The world of portrait photography is becoming more and more filled with great lens options available for purchase. Sony. Zeiss, Sigma, and Tamron all make some absolutely fantastic ones that were recently announced: but one lens is seriously looking to outdo all of them. Nikon has shown some recent true innovation with the Nikon 105mm f1.4. This lens is the longest telephoto lens to have an f1.4 aperture and also something that absolutely no one else has. Though Sony’s 85mm f1.4 G Master has 11 aperture blades and Tamron’s 85mm f1.8 has vibration control, nothing has the pure perspective flattening that a 105mm lens can–and nothing has the out of focus bokeh ability.
The Zeiss Loxia lineup of lenses are designed for the Sony full frame E mount, and the newest edition is the Zeiss Loxia 85mm f2.4. This lens is currently the company’s longest offering and is targeted at portrait photographers and video shooters. It’s also designed as compact a size as possible and to that end, has relatively slow aperture for a Zeiss lens.
At Photokina 2016, we got a chance to play with the lens–though we must warn you that the environment around the trade show floor isn’t anywhere as exciting as any of the locations where we’d typically test them.
Portrait photography is and remains one of the most popular reasons that people pick up a camera and get into photography. But as we all well know, top quality lenses bring with them budget breaking price tags. Luckily, portrait photography can be pretty forgiving, and you don’t need the most expensive lenses in order to get great results.
Today we are going to focus on the best modern lenses (released within the last 4 years) for portraiture that come with a normal price tag under the $1,000 mark – making them relatively attainable for most photographers. Also note, towards the end of last year we did feature a similar listing, of modern portraiture lenses under $500, so in that under $500 category today we will only be noting lenses that have been released since that post, making the majority of this post in the $500-$999 spectrum.
Okay, lets get into it.
The release of the Sony Zeiss 50mm f1.4 for full frame E mount cameras begs the question “just how many 50mm lenses does one need?” In truth, just one–but the strategy is a smart one for the company. You see, years ago camera manufacturers used to offer loads of different lens options. You’d get a 50mm f1.8, f1.4, f2, etc. Leica still does this and to some degree, Zeiss does too. But with Sony, you’re getting something different.
This new lens isn’t part of the company’s G Master series of optics and instead it’s a lens that was created in collaboration with Zeiss. It boasts dust/moisture resistance, 11 aperture blades, and other cool features including Zeiss T* coatings that are bound to give you that Zeiss-like look though probably not as clear as their Milvus lineup of lenses.
Editor’s note: this review is now complete
Natural light is the choice of many photographers looking to render a specific look in a scene. It’s beautiful when use correctly–and it often is by many portrait photographers. When used by a photographer that acts very carefully about the images that they’re creating, it can inspire others and enthrall viewers with its captivation. But it isn’t always as simple as just going out in the golden hour and telling a portrait subject to stand there and look nice.
Instead, it’s a collaborative effort. And if you’re looking to get serious about portraiture, we recommend starting with an 85mm lens.
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Every brand right now is creating very killer 85mm lenses that really tug at my heart, but without a doubt the one with the best bokeh so far has to be the Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master lens. It’s big, it’s a bit weighty, and it has a unique aperture ring around it that Sony is trying to push onto its higher grade prime lenses.
With 11 aperture blades, weather resistance built in, a 77mm filter thread and weighing just under 30 oz, the lens is quite surely aimed at the higher end user–especially with its $1,798 price tag. In all honesty, it will give you the best images from any 85mm lens right out of the camera–but I’d be telling a complete lie if I said that every photographer needs one.
When Tamron announced their new initiative to make major improvements to their lenses, the quality of the products was rather mixed–and so that made me a bit scared about the new Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD. But they’ve taken some time, improved things even more and with that said, they’ve created a lens that could arguably be called the absolute best value 85mm lens for DSLR cameras.
The lens features 9 aperture blades, 13 elements in 9 groups, weather sealing, an actual metal barrel, and a very overall light weight of approximately 23 oz to 25 oz. At $749, you’re getting what looking on paper to be one hell of lens.
And in all honesty, I actually want to buy one.
All product photos shot on the latest edition of the EyeEm Magazine.
All images by Jason Lanier. Used with permission.
For a little while now, photographer Jason Lanier (who is a Sony Artisan) has been working with both the Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis lens and the new Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master. Lots of folks are asking which one is better. Recently, he asked if I’d like a couple of samples. Knowing that you guys wanted to see these, I happily obliged.
Here are some samples that he’s got recently. For editorial neutrality’s sake, these images were SOOC and sent to Lightroom to be resized with minor adjustments. Take a look for yourself and make your own judgements.