Five Fantastic A Little Longer Than 50mm Lenses for Portrait Photography

There are whole swarms of photographers who absolutely swear by and to the 50mm focal length, yet when it comes to portraiture, it’s easy for a lot of photographers to find the focal length a bit lacking. That’s where all of these slightly longer focal lengths have been coming from for a while now–something just a bit longer than a 50mm lens is often a fantastic option for portraits because while it isn’t as constrained as an 85mm lens, you tend to get a slightly longer field of view and therefore just enough more compression when shooting.

Here are some of our favorites.

Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8

Rated as one of Sony’s sharpest lenses on the market, you should also know that it’s very affordable. Plus it has a bit of weather sealing, fast focusing abilities and it’s got a compact body to match the a7 series of cameras. For portrait photography, this lens is more than good enough for most Sony photographers. However, you may also want to consider the company’s 85mm lens. Both are much better than the company’s 50mm f1.8.

In our review we state:

“Sony has some of the best color rendition around, and if you manage to get everything right in the camera, you’ll have very little to worry about in post-production. The 55mm skews warm in most cases, but if that’s not your thing, you can always fix it later. Also, the lens encourages chimping because you’ll want to see what you just took.”

Buy Now $999: Amazon

Lensbaby 56mm f1.6 Velvet

Most people may not like the Velvet, but I do. It’s got a characteristically soft look wide open which it’s designed to do. But stop your lens down to f4 and it’s going to be one of the sharpest lenses you’ve got in your bag. For portraiture, this 56mm lens is really fantastic mostly due to what it does with skin tones. If you’re a film lover, you’ll digg this.

In our review we state:

“To get the best focusing with this lens, we purposely called in the Sony version because there are no electronic contacts on the lens. We had to resort to focus peaking and due to how soft it is wide open combined with the fact that the lens is a focal length on the longer side, focusing wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. When stopped down to f4 though, focusing because very simple and extremely straight forward. At f2.8, it requires some work but it won’t be that difficult.”

Buy Now $499: Amazon

Model: Erica Lourd

Nikon 58mm f1.4

When Nikon designed this lens, they specifically said that it wasn’t about the sharpness. Instead, it was all about trying to develop and create a specific look. Indeed, they got it.

In our review we state:

“The overall image quality of the Nikon 58mm f1.4G can be described in two words: pretty good. For portraits, the lens did very well. I retouched some photos when I realized I got the lighting wrong. I did not have to do much beyond adjusting exposure and white balance. When shooting street photography the lens was a pleasure to work with. As you would say of a good wine, it feels well rounded.”

Buy Now $1,596.95: Amazon

Photo by Horatio Tan

Lomography 58mm f1.9 Petzval

Lomography’s Petzval lenses are pretty interesting. They’re made of metal, have an interesting interchangeable aperture, focus in a different way from other lenses, and offer a look that’s very unique. At the same time though, they’re also very versatile and offer great image quality. That means so much for portraiture, and in fact these lenses were originally designed to shoot portraits.

In our review we state:

“On top of this, you need to have an exemplary sense of composition. You can either choose to center your subject or if you want to embrace the rule of thirds to its maximum then you can go right ahead and place the subject along the according intersections. But know that in the center is where you’ll have your sharpest and more clear subject matter. As you go out toward the edges, you’ll find that the swirly bokeh takes over more and more.”

Buy Now: Lomography

Fujifilm 56mm f1.2

On a Fujifilm camera, the rendering with the 56mm f1.2 will be around 85mm. But it’s also perhaps one of the best portrait lenses for the system.

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.”

Buy Now $999: Amazon