The Sony a6000 series cameras are known for their excellent image quality and great value for money spent. To become a portrait photographer, you need to find the right lens to start honing your skills. Portrait photography requires high-quality glass to capture the personality of your subject. How do you know you are getting the right lens? So let’s look at how to select the best Sony a6000 portrait lenses.
Portrait photography is about capturing a person’s essence in an image. To accomplish this, you need a lens that can capture beautiful details, work well with the available light, and create a gorgeous background blur.
What is Portrait Photography
Portrait photography is a genre of photography that focuses on capturing the likeness, personality, and mood of a person or group of people. It is one of the most popular genres of photography, as it allows photographers to capture the unique beauty of their subjects. Portrait photography is also important for businesses and individuals who want to create an excellent first impression.
Portrait photography is not only a great hobby but is also one of the top ways to start your photography business. It can be a great way to make some extra money on the side or even become your primary source of income.
What Portrait Lenses are Best for Sony a6000 Cameras?
Based on our recommendations for the best portrait lens focal lengths and taking the Sony a6000 crop factor into account, we would suggest lenses that cover 35mm – 50mm (the same as 50mm – 75mm on a full-frame camera).
Beyond the focal length, we will also be looking for Sony E-mount lenses with the correct capabilities for portrait photography. Namely, they have a very sharp focus, great autofocusing speed, and create creamy Bokeh (background blurring).
Prime Portrait Lenses
First, let’s consider prime lenses. Prime lenses are lenses with a single focal length. These lenses are usually smaller, lighter, and sharper than their zoom lens cousins. They also tend to have larger maximum apertures, increasing the light the lens can let into the camera.
Top Choice 35mm – Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art DG DN
The Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art has amazingly good sharpness and contrast all the way down to f/1.2, especially at portrait distances. It fairs far better than many other f/1.4 lenses at their maximum aperture.
The Bokeh is beautiful, creamy, and well-rounded due to its 11-bladed diaphragm (most other 35mm only have 9 blades). With the high number of blades, the lens also creates excellent sun stars at f/11 to f/16.
While this lens is a little heavier than other 35mm choices (1090g / 2.4 lbs), the benefits of the quality of the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art vastly outweighs the heft.
Currently, the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art usually runs about $1500.00
Budget Choice 35mm – Samyang AF 35mm F1.8
The Samyang (aka Rokinon) AF 35mm F1.8 is a high-quality, budget-oriented lens for portrait photography. Its f/1.8 aperture is not as fast as other options, but it’s an OK tradeoff for the value.
Samyang also offers a faster f/1.4 version of this lens at about double the price. So the f/1.8 is meant as their entry-level offering.
Its autofocus is fast and accurate and can lock onto a subject in 0.15 seconds. The lens is fairly sharp when shooting wide-open at f/1.8, becoming even better at f/2 and up.
The lens creates a pleasing Bokeh when wide open and good sunstars at higher apertures.
There are some noted issues with Chromatic Aberration (CA) near the edge of the frame and some Vignetting. However, these issues will be less worrisome on the smaller APS-C sensors in the a6000 series.
Currently, the Samyang AF 35mm f/1.8 runs around $330.00
Top Choice 50mm – Sony Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar
The Sony Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar is a remarkable lens. It is by far the best of the 50mm lenses for the E-Mount system. If you want to take professional-level portraits, this is the lens you need.
The price is on the high end, but you are paying for top-quality Zeiss glass and precision electronics. Sony offers a good 55mm f/1.8 lens for about half the price of this one, but the 50mm Planar is exceptional.
The lens offers brilliant sharpness and contrast across all apertures. Fast and accurate autofocusing will allow capturing the best details on a subject’s face even at f/1.4. And it creates a beautiful Bokeh effect that pairs well with the lens’s sharpness.
Currently, the Sony Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar runs about $1500.
(This is a high-quality lens and holds up well. We suggest looking on the used/renewed market, where you can find the lens for about $1000)
Budget Choice 50mm – Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
The Sony FE 50mm f1.8 is a reasonably priced standard prime lens. It is very lightweight with a decent quality build. This 50mm lens is an APS-C equivalent to 75mm, making it ideal for portraits.
Autofocus is adequate but can be a little noisy at times. That won’t be much of an issue in a portrait situation and is one of the tradeoffs that come with a budget lens.
