Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

Take great portraits without spending a fortune

Best portrait lenses 8 tested

A relative newcomer to Nikon's range of lenses, this is a direct competitor to Canon's EF 85mm. Both lenses feature nine optical elements and ring-type ultrasonic autofocus.

The Nikon's autofocus isn't as fast as that of the Canon lens, but it's much quicker than the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G. There are only seven diaphragm blades, compared with eight in the Canon 85mm and nine in the Nikon 50mm, but the aperture is still well rounded and bokeh is nice and dreamy.

Both this lens and the Canon 85mm feature full internal focusing, so the front element remains completely fixed throughout the focus range. The diameter of the front element is about the same in both lenses, but the Nikon's is slightly further recessed and the filter thread is larger at 67mm as opposed to 58mm.

The Nikon also comes with a lens hood, rather than it being an optional extra. The mounting plate features a weather-seal ring, which is absent on both Canon lenses in the group. Handling is very refined, with smooth manual focus and full-time focus override delivered by a comfortably large focus ring.

Sharpness and contrast are impressive, even at the widest aperture of f/1.8, and both of these image attributes are excellent at apertures of between f/2.8 and f/16. Distortion is practically non-existent and there's almost no colour fringing whatsoever. Overall, it's an excellent performer that's well worth the price.

Sharpness test

Best portrait lenses 8 tested

There's plenty of sharpness and contrast even when shooting wide-open at f/1.8, and consistency is good through the aperture range.

Fringing test

Best portrait lenses 8 tested

Colour fringing is absolutely minimal at any aperture, from f/1.8 to f/16. It's the most impressive lens in the group in this respect.

Distortion test

Best portrait lenses 8 tested

There's just the faintest touch of pincushion distortion, but it's negligible and goes unnoticed in the vast majority of images.

Image test verdict

All-round excellence in image quality makes this a worthy new addition to the Nikon lineup and it's great value at the price too.