Buyers Guides |Best lenses for portraits

The Buyers guide to...Best lenses for portraits

Nikon D850 vs Fujifilm GFX 50S: Image quality comparison
Buyers Guide

The best portrait lens is a fast aperture prime that gives you nice shallow depth of field effects to help emphasise your subject. But not just any prime lens. Any photographer will tell you that the best lens for portraits is an 85mm fixed focal length lens, and sometimes a 50mm.

For portraiture with full-frame camera bodies, the winning formula is a prime lens with a focal length of around 85mm and a fast aperture rating, typically of f/1.4 to f/1.8. The 85mm focal length enables you to capture head and shoulders or half-length portraits from a comfortable distance, so you’re not crowding your subject but are still close enough to give directions.

Naturally, it’s a different situation if you’re shooting on a crop-sensor camera body. If you shoot with an APS-C format or Micro Four Thirds sensor camera, you’ll want a shorter focal length due to their sensors’ crop factor. In this case, a 50mm ‘standard prime’ will give an ‘effective’ focal length of 75mm on APS-C format bodies (80mm for Canon), while the 2.0x crop factor of Micro Four Thirds gives a 42.5mm lens the same reach as an 85mm lens in full-frame terms.

The best lens for portraits will also have what they call a ‘fast’ aperture, or a low f stop value. This means you can shoot with the aperture wide open and have more control over depth of field.

Optical quality should deliver good sharpness and clarity, while wide apertures enable a shallow depth of field so you can blur the background and focus all the attention on the person your photographing.

Let’s take a look at the best portrait lenses for shooting with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm and Micro Four Thirds cameras, and the best value options to suit a tighter budget.

So let’s take a look at the best portrait lenses in order of mount type…

Best portrait lenses for Canon

Canon’s RF range is still relatively young, but the company has been steadfast in its roadmap and in growing the number of optics available.

Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM DS

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: Canon RF
  • Format: Full-frame
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.2
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 13 elements in 9 groups, with Aspherical and UD elements
  • Coatings: ASC (Air Sphere Coating)
  • Focusing system: USM
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.85m
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 82mm
  • Weight: 1195g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 103.2 x 117.3mm

Canon’s L-Series has always been the mark for optical quality and the RF 85MM F1.2L USM is one of the fastest aperture autofocus lenses you can buy for portraiture.

Partnering the lens with Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the fast f/1.2 aperture is able to render stunning shallow depth of field to create bokeh and background separation.

The nine-aperture blade system has been designed to enhance the subject against a blurred background, making it the perfect choice for portraiture . This ultra-wide f/1.2 aperture transmits 50% more light than an f/1.4 lens – down to -6EV (EOS R) and -5EV (EOS RP).

Also inside this lens is Canon’s BR Optical technology, which corrects axial chromatic aberration that cannot be corrected using glass alone. The result is improved resolution and sharpness across the frame.

You can find the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£2869
$2999
Check current price

For

  • Very Large f/1.2 aperture with 9-blade aperture for superior low light performance
  • Control Ring giving direct control over Tv/Av/ISO settings

Against

  • Very heavy

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

Specification

  • Lens type: Full-frame standard prime
  • Announced: 4th November 2020
  • Mount: Canon RF
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Weather-sealed: No

Canon completely redesigned the RF 50mm F1.8 STM compared to the old EF 50mm f/1.8 and has given it a higher optical standard. The new construction features PMo aspherical lenses for improved image quality and Super Spectra Coating technology, for reduced ghosting, flare, and aberration.

It uses an STM focusing motor, which helps to keep the price down, and although quiet it will be audible when used during video shots using the camera’s on-board mic.

A popular focal length, the RF 50mm F1.8 STM captures an angle of view close to our eyes, while the large aperture enables lenty of control over depth of field.

Find the latest deals on the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£220
€249.99
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Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: Canon RF
  • Format: Full-frame
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/2
  • Minimum aperture: f/29
  • Construction: 12 elements in 11 groups
  • Coatings: Super Spectra Coating
  • Focusing system: STM
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.35m
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 67mm
  • Weight: 500g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 78 x 90.5mm

Canon’s compact and lightweight RF 85mm F2 IS STM portrait prime lens both picks out beautiful detail and also utilises its fast f/2 aperture for exceptional shallow depth of field effects. With its short telephoto 85mm focal length, this is an ideal lens for portraiture, yet macro photographers will also appreciate its ability to pick out details with close focusing at up to 35cm.