The f/1.8 focal aperture is good enough to allow shooting in low light situations. It produces a pleasant bokeh without breaking the bank.
This is a great starter lens for portrait photography and is a purchase that won’t break the bank!
Currently, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 runs $179.00
Zoom Portrait Lenses
Next, let’s look at zoom lenses. Zoom lenses are lenses that have a range of focal lengths. These lenses offer more flexibility than prime lenses but are usually larger, heavier, and less sharp. Another advantage of using a zoom lens is that you can buy one lens instead of several to convert the different focal lengths you need for portrait photography.
Top Choice Zoom Lens – Sony 24-70mm 2.8 G Master
Budget Choice Zoom Lens – Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD
Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD
Currently, the Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD runs $xxx.00
If you are looking for a portrait lens for Sony a6000 series cameras, we recommend a 35mm or 50mm prime lens. These lenses will give you the sharpness and background blur needed to create stunning portraits.
If you are looking for a zoom lens, we recommend the Sony 24-70mm 2.8 G Master. This lens gives you much flexibility in terms of focal length while still delivering excellent image quality.
Whichever lens you choose, make sure to get out there and start taking some fantastic photographs!
As always, thanks for reading, and let us know if you have any questions by sending a comment below.
Check out our Wildlife Lenses guide if you want to see our recommendations for nature and wildlife lenses.
If you want to see other guides, go to our Guides section
Important Capabilities in a Portrait Lens
A few essential capabilities must be considered when looking for a portrait lens. These include:
- Fast aperture: A fast aperture is important for portrait photography as it allows you to capture images with a shallow depth of field. This means that your subject will be in focus while the background is nicely blurred. fast aperture also allows you to take advantage of low-light conditions, such as indoors or during “Golden Hour” to perform well, a portrait lens should have an aperture of f/2.8 or better (note: lower f numbers are better, it means the aperture is physically larger)
- Background blur: A good portrait lens will create a beautiful background blur known as Bokeh. This helps to make your subject stand out from the background and creates a more professional-looking image. Lenses with a wide aperture and at least 9 diaphragm blades will produce the desired “Creamy” Bokeh. dorama has a good write-up on what is Bokeh
- Sharpness: Sharpness is debatable as all modern lenses are sharp when used correctly. Some lenses suffer from softness when used at the edges of their aperture ranges. Since portrait photography, especially in environmental or low-light settings, will use the widest aperture available, sharpness could be an issue for some low-quality lenses. NOTE Ken Rockwell has an excellent write-up on sharpness
- Autofocus: Autofocus is vital if your portrait images will be of more active subjects, such as dancers or athletes in action. However, in most cases, your subjects will be statically posed. In these cases, autofocus comes into play only to simplify the photographer’s life. While it’s not critical and a manual focus lens will work fine, stick with autofocus – unless you want to create a unique portrait style.
Focal Length’s Affect on Portrait Photography
There’s a good reason why portrait photographers obsess over focal length. The choice of focal length has a significant effect on the image. For instance –
- How much of the background is in the frame
- The shape and proportions of your subjsubject’se
- The how the distance between the subject and elements in the image is compressed or expanded
For example, using a wide-angle lens will let you capture a larger scene but will cause the center of the image (and perhaps your subject’s face!) to bulge.
To select the best focal length, you will want to assess how you want to stage your portrait.
First, ask how much of your subject will be in the image.
- For Headshots, use an 85mm
- Three-quarter length 50mm to 85mm
- Full length also uses 50mm to 85mm
- For group shots, use a wide-angle lens of 24mm to 40mm
Second, ask what is the setting of the portrait.
- Environmental portraits depend on how far you are from your subject :
- Close to the subject, use a wider angle of 30mm
- Far from the subject, use a slight telephoto of 120mm or more.
- Indoor natural or low light settings :
- More intimate settings call for closer and wider shots using 35mm-50mm
How the Sony a600a6000’s APS-C Cropped Sensor Affects Focal Length
The focal length values suggested above are based on full-sized sensor cameras, such as the Sony a7 and a9 series. But what about the a6000 cameras with a smaller APS-C sensor?
