Best Everyday Portrait Lens for Canon

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Dextor143, Dec 12, 2010.

  1. Dextor143 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Hey Guys,
    I am looking for a good potrait lens to take with me every where. So far, I have the kit lens 18-55mm and 100mm Macro. I do know that Macro is a great potrait lens but I am looking for prime lens.

    What do you guys think is the best potrait lens with less noise

    My limit is $500 but I am open for any opinion.

    Thanks
     
  2. jackerin macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Image noise is a result of high ISO, so saying you want a lens with less noise is somewhat incorrect unless you mean sound noise, in which case USM is in order.

    I got the 85mm f/1.8 myself, and while I haven't yet used it that much it's a small lens equipped with USM and large aperture. Mounted on a Rebel body it could even be mistaken for the 18-55 kit lens...
     
  3. Edge100, Dec 12, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010

    Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #3
    On an APS-C body, Sigma 50 f/1.4, hands down. Gives you a perfect 80mm equivalent, with bokeh to die for.
     
  4. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #4
    Agreed... otherwise I would have also said the 85mm f18 USM... both great pieces of glass and affordable...
     
  5. gnd macrumors 6502a

    gnd

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    #5
    BTW, 100mm Macro lens IS a prime lens. It has one focal length, fixed at 100mm, you can not change it the way you do on a zoom lens.
     
  6. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #6
    Yup, also a great choice if you have the space to back up a bit.
     
  7. jabbott macrumors 6502

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    #7
    Being that you are shooting with an APS-C sensor, either the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM (review) or Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM (review) will work well for half-body portraiture. Here is a side-by-side comparison of these and other 50mm lenses. The Sigma has a rounded 9-blade aperture which provides better bokeh than Canon's 8-bladed aperture but the lens is larger and weighs 75% more. I shoot low-light portraits for concerts and other events with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens and have been very happy with it considering its price. In case you find it useful, here is my review from the B&H Photo and Video website with the shot count updated:

     
  8. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #8
    Normally I think the-digital-picture.com has great reviews, but it should be noted that in the case of the Sigma 50/1.4, it's clear they either got a bad copy (likely) or have something against 3rd party glass (also likely, given most of the review of other Sigma/Tamron glass on there).

    My experience is that it is far sharper and the bokeh far better than the Canon equivalent, with an increased price to match. That said, the Canon 50/1.4 is a terrific lens for a great price, and a HUGE step up on the 50/1.8.
     
  9. jabbott macrumors 6502

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    #9
    Yeah, Bryan (the guy who runs TDP) did only test one copy of the Sigma 50mm lens... whereas he tends to test multiple copies of some Canon lenses. Here are some other reviews for both lenses, randomly grabbed from Google:

    Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
    http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/sigma_50_1p4_c16/
    http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/392-sigma_50_14_canon
    http://www.bythom.com/Sigma-50-HSM-lensreview.htm
    http://www.photoanswers.co.uk/Gear/Search-Results/Lenses/Sigma-50mm-f14-EX-DG-HSM/

    Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM
    http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/canon_50_1p4_c16/
    http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/159-canon-ef-50mm-f14-usm-test-report--review
    http://www.fredmiranda.com/reviews/showproduct.php?product=29&sort=7&thecat=2
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/canon/lenses/50mm-f14.htm

    Discussion of both lenses on photo.net:
    http://photo.net/canon-eos-digital-camera-forum/00RtVc

    On B&H, both lenses are rated 4.5 stars out of 5, which basically means you can't go wrong with either. :)
     
  10. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #10
    Your macro lens is a prime lens. A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length (as opposed to a zoom lens where the focal length varies).
    Noise has nothing to do with the lens, but mainly the combination of ISO and your sensor. Faster glass allows you to shoot at lower ISO values (if you don't mind the smaller depth of field).

    In terms of focal length, I'd recommend 50 mm or 80 mm on a crop body, anything else is too long for indoor shots at least. Sigma makes a very, very good 50 mm f/1.4. If you want to go for 80 mm, Canon's f/1.8 lens is optically excellent as well and affordable.
     
  11. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #11
    I see this question asked a lot in other forums as well... can I diverge slightly off topic to ask... what are the characteristics of a good portrait lens?

    I don't understand why primes are always suggested for portraits. With my limited experience, it seems a lot more convenient to use a zoom lens like the 17-55 f2.8 for portraits because you can capture different poses and quickly change the framing and composure without having to run all over the place. I must be missing something though.

