The 7 Best 35mm Lenses for Portrait Photography

While the 35mm focal length isn’t always considered to be prime (pun not intended) for portraiture, it’s still fairly popular and a very versatile focal length. In fact, because it’s got a field of view that is the way that so many photographers see, it’s bound to be a favorite focal length. Luckily, over the years a number of those lenses have improved to simply just become better. So if you’re looking for a 35mm lens for portraiture, look no further than our favorites in this list.

BONUS: Zeiss 35mm f1.4 Milvus

The Zeiss 35mm f1.4 Milvus lens is so great at shooting portraits that Zeiss themselves actually have been actively marketing it for portraiture.

In our review, we state:

It goes without a doubt that the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 Milvus lens receives our Editor’s Choice award. Zeiss was ballsy enough to say that they wanted to create a lens for portraiture at a wide angle. And lo and behold, they did it. The Zeiss Milvus 35mm f1.4 keeps the distortion down a whole lot. That’s great for portraits but even then you still may want to to get uber close to a subject. However, you’ll be very happy with the skin tones that can be delivered when you lock your white balance to either Tungsten or Daylight. In addition to that, you’ll love the sharpness and the token Zeiss micro contrast that gives a 3D look to the images.

Nikon 35mm f1.8 G ED

Would you believe that the Nikon 35mm f1.8 G ED is sharper than its f1.4 variant? Crazy, right? But with just a little less light gathering abilities, you get a lens that is great for portraits at a more affordable price point.

In our review, we state:

“Nikon’s 35mm f1.8 G ED is a lens that won’t excite those us that always reach for higher hanging fruit, but it will surely satisfy the appetites of those that are looking for a fairly affordable 35mm prime lens. Best of all, this lens is designed for full frame cameras as opposed to the last one which was for APS-C DSLRs. The company’s lens is sharp enough for most uses, has fairly good bokeh, color that can be reworked to be even better due to Nikon’s RAW file versatility, and contains focusing motors that really made it a joy to use all around.”

Buy Now: Amazon ($526.95)

Sample Portrait Photos

Model: Kristen Sirotta

Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art

The reason why I’m choosing the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens over Tamron’s very good 35mm f1.8 Di VC USD is because of the better image quality that I feel is present with the Sigma offering. While Tamron’s is lighter, weather sealed and more affordable, I still can’t deny Sigma’s quality.

In our review, we state:

“Overall, we can’t really say anything very terrible about the Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG. Even though it doesn’t have weather sealing, there are options out there that can do this for you. Otherwise, it has a wonderful build quality, eye-popping image quality, and is a relative speed demon when it comes to focusing.”

Buy Now: Amazon (Usually around $899)

Sample Portrait Photos

One softbox camera right. Non-freeze action mode, I.E normal shooting mode
ISO 100, 1/160th at f5.6 with the light set to +0.7

Shot with the Sigma 35mm f1.4

Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4

In our review, we state:

“As far as the Image Quality of this lens goes, you have very little to complain about. The image quality is sharp, saturated, and overall very beautiful. It beats much of the previous lenses that Sony has offered but in many ways also rivals the company’s 55mm f1.4 for their A mount.”

Buy Now: Amazon ($1,598)

Sample Portrait Photos

Model: Natalie Margiotta

Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4

Canon 35mm f1.4 L USM

This lens is solidly built and exhibits great image quality. When it comes to skin tones, it’s very difficult to beat what Canon is capable of doing; even with a lens like the 35mm f1.4 L II.

In our review, we state:

“So what should you know about this lens? It’s sharp, not very contrasty, fairly saturated, excellent with skin tones, has very nice bokeh and like many other lenses performs at its sharpest when a flash is used.”

Buy Now: Amazon ($1,649)

Sample Portrait Photos

f1.4

Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM

What I really love about the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM lens is how easily it mounts to Leica cameras and Sony FE cameras with an adapter. So it can play the double duty role with ease.

In our review, we state:

“In my opinion, the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM has to be one of the best lenses for rendering skin tones. It’s the difference between Kodak Portra and Kodak Ektar in some ways. If you’re a fan of Portra, then you may want to spring for this lens.”

Buy Now: Amazon (Prices vary)

Sample Portrait Photos

Pro Tip: This photo was made by using a black background and a single flash in an octabank. Notice how I’m able to use the focal length to make Erica really pop when combined with effective lighting.

Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 R

Sure, the 23mm f2 from Fujifilm is weather sealed and smaller. But it doesn’t have the image quality that the 23mm f1.4 has. In fact, the 23mm f1.4 has become one of my favorite lenses from Fujifilm.

In our review, we state:

“When it comes to color rendition, this lens was designed with the idea that it should work with all of Fujifilm film renderings offered on their cameras. While this may be true of any lens, we feel that it is more true with this one than any other in the line up.

When using Astia’s color rendition, the lens gave us image quality that really embraced the film profiles more than any other. With that said, skin tones are excellent and colors are otherwise still a bit muted vs Fujifilm’s other lenses.”

Buy Now: Amazon (Usually around $899)

Sample Portrait Photos

Pro Tip: 35mm focal lengths are best used not very close up to a subject. Try to photograph no less than 1/4 of your subject with a lens like this.

Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

This lens may not be the sharpest in the Micro Four Thirds line up, but I’d be damned if I said that it didn’t deliver some of the best colors and skin tones that I’ve ever seen.

In our review, we state:

“The color rendition is terrific and one obviously gets what they pay for when they purchase this lens. It tends to change over the apertures though. Wide open, everything will be super saturated and wonderfully creamy and warm. Stop down to f4 and narrower, and things start to become much cooler.

The sweet spot is around f2.8 where one balances both sharpness and having lots in focus. You can liken f2.8 to having as much depth of field as around f6.3 on a full frame camera body.”

Buy Now: Amazon ($899)

Sample Portrait Photos

Pen F with Voigtlande 17.5mm f0.95

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Olympus Pen F and Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Model: Natalie Margiotta