It’s also equipped with five stops of Image Stabilization, or eight stops when used with the Canon EOS R6 or EOS R5, also announced today.

With its 1:2 macro shooting capability, the RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM captures subjects at 50% life size.

The RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM also employs STM Autofocus for faster, smoother focusing in both stills and video.

You can find the Canon RF 85mm F2 STM at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£665
$599
Check current price

For

  • Very small and portable
  • Up to 8 stops IS when used with the EOS R5 or R6

Best portrait lenses for Nikon

From the original trio of the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4, Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 and Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8, Nikon’s Z series lens range has grown considerably, with plenty of great options for portrait photographers.

Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Specification

  • Product type: Portrait lens
  • Announced: July 2019
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Format: Full-frame (FX)
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 12 elements in 8 groups (including 2 ED elements and elements with Nano Crystal Coat)
  • Coatings: Nano Crystal Coat
  • Focusing system: Internal focusing system
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.8m
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 67mm
  • Weight: 470g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 75 x 99mm

The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S is a classic portrait lens designed for head-and-shoulder shots and environmental portraits, and delivers superb image quality and lovely bokeh effects. The lens captures beautiful skin tones, and images are sharp even when you shoot wide open.

The Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 is compatible with the Nikon Z cameras’ new Eye-Detection feature and also promises silent AF and aperture adjustment for filmmaking.

On the lens barrel of the Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S is a control ring that is customisable and can be used for manual focusing, aperture control or exposure compensation. The minimum focus distance is just 0.80m, and an anti-reflective Nano Crystal Coat helps prevent flare and ghosting.

Thanks for a collection of weatherproof seals, the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S can survive being used in less than perfect weather.

The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S also appeals to videographers, as it enables footage with nice shallow depth of field and silent AF operation.

You can find the Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£709
$755
Check current price

For

  • Great size on Nikon Z full-frame cameras
  • Great image quality
  • Nice bokeh effects

Against

  • Not f/1.4
  • High price for an 85mm f/1.8 lens

Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S

Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S

Specification

  • Product type: Wide-angle zoom lens
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Format: Full-frame (FX)
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.2
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 17 elements in 15 groups (including 2 ED elements, 3 aspherical elements, and elements with Nano Crystal and ARNEO coats)
  • Coatings: Nano Crystal Coat, ARNEO coat
  • Focusing system: Internal autfocusing
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.45 from the focal plane
  • Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.15x
  • Stabilisation: Yes
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 82mm
  • Weight: 1090g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 89.5 x 150mm

The Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S is the first f/1.2 prime lens in Nikon’s Z range, and while it doesn’t come cheap, it walks the walk. This bright, full-frame lens redefines the ‘nifty fifty’ with a fast aperture that makes it viable in extreme low-light conditions and offers photographers complete control over depth of field.

Inside its optical construction comprises 17 elements in 15 groups, of which two are ED glass elements and three are aspherical elements. Nikon has also added its anti-reflective Nano Crystal Coat and ARNEO coatings to help combat ghosting and flare. Nikon has also weather-sealed the lens barrel and mount.

Yes, it’s large. Larger than Nikon’s Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8, in fact, but it delivers incredible sharpness.

You can find the Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£2229
$2675
Check current price

For

  • Extraordinarily fast f/1.2 aperture
  • Weatherproof
  • Incredible sharpness

Against

  • This type of lens doesn't come cheap
  • It's large

Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S review

Specification

  • Product type: Wide-angle lens
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Format: Full-frame (FX)
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 12 elements in 9 groups (including 2 ED elements, 2 aspherical elements, and elements with Nano Crystal Coat)
  • Coatings: Nano Crystal Coat
  • Focusing system: Internal focusing system
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 62mm
  • Weight: 415g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 76 x 86.5mm

The Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S (aka the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S) is constructed from 12 elements in 9 groups. This includes 2 ED elements and 2 aspherical along with elements that have Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coating.

Perhaps not surprising given the size of the Z mount, the Z 50mm f/1.8 S is larger than then average 50mm lens. It measures 86.5 mm from the camera lens mount flange and has a maximum diameter of 76mm. However, it accepts 62mm filters.

