Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

Take great portraits without spending a fortune

Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

Buying Guide
Best Nikon camera
Best Nikon cameras

This G-mount lens is a major update of the somewhat antiquated 50mm f/1.4D. As such, it ditches the aperture control ring, adds AF-S (Silent Wave) autofocus and has completely redesigned optics.

The good news about autofocus is that, unlike the previous lens, it works on all Nikon DSLRs, even bodies like the D3200 and D5200 that don't have a built-in AF drive.

The bad news is that, despite being a ring-type ultrasonic system, it's sluggish and slower than when using old D-mount lenses on bodies like the D7000 or any Nikon full-frame DSLR. At least the full-time manual override works well, with smoothness and precision.

The lens feels robust and well put together, complete with a weather-seal ring around the metal mounting plate. Like the equivalent Canon lens, the front element is well recessed within the inner barrel, although it does extend towards the front of the lens's outer barrel at shorter focus distances. Unlike the Canon lens, the overall physical length of the lens doesn't alter through the focus range.

Images look quite soft at wide apertures between f/1.4 and f/2.8, but sharpness improves at f/4 and is consistent across the whole frame. Barrel distortion is slightly noticeable, slightly more so than with any other lens here. Bokeh is very pleasant, thanks in part to a well-rounded nine-blade diaphragm.

Overall, it's a significant improvement over the old D-mount lens.

Sharpness test

Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

It's poorest in the group at f/2.8, where sharpness is marginally worse even than at f/1.4. It's respectable at apertures of f/4 and smaller.

Fringing test

Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

There's a spike in colour fringing at f/2.8, but it's fairly minimal at f/1.4 and at medium to small apertures in the range.

Distortion test

Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

A little disappointing for a lens in this class, the Nikon 50mm does have some barrel distortion, but it's not normally noticeable.

Image test verdict

Very good overall at apertures of f/4 and narrower, the lens is let down by a lack of sharpness at wider apertures between f/1.4 and f/2.8.