Prime lens is always the best portrait lens for DSLR. The reasons why is obvious. Prime or fixed lens is a fast lens with large maximum Aperture. By shooting people with Aperture value of F2.8 or lower, it would create a nice and smooth bokeh background. Fixed lens can also lock focus faster than zoom lenses, which is important in capturing the split seconds moment of people reactions or being responsive.
Take a look at the following portrait shot.
Shutter Speed 1/80 sec / Aperture f1.8 / Focal length 35mm / ISO 100 / White Balance AUTO / +2/3 EV stop. Shot in Chiang Rai’s mountain tribe village, Thailand.
The sharpness of the object and the smoothness of the background bokeh make this shot exhilarating. The old lady stand out in front effortlessly to attract the eyes of other readers. You couldn’t see this shallow Depth of Field in reality with our naked eyes. It could only be seen through a photo shot with a prime lens.
The essence of a portrait lens is to have a large Aperture, accurate and fast focusing ability.
The other advantage of a fast lens with large Aperture would be the ability to capture people with available low lights. This is utmost important being the fact that people do like to stay under shade. Under shade means without or less direct sunlight. Unfortunately, photography is all about good lighting. Photographs need lights to reflect the images onto our DSLR’s image sensor. Less light reflection from the person means we need larger lens aperture to absorb sufficient lighting into our camera. So a fast or fixed lens can do this much better than a zoom lens or telephoto lens. Off course, there are telephoto or zoom lenses in the market which are fast with a large Aperture, but you need to fork out tens of thousand bucks to get one.
So this is the conclusion. Prime or fixed or fast lens is the best portrait lens for DSLR. The good news is, a reasonably good quality prime lens doesn’t cost a bomb. The above image was shot with the Nikkor 35mm F1.8 fixed lens which cost only about USD200.
What is your choice for a portrait lens? Please share with me. – Cecil Lee Photography