Although it’s quite a large lens for its focal length, the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S seems quite at home on the Z 7 and Z 6. It has weather-sealing to match the camera and it feels well-balanced with the large grip on the camera.

The large maximum aperture also helps the camera’s autofocus system and it gets most subjects sharp very quickly. That makes the manual focus ring largely redundant and perfect for adjusting exposure compensation (or aperture if you prefer).

The best results overall are produced within an aperture range of around f/4 to f/11, but actually, the full range produces superb results. Details look super-sharp and there’s no need to worry about distortion, chromatic aberration or flare.

You can find the Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£519
$596
Check current price

For

  • Large maximum aperture
  • Excellent detail

Against

  • Large for its focal length

Best portrait lenses for Panasonic

With the launch of its full-frame S range a few years ago, Panasonic now has a mix of great portrait lenses for both full-frame and Micro Four Thirds users.

Panasonic LUMIX S 85mm F1.8

Panasonic announces LUMIX S 85mm F1.8 lens

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: L-mount
  • Format: Full-frame
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Construction: 9 elements in 8 groups (2 ED lenses)
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.8m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.13x
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 67mm
  • Weight: 355g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 73.6 x 82mm

Panasonic’s LUMIX S 85mm F1.8 lens is designed for its full-frame S series cameras. The lens is comprised of nine elements in eight groups promises smooth bokeh with little vignetting or chromatic aberrations, and also delivers much reduced focus breathing for better video performance.

Size-wise, the LUMIX S 85mm F1.8 lens weighs just 355g, and its body has been sealed to make it dust- and splash-resistant. It can also operate at temperatures down to -10C.

There’s a lot on offer here, and at a price tag of £599.99 / €679.99, the Panasonic LUMIX S 85mm F1.8 isn’t by any means cheap, but it is still an affordable, and exceptional, optic to have in your kit bag.

You can buy the Panasonic LUMIX S 85mm F1.8 at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£600
$597.99
Check current price

For

  • Excellent for video
  • Weather-resistant design

Against

  • No stabilisation

Panasonic LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 Asph. Power OIS

Panasonic LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 Asph. Power OIS

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format: Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length: 42.5mm (35mm camera equivalent 85mm)
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.7
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Construction: 10 elements in 8 groups (1 aspherical lens)
  • Coatings: None
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.31m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.2x
  • Stabilisation: Yes (POWER O.I.S.)
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 7
  • Filter size: 37mm
  • Weight: 130g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 55mm x 50mm

Panasonic’s LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 Asph. Power OIS is a small, lightweight (just 130g) lens that fits in your pocket yet packs a powerful punch. Its fast f/1.7 aperture means you have plenty of control over shallow depth of field effects, making it ideal for portraiture.

It also boasts Optical Image Stablization built-in to the lens, which you can enable via a switch on the lens barrel. This compensates for camera movements and helps you achieve sharper images in low light. In use, the lens incredibly sharp from its maximum aperture, and distortion and fringing are also well controlled.

What’s more, this lens won’t break the bank. At just over £300 / $300, it’s an absolute bargain.

You can buy the Panasonic LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 Asph. Power OIS at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£319
$347.99
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For

  • Excellent in low light
  • Optical Image Stabilisation built into the lens

Against

  • Plastic build

Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 Asph.

Panasonic unveils 25mm f/1.4 for MFT, 24-70mm f/2.8 full-frame lenses

Specification

  • Product type: Standard lens
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format: Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length: 25mm (35mm camera equivalent 50mm)
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.4
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 9 elements in 7 groups
  • Coatings: Nano Surface Coating
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.3m
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 7
  • Filter size: 46mm
  • Weight: 200g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 63mm x 54.5mm

An update to its existing fixed-focal length lens, the LEICA DG 25mm f/1.4 boasts a splash and dust-resistant construction. It’s also compatible with a maximum 240fps sensor drive for high-speed auto focusing.

Designed for Micro Four Thirds mount cameras, the new LEICA DG Summilux 25mm / F1.4 II ASPH. offers the same angle of view as a 50mm lens for full frame systems.

