Zoom vs Prime: What Lens is Best for Portraits?

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In the video above, the fine folks at Mango Street offer their perspective on the issue.

As they discuss in the video, they prefer to shoot portraits with prime lenses. But, for comparison’s sake, they shoot with a Canon 24-70mm as well as 24mm and 35mm primes.

Below, I’ve outlined a few arguments for zooms and primes as being great options for portraits.

Which Lens is Best for Portraits? The Argument for Zooms 

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photo by meatbull via iStock

So, both zooms and primes have their advantages, and as you can see in the video by Mango Street, you can create gorgeous images with either kind of lens.

In the end, the selection between the two will mostly come down to your personal preference and budget.

Fortunately, no matter if you’re after a zoom or a prime lens, all major camera manufacturers have a huge selection of both types in all manner of price points.

Better still, you can find great deals on used lenses so you can save some money at the same time (or use your extra cash to buy multiple lenses!).

Learn More:

4 Prime Lenses You Should Own  7 Reasons Why a 50mm Lens is All You Need For Great Photography 

Best Used Nikon Prime Lenses

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Given its small size, this lens is a perfect choice for street photography. Likewise, landscape photographers, nature photographers, and architecture photographers will find it to be a useful addition to their camera bag.

Best of all, buying used can save you hundreds of dollars. The MSRP for this lens is $2,000.00, but you can pick up a used one in excellent-plus condition for about half that price.

Learn more about the Nikon Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED AF-S lens

Best Used Nikon Prime Lenses: Nikon Nikkor 50mm F/1.4 D 

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At 50mm, you get an even more versatile lens than the 24mm lens discussed earlier.

From landscapes to portraits, street photography to travel photography, and points in between, this lens is a great companion for photographers of all skill levels and areas of interest.

Perhaps the greatest asset of this lens is its price. Brand-new, it’ll run you about $330.00, but, again, you can save a significant amount of money if you buy used.

For example, a used version of this lens in excellent condition is currently going for about $220.00. 

Learn more about the Nikon Nikkor 50mm F/1.4 D lens

Best Used Nikon Lenses: Nikon Nikkor 85mm F/1.8 D

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This is also an excellent lens choice for video recording.

It’s compact and lightweight, so you don’t feel like you’re carrying a super-heavy kit around as you record. The aforementioned f/1.8 aperture gives you the ability to shoot in dim lighting with great success as well.

Additionally, since this lens has manual aperture control, you can make on-the-fly depth of field adjustments as you shoot in live view. The result is a gorgeous transition from focusing on foreground to background elements, or vice versa.

Though this lens is now discontinued and you can’t purchase new ones, there are loads of used versions available. For one in excellent condition, expect to spend about $300.00. That’s not bad at all considering the excellent optics and build quality of this lens.

Learn more about the Nikon Nikkor 85mm F/1.8 D lens