When searching for camera lenses, there are generally two different categories they’ll fall into. Those are agile, handheld lenses or stationary lenses that tend to favor slower apertures to achieve a high level of detail.
The latter are generally what portrait photographers use but even then, there’s a lot of variation, which is why we’ve made this list.
Below you’ll find five of our favorite stable camera lenses that are ideal for taking portraits of the whole family.
Each product entry features a small writeup as well as their pros and cons, so you can see their properties at a glance.
There’s also a buyers’ guide where we’ve broken these products down into their basic features and aspects, describing what you should look for in each performance category.
Whether your trusty lens is having issues or you’re new to the business, you can find our quick product suggestion right here.
We chose the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8-22 Macro Standard-Prime Lens, which is capable of an impressive aperture range that changes how this lens performs where detail and light level is concerned.
See more about this model below:
Features Optical Steady Shot image stabilization which eliminates micro-movements for the stillest shots possible.
Advanced Spherical elements ensure that your image captures have a consistent level of detail across the entire shot. Blemishes and aberrations on these shots are also prevented by the Nano AR coating on those lens elements.
It focuses via a hold button that gives you full control throughout your focus, and when it ends. There’s a Direct Drive SSM mechanism that makes it quieter when it is focusing, limiting distractions.
At the number one spot on our list is the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8-22 Macro Standard-Prime Lens which, besides being a mouthful, is a high-end option from Sony that has pretty much every aperture value you could want to be covered for portrait shooting.
Being a prime lens, its focal length is fixed at 90mm but, with some distance and focusing, this is great for photographing still subjects.
Now we know that your subjects won’t be totally still, but that’s where this lens’ Optical Steady Shot image stabilization comes in. It smooths out micro-movements which not only makes handheld operation a possibility but provides a more still image.
The lens elements also have Nano AR coating on them, eliminating problems like light flare and subject ghosting, which are useful when shooting in well-lit conditions.
The elements are of the Advanced Spherical variety, meaning that the edges of your shots won’t get blurred out. This is perfect for larger portraits where you want the entire image capture to have consistent detail and focus.
This is made even easier by the fact that it has a focus hold button that you can keep pressed to ensure good focusing results. A Direct Drive SSM also makes the act of focusing very quiet.
Optical Steady Shot image stabilization keeps your shots still and steady.
Nano AR coating ensures lit-environment performance by reducing flares and ghosting.
Advanced Spherical elements make image captures sharp from corner to corner.
Focus hold button allows you to maintain focus for a longer period.
Focuses quietly thanks to its Direct Drive SSM mechanism.
The second lens on our list is one with a very fast aperture, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens. The f/1.2 aperture means that it’s not only a very agile camera to use, but it also is great at capturing more light in your shots.
This is handy when you’re taking family portraits in exterior locations at either dawn or dusk, where there isn’t as much lighting around as you’d like.
The shots you take with this lens will be consistent from end to end. This is thanks to the autofocusing mechanism, which supports full-time manual focusing so that you can have control over how this lens focuses and for how long.
This is useful for wide shots, which family portraits can quickly become depending on the family, since there won’t be any discrepancies in image focus or detail.
The focusing process is an easy and peaceful one thanks to Canon’s Ultrasonic Silent Motor, which minimizes the sounds that come from the lens when it’s doing its work.
It does its work a bit slower than other models, mind you, particularly when autofocusing.
The lens body itself is made to be weather-resistant, meaning that it’s constructed to keep harmful debris like dust and water out, and should be able to withstand some, but not all, knocks.
Ultra-fast f/1.2 aperture rating delivers great low-light performance.
AF supports full-time manual focus to ensure the entire shot is consistent.
Ultrasonic Silent Motor makes the focusing process silent.
The lens is weather-resistant, keeping dust and water at bay.
At the third spot on the list is the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens, a compact FX-format prime lens that comes from yet another easily recognized brand in the industry. It’s another fast aperture camera lens with an F-stop rating of 1.8, though the speed of the lens’ shuttering process shouldn’t have too much bearing on its portrait performance.
