The Best Portrait Lenses for Nikon Photographers of All Levels

November 6, 2017 Donald Scarinci 0Comment

As Jean-Luc Godard aptly described, “When you photograph a face, you photograph the soul behind it.  What is the best lens to use for portrait photography?

When shooting portraits, your lens should deliver a sharply defined subject with just the right amount of bokeh. For owners of Nikon DSLRs, there are several great options at a variety of different price points. The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to create stunning portrait photography.

If you are in the market for a new portrait lens for your Nikon, below are several models to put on your short list: 

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED: The professional-grade lens is the first full-frame 105mm with an f/1.4 aperture. The newly released Nikon AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED is also the fastest full-frame lens of its kind (FX format). The f/1.4 maximum aperture and nine rounded aperture blades create impressive bokeh effect. Meanwhile, the focal length (105mm on FX cameras, 158mm on DX cameras) allows the photographer to interact with the subject. The lens is also ideal for low-light photography, thanks to its large maximum aperture that allows photographers to shoot at the fastest allowable shutter speeds. The list price is $2,196.95. 

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: A favorite among photographers, the lens provides the most bang for your buck. Earlier this year, DxO Mark named the Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art the best in its class. While certainly not cheap at $1,199, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art blows more expensive portraits lenses out of the water. The lens is solidly constructed, as well as dust and splash proof. But it’s the image quality that really makes it shine, with creamy bokeh and negligible chromatic aberration. 

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 G: Another favorite among professional portrait shooters, the lens features a rugged design and exceptional image quality. The Nikon 85mm f/1.4 allows photographers to quickly toggle between manual and autofocus. Images are sharp from edge to edge with perfectly blown out backgrounds. The current price is $1,596.95. 

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G: With fast focusing and stunning bokeh, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G is a great lens at a reasonable price. The lens features fast focusing, along with an override manual focus switch. The best part is that it delivers professional quality images, but is still affordable for enthusiasts. The lens costs $476.96. 

Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8 G: While considered “beginner” lenses, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8 G can be used to create sharp images with a solid bokeh effect. The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) delivers fast, accurate, and quiet autofocus. The lenses also compact and light weight, which make them ideal for travel. The other selling point is the price point. The f/1.8G lens sells for $216.95, while the retail price of the f/1.4G is $446.95.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: A member of Sigma’s highly touted Art line, the lens is a reengineered version of the Sigma 50mm 1.4 DG HSM. The results are impressive; the

lens was awarded DPReview’s Gold Award in 2014. Images are sharp and clear with minimal sagittal coma flare and chromatic aberrations. The lens also autofocuses quickly and smoothly thanks to the Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM). The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is currently selling for $949.