In addition, all the lenses in this article will also work on the APS-C crop factor Sony mirrorless cameras like the A6500, and A6400 encase you are not aware.
Sony Prime Portrait Lens Options?
Over the years Sony has built quite the stable of full frame e-mount lenses, but in this article I will just point out the ones that I think would be best suited for portrait photography. Depending on your particular photography style and budget, your lens needs can vary quite a bit.
In general, portrait lenses tend to be in the range of 50mm all the way up to 200mm. However, that is by no means set in stone. For example, if you are a wedding shooter and are looking to get one of those epic landscape shots with the bride and groom somewhere in the frame, a wide angle prime lens like the FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens would be best suited for this type of shot.
Now, if you are looking to get a isolated head shot with the ultimate buttery background, the super fast telephoto Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM Lens would be your best option at the time of this article.
In addition, budgets come into play and you might just be starting out with your photography adventure, or you just simple cannot afford the top quality optics currently offered by Sony. In that case, you are like me, and are totally in luck! Sony also offers a few more budget friendly prime portrait lens options like the FE 50mm f/1.8 Lens and the FE 85mm f/1.8 Lens.
My FE 50mmm f/1.8 lens vs FE 50mm f/1.4 Lens Review – Video Version
As you will see in this comparison style video review, both lenses will provide you excellent results at the end of the day in the real world.
The Zeiss lens is clearly sharper, offers better contrast control, and has a better build quality, which includes the awesome manual aperture ring/ It also comes with a heft increase in weight and size though. Depending on your budget those things might not matter that much when just looking at the photos themselves, because after all it’s the images captured that matter, and both lenses do a great job.
Here is one more portrait sample photo with the Sony FE 50mmf/1.8 Lens, but this time my four legged friend Bones Jones.
Another fantastic portrait lens option is the Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss Lens which retails for $998 US. It’s literally one of the sharpest lenses I have ever used, and it’s reasonable affordable consider the incredible image quality the lens pumps out. It’s also very light weight, compact, and offers a little extra reach when compared to the 50mm lens which helps increase the separation from the background.
Now check out the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 Lens which retails for $598 US. This lens is a fantastic portrait lens option for the money in my opinion and the cost to value ratio is as good as it gets. This would be my first choice for a portrait lens if you are looking for the best bang for the buck.
It’s very lightweight, compact, and sharp! The contrast is also pretty darn good, and the overall image quality is excellent in the real world!
Here is a sample portrait style shots that really show off what this fairly affordable Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 Lens can do for you.
My FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens Review – Video Version
Now the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens which goes for $1798 US, is currently the best option available and is quite a bit better than the FE 85mm f/1.8 lens. It costs way more money as you would expect. WIth that extra cash you get sharper images, a 2/3rds of a stop faster aperture, and a manual aperture ring which is pretty awesome. With the better optical quality you also get noticable better contrast control, especially when shooting backlit subjects. The more affordable 85mm f/1.8 lens for example will look more washed out in these scenarios. The FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens is also much larger and heavier than the f/1.8 lens, which is totally worth noting.
Sony offers a specialty lenses called the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens which goes for $1498 US. This lens is quite interesting and honestly new to my knowledge base when it first came out a few years ago. I was not aware of such lenses and what makes it special is the inclusion of a Apodization Element inside that creates some insanely smooth bokeh renderings.
I did not do a full review of this lens, but I did do some lab testing so you can see what the amazing bokeh looks like for a visual representation as compared to the FE 85mm f/1.8 lens in particular.
Here are a two sample portraits of my kids taken with the amazing Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens and just check out the amazing bokeh ball rendering on the christmas tree. This lens is far from cheap, but is insanely sharp and has incredible contrast and color clarity as you can see below.
The 135mm range for portrait is my current favorite, because of the killer separation that can be achieved from the backgrounds. This creates such an awesome 3D look to the photos in combination with a very eye pleasing out of focus background rendering that I just can’t get enough of.
However, the 135mm focal range is a bit harder to use, because you do need to get further from your subject and, you need to hold the camera steady or use a tripod to insure tack sharp shots in lower light situations. It really depends on how you are working with your subject. For children, often you need to be much closer, so a 50mm or an 85mm lens would be a much better option depending on the scene and posing abilities of the person.
Therefore the next portrait lens option from Sony would be the FE 135mm f/1.8 GM Lens which goes for $1898 US. This lens is on the higher telephoto end of the portrait lens spectrum, but offers the most killer separation from the backgrounds in this group of lenses. At the time of this article it is a brand new lens, so I have not had a chance to review it yet myself, but I did put an article together here, which shows off some initial reviews along with a full lens breakdown.
Well as far as full frame Sony E-mount prime lenses, that is all we got, but there are a lot more prime lens options than just Sony these days. So let’s go over a few of those shall we…
Sigma offers some fantastic prime portrait lens options for the Sony full frame E-mount cameras. They are tack sharp, and for the money are hard to beat. The autofocus is not quite as fast or accurate when compared to the native Sony lenses, but it’s still totally acceptable in the real world I would say. I will be reviewing these lenses at some point in the near future! For more info My Sigma E-Mount Lens Guide is this way >>
Zeiss also offers some extremely high quality portrait lenses in the Batis line. The focus is on the money with these lenses and they also offer a look that is unique to Zeiss. The max apertures are a bit slower than the competition in this article, but you get incredible build quality and that special “look” on the Zeiss lenses offer. If you can’t see the difference that these lenses provide, then I would not consider the investment. For more info My Zeiss E-Mount Lens Guide is this way >>
Here are a few sample portrait style photos I took using the Zeiss batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens to try sand illustrate that “look” I mentioned above. Not the incredible contrast, color, and out of focus area renderings in particular. These are raw files straight off the camera and please click on the photos for a larger view…
The most affordable autofocus full frame e-mount portrait lenses available are made by Rokinon. They are usually on sale for $150 less than the retail price that is listed below, and this really gives those on a budget some excellent options! These lenses are clearly not as good as the higher end options, but at the end of the day they still offer great image quality with that crazy fast f/1.4 aperture. Autofocus is not going to be as good or accurate, the contrast will be less punchy and more washed out with backlit subjects, and the lenses also suffer from some fringing in high contrast areas. In addition the sharpness is also not as good. Real world wise however, the average non photography buff person would not be able to tell much difference on the web.
Rokinon AF 50mm f/1.4 FE Lens retails for $699 US @ BHPhoto | Amazon
Rokinon AF 85mm f/1.4 FE Lens retails for $699 US @ BHPhoto | Amazon
In this article I only covered autofocus prime portrait lens options, but keep in mind Sony also offers high quality zoom lenses that could be used for portrait photography as well as many other things. The best possible quality option that comes to mind for portrait work in my opinion would be the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens. This lens is also fantastic for weddings, sports, and anything else you want to throw at it, plus offers the versatility of zooming in and out. This is a great feature when you don’t want move forward or back with your feet, which is mandatory when using prime lenses.
In addition to zoom lenses, you can also go down the road of manual focus lens options. In that case the world is your oyster, because with lenses adapters you can literally attach any lens to the Sony E-mount mirrorless camera system. Plus there are tons of super high quality native e-mount manual focus lenses available from Zeiss, Voigtlander, Mitakon Zhongyi, and more! Please check out all my E-Mount Lens Guides this way>> if you are interested in learning more.
I really hope you all got something out of this article and please feel free to ask questions below as always! I would also love to hear what your favorite portrait lenses are and why you prefer one over another for example.
I will catch up with you later, and please stay tuned for many more new articles and reviews in the near future!
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.