Canon 85mm 1.8 vs Canon 50mm 1.4 for Portrait Shots

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by RedDragon870503, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. RedDragon870503 macrumors 6502

    RedDragon870503

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    #1
    Self explanatory title, which of these two lenses would be better for shooting portraiture.
     
  2. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #2
    "portraiture" is vague. do you mean environmental? full-body? head & shoulders? outside or in a studio? and what camera are you using?

    135mm or longer (on 35mm) is the preferred length for headshots. much shorter than that and you get distortion. other than that, the focal length depends on how much of the person and environment you're fitting in, and your working distance.

    in a studio, you don't need a fast lens. outdoors, if you choose to blur out the background, the Canon 50/1.4's bokeh is ok at best, and quickly goes to crap if the background is busy.
     
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #3
    If you are indoors and want a full body shot with a 85mm lens on a crop body SLR you'd better have a large studio.

    I assume you have the 18-55 lens. Set it to 50mm do some shots and see if you really need a longer lens.

    For outdoors the 85mm works well.

    I bought both the 85mm and the 50mm for use with film. The 85mm was hands down the best head and shoulders portrait lens of the two. But now with a crop-body DSLR I can use my 50 the samw way as I used to use my 85. But the images are not as good. Nothing beats a full frame camera loaded with Agfa 160 speed portrait film, unless it was my Mamiya loaded with the same film, small format digital just has a different look.

    Today the current style I think is being closer. They way you think about this is to first pick a camera to subject distance. Distance alone determines perspective, not focal length. Then pick a focal lenght that gives the desired field of view. So experiment with different distances even if the framming is "wrong". Which lens to buy depends on your desired working distance which is driven by the desired "perspective".
     
  4. Ryan1524 macrumors 65816

    Ryan1524

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    #4
    Outdoors, I like the 35mm f2. Indoors, 85mm is only good for headshots. I think 50mm is better for half-body. These are all on a DX body.
     
  5. obeygiant macrumors 68040

    obeygiant

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    The 85mm for sure. As close as you can get to the 105-150mm range.
     
  6. Ryan1524 macrumors 65816

    Ryan1524

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    #6
    In APS-C, 85mm is smack in the middle of that. I love my 85mm. :)
     
  7. wheezy macrumors 65816

    wheezy

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    The longer the better, if you want more in the picture, back up. My longest is the 135 F2L which is beautiful for portraits. The below was shot at F2 outdoors, has a great focus on her face but he neck and shoulders are just starting to fade out, adding more depth to the photo.

    The best photographer I know (who's also one of the best you can know) shoots all his portraits pretty much on a 70-200 2.8L IS @ 200mm, rarely does he ever back down off that. The longer your lens (within reason, anything longer than 200-300 is pointless) the better your background will blur away, and your proportions will be correct.

    Comparing my portraits using the 50 1.8 vs the 135 2.0 is almost not fair, (aside from the L) the 135 shots just look so much better. So, to answer your question, the 85 would be the best of the two, but if you can spend a bit more for the 70-200 F4L (non IS is about $550) then that would be your better choice.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Ryan1524 macrumors 65816

    Ryan1524

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    #8
    Here's another 85mm sitting about 2m away from the person, indoors. It's actually much sharper than that, it's been processed.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. wheezy macrumors 65816

    wheezy

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    #9
    Regardless of what I said about longer being better... I love me a fast prime, no matter what the length is....
     
  10. Ryan1524 macrumors 65816

    Ryan1524

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    Yeah, you can't really go wrong with a fast prime. The only weakness is flexibility. But hey, it helps me learn how to compose better. Or at least gave me an exercise. :p
     
  11. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502

    RedDragon870503

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    #11
    Thanks for the responses!

    I am shooting on an XSi and would like to take some senior pictures over the summer. I currently have a 50/1.8 the 18-55 kit and a crappy telephoto.

    For senior pictures would a 135/2.0 be a better invesment, though it is out of my budget. Any alternatives? I am willing to trade up my 50 prime for the 1.4 if it is better than my current lens.
     
  12. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #12
    length is not everything. a 100mm at f/2 will produce a more diffuse background than a 200 at f/2.8. a 100mm also has a different "look" than a 200mm, and it has little to do with proportions being "correct."

    you still haven't told us the conditions. the 135/2 is a great lens, but it's useless if you want full or half-body shots and don't have a lot of space.

    experiment with your telephoto, and figure out how much working distance you want for different shots.

    i suggest the Sigma 50/1.4 over the Canon, which is hardly an upgrade IQ-wise over the 50/1.8.
     
  13. romanaz macrumors regular

    romanaz

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    #13
    I have the same setup as the OP, and I can say, indoors, the 50 1.8 is great indoors for portraits and headshots. I've also used the 50 f/1.4 and 1.2, and IMHO the 1.4 is worth skipping over if you already have the 1.8. Only real difference I can see is the USM is much faster at AF then the 1.8. My 1.8 sometimes will hunt in lower-light, but I'm ok with that. IQ wise the 1.4 doesn't seem much better. The 1.2 though, even though its massively out of my (and probably yours too) price range, is an amazing lens. Definitly the next 50 I'll get will be that one.

