The Best Portrait Photography Lenses in 2019 [Ultimate Guide]

Which portrait photography lens should you choose?

Finding the best portrait photography lens might seem like an impossible task. There are so many options–and the differences between each lens might seem confusing.

best portrait photography lenses
Which portrait photography lens is best for you?

Fortunately, you don’t have to struggle any longer.

Because this article reveals the best portrait photography lenses out there.

You’ll ultimately discover the best portrait photography lens for you.

Let’s get started.

How to Choose the Best Portrait Photography Lens

When finding the perfect portrait lens for your needs, there are a few important factors to consider:

Focal length

When it comes to lenses, you have two general options:

Fixed focal length (prime) lenses and zoom lenses.

Here’s our recommendation:

Go with a fixed focal length lens.

Prime lenses tend to be far better optically.

prime lens portrait photo
A portrait photo, taken with a prime lens.

And they tend to offer a wider (faster) aperture. This allows for better photography in low light.

But which focal length should you choose?

For portrait photography, you have three strong options:

Wide lenses (24mm-45mm) are fantastic for environmental portraits.

Grab one of these if you’re looking to add some context to your photos.

Plus, they really bring the viewer into the photo.

Note the wider perspective in this portrait:

portrait photo wide angle lens
Wide-angle lenses are great for capturing environmental portraits.

It allows for a unique view–one that includes the subject’s surroundings.

Standard lenses (50mm) are a great all-around portrait photography option.

They allow for some close-up shots–but will also get you some beautiful full-body photos.

50mm lens portrait
This portrait photo was taken with a 50mm lens. Standard lenses are great for all occasions!

These lenses are a jack-of-all-trades type of glass.

Telephoto lenses (60mm-200mm) are fantastic for tighter shots.

They’ll get you some gorgeous headshots. You can also shoot portraits from a distance with a telephoto lens–at an event, for instance.

Telephoto lenses even allow for tighter, more creative photos.

Photos like this one:

telephoto lens portrait photography
Telephoto lenses allow for tighter, more artistic photos.

Bottom line?

The focal length you choose depends on your needs.

So ask yourself this: What type of portrait photographer are you?

If you prefer environmental shots, go with a wider portrait lens.

If you’re a more flexible portrait photographer, stick to standard lenses.

And if you prefer to take tight portraits, grab a telephoto lens.

Related Article: Best Telephoto Budget Lenses for Nikon

Aperture

The wider a lens’s aperture, the more light the lens lets in.

So lenses with wide maximum apertures (in the f/1.2-f/1.8 range) can capture lots of light.

Whereas lenses with smaller maximum apertures (in the f/2.8-f/4 range) are a bit more limited.

aperture blades lens
Can you see the aperture blades of this lens?

Why does this matter?

The more light a lens can capture, the better its low-light shots.

And since you’re often shooting portraits in low light, a wide maximum aperture is especially important.

Also, the wider the aperture, the better the bokeh.

(Bokeh refers to the background blur.)

Bokeh at f/1.2 is far more impressive than bokeh at f/8.

bokeh background portrait
Notice the wonderful bokeh in the background.

So go with the widest aperture you can afford. You’ll get better images in low light.

And you’ll get better bokeh.

Related Article: Wide vs. Narrow Aperture: 10 Examples and Camera Settings

Sharpness

This one is basic, but important.

The sharper the lens, the better it is for portraits.

Up to a certain point, that is.

If a lens is too sharp, it renders a lot of detail. And this can be unflattering.

Now, prime lenses tend to be very sharp.

portrait photography example
You want your portrait photos to be sharp (but not too sharp!)

Zoom lenses, on the other hand, are a lot more variable.

So be careful–especially when purchasing a zoom lens.

Related Article: Portrait Photography Tips

Best Portrait Photography Lens: Which Should You Buy?

We list the best portrait photography lenses below.

You can also click to read more about a specific lens:

  1. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
  2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
  3. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
  4. Nikon 85mm f/1.4G
  5. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
  6. Nikon 35mm f/1.4G
  7. Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
  8. Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
  9. Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

Canon’s Best Portrait Photography Lenses

Canon offers several top-of-the-line portrait photography lenses.

With these lenses, you can capture stunning photos–even in low light.

And you can create gorgeous, artistic bokeh.

