Nikon Portrait Lens

Nikon Portrait Lens

Don’t know what is the best Nikon portrait lens to buy for beautiful portrait with artistically blurred background? What to choose: a budget 50mm for about $300, universal 35mm, popular 85mm or expensive 70-200mm for about $2200? Check out my quick recommendation for the best Nikon portrait lens to buy for the Nikon camera system.

nikon portrait lens

What Is the Best Nikon Portrait Lens?

Top 3 Nikon Portrait Lenses

 If you have a Nikon camera and you want to take outdoor lifestyle photography or fashionable studio portrait photography, you need several good portrait lenses. If you are looking for affordable and high-quality photo equipment, look through my review of 12 best Nikon portrait lenses and choose the one for your purposes.


1. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Best Portrait Lens Nikon View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • M/A and M focus modes
  • Works well with backlight
  • Neat and even blur
Cons-
  • Autofocus far from quick
  • Open diaphragms bring up chromatic aberration
 

The lens of this series is suitable for portraiture. It has a rather weak distortion. The combination of focal length with luminosity simplifies control over depth of field.

This Nikon portrait lens has a plastic barrel and doesn’t feel any different from newer fixed-focus lenses of this manufacturer. The lens takes more time to focus as compared to previous versions. This Nikon portrait lens is very sharp but still makes great bokeh. I was satisfied not to see it react to either sidelight or backlight, and it is close to impossible to catch undesired reflections.

On the case, you can find the ‘M/A - M’ focus switch. It performs rather well in ‘M/A’ position since the automatic focus works with constant manual focus priority. It feels like the lens is highly responsive and “obedient”.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G photo sample Photo by Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

2. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Smooth and quick autofocus
  • Great color rendering
  • High image quality in insufficient light
  • Robust water-resistant body made of magnesium alloy
Cons-
  • Isn’t lightweight
  • Minor chromatic aberration
  • No diaphragm ring
 

This Nikon portrait lens would fit both inexperienced enthusiasts and professionals with requirements of highest quality optics. It has a fixed wide angle and a large aperture of f/1.4. As I worked in conditions of different light, the AF was equally precise even if I set maximum aperture. It is the perfect candidate for taking impressive portraits in the studio.

This portrait photography lens shows no loss of contrast. Portraits also turn out more attractive due to the blurring algorithms applied to the background. During the photoshoot your only task is to aim the focus-point at the model’s face, the rest will be performed by the lens. Minimal focus distance is 0.3m which makes working in small spaces much easier.

The lens, though encased in plastic, has the feel of expensive Nikon lenses made of metal because it’s heavy. In the front of the barrel, there is the focus ring and its location provides easy adjusting with just two fingers while taking images.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G photo sample Photo by Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
  • Check out these best lenses for family portraits that you can use for taking artistic outdoor portraits with blurred background and fashionable studio portraits.

3. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D Nikon 50mm Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Uncommonly lightweight and compact
  • Great sharpness
  • Fast focal point focus
  • Manual aperture adjustment
Cons-
  • Plastic body
  • Noisy, no stabilizer
 

If you’re an enthusiastic photographer, who is interested in portraits as much as anything else, this is the best budget portrait lens for you. This is the smallest autofocus Nikon portrait lens I’ve ever used. This model has some good characteristics that automatically put it on the shelves of many photographers.

The f/1.8 aperture is fast but when you shoot with a shallow depth-of-field, it creates an effect of volume making subjects stand out from their backgrounds. Whether you're shooting portraits in your studio or outdoors, this portrait lens blurs the background in a natural, pleasant-looking way at a wider aperture. The f/1.8 allows to shoot at low-ISO in dim surroundings and use short exposure while not using a tripod. I recommend Nikon 50mm а/1.8D AF as the first additional lens.

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D photo sample Photo by Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D
  • What is the best lens for portraits made by Canon, Nikon, Sony, and other famous camera brands. How much mm you need to take beautiful portraits?

4. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Improved optical design
  • Small and lightweight
  • Autofocus with manual override
  • High aperture ratio
Cons-
  • Comparatively slow AF
  • Distortion of image geometry
 

This lens for portraits can actually be used for a huge number of shooting tasks. In particular, it is perfectly fitting for low-light, thus often used in the artistic shooting. With a huge F/1.4 aperture, you can express your creativity and enjoy the result.

It is far from being the best portrait lens Nikon made in terms of focusing speed. But I cannot truly say that the reaction speed is low, I would simply like it to be faster. The speed rather refers to the luminosity at which the shutter works very quickly, reducing exposure. This lens has a very large aperture ratio of F/1.4 and you can achieve a small depth of field. For holdfast shooting, it also performs pretty well.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G photo sample Photo by Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G

5. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED Best Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Quick maximum aperture
  • 3D fidelity
  • Extra-low Dispersion
Cons-
  • Short focusing distance – 1 m
  • No stabilization (VR)
 

A portrait Nikon lens with no analogs in the arsenals of other photosystems. There are many attractive characteristics, one of which is the ultra-high f/1.4 aperture. It is well-manufactured and does not cause doubts about durability and reliability. The large diameter front lens is distinctive and when handheld gives a feeling of bulkiness. But it makes no difficulty to put up with considering all the advantages of this Nikon portrait lens.

The pictures turn out clear and sharp. I shoot bridal portraits with it, when it is necessary to emphasize the texture of the skin, beard, or the makeup of eyes or lips. It also creates gorgeous bokeh and gives the possibility to cut off all unnecessary elements in street photography due to the small depth of field.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED photo sample Photo by Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED<

6. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II

Nikon 70-200мм f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II Best Portrait Lens Nikon View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Excellent in low light
  • Dust and moisture protection
  • Image stabilizer function
Cons-
  • Increased viewing angle at close focal lengths
  • Small lens shade
  • Difficult to transport
 

I will dare to call this the best portrait lens ever made by Nikon that never lets you down regardless of circumstances. It’s fast, reliable, sharp and has very high build quality.

The stabilizer can work in two modes, ‘Normal’ and ‘Active’. I could manage to take photos of active small children with no blur and little effort at 200 mm focus distance and 1/15 sec or even 1/8 sec if I tried hard. For that, I call it the best lens for family portraits.

It is worth noting that with the “SWM‘-motor, it focuses quite noiselessly and also quickly. I rarely had to do refocusing. However, it suffers greatly from ‘Focus Breathing’ - changing the viewing angle during focusing.

Nikon 70-200мм f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II photo sample Photo by Nikon 70-200мм f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II

7. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70мм f/2.8G ED Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • ED glass elements
  • Possibility to correct focus fast manually
  • Dust and moisture resistance
Cons-
  • Distortion at 24mm
  • Vignetting at wide apertures
 

The lens is perfectly assembled. Resistance to dust and moisture adds confidence during outdoor use in wet weather. The f/2.8 aperture is fixed and the fast reactions of the lens produce stunning results in low light. Enhanced optical mechanisms provide exceptional sharpness, contrast, and color in portraits.

This good portrait lens has 3 elements from ED-glass (Extra-low Dispersion) plus 3 more aspherical elements (ASP) and one element with Nano Crystal Coating. This is the best lens for photography regarding autofocus. I was surprised at how fast focusing is. The performance is very quiet, focusing errors are very rare and when an error occurs the lens refocuses instantly.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70мм f/2.8G ED photo sample Photo by Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70мм f/2.8G ED

8. Rokinon 85MAF-N 85mm f/1.4

Rokinon 85MAF-N 85mm f/1.4 Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Perfect for shooting vibrant portraits
  • Good sharpness
  • Insignificant distortion
  • Can be paired with numerous cameras
Cons-
  • No autofocus
  • Pretty soft at f/1.4
 

It is a swift medium telephoto Nikon portrait lens alternative with manual focus. In addition to a reasonable price, Rokinon 85MAF-N 85mm f/1.4 has excellent optical performance. It is very popular among professional photographers and videographers who think that the manual focus and aperture settings are rather advantages than drawbacks.

For me, it took some time to remember how to use a manual focus. In order to check the sharpness of the lens, I used 36-megapixel Nikon D810. I found out that at f/1.4 the sharpness drops noticeably to the edges of the image and the photo looks soft. However, at f/2.0 the image becomes sharper. This model is highly resistant to chromatic aberrations and it is constant throughout the entire aperture range.

Rokinon 85MAF-N 85mm f/1.4 photo sample Photo by Rokinon 85MAF-N 85mm f/1.4

9. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • The material is thermally stable
  • 2 SLD glass elements
  • Hyper Sonic autofocus system
  • No geometric distortions
Cons-
  • The lens isn’t too small and is quite heavy
 

The first-class lens of the Art series has one of the most relevant focal lengths in portrait photography, which is 85 mm. The background behind the subject is effectively blurred by a 9-blade aperture, which has a maximum value of f/1.4. The manufactures made an emphasis on increased autofocusing speed with the possibility of ring correction, as well as on the capability to effectively blur specific parts of the image.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is very popular among photographers thanks to its well-thought-out design and excellent optical features.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art photo sample Photo by Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

10. Tamron AFF004N700 SP 90mm f/2.8 DI Macro

Tamron AFF004N700 SP 90mm f/2.8 DI Macro Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • A silent AF operation
  • Water-resistant
  • Vibration Compensation is available
  • Macro 1:1
Cons-
  • A back focus is not clear enough
  • No image stabilization
 

This Nikon portrait lens alternative belongs to the category of the so-called "macro-portrait lenses". It has a focal length of 90 mm, is optimized for macro photography and is able to provide a 1:1 magnification. These features are important for highlighting small details on the face and texture of the skin on the portrait. A minimum focus of 30cm helps magnify your subject, without being too close to it. The notable characteristic is a 9-blade aperture with a minimum value of 32, which in combination with a high aperture ratio of f/2.8 provides a soft background blur. It is possible to make manual adjustments in both Auto or Manual focus modes.

Tamron AFF004N700 SP 90mm f/2.8 DI Macro photo sample Photo by Tamron AFF004N700 SP 90mm f/2.8 DI Macro

11. Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro

Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • No lateral chromatic aberration
  • A life-sized (1:1) reproduction
  • Isn’t sensitive to backlighting
  • Comparatively low distortion and vignetting
Cons-
  • Doesn’t provide image stabilization
  • No internal autofocus motor
  • A moderate noise
 

First of all, this lens deserves attention because of the durable body, convenient ergonomics and excellent image quality. The focal length is ideal for lenses for portraiture. When I paired Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro with full-frame cameras, I received excellent results: stunning background blur and sharpness of the edges at the same time. There isn’t any field curvature.

There is a life-size 1:1 magnification in the macro area. This means that you can experience close-up photography without zooming. The autofocus is fast, but it is better to turn the ring on your own than to make your camera hunt everywhere. Manual focus is smooth and has everything for the best combination of speed and accuracy of images.

Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro photo sample Photo by Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro

12. Yongnuo AF-S 100mm f/2.0

Yongnuo AF-S 100mm f/2.0 Nikon Portrait Lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Good build and material quality
  • Internal focusing
  • USB for firmware upgrade
  • Сompatible with all Nikon digital cameras
Cons-
  • No diaphragm control ring
  • Average autofocus
  • Problem with focusing in Live View mode
 

Yongnuo AF-S 100mm f/2.0 is a high-aperture telephoto lens with a fixed focal length. It is the best portrait lens Nikon for amateur photographers. Moreover, it is inexpensive.

