The best focal length for portraits

Meister

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I use a Samyang 85 1.4 for portraits right now, but I am thinking about getting the Tamron SP AF 70-200mm 1:2.8 Di LD [IF] MACRO
I am curious: What do you use and why?
 
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Small White Car

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I do tend to start out a shoot around 70 mm, but honestly this is a question about your subjects, not your camera.

I find that you have to try some different focal lengths to find the one that makes their nose look best. And it's different for everyone. So don't get too hung up on what you're "supposed" to use. Even if you come up with an answer you like, you'll find you rarely stick to it yourself.

Well, I guess that's my real advice. Pay attention to the nose and everything else will work itself out.
 

Edge100

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Where am I???
I use a Samyang 85 1.4 for portraits right now, but I am thinking about getting the Tamron SP AF 70-200mm 1:2.8 Di LD [IF] MACRO
I am curious: What do you use and why?
I use anywhere from 21mm to 200mm, depending on the look I'm trying to achieve.
 

gnomeisland

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Jul 30, 2008
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I use a Samyang 85 1.4 for portraits right now, but I am thinking about getting the Tamron SP AF 70-200mm 1:2.8 Di LD [IF] MACRO
I am curious: What do you use and why?
Are you unsatisfied with the 85mm you own? What are you hoping to achieve with the zoom? I tend to use either a Zeiss 90mm f/2.8 or an old Nikkor 75-150 f/3.5. It depends on the subject and intent. I personally don't like shoot portraits with normal or wide angle lenses but I do occasionally.
 

nburwell

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May 6, 2008
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If you're doing strictly headshots, I would figure around 70-85mm range would be ideal. However, if you're including the surrounding environment in the frame (envirnmental portrait), then you want to go more wide angle with maybe a 35mm prime lens.
 

aerok

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Oct 29, 2011
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Strictly 85mm 1.8 for planned photoshoots

70-200 for wedding/engagement shoots
 

acearchie

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Jan 15, 2006
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Traditionally it has been 85 and 135.

Now more and more people are using a 50. Probably because it tends to be the first prime that people buy.

Personally I've been really enjoying the Sigma 35mm at the moment for environmental and candid portraits.
 

Meister

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Well, I guess that's my real advice. Pay attention to the nose and everything else will work itself out.
I had precisley that happening.:) People complained that their nose is too large. That's why I am thinking about the 70-200 to get more compressed facial features. I heard that the Tamron has to much focus breathing (only really goes to 170mm :eek:) and dxomark says it's not sharp at all at >130mm.
Any opinions on the tamron?
 

Small White Car

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Any opinions on the tamron?
It's one of those "good enough" brands.

For me video is a career and photography is just a hobby. I tend to buy lenses in the $300 range for still work. My father, though, is a professional photographer and can easily spend an hour explaining all of the reasons he needs $1,000+ lenses. The reasons are real, it's just a matter of whether or not you really need that level of perfection.

So basically, if you're considering tamron then tamron is probably fine. People like my dad never would, but that doesn't mean you or I shouldn't.

I will tell you that the best way to deal with cheaper lenses is to try and keep them closer to f11 if you can. Yeah, lighting is more of an issue and you lose some of that nice softness in your background, but but when you close lenses down that's where the differences between the $300 lens and the $1,500 lens really start to shrink.

It's a balancing act.
 

cebseb

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Feb 21, 2011
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I use a Samyang 85 1.4 for portraits right now, but I am thinking about getting the Tamron SP AF 70-200mm 1:2.8 Di LD [IF] MACRO
I am curious: What do you use and why?

What exactly is your budget and what body are you using?

My favorites for each brand in order from cheapest to most expensive (left to right)

Canon 50mm 1.2L, Nikon 58mm 1.4, Nikon 58mm 1.2 Noct

Nikon 85mm 1.8g, Sigma 85mm 1.4, Nikon 85mm 1.4g, Canon 85mm 1.2L II

Canon 135mm 2L, Nikon 135mm 2 DC

Canon 200mm 1.8L, Nikon 200mm 2 VR II, Canon 200mm 2 ISII

Nikon 400mm 2.8 VR, Canon 400mm VR IS II

Yes, I do shoot portraits at 400mm f2.8 (venue permitting). Here is an example.



Zooms:

Nikon 70-200 f4 VR, Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR I**, Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS II

**VR II just has better edge sharpness which doesn't really matter for most portraits.

----------

I use whatever is at hand. I just happen to know the strengths of each tool and limit myself to those strengths. The Tamron 70-200 is a strong performer (not as venerable as its other 24-70 VC II), but just don't expect it to give you the best when it comes to pleasing transitions between focus to in-focus areas, bokeh production, flare control, fringe control, etc.

A similar price to the Tamron 70-200 would be the Nikon 70-200mm f4 VR. Amazing lens and one of the best VR/IS/VC applications I have seen yet (across all brands).
 

truettray

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Sep 7, 2012
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I have always been partial to 135mm for posed portraits, and 35-50mm for candids. My first prime was a Takumar 135mm f/2.5 and boy is that lens a piece of work.
 

cebseb

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Feb 21, 2011
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I have always been partial to 135mm for posed portraits, and 35-50mm for candids. My first prime was a Takumar 135mm f/2.5 and boy is that lens a piece of work.
Yes, I am a huge fan of the 135mm focal length. It can get kind of awkward sometimes though depending on how much space you have to work with.

Have you tried the Zeiss 135mm APO yet? I can say it is the best in its class and a bargain for what it offers.
 

truettray

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Sep 7, 2012
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Have you tried the Zeiss 135mm APO yet? I can say it is the best in its class and a bargain for what it offers.
I was super close to renting that piece of glass this weekend for a bridal shoot! Truthfully I'm sheepish towards even borrowing it, because I know that I'll just have to buy it once I spend any real time with it. ;)
 

Meister

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What exactly is your budget and what body are you using?

