Trying to decide on portrait lenses....

BanditPhotographyNW

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I have narrowed it down to Nikon 70-200 f4 which i have read does very well, but is an f4 lens. The alternative for roughly the same price is the Nikon 85mm 1.8 combined with a Sigma 150mm 2.8. Both of these lenses get great marks as well. So since I know next you will ask what I will be shooting and where I will be using these. The answer is 1. what? portraits. 2. where? mostly studio but likely on location as well. I think I am leaning towards the 85mm 150mm combo since I can also use the Sigma as a macro and they have larger apertures so they work better in dim light. But with the 70-200 I wont be changing lenses as much and It look like a very sharp lens. Any advise is much appreciated as always...
 

table1349

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Personally I lean toward the 85 to 135 prime range. You just can't have too sharp of lens when shooting portraits and the feet God gave you will usually give you all the "zoom" you need. For many people the deciding factor, beyond cost, is working room. If you have the studio room for an 85 or the 150 you mentioned then that would be my choice. If not, then the tradeoff may be the 70-200.
 

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I would rather have one good zoom lens, with ONE consistent color rendering for studio work, rather than a split-brand, two-prime setup. You can NOT cancel out the Sigma color rendering in post, no matter how much dicking around you do with the white balance. Color rendering from a lens is NOT something that white balance can equalize perfectly.

F/4 is fine for studio portraiture...you'll probably want to be shooting at f/6.3 or f/7.1 much of the time anyway. And modern Nikons can focus at f/4 if the modeling lamps in the heads are 60-Watt bulbs or brighter. I do not think there's any reason to shy away from the 70-200 f/4...it's plenty sharp for portraiture...it has AF-S focusing which is very good in dimmer lighting conditions. PLUS, the full zoom range is nice to have; on crop-body an 85mm lens is wayyyyy too tight indoors unless your shooting area is long. The difference between 70mm and 85mm is very significant. The zoom would be the handier, easier-to-use lens in many situations.

I am not sold on macro lenses as "people" lenses. I think the 150mm might not be the best choice for people work. I'm not impressed with macro lenses when used at longer ranges.
 

Gavjenks

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Dunno about the macro thing in terms of image quality, etc. ^ That could be a deal breaker.

However, setting that aside, I think that the wider apertures are worth a lot more than zoom convenience or even color consistency. Is a client more likely to be happy with 2 stops shallower depth of field and a nice creamily blurred pro looking background with great subject isolation? Or the colors being the precise same shade of green, when they probably won't even display multiple photos of the same shoot close enough to tell anyway? I don't think most people would even notice if you dicked with it enough to get them fairly close. And as for zooming, it's just a few feet stepping further back or closer. Zoom is more important I think for traveling or harsh environments or fast action that you need to frame up quickly or you'll miss it, like variable range sports. You do want to have more than one focal length for sure, for different perspectives and convenience of headshot versus body shots etc. in potentially confined spaces. But you don't need ALL the focal lengths. Studio portraiture you have all the time in the world to change lenses, and can simply set up your mental schedule of poses to minimize the amount of fumbling you'd have to do.

Plus sharpness of primes doesn't hurt, obviously.

So yeah maybe not the macro, but I'd still suggest going the route of faster primes. The sigma 150 is certainly not the only moderately tele prime out there. You have oodles to choose from, macro and not macro.
 
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BanditPhotographyNW

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Instead of the 150mm what would you suggest? The sigma is priced in the 1100ish range and my budget is total for lenses right now is like 2k but that budget includes warranties which I always buy because I suck at life lol. So like 1700ish and I want to be able to have more than 1 focal length. thanks for your input...
 

Dinardy

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I have loved my 85mm 1.8G so far. Excellent bokeh, color, contrast and sharpness. I think the 85mm is worth the sacrifice of a zoom lens.
 
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BanditPhotographyNW

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I was also looking at this one, Nikkor 135mm f/2.0D
but dunno how difficult it is to operate the defocus control...but this seems to be a very liked lens for portraits.
 

Dinardy

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I have been bidding in the 80-200 2.8 AF-D as well. It's relatively cheap and within your budget along with the 85mm prime.
 

Derrel

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COntrolling the look one gets in portraiture is MUCH more complex than, "stepping a few feet forward or back". Uh, sorry, but the buzzer goes off and there's a bigg "Ehhhhhhh!" sound when people describe "stepping a few feet closer or farther" as the answer to compromising on one or two focal lengths, instead of having a range of focal lengths to work with to create differing looks.

Portraiture is very much about background control. And that means angle of acceptance BEHIND the subject becomes a big deal. Having a whole slew of different angles of view, and also having different focal lengths, in a 70-200 is much more useful than having one,two, or three lenses, and just moving closer or farther away.

Moving closer or farther away mostly controls image magnification on the SUBJECT; when you are stuck with one, or two focal lengths, you are always forced to work with the angle of acceptance that THAT, specific focal length has. The ability to change focal lengths from 70, to 75, to 80, to 85, 90, 105, 120, 135, 150,180,and 200 mm means that you have a tool which allows you to control the width of the background, as well as the magnification of the background. The same is not true with prime lenses. Having a zoom lens allows you to control both the size of the subject AND the size/magnification/defocus of the background in relation TO the subject.

