Under $800: Portrait Lenses Sharp Enough for a Pro Photographer

These often-overlooked portrait lenses offer some of the best image quality you can find for well under $1,000.

If you’re on the hunt for portrait lenses that offer seriously sharp optics and won’t break the bank, this roundup is for you. The five lenses we will share with you prove that you don’t have to spend an arm and leg to get some incredible glass. If you shoot with Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, or Sony cameras, we have found a lens that will serve you very well. Join us after the break to see which portrait lenses we recommend if your budget is under a grand.

Captured with the Fujifilm 60mm f2.4 Macro

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get lenses that perform admirably. Sure, you can easily spend three or four times as much as the prices of the lenses listed here, but unless your client demands the absolute best (or you just can’t stop yourself from pixel peeping), these lenses will get the job done very, very well. When it comes to sharpness, color rendition, bokeh, distortion control, chromatic aberrations, and vignetting these lenses will not disappoint in any way, shape, or form. They will also delight you with their overall build quality, focusing speeds, and ease of use. Check out five portrait lenses that are often overlooked below.

 

Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary (Sony APS-C and MFT)

 

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Gorgeous bokeh
  • Lightweight & compact design
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • One of three widest maximum aperture (f1.4) lenses currently available for Crop Sensor Sony E Mount and MFT
  • Dust and splash-proof design with an integrated rubber gasket found around the lens mount
  • It’s less than $500

Cons

  • Lacks optical stabilization
  • Pincushioning is especially noticeable in RAW files, although correctable during post-production
  • While mountable to Full Frame Sony Mirrorless cameras, the lens will only work in crop sensor mode

Buy now M4/3 ($429): Adorama

Buy now Sony ($429): Adorama

 

Sony 85mm F1.8 FE

 

portrait lenses from Sony

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • Fast-focusing with the Sony a7r II and in good lighting, it will focus quickly with the Sony a7
  • Nice feel; though not as great as the G Master 85mm f1.4 lens
  • Weather resistance built-in
  • Compact size

Cons

  • Honestly, not a darn thing

Buy now ($548): Adorama

 

Captured with the Sigma 56mm f1.4 DC DN Contemporary

Pro Tip: Portrait photography is exciting as it allows photographers to capture the essence and tell the story of the person you’re working with. It’s not as easy as it looks. If you’re new to portrait photography, or need some new ideas to keep your shoots fresh and exciting, you should continue your education not only by shooting but by investing in training materials and guides from some of the best around. Lindsay Adler is one of the most successful portrait photographers of our time, and her guides are legendary. Her Portrait Photography Bootcamp is just a must-have if you want to better yourself.

 

Rokinon 135mm F2 ED UMC

 

portrait lenses from rokinon

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Stunning image quality on every front
  • The very precise focusing ring

Cons

  • Kind of big, but that’s natural for a lens like this
  • Rokinon needs a new exterior. we’d pay extra for metal for sure

Buy now Canon EF ($499): Adorama

Buy now Nikon F ($499): Adorama

Buy now Pentax K ($429): Adorama

 

Fujifilm 60mm F2.4 Macro

 

fujifilm x-t2

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Very sharp
  • Great color
  • Minimal distortion
  • Amazing feel in the hands

Cons

  • Slow to focus
  • Don’t focus as closely as Zeiss’s 50mm f2.8 Touit option

Buy now ($649): Adorama

 

Captured with the Tamron 85mm f1.8 Di VC USD

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to use off-camera flash to help light your subject. Using strobes and monolights is not as complicated as some would lead you to believe, and it’s a vital skill to learn if you want to be a great portrait photographer. Being able to control light during your shoots will open up many doors for you. If you’re not sure how to go about adding off-camera flash into your workflow, check out this incredibly affordable guide. The new skills you’ll learn along with the new portrait lenses will set you up for success.

 

Tamron 85mm F1.8 Di VC USD

 

portrait lenses from tamron

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Super sharp image quality
  • No focusing issues with the Canon 6D or other Canon SLR cameras
  • Fast-focusing
  • Weather sealing
  • Nice feel in the hand
  • Vibration compensation built-in is a godsend
  • Fantastic color
  • A unique look that makes everything seem like it’s got quite a bit of clarity added in Lightroom
  • Beautiful bokeh

Cons

  • Quite honestly, not a single thing is wrong with this lens

Buy now Canon EF ($749): Adorama

Buy now Nikon F ($749): Adorama