Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

Take great portraits without spending a fortune

Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras have a reputation for struggling to give a tight depth of field, due to their 2x focal length multiplier. However, with its moderately large f/1.8 aperture, this Olympus lens makes it feasible to blur defocused areas in images.

Compared with most of the 50mm optics in the group, this lens is a tiny thing, with a filter thread of just 37mm and weighing only 116g. From a distance, the lens barrel looks like high-grade metal, but it's actually made of plastic with a metal-like finish. Even so, build quality feels solid.

As an extra gimmick, the front 'decoration ring' can be swapped for rings of different colours. The ring also needs to be removed when fitting the official lens hood, which is an optional extra.

The MSC (Movie & Stills Compatible) autofocus system is driven from an in-camera motor. It's practically silent and, in stills mode, as fast as the quickest ring-type ultrasonic lenses here.

Full-time manual focus override is available via in-camera settings, but there's no focus distance information on the lens.

Sharpness is outstanding, even at the widest available aperture of f/1.8, but this aperture is two-thirds of a stop slower than with the 50mm f/1.4 lenses in the group. Colour fringing is a little above average and pincushion distortion is slightly noticeable.

Overall, the Olympus packs big portraiture potential into a tiny package.

Sharpness test

Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

The maximum aperture of f/1.8 is two-thirds of a stop slower than some 50mm lenses in the group, but wide-open sharpness is superb.

Fringing test

Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

Not quite a match for most of the lenses on test, there's some colour fringing in evidence, mostly at large aperture settings.

Distortion test

Best portrait lenses: 8 tested

There's a little pincushion distortion with this lens, however its actual severity is less than with any of the 50mm lenses on test.

Image test verdict

Razor-sharp, especially at wide and medium apertures, the Olympus boasts very good all-round image quality with fairly minimal distortion.