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When searching for the best camera for portrait photography, new photographers often make a fundamental mistake. The fact is that there is no specific best camera for portraiture. And in principle, there is no concept of “the best camera”. And in general, you need to look first of all, oddly enough, not at the camera, because the lens always plays the first violin in photography.

How to choose a lens for portrait photography

There is a whole class of lenses from different manufacturers that are designed for portrait photography. They come with interchangeable focal length and fixed.

Today we will look at precisely those lenses that have a fixed focal length, as they are used most often. As a rule, they should be long-focus and fast. In professional jargon, they are called “fix” lenses. These models are good because they do not have additional zoom lenses, which makes the lens not only lighter and more compact, but also contributes to more light penetrating the matrix.

Leading companies (Canon, Nikon and Sony) offer a range of professional lenses for this type of photography. There are popular models of portrait lenses with focal lengths: 50mm, 35mm, 85mm, 100mm and 105mm. We will focus on the classic version of 50mm or “fifty dollars” as it is called in the circle of photographers. Based on market research by Expertology experts, this model is one of the most popular among users due to the combination of a very attractive price and amazingly accurate reproduction of real dimensions in the image.

50mm lenses have different f-stops such as:

  1. 50mm f/1.8;
  2. 50mm f/1.4;
  3. 50mm f/1.2.

The smaller the aperture value, the more expensive the lens. Therefore, among the above models there is one amateur version (f / 1.8) and two professional ones (f / 1.4, f / 1.2). Budget lenses, as a rule, are less fast and have a simple design.

Features of the “fifty dollars”

Many photographers believe that a 50mm lens has the same image coverage as the human eye. Actually it is not. A person reads information with two eyes – that is, stereoscopically. Then it combines these two images into a panorama. 50mm cannot fully convey such a visual effect, so there is still a slight distortion. But it is not as strong as, for example, a lens with a focal length of 35mm.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this is relevant if you use a lens in conjunction with a camera that has a full-frame FF (Full Frame) matrix. If you are using a semi-professional camera, then all indicators must be multiplied by the crop factor.

In fact, this is a very minor drawback, and this portrait is still considered one of the best among other fixes.

Rating of the best lenses for portraiture

Nomination Place Name Price

Best Canon Lenses for Portrait Photography

3

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

10 150 ₽

2

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

32 000 ₽

one

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

120 000 ₽

Best Nikon Lenses for Portrait Photography

2

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor

17 300 ₽

one

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor

30 000 ₽

Best Canon Lenses for Portrait Photography

The market for photographic equipment is huge, and there are many dozens and even hundreds of worthy models of lenses of one class or another. In today’s review from Expertology magazine, only the most sought-after brands – Canon and Nikon, and, accordingly, the most popular portrait lenses – 50mm, that is, fifty dollars, will be presented.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

Rating: 4.7

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

50mm with 1.8 aperture is the most popular and budget model among fast lenses. The average price of such a lens on the world market does not exceed 125 USD.

The lens has a fairly solid construction. The body is made of plastic, like the standard KIT lens on semi-professional cameras. But the mount is already metal, unlike the previous Canon EF 50mm f / 1.8 II model. EF series mount – allows you to use the lens with cameras that have an EFS series mount. And this means that the model in question can be suitable for both amateur DSLRs and professional cameras.

The lens has grooves for attaching a lens hood, which makes it possible to protect the lens unit. Another new addition to the STM is its silent stepping motor, which does not make any whirring sounds when focusing. The number of fast lens lenses is six in five groups. That is why it is so compact and weighs only 160g.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM comes standard with two covers – front and back. The hood is not included. The external focusing lens is movable, but does not rotate during auto focusing. This can be considered a nice bonus, since it is possible to use filters that do not require rotation. The thread diameter for the filter is 49mm, which will fit many filters.

This model gives an image quality corresponding to its cost, and even a little higher. Of course, many users may have divided opinions on this matter, and some of them complain about poor depth of field at an open aperture of 1.8. But you need to understand that this is still a budget version. It is possible to achieve good image quality from the lens, you just need to neglect the factory parameters of the lens a little.

To avoid defocusing in the frame, you should take pictures not at the maximum aperture of 1.8, but close it a little to 2.5. Then the sharpness will increase and the focus will not be lost.

With the right approach, this lens gives a good image. It gently blurs the background. Thanks to seven aperture blades, the bokeh is less angular and quite pleasing to the eye. This model is well suited for beginners and amateur photographers.

Advantages

  • compact and lightweight;

  • metal bayonet;

  • silent stepper motor;

  • EF mount;

  • thread for hood;

  • good picture quality;

  • minimal image distortion;

  • beautiful bokeh.

