Good "professional" lens for nikon d5000? I'm looking for a "professional" lens but budget is a bit of an issue for me as I dont make money for this but I plan to so I want to have a nice lens for portraits
asked by jenny galindez on January 6, 2011
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Showing 1-7 of 7 answers
Almost any lens capable of giving a 50mm focal length can be used for portraits on a DX camera but the results, as you might expect, will be variable from lens to lens. The ideal portrait lens would be one that:

- is sharp and has good contrast
- has a focal length greater than 50mm so that you are not standing on top of the subject, If you were using a full frame camera, this number would be about 80mm.
- has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or larger (smaller number) so that your image will have a focused subject against an out-of focus background (subject isolation).
- usually has a nine-bladed shutter with rounded blades for the best bokeh (makes the out-of-focus areas look natural)
- is an AF-S lens to allow your camera to autofocus. Some of the best professional quality lenses made by Nikon are AF-D lenses and will not autofocus on your camera.

The Nikon 70-200 AF-S f/2.8 lens ($2,200) is an outstanding pro lens that is often used for portraits, indoor sports, and as a general telephoto. An alternative would be the Nikon 70-300 AF-S. The smaller aperture with this lens will require more light and it may make it more difficult to achieve good subject isolation. That said, this lens is sharp, it produces nice bokeh, and at $520 from Amazon, it is a lot cheaper than the 70-200 AF-S. Longer focal length lenses allow you to be further away from your subject and can make them more comfortable. However, this can be a problem if you are taking portraits on a balcony or in a small room.

Some macro lenses are appropriate for portrait photography. The most notable lenses are the Nikon 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S ($540) and the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR lens ($890). Both of these lenses meet the criteria listed above and they produce beautiful bokeh. A less expensive option would be the Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S DX ED VR macro lens. You will lose a stop but you should be able to isolate the subject adequately. This is not a "pro" lens, but it meets all the criteria except the lowest f/stop. The Nikon 85mm DX lens is a lighter weight and lower price ($476) alternative to the other lenses listed thus far. Please note that these lenses are not zooms and you will have to frame your shot by moving your body forward and backward.

You can also use the 50mm AF-S f/1.4 prime lens but at f/1.4, your depth of focus is extremely shallow. Shooting at this aperture can produce portraits where the eyes are in focus and the nose and ears are out of focus. Aperture control (for depth of field) and focus control are extremely important with this lens.

Arguably the best all-round portrait lens is the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S G. It can give almost 3-dimensional images and produces a creamy bokeh. Unfortunately, this lens costs nearly $2,000.

All of these lenses will produce superb portraits. The best lens for you will depend upon how you shoot portraits. Look at the EXIF information from your portraits and determine which focal length you generally use and how you feel about the working distances between you and your subject. That will guide you to an appropriate focal length. Also, do you need a zoom lens?

Other manufacturers may have more reasonably priced lens alternatives but I don't know enough about them to provide any recommendations.
Bascomb James answered on January 16, 2011

A wide range of styles fit into the term "portrait" but lets assume you are referring to the formal style where the head and possibly shoulders are filling the frame with not emphasis on the background or scene.
The 24-70 is an excellent portrait lens but is expensive for just using the longest portion of its range for portraits. A lower cost but excellent and very light sensitive 85 1.8G is a prime lens, allowing much more light it at its widest apertures and is 1/4th the price. Often an important feature of a true portrait lens is not its sharpness but how well the area not in focus is blurred. That characteristic distinguishes the best portrait lenses. The classic pro lens for this is the 85 1.4, but the 105 2.0 DC and 135 DC are also highly regarded. All these are fixed focal lengths and are less expensive than the more general purpose 24-70 which is very good on many subjects, from landscapes to portraits. The lower cost 85 1.8G is low priced, almost as good as the 85 1.4G but 1/3 the price and is very popular on the D3200, D5000, 5100, 7000 and even the super resolution D800.
If you are not interested in the classic head and shoulders portrait but want environmental shots where the scene and background are part of the image, the 24-70 is better suited because it is can be set for a wider field of view. Other very popular environmental portrait lenses include the low cost 50 1.8G which is only $220, and for groups, the 35 1.8G for about $200.
For tighter head shots or where there is more working distance between camera and model, the short telephoto lenses are great. The most popular and one of Nikon's best all round lenses is the 70-200vrII, in the 100-130 range. That gives a slight telephoto compression look that is very flattering for portraits. That lens is probably the most popular single lens with professionals. It is great for sports, near wildlife, portraits, full body images if there is operating distance, candid photos. It is expensive, about $2400 but like all great lenses retains its value for years, far longer than more hobbyist lenses or camera bodies. I do a lot of candids, club and event shooting and portraits, and some fashion and ballet theater shooting and the first lens I pick up is the 70-200VRII 2.8 in any of those environments. The other lenses I use are the 24-70 2.8, 85 1.4 and 105 DC. For close in work, the Sigma 50 1.4 or Nikon 50 1.4G are tried.
StanJ answered on October 10, 2012

the best portrait lens is dependent on your shooting style!

prime lens allow for a really quick and nice focused picture but you lose a lot of range because of the fixed focal length. ( i use the 50 1.4 g, love it)

if you dont plan to upgrade from a dx body to fx body then get a 17-55 2.8 Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens

this is the same equivalent to the 24-70mm 2.8 Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens

the price is really high but it will be worth it and u will be able to get a lot of range.

good luck!
Phototasic answered on March 31, 2012

the AF-S nikkor 35mm 1.8 is a prime (one focal length) that produces wonderful results for your DX camera. It is a must have and won't break the bank at around 200$. It's great for just about anything granted you have room to move.
Erik R. Stevens answered on October 9, 2012

Dude this is a great lens, but if your looking for a portrait lens either the 50mm/f1.4 or 35mm/f1.4 or both would be best. Don't get me wrong you can use this lens also, but the 50mm or the 35mm would be a better choice. Any of the lens below would work just fine, the last one would be Manual focus on your camera, but it is a cheap lens which is a fantastic beater lens.

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S FX SWM Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras 1449.00
Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G SIC SW Prime Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras 449.00
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras 77mm filter 449.00
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras 120.00
Jack Davis answered on March 20, 2013

This is a late post, but for those who have the same question: Nikon's 35mm f/1.8G DX and 55mm 1.8mm f/1.8G lenses are great choices, and can save all but a couple hundred bucks. You will have to move around more than with the zoom, but expect zero distortion as your reward.
SanPa answered on July 14, 2014

[Deleted by the author on Jul 14, 2014 9:04:12 PM PDT]
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