    @toxic : I read many reviews about all the 50mm lens's for Canon before I settled on the 1.8. The Sigma has definitely been rated a higher IQ then the canon 50 1.4 but not the 1.2, but also, has focusing problems from most of the reviews. I'm not talking about hunting, but more so, the camera will claim it as hit focus and then it turns out to be off. For the money, I need a lens that hits the focus dead on when I need it to. My 50 1.8 doubles as my weightlifting lens and it MUST hit focus, there are no re-do's.

    to the OP : I would say go for the 85mm f/1.8. It looks like a nice lens, and I've used it once @ B&H and it takes superb images. I'm looking at getting it as soon as I can afford it, means I can back away from the platform @ my weightlifting meets if I need to and lets me get better headshots indoors as well. Also, look into the 100mm f/2, around the same price as the 85mm f/1.8, but a smidge longer. Gets lots of good reviews as well.
     
  14. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502

    RedDragon870503

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    #14
    Okay, so I'm getting that the Canon 1.4 would not be a big step up from my 1.8.

    Keeping in mind that I will have my 50/1.8 and I am looking for a sub 500USD lens what would be the best for general "senior picture" style pictures. I will want to be doing head shots and full body mostly in an outdoor setting but I do have access to a studio and proper lighting.

    I was thinking Canon 100/2 or 85/18 or something in the Sigma line at 135/2?

    What sounds good?
     
  15. Ryan1524 macrumors 65816

    Ryan1524

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    #15
    For head shots (senior pictures), I think the 85 will be best for you. But if you want to be able to take this outside, then I say get the 50. Having said that, there's nothing to stop you from using the 85 outside. I've seen people walk around for outdoor portraits with a 70-200.

    as for 1.8 vs 1.4, it really depends on how much money you're willing to spend. I personally think the difference is not worth $300.
     
  16. toxic macrumors 68000

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    the 50/1.2 has a focus shift. this is inherent from the lens design. the Sigma 50 just has front/backfocus from bad quality control, so it can be fixed if you send it in. in other words, no one makes a perfect AF 50mm...

    i'd stick to 50mm. long enough for head & shoulders, and wide enough that you don't need to be 30 feet away to do a full-body. get the Sigma 50 if you can afford it, its optics are much better than the lower Canon 50's...though it's rather large (larger than the 50/1.2).

    if you'd rather have two lenses, i like the 100/2 more than the 85/1.8. or you could go wider and get a 20, 28, 30, or 35mm lens...

    in a studio, you could probably just use your kit lens, since you'll be at f/8 or so anyway.
     
  17. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502

    RedDragon870503

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    The sigma 50/1.4 I assume? That lens does look pretty great.
     
  18. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502

    RedDragon870503

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    #18
  19. JFreak macrumors 68040

    JFreak

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    #19
    A "dinosaur" friend of mine always chooses 100mm for portraits, so the 85mm would be closer to his "standard"
     
  20. sangosimo Guest

    sangosimo

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    #20
    50mm on a crop body is perfect for headshots, and 30mm on a crop is good for half body.
     
  21. RedDragon870503 thread starter macrumors 6502

    RedDragon870503

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    #21
    With a lens under 50mm should I worry about distortion?
     
  22. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #22
    I assume you're thinking of 35 mm lenses or so, right? In that case, not really. Most types of distortions are harmless and trivial to correct on the computer. However, for classical portrait shots, they are not long enough. Back in the film days, 70~80 mm to 135 mm lenses were the classical focal length for portraits. This translates to roughly 50 mm to 85 mm nowadays (assuming a crop factor of 1.5~1.6).

    Personally, I think the 50 mm is the nicer focal length for portraits. I also have a 80-200 zoom, but I find it already too long in many real-life situations. Especially if you're inside and you're looking for a spontaneous snapshot, you're much better off with a 50 mm. Sigma's or Tokina's 50-135/150 mm f/2.8 zooms would also be an option, but they're more expensive and are slower.

    First and foremost, it's a question of focal length and not image quality.
     
  23. toxic macrumors 68000

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    yeah. much better optically than the Canon 50/1.4, though you'll probably have to send it to Sigma for calibration.

    distortion has to do with the distance between the camera and the subject. with a 50mm lens on APS-C, you can get a head & shoulders shot without distorting the face. if you want a tight headshot, you'll need an 85mm lens to force you to the minimum distance required to avoid distortion. in other words, if you can take a head & shoulders with a 50mm and crop it to a headshot, it'd be the same thing.

    perspective control
     
  24. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #24
    Same here. The 100mm f/2 is one of those "hidden L" lenses (superb optics), but more importantly for portraiture is the extra magnification you get of the background. The perspective of that focal length makes the background appear blurrier since everything is larger in relation to the subject.

    For a visual demonstration of what I'm talking about, see this page. The DOF is the same in each of those photographs, but objects that are smaller "appear" to be more in focus.

    That's why I prefer longer lenses for subject separation. Of course the 135mm f/2 would be even better, but it's three times the price.
     

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