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Old 24-06-2010, 10:05 PM
bloodhound31
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Portrait Lens Recommendations

Hi folks,

I am about to buy all the camera and lens stuff of my dreams.

It turns out, I may have a little left aside for one more lens.

I am thinking a portrait lens. I'm thinking Canon.

What's the consensus among our elite few here?

Baz.
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  #2  
Old 24-06-2010, 10:15 PM
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Octane in 5,4,3,2,1..........
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Old 25-06-2010, 06:46 AM
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Obviously H will offer more experienced advice than I can, but I have gone through a bit of a lens lineup rearrangement/overhaul recently (hence all the sales here) and might throw in my 2 cents' worth. Some of the things you might have to think about:

* Zoom or prime? Zoom will offer more flexibility, but primes tend to be sharper on average.
* What body you going to put it on? Crop or FF?
* Indoors or outdoors portraits?
* Formal portraits or candids?
* What's your budget?
* The "right" solution may need to consider whether it's just for personal use or if you're thinking of going professional.

Zooms you might be looking at 24-70L or 70-200L. They're the common ones on FF cameras and wedding photogs. f/2.8 for lower light situations. If your budget is tight and you can live with f/4, the 70-200 f/4 is one of the sharpest zoom lenses you can get and awesome bang for buck.

Primes on a FF the common ones are 50, 85, and 135 depending on indoors vs outdoors and headshots vs body. I've gone the 85L and 135L. You wouldn't get the 50 and 85 at the same time, too similar IMO. On a tighter budget, the 85 f/1.8 or 50 f/1.4 come highly rated. I got the 85 f/1.8 but decided to upgrade to the 85L, hence the sale. It's a wonderful lens.

Primes on a crop, you might look at the 50 and 85 combo.

I know I might sound like a broken record when talking about lenses, but can't recommend highly enough spending a bit of time in the POTN lenses section. Particularly the Lens Sample Photo Archive. Look for the 50 f/1.4, 50 f/1.2L, 85 f/1.8, 85 f/1.2L (Keg), and 135 f/2 ones I reckon.

That's all just listing the Canons as you requested. There are highly rated 3rd party lenses like Sigmas that can open a whole other range of alternatives.
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Old 25-06-2010, 07:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by troypiggo View Post
Obviously H will offer more experienced advice than I can, but I have gone through a bit of a lens lineup rearrangement/overhaul recently (hence all the sales here) and might throw in my 2 cents' worth. Some of the things you might have to think about:

* Zoom or prime? Zoom will offer more flexibility, but primes tend to be sharper on average.
* What body you going to put it on? Crop or FF?
* Indoors or outdoors portraits?
* Formal portraits or candids?
* What's your budget?
* The "right" solution may need to consider whether it's just for personal use or if you're thinking of going professional.

Zooms you might be looking at 24-70L or 70-200L. They're the common ones on FF cameras and wedding photogs. f/2.8 for lower light situations. If your budget is tight and you can live with f/4, the 70-200 f/4 is one of the sharpest zoom lenses you can get and awesome bang for buck.

Primes on a FF the common ones are 50, 85, and 135 depending on indoors vs outdoors and headshots vs body. I've gone the 85L and 135L. You wouldn't get the 50 and 85 at the same time, too similar IMO. On a tighter budget, the 85 f/1.8 or 50 f/1.4 come highly rated. I got the 85 f/1.8 but decided to upgrade to the 85L, hence the sale. It's a wonderful lens.

Primes on a crop, you might look at the 50 and 85 combo.

I know I might sound like a broken record when talking about lenses, but can't recommend highly enough spending a bit of time in the POTN lenses section. Particularly the Lens Sample Photo Archive. Look for the 50 f/1.4, 50 f/1.2L, 85 f/1.8, 85 f/1.2L (Keg), and 135 f/2 ones I reckon.

That's all just listing the Canons as you requested. There are highly rated 3rd party lenses like Sigmas that can open a whole other range of alternatives.
Thanks Troy, man you go to some effort. You absolutely rock!
  • I will be using it on a full frame (5DMkII)
  • Usually outdoor, but some indoors (using light through windows and doors)
  • Budget is up to 2K
  • Formal and candid mix
  • Not sure on whether to go with a prime or zoom yet. I am told around 70 to 85mm is preferable from a distance of up to 5 metres away.

I will go back to POTN for the lens talk some more and keep feeling my way around. Thanks so much for the advice and focus on the questions Troy.

Baz.
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Old 25-06-2010, 07:50 AM
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Sorry, meant to add...

Reason I asked about crop vs FF is the lenses will give different apparent fields of view obviously.

Reason I asked about indoors vs outdoors is available ambient light (might need faster lenses) and also how much room you have (if too close but can't back up any more to fit people in).

I think the first question to answer is budget. That will affect all of your options.
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Old 25-06-2010, 08:03 AM
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To give you some idea of working distances etc, first shot was taken with 85L (stopped down a bit) on 5DII from about 2m from memory. Second was a bit closer with 35L pretty wide open, less than a metre. Sorry about all the baby photos, but he's the reason why I've done this lens shift. I'm not that good at portrait photos, but I think I'm a fast learner.
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Old 25-06-2010, 08:05 AM
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And what is your current and proposed lens lineup? No point in doubling up on stuff. Let this purchase complement your others.
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Old 25-06-2010, 08:24 AM
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The "classic" range for portrait lenses on 35mm full frame camera was from around 80mm to 135mm. So the zooms already mentioned, or the 24-105 (although it is a slower lens at f4) are all suitable.

