When buying a new camera most people, unless they already have lenses, will get it with a decent kit zoom. Their first lens purchase will almost inevitably be a portrait lens.There are so many great lenses out there for portraits, it’s hard to pick winners. So my compromise is to pick my five favorites.
Coming in at just under $500, the 85mm f/1.8 is one of the of the most highly regarded lenses in Nikon’s arsenal. Not a great choice for low-light situations, but portrait photographers swear by it.
Specifically that would be head and shoulders style portraits or close-ups. If you want to take full body shots, you’ll have to step back quite a bit.
Nikon makes a f/1.4 version of the same lens, but at twice the price it’s hard to justify the cost.
Criticized lately on build quality, it’s still a fine portrait lens for around $200. Maybe a tad less sharp than the 85mm, but it takes better eyes than mine to see much difference.
Mounted in front of Nikon’s APS-C, a slightly larger sensor than the Canon APS-C, it yields an effective zoom of 75mm.
This lens might be a tad long for APS-C models, like my Canon 7D, but matched up with a full size sensor on a 5D, this is a killer portrait lens.
Fast enough to provide good performance in low light, and snaps to focus nearly silently. Work a stop or two under wide open and it’s sharp enough to slice paper. Priced around $600.
The only downside to using this lens all day is the weight. It’s one of the heavier lenses of the top picks.
You knew this one was coming. It’s one of the finest portrait lenses Canon makes. Priced around $100, it’s the first lens most Canon shooters purchase and the one that ends up spend the most time on the camera.
Newer models have developed a noticeable buzz in the auto-focus.
This is my personal favorite. A little more expensive than some of the others and the only zoom on my list, I love this lens. It’s a great performer in low and mixed light and delivers razor sharp quality.
The auto-focus is noisier than you’d expect for a lens at this price point and it can act confused and slow hunting around for focus.
Priced in the mid-$600’s, it’s still my choice for portraits or weddings.