Macro lenses make good portrait lenes y/n?

jaomul

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I often read reviews and they double up by saying macro lenses generally make good portrait lenses, but then some say they're not good at portraits.

Any macro I've had was a sharp fast prime lens that imo was good, why do those more in the know say they're not great?
 

480sparky

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Depends on the focal length compared to the sensor / film size.

I sure wouldn't use a 50mm (macro or not) on a full frame DSLR for portraiture, but I'd be happy to use something in the 100-200mm range.
 

Derrel

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The problem I have had with several macro lenses (Canon,SIgma,Nikon,Tamron) ranging from 55mm to 180mm is focusing...many of them have remarkably hair-trigger focusing at distances beyond about three feet, so the degree of focusing precision is sketchy at typical portrait distances. Missed focus, in-focus, missed focus, in-focus, missed focus, missed focus, missed focus, in-focus...that's kind of the way it can go when one millimeter of focusing ring movement is the difference between focusing at 10 feet and focusing at 17 feet. Every macro lens I have ever owned has been a pain in the ass as far as focusing consistently at non-macro distances.
 

petrochemist

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I can think of a couple of factors some might hold against macro lenses for portraits:
Macro lenses don't generally have wide apertures, making shallow DOF & potentially subject isolation for difficult.

Some specialist portrait lenses are specially designed to be soft (which tends to be more flattering for ladies) macro lenses tend to be very sharp.

The most normal focal lengths for macro lenses are around 100mm which is close to the normal 'ideal' for portraits.
If photographing an older man with plenty of 'character' in positions where subject isolation is easy macro lenses are excellent. They don't do a bad job with other situations, but faster lenses can have significant advantages.
 

beagle100

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I often read reviews and they double up by saying macro lenses generally make good portrait lenses, but then some say they're not good at portraits.

Any macro I've had was a sharp fast prime lens that imo was good, why do those more in the know say they're not great?

actually those "in the know" say macro lens are pretty good for portraits.
sure, you can get better portrait lens (larger aperture, longer focal length) but it's going to costs more.

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/641/22302257498_b14f6dab85_k.jpg
 

480sparky

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I can think of a couple of factors some might hold against macro lenses for portraits:
Macro lenses don't generally have wide apertures, making shallow DOF & potentially subject isolation for difficult.
...........

I don't see any difference between a 100mm f/2.8 prime and a 100mm f/2.8 macro, at least in terms of max apertures.
 

beagle100

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I can think of a couple of factors some might hold against macro lenses for portraits:
Macro lenses don't generally have wide apertures, making shallow DOF & potentially subject isolation for difficult.
...........

I don't see any difference between a 100mm f/2.8 prime and a 100mm f/2.8 macro, at least in terms of max apertures.

not much difference there but photographers that shoot a lot of portraits prefer a larger aperture and longer focal length, such as this person ljholloway photography
 
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jaomul

jaomul

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Thanks for interesting responses
 

JustJazzie

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The problem I have had with several macro lenses (Canon,SIgma,Nikon,Tamron) ranging from 55mm to 180mm is focusing...many of them have remarkably hair-trigger focusing at distances beyond about three feet, so the degree of focusing precision is sketchy at typical portrait distances. Missed focus, in-focus, missed focus, in-focus, missed focus, missed focus, missed focus, in-focus...that's kind of the way it can go when one millimeter of focusing ring movement is the difference between focusing at 10 feet and focusing at 17 feet. Every macro lens I have ever owned has been a pain in the ass as far as focusing consistently at non-macro distances.
Interesting note! I reall do get hit and miss focus on my 150mm sigma macro. Even when I am sure to shoot at 1/250 or faster. I thought it was me!
 

DB_Cro

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How badly can it miss?
I'd just stop it down a bit and that'll probably fix it.
I'd gladly use a macro lens for portraits if it was at least 85mm eq.
 

Dave442

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I don't have a specific portrait lens. If someone asks for a portrait I will usually either use the 70-300mm or my 60mm macro on my crop-body camera. The macro works OK for me, like Derrell mentioned I have had the lens rack through the very large focus range.

I feel that the macro is usable, but not great, for portrait.

Just this Sunday I took some impromptu portrait shots where an 85mm or my 70-300mm would have been too long. Every kid was standing about 2 meters from the subjects and taking full body shots with their cell phones, I was at 2.66 meters and shooting sort of over and between them just getting some half-body portrait shots with the 60mm macro wide-open (just a quick check shows I had a 0.2 meters DOF). A short time later I was taking some macro shots of flowers from 0.2 meters with a whopping 0.003 meters DOF.
 

nerwin

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I like my 105 2.8G macro lens, lovely bokeh and fast focus. Mine doesn't rack through the focus range when doing stuff like portraits because it has a limit focus switch which limits the focus range so it doesn't rack through the whole focus range.
 

petrochemist

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I can think of a couple of factors some might hold against macro lenses for portraits:
Macro lenses don't generally have wide apertures, making shallow DOF & potentially subject isolation for difficult.
...........

I don't see any difference between a 100mm f/2.8 prime and a 100mm f/2.8 macro, at least in terms of max apertures.
You'll note I did say 'generally' most macro primes I've seen are ~f/4 even when down at 50mm where f/1.8 is fairly standard for a non-macro prime.
 
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jaomul

jaomul

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I can think of a couple of factors some might hold against macro lenses for portraits:
Macro lenses don't generally have wide apertures, making shallow DOF & potentially subject isolation for difficult.
...........

I don't see any difference between a 100mm f/2.8 prime and a 100mm f/2.8 macro, at least in terms of max apertures.
You'll note I did say 'generally' most macro primes I've seen are ~f/4 even when down at 50mm where f/1.8 is fairly standard for a non-macro prime.

What you'll probably find is a lot of macro lenses are f2.8, but due to their design, they cant be f2.8 at close distances but as the focal point is farther away they're able to get to f2.8.My tamron 90mm f2.8 is approx f4 at closer than 2 feet bit at 6 feet its about f3
 

TCampbell

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You can certainly use a macro lens as a portrait lens. But macro lenses often have higher detail-resolving capability and some photographers think it's a bit too much detail on skin as it shows every minor blemish. But too much detail is a better problem to have than not enough detail. You can always apply some slight skin softening to hide micro blemishes that make skin look older & less healthy. Makeup artists tend to love the detail.
 

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