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Top 3: Prime Lens Trio for People & Portraits

When photographing people and portraits, Sony Artisan of Imagery Michael Britt relies on 3 prime lenses to create a broad range of different looks. Placing a premium on sharpness and lens speed, Britt’s choices are f/1.4 optical masterpieces known for their exceptional image quality.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

The 85mm G Master is my go-to portrait lens. There's a creamy quality to the way it draws light and handles skin tones and the background elements are smooth as silk. Along with the 50mm f/1.4, it's one of the finest lenses I’ve ever used.

Photo by Michael Britt. Sony α7R II. Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens. 1/160-sec., f/1.6, ISO 320. This photo of Katje was taken in the entryway to my house in Nashville. I used a technique where the main lights are tungsten and the rest of the scene is daylight. The camera is set to tungsten white balance which makes the daylight in the background appear blue. Notice the sharpness in her hair, the beautifully-rendered skin tones and the lovely out-of-focus dappled daylight in the background. That’s why I use this lens.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA

When I first got the 50mm f/1.4, I couldn't imagine how it could be an improvement over the fabulous 55mm f/1.8. Improvement might be too strong of a word. They're more like different flavors of lenses. The 50mm draws in light in a way that feels like it's wrapping around the subject. It's like the quality of light being transferred through the larger pieces of glass is given room to breathe. This lens creates a look similar to some of the best medium format lenses I’ve used. 

Photo by Michael Britt. Sony α9. Sony 50mm f/1.4 lens. Taken at the recent Sony Kando Trip, this photo is of model Genevieve Bell (@genevieveabell). I get the sharpness I expect from a class-leading lens combined with the subtle and exquisite way it handles the constant and natural light bouncing around the room. It's almost cheating to pair this lens with the new Sony α9. Look at the detail in the bands of sunlight across her thighs and how the light wraps around her face with a smooth transition from highlight to shadow.

Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

If I'm photographing people the three lenses I put in my bag are the 85mm f/1.4 GM, the 50mm f/1.4 ZA and the 35mm f/1.4 ZA. Living in Nashville and having a wife who's an actress means that I shoot a lot of live music and theater. The 35mm f/1.4 gives me a beautiful separation from foreground to background which makes the subject pop. 

Sony α7R II. Sony 35.. f/1.4 lens. 1/80-sec., f/1.4, ISO 1250. This photo of Kat Jones and the Profits at The Family Wash in East Nashville is a good example of how the 35mm f/1.4 enhances the subject bringing her forward from the flag painting in the background. The lens is super-sharp and the out-of-focus areas are smooth and pleasing. Even the hanging chili pepper lights are soft and natural looking.

Michael Britt is a Sony Artisan On Imagery.  See more about him here. and follow him on Instagram @mbrittphoto.  

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