With its f/1.4 aperture it offers plenty of capability for shooting low-light portraits without flash. Panasonic has also applied its Nano Surface Coating, which helps reduce ghosting and flare in your images.

As well as for portraiture, the Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 is also great for street photography, owing to its small, lightweight design.

But most importantly, image quality is superb. The lens is sharp even wide open at f/1.4, and its price tag is fairly modest for this level of quality.

You can buy the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 Asph. at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£549
$697
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For

  • Excellent in low light
  • Superb image quality
  • Very small and portable

Against

  • None

Best portrait lenses for Fujifilm

Fujifilm’s APS-C X-mount offers a number of great portrait lenses offering ultra-fast apertures and a variety of unique features.

Fujifilm Fujinon XF50mm f1.0 R WR

Specification

  • Product type: Lens
  • Announced: 3rd September 2020
  • Mount: Fujifilm X
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Effective focal length: 76mm
  • Angle of view : 31.7 degrees
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.0
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 12 elements in 9 groups, includes 1 aspherical element and 2 ED elements
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Minimum focus distance (from focal plane): 0.7m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.08x
  • Filter size: 77mm
  • Dimensions (diameter x length): 87 x 103.5mm
  • Weight: 845g
Price when reviewed
£1499
$1499 / €1599

For

  • Huge maximum aperture
  • Realistic price
  • Great build quality

Against

  • Large for a 50mm lens (but it has large aperture)
  • Chromatic aberration can be an issue with strongly backlit subjects

Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD

Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD

Specification

  • Product type: Prime lens
  • Mount: Fujifilm X
  • Focal length: 18mm
  • Effective focal length: 27mm
  • Angle of view: 28.5°
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.2
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 11 elements in 8 groups (includes one aspherical lens, two extra-low dispersion lens, apodization filter)
  • Diaphragm blades: 7
  • Minimum focus distance (from focal plane): 0.7m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.09x
  • Filter size: 62mm
  • Dimensions (diameter x length): 73.2mm x 69.7mm
  • Weight: 405g

The regular edition of Fujifilm’s 56mm f/1.2 lens is a good fit for portraiture on the company’s X-mount mirrorless bodies, combining an effective focal length of 84mm with a super-fast f/1.2 aperture.

Even so, considering that depth of field is more dependent on ‘actual’ rather than ‘effective’ focal length, it can still be a bit of a struggle to get really smooth background blur.

This ‘APD’ version of the lens comes to the rescue with a secret weapon, in the shape of a built-in apodization filter. The filter cunningly smooths the outlines of objects that fall outside the in-focus region, giving backgrounds a silky-smooth, creamy appearance.

Build quality is typically excellent, for one of Fujifilm’s up-market X-mount lenses, and handling is very refined complete with a physical aperture ring. The apodization filter slightly reduces light transmission, so the aperture ring has a secondary set of numbers marked in red.

And so that you can minimize depth of field with wide apertures, even under bright lighting, the lens is supplied complete with a three-stop neutral density filter.

You can buy the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R APD at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£1199
$1499
Check current price

For

  • Excellent in low light
  • Built-in apodization filter

Against

  • Expensive

Fujifilm Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 R WR

Fujifilm Fujinon XF 27mm F2.8 R WR

Specification

  • Product type: Prime lens
  • Announced: 27th January 2021
  • Mount: Fujifilm X
  • Focal length: 27mm
  • Effective focal length: 41mm
  • Angle of view: 55.5°
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 7 elements in 5 groups with 1 aspherical element
  • Diaphragm blades: 7
  • Minimum focus distance (from focal plane): 34cm
  • Maximum magnification: 0.1x
  • Filter size: 39mm
  • Dimensions (diameter x length): 62 x 23mm
  • Weight: 84g

With an effective focal length of 41mm on a Fujifilm X-series camera, the Fujifilm XF 27mm f2.8 R WR is a compact or ‘pancake’ standard lens that makes a good choice for a wide of photography, but especially street and environmental portraiture.

While perfectly at home on a camera like the Fuji X-T4 or X-T3, Fuji’s prime lenses make a more natural partner for X-E-series cameras like the Fujifilm X-E4 or the X-Pro3. Its pancake design and sub-90g weight make it very discrete and especially well-suited to smaller cameras like the X-E4.

