Portrait Photography? What is your favorite lens?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by bittybows, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. bittybows

    bittybows TPF Noob!

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    Hello. I have been doing photography of my kids simply as a hobby, and will soon be purchasing a new lens, as well as a new camera body. I am primarily interested in something that will take great outdoor shots, especially portrait type.

    I am considering a 50mm f1.4 and an 85mm f1.4, but am not sure if I am overlooking something that would work better?

    I currently shoot with a Nikon D50. I will replacing this in a few months, and for this reason I am considering both Nikon and Canon. (I don't have much else Nikon equipment to necessarily hold me to Nikon.)

    If you primarily do portrait photography, children, or weddings, will you please tell me your absolute favorite lens? Thanks!!
     
  2. PattiS

    PattiS TPF Noob!

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    85mm f1.4
     
  3. thebeatles

    thebeatles TPF Noob!

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    I am a canon user and love my 85mm f/1.8 for head shots. I think the 50mm might be more versatile though. It's pretty darn difficult to get a full body shot and extremely difficult to get a group shot when I use the 85mm.
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    70-200mm f/2.8 gives the most versatility, and the top models from both Canon and Nikon have excellent bokeh. I do not think there is a 50mm lens made by Canon or Nikon that has truly fine bokeh. As far as it goes, I don't think there are any Canon or Nikon 50mm lenses that have anywhere near the bokeh quality of say the 85/1.4 AF-D or the 105 DC from Nikon.
     
  5. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    i've done a few sessions with young kids (nothing professional.. ) and I found it difficult to expect kids to hold a pose or focus for any length of time. Often the best photos came outside doing what children do best.. playing.

    I much prefer a fast 80ish focal length for portraiture. Canon 85mm f/1.8 coming into mind.

    With kids, I found it necessary to have the flexibility of a zoom (and knee pads). With that, I agree with Darrel. My ol'Tamron 35-105 f/2.8 asph. and 70-200 f/2.8L IS came in very useful. This was also true for indoor/studio shots as well.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'll also agree with Derrel.

    My favorite lens for portraits is my 70-200mm F2.8 L IS.
     
  7. bittybows

    bittybows TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Patti, and I love your site and photos! Those are the types of shots I am wanting to aspire to, with the detail and softness you show. If you don't mind my asking, do you usually use multiple lenses for an outdoor shoot?

    Good point. Hmmmm.

    Interesting. I never would have thought about this lens! So, do you think that this lens accomplishes better bokeh than an 85mm f1.4? If so, can you explain the logistics of it, or point me to a place that I could read up for better understanding? I am definitely wanting something that will significantly soften the background. However, I also want something that will be great for indoor and low light.

    Yeah, I don't usually try to pose my kids, but just want to capture their playfulness and energy! To me, that is cuter and more realistic than a posed shot in a studio.
     
  8. 80mm f/1.2 Leica R Sumilux, adapted for Canon EOS mount on 5D.
     
  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I think Nikon's 70-200 VR (the original lens, optimized for DX) has superb bokeh on natural-world scenes, and on DX, it delivers round OOF highlights and not the cat's eye or football-shaped ones that some other brands create because the 70-200 VR lens does not suffer from mechanical or optical peripheral light fall-off on DX format. The advantage the 70-200 Nikkor has is a rounded diaphragm and a design that deliberately emphasizes bokeh quality; this is something that was missing with the older 80-200 generation lenses, and is also lacking from Sigma's 70-200 EX lenses.

    What the 84 1.4 AF-D, Nikon's so-called "Cream Machine" offers is superb bokeh, but only at one focal length--85mm, dropping to 77mm at the point of maximum close focus, but at a true, full f/1.4. What the 85 1.4 AF-D offers though is a choice of blur effects that's quite wide: at f/1.4 there is a dreamy, visible softening and lowered contrast and ultra-shallow DOF; stopped down to f/2 and the images are a bit sharper with higher contrast, but still not optimally contrasty and sharp. At f/2.8 the 85 1.4 produces a lovely image, with shallow depth of field. The lens peaks at around f/4.8 to f/5.6, where the corners come into about equal sharpness with the extreme edges. At its widest apertures, the lens has a really sharp, fully-illuminated center, but softer edges,with lower resolution and lower contrast and some light fall-off, which actually looks good on portraits. You can basically "choose your sharpness" by shooting at f/1.4, or f/2 or f/2.8 or f/3.5 or f/4.5. If you want a dreamy look, you can shoot pretty wide-open. If you want biting crispness, you can shoot at f/4.5.

    But, the advantages of a 70-200 lens with stabilizer are that you can shoot at a multitude of focal lengths, and framings, and at MANY camera-to-subject distances. The stabilization helps stop wind buffeting, slight camera shake, and helps if you are slightly out of breath, or when your muscles get fatigued after a long session with lots of up and down, kneeling,walking, crouching,etc. If you want to read up on lenses, dPreview's lens talk forums have loads of people who love to discuss various lenses and who appreciate the differences. Various prime lenses create a "look" or "impression" or a "signature". Nikon's original 70-200 VR and Canon's 70-200 2.8 L-IS USM both have quite good bokeh AND really nice image quality across many lengths, and are just more-versatile than an 85mm lens--even a superb 85, which both Canon and Nikon offer.
     
  10. IgsEMT

    IgsEMT No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I like my 28-105 Nikon.
     
  11. TJ K

    TJ K No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think the 70-200 2.8 is great for it. Also it seems like the 85 1.4 is also excellent.
    TJ
     
  12. Bokeh... wouldn't that be a secondary consideration when purchasing a lens for portraits? Wouldn't sharpness (or the absence of harshness), contrast, and color rendering be a lot more important?
     

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