On a Budget: Portrait Lenses for Your DSLR

Chris Gampat The Phoblogrpaher Tamron 45mm f1.8 other review images (2 of 4)ISO 4001-1250 sec at f - 4.0

Photography, one way or another, is an expensive hobby. But you don’t need to rob a bank to get really incredible photos. No matter what, that starts with a creative vision, and to that end you can create incredible images with affordable gear. Don’t believe me? Look at the site’s many interviews: most of those folks don’t use the highest top of the line gear but instead focus more on achieving their creative vision with what they have.

If you’re looking to get into portraits, these lenses will help you get a great start.

Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC

Chris Gampat The Phoblogrpaher Tamron 45mm f1.8 product highlight images (1 of 2)ISO 3201-250 sec at f - 2.8

In our review, we state:

“One of my favorite features of this lens has to do with the bokeh. It’s just creamy all around. The image in this section of the woman with the red dress is shot at f1.8 and has beautiful, creamy bokeh.

Again, the price point is really hitting home here and those 9 aperture blades are really paying off. Tamron should be praised for the beautiful bokeh and giving a lens at $599 nine aperture blades.”

Buy Now $599: Amazon

Rokinon 85mm f1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 85mm f1.4 review product shots resized (2 of 4)

In our review, we state:

“The closest thing to this lens would be the Zeiss 85mm cinema prime for video. The problem with this lens was that it was even harder to focus and was designed to be used with a follow focus and on a tripod or stabilizer of some sort. It’s also much heavier than the Rokinon lens and quite a bit more expensive. What you’re paying for though is better build quality, better focus falloff, and T stops vs F stops (which are much more accurate).

But once again, for the price point of the Rokinon, you can’t beat it.”

Buy Now $349: Amazon

Nikon 85mm f1.8

In our review, we state:

“The Nikon 85mm f1.8 G is a modern update to an old lens, and Nikon indeed did a fantastic job with it. For the price, it is very sharp, fast focusing in most situations, silent, and built extremely well. As a budget level lens, it is really hard to beat except by perhaps Rokinon’s 85mm f1.4; but that doesn’t have autofocus at all.”

Buy Now $479.95: Amazon

Sigma 50mm f1.4 (Version 1)

In our review, we state:

“My 50mm is basically glued to my Canon 5D, so I felt right at home using the Sigma 50mm f/1.4. This lens feels like it was designed for the 5D, it just feels so balanced. With the Sigma 50mm weighing in at over a pound, the 5D and the Sigma are not the lightest rig but I walked around for hours with this combo without any issues and all I used was a hand strap.  The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 will feel great when mated to a larger bodied camera (e.g. Canon 5D or Canon 7D), but it still feels surprisingly good when combined with a smaller body, consumer camera. It does feel slightly front-heavy on smaller cameras (e.g. my Canon Rebel XT) but the lens is fairly compact so the weight stays close to the body of the camera. With that being said, you need to take the crop factor into consideration if you’re using a camera with an APS-C sized sensor. If you do have a crop body camera, Sigma has a few other fast primes (e.g. Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM) that will give you close to a 50mm field of view.”

Buy Now $499: Amazon

Canon 50mm f1.8 STM

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Canon 50mm f1.8 STM lens review product images (2 of 2)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 4.0

In our review, we state:

“Canon’s 50mm f1.8 STM is an overall great lens for what it is: a cheap lens that is aimed at a specific consumer. It’s not going to deliver the best image quality and it’s not going to give you the looks that many third party manufacturers give you now. But what it will surely do is give you a starting point to work with.

The Canon 50mm f1.8 STM is good at everything in general, but it isn’t great at everything. Perhaps we’re being too harsh on it for being only $120–but with that said, don’t expect incredibly jaw-dropping images compared to many other higher end offerings (if you’re more used to those).”

Buy Now $125: Amazon

Lensbaby 56mm f1.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Lensbaby Fujifilm Announcement (2 of 2)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 6.3

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 $499.95: Amazon

Lomography 85mm f2.2 Petzval

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Lomography Petzval Lens product images (11 of 13)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

In our review, we state:

“Make no mistake–the Lomography Petzval lens makes us super excited for what else the company has to offer us in the higher end world. It can produce beautiful images with a creative effect. But for the most part, it is more or less a one trick pony that when combined with the most creative of eyes and the most technical of users can be absolutely breath taking. We recommend it to the photographer looking for something new to add to their portrait gear–but with that said we only really recommend it for portraitists. There is really no point for a landscape shooter to buy one as the bokeh and effect will smear the edges.”

Buy Now $599: B&H Photo

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.