The Fujifilm XF 27mm f2.8 R WR has an aperture ring with markings running from f/2.8 to f/16 in whole stops, but it can be adjusted in 1/3EV steps.

The Fujifilm XF 27mm F2.8 R WR is available from Wex Photo Video and Amazon UK in the UK, and B&H Photo Video, Adorama and Amazon.com in the USA

Price when reviewed
£419
$399
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For

  • Extremely compact
  • Well-built metal barrel
  • Weather-sealed

Against

  • No focus scale for hyperfocal distance focusing
  • Manual and autofocus can't be combined

Best portrait lenses for Sony

Sony’s E-mount range has grown considerably in recent years, with a variety of great lenses tailored for all types of portraiture.

Sony FE 85mm F1.8

Sony unveils compact FE 85mm f/1.8 telephoto prime pens

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: E-mount
  • Format: Full-frame
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Construction: 9 elements in 8 groups
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.8m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.13x
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 67mm
  • Weight: 371g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 78 x 82mm

It may not be a G Master lens but the new FE 85mm F1.8 is certainly capable of recording an impressive level of sharp detail.

At 371g, the 85mm optic is close to half the weight of the 700g 100mm f/2.8 lens, but it feels nicely made and looks perfectly at home on a Sony A7 series camera. It also has an aluminium barrel and seals around the controls and rings to ensure it’s dust- and moisture-proof.

Its superb build quality includes weather sealing, meaning you can shoot with this lens in all conditions. It’s also incredibly fast, and quiet. What’s more, a customisable focus hold button can be assigned to other functions such as Eye AF.

You can buy the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£479
$599
Check current price

For

  • Incredibly lightweight and portable
  • Weather sealed
  • Very well priced

Against

  • No stabilisation

Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM

Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: E-mount
  • Format: Full-frame
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 11 elements in 8 groups
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.8m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.12x
  • Coatings: Sony Nano AR Coating
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 11
  • Filter size: 77mm
  • Weight: 820g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 89.5 x 107.5mm

As far as 85mm primes are concerned, Sony’s FE 85mm F1.4 is its finest portrait lens. Sitting in Sony’s G Masters series of optics, the lens features a circular, 11-blade aperture which produces stunning bokeh effects.

Meanwhile, its dual sensor system provides ultra-precise focus.

Build quality is superb. The lens is weather sealed and offers a number of nice features, such as a AF / MF switch on the lens barrel and a ‘de-click’ button that turns off the steps on the lens’s aperture ring when you’re shooting video.

Overall, you can depend on the FE 85mm F1.4 GM to focus accurately and quickly, with consistently impressive image quality.

You can buy the Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£1499
$1798
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For

  • Great for both video and stills
  • Wonderful bokeh

Against

  • No stabilisation

Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM

Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM

Specification

  • Product type: Standard prime lens
  • Announced: 16th March 2021
  • Mount: Sony FE
  • Format: 35mm full frame
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.2
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 14 elements in 10 groups with three Sony XA (extreme aspherical) elements
  • Coatings: Fluorine-coated front element, Nano AR Coating II
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.4m
  • Maximum reproduction ratio: 0.17x
  • Stabilisation: Body integrated
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 11
  • Filter size: 72mm
  • Weight: 778g
  • Diameter x length: 87 x 108mm / 3 1/2 x 43/8 inches

Designed for Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, the FE 50mm f/1.2 GM is a first-rate lens that’s designed to get the most out of a high-resolution full-frame sensor such as the one found in the Sony A7 R IV.

With a maximum aperture of f/1.2, it enables very limited depth of field for selective focus images and fast shutter speeds with low ISO settings in poor lighting, making it attractive for portraits and wedding photography or video.

The 11-blade circular aperture is newly designed for smooth bokeh while the optical construction is fine-tuned to minimise spherical aberration.

For high detail resolution across the frame even at f/1.2, the FE 50mm F1.2 GM has three XA (extreme aspherical) elements. Sony’s Nano AR Coating II has also been applied to minimize internal reflections so that flare and ghosting are kept at bay.

Four XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors enable fast focusing and tracking for stills or 4K video with human Eye AF. In addition, the lens’s floating focus mechanism, which is controlled by a dedicated lens drive algorithm, ensures high resolution across the focus range.

