The best lens for portraits in 2024: ready for your close-up?

My go-to lens for portraiture with a full-frame camera is a fast 85mm prime. Like many photographers, I find the focal length is ideal for head-and-shoulders and half-length portraits, so I can be close enough to engage with my subject, but not so close that I’m invading their personal space. The short telephoto length also gives a flattering perspective, while a tight depth of field is perfect for blurring fussy backgrounds and giving full attention to the main subject. For crop-sensor cameras, a lens with around a 50mm focal length is more ideal.

Matthew Richards
Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal printer reviewer – and has tested all the printers on this list. His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers, and inks, and just about anything imaging-related.

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Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM
I rate this lens highly for portraiture and many other shooting scenarios as well. The f/2 aperture rating still enables a pretty tight depth of field, it has optical image stabilization and even a 0.5x macro facility for extreme close-ups.

Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM
On an APS-C format camera like the EOS R50 and R100, this lens gives an ‘effective’ focal length of 80mm, coupled with a fast f/1.8 aperture. It takes portraiture in its stride and is one of the most affordable Canon RF lenses on the market. Bargain!

Nikon Z 85mm F1.8 S

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Nikon Z 85mm F1.8 S
If you don’t feel a burning desire for the faster aperture of the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.2 or the longer focal length of the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8, this is the lens to go for. It’s much more compact, lightweight and reasonably priced, and it delivers excellent image quality.

Viltrox AF 56mm F1.4 Z (DX)

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Viltrox AF 56mm F1.4 Z (DX)
For shooting with a DX (APS-C) rather than FX (full-frame) Z-system camera, this Viltrox is my go-to lens for portraiture. It gives an effective focal length of 84mm, coupled with a fast f/1.4 aperture. It’s a really high-quality lens and a real steal at the price.

Sony FE 85mm F1.8

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Sony FE 85mm F1.8
Less than half the weight of the f/1.4 G Master lens, this one’s a smart buy if you want a more compact prime. It’s relatively lacking in features but image quality is impressive nonetheless.

Sigma 50mm F2 DG DN Contemporary

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Sigma 50mm F2 DG DN Contemporary
As one of Sigma’s Contemporary lenses, this one’s designed to be small and lightweight. Even so, it’s impeccably built and features an aperture control ring, albeit without a de-click option.

Fujifilm XF 50mm F2 R WR

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Fujifilm XF 50mm F2 R WR
With an effective focal length of 75mm in full-frame terms, this is a comparatively pocket-sized lens that’s also much easier on the pocket in terms of purchase price. Naturally though, the f/2 aperture is comparatively slow.

Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary
This Sigma Contemporary lens is conveniently compact and comparatively inexpensive to buy. It gives the same 84mm effective focal length as the pricey Fujifilm lens and is almost as fast with an f/1.4 aperture rating.


Panasonic Lumix S 85mm F1.8
Naturally, this lens is slower than the Sigma f/1.4 but it’s also smaller and lighter, and only around half as much to buy. Handling is relatively basic but the lens is good value all the same.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8
A downsized delight, this is a wonderfully compact and lightweight lens that’s also very reasonably priced. It delivers very pleasing image quality but naturally can’t match the f/1.2 lens for a really tight depth of field.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary
With an aperture rating that’s nearly as fast as in the Panasonic Leica f/1.2 lens, this cut-price Sigma Contemporary lens is a bargain for portraiture. However, the ‘effective’ focal length of 60mm can feel a little short.

Fujifilm GF 80mm F1.7 R WR

<a href="" data-link-merchant=""">Fujifilm GF 80mm F1.7 R WR
Smaller, lighter and more affordable than the GF 110mm F2 lens, this one has a more ‘standard’ rather than short telephoto perspective. It’s particularly ideal for half-length to full-length portraits, and for environmental portraiture.