The old 50mm portrait lens

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Flatland2D, Jun 20, 2007.

  1. Flatland2D

    Flatland2D TPF Noob!

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    I'm still new to photography, but it seems almost like a rule that 50mm lenses are used for portraits. My only question is, is this 50mm equivalent, or a lens marked 50mm? The reason I'm asking is that walking around at home with my 18-70mm lens set at 50mm (plus 1.5x crop factor) seems a little too close to use in the confines of a house for small group shots. I'd like to get a really fast prime for indoor/no flash shots, and I'm thinking I might want something less than 50mm. What do you guys use? Thanks.
     
  2. nomade

    nomade TPF Noob!

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    A 50 mm is the normal lens, which is similar to human eyesight,moreover it's recommended to start with, it's almost perfect for everything, not just portraits, i used a couple of cameras with 50 mm on them for a while and then i got myself a Jupiter 12 to fit on my russian fed 3, it's about 32 mm. And it was a nice solution. My ricoh's lens is 40 mm and it's around the normal range too...

    Anyway you might wanna try something between 28-35 mm...
     
  3. Karsten V

    Karsten V TPF Noob!

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    Here's a little something to read about the "normal lens" which will give you an insight on the subject.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_lens

    I have a cropped format camera as well and the way I figure it out is this:

    I look through the viewfinder and set the focal lenght to what I think might be close to normal.
    Then raise my head over the camera and try to judge if what I see in the viewfinder is the same size as my eyes sees them.
     
  4. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The issue is perspective and that is determined by the camera to subject distance. What we do is determine the best perspective for the shot and then use the focal length lens for that distance that best covers the angle of view to capture what we had in mind.

    The 50mm lens has a normal angle of view on a 35mm camera and a modest (really very modest) telephoto angle of view on the digital. For the traditional and classic portrait, the 50mm lens on a digital is probably OK for a full figure or head and torso portrait and probably too short for a head shot unless we want to crop quite a lot.

    Lenses aren't normally designed for an application. They are designed to produce a given angle of view or rangle of angles, a focusing range and range of apertures. How you use them is up to you.
     
  5. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Adding to this, take three portraits of the same person: one at your shortest focal length, one in the middle (28mm for APS-C, 50mm for 35mm), and one at your longest focal length. Compose each so that the head is in the same approximate position, and takes up about the same space top to bottom. Notice how when you are very close to your subject (shorter focal length) the difference between near and far objects, such as the tip of the nose and the eyes, is exaggerated. And when farther away (longer focal length) it's flattened out. Getting right on top of the subject is great for for silly portraits of kids, clowns, dogs, and people who don't mind seeing themselves with a big nose. If you are trying to create a more flattering portrait you'll want some distance between yourself and the subject.

    For an APS-C format camera I like a 50mm lens for full length portraits, and even as close as waist up. For head and face shots I usually switch to an 85mm lens.
     
  6. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    KSMatt has it right, of course.
    For portraits you want a bit more distance between you and your subject so they don't feel claustrophobic. An 85mm does that - and you have less risk of casting shadows on the sitter. The slight compression of depth is quite flattering to the subject too.

    To be perfectly honest, I don't think I ever used the 50mm for anything...
     
  7. danalec99

    danalec99 TPF Noob!

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    [thread hijack]

    What did you shoot the sofa shots with?

    [/thread hijack]
     
  8. NJMAN

    NJMAN TPF Noob!

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    Good call. The 85mm is a highly sought after lens for closeup portaits. I really want one of those!
     
  9. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Virtually all (the B&W anyway) were shot on a Mamiya C330 Pro S (love that camera) using either a 105mm or a 65mm lens depending on circumstances.
     
  10. danalec99

    danalec99 TPF Noob!

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    Oh okay. I was thinking 85mm on a 35mm format wouldn't help much for those shots.
     
  11. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    When I did one or two on 35mm I used a 35mm lens. Wide enough but with minimal distortion.
     
  12. Flatland2D

    Flatland2D TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for all the advice. I guess I should be a little more clear. If I got a 50mm lens it would be mostly for indoor/no flash shots of family get togethers - not necessarily formal portraits. Think birthdays, reunions... stuff like that where the setup is informal and more candid shots. This is why I'm thinking 50mm x 1.5 might be too much. It couldn't capture the whole room, just one (or a couple) person(s) at a time.
     

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