The closest focusing distance is 40cm.

Designed for professional use with ease of control, the FE 50mm F1.2 GM has a Linear Response MF (Manual Focus) system, an aperture ring with a click on/off switch plus a focus mode switch and two customisable focus hold buttons.

Happily, for those who don’t mind shooting in bad weather, it’s sealed against dust and moisture. Its also has a fluorine coating on the front element to protect it from fingerprints, dust, water and oil.

The FE 50mm F1.2 GM is available to order from Wex Photo Video in the UK and B&H Photo Video and Adorama in the USA.

Price when reviewed
£2100
$1998 / €2300
Check current price

For

  • Incredible detail resolution
  • Huge maximum aperture
  • Dust and moisture resistant

Against

  • High price
  • Focus ring not customisable
  • Noticeable vignetting at f/1.2

Sony FE 50mm F1.8

Sony FE 50mm F1.8

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: E-mount
  • Format: Full-frame
  • Focal length: 50mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Construction: 6 elements in 5 groups
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.45m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.14x
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 7
  • Filter size: 49mm
  • Weight: 186g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 68.6 x 59.5mm

Sony’s bargain FE 50mm F1.8 weighs only 186g and is extremely portable. Its large f/1.8 aperture and seven-blade circular aperture allow you to create beautiful background bokeh that make your subjects really stand out.

Inside, a DC motor drive helps the lens focus quickly and precisely. That combined with the fast aperture enables the FE 50mm F1.8 to perform superbly in low light.

Images are sharp throughout. The lens’s aspherical element helps minimise distortion, and the metal mount provides a reassuring build quality.

The Sony FE 50mm F1.8 is a solid all-rounder and perfect for shooting environmental portraiture.

You can buy the Sony FE 50mm F1.8 at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£159
$249
Check current price

For

  • Excellent performance in low light
  • Wonderful bokeh

Against

  • No stabilisation

Best portrait lenses for Olympus

Olympus shares the Micro Four Thirds mount with Panasonic, meaning you can use Olympus M.Zuiko and Lumix G lenses on both Olympus and Panasonic camera bodies. This gives photographers a lot of options, and Olympus offers some stunning portrait lens options.

Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO

Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format: Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length: 45mm (35mm camera equivalent 90mm)
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.2
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 14 elements 10 groups
  • Coatings: Z Coating Nano technology
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.5m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.1x
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 62mm
  • Weight: 410g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 70mm x 84.9mm

The 90mm equivalent M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO is a medium telephoto lens aimed at professionals and again Olympus has placed the lens elements to allow for a more lightweight design and keep aberrations at bay.

The M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm F1.2 PRO has a closest focusing distance of 50cm and a maximum image magnification of 0.1x.

Design-wise, Olympus has placed the focusing ring at the front of the lens to make focusing easier. And an MF Clutch mechanism allows photographers to instantly switch between auto and manual focusing mode by pulling the focusing ring towards them.

You can buy the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£1199
$1299
Check current price

For

  • Ultra-wide aperture
  • Very fast AF

Against

  • No stabilisation

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format: Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length: 45mm (35mm camera equivalent 90mm)
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.2
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Construction: 9 elements in 8 groups
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.5m
  • Maximum magnification: 0.11x
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 7
  • Filter size: 37mm
  • Weight: 116g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 46mm x 37mm

Another 90mm equivalent in Olympus’s M.Zuiko range, the 45mm f/1.8 is very modestly priced and offers a large aperture that provides very pleasing bokeh effects in your portraits.

An MSC (Movie & Still Compatible) mechanism delivers fast and smooth AF performance that is silent and accurate. To achieve this, Olympus developed a metallic shaft and feed screw to move the focusing lens, rather than a gear, which is typically the cause of focusing noise.

Combine all this with its ultra-lightweight design and small dimensions, and it’s the ideal budget portrait lens to keep in your kit bag.