Read on to discover Canon’s best portrait photography lenses:

Name
Canon 85mm f/1.2L II
Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
Preview
Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras - Fixed
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras -...
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens
Focal Length
85mm
50mm
-
Star Rating
Price
$1,849.00
$329.00
$1,649.00
Prime Status
Name
Canon 85mm f/1.2L II
Preview
Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II USM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras - Fixed
Focal Length
85mm
Star Rating
Price
$1,849.00
Prime Status
Buy It Now!
Name
Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM
Preview
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras -...
Focal Length
50mm
Star Rating
Price
$329.00
Prime Status
Buy It Now!
Name
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
Preview
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens
Focal Length
-
Star Rating
Price
$1,649.00
Prime Status
Buy It Now!

1. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM

  • f/1.2 maximum aperture for low-light shooting
  • Incredible bokeh
  • Captures artistic photos
  • Fast, accurate autofocus

BEST FOR: SERIOUS PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING TO CAPTURE TIGHT PORTRAITS

Canon 85mm lens
The Canon 85mm f/1.2L lens is fantastic for portraits!

The Canon 85mm f/1.2L is one of the best portrait photography lenses available.

No doubt about it.

This lens offers magnificent image quality. First, it’s impressively sharp, even at f/1.2.

And the f/1.2 maximum aperture is, well, fantastic. It allows for useable shots in low light. And it offers some incredible bokeh.

Did I mention the artistic portraits you can get with this lens? The f/1.2 aperture allows you to focus on a single part of your subject–and turn the rest into a nice, pleasing blur.

The autofocus is also exceptional and accurate. And it works in near silence.

Plus, this lens is solidly built.

Is it light? No.

But it can withstand knocks and scratches. It has the potential to last decades.

Are you serious about portrait photography?

Do you want to capture beautiful, close-up portraits?

Then this is the lens to buy.

Sale
Canon 85mm f/1.2L II USM
211 Reviews
Canon 85mm f/1.2L II USM

  • f/1.2 maximum aperture for low-light shooting
  • Incredible bokeh
  • Captures artistic photos
  • Fast, accurate autofocus

 

2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

  • f/1.4 maximum aperture for low-light shooting
  • Beautifully blurred backgrounds
  • Strong image quality
  • Lightweight (good for casual shooting)

BEST FOR: PORTRAIT HOBBYISTS AND BEGINNERS LOOKING FOR AN ALL-AROUND PORTRAIT LENS

The Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM is a fantastic option…

Canon 50mm f/1.4
The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is a reasonably priced portrait lens.

…especially for those who don’t want to break the bank.

The maximum aperture of f/1.4 is great for low-light photography.

And the 50mm focal length makes it a perfect all-around portrait lens.

Is this the most well-built lens out there?

No. But it is light–which makes it perfect for casual outings and long walks.

Canon 50mm f/1.4
The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is a great walk-around lens.

The f/1.4 aperture also allows for some wonderfully artistic photos. And the bokeh is beautiful.

Bottom line?

This is an excellent portrait photography lens.

Especially if you’re looking for an all-around, budget option.

Sale
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
1,722 Reviews
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

  • f/1.4 maximum aperture for low-light shooting
  • Beautifully blurred backgrounds
  • Strong image quality
  • Lightweight (good for casual shooting)

 

3. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

  • 35mm focal length for stunning environmental portraits
  • Incredible image quality
  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • f/1.4 aperture good for low-light photography

BEST FOR: SERIOUS PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING TO TAKE WIDER SHOTS

If you specialize in environmental portraits, then this is the lens for you.

Why?

First of all, the 35mm focal length creates a wonderful sense of perspective.

Canon 35mm f/1.4
The Canon 35mm f/1.4 is a superb option.

You can capture breathtaking, wide shots. These are especially powerful when taken in a gorgeous location.

Image quality is stunning, even in low-light settings.

And with a maximum aperture of f/1.4, you can shoot handheld photos in darker situations.

If you’re looking for an excellent environmental portrait lens, this is the one to get.

Canon 35mm f/1.4
The Canon 35mm f/1.4

The only drawback?

The price.

But for a serious photographer, it’s undoubtedly worth the cost.

Sale
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM
43 Reviews
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

  • 35mm focal length for stunning environmental portraits
  • Incredible image quality
  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • f/1.4 aperture good for low-light photography

 

Nikon’s Best Portrait Photography Lenses

Nikon offers some stellar portrait photography lenses.

