Not everyone has thousands of dollars lying around to spend on a top-end portrait lens.
Fortunately, you don't have to bust your budget to get a lens that will help you take sharp portraits with good colors, minimal vignetting, and great bokeh.
Now more than ever, there are plenty of budget-friendly portrait lenses on the market with something to fit virtually any budget and any camera system.
In fact, the selection is so wide that it can get a little overwhelming even just knowing where to start.
Let's have a look at five excellent portrait lenses that will leave you happy with your photos and your pocketbook happy with the budget!
Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM
A 50mm lens is great for portraiture because of the pleasing angle of view it offers on full frame cameras.
If you shoot on a crop sensor camera, you'll get an effective focal length of 80mm, which is wonderful for portraits because it allows you to frame up-close shots as well as get larger views for environmental portraiture too.
The Canon 50mm f/1.4 offers excellent sharpness of subjects with beautiful bokeh-filled backgrounds.
What's more, the lens is small, compact, and lightweight, so you can shoot for long periods of time without experiencing fatigue, and you can add it to your camera bag without adding tons of weight.
If you want a more budget-friendly option, give the Canon 50mm f/1.8 a try. It doesn't produce the same level of detail and clarity, but as far as budget lenses go, it's hard to beat the results you get for the price.
See a side-by-side comparison of the two Canon 50mm lenses in the video above by Weekly Imogen.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G
Nikon shooters have an equally capable 50mm portrait lens option available to them in the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens.
Like the Canon, the Nikon lens is also quite affordable but sports plenty of features too. With top-notch optics, you can expect images that have nice sharpness from corner to corner.
Though the f/1.8 aperture isn't as wide as the Canon f/1.4 lens, it's still more than enough to collect light for low-light shooting and getting up close to your subject to create dreamy bokeh-filled backgrounds.
Besides, if you fancy an upgrade, you can opt for the f/1.4 version of this lens without breaking the bank. See the differences between the two in the video below by DigitalRev TV:
As a bonus, both of these lenses work on FX and DX format Nikon cameras, giving you some room to grow if you have designs on upgrading your camera in the future.
And though both are pricier than their Canon counterparts, they still represent excellent value, particularly if you're just starting out in portraiture and want something that's got great image quality for a budget price.
Sony NEX 50mm f/1.8 OSS
Not to leave Sony shooters out in the cold, even though Sony products tend to be pricier, their NEX 50mm f/1.8 OSS lens is quite reasonably priced.
Built for Sony E-mount cameras, this f/1.8 lens obviously gives you plenty of latitude for shooting portraits in the daytime or in low-light conditions with a maximum aperture of f/1.8.
The images created with this lens are impeccably sharp. There is very little vignetting or distortion, even when shooting wide open. Like its Canon and Nikon counterparts, the bokeh produced by this lens is smooth and pleasing to the eye, just what you want for portraits!
Get a hands-on review of this lens in the video below by John Sison:
With an Optical SteadyShot (OSS) image stabilization, you get sharper, clearer images, even when shooting handheld.
And speaking of shooting handheld, as you can see in the video above, when mounted to a NEX system camera, this lens is incredibly easy to use, bearing a compact form factor and lightweight construction.
The autofocus on this lens is exceptionally quiet and fast as well, giving you wider latitude for taking portraits in quiet environments or of subjects that are on the move.
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 DI Macro Lens for Canon EOS
Another reasonable portrait lens option for Canon shooters is from Tamron.
Their SP 90mm f/2.8 macro lens offers superb sharpness throughout its aperture range that extends from f/2.8 to f/32.
If you haven't considered a macro lens for portraiture, this one will change your mind as it enables you to get extraordinarily close to your subjects while still offering the option of stepping back for upper body or full body portraits.
As part of Tamron's super performance line, this lens benefits from professional-grade construction and optics, but without the price tag that such build-quality would necessitate with a Canon or Nikon lens.
And though it's a bit larger than the 50mm lenses that precede it on our list, it's still a very reasonably-sized lens that you can easily manipulate without getting arm fatigue.
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM Zoom Lens for Nikon APS-C Systems
Not all good budget portrait lenses are primes like the previous four on our list.
For Nikon shooters with a crop sensor camera, Sigma's 17-50mm f/2.8 lens might not have as big of a maximum aperture as the other lenses above, but at f/2.8, you can still get good results in low-light situations and bokeh that's plenty good enough for portraits.
The advantage of a zoom lens is that you can use it to frame tighter shots on your subject without having to move around a lot.
What's more, the 17mm wide-angle end (which has an effective focal length of about 26mm) is great for capturing group shots while the long end of the zoom at 50mm (effective focal length of 75mm) gets you into the short telephoto realm for up-close portraits.
But don't worry if you're a Canon shooter. This lens is available for Canon cameras as well. Check it out in the video above by ZY Productions.
No matter if you use a Nikon or Canon camera, this Sigma zoom lens is a great - if not unique - option for portraiture. But because it's a zoom on the wide to standard angle of view, you can use it for other purposes as well, like landscape photography.
When talking about investing in a good lens on a budget, that sort of versatility is nice.
But the prime lenses discussed earlier also offer versatility...
A 50mm lens can be used for anything from portraiture to landscapes to street photography and everything in between. And, naturally, the Tamron 90mm macro lens reviewed earlier will allow you to get into macro photography in addition to portraiture.
Now it's just a matter of deciding which of these lenses works best for you and finding a great deal on one to add to your kit.