Which portrait lens would you choose?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by annief0906, Aug 31, 2009.

  1. annief0906

    annief0906 TPF Noob!

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    I'm pretty new around here...mostly just lurking and reading. But now I have a question. We have a Nikon D60 and for my birthday, my husband wants to get me a portrait lens. I had been eyeing the 50mm 1.8/f Nikkor lens. He has been talking to someone we know who works at a local camera shop and she suggested the 35mm 1.8g Nikkor lens. She's relatively new on the job and works on commission, so I'm not sure I completely trust her opinion. (the 35mm is about $75-$100 more than the 50mm)

    Here's my goal: really good photojournalistic shots of my kids...the ones that have a lot of depth of focus/blurry backgrounds...you know what I mean. I want to fire my photographer, lol.

    Which would you go with? I am just afraid the 35mm is too much for me, but I am not sure.

    Thanks for any advice!
     
  2. thenikonguy

    thenikonguy TPF Noob!

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    i use the 50mm 1.8 for my portraits.. wouldnt mind having a 35mm though..
     
  3. Jaszek

    Jaszek No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    for portraits the 50 would be better, but for kids, if you will be shooting in your house, the 35mm would be better.
     
  4. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    You know at one point my father had a 100mm 2.8 or something like it. He called it "a great portrait lense". I never understood why, but it DID make some VERY complimentary portraits.

    Now, looking back, I wonder... a 35mm would get more of the surrounding area in the shot unless you got closer to the subject, which would then necessarily distort certain features... a 50mm less so... a 100mm even less so... I would think that might be why a 100mm (or so) would be very nice.

    I know MANY people use the nifty fifty because the optical quality is amazing and it's cheap as heck, but I'm wondering... what are the REASONS behind using a particular focal length vs. another (aside from obviously being in a tight space).
     
  5. icassell

    icassell TPF Noob!

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    They both have advantages. I have a 50 and a 100mm, but would love a 35 as, on the crop sensor, the 50 often makes me stand way back ...

    My advice would be to go to your local camera den and try them both and see which works for you. Have you thought about a good fast zoom (like the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 -- I'm not familiar with the Nikon equivalents)?
     
  6. Big Mike

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

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    For portraits, usually longer is better....so I'd suggest the 50mm over the 30mm. Although, longer lenses are harder to work with then you are indoors and space is limited.

    Longer lenses also help to give you that 'Shallow DOF' that you are looking for.

    Also, since you want 'photo journalistic' style shots...and even longer lens might be a good idea because then you an be farther away from them, catching them at more natural times....because they will likely 'ham it up' once you get too close with the camera. I'd recommend the 70-200mm F2.8 VR....but that's probably way above your budget.
     
  7. Big Mike

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

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    That's right. Shorter lenses tend to accentuate the distance between things...(like the end of you nose and the rest of your face)...while longer lenses tend to compress features, which usually makes for more attractive portraits.
     
  8. mariusz

    mariusz TPF Noob!

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    50mm is a narrower lens, you will get closer and its would be a choice for portraits.
     
  9. Plato

    Plato TPF Noob!

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    With an FX sensor, nothing shorter than 85mm. With a DX sensor, nothing shorter than 50mm. The issue with short focal lengths is that distance is exaggerated which makes certain features (e.g., noses) look overly large.
     
  10. Stormin

    Stormin TPF Noob!

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    It seems to be a relative consensus already, but I am another vote for the 50mm. It's affordable, effective and will allow you to be further away from your subjects.
     
  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I find it bad advice to suggest to a beginner that she buy a 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor AF-D lens for use on her D60 body,since it will NOT autofocus with her D60.

    The D60,like the D40 series, will NOT autofocus unless the lens is an AF-S lens made by Nikon, or has in in-lens focusing motor from a third-party manufacturer like Sigma with its HSM protocol, or Tamron or Tokina with the newest lenses they have updated to in-lens focusing motor status after the introduction of the D40 and D60 bodies.

    If you want a "portrait" lens to give you shallow depth of field, you'll want a lens of at least 50mm,and with an in-lens focusing motor. Nikon's 35mm AF-S G lens has a fast maximum aperture of f/1.8, but on a small-sensor camera, that short focal length will not always be capable of creating the heavily out of focus backgrounds you seem to want to be able to get. If you want to show the kids in the house, the cropped-off image that DX imposes means a 50mm lens is very "tight",and almost too long indoors, and a 35mm lens would be easier to work with to show the kids within the context of an environment. Between the two lenses, the 50mm with no AF and 35mm with AF-S focusing, I think the decision favors the lens that allows you to autofocus.
     
  12. cnutco

    cnutco No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think I would like to have a prime 105mm...
     

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