F2 bright and large aperture helps blur the background and highlight the subject, which affects the quality of portraits – they turn out to be extraordinary. The high-power aperture allows controlling the depth of field. Yongnuo AF-S 100mm f/2.0 is effective in various lighting conditions. Moreover, it can create a pleasant, neutral or cream bokeh.

As a result, if you want to shoot portraits with a small depth of field, with a focal length of 100 mm, this long-focus lens will become a budget alternative to the analogous best lenses for portraits Nikon.

Yongnuo AF-S 100mm f/2.0 photo sample Photo by Yongnuo AF-S 100mm f/2.0

The List of 12 Recommended Nikon Portrait Lenses

Image Lens CHARACTERISTICS  
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G
OUR CHOICE
  • 85mm
  • f/1.8G
Check PRICE
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
  • 35mm
  • f/1.4G
Check PRICE
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D
FOR BEGINNERS
  • 50mm
  • f/1.8D
Check PRICE
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
  • 50mm
  • f/1.4G
Check PRICE
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED
PROFESSIONAL
  • 105mm
  • f/1.4E
Check PRICE
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II Lens
BEST ZOOM
  • 70-200mm
  • f/2.8G
Check PRICE
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
FOR STUDIO
  • 24-70mm
  • f/2.8G
Check PRICE
Rokinon 85MAF-N 85mm f/1.4
Rokinon 85MAF-N 85mm f/1.4
  • 85mm
  • f/1.4
Check PRICE
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
BEST AlTERNATIVE
  • 85mm
  • f/1.4
Check PRICE
Tamron AFF004N700 SP 90mm f/2.8 DI Macro
Tamron AFF004N700 SP 90mm f/2.8 DI Macro
  • 90mm
  • f/2.8
Check PRICE
Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro
Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro
  • 100mm
  • f/2.8
Check PRICE
Yongnuo AF MF 100mm f/2N
Yongnuo AF MF 100mm f/2N
  1. 100mm
  2. f/2N
Check PRICE

How to Choose a Nikon Portrait Lens?

Choosing the right lens is the first step to take stunning photos. To purchase the most appropriate Nikon lens for portraits, you should specify the necessary focal length, aperture and optical properties, including the bokeh. I am quite experienced in shooting with Nikon lenses for portraits, that's why I would like to share some useful tips on how to pick the best lens:

1. Adequate Focal Length

It is the most important thing while choosing the best Nikon portrait lens. The focal length determines how far or close your camera will be from the subject. So what is the best focal length for portraits? For example, 35-50mm are excellent for waist, shoulder and facial portraits. If the focal length is up to 85mm, it is convenient to shoot in small rooms, because there is no need to stay far from the subject. 135mm and 180mm will be effective in those places where there is a lot of space. It is sufficient to say that the more the focal length is, the more blurred the background will be. 

2. High Aperture Ratio

This feature determines how much light enters through the lens of a particular camera. As a rule, due to the good aperture of the best lens for photography, you can shoot without additional lighting sources in low light situations. If you need the aperture for short exposures or for shooting portraits in low light conditions (indoors, in the morning, in the evening, at night), the best variant will be the high aperture ratio of 85mm 1.4D, 85mm f/1.4G. f /1.4.

3. Optimal Sensor Size

It is worth mentioning that the sensor size affects the focal length. If you are a first-time user and look for a crop-sensor camera, a 50mm will act like an 85mm lens. On the other hand, if you are a full-frame camera user, it is better to choose the 50mm lens.

4. Depth of Field

As a rule, the portraits look better at a low depth of field, as this separates the subject from the background. To get a low depth of field, the good portrait lens must have a wide aperture (low f / value). In this case, the background will be blurred to the maximum possible extent.  

5. Color Rendering

It is necessary to pay attention to how Nikon portrait lens renders skin color. After all, the correct color rendering will simplify the portrait retouching process. As a rule, modern lenses have the correct color reproduction. But at the same time, they have high micro-contrast, so the colors turn out to be too saturated and unnatural.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more