What does is the fact that, with this lens’ 50mm focal length, it has a minimum focus distance of 1.48 feet.
This means that if you’re dealing with smaller families, you can get closer and have your images come out with more detail.
It utilizes one of Nikon’s newly developed optical systems which uses an aspherical lens element. Aspherical lens elements are great when taking wider shots that need to have the same level of detail as close-up shots, since they don’t blur or knock peripheral subjects out of focus.
If that wasn’t enough, the whole lens has also been optimized to maintain edge to edge image sharpness no matter which format you’re shooting with, whether that’s FX or DX.
Nikon’s brand-specific tech has also been put into the focusing system too, with Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor eliminating a lot of the noise that would usually distract some photographers.
The focusing process, as was the case with the previous entry on this list, is also sluggish and may require some patience on your part.
Aspherical lens elements support wide photography and reduce optical aberrations.
Optimized for edge to edge sharpness no matter the format.
Minimum focus distance of 1.48 feet.
Nikon Silent Wave Motor makes the focusing process silent.
Next up is the Tamron SP 45mm f/1.8 Lens, a third-party lens that markets itself on its dynamic close focusing capability that makes it ideal for those who want to take portrait pictures with a high degree of detail.
The autofocusing system is fast, making the process quick and easy to perform, and uses an Ultrasonic Silent Drive that eliminates any potentially distracting noise.
When focusing or autofocusing, Tamron lenses use a Vibration Compensation system that makes them really easy to handle and keep steady if you’re holding it with your own hands.
On the lens elements themselves is a fluorine coating that reduces or outright prevents water and fingerprint smearing, so the weather or your own clumsy fingers won’t degrade the quality of your view when lining up a shot.
Whilst it’s a fast-acting f/1.8 aperture lens, the light performance of this model can be very hit and miss.
Chromatic aberrations are a possibility if there’s too much or too little light present at your shooting location, so this camera excels when used at heavily controlled locations like photography studios.
Dynamic close-focusing capability is great at close-up portraits.
High speed autofocusing mechanism uses an Ultrasonic Silent Drive.
Fluorine coating covers the front elements, repelling water and fingerprint smears.
Vibration Compensation system makes handheld use possible.
The final product on our list is the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 75mm f/1.8, a third-party high-grade portrait lens that uses an extra-fast f/1.8 aperture.
This faster aperture rating makes it very agile and able to take rapid shots in quick succession, but that won’t factor in as much when you’re taking family portraits.
What will factor in, however, is the better low-light performance that faster aperture lenses are capable of.
It takes shots using a nine-blade circular aperture unit that makes the edge blurring of your image captures smoother, highlighting subjects closer to the center of your shot.
The 50mm diameter telephoto lens is optimized for all forms of interior photography, whether that’s at a studio or a sound stage, it’s perfect for the environments where you’ll likely be shooting family portraits.
This Olympus lens uses an MSC, or Movie & Still Compatible, autofocusing mechanism that’s fast at focusing, but when you focus to such an extent that the lens barrel needs to extend, it’ll do so whilst making a loud noise that can be distracting.
Extra-fast f/1.8 aperture lens is great for taking pictures in low-light conditions.
A 9-blade circular aperture unit smooths the edges of your image captures.
A 50mm diameter telephoto lens is optimized for interior photography.
Family portraits can demand properties from cameras and lenses that may seem contradictory, such as maintaining portrait level of detail across a wider shot and from a greater distance away.
This isn’t easy for many camera lenses out there, so we’ve written this buyers’ guide so you can better understand how certain lenses are better for family photography than others.
The lenses have been split into their basic specs and properties, from the lens aperture and focal length, to the autofocusing system and the construction of the lens bodies themselves.
Aperture is the opening in the lens through which light passes, though we often make many inferences about shutter speed through the aperture specs of a lens too, since they often go hand in hand. Aperture is expressed through F-stops, with the smaller F-stops being both wider, letting more light through the lens, and also having a faster-shuttering speed.