There are a number of very good reasons that the 70-200mm zoom,lens has become the go-to lens for professional shooters world-wide.
 

Derrel

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I was also looking at this one, Nikkor 135mm f/2.0D
but dunno how difficult it is to operate the defocus control...but this seems to be a very liked lens for portraits.

I have the 105/2 AF-D Defocus Control and the 135mm f/2 AF defocus Control models; both have different color rendering than my newer 70-200/2.8 VR Nikkor. Both of the primes are nice lenses, and they are fairly light in weight. The 105/2 is the better optic. And even though I own both these lenses, I seldom use them now that I have the 70-200. The zoom is simply more versatile, and the defocus feature is more hype than help to me.
 
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BanditPhotographyNW

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I was also looking at this one, Nikkor 135mm f/2.0D
but dunno how difficult it is to operate the defocus control...but this seems to be a very liked lens for portraits.

I have the 105/2 AF-D Defocus Control and the 135mm f/2 AF defocus Control models; both have different color rendering than my newer 70-200/2.8 VR Nikkor. Both of the primes are nice lenses, and they are fairly light in weight. The 105/2 is the better optic. And even though I own both these lenses, I seldom use them now that I have the 70-200. The zoom is simply more versatile, and the defocus feature is more hype than help to me.

Well you are definitely not the first to feel that about the 70-200 I just dont think I can afford the 2.8 model $2600 w/warranty from B&H unless one of the third party ones is any good.
 

Gavjenks

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Meh, I'm not buying it. a 70-200 2.8? Sure, that wins. but not the f/4.

If you want precise control over what exactly is in the background vs. subject, you can crop your prime lens photos to achieve about 50% of the focal range or so in flexibility in that regard probably while still retaining enough resolution to print at any size your client will want. Especially considering that primes are usually optically superior and thus you'll have more actual resolution to work with in the first place. So your 85 punches above its weight up to maybe 120mm by cropping, and a 135 f/2 would pounch above its weight up to maybe 180ish by cropping, basically the same range as a 70-200.

If you want control over defocus, then you also have to consider that the much larger max apertures allow these lenses to punch above their weight in defocus, as well. A 85mm set to f/1.8 will have as much effective/apparent blur as an f/4 zoom would have at a much longer length, probably well above 150. And a 135 f/2 background would look as defocused or probably even more defocused with equal subject size than an f/4 zoom at 200mm.

So these things are quite flexible either way. Step a few feet forward or back to get the background included area range you desire, and then crop for subject size control and/or control aperture for defocus control. If you find yourself cropping too much or hitting your defocus limits with the short prime, switch to the longer prime and repeat. Conversely, if you can't quite fit in enough background or get enough detail in it without uncomfortably small aperture with the long, switch to the short.






And @ OP, the guy above me beat me to it, but the obvious and market-available choice for the longer of two primes to do this would be a normal 135mm f/2.

Depending on your style, a wide lens might be nice too, but that would be true in either case, since the 70-200 doesn't go wide, either. Something like a 28mm. 28mm f/2.8 lenses are fairly ubiquitous. And they have enough DOF that you can shoot them manually pretty easily. Old manual 28 2.8s are even more ubiquitous and dirt cheap. Specially if you only use it for occasional, edgy shots. They're also usually small and lightweight and easy to bring along.
 
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tts

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I think I would prefer the prime. Also consider how much space you got in the studio, I personally wouldn't be able to use the whole range of the zoom in my mine especially if its more then a face portrait :wink:
 

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I seldom shoot at f/2.8. It's not needed. I like to work at f/4.5 or f/4.8 outdoors, so the lens is at is VERY best. Indoors, with studio flash, I like f/7.1 to f/8 most of the time. A person needs 'some' depth of field in portraiture...f/2.8 is not as sharp or contrasty as a smaller f/stop. I want a woman's bosom to be in-focus, NOT JUST her eyeballs, and so I will often stop down to f/6.3, in order to have enough depth of field to actually get the 'person' into proper focus. This has become more and more critical as Nikon cameras have moved up from 2.7 MP to 4.2 MP to 6MP to 8 MP, to 12MP, and now to 24MP and 36MP.

Again...that's why I suggested in Post #2 that you buy the 70-200mm f/4 AF-S Nikkor zoom lens.
 

Gavjenks

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An f/2 prime lens is still going to be sharper at f/6.3 than a f/4 zoom will at f/6.3... Neither is diffraction limited yet, and the prime is at that point using much less edge glass than the zoom. PLUS it's a prime.

So I don't see how that changes much. As we get more and more pixels, the advantage of a faster prime in resolution when stopped down the same moderate amount is even more important, not less, because it will utilize more of those pixels successfully. Leading to more cropping ability and thus more effective flexibility for background control. Even if you never actually use it at f/2 (although you have the option! Unlike with the zoom)



I'm not knocking the 70-200 in general. It would be fantastic for weddings, for instance, where everything is fast paced and you need to do a lot of crazy stuff seemingly all at once with no time to sit and think about how to crop or use aperture to get what you want in a roundabout way, and without any guarantee of being able to move around freely to zoom with your feet. Just great up front results with a great all around performer.

But it's just not needed in a controlled, studio environment with little optics-related pressure. In that scenario, the primes offer more extreme abilities, and the cost of less convenience is not a very bad cost.
 
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