    I'm guessing it's the super large apertures that make a big difference? Can you actually shoot a portrait at f1.4 or are you battling a razor thin depth of field? Also, a lot of the large aperture primes appear to be very soft wide-open, and don't get really sharp until you stop them down to f2.8 or more. Don't both of these attributes somewhat defeat the purpose?
     
  12. jabbott, Dec 12, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010

    jabbott macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Forgot to mention... a lens with a large aperture (like f/1.4) will help prevent your camera from using noisier high ISO speeds. The f/1.4 lenses mentioned above will help tremendously with that in most lighting conditions. For example, assuming identical lighting, a photo taken at ISO 1250 with an f/1.8 lens only requires ISO 800 at f/1.4 with nearly the same exposure. Comparing f/1.4 to f/2.8, the difference is even more extreme (a photo that requires ISO 3200 at f/2.8 only requires ISO 800 at f/1.4). Of course, the trade-off here is depth of field, but that can help or hinder depending on the type of shot you wish to achieve.

    Larger apertures help isolate your subject from the background by reducing the depth of field. In some cases, the background becomes a beautiful blur of abstract colors. I've taken lots of portraits at f/1.4 and depending on my distance to the subject, it does a great job of isolating the subject from the background. It certainly isn't as flexible for framing as a zoom though! :) That is where cropping often comes in after shooting. You do have to be careful about the depth of field being too thin sometimes; cameras can lock in on the tip of a nose and leave the rest of the face slightly blurred. Careful placement of the center AF point is vital.

    Also, there are countless indoor concert photos I would not have been able to take at f/2.8 due to the increased shutter speed and/or ISO speed needed. f/1.4 is very helpful for getting a useful shutter speed to minimize camera and subject shake. For example, here is a 1/60s photo I took at f/1.4 of a heavy metal guitarist with his hair flying through the air, in nearly no light and with no flash. For this one I could have captured the same image at f/2.8 but it would have required ISO 5000 instead of ISO 1250.
     
  13. Edge100, Dec 12, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010

    Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #13
    Let's say you're using a 70-200 f/2.8L and I'm using an 85 f/1.2L; you're quite right that I probably wont be shooting portraits at f/1.2 (for the most part); I'll likely be up at f/4, so I can get the whole face in focus. At most, I'd be at f/2.8, so let's consider that case.

    Your 70-200 is being shot wide-open at f/2.8, whereas I'm stopped down by 2 1/2 stops on my 85/1.2. Most lenses are generally much sharper when stopped down by 1-2 stops, so while you are forced to use your zoom's max aperture, I can stop down into the sweet spot for the lens.

    If you are strictly shooting portraits, a good collection of primes is the way to go. If you also shoot events, wildlife, landscapes, etc, then I can absolutely see the value of adding a couple of zooms to your lineup. But for portraits, the IQ of a prime is hard to beat.
     
  14. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #14
    I see what you are saying, but a lens like the 17-55 f2.8 gives you a very good portrait range of focal lengths including the most popular on a crop (35mm and 50mm) all at very good sharpness, even wide open at f2.8...

    17-55 f2.8 at 35mm and 55mm
    [​IMG]

    Here are the charts for the 35f2 and 55f1.4...
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Both primes need to be stopped down to f2.8 to match the zoom and even then, the difference is not that significant... is that slightly increased sharpness really all that appreciated in a portrait, and worth the hassle of constantly having to switch lenses all the time or the loss of flexibility you get with other focal lengths on the zoom?

    From a technical/sharpness point of view, I'm just not buying the argument that non-L primes are better than a zoom... they aren't. Perhaps there's a creative element that I'm still missing?
     
  15. Edge100, Dec 12, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010

    Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #15
    First off, neither of the two lenses you mentioned (35/2 and 50/1.4) are what I'd call "sharp" wide open, and I wouldn't use either as portrait lenses. If this is what you're comparing with, then yes, I would go with the 17-55.

    Try the Canon 35/1.4, Sigma 50/1.4 and 85/1.4, Canon 85/1.2, and Canon 135/2; these are the real sharpness stars.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It's not a hassle at all; I carry two bodies, one with a wide prime and one with a short telephoto prime, and I move where I want to be to get the framing and perspective I need.

