Best lens for portraits on your Nikon camera
The best lens for portraits will frame your subject and deliver a beautiful bokeh effect.
Portraiture is one of the most popular styles of photography. Having the best lens for portraits is an important step in making your photos stand out and enhancing your subjects. When shooting with a Nikon camera, there are a ton of excellent lenses that you can consider bringing to your shoot. Using native Nikon lenses ensures that your camera is performing at its best, but they do tend to be more expensive. Third-party lenses (made by brands that aren’t Nikon) are a good way to save some money as you build out your gear collection. Whether you are shooting with a Nikon DSLR or one of the new mirrorless cameras there are plenty of Nikon portrait lens options to choose from for shooting professional portraits.
- Best classic portrait lens for Nikon DSLRs: Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens
- Best 35mm lens for Nikon mirrorless cameras: NIKON NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S Wide Angle Fast Prime Lens
- Best 50mm lens for Nikon DSLR: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
- Best third party portrait lens for Nikon cameras: Tamron AFF013N-700 SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD
- Best lens for portraits on a budget: Neewer 85mm f/1.8 Manual Focus Aspherical Medium Telephoto Lens
The best portrait lens will take your portrait photography to the next level
When shooting portraits, a fixed-focal-length prime is an excellent tool to have in your gear kit. Prime lenses typically have much faster apertures than zoom lenses. This means they work great in low-light situations and have the ability to create tack-sharp focus on your subjects with beautiful, out-of-focus bokeh backgrounds. 85mm is often considered to be the golden standard when it comes to shooting portraits. An 85mm prime lens lets the photographer be farther away from their subject and capture headshot-style portraits. Lenses that are made by Nikon will typically be more expensive (especially if you are looking for a fast f/1.4 aperture lens) than the versions that are made by third-party lens companies.
If you are interested in shooting full body or waist-up portraits, a prime lens with a slightly wider field of view is a good choice. Shorter primes in 35mm, 45mm, or 50mm means you have to be closer to your portrait sitter, but they also allow you to capture more of the environment around the subject. A 35mm or 50mm is an excellent choice if you are interested in capturing environmental portraits or street portraits. Avoid anything much wider than 35mm though. A wider field of view will begin to distort your portrait subject in unflattering ways.
Things to consider when purchasing the best portrait lens for your Nikon camera
When shopping for the best Nikon camera lenses for portraits lens, it’s important to make sure that the lens will work with your camera body. Mirrorless cameras require different lenses than DSLRs, and an 85mm lens will look different on a full-frame camera, versus one with a cropped sensor.
If you are shooting with Nikon’s mirrorless Z camera system, we recommend sticking with a Nikon lens. These lenses have been specifically designed to work with the image stabilization found inside the camera—using them, rather than a third-party lens, will give you the best results when shooting portraits.
If you are a DSLR shooter and looking to save a bit of money, exploring some third-party lenses made by other companies is a more viable option. The DSLR system has been around for much longer, giving other lens companies time to engineer glass to work well with the cameras. These are some of our favorite prime lenses for shooting portraits with your Nikon camera.
Best classic portrait lens for Nikon DSLRs: Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens
An 85mm prime is typically regarded as the best lens for shooting portraits because of the flattering perspective that it produces. The Nikon AF S NIKKOR is designed to be used with Nikon’s DSLR cameras. It has a fast f/1.4 and nine-blade aperture for beautiful bokeh. It has a silent wave motor for quiet autofocusing and Nano Crystal Coat to reduce ghosting and flare to create sharper images. Picking up a refurbished one—rather than buying new—will help you save some dollars on this classic portrait lens.
Best 35mm lens for Nikon mirrorless cameras: NIKON NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S Wide Angle Fast Prime Lens
Mirrorless cameras require different lenses than DSLRs. This Nikon 35mm prime is a great choice if you are shooting with the Nikon Z7 or Z6. It has an f/1.8 aperture for beautiful bokeh, nine aperture blades, and an ultra-quiet stepping motor for silent focusing. The 5-Axis Dual detect optical VR allows for smooth stabilization. 35mm offers a slightly wider angle of view and is an incredibly versatile focal length. This is one of the best Nikon lenses for environmental portraits.
Best 50mm lens for Nikon DSLR: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
The beloved “nifty fifty” is a lens that every photographer should have in their camera gear kit. This 50mm lens is one of the cheapest native Nikon lenses. It Is a great option for shooting waist-up or full-length portraits. This camera lens is lightweight and has Nikon’s silent wave motor for quiet autofocusing. It has a super integrated coating to avoid smudges on the front element of the lens.
Best third party portrait lens for Nikon cameras: Tamron AFF013N-700 SP 45mm F/1.8 Di VC USD
This 45mm prime Nikon portrait lens has a fast f/1.8 aperture and features 10 elements in eight groups. This lens is incredibly sharp, has a vibration compensation system, high-speed autofocus with an ultrasonic drive, and a fluorine coating on the front element to avoid smudges. It’s designed to work with Nikon DSLRs. Purchasing a third-party lens for your Nikon camera is a great way to save some cash. They are typically much cheaper than Nikon lenses.
Best lens for portraits on a budget: Neewer 85mm f/1.8 Manual Focus Aspherical Medium Telephoto Lens
Fast 85mm lenses can get expensive quickly—it’s not unusual for an 85mm prime lens to cost close to a grand. This budget pick from Neewer is designed to work with Nikon DSLRs and is under 100 dollars. It lacks some of the features of the other lenses in this list—it’s manual focus only and has a close focusing distance of 2.8 feet, but has six aperture blades for beautiful bokeh. Cheaper lenses typically have a shorter lifespan than their more expensive counterparts. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to try out an 85mm portrait lens, this Neewer lens is a solid starting point for portraits.
Q: Which is better for portraits—50mm or 85mm?
Both of these focal lengths are good for shooting portraits. Ultimately comes down to what you’d like to capture in the picture. An 85mm lens is typically considered a classic portrait lens. It allows the photographer to be farther away from their subject and gives a very flattering field of view. 85mm is a great option for capturing classic headshots. A 50mm lens means you have to be closer to your subjects as you shoot. Using a wider field of view means it’s a great choice for environmental portraits. A 50mm lens is typically more lightweight and cheaper too.
Q: What Nikon lenses do professional photographers use?
Wondering what the best Nikon lens for portraits is? Professional photographers who shoot with Nikon cameras typically have a variety of lenses that they like to shoot with. A 24-70mm and 70-200mm telephoto lenses can be found in any professional’s gear collection. Most professional photographers have a few fixed-focal-length primes, although what ones depends a lot on what they are shooting. Photojournalists often favor 35mm or 50mm lenses, while someone who shoots in a studio would likely favor an 85mm prime.
Q: What lenses do wedding photographers use?
Photographing a wedding is all about flexibility, so most wedding photographers arrive at the job with a variety of lenses. A 24-70mm lens is great for covering the ceremony and the reception. A macro lens is the best way to capture small details like the bride and groom’s rings. A 35mm fast prime is great for capturing candid moments of the guests on the dance floor when the lighting can be tricky. An 85mm prime is a beautiful option for capturing bridal portraits.
Make your subjects shine with the best lens for portraits
Fast-aperture prime lenses are essential pieces of photography equipment. Using a prime lens as opposed to a telephoto means you have to “zoom with your feet.” This can help you feel more engaged in the shooting process. Ultimately, the key to great portrait photography isn’t just finding the best Nikon lens for portraits. It’s about making your subject feel comfortable as they sit in front of your camera. Having a fixed-focal-length prime can help you stay in the moment while engaging with the person in front of the camera.