Eight Beautiful 50mm Lenses for Portraits

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus lens review product images (6 of 8)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 4.0

While the 85mm lens is very popular amongst the portrait photography community, some folks prefer to reach for the 50mm focal length. Some do this because they use an APS-C sensor camera while others just genuinely prefer the wider field of view. In general though, we’ve tested this and much prefer the 85mm focal length.

Based on requests and searches on our site, we decided to search our Reviews Index and round up some of our favorite 50mm lenses for portrait photography. Each one has a pull quote from our reviews along with a sample image. For the absolute best results with any lens though, work with the color channels in Lightroom.

Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art

Sigma 50mm f1.4 art

In our review, we state:

“When it comes to image quality of the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens, it truly is deserving of its Art moniker. This lens delivers some of the most beautiful image quality that we’ve seen and surely puts lots of the first party offerings to shame with the exception of the Sony 50mm f1.4 Zeiss lens.

Where we were most in love with the quality has to be the lens’s micro contrast. When shooting wide open at f1.4, it will make your subjects really stand out from the beautiful bokeh in the background. The micro contrast also helps to add a bit more to the sharpness of the images.”

Buy Now: Amazon $849

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art Lens Review images (13 of 13)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 1.4

Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4

Zeiss-Distagon-55mm-f1.4-ZF.2

In our review, we state:

“By far, this is the lens that should be taking home awards left and right. When we were able to nail the focusing, we found the image quality to be incredible. In fact, we’re not sure that the English language has a word for just how good it is except for maybe God-like. The sharpness at any aperture is almost unreal and unlike anything that we’ve ever seen. At the same time, we’re positive that you’ll either be making a retoucher’s life a living hell or that much easier. The more pixels there are and the more resolution there is, the more there can be to retouch. And sometimes masques and gaussian blur just doesn’t cut it.”

Buy Now: Amazon $3,849

Model: Kita St. Cyr

Model: Kita St. Cyr

Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus

Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus

In our review, we state:

“The Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus lens is highly capable–there should be absolutely no doubt in your mind. What I’m most in love with about this lens is the bokeh. Of any 50mm lens that I’ve tested, I’m very inclined to say that the best bokeh comes from this lens. I wouldn’t really expect any less considering that this is a Zeiss lens. Then there is the sharpness that is absolutely purely incredible. Mix in the fact that we couldn’t find any color fringing and you’re all set.”

Buy Now: B&H Photo $1,199

Model: Amanda Aiken

Model: Amanda Aiken

Sony Zeiss 50mm f1.4

Sony zeiss 50mm f1.4

In our review, we state:

“This lens is the thing that fanboys in forums everywhere and Sony Alpha Rumor’s comments dream of but will never be able to touch because of the massive price point.

A forum troll can only dream though…

When using this lens with the A7r, we were floored by nearly every image that came out of the camera. Mostly everything we shot was sharp and beautiful. And if it wasn’t, the image could still be used in some way or another due to the A7r’s sensor performance.

Even if you don’t achieve a sharp image, you’ll be quite pleased with the color rendition, bokeh, and just the overall look to it. There is something very Zeiss-like and organic about the images that we can’t put our fingers on except that it elicits a feeling and look of medium format film–Portra with a tad extra saturation to be exact.

On a personal note, all my personal work is done on medium format film, and much of it is Portra. So to say that combining this lens with the A7r and shooting made me feel right at home is a very accurate statement.”

Buy Now: Amazon $1,498

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm f1.4 review zeiss vintage train ride stuff (2 of 6)ISO 16001-60 sec at f - 1.4

Model: Lily Rollerhoops

Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f1.6

Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f1.6

In our review, we state:

“The Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f1.6 lens can be said to have its quirks if you look at it from a very traditional point of view, but otherwise you’ll be happy to embrace what it can do. So who would make the best use of this lens? We personally think that lifestyle photographers, wedding photographers and portrait shooters will really fancy this lens. Landscape shooters will want to go for something sharper and street photographers will want something wider and with an actual depth of field scale built in. But for the newer types of photographers that have been popping up in recent years that fully embrace this latest iteration of the digital age, you’ll want to be all over this.”

Buy Now: Amazon $499.95

Model: Erica Lourd

Model: Erica Lourd

Zeiss 50mm f2 Loxia

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f:2 Planar T* Lens for Sony E Mount

In our review, we state:

“If you’re a fan of the DSLR lens color rendition, then we’ve got great news for you. The Zeiss 50mm f2 Loxia has more vivid, punchier, and saturated colors than its 35mm f2 counterpart. It’s everything that you’ve come to know with modern Zeiss optics.

But what I’m personally really in love with is how it works with skin tones that gives me an almost Kodak Portra type of look. It’s a thing of true beauty and I haven’t seen anything like it since the Olympus OMD EM5 and the Voigtlander lenses.”

Buy Now: Amazon $949

ISO 100, 1/400th F2. This is an example of the Sun's rays being lessened by cloud coverage

ISO 100, 1/400th F2. This is an example of the Sun’s rays being lessened by cloud coverage

Nikon 58mm f1.4

Nikon 58mm f1.4

In our review, we state:

“The Nikon 58mm f1.4G is a good lens for portraits. Due to its slightly longer-than-normal focal length, it provides a natural perspective. Also, due to the slightly longer reach, you can get within a comfortable distance of your subject without being too close. This comes in handy when you have create images in small spaces. The Nikon 58mm 1.4G will not make you a great portrait photographer, but it is a great tool to work with.”

Buy Now: Amazon $1,699.95

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Lens GServo-20131218-0549-2

Fujifilm 56mm f1.2

FujiFilm, 56mm F1.2 Lens, Lenses, Portrait Lenses, Micro Four Thirds

In our review, we state:

“Let’s be completely and totally honest here: there is very, very little to complain about with the 56mm f1.2.

In general, modern lenses are sharp and have magnificent bokeh. What many of them lack (with the exception of Zeiss and Fujifilm) is contrast though–and Fujifilm adds that when you select the right color/film profile. But for a lens like this that was specifically designed for portraiture, you often don’t want a lot of contrast because of the way that skin tones can sometimes work. For example, you can often get someone to look too red and you’ll need to desaturate that channel in Lightroom and follow it up with boosting the luminance. Fujifilm’s 56mm f1.2 makes you do less of that and handles skin tones of all types quite well.

But there’s a lot more to this lens’s character than sharpness: it’s got great bokeh and absolutely no color fringing that we were able to find. But the color rendition of other lenses like the 35mm f1.4 is a tad superior to that of the 56mm f1.2.”

Buy Now: Amazon $999.99

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm 56mm f1.2 review portrait images (2 of 2)ISO 2001-800 sec at f - 1.2