7 Best Nikon Portrait Lenses for Photographers (Updated for 2021)

Michael Sand
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If you are a Nikon DSLR user, you might have experienced the excitement of shooting your first portrait.

However, as a beginner you might find it a little bit confusing to select the right lens to match the occasion. That’s alright; we are here to help you.

Below, I show you 7 of the best portrait lens that fits Nikon DSLR camera and discussed the main characteristics of the lenses to help you make the right decision.

NameCategoryProduct
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G LensBest OverallNikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G LensBudget PickNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom LensUpgrade PickNikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens

1. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens

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Pros:

  • * Superb build quality

This is an example of a prime lens. A prime lens provides a shallowest depth of field, meaning that there is simply less going on in the picture relative to the subject.

This is not the cheapest prime lens on the market. However, once you learn to use a prime lens as opposed to a zoom lens, you will find that it is a lot more versatile. You can shoot faster, and your shots will look more clinical.

For the price, the build quality of this lens is hard to beat. This is the most important consideration for me.

2. Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens

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Pros:

  • Ideal For Portrait, Travel And Macro Photography
  • Silent Autofocus Mechanism
  • Sharp And Crisp Images
  • Proprietary VR Image Stabilization
  • Excellent Build Quality

Cons:

  • Focusing May Be Unstable
  • Poor Image Quality With Flash

The first on our list is the Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8 Fixed Lens. Designed specifically for portrait, travel, and macro photography, this outstanding lens has the capability to shoot stunning images at wide apertures and can focus as close as 0.85m.

Moreover, this Nikon lens can provide sharp and crisp images even from wide-open apertures. The combination of its high-quality optics and auto focus mechanism guarantees a silent and fast operation. The Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras is also designed with a Vibration Reduction image stabilization system which provides up to four stops of shake reduction.

3. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens

Our rating: 9 / 10

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens

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This lens is a great choice for DX-format DSLR photographers looking for a compact, affordable, and high-performance lens. The angle of view is equivalent to a 52.5mm lens on a full-frame DSLR, and its maximum aperture of f/1.8 is effective in low-light situations, and great for creating soft backgrounds.

The lens’s 7-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing background blur in out-of-focus areas, and makes the lens aesthetically pleasing, too. The aspherical lens element helps reduce lens flare and ghosting, while Nano Crystal Coat reduces flare even further giving you the best possible color and contrast.

A small, compact lens with a large maximum aperture, this provides a wide angle of view, and is a great choice if you’re looking for a versatile prime lens.

4. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens

Our rating: 8 / 10

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens

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Pros:

  • Incredible image quality
  • Solid construction
  • Excellent color rendition
  • Great bokeh and subject separation
  • AutoFocus is fast and accurate
  • Ability to focus on a variety of subjects, including low-light settings
  • Vignette control for professionals
  • Lens is excellent for both portraits and landscapes
  • A great bargain compared to other portrait lenses
  • Excellent value

Cons:

  • Wears vignette if shot at too high a f/stop
  • Heavy

If the elite lenses were stripped away from our list, this affordable piece of glass would be at the top of the list. The Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras is the best lens in its class for a variety of reasons. It is superbly designed for portraits, landscapes, and street photography. Its auto-focus is fast and model makers love it for its color rendition.

The Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras is so popular that even amateurs can use it to produce professional images. This lens has an f/stop extends out to 1.4 and can focus on subjects from two feet away all the way to infinity.

It is easy to use in low-light settings.

5. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Zoom Lens

Our rating: 8 / 10

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Zoom Lens

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Pros:

  • Excellent image quality
  • Relatively compact size
  • Fast maximum aperture for a full-frame zoom lens
  • Auto Focus system is fast and accurate
  • Optical SteadyShot image stabilization feature
  • Moisture-resistant design
  • Hood is included
  • Excellent build quality
  • Great reviews,

This Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 lens is one of the best portrait lenses for Nikon cameras. It is an excellent professional lens and is a must-have for any Nikon DSLR user in need of a brilliant range zoom lens. It is a full-frame lens for all FX and DX formats. Its combination of excellent sharpness and gorgeous bokeh is ideal for a mix of studio and location work.

