40 portrait lens reviews: tested on full-frame, APS-C and micro-43
A slick portrait with a beautiful blurry background. How hard can it be? The internet is full of them. You’ll find out. Or, if you’ve been in photography a bit longer, you already know. What is a good portrait lens for your camera? To help you out, we’ve made a few overviews of portrait lenses with which you don’t just make beautiful portraits, by the way. Good lenses with a field of view corresponding to that of an 85 or 135mm lens on a full-frame sensor (“FF equiv.”) have been topping our list of best lenses for years. They’re that good. At every distance.
40 lens reviews SUMMARIZED: BEST PORTRAIT LENS PER CAMERA BRAND PER SENSOR SIZe[widgetkit id=”560″]
HIGH BRIGHTNESS, BEAUTIFUL bokeh
Zoom lenses appear repeatedly in the test results, because they have been tested at both 85mm and 135mm, for example.
In the test overviews, we show both zoom lenses and lenses with a fixed focal length that are suitable for making portraits. Because you often want to separate the subject from the background when creating a portrait, we only have bright lenses that we have reviewed and with a field of view that corresponds to an 85mm to 135mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. This means that you will also see the test results for bright zoom lenses at these focal lengths.
WITH OR WITHOUT LENS CORRECTIONS?
Lens manufacturers design lenses in which distortion, color separation and vignetting are not optimally corrected. They assume that lens errors will be automatically corrected in the camera (for jpg files) or afterwards in Lightroom or Photoshop (for RAW files). The advantage of this choice, for manufacturer and consumer, is that you can achieve high image quality at relatively low costs, because you do not have to use expensive types of glass to prevent all lens errors. But there are also, usually the more expensive, lenses where a manufacturer has gone to extremes to prevent lens errors in the lens design. CameraStuffReview shows tables and graphs of Imatest results with lens corrections (“in-camera jpg”) and without lens corrections (“RAW” outside of Photoshop or Lightroom). You can thus use the scores that are closest to your workflow.
MODERN, SPECTACULAR F/1.4 LENSES: NOT ONLY FOR PORTRAITS
It’s only recently that expensive bright lenses, with an aperture of f/1.4 or less, were visibly less sharp at full aperture than cheaper f/1.8 – f/2.8 lenses. In the center, but especially in the corners. Disturbing color errors such as “color bokeh” were also prominent up to f/2.8. Yet these bright lenses were used at full aperture, because you got such a beautiful background blur, which makes you stand out as a portrait photographer. That has changed spectacularly for the better in a couple of years. Modern lens designs such as the Nikon 105 mm f/1.4 or the Sigma 105 mm f/1.4 are spectacularly good at full aperture. You recognize the increased sharpness and the nicer, quieter background at full aperture (as in the above practice shot made with the Nikon 105 mm f/1.4) immediately.[widgetkit id=”384″]