12 Best Nikon Lenses for Portraits in 2021

This is a guide covering the best Nikon lenses for portraits.

In this all-new guide you’ll learn about:

  • Best overall Nikon lens for portraits
  • Best budget Nikon lens for portraits
  • Pros and cons
  • Price
  • Important features
  • And more

Let’s dive in.

12 Best Nikon Lenses for Portraits in 2021

Click/tap on each lens name to jump to that section. At the end of each section, there is also a link to jump back to this table to make it easy for you!

In a hurry? Check out our top pick!

1. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G
– Sharp results
– Great color
– Lightweight and compact design
– Easy to use indoors and outdoors

Some photographers prefer Nikon’s cooler shades to Canon’s warm tones.

And if you are one of those photographers looking for the best Nikon lens for portraits, we’ve come up with a list of portrait lenses that you could use.

We also made it a point to make the selection diverse to give you a good number of options in different scenarios if you are looking to shoot portraits.

We’ve included prime lenses and zoom lenses and also a variety of price ranges for different photographers.

1. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
BEST ALL-AROUND
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G
– Sharp results
– Great color
– Lightweight and compact design
– Easy to use indoors and outdoors
2. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens
BEST BUDGET LENS
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
– Sharp photos
– Versatile for both portraits and landscapes
– Creates beautiful bokeh
3. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
– Creates magnificent bokeh
– Performs well indoors and outdoors
– Versatile focal length
4. Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens
Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G
– Offers great range
– Sharp results with vibrant cool colors
– Quiet AF
5. NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens
NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens
– With stepping motor for its AF system
– Good for taking portraits, landscapes, and taking videos
– Creates beautiful bokeh
6. Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens with Auto Focus
Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G
– Offers a great distance to make the subject feel comfortable
– Creates beautiful bokeh in the photos
– Silent wave motor runs quietly
7. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G Lens
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G
– Sharp results
– With superb image stabilization
– Good for taking group photos
– Wonderful bokeh
8. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G
– Offers a great range
– Easy to use even without a tripod
– Good for shooting group photos and close up shots
9. NIKON 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor Lens
NIKON 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G
– Zoom range offers flexibility and fast reaction during different scenarios
– Sharp results
– Lightweight and practical design
10. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D Lens
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D
– Sharp results
– Handy even indoors
– Perfect for shooting street photography and group photos

What is the Overall Best Nikon Lens for Portraits?

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

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

50mm is arguably the most popular portrait lens for serious photographers. It’s versatile and easy to use compared to other lenses.

And because of this, it’s not exactly surprising if a lot of professional photographers consider the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f1.8G lens as their best Nikon lens for portraits.

It produces sharp results, creates beautiful bokeh, and even does well in both well-lighted and low-light scenarios.

It has a compact design and is known to minimize flare, ghost, and provide a great color balance to its users.

The only concern that we’ve noticed is that it tends to back focus a lot compared to other Nikon lenses in the market.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens example image – Source
Pros
  • Sharp results
  • Great color
  • Lightweight and compact design
  • Easy to use indoors and outdoors
Cons

    → Jump Back to Table

    What is the Best Budget Nikon Lens for Portraits?

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

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

    There are instances when photographers prefer lenses that have a wider focal length when taking portraits.

    This makes it easier to take group shots, compose shots that include backgrounds, or take whole body photos.

    The Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G lens is not only a good alternative for the Nikon 50mm AF-S F1.8G lens, it can also double down as your landscape lens.

    And compared to other Nikon lenses, it is among the most affordable.

    Some consider it the best budget portrait lens for Nikon. And though it’s a good pick for those who don’t have a large budget, it comes with great features.

    For instance, it works well both indoors and outdoors. It also produces beautiful bokeh thanks to its wide aperture.

    Another reason why it’s our pick for the best budget portrait lens is the fact that it has been optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness.

    However, the problem with this lens is that it doesn’t have an image stabilization feature making it challenging to shoot without any tripod.

    But overall, it’s something that gives you high-quality shots even if you don’t have to spend so much. You could easily resolve the lack of image stabilization by having a Nikon DSLR that has a superb body stabilization feature.

    It could even be the best Nikon lens for portraits if you are into shooting portraits using wide-angle lenses.

    Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
    Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G example image – Source
    Pros
    • Sharp photos
    • Versatile for both portraits and landscapes
    • Creates beautiful bokeh
    Cons
    • Hard to shoot without a tripod

    → Jump Back to Table

    3. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens

    Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G

    Though the Nikon 50mm F1.8G lens is popular considering the beautiful bokeh that it provides, some still find its bokeh lacking.

    If you’re one of those photographers, then you’d want to invest in the Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm F1.4G lens.

    It comes with an even better bokeh, and a better performance indoors. It comes in handy in some situations such as when you need to focus on a small area of the subject.

    This lens comes with an ultrasonic motor that it targets the subject accurately. However, many find it a bit soft compared to the Nikon’s 50mm F1.8G lens.

    Also, The Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 50mm F1.4G lens is a bit heavier.

    But even if it lacks in sharpness for some users, it’s still something that even pros might pick as their best Nikon lens for portraits.

    Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
    Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G Lens example image – Source
    Pros
    • Creates magnificent bokeh
    • Performs well indoors and outdoors
    • Versatile focal length
    Cons
    • A bit soft

    → Jump Back to Table

    4. Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens

    Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G

    One of the biggest problems that photographers have to deal with is an overly conscious subject because of their proximity when taking photos.

    50mm and 35mm may not give you enough distance to get the subject to act naturally.

    It means that even if these focal lengths are strong candidates for the best Nikon lens for portraits, it just can’t give you the results that you want.

    That’s the reason why some people invest in a Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8G IF-ED lens.

    This lens is remarkable whether you are shooting macro shots or when you need to shoot portraits and you don’t want your subject to feel uncomfortable.

    It has a nano-crystal coat and ED glass elements that provide superior quality results. Plus, you get quiet and accurate AF mode tracking the subject with ease.

    However, the subject shouldn’t be moving. If you are dealing with a moving subject, then you’d most likely feel frustrated about this lens.

    Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G
    Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens example image – Source
    Pros
    • Offers great range
    • Sharp results with vibrant cool colors
    • Quiet AF
    Cons
    • Doesn’t do well with moving subjects

    → Jump Back to Table

    5. NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens

    NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens

    The Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm F2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens is the best pick if you’re looking to invest in a zoom lens that is useful in different situations.

    This lens offers a variety of focal lengths whether you are looking for a wide-angle lens or you want to give some space to your subject.

    It also has an F2.8 aperture perfect for those who want beautiful bokeh in their shots. And not only that, you get this aperture consistently across the lens’s zoom range.

    It produces sharp results as well and realistic colors that make it a great pick for those who love to shoot beautiful portraits.

    This lens is compatible with Z-mount Nikon cameras. These are the mirrorless full-frame cameras developed by Nikon that cater to photographers tired of carrying heavy DSLRs on their necks.

    This lens has a stepping motor that functions smoothly and tracks the subjects accurately.

    Aside from the possibility that it’s the best Nikon lens for portraits, you may consider this for videography since the motor is quiet.

    It also has a dust-proof and moisture-proof design that allows its moving parts to function well without problems in the years to come.

    In case you are looking to invest in the best portrait lens for Nikon, this option comes in as a top contender.

    Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G
    NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Standard Zoom Lens example image – Source
    Pros
    • With stepping motor for its AF system
    • Good for taking portraits, landscapes, and taking videos
    • Creates beautiful bokeh
    Cons

      → Jump Back to Table

      6. Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

      Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

      The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm F1.8G lens is another sought-after Nikon lens for those who love to shoot portraits.

      It is a handy lens that can easily give you the upper hand in capturing candid moments. Plus, you don’t have to worry whether you’re indoors or when you are shooting photos outdoors.

      It does a good job of blurring the background and giving the photographer sharp results. It also comes with a silent wave motor that focuses quietly and accurately.

      What’s not to like? The autofocus motor works slow. It means that if you are shooting sports, then this isn’t exactly the lens that you want to buy.

      It’s a good option for weddings, concerts, and other situations as long as the subject isn’t moving fast.

      But what makes it arguably the best Nikon lens for portraits is the quality of the shots that it can produce. It is known for its sharp results cool colors.

      Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G
      Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm example image – Source
      Pros
      • Offers a great distance to make the subject feel comfortable
      • Creates beautiful bokeh in the photos
      • Silent wave motor runs quietly
      Cons
      • Autofocus motor is a bit slow

      → Jump Back to Table

      7. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G Lens

      Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G

      If you are shooting group photos, or if you want to just include more background during your portraits, then you’d want to stick with the Nikon AF FX Nikkor 28mm F1.8G lens.