From amazing optics to premium build quality, Nikon does it all.

Read on discover the best portrait photography lenses Nikon has to offer.

Name
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G
Preview
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G Fixed Focal Length Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR...
Focal Length
85mm
50mm
35mm
Star Rating
Price
$1,446.95
$196.95
$1,546.95
Prime Status
Name
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G
Preview
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Focal Length
85mm
Star Rating
Price
$1,446.95
Prime Status
Buy It Now!
Name
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
Preview
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Focal Length
50mm
Star Rating
Price
$196.95
Prime Status
Buy It Now!
Name
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G
Preview
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G Fixed Focal Length Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR...
Focal Length
35mm
Star Rating
Price
$1,546.95
Prime Status
Buy It Now!

1. Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

  • 85mm focal length for gorgeous tighter portraits
  • Unbelievable image quality
  • Stunning bokeh
  • f/1.4 aperture great for shooting in low light

BEST FOR: SERIOUS PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING FOR A TIGHTER LENS

Here’s a fact:

The Nikon 85mm f/1.4 is superb.

Nikon Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 best portrait lens
The Nikon 85mm f/1.4 is an amazing portrait lens.

It takes gorgeous, close-up portraits.

And the f/1.4 minimum aperture makes for incredible backgrounds. The bokeh is some of the best I’ve ever seen.

The best word to describe it?

Creamy.

Exactly what every photographer wants.

A bit more about this lens:

Image quality is stunning. Even at f/1.4, it takes exceptional photos.

The bottom line?

Any portraits you take with this lens will be sharp, sharp, and sharp.

For the close-up portrait photographer, this lens is a dream come true.

So don’t miss out.

Sale
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G
180 Reviews
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

  • 85mm focal length for gorgeous tighter portraits
  • Unbelievable image quality
  • Stunning bokeh
  • f/1.4 aperture great for shooting in low light

2. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

  • 50mm focal length for general portrait shooting
  • Stunning image quality
  • Light and easy to carry
  • Absolute bargain

BEST FOR: PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING FOR AN ALL-AROUND LENS

The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is inexpensive–but don’t let that fool you.

Optically, this lens is stunning.

With this lens…

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G best budget portrait lens
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is a great budget option!

…your images will be tack sharp, especially at higher apertures.

And with a maximum aperture of f/1.8, you’ll still get incredible bokeh.

Plus, the wide aperture will help you grab some gorgeous shots in low light.

This lens isn’t as solidly built as the 85mm f/1.4. But that makes it lighter–and great as a walk-around lens.

In terms of value for the money, this is a standout choice.

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
It will net you professional-quality images–for a bargain price.
Sale
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
1,879 Reviews
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

  • 50mm focal length for general portrait shooting
  • Stunning image quality
  • Light and easy to carry
  • Absolute bargain

 

3. Nikon 35mm f/1.4G

  • 35mm focal length for stunning environmental portraits
  • Great in low light
  • Tack-sharp across the board
  • Amazing build quality

BEST FOR: SERIOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO SHOOT WIDER PORTRAITS

If you’re a Nikon photographer with a penchant for wide-angle portraits, then look no further.

The Nikon 35mm f/1.4G is the perfect lens for you.

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G
The Nikon 35mm f/1.4G takes incredible wide-angle portraits.

The 35mm focal length is fantastic for getting environmental shots.

And the image quality is, without a doubt, incredible. You can capture tack-sharp images at any aperture.

Another thing:

The maximum aperture of f/1.4 makes for gorgeous shots, even in low light.

And you’ll want to check out the bokeh–smooth and creamy, like chocolate.

Here’s a bonus:

Build-quality is top-notch. Because the Nikon 35mm is built to last.

Do you want to capture some incredible wide-angle portraits?

You can’t go wrong with the Nikon 35mm f/1.4.

Sale
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
59 Reviews
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G

  • 35mm focal length for stunning environmental portraits
  • Great in low light
  • Tack-sharp across the board
  • Amazing build quality

 

Sony’s Best Portrait Photography Lenses

The Sony mirrorless lens lineup is impressive.

And their portrait photography lenses?

They’re no exception.

Read on to discover Sony’s best portrait photography lenses.

