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Would anyone say a particular lens is best for portraits?

12 Jul 2012 6:14PM
Would anyone say a particular lens is best for portraits for a Nikon Camera. Any advice on a decent one - I was contemplating The Nikon 85mm f2.8, but unsure if a 50mm f1.4 might be sharper or more usefull ?

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JackAllTog Plus
8 4.9k 58 United Kingdom
12 Jul 2012 6:18PM
From you portfolio it looks like you use a nikon 3100 camera - this has a crop factor of 1.5 - multplies the effective length.
so a cheap 50mm f1.8 becomes a very useful 75mm portrait lens.
ade_mcfade Plus
13 15.2k 216 England
12 Jul 2012 6:25PM
Depends how far away you're standing...

I use my 70-200 most the time - but the 17-40 can be invaluable in very tight spots
mikehit Plus
8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
12 Jul 2012 6:37PM
The 'classic' potrait focal lengths for DX cameras will be between 60mm to 90mm. This is because distance governs perspective and many believe that for a frame-filling head-shoulders portrait this focal range puts you at a distance that best maintains the relative proportions of the facial features.
But is it full-length portrait you want? Head-to-waist? How much room do you have between you and the model?
As you will see there is no one solution - one guy I was talking to likes to use 17-40mm zoom as his standard portrait lens, but that is how he likes to shoot. So play around.

If you are wanting advice on which of those 2 lenses to buy, I wil leave that to others.
12 Jul 2012 6:47PM
I'm just getting a bit more seriously into photography and am just curious about what other people use, the sharper the better really.I am using a Nikon 40mm f2.8 currently and do really like it.
User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
12 Jul 2012 7:02PM
On a DX camera like yours, a 40mm f/2.8 will do - but a 50mm (equating to 75mm at full frame) would be better.

There are really two main parameters - a long enough focal length to allow you to have the camera far enough away from the subject to avoid the "close-up distortion" of oversize noses and chins; and a wide enough aperture to get good bokeh with restricted depth of field. You can get a 50mm f/1.8D Nikkor for about 87 just now (check Amazon) and that really is a superb portrait lens on a crop sensor camera.

Sharpness really isn't usually an issue for classical portraiture. many portrait photographers used to either use a soft lens, or a soft-focus filter or that old standby of smearing Vaseline over a UV filter. But, nowadays, you can remove excessive sharpness in software after shooting.

12 Jul 2012 7:39PM
Would there be much difference between a 50mm f1.8 & 40mm f2.8 micro (what I'm using currently) I was thinking of getting an Nikon 85mm f1.8 - so I could have a lens with a bit more reach in general. I can't really stretch to any higher lengths. at present
12 Jul 2012 8:01PM
You pretty much have your answer(s) above, but forgive me, you don't seem to be listening..or answering the queries i.e. What kind of portrait..? Head and shoulder, full length..etc. You're just repeating the fact that you have a 40mm lens... In this regard you could help yourself here, by actually taking a picture or two with it and judging the result. The biggest concern with the lower mm ranges is unflattering distortion of facial features - that's why you see some folk using 50mm as a minimum, and very often higher.. Smile
ade_mcfade Plus
13 15.2k 216 England
12 Jul 2012 9:05PM
I've had good results with a 500mm F4.5 L
12 Jul 2012 10:18PM
Yeah, sorry about that (repeating self) my 8 year old is on a bit of a mad one and I'm getting just a little bit distracted to say the leastWink I am pretty happy with the 40mm but find I have to get quite close-up for the shots I want, thats why I'm debating the 85mm.Its not really a problem with my daughter but I'd like to do more 'people' shots in general, not really sure about which particular style of portrait I like best, just wanted to know what people with more experience than me use, if anything specific.Something with a very good image quality.500mm would be too long and out of my price range.
12 Jul 2012 10:23PM

Quote:I've had good results with a 500mm F4.5 L
What sort of work do you do with a 500mm ?? Sounds interesting.
ade_mcfade Plus
13 15.2k 216 England
12 Jul 2012 10:25PM
mainly people and things which are far away
ianrobinson Plus
8 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
12 Jul 2012 11:07PM
Well they do say you should use no less than 50mm or you may distort the face and in portraits that is not really flattering, however if you are after something a little different and arty then why not.
I tend to use my 70-200mm f2.8 or my 85mm f 1.8 lens or if tight for space my 24-105mm f4 lens but to be honest i much prefer my 70-200mm f2.8 l is usm if i can.
Carabosse Plus
14 41.0k 269 England
12 Jul 2012 11:29PM

Quote:Well they do say you should use no less than 50mm or you may distort the face

You have to take account of sensor size. E.g. 45-50mm is a perfect portrait length on M4/3 - it would be a very poor choice on medium format!
mikehit Plus
8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
13 Jul 2012 8:44AM

Quote:Well they do say you should use no less than 50mm or you may distort the face

I know this is being pedantic but it is important to understand that it is not the lens that causes the weird perspectives but the distance from the subject.

If you are 2 feet from a subject when you take a picture with a wide angle lens the nose-to-cheek distance is a large proportion of the cheek-to-camera distance so the nose appears disproportionately large compared to the cheek (even when you ignore the lens distortions at such close distances). If you are 5 feet from the subject, the nose-to-cheek distance is a much smaller proportion of the cheek-to-camera so the facial features appear more natural. If you are 100 feet from the subject and use a telephoto lens the fae appears more flat and 2-dimensional.
So the sequence of questions is 'what distance gives the best facial proportions in a head-and-shoulder portrait' then 'what lens do I need to fill the frame when standing at that distance'. Over many generations of photographers the answer is that a frame filling portrait using a lens between 90mm and 135mm on a 35mm camera (60mm to 90mm on APS-C) will have you standing at a distance at which the facial features look most pleasing.

But experiment and see what you like.

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