Best Lenses for Portraits

11/02/2019 12:53 pm

We hear it all the time from our customers. "I've just purchased my first 'real' camera, and I really want to take beautiful portraits of my family and friends but I don't know where to start!" While learning your way around the camera to some degree is essential, and you can have some success with your standard lens, a specialist portrait lens can make all the difference when it comes to producing tack-sharp, eye-catching portraits, with beautiful bokeh.


Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM

You don't always have to go for the most expensive, most advanced item to see a drastic improvement in your results. That is certainly the case of the Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM lens. For new Canon users, this lens provides the perfect balance of usability and price, so you can add it to your gadget bag without too much delay and start enjoying the benefits.

The bright f1.4 maximum aperture of the lens is ideal for creating those blurry backgrounds that you no doubt admire, while the USM motor of the lens allows you to fire off shots quickly, which is perfect for photographing live models. If your camera is an APS-C format camera, this lens will deliver a more magnified equivalent focal length, which is just what you want for getting a tighter crop on those portraits, while the good news is, as it is also full-frame compatible, it will still be useful if you upgrade to a full-frame EOS camera in the future.


  • Fast USM AF Motor
  • Fast f1.4 Max. Aperture
  • Compact and Lightweight
  • Full-Frame and APS-C compatible

Nikon AF-S 85mm f1.8G

With a fast maximum aperture and a short-telephoto focal length, the Nikon 85mm f1.8 G is the stuff portrait photographer's dreams are made of. The focal length is not just great for creating a tight-crop and for the natural perspective it provides your images but also for the fact that it allows you to shoot a little further back from your model, which helps them remain calm for a more pleasing final image.

Once again, you will find a bright maximum aperture, for getting that much-needed shallow depth of field, and a fast AF system, for finding your focal point in a jiffy. This lens is not just a run of the mill prime lens though, with Nikon doing a wonderful job of producing a consistently sharp and detailed performer that is a match to the high-resolution sensors of modern cameras, while the lens still comes in at a relatively budget-friendly price.


  • Fast f1.8 Max. Aperture
  • Fast Silent Wave Motor
  • Internal Focusing
  • Full-time manual focus override
  • Super Integrated Coating

Olympus 45mm f1.8

On compatible Micro Four Thirds format cameras the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens provides a 90mm equivalent focal length, which is comfortably in portraiture territory. You are probably starting to see a trend here but we will say it again, this longer than normal focal length and fast maximum aperture are essentials for creating traditional head and shoulder portraits with attractive bokeh, and this Olympus lens ticks these boxes.

What's notable with this lens however, is the fact that it does so in a much smaller size than any of the lenses that we have mentioned. The sleek and compact design of this lens is a perfect match for the similarly portable MFT system of which it is a part, while just like these cameras, you don't sacrifice anything for this compact size.


  • Compact and stylish build
  • 90mm equivalent focal length
  • Fast f1.8 aperture
  • Fast MSC AF system
  • Quality optical construction

Fujifilm XF 56mm f1.2 R

For the wonderful Fujifilm X-series, comes this ultra-fast prime lens, the 56mm f1.2 R. On the APS-C format X-series cameras that it has been designed for, this lens delivers a handy 85mm focal length, which is ideal for acquiring that tight head and shoulders crop, either in the studio or out on location.

The real drawcard of this sleek and stylish lens, however, is the ultra-bright f1.2 maximum aperture, which will allow you to produce stunningly shallow images. At f1.2 very little is in focus, which in the hands of an expert can produce astonishing results, while stopping down a little bit to f1.4 or even f1.8 will still produce plenty of background blur. With this Fujifilm lens, you have options.


  • Ultra-bright f1.2 Maximum aperture
  • 85mm equivalent focal length
  • Sleek and stylish design
  • Quality optical construction

Sigma AF 85mm f1.4 ART

From the third-party lens manufacturer Sigma, this one is available in multiple mounts so this lens will be of interest to more readers than previous entries. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens, like other examples of the Art series, is an exceptional optical performer, helping Sigma have somewhat of a resurgence in modern times and stake its claim as serious competition to the main brands.

The ultra-bright f1.4 maximum aperture makes this lens perfect for available-light portraits, as well as for isolating your subjects from backgrounds. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens has been tested against more expensive offerings from other brands and faired favourably. When used on APS-C cameras it provides a 136mm equivalent focal length, which is obviously excellent at tightly cropping your images but it must be said, this is a little on the long side for some situations.


  • Fast f1.4 aperture
  • Premium optical quality
  • Fast HSM AF system
  • 9-blade rounded aperture diaphragm


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