5 years have passed and I remembered the article about portrait lenses. A lot of sand has flowed since then, a lot has changed. Read the old article with examples below ( here ), and I will try and add fresh facts and spices. The most important, as always, at the end . But until this end, you need to read.
How to choose a lens
for portrait photography?
Today, uttering the phrase “ portrait photo session ”, everyone draws a postmodern “everything” for themselves. Echoes of reptilian approaches reach even media markets. For example, here are the photos that I saw on wildberry.
So, let’s agree that in the portrait we expect to see exactly a person, with human proportions of the body. Of course, the creator has every right to display any advanced forms of perception of the world in an artistic form, but this is already about art or fashion. And today we are talking about a portrait.
Photo session practice.
Possible distortions in portrait photography
The simplest and clearest example.
Let’s assume that you have one of the regular zooms on your camera.
Experiment. If you want to photograph a half-length portrait with a standard zoom, then the closer you get to the model, the wider the angle on the lens you have to twist. And the more the proportions of the model are deformed. The nearest parts of the body become noticeably larger than the distant ones. At the widest angle (the smallest focal length of this zoom), the picture is more like what is seen through the peephole than the harmonious perception of a person. It might be cool, but it’s not about a portrait.
With a horizontal camera orientation, the half-length portrait will somehow have a smaller part of the frame, which means that the distortion will come a little differently – later. Explore this moment too.
The result of the experiment. It quickly becomes clear that for a full-length portrait in a vertical orientation, it is desirable to work at a focal length of 50 mm, for a waist portrait – from 85, for a facial one – from 100. At the same time, the named focal lengths are a dangerous minimum, to which it is desirable to add 15-20 mm . Focal lengths are for full frame lenses.
💣Conclusion . So, for free shooting of all three types of portrait, it is desirable to have a range of focal lengths from 50 to 140 mm.
What to choose for a portrait photo session?
Zoom or fix?
If you are a perfectionist with endless ammo, then take fast fixes. They will give you the opportunity to experiment with blurring plans. However, not everyone likes to carry and change three fixes. This is quite convenient in the studio shooting format, but in the open air it may not be convenient.
✍. Look at the many wonderful portraits of Richard Avedon. You will have to look for a blurred background for a long time. This did not stop him from doing miracles.
Working at an open aperture with a super-fast fixed lens imposes a significant limitation: it is difficult to focus on sharpness with your hands or on an old camera. In this case, ultra-modern cameras with dual-pixel technology, etc. work well. If you want to blur the background “into the trash”, take the newest cameras.
✍. ① The tall and thin model allows the photographer to use a wider angle than the average person. The reason is that in such a model the ratio of body parts is different from ordinary people. ② In addition, if the photographer is able to build body composition in approximately the same focal plane, then interesting findings are possible. ③ Another feature of thin models or young faces is the absence of any weighting of the lower part of the face, which blocks the possibility of a lower shooting point.
🛠Maintainability. New lenses enter the market, shocking with their parameters. Now amazing things are created by Chinese masters. The photos taken with Viltrox lenses are impressive, and the YongNuo lenses please with a price affordable for a novice experimenter. Why not buy? BUT! Only the lifetime on the market shows the maintainability of the lens. Any workshop will fix your Canon 85, but will you be able to find a new board for Viltrax? Hardly. If the warranty period has passed, and there are no parts for sale, then draw your own conclusions. I’ll give you an example.
- Sigma example. There is a series of Sigma DG HSM ART lenses of remarkable quality and compactness. One of the most common breakdowns looks like this: the diaphragm chirps, the lