4E is a stubby yet wide and hefty lens. Build quality is very good, as expected, with weather-sealing, Nano Crystal Coat, and Nikon's newer "Electromagnetic Diaphragm Mechanism" that replaces the older, mechanical aperture control mechanism. The lens is indeed pricey at around $2,200, so it's a serious investment, but given the results this lens can create, it's a wonderful acquisition to add to your collection.
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Best Olympus Lenses for Portraits

Olympus 45mm f/1.8


If you're looking for a medium-telephoto focal length and a bright aperture for that classic portrait look -- sharp, isolated subjects with smoothly blurred backgrounds -- it's hard to ignore the $299 wonder that is the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. The lens is extremely sharp, even wide open, and displays very little distortion -- a great characteristic for a portrait-centric lens. There's a minor vignetting (darkened corners) at f/1.8 as well as some minimal chromatic aberration (magenta and blue-ish fringing) that we observed in the corners on high-contrast areas, but mostly these two characteristics were not much of an issue to overall image quality performance.

The lens is also super-compact and lightweight, at less than two inches long and around 2.2 inches in diameter with a weight of only 116 grams (about 4 oz.). It'll take up next to no space in your bag (or heck, your pocket), and certainly won't weigh you down thanks to its sturdy yet nearly all-plastic construction (the mount is metal, though). If you're looking for an excellent portrait lens for your Olympus camera while on a budget, the 45mm f/1.8 is a no-brainer.
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Olympus 45mm f/1.2 Pro


When we started piecing together this article, the 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens wasn't yet announced. However, we've now begun lab testing on this lens (at time of publishing), and as we expected, this lens is fantastic. Supremely sharp, even at f/1.2, the 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens is a top-notch portrait lens for those Micro Four Thirds shooters wanting an ultra-fast 90mm-eq. prime. Offering the same focal length as our budget pick, the 45mm f/1.2 obviously provides a much brighter aperture for even better subject isolation and bokeh potential. Olympus has even fine-tuned the optical characteristics of this lens to provide smoother, more "feathered" bokeh.

As mentioned, the is amazingly sharp at f/1.2, even in the corners, and remains tack-sharp if you dare stop the lens down. Chromatic aberration is very minimal, and distortion isn't even worth mentioning. Vignetting is also surprisingly low, even at f/1.2. Build quality is excellent, and follows the high quality we've seen in other Zuiko Pro lenses -- sturdy metal construction, thorough weather sealing and a manual AF/MF clutch mechanism. At $1200, it's definitely pricey for a prime lens, but in our minds, it's totally worth it.
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Olympus 75mm f/1.8


Despite two recommendations already, we'd be remiss not to mention this beauty. With a 150mm-equivalent focal length, the 75mm f/1.8 is a bit more unique and definitely more specialized as a portrait lens compared to the 45mm f/1.8 (90mm eq.). However, that longer focal length combined with the wide f/1.8 aperture creates just a dreamy, perfect pairing to create gorgeous portraits. Based on our lab tests, the 75mm f/1.8 is one of the sharpest lenses we've ever reviewed. The image quality is simply fantastic, with tack-sharp images at f/1.8.

One of the few "Made in Japan" Micro Four Thirds lenses from Olympus, the 75mm f/1.8 is a jewel; sturdy, all-metal barrel construction with glass elements that are essentially "poured" inside. It looks great, it feels great, and it just works really well. The only real negatives are the limited close-focusing performance, and that the long 150mm-eq. focal length can be a bit tricky to work with for any kind of close-quarters or indoor shooting. If you can deal with the higher cost, the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 is just amazing.
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Best Panasonic Lenses for Portraits

Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7


Compact, super light and amazingly sharp, the tiny Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 lens makes for a wonderful portrait lens for Panasonic photographers on a budget. Heck, even those able to pay more, as well as fellow Olympus shooters, should consider this lens. This 85mm-eq. lens is extremely sharp, even wide open and with little corner softness, and offers fast AF performance. Chromatic aberration and distortion are both very well controlled, and the little bit of vignetting at wider apertures is minimal -- and perhaps even welcomed by some when it comes to portraiture.

Build quality is likely one of the main factors for the low price. The lens is almost entirely constructed out of plastic, and while sturdy, it doesn't feature pricier amenities like weather sealing. All that said, with a price under $400, the image quality from this little lens makes it a fantastic value. No wonder it earned a Lens of Distinction in the Best Prime Lens category of our 2015 Lenses of the Year awards.
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Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron


Now, those looking for the premier Panasonic portrait lens should direct their attention to the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron. This high-end prime developed from the long-time partnership between Panasonic and Leica offers a similar 85mm-eq. Focal length as our budget option, but gives shooters an even wider aperture for better light gathering and bokeh capabilities. The optical characteristics between the Nocticron and the f/1.7 version are very similar -- tack sharp performance, low CA, low distortion and vignetting. But here, you get tack-sharp images over the entire frame even at f/1.2, which is amazing!