Full-frame digital cameras have a sensor based on the size of a piece of 35mm film. The Sony a6000 series cameras all utilize a smaller sensor than the Sony A7 & A9 series cameras. The a6000 series sensor is about 78% (roughly 3/4) of the size of its full-sized cousins. This means that the sensor only captures the light from the middle 78% of the lens.
Capturing a smaller area of what the lens is transmitting makes the apparent focal length of the lens change by a 1.5x factor. For instance, if you use a lens with a focal length of 50mm on a Sony cropped sensor camera, the lens’s effective focal length is increased to 75mm (50 x 1.5 = 75).
This can be a good thing for portrait photography. First, it means that you won’t be able to get too wide-angled unless you get a super-wide lens (save those for astrophotography). Secondly, you can work with reasonably affordable lenses in the 35-75mm range, as those would be equivalent to 50mm -120mm on a full-frame camera.
For an excellent write-up on this subject (and more math), see B&H’s explainer on crop sensors
Types of Lenses for Portrait Photography?
A few different lenses are well-suited for portrait photography with a Sony a6000 camera. These include:
- Prime lenses: Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, which means they can’t zoom in or out. This can be limiting, but it also means that prime lenses are typically sharper and have better image quality overall. Prime lenses also tend to be smaller and lighter than zoom lenses, which makes them a good option for travel photography. The downside of prime lenses is that you’ll need to move around to get the framing you want.
- Zoom lenses: Zoom lenses have a variable focal length, which means they can zoom in and out. This is incredibly useful for portrait photography, as it allows you to frame your subjects differently without moving around. Zoom lenses also tend to be larger and heavier than prime lenses, making them a bit more challenging to carry around.
Tips for Taking Great Portraits Using a Sony a6000 Camera
Get Close to Your Subject
Getting close to your subject is one of the keys to taking great portraits. This will help you capture all the details of their face and create a more personal connection with the viewer of your image.
Use a Wide Aperture
Another way to make your portraits stand out is to use a wide aperture. A wide aperture will result in a shallow depth of field. This means that the background of your image will be blurred out, making your subject pop.
Use Portrait Mode
If you’re looking for “easy mode” and want to make things more effortless, you can use portrait mode on your Sony a6000 camera. Portrait mode is one of the Sony built-in scene modes. Using this mode will automatically adjust the settings on your camera to help you take great portraits.
Use Off-Camera Flash
If you want to make your portraits pop, you can use an off-camera flash. This involves using a flash that is not attached to your camera. It lets you get creative with your lighting and make your subjects stand out.
Experiment With Different Lenses
Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with different lenses. Each lens will give you a different look. So, play around and see which one you like best. I’d suggest looking at special lenses like the Lensbaby Velvet 85 (LINK)
By following these tips, you’re well on your way to taking great portraits with your Sony a6000 mirrorless camera. So, get out there and start shooting!
Things to Consider Before Buying Lenses for the Sony a6000
The purchase of a lens can be confusing. Knowing what lens will work well with your camera can help you avoid a costly mistake.
E-Mount System Lenses
The first thing to know is that the Sony a6000 series cameras are that they all use the Sony E-mount lens system. This means the a6000 series cameras can natively use any lens with an E-Mount connector.
Some E-Mount lenses are marked as E and others as FE. The FE lenses work with both SonySony’sl-frame and APS-C sensors, while the E lenses are built for the APSC sensors and can be used on the full-frame cameras in APSC (cropped) mode. These lenses are typically less expensive and made for the hobbyist rather than the professional market.
It’s important to know that they are not compatible with Sony’s earlier A-Mount system. (so why didn’t Sony call this the e6000? sigh Sony’s not great with names)
So, no matter if the lens is manufactured by Sony or a third-party vendor such as Sigma, Samyang, or Tamron, any E-mount lens will work correctly on the a6000 series camera bodies.
There needs to be an electrical connection between the lens and the camera body to send and receive information from the lens. Without these connections, the camera can not control the lens or record the image’s settings. Some manual lenses, while having an E-Mount connection, will not have electrical connectors. In this case, you will need to accept that manual means manually.
Not all of the Sony a6000 series cameras support in-body stabilization. Howe er, some lenses do have built-in stabilization. This means that the lens can compensate for some camera shake while taking a photograph. For portrait, landscape, and street photography, stabilization is very handy. Gett ng a lens with this feature can vastly improve the quality of your final images.