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Top 14 Best Budget Portrait Lenses 2019

Here are our portrait lens recommendations for those who want excellent quality without spending too much cash.

|  Samyang MF 85mm f/1.8 ED UMC CS in Interchangeable Lenses
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Lucy in a Nissan PAO

Photo Joshua Waller

 

Looking for a budget portrait lens? You're in the right place. Portraits are probably up there as one of the most popular photographic subjects but a high-quality lens with a bright aperture can cost hundreds, or even, thousands of pounds which not all of us can afford/justify. So, what does that leave us with? Well, you'll be happy to hear that there are some lenses which are particularly good value for money and still offer good image quality and decent apertures so you can still get the all-important bokeh backgrounds when shooting wide-open. 

Of course, there's not as much choice when you want to spend under/around £300 but the lenses which are available won't disappoint. 

We've separated the lenses into different mounts, so you can find a lens that works with your camera, and all of the lenses have scored 4 stars or above so you know you're purchasing a lens of good quality. 

If you don't see your favourite portrait lens on this list it's either too expensive, didn't score high enough or we haven't reviewed it yet. 

 

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You'll see green buttons throughout the article which, if you wish to, you can click to buy/find out more information on each lens from Amazon.  It doesn't cost you anything extra when you press our Amazon buttons but by using our Amazon Affiliate links when ordering anything online, you are supporting the site - thank you.

* Clicking 'Buy on Amazon USA' will redirect you to the Amazon store for your country. If you are in the UK please use the 'Buy On Amazon UK' button.

 

For those of you who have a slightly bigger lens budget, have a read of our 'Top 34 Best Portrait Lenses Money Can Buy' list. You'll also want to take a look at this feature if you're a Fuji camera owner as Fuji lenses are a little too expensive for this list. 

Click the links below to take you to a specific lens mount: 

 

 

Budget Portrait Lenses For Full-Frame Digital SLR Cameras

 

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G 

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G might be an old lens but it is still an excellent lens for the money. Optically, it is very good and it handles well. Build-wise, the quality is excellent which means we can easily describe this lens as 'outstanding quality at a very reasonable price'.

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Meike 85mm f/1.8 - 

Meike Af 85mm F1,8 Front Oblique View

Meike has emerged in recent years as a maker of quality, budget lenses and the 85mm f/1.8 is a shining example of what is possible on a limited budget. The lens is available for under £200, and for this you get a well-made lens with excellent sharpness and low CA and distortion. 

Buy on Amazon UK    Buy on Amazon USA

 

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro - 

Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens

 

The Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro Lens produces sharp images with low distortion at an excellent price point. So long as you don't require life-sized magnification, for which the optional life-size converter will be required, this lens is ideal. 

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Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM -

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

 

Canon's 'Nifty Fifty' represents great value for money thanks to its good build quality and high levels of sharpness it produces. Overall, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is lightweight, quiet and delivers very good sharpness. 

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Budget Portrait Lenses For APS-C Digital SLR Cameras

 

Samyang 35mm f/1.2 ED AS UMC CS -

Samyang 35mm f/1.2 ED AS UMC CS

The Samyang 35mm f/1.2 ED AS UMC CS lens for APS-C and MFT formats, this being a "35mm equivalent" of around 50mm and 70mm respectively, is a little over the 'around the £300' mark but as it's not my much and it's a really good lens, we thought we'd sneak it in. 

The Samyang 35mm f/1.2 ED AS UMC CS is yet another cracking good lens from Samyang, offering fantastic performance at a very reasonable price. The manual focusing is much easier than many ultra-bright lenses and is possibly more accurate at f/1.2 than some AF systems might be capable of. There really is little to fault with this design and will be a tempting proposition for many mirrorless users.

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SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL - 

SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL

 

'Low cost, high quality and very useful' is how we describe the SMC Pentax-DA 35mm f/2.4 AL lens. A standard lens is still a good place for photographers to start before decisions are made as to whether wider or longer lenses are needed. Plus, there is a certain discipline in using a fixed focal length and you also get very high image quality. 

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SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 -

SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 Lens

KamLan has a simple, ambitiously specified lens for a very low price. It is well made, performs well and, within the limitations of manual focus and lagging edge quality, it is still a lens that delivers something very useful. The bright f/1.1 aperture is one thing and the gorgeous bokeh is another. The SainSonic Kamlan 50mm f/1.1 is not technically perfect, but it does have excellent photographic, creative qualities that could be used to advantage. 

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Budget Portrait Lenses For Micro Four Thirds Cameras

 

Panasonic LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH. -  

Panasonic LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH

As far as the performance of the LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH. lens is concerned, there is little to find fault with. Sharpness is outstanding from maximum aperture, falloff, distortion and fringing are all well controlled too. Plus, Panasonic camera owners will appreciate the optical stabilisation. 

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Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Zuiko -

Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Zuiko Digital Micro Four Thirds Lens

The low price may be a little misleading at first glance, as the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Zuiko lens is a very capable optic. It focuses quickly and is capable of producing outstanding levels of sharpness. The lightweight and good build quality are also assets.

Those looking for a fast aperture prime lens for portraits, photography in low light, or for greater control over depth of field will not be disappointed.

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Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 ED -

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 ED Premium Lens

 

This lens is certainly capable of producing excellent quality images, with sharpness being excellent in the centre of the frame from maximum aperture. It's well built, lightweight and reasonably compact. 

Overall, the Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 produces excellent quality images in a compact, lightweight and well-built body. 

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Samyang 85mm f/1.8 ED UMC CS - 

Samyang Mf 85mm F1,8 Front Oblique View


The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.8 is available for both MFT and APS-C mounts. It's at the longer end for a portrait lens, but it can still produce some great results. Background bokeh is smooth, and the lens offers outstanding sharpness and low central CA and distortion. It's a manual focus lens, but this shouldn't put you off, especially if you want to hone your skills. 

Buy on Amazon UK   Buy on Amazon USA

 

Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH -

Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH

 

Much of the performance of this lens is exemplary, especially considering the modest cost. The only real drawback is the susceptibility to flare, which is very evident in shots taken into the light. If this can be accepted then the lens is, without a doubt, an excellent proposition.

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Budget Portrait Lens For Sony E Mount Cameras 

 

Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE - 

Samyang AF 45 1
Samyang is one of the leading manufacturers of third party lenses, and here we have a great example of a bright lens that is capable of fantastic quality portraits. The 45mm f/1.8 lens creates a lovely bokeh at wider apertures, has excellent sharpness and is lightweight. The one sacrifice you make for the price is lack of weather sealing. 

 

Buy on Amazon UK    Buy on Amazon USA

 

Sony NEX 50mm f/1.8 OSS - 

Sony NEX 50mm f/1.8 OSS Lens

Sony has created a belter here with this 50mm lens. It's reasonably priced, produces sharp, contrasty images and has the added luxury of optical stabilisation and a fast maximum aperture. The only fly in the ointment is the high level of CA towards the edges of the frame at fast apertures, still, even this flaw is easily overlooked taking into account this lens' positive attributes.

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Want to see more recommended lenses? Have a read of our wide selection of top lists and buyer's guides

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Comments


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3 Aug 2019 6:50PM
The comments under each of these lenses are practically worthless. No actual evidence is provided as to how sharp each lens is in general, or at any particular aperture - not even a sample shot of an 'average' subject. It's just subjective advertising.
5 Aug 2019 8:46AM
All of the lenses have scored 4 stars or above so you know you're purchasing a lens of good quality and you can click on the lens names to read our full reviews. Nice idea about sharing a sample shot, though. Smile

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