Flaws

  • at f/1.8 there is not enough depth of field.

Also Read: 16 Best Canon Lenses

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Rating: 4.8

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

A 1.4 aperture portrait lens is considered to be faster, hence the image quality is higher. The price of such a lens starts at an average of 340 USD.

In terms of design, there are some similarities with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. The body is also made of plastic, and the bayonet is made of metal. In both models, the front lens is recessed into the body. This protects it from accidental damage and unwanted reflections, just like a natural lens hood. The rear lens is close to the edge, so you need to be careful when removing the cover so as not to damage it.

Despite minor design differences, the 50mm f/1.4 is almost three times as expensive as the previous model we reviewed. The reason for this is the large diameter of the 50mm f/1.4 lenses, which are significantly more expensive to manufacture. Because of them, it weighs 130g more than the 50mm f/1.8. But even a weight of 290g is considered quite small for modern photo optics. For the same reason, this model is 1cm longer and 5mm larger in diameter.

The lens does not have a threaded, but a bayonet fastening of the hood to the body. It may seem like a small thing, but when in a hurry, this feature will serve you as a nice bonus. The hood also protects the retractable mechanism from accidental damage.

The type of autofocus drive in this model is an ultrasonic Micro USM motor. Quite nimble and not noisy. This fifty dollars is also quite ergonomic. The autofocus stepper drive is smooth and accurate. It is able to stop at the autofocus point without fidgeting. Another factor that affects ergonomics is the wide, rubberized focusing ring, which is slightly raised above the body. It also has focus range limits. All these points significantly simplify the workflow for the photographer.

The lens has 8 aperture blades, thanks to which the bokeh is more rounded. There is no stabilization in it, and this may seem strange, but in fact there is nothing surprising in this. Only L-series lenses have stabilization, and 50mm f/1.4 is considered a class below. Protection against dust and moisture is also provided only for L series optics. But on the other hand, the autofocus speed of this lens is excellent, since the mass of glass moved is much less than that of professional models.

According to Expertology experts, this fast lens deserves its niche among a wide range of amateurs and even professionals. A portrait lens in this price range delivers really high-quality and sharp images.

Advantages

  • high image quality;

  • light and compact;

  • bayonet mount hood;

  • ultrasonic Micro USM motor;

  • ergonomic;

  • large diameter lenses;

  • more rounded bokeh thanks to 8 aperture blades.

Flaws

  • no protection against dust and moisture;

  • there is slight defocus at f/1.4.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Rating: 4.9

CANON EF 50MM F/1.2L USM

The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a professional L-series optic. Canon labels the top models of its lenses with the letter “L” (luxury). Indeed, L-series optics combine the very best in high performance, innovative optical technology and rugged construction. Another characteristic marking is a red line on the lens barrel, which indicates a high image quality. The average price of such a model is 1,299 USD.

The 50mm f/1.2L lens is significantly more expensive than the previous 50mm f/1.4 model. The reason for this is not only the third stage of aperture ratio and the “red belt”, but also a number of other advantages, let’s look at which ones.

In addition to being the highest aperture lens, as we mentioned earlier, it also has a significant difference in design and optical design. The 50mm f/1.2L has one aspherical lens, the rest of the lenses are mostly larger in diameter, plus a metal body. These are all great benefits, but they inevitably give the lens almost four times the price compared to 50mm f/1.4, and two times the weight (545g).

The bayonet of the portrait lens also comes in metal, in addition, it is equipped with a moisture-proof seal. In the 50mm f/1.2L model, when focusing, the front “trunk” with the focusing lens block does not move forward outside the body, but moves inside it. This means that the lens will not suck in air like a piston, but dust along with it. If you also install a special filter, then protection against dust ingress will be ideal.

In terms of tactile and visual perception, this model looks and feels more weighty in every sense than its budget predecessors. The lens is reliable and practical. With age, little changes for him, except that the body is slightly polished, but not erased, namely, it becomes more glossy. As for driving performance, time does not affect them.

The AF drive type of this fast lens is an annular ultrasonic motor and is Canon’s fastest and quietest AF type. The ring drive provides a high speed of movement of the lens unit. However, given that the 50mm f/1.2L has more massive glass, there is a moment of inertia. Therefore, it is impossible to say that this model is faster than its closest budget alternative.

Advantages

  • third degree of aperture;

  • Has protection against moisture and dust

  • top quality lenses;

  • artistic background blur;

  • metal case;

  • ring ultrasonic motor (USM);

  • minimal wear;

  • ergonomics.

Flaws

  • there are no significant shortcomings.