You can buy the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£249
$399
Check current price

For

  • Large aperture of f/1.8
  • High-speed AF with low noise
  • Very affordable

Against

  • Plastic build

Best third party portrait lenses

There are plenty of third-party lens manufacturers out there making wonderful optics for portraiture. Sigma, perhaps, leads the pack with its diverse range, but there are plenty of other great options out there as well.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art

Sigma launches 85mm f/1.4 Art lens for ultra-precise bokeh

Specification

  • Product type: Short telephoto lens
  • Mount: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Sigma, L
  • Format: Full-frame
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.4
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 14 elements in 12 groups
  • Focusing system: Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM)
  • Minimum focus distance: 85cm
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 86mm
  • Weight: 1,245g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 94.7mmx126.2mm

Billed as ‘the ultimate sense for portraits’, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 delivers such precise bokeh that you can focus on the pupil of a subject’s eye while blurring the eyelashes.

The Sigma lens employs 14 elements in 12 groups and is designed for use with full-frame cameras offer 50-megapixel or higher resolution. The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art incorporates two elements made of Special Low Dispersion Glass and one element with a high rate of anomalous partial dispersion and a high index of refraction.

Other features include weather-sealing, full-time manual focus override by rotating the focus ring – even during continuous AF – and a new Hyper Sonic Motor delivering 1.3 times the torque of its predecessor.

Compatible with Sony E-mount, Canon and Nikon cameras, you’ll find sharpness across the frame, even when shooting wide open at f/1.4.

You can find the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£1199
$1099
Check current price

For

  • Outstanding sharpness across the frame
  • Superb bokeh
  • Weather sealing

Against

  • Not available for RF, Z mounts

Tokina atx-m 85mm F1.8 FE

Specification

  • Product type: Lens
  • Mount: Sony FE
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Angle of view: 28.5°
  • Focusing: Automatic and manual
  • Focus mechanism: Internal
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.8m
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 0.125x
  • Filter size: 72mm
  • Construction: 10 Elements in 7 Groups
  • Aperture blades: 9
  • Lens hood: BH-727 (supplied)
  • Dimensions (LxD): 93.23x80mm
  • Weight: 645g

The Tokina atx-m 85mm f1.8 FE is a newly designed prime lens with the Sony FE lens mount. That means it’s suitable for use on Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7S III, A7R IV, A7 III and A9 II. However, as Sony uses the same mount on its smaller-format interchangeable lens cameras, it can also be used on the likes of the Sony A6500.

Inside the lens barrel, there are 10 optical elements arranged in 7 groups. One of the elements is an SD (Low-dispersion) element that’s designed to help maintain the resolution into the corners of the frame.

Tokina has applied its Super Low Reflection Coating to minimise flare and ghosting as well as repel water, oil and dust. However, the lens is not weather-sealed.

Although it doesn’t have a stabilisation system built-in, the atx-m 85mm f1.8 FE is compatible with Sony’s 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS).

If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to Sony’s 85mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 lenses, the Tokina atx-m 85mm f1.8 FE is well worth considering. It gets most subjects sharp quickly, is compatible with Sony’s Real-time Eye AF and it captures plenty of detail at the centre of the frame.

Price when reviewed
£489
$499
Check current price

For

  • Excellent centre sharpness
  • Attractive bokeh
  • Compatible with Sony's Eye AF system

Against

  • Not weather-sealed
  • No focus switch

Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 Nokton II

Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 Nokton II

Specification

  • Product type: Standard lens
  • Mount: Micro Four Thirds
  • Format: Micro Four Thirds
  • Focal length: 25mm (35mm camera equivalent 85mm)
  • Maximum aperture: f/0.95
  • Minimum aperture: f/16
  • Construction: 11 elements in 8 groups
  • Coatings: None
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.15m
  • Stabilisation: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 10
  • Filter size: 52mm
  • Weight: 410g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 70mm x 58.4mm

One of four f/0.95 lenses for Micro Four Thirds in its range, Voigtländer’s 25mm is ideal for street photography and environmental portraiture. It’s got a solid all-metal body, but really, this lens is all about that super fast f/0.95 aperture.

The combination of the wide aperture and 10 aperture blades means you can get some pretty distinctive bokeh and wonderful shallow depth of field effects.

Voigtländer’s updated version of the lens also adds an Aperture Control System that de-clicks the aperture ring, making it silent and smooth for when you’re shooting video.

You can buy the Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 Nokton II at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Price when reviewed
£1124
$749
Check current price

For

  • Super fast f/0.95 aperture
  • Aperture Control System with de-clicked aperture ring

Against

  • Manual focus only
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