Blurry Background Heaven- Portrait Lenses- Sony, Zeiss, Canon, Leica, Lumix, Nikon, Panasonic, Rokinon, Voigtlander, Mitakon, SLR Magic- Which one is the best? The Cheapest? The Lightest?
Image comparisons Outdoor- http://www.markusrothkranz.com/portrait_lenses_outdoors_polarizer1.jpg
Image comparisons Indoor- http://www.markusrothkranz.com/portrait_lenses_interior.jpg
A Sony A7Sii Full Frame camera was used to test these lenses, as well as a Sony 6300 for APSC crop sensor. My goal was to find the best lens for blurring background for portraits, with preference for light weight and small size, and easy to use. Photography should be fun, so for me the “fun factor” is important when choosing and using a lens. Until recently, the main way to get a blurry background (now termed “Bokeh” by many)… was to use a big heavy telephoto lens. Not only are they heavy and big, but you need to get waaaay back from the subject. For me the best focal length for practical everyday spontaneous portraits is 50mm- I can stand just a few feet away from someone and take their picture without distorting their face like shorter (35mm etc) lenses do. To get a blurry with medium range lenses, a really small f-stop is needed- starting around f1.8 and going down all the way to f0.95 where it becomes unmanageable for shooting people handheld. All lenses were shot wide open (averaging f1.2) in both extremes- low light at night, and bright full sunlight outdoors, where I needed “darkening” filters to take down the light levels because I was shooting at f1.2, so I used polarizing filters (I had more of those than ND filters)
The basic Sony 55mm f1.8 is actually quite good as a starting lens because it’s SO TINY, super light, very sharp, super fast autofocus and the background blur / Bokeh is considerable. if you’re on a budget and want a small lightweight all-purpose lens to carry around anywhere anytime, this is the lens.
Overall, all Sony lenses are by far the sharpest and super fast at auto-focusing- almost instantaneous. I used the 50mm 1.4, 55mm 1.8, 85mm Zeiss Batis and 70-200mm 2.8.
The Canon lenses (50mm 1.2, 85mm 1.2) created softer images and had slightly more blurry backgrounds since they were 1.2 as opposed to Sony 1.4 and 1.8, but since they were Canon lenses, it required adapters which made them bigger, bulkier and the autofocus was so slow I had to focus manually. The Sony lenses were MUCH sharper and brighter in the viewfinder than the Canon lenses which looked darker through the Sony viewfinder. Compared to Sony, the Canon lenses are big, heavy, not as sharp, slow frustrating focus and not fun to work with. But the images had a nicer warmer more magical feel than the Sony ones. If I was going for dependability, speed, sharpness, light weight, small size and fun- it would be hands down Sony. If I wanted softer more magical images, I would choose the Canon lenses.
One of my favorite portrait lenses of all is the Sigma 135mm 1.8. It’s big and heavy, but what a performer! It’s VERY sharp in the viewfinder, takes pictures very similar to the Sony 70-200 f2.8 zoom , beautiful blurry backgrounds, some telephoto-like background compression, works pretty well with Sony’s autofocus and even eye-recognition.
Best all around all purpose, sharpness, fast dependable autofocus, good Bokeh- ZEISS 85mm 1.8
Best dramatic pics- Sigma 135mm 1.8
Best Blurry backgound- Mitakon Zhongi 50mm 0.95 (around f1.3)
Most surprising results- Rokinon 50mm 1.2
Best pleasure to use- Zeiss 85mm 1.8
Best Autofocus- Zeiss 85mm 1.8
Best Classic Bokeh look- Canon 85mm 1.2, Sigma 135 1.8, Mitakon Zhongi 50mm 0.95
Most magical pleasant warm look- Canon 85mm 1.2
Most Lightweight- 6300-Rokinon, A7-Zeiss 85mm 1.8, A7- 55mm 1.8
Best around town/ travel lens- Rokinon 50mm 1.2, Sony 55mm 1.8
Best lens to grab in a panic- Zeiss 85mm 1.8
Most expensive to least expensive:
Sony 70-200 f2.8 $2,600
Canon 85mm f1.2 $1,900 USD
Panasonic Lumix Leica G 42.5mm f1.2 LumixGX8 $1,600 USD
Sony 50mm f1.4 $1,400 USD
Canon 50mm f1.2 $1,300 USD
Sigma 135mm f1.8 $1,300 USD
Sony 85mm f1.8 Zeiss Batis $1,200 USD
Sony 55mm f1.8 $900
Voigtlander 40mm 1.2 $900 USD
Mitakon Zhongi 50mm f0.95 $800 USD
Nikon 50mm f1.2 $700 USD
Rokinon 50mm f1.2 $380 USD
SLR Magic 50mm f1.1 $280 USD
APSC Sony 6300 50mm f1.8 $250 USD