Name
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Preview
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens
Sony - FE 50mm F1.8 Standard Lens (SEL50F18F)
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA Standard-Prime Lens for Mirrorless Cameras
Focal Length
85mm
50mm
35mm
Star Rating
-
Price
$1,798.00
$198.00
$1,498.00
Prime Status
Name
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
Preview
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens
Focal Length
85mm
Star Rating
Price
$1,798.00
Prime Status
Buy It Now!
Name
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
Preview
Sony - FE 50mm F1.8 Standard Lens (SEL50F18F)
Focal Length
50mm
Star Rating
-
Price
$198.00
Prime Status
Buy It Now!
Name
Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Preview
Sony SEL35F14Z Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA Standard-Prime Lens for Mirrorless Cameras
Focal Length
35mm
Star Rating
Price
$1,498.00
Prime Status
Buy It Now!

1. Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

  • 85mm focal length for gorgeous tighter portraits
  • Unbelievable image quality
  • Stunning bokeh
  • f/1.4 aperture is perfect for shooting in low light

BEST FOR: SERIOUS PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING FOR A TIGHT PORTRAIT LENS

Simply put, the Sony 85mm f/1.4 is a stunning piece of glass.

Are you a Sony user?

Then this lens is going to blow you away.

Sony 85mm f/1.4
The Sony 85mm f/1.4 is extremely sharp!

The 85mm focal length is perfect for close-up portraits.

And the f/1.4 maximum aperture is fantastic for low-light photography.

Not to mention the incredible image quality. This lens is sharp through its aperture range–from f/1.4 on up.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 lens
Sony 85mm f/1.4

Unfortunately, this is a hefty piece of kit.

Because at 1808 lbs (820 kgs), it’s not exactly light!

That said, it’s great for the more dedicated portrait photographer.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
60 Reviews
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

  • 85mm focal length for gorgeous tighter portraits
  • Unbelievable image quality
  • Stunning bokeh
  • f/1.4 aperture is perfect for shooting in low light

2. Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

  • Good focal length for all situations
  • Impressive image quality
  • Strong in low light
  • Incredible price

BEST FOR: PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BEGINNERS AND PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING FOR A WALKAROUND LENS

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is one of cheapest lenses on our list.

But does that make it a poor performer?

Not in the slightest.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 budget lens
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is an absolute bargain!

In fact, the Sony 50mm offers very strong image quality.

And a maximum aperture of f/1.8 allows for some great low-light photography.

But the best part?

This lens is lightweight–making for a great casual portrait option (or a portrait backup).

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

Here’s the bottom line:

This lens is a bargain. And it’ll get you some gorgeous photos–photos that won’t disappoint.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

  • 50mm focal length for all situations
  • Good image quality
  • Strong in low light
  • Incredible price

 

3. Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

  • 35mm focal length makes for gorgeous wide portraits
  • Amazing image quality
  • Good for low-light shooting
  • Highly durable (with weather sealing)

BEST FOR: PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHERS LOOKING FOR A WIDER PERSPECTIVE

The Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4 is a serious piece of kit.

With a maximum aperture of f/1.4, you can capture incredible photos in low-light.

Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4
The Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4 is an amazing lens.

Plus, the image quality is stunning. You’ll find zero distortion, even at higher aperture ranges.

And this lens is tack-sharp–no matter your aperture.

Oh, and one more thing:

This lens is highly durable, and comes with weather sealing.

Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4
The Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4

All in all?

The Sony Distagon 35mm is a fantastic portrait lens. Especially if you regularly shoot wide photos.

Sale
Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
56 Reviews
Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

  • 35mm focal length makes for gorgeous wide portraits
  • Amazing image quality
  • Good for low-light shooting
  • Highly durable (with weather sealing)

 

The Best Portrait Photography Lenses: Which One Should You Buy?

Choosing a portrait photography lens can be a struggle.

Hopefully, this article has helped you narrow down your options.

Just remember:

If you like to shoot tighter, more artistic portraits, go with the Canon 85mm f/1.2, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4, or the Sony 85mm f/1.4.

If you’re looking for an all-around portrait lens, you can’t go wrong with the Canon 50mm f/1.4, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8, or the Sony 50mm f/1.8.

And if you’re more of a wide-angle shooter?

Pick the Canon 35mm f/1.4, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4, or the Sony 35mm f/1.4.

They’re all excellent lenses.

And they won’t disappoint.


Note: Last Amazon.com Price Update: 2019-05-26 | Refer to our Affiliate Disclosure and Disclaimer.

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