    And it goes without saying that all of these primes are better at f/2 or lower than your zoom is. They also work much better on FF bodies. ;)

    Nothing wrong with zooms; I prefer primes, for the sharpness, the shallow DOF, and overall IQ. But I also see a 17-40 f/4L, a 24-70 f/2.8L, and a 70-200 f/2.8L IS in my bag. Horses for courses.
     
  16. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #16
    Just one final comment and then I'll shut-up... :)

    A lot of people, not just here, but on other forums, recommend a 35 or 50mm prime for portraits... and usually the Non-L varieties because people are on a budget. All I'm saying is that portrait and prime don't need to be synonomous. A good zoom can be a perfectly good portrait lens and in some cases better than the primes some people recommend.

    As for the OP... you might be better off saving your $500 and using your kit lens, or saving until you can afford something like a 17-55 zoom that will benefit a broader range of subjects, including portraits, rather than spending it on a 50mm prime that needs to be stopped down to become as good as your existing lens.
     
  17. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    Sure; I use a 35L all the time for environmental portraits. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn't use the 35/2; call me crazy, but pentagonal specular highlights turn me off.

    Or else buy the Sigma 50/1.4, which is far sharper than the existing lens, even at f/1.4.
     
  18. someoldguy macrumors 65816

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    #18
    Look around for a used 85 1.8 . Been using one for several years on my 5D with great results , though it might be a bit long for a crop sensor.
     
  19. jabbott macrumors 6502

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    #19
    Au contraire! The existing kit lens is at f/5.6 at 50mm, which is going to require the camera to use a higher ISO speed or slower shutter speed to get a decent photo. A prime lens at f/1.4 will let in 16 times as much light (here is the area ratio formula: (pi*(50/1.4/2)^2) / (pi*(50/5.6/2)^2)). This 16x difference means that a photo taken at ISO 100 at f/1.4 would need ISO 1600 at f/5.6 for equivalent exposure. Alternatively, a photo taken at 1/100s at f/1.4 would require a shutter speed of about 1/6s at f/5.6 for equivalent exposure. Based on this, upgrading to an f/1.4-capable lens would have a large immediate practical benefit. I don't include the effect of IS in my comparison because it only improves camera shake and not subject movement. If the most sharpness is desired, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 does perform better than the Canon 50mm f/1.4 (both in MTF and chromatic aberration), but it costs 45% more. It is right at the $500 budget requested by the original poster though. :)
     
  20. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #20
    This.
     
  21. merkinmuffley macrumors 6502a

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    #21
    FF camera or crop? It makes a difference in what I'd recommend. On my FF I use a Canon 85mm f1.2, on a my crop cameras I use a 50mm F1.4. IMHO, there is no better lens than the 85/1.2,but it won't fit your $500 budget.
     
  22. Geckotek macrumors G3

    Geckotek

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    #22
    I'll be picking up the Canon 50mm 1.8 for my Dad as a Christmas gift. Probably get one for myself as well. :)
     
  23. TWLreal macrumors 6502

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    #23
    You are comparing an APS-C lens on an APS-C sensor to full frame lenses on an APS-C sensor and that is completely flawed in the first place.

    No, actually, they don't.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Both EF 35mm f/2 and EF 50mm f/1.4 USM resolve more than the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, all wide open. In fact, the EF-S lens never catches up, ever, against either lens. Not to mention it will also never go below f/2.8.

    You are not using the full scope of an EF lens on an APS-C sensor. It's a flawed comparison.
    As it has been mentioned by others , it is not just the resolution advantage for fixed lenses but also the depth-of-field control and speed advantage that you do not get with a zoom lens.
    My $75 EF 50mm f/1.8 II resolves better than my $1,299 EF 24-105 f/4 L IS USM.

    Fixed lenses do one thing and they do it well. Most of the time anyway.

    I'm sorry you think that way but it's a simple fact that most regular EF fixed lenses will outresolve EF zooms, L or not.
    Not that I agree completely with people thinking that way but there is a challenge to using a fixed focal length much like it's a challenge to manually focus. So, sure, there is a creative part in using fixed lenses.
     
  24. Geckotek macrumors G3

    Geckotek

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    #24
    Any hint on where I can grab one for $75? :)
     
  25. TWLreal macrumors 6502

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    #25
    Not that long ago, prices for photography equipment were at an all time low.

    [​IMG]

    You could buy it brand new from B&H for $74.95. And it wasn't grey market.

    Those were good times.

    You'll have to go used to find it at that price now. Not that the current $99.95 price is outrageous.
     

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