Best Nikon Lenses for Portrait Photography

Nikon is one of the main competing companies with Canon. Each brand strives to be better than the other in some way. But despite years of competitive pressure from Canon, Nikon also produces good and sometimes even excellent optics for portraiture. We will now consider a couple of examples of such successful decisions.

Also Read: 5 Best Lenses for Product Photography

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor

Rating: 4.8

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor

First, let’s introduce you to a budget and very popular model – this is the Nikon 50mm f / 1.8G AF-S. The price of such a lens starts from 210 USD on average.

If we compare the equipment of the amateur model Canon EF 50MM f / 1.8 STM with Nikon, we will see that this lens is very well equipped. With the purchase of this portrait lens you will receive: two covers, a carrying case with a cardboard bottom and a lens hood (HB-47).

The body of the lens is plastic and assembled quite well, certainly denser than KIT lenses. There are no backlashes and squeaks. The mount is metal, unlike the Canon 50mm f/1.8. This fifty kopeck piece is compact and lightweight, weighing only 185g. The focusing ring is rubberized and rotates smoothly without creating any extra sounds.

During focusing, the lens block “walks” completely. That is, as the front lens moves, so does the back, and this is not good. The fact is that with such an active speaker, dust can get into the lens, and even “leak” from it directly onto the matrix of the camera itself, which is actually fatal.

The speed of travel through the full focal length is quite fast, that is, the lens is able to focus in just 0.7 seconds. It is not only fast, but it can also be said to focus silently, thanks to the ultrasonic motor.

If we talk about the working features of the portrait lens, then first of all we can distinguish a good optical design. It has 7 optical elements in 6 groups, including one aspherical element, which will allow you to achieve a sharper image across the entire field of the frame.

The aperture of this lens has 7 blades, with the maximum aperture of f / 1.8, a slightly oval bokeh is obtained in the frame. 50mm f/1.8 is characterized by good resistance to backlight due to the anti-reflective polarization coating.

For portraits, this fifty dollars is pretty good, even if you use it on a crop camera. That is, during portrait shooting, the main subject will be taken close-up. This lens justifies its cost, having every chance of becoming one of the most beloved among the photographer’s optical “park”, and not detaching from the carcass for months.

Advantages

  • good build quality;

  • there is an aspherical element;

  • ultrasonic motor;

  • full set;

  • fast focusing speed;

  • good resistance to backlight.

Flaws

  • strong vignetting;

  • longitudinal chromatic aberration.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor

Rating: 4.9

NIKON 50MM F/1.4G AF-S NIKKOR

The 50mm f/1.4 lens is considered an order of magnitude higher than the previous one due to its aperture ratio. Perhaps this is the best fifty dollars of the G series from Nikon and, unfortunately, this company has not yet released a model of the highest degree of aperture. The cost of such a lens starts at about 400 USD.

The body of the portrait lens is made of plastic, but despite the material, it already weighs more than the previous model – 280g. In size, it is a little “swollen” – the front of the case, on which the filter is placed, has become 58mm. During focusing, the trunk of the lens moves inside the body, thanks to which you can easily use filters and not experience inconvenience with a rotating element.

50mm f / 1.4 has a very convenient MA mode – this is auto focus with manual priority. That is, as soon as you start to rotate the focus ring with your hands, auto focus is immediately turned off and then you continue to work manually. This trick has not yet been repeated by any minor brand (Sigma, Tamron, YongNuo and others).

The optical scheme consists of 8 elements combined into 7 groups. Three lenses are made from extra-low dispersion glass to more effectively combat chromatic aberrations. The design also uses a proprietary glass coating (super integrated coating), which prevents the formation of secondary “parasitic” reflections from the surface of the lenses and eliminates glare.

The drive at the lens is represented by a wave motor SWM (Silent Wave Motor – quiet wave / ultrasonic motor), which works at lightning speed and almost silently, providing high speed and accuracy of autofocus. The aperture consists of 9 blades with rounded edges, at medium and lower values ​​(f / 1.4 and f / 5.0), the background blur structure is very successful.

The lens has the correct color reproduction and reproduces the entire color scale without unnecessary accents. Even at the maximum aperture, detail is good in the center of the frame and more or less acceptable closer to the edges of the image. The smoothness of tonal transitions remains at a high level.

This portrait lens is considered to be the top among other fifty dollars from Nikon, and this is by and large true. The lens is universal, it can photograph not only portraits, but also reports, objects and even sometimes landscapes. He, of course, has flaws, but they are forgivable with such a high image quality.

Advantages

  • aperture f/1.4;

  • wave motor SWM;

  • MA mode;

  • low level of chromatic aberration;

  • compact and lightweight;

  • proprietary lens coating (super integrated coating);

  • high color rendering.

Flaws

  • low autofocus speed.