      It is a handy lens that is perfect for street photography, landscape photography, and other similar situations.

      Though it’s more popular as a landscape lens given the wide focal length, it can also be used on portraits.

      It can be used to take whole body photos of subjects or have a wider perspective that comes in handy when shooting corners.

      It could potentially be the best portrait lens for Nikon because of its amazing sharpness, beautiful bokeh, and its VRII image stabilization.

      What’s not to like with this lens? For starters, it tends to produce an obvious aberration that could mean that you will need to spend more time during post-process stage.

      Then, there’s the vignetting that some people photographers don’t like. Is it worth it? Yes.

      It’s not just possibly the best Nikon lens for portraits, it could also be a good pick for those who are looking for a travel lens.

      Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G
      Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G Lens example image – Source
      Pros
      • Sharp results
      • With superb image stabilization
      • Good for taking group photos
      • Wonderful bokeh
      Cons
      • You will need more time editing the photos due to the aberration

      → Jump Back to Table

      8. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens

      Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G

      Carrying different lenses and using one camera can be a bit problematic. Imagine switching from one prime lens to the next?

      The Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 28-300mm F3.5-5.6G ED zoom lens is the answer to this concern.

      It can be used to shoot from afar or you can also have the option to use the lens in case you are close to your subject.

      It’s also not too hard to use without a tripod thanks to its vibration reduction feature. Plus, it offers sharp results throughout the zoom range.

      However, it’s not exactly something that you want to invest in if you are a professional.

      It’s a bit soft in some situations plus, there’s also an obvious aberration that will require you to work harder during post-processing.

      Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G
      Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens example image – Source
      Pros
      • Offers a great range
      • Easy to use even without a tripod
      • Good for shooting group photos and close up shots
      Cons
      • Soft results in some instances

      → Jump Back to Table

      9. NIKON 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor Lens

      NIKON 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G

      Sometimes, you need a wide-angle lens, a 50mm lens, and a medium telephoto lens with you when you are shooting portraits. Unfortunately, switching lenses will take a lot of time.

      Bringing individual prime lenses is not only heavy but can also make you miss so many opportunities to capture beautiful portraits.

      If you only have one Nikon camera with you and you will require multiple lenses when working on a gig, then you’d want to have a Nikon 24mm-85mm F3.5-4.5 ED VR AF-S Nikkor lens.

      This lens is an all-in-one pick that can come in handy in different situations.

      You can easily switch to a 35mm to 24mm zoom range if you are taking group photos, or you can have the 70-85mm range if you are shooting from a distance to your subject.

      Though it produces sharp results and realistic colors, you also have to understand that it can’t beat prime lenses in producing beautiful bokeh.

      It is also not as handy if you are shooting with no flash indoors.

      NIKON 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G
      NIKON 24-85mm F/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S Nikkor Lens example image – Source
      Pros
      • Zoom range offers flexibility and fast reaction during different scenarios
      • Sharp results
      • Lightweight and practical design
      Cons
      • Doesn’t produce the same bokeh as prime lenses

      → Jump Back to Table

      10. Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D Lens

      Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D

      The Nikon AF FX Nikkor 28mm F2.8D lens is not exactly the first choice for portraits but it can give you results that you don’t usually get with other wide-angle lenses and even your 50mm prime lenses.

      For starters, it might look like it doesn’t have a wide aperture. However, it does a good job shooting photos even indoors.

      Plus, you also get sharp results whether when you have it at F2.8 or when you are using smaller apertures.

      It’s a compact option that can benefit street photographers who love taking pictures of people and cities.

      Plus, it is also compact and light to carry around. If there’s one thing that you should be aware of about this lens is that the AF doesn’t function.

      Unless you are comfortable using manual focus then don’t buy this lens.

      Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D
      Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D example image – Source
      Pros
      • Sharp results
      • Handy even indoors
      • Perfect for shooting street photography and group photos
      Cons
      • Doesn’t have an AF motor

      → Jump Back to Table

      Final Remarks

      Nikon lenses can produce great portraits.

      The good news is that you don’t just have to stick with one prime lens if you are looking to shoot portraits.

      There are zoom lenses as well that you can choose from. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of preference.

      To get the best bang for your buck, you have to consider your budget and your needs.

      I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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