Physically, the 42.5mm f/1.2 is very different than our budget pick. Build quality is top-notch and very solid with an all-metal construction. As expected, you get other pro-level features such as more exotic lens elements, weather-sealing and a manual aperture ring. The downsides are the extra weight and the price -- it's significantly heavier and about four times more expensive than the f/1.7. Whether or not the Nocticron is worth it is up to you, but on its own, it's an absolutely fabulous portrait prime.
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Best Pentax Lenses for Portraits

Pentax 50mm f/1.8 DA


Pentax's "nifty-fifty," this small, extremely inexpensive lens offers DSLR shooter a 75mm-eq. prime that's overall pretty impressive for the price. It's not super sharp at f/1.8, however, but the center is quite sharp and stopped-down, the lens becomes very sharp. On other optical factors -- CA, vignetting and distortion -- the 50mm f/1.8 DA earns his marks, even wide open. Build quality is its biggest compromise, though, as the lens barrel and mount are almost entirely constructed of plastic. That being said, with a retail price of under, yes under, $100, it's an amazing value. If you're just starting out with a Pentax DSLR and need a small, fast prime for portraits or even general photography, without spending much cash, you can't really go wrong with the 50mm f/1.8 DA.
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Pentax 55mm f/1.4 DA*


As part of Pentax's DA* series of higher-end lenses, the 55mm f/1.4 DA* offers sharper image quality, a brighter aperture, weather-sealed construction and faster autofocus performance than our budget pick. Despite all the higher-end amenities, the Pentax 55mm f/1.4 DA* is quite affordable at under $700 (some stores show it even lower).

Optically, the 55mm f/1.4 DA* offers excellent performance. As we've seen with most other lenses on this list, wide-open, the 55mm f/1.4 DA* displays sharp centers and soft corners. Stopping down will sharpen things up significantly across the frame, though. CA is a little stronger than our budget pick but optimized for lower CA at wider apertures. Vignetting and distortion are both pleasingly minimal. As mentioned, the build quality is definitely rugged and designed to match up with Pentax's numerous heavily weather-sealed cameras. Autofocus is also quick and silent. Overall, for Pentax APS-C camera owners, this is a top-notch portrait pick.
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Best Sony Lenses for Portraits


Sony FE 85mm f/1.8


This is one of the newest full-frame mirrorless primes for the Sony system, but serves an important role as the line's affordable portrait prime. But while it doesn't put a big burden on the wallet, it nevertheless offers excellent optical performance. Although we haven't yet completed our lab testing on this lens (at time of publishing), we have run it through the requisite optical tests, and the lens does indeed produce tack-sharp at f/1.8. There's a bit of softness in the corners on full-frame cameras, but it's surprisingly minimal. Chromatic aberration is very low, and distortion is practically nonexistent. Vignetting, like most other lenses in this article, is present at wider apertures.

At under $600, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 is rather inexpensive, all things considered, as Sony lenses tend towards the pricier side of things. Nevertheless, for Sony full-frame mirrorless shooters, this sharp, fast prime offers a lot bang for your buck.
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Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM


The premier portrait prime of the Sony full-frame mirrorless family! This G Master-series prime is big, burly, and built like a tank. Not only that, it is a very sharp lens, even at f/1.4 on full-frame cameras. Now, like other fast-aperture primes in this category, the Sony 85mm f/1.4GM is very sharp in the center, with characteristically soft corners. For tack-sharp images across the frame, stopping down just a bit will help. Vignetting, too, is pretty strong at wider apertures. CA and distortion are, however, extremely well controlled.

As mentioned, the build quality of this lens is top-notch, as you should expect. It's a big, heavy lens for sure, but its metal construction is tough, and it has weather sealing (with a gasket around the lens mount). There are other premium features, such as a manual aperture ring (with a "de-clicking" switch to make smooth aperture adjustments for video shooters) as well as exotic optical elements like Extra-low Dispersion elements and a proprietary "XA" (extreme aspherical) element to further control aberrations. Autofocus is smooth and quiet, but it's not extremely quick (but still decent) -- this is a portrait lens after all. All in all, while it costs a pretty penny, this is a lens aimed at professional photographers and definitely worth considering.
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Sony 85mm f/2.8


For A-mount shooters looking for a lightweight, compact and super-affordable prime for portraiture, the 85mm f/2.8 SAM lens offers a lot of bang for not that many bucks. While this is one lens that we haven't lab-tested ourselves, other lens review publications as well as lots of customer reviews -- including all of the user reviews on our site -- offer positive reviews and recommendations for this lens. High points go the optical performance and image quality as well as its outstanding value given the under-$300 price tag.

At f/2.8, this 85mm lens isn't the brightest lens, but on a full-frame camera, it will offer pleasing subject isolation and background blur. The narrower aperture is also a contributing factor to its lower price and its smaller size. The build quality of the 85mm f/2.8 SAM is likely a major factor for its low price, as the lens is almost entirely plastic. In the end, the Sony 85mm f/2.8 SAM offers great image quality and is an excellent value for those who want a small prime lens for portraiture but who don't want to spend a ton of money.
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Sony 85mm f/1.4 Zeiss


This lens has been out a while, but for A-mount shooters, the Sony 85mm f/1.4 Zeiss prime is one the best portrait lenses for Sony DSLR owners. Designed in collaboration with optical manufacturer Carl Zeiss, this 85mm f/1.4 lens offers excellent sharpness, even wide open. Images aren't tack-sharp at f/1.4, but the centers are still quite sharp, and we found incredible sharpness if you stop down some. Distortion, CA, and even vignetting, surprisingly, are all very well controlled. Vignetting, in particular, even at wider apertures is very minimal.

Build quality, as expected, is excellent, with typical Zeiss quality. All-metal construction and large glass elements make for a beefy, heavy lens, but a lens that still balances well on full-frame Sony DSLR/SLT bodies like the A99 II. Overall, the lens feels great and performs great, but it's definitely expensive. If you own a Sony DSLR or SLT camera and want the best Sony-branded portrait prime, here's your pick.
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We hope you've enjoyed our Best Portrait Lens round-up! Thanks for reading, and remember that by making your purchases through any of our trusted affiliate links above, you receive the same low price, and also help us to keep our trusted reviews coming your way. Happy Shooting!