My favorites for each brand in order from cheapest to most expensive (left to right)

Canon 50mm 1.2L, Nikon 58mm 1.4, Nikon 58mm 1.2 Noct

Nikon 85mm 1.8g, Sigma 85mm 1.4, Nikon 85mm 1.4g, Canon 85mm 1.2L II

Canon 135mm 2L, Nikon 135mm 2 DC

Canon 200mm 1.8L, Nikon 200mm 2 VR II, Canon 200mm 2 ISII

Nikon 400mm 2.8 VR, Canon 400mm VR IS II

Yes, I do shoot portraits at 400mm f2.8 (venue permitting). Here is an example.

Image

Zooms:

Nikon 70-200 f4 VR, Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR I**, Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS II

**VR II just has better edge sharpness which doesn't really matter for most portraits.

----------

I use whatever is at hand. I just happen to know the strengths of each tool and limit myself to those strengths. The Tamron 70-200 is a strong performer (not as venerable as its other 24-70 VC II), but just don't expect it to give you the best when it comes to pleasing transitions between focus to in-focus areas, bokeh production, flare control, fringe control, etc.

A similar price to the Tamron 70-200 would be the Nikon 70-200mm f4 VR. Amazing lens and one of the best VR/IS/VC applications I have seen yet (across all brands).
thank you. Great post!
I shoot with a D610. i actually really like the samyang 85 1.4 even though the manual focus can get annoying sometimes. The samyang has great focus fall of and Bokeh! I am considering the Tamron, because it only costs €400 and the Nikkor VRII is like 1.5k used! Even the 70 200 is still 1k. Also. I am not sure if there is such a huge difference between the nikkor and tamron. Sadly Dxomark says it's not sharp >130mm :(
 

Oracle1729

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Feb 4, 2009
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I had precisley that happening.:) People complained that their nose is too large. That's why I am thinking about the 70-200 to get more compressed facial features. I heard that the Tamron has to much focus breathing (only really goes to 170mm :eek:) and dxomark says it's not sharp at all at >130mm.
Any opinions on the tamron?
I have the Nikon 70-200 VR2, it is a fantastic portrait lens. It does have at least as much focus breathing as the Tamron but that's really not an issue if you're shooting portraits and focusing close. I can't comment on the Tamron, but the Nikon is razor sharp throughout the zoom.
 

cebseb

macrumors regular
Feb 21, 2011
246
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I was super close to renting that piece of glass this weekend for a bridal shoot! Truthfully I'm sheepish towards even borrowing it, because I know that I'll just have to buy it once I spend any real time with it. ;)
Do NOT rent it in that case. You will most definitely end up buying one. Ha! It displays the same level of precision and quality that its smaller brother (in focal length only, not in size) the 55mm 1.4 otus (which is, but far, the most demanding lens I have ever used).
 

simonsi

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Nikon 50/1.4 on a DX body for anything planned and suitable, whatever I have on for unplanned/unexpected :)
 

monokakata

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You could hunt for an older 85 f/1.4, like this one:

http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/8514AF.htm

I bought one in 2003 or 2004, and really like it. Used, it might be well-priced.

When I was doing more portrait work than I am now, I always had the Nikkor 85 f/1.8 (the old manual everything one). They were great lenses also.

Back in the day, a lot of people went for the 105 f/2.5 as a portrait lens. I doubt that design ever made it into the auto days, though. I never had one.
 

cebseb

macrumors regular
Feb 21, 2011
246
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You could hunt for an older 85 f/1.4, like this one:

http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/8514AF.htm

I bought one in 2003 or 2004, and really like it. Used, it might be well-priced.

When I was doing more portrait work than I am now, I always had the Nikkor 85 f/1.8 (the old manual everything one). They were great lenses also.

Back in the day, a lot of people went for the 105 f/2.5 as a portrait lens. I doubt that design ever made it into the auto days, though. I never had one.

+1 for mentioning the older 85 1.4D

-2 for mentioning Ken Rockwell
 

Meister

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Nikon 50/1.4 on a DX body for anything planned and suitable, whatever I have on for unplanned/unexpected :)
I already have the nikkor 50mm 1.8g and I really like it. It's an excellent walkaround lens. 50mm is just not very flattering for tighter portraits on FX.

----------

You could hunt for an older 85 f/1.4, like this one:
http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/8514AF.htm
I have been thinking about updating my samyang to a nikkor 85mm 1.8g. But it costs more and I would lose that awesome bokeh wide open.

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I have the Nikon 70-200 VR2, it is a fantastic portrait lens. It does have at least as much focus breathing as the Tamron but that's really not an issue if you're shooting portraits and focusing close. I can't comment on the Tamron, but the Nikon is razor sharp throughout the zoom.
It would be interesting to hear from someone who has used the tamron and nikkor. The nikkor is triple the price and I am not convinced it's worth it.
 

OreoCookie

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Apr 14, 2001
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I have the Nikon 70-200 VR2, it is a fantastic portrait lens.
I have an older 80-200 mm Nikkor, and it's an amazing lens. However, its size is intimidating. To the degree that my friends (who don't know a first thing about photography) aptly dubbed it »bazooka«.

If you already have an 85 mm lens, I reckon you should augment it rather than replace it. There are quite a few excellent 90~100 mm macro lenses out there which make very good portrait lenses, e. g. Tamron's 90 mm macro, Tokina's 100 macro and Nikon's 100 mm macro lenses (old and new version). Since you seem to be happy using a MF lens, I don't think the slow AF will deter you.