Gear & Industry News
Posted by Manas Dwivedi
Updated: May 23, 2023

6 Best Portrait Lenses for Sony E-mount Cameras

In this article, we'll review six of the best portrait lenses for Sony E-mount cameras. But first, what is a portrait?

The word "portrait" seems to cover all manners of sins, where many believe a portrait is simply any image where the subject is a person. Or alternatively, a headshot.

Really, however, a portrait is a deliberate representation of a person where they are aware it’s being captured, so a portrait should say or demonstrate something about them that they want to express.

Additionally, a portrait should focus on the face, expression, and even distinct facial features. 

So what does this mean for portrait lenses? 

Well, since we know what our goal and focus is, we have to figure out a way for the portrait to stand out.

Using a lens that will render the face in the most flattering way and somewhat isolate the subject from the background is a pretty good approach.

That means you want a lens with some compression, which is often anything from 50 mm and longer (35 mm equivalent).

We’ll be focusing on that group in this article. 

The best portrait lenses for Sony E-mount cameras

1. Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM Lens

Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM Lens

This is a brand new lens from Sony and their first 50 mm in the G-Master line. It is smaller, lighter, and faster than its contemporaries from Canon and Nikon.

With linear motors and weather sealing, it is able to keep up with the best Sony camera autofocus and Eye-AF, and its rendering is simply beautiful with natural non-distracting bokeh and smooth fall-off, as well as accurate color and skin tone rendering.

Its aperture of 1.2 means you can have a razor-thin plane of focus and truly obliterate the background if you choose, even from a good distance from your subject.

This will become the wedding photographer’s and 50 mm lovers’ lens of choice in no time.

Key Features

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.2 to f/16
  • Three XA Elements
  • Nano AR II and Fluorine Coatings
  • Four XD Linear AF Motors, Internal Focus
  • Focus Hold Button, AF/MF Switch
  • Physical Aperture Ring; De-Click Switch
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Filter Diameter: 72 mm
  • Rounded 11-Blade Diaphragm

Image for best portrait lenses

2. ZEISS Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens for Sony E-mount

ZEISS Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens for Sony E-mount

One of the great things about the Sony E-mount is that it is open, which means that anyone can make a lens for that mount, which means more options and more competition to drive quality up and prices down… potentially.

Perhaps the best third-party lenses for Sony E-mount come from Zeiss, with whom Sony has had a long-standing relationship and partnered on many Sony-branded lenses. 

The Zeiss Batis 85 mm 1.8 is truly one of the best 85 mm lenses out there!

In recent years 85 mm (which is a short telephoto) has become the go-to for legions of portrait photographers due to size, price, and look.  

The portrait-friendly Zeiss 85/1.8 is an easy lens to love. We at Aftershoot recommend it even over the faster and more expensive Sony 85mm 1.4 GM, which is heavier, slower to focus, and lacking in micro-contrast.

Images from it are crispy, contrasty, and full of pop.

When working in low light conditions, the integrated OLED display on top of the lens shows the distance and the focal plane from the camera and the depth of field range, making zone and manual focusing much faster and easier.

Beyond that, it’s the gorgeous design and image quality that have that characteristic Zeiss look that makes any subject look beautiful. 

Key Features

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22
  • Three Low Dispersion Elements
  • Sonnar Optical Design
  • ZEISS T* Anti-Reflective Coating
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • Floating Elements System
  • OLED Display for Focus Distance and DoF
  • Linear Autofocus Motor
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction

An image taken with one of the best portrait lenses for Sony E-mount cameras

3. Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

A macro lens for portraits? Absolutely! And this one is fantastic.

The Sony 90 mm macro lets you get up close and personal with the 1:1 magnification ratio.

As a G series lens, it beautifully balances sharpness and bokeh with highly detailed images. With smooth out-of-focus areas and the absence of aberrations, this is a portrait and beauty-photography dream.

In fact, you’ll often find macro lenses like this on the cameras of beauty photographers in-studio because macro lenses are super sharp, and 90 mm is a lovely short telephoto length for facial features.

The lens also boasts a fast f/2.8 aperture for controlling depth of field and working in less-than-ideal light as well as a Nano AR coating that helps eliminate ghosting and flare.

Key Features

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • 1:1 Magnification Ratio; Internal Focus
  • Aspherical, ED and Super ED Elements
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave AF Motor
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Sliding Focus Ring for AF/MF Selection
  • Focus Hold Button; Focus Range Limiter
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 11″

An image taken with one of the best portrait lenses for Sony E-mount cameras

4. Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM Lens

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM Lens

Roger Cicala from LensRentals – considered to be the authority on lenses – had only praise to give the 135 GM, and said it is the sharpest lens ever tested at LensRentals.

That alone is an incredible accolade, but there’s more to the 135 GM than just sharpness. It’s the speed, strong build, and incredibly fast aperture of 1.8.

Shooting at 1.8 at 135 is truly incredible, as it lets you shoot in low light and completely isolate your subject, even from a good distance away. 

135 mm is also probably the singular prime focal length we go to when we want to have a predictable and gorgeous portrait – there’s just no thinking about it: you pick it up, point, shoot, and fall in love.

The compression at 135 mm seems to suit most faces perfectly from about 15-20 feet away. It also happens to be a sport photography favorite.

If you go to NBA games, you’ll see this lens on the cameras of photographers who are perched right behind the net. 

Key Features

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22
  • XA Element, Super ED and ED Elements
  • Nano AR and Fluorine Coatings
  • XD Linear Motor AF System
  • AF/MF Switch; Internal Focus
  • Two Focus Hold Buttons
  • Physical Aperture Ring; De-Click Switch
  • Rounded 11-Blade Diaphragm
  • 82mm Filter

An image taken with one of the best portrait lenses for Sony E-mount cameras

5. Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens

If we had to choose one lens on this list, it would have to be the 70-200 2.8 GM; for no other reason than versatility.

70-200 2.8 lenses have long been the coveted mantlepiece of all kinds of photographers, and fashion, wedding, and portrait photographers included.

This Sony version is absolutely beautiful at all focal lengths in the range. With a constant 2.8 aperture throughout the range, it allows for low-light shooting and beautifully blurred backgrounds. 

From 70 to 200, you will cover almost every favorite focal length for portraits, and you can use that range to find what fits your subject best in various environments.

The flexibility of the zoom means you don’t always have to move your body and can work within small areas if needed.

It’s not uncommon for portrait photographers to shoot all the way up to 200mm, and with this lens, it’s sharp but forgiving racked out, with brilliant color rendition as well. This lens can truly do it all!

Key Features

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • One XA Element & Two Aspherical Elements
  • Four ED Elements & Two Super ED Elements
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Dual Linear & Super Sonic Wave AF Motors
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Focus Hold Buttons; Focus Range Limiter
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Eleven-Blade Circular Diaphragm

portrait photography example

6. Sony Sonnar T* 135mm f/1.8 ZA Lens

Sony Sonnar T* 135mm f/1.8 ZA Lens

This is a bonus feature on our list.

This lens is the stuff of legend, and those who have it and continue to use it will get knowing nods from other photographers who really know their stuff.

It is a Sony A-mount lens for their older camera mounts, but fortunately, it can be seamlessly adapted to fit new Sony E-mount cameras like the A1, A7RIV, and so on, with Sony’s new LEA5 adapter.

And boy, is it worth it!

For those around when A-mount was still the main Sony mount, they might know that this lens alone caused people to switch to Sony, and those that had it have kept it even though they might have moved on to E-mount. 

There is something truly special about this lens in how it handles contrast and color.

It’s unlike any 135 mm out there today, with its closest counterpart being the Zeiss Batis 135mm 2.8 for E-mount, but still, this just hits different.

As it’s older, it won’t focus very fast, and it doesn’t quite feel as primo as the new 135 mm GM, but it has character in spades, so if you’re not looking for clinical quality exactness and looking for something unique, this is a fantastic option!

Key Features

  • A-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22
  • Two Extra-Low Dispersion Elements
  • Zeiss T* Anti-Reflective Coating
  • Auto Clutch Mechanism
  • Focus Hold Button; Internal Focus
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 2.4′
  • Nine-Blade Circular Diaphragm

An image taken with one of the best portrait lenses for Sony E-mount cameras

New in the photography business?

Here are the top cameras for wedding photographers. Don’t worry, we have covered one from each price category!

And once you've got your gear sorted, be sure to use Aftershoot's AI-powered culling and editing software to speed up your post-shoot workflow.

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