This lens is ideal for photographing portraits, due to the two control rings. The first control ring has full control of the aperture, offering you the ability to change the depth-of-field quickly and easily. You can also set the position of the control ring to match the aperture controls on your camera. The second control ring is for adjusting or setting the focus of the lens.

The build quality of the lens is exceptional, and the image quality is excellent.

6. Nikon AF FX DC-NIKKOR 105mm f/2D Telephoto Lens

Our rating: 8 / 10

Nikon AF FX DC-NIKKOR 105mm f/2D Telephoto Lens

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Pros:

  • [*]Lightweight
  • [*]Handles flare well
  • [*]Autofocus motor is quiet
  • [*]Lens-based motor has less risk of damage during transport
  • [*]Very little distortion
  • [*]Auto focus is fast; autofocus is near silent
  • [*]Build-in motor and compact design

(OLD MODEL)

7. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens

Our rating: 8 / 10

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens

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Pros:

  • Great zoom lens
  • Sturdy construction
  • Fast release coupling
  • Comes with carrying case
  • Ideal for all sorts of photography in all sorts of conditions – events, sports, wildlife
  • Best for sports and action photography
  • Vibration reduction
  • Autofocus/Auto-exposure/auto-focus features

If you are looking for a mid to long range zoom lens that offers great performance and versatility for most types of photography, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 is the best choice. With a great maximum aperture, fast silent wave drive, VR II vibration reduction, multiple ED elements, and compact design, this lens will likely meet all your needs and exceed your expectations.

This lens is best for photographing events, sports, and wildlife, especially those that require relatively fast shutter speeds and the ability to shoot from a distance. It is popular with sports photographers and action photographers, and is considered to be a must-have lens option for pro sports and news photographers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Which Nikon lens is best for portraits?

If you have to pick just one so make it the 85mm f/1.8 lens. It captures incredible portraits, and it's quite affordable. If you're tight on budget, you can always go for the 50mm f/1.8 lens. It's an excellent choice and more affordable than the 85mm lens.

Fujifilm and Minolta released 35mm equivalent lenses that are also great for close-up portraits. While Nikon has never released a similar lens, the newest Sigma 35mm lens (see below) will also be a strong choice for portraits.

What lens should I buy for portrait photography?

If you're a portrait photographer, you'll likely want to use a zoom lens and a good macro lens. Telephotos are not generally used for taking portrait photographs because they usually distort facial features. Instead, a mid-range zoom lens will suffice.

A good macro lens is also important for portraiture, of course. You might think that you need a macro lens for portraits of your subject taken from a distance, but this isn't necessarily the case. Showing your subject's hands, face, or body in good detail is where you'll benefit from the macro attachment.

What is Nikon's sharpest lens?

The "sharpest lens" is a difficult claim to make because it depends entirely on what you're shooting, what you're comparing it to, and how good your eye is. That said, I think the 300mm f/4 is the company's sharpest lens because it's tack sharp across the frame at every aperture, vignetting is minimal, and the autofocus is the company's fastest and most accurate to boot. Also, it's the most affordable.

To make things a little easier, I've assigned each of the lenses below a "Sharpness Score" based on five criteria: sharpness, distortion, vignetting, autofocus speed, and price.

Each lens below has a rating of 0 to 100 in each of the five categories. The more points a lens received in each category, the higher the Sharpness Score will be.

Is Nikon or Canon better for portraits?

There’s no definitive answer to this question (as is the case with most types of photography), but a combination of technique, lenses, and post-processing skills can significantly improve the quality of your portrait. The answer, therefore, also depends on what you’re using and what you’re capable of.

In compact cameras, the three key components are the sensor (size and pixel density), the lens quality, and the software that translates the image from the sensor. In DSLRs, the sensor and the lens quality are critical, while the post-processing skills become very important. We can’t say which of these cameras is the best Nikon portrait lens, but we can provide several options that are worth checking out.

Conclusion

Choosing the best Nikon portrait lens is never an easy task. With so many options, picking one wordlwide probably seems impossible. We want to help you get started with your research by stopping to review seven of the best portrait lenses in the market today, and how they can help you achieve the quality you’re looking for. Check out this article to help narrow down your options, and hopefully find a lens that will show off your subject in the best light.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G LensBest OverallNikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G LensBudget PickNikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom LensUpgrade PickNikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens