portrait Lens Comparison Tool

How do different focal lengths and apertures render a portrait

Which portrait lens to buy?

Zoom or prime lens?

When choosing a lens for portraits, it is very often hard to decide which lens to get. Do you rather get a prime lens for the best possible image quality and the large aperture opening that will give you nice bokeh and great low light capabilities, or do you get a zoom lens for more convenience?

Cheaper lenses with higher min f-numbers?

And once you’ve decided whether to get a zoom or a prime portrait lens, there are even more questions. Should you save money by getting a lens with a larger min f-number like an 85mm f/1.8, or a smaller min f-number, like 85mm f/1.4 or f/1.2. In zoom-lens-equivalent that would be 70-200mm f/4 or f/2.8. The price difference, weight difference, size difference, but also the difference in background blur and image quality can be pretty big.

Camera manufacturer or third party lens?

OK, so you have decided whether you want a portrait lens with zoom or prime and you also decided on the max aperture. But should you get a lens from your camera manufacturer, or rather one from a third party lens manufacturer like Sigma, Tamron, Tokina,…

In the old days if quality was your main concern, that was a no-brainer. Today that is vastly different. The third party manufacturers have raised the bar and I cannot praise Sigmas Art Lens lineup enough. They are tack sharp even at the lowest aperture setting and have beautiful color and contrast. In regard to image quality they perform just as good as the camera manufacturers lenses.

The downside of the third parties in my experience is mainly for video use. They are not as fast focusing in video mode as the ones from Canon, Sony, Nikon, etc.. And for some manufacturers (e.g. Olympus) third party lenses won’t support all the nifty functions that the camera offers, like for example focus bracketing.

Portrait lens comparison tool

While I cannot show you the exact difference between all available portrait lenses, what I wanted to help you with is deciding which focal length you want and which maximum aperture is right for you. So I created this portrait lens comparison tool with real images. So we went out to a location with a beautiful diverse background and shot images with different lenses, different focal lengths, different apertures and different sensor sizes.

Model was our great makeup artist, model and friend, @annymakeupwien. A big thanks to her for keeping the same pose for 90min.

The portrait lens comparison tool should be pretty self explanatory. Choose the properties you want to compare and then hit the button “compare images”. Once the images are loaded you can use the slider to compare them and you can even choose to share the particular comparison. Just click the button Trust me, your photography friends will love you for that.

50mm f1 8 APS C halfBody left default 50mm f5 6 APS C halfBody right default

Which portrait lenses did we test?

We tested

Being Sony photographers, we used Sony lenses. But the amount of blur is exactly the same on portrait lenses from Canon, Nikon,… What counts is the aperture and the focal length.
BTW: there are other factors to background blur than just aperture. I even have a video about the 5 factors of background blur on my youtube channel.

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We really appreciate your contribution.

Wolf Amri

Wolf Amri

Wolf is a photographer and filmmaker whose passion besides being creative is to make complex things easy to understand. Wolf runs a youtube channel and big Facebook group and despite being into photography for 4 decades - he bought his first camera from pocket money as a child - he is still open and learning new things on a daily basis.

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