The fact that smaller F-stop values, like f/1.8 or f/2.8, are wider means that more light is let in, which allows the lens to use every ounce of it when formulating a shot. This can make dim shots brighter and more palatable to the eye.
The faster-shuttering speed that often goes in tandem with wider apertures also means that motion blur and camera shake are reduced, guaranteeing a perfect still shot.
You can probably guess why these are important to family portrait photographers. If you’re shooting in a controlled location like a studio, then lighting is likely not an issue, but wider apertures are necessary if you have outdoor shots planned since you can’t always rely on the sunlight to be on your side.
Producing stiller images is handy for portrait photographers since it takes blur and other image blemishes out of the equation. You may be able to get away with some slight blurring during a wide environment shot, but a client will notice if their own face is blurred in your finished image captures.
That’s why we say to err on the side of having a wider aperture that supports a faster-shuttering speed. The faster the better, generally, and assuming you’ll have means of stabilizing the camera for your shots.
Where focal length is concerned, there are two main lens types. These are the prime lenses and zoom lenses. Prime lenses, sometimes called fixed lenses, have a set focal length that cannot be altered, whereas zoom lenses have a minimum and maximum setting which establishes their focal range.
Family photographers tend to prefer a fixed focal length since they know where they stand. Literally, they know exactly how far away they need to be to get the best image captures in terms of detail and sharpness, whereas this can differ if you’re operating with multiple focal lengths.
These lenses also tend to have higher apertures, and we’ve explained why this is good for family photography just above.
So, does that mean that zoom lenses are out? Absolutely not. If you’re using only one camera for multiple styles of shooting, or just prefer the added versatility of a zoom lens, then you’re more than capable of using zoom lenses with wide focal ranges in order to take family portraits.
It’ll just be a matter of knowing which focal length is best for the setting and establishing your minimum shooting distance based on that focal length. It’s ultimately a matter of personal preference and what works best for you.
That said, we’d recommend either a fixed lens at 50mm, or at least a zoom lens capable of shooting at a 50mm focal length, since this is a good beginner option.
The issue of focusing becomes important when you’re dealing with such micro-details as the proportions of faces. You’ll want a quality autofocusing system, or at the very least one that supports manual focusing too so that you can get in there and find the right focus for your planned shots.
Those quality autofocus systems can come with heftier price tags, so it's important to make sure you know what you’re buying and what your budget will allow. Many of our budget options, for example, have a slow and/or loud autofocusing process that can be distracting and trying on your patience.
If you’re going to use a manual focus, you’ll want to ensure that the means of control, whether that’s a ring or a button, is sturdy and won’t end up breaking once you’ve used it enough. It’s also a plus if you can swap from auto to manual focusing instantly and without having to delve into the camera settings and, in doing so, losing your shot.
Size and Weight
Though the size, and so the weight, of your lens, won’t matter if you’ll be doing a lot of tripod shooting, these details are still reflective of the overall construction of your lens, and so important in knowing the durability of it.
Any self-respecting product listing will have the dimensions and weight measurements of the lens on them, so check them out if you’re unsure.
Lenses can get comically large, larger than the cameras themselves sometimes, so it’s important to have an idea of what you’ll be working with. Knowing the general sizes of the lenses that work for you can also be useful in identifying similar products when you want to branch out and try another brand.
If you are doing handheld photography, you should know that the larger lenses will usually be heavier. This won’t bother some who may be used to this, but it can be jarring for beginners to haul around larger lenses.
They’re often larger for a reason, either due to the fact they’re supporting great long-range capability, or they’re simply higher-end cameras packed with larger tech and more solid glass elements.
Zoom lenses tend to be larger than prime lenses, which is another reason we’d err towards getting a prime 50mm lens rather than a zoom one.
Know your space, from the setting you’ll be shooting in to the literal space you have on your person or inside your camera bag, since there’s no use in getting a massive lens that doesn’t fit with the trusty camera bag you’ve been using all this time.
Last Updated on 2020-11-28 //Source: Affiliate Affiliates
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