A couple of articles
http://www.digital-slr-guide.com/bes...rait-lens.html
http://www.bobatkins.com/photography...it_lenses.html
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Old 25-06-2010, 08:52 AM
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Have to go with primes m'self.
The 50L, the 85L and the 135L. The 50 & 85 are somewhat 'soft' wide open, but in a pleasing way and unless you are doing twighlight work, no one shoots at 1.2 anyway.
If these are out of your reach (and they ARE expensive), the 'standard' 50 1.4 and 85 1.8 are nothing to be sneezed at. The 50 & 100mm Macros are favoured by some for portrait work, but are very, very, sharp. Not something you always want!
To get a bit silly, both the 200 & 300mm 2.8L make great if slightly unwieldy portrait lenses!
If 'twer me, I'd go for the 135 f2L (though NOT the soft focus 135. Its a dog). Its a long favoured all-rounder and my FD version is the sharpest non-macro lens I own.
H might have a differing opinion, but he's obviously skiving-off somewhere! .
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Old 25-06-2010, 09:01 AM
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If you are serious about getting a portrait lens then you need an f2.8 as a minimum. The 135 is good in both Canon and Nikkor. 70-200 f2.8 is also good and both companies supply them. There are some older f2's getting around but really anywhere around 135-200 at f2.8 or lower is what you need. Image stabilisation is less necessary but most gear now comes with it.

Do not buy an f4 lens. Yes they are cheaper but portrait work needs fast sharp lenses. I guarantee you will not be unhappy with anything under f2.8. You are gonna spend more money but better images come from faster lenses.
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Old 25-06-2010, 09:14 AM
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Yeah, considering the budget and FF camera, I'm thinking the 135L and 85 f/1.8 - you could get them both for that budget and would have a very reasonable portrait lineup.
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Old 25-06-2010, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by troypiggo View Post
And what is your current and proposed lens lineup? No point in doubling up on stuff. Let this purchase complement your others.
I currently have a 400D (cropped sensor) with the older 18-55 kit lens (no IS) and the older 75-300 lens (no IS). I don't know the second lens very well because I have heardly used it.

In the next couple of weeks I will ALSO have the 5DMkII (full frame sensor) with the 16-35 f2.8L II USM and a 100mm f2.8L macro ISM

Thinking only portrait for the purpose of this discussion, this is what I have and will have to work with.

If I have enough money left over, I am looking into a good portrait lens. Zoom could give me a bit of flexibility, but I may already have that with the other lenses I have anyway so like you said, no point doubling up.

Baz.

Last edited by bloodhound31; 25-06-2010 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 25-06-2010, 11:04 AM
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Oooh, good choices with the 16-35 and 100L

I'll stick my last post, 135L and 85 f/1.8 for portrait recommendations. You should get both for around/under $2k. Only doubt for me is if you consider them to be a bit close in FL to the 100L, but that's for you to decide. The 100L can do things they can't (macro), but they're faster.

Food for thought
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Old 25-06-2010, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by troypiggo View Post
Oooh, good choices with the 16-35 and 100L

I'll stick my last post, 135L and 85 f/1.8 for portrait recommendations. You should get both for around/under $2k. Only doubt for me is if you consider them to be a bit close in FL to the 100L, but that's for you to decide. The 100L can do things they can't (macro), but they're faster.

Food for thought
Are you saying the 100mm macro can be used as a portrait lens?
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Old 25-06-2010, 11:19 AM
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Sure it can. It's sharp and in the right ballpark focal length. What's the definition of a portrait lens? A lens that you take portraits with. That's it.
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Old 25-06-2010, 11:21 AM
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My old man was an award-winning portrait photographer Barry, and he exclusively used his Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 for that kind of work. I gather that Canon would have an equivalent around that mark.
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Old 25-06-2010, 11:22 AM
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Sure it can. It's sharp and in the right ballpark focal length. What's the definition of a portrait lens? A lens that you take portraits with. That's it.
So is there any point, with the lenses and cameras I have lined up, to buy an additional lens, prime or otherwise, for portraits or will they be enough?

To factor in the answer, I would like to take this to a professional level eventually. (That may be pretty soon).

Baz.
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Old 25-06-2010, 05:16 PM
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I have done quite a bit of studio portrait photography over the years, and I use the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM a lot!
The lens is Sharp, Fast focusing and has a beautiful Bokeh- all requirements to produce beatiful portraits.
cheers
peter
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Old 25-06-2010, 05:45 PM
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My 70-200L has been great for portrait stuff, especially back when I had film (full frame). It is the F/4, but I didn't want the F/2.8 for various reasons even though I agree it would be better for portrait.

I have a 50mm F/1.8 (works out at approx 85mm in my cropped sensor) that I use a bit for portrait photography but find it much more tricky to focus. The 70-200 gets me much more consistent results.
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Old 25-06-2010, 07:12 PM
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Just a thought, any filter recommendation? I have never used filters on my current gear, but I see a lot of others do.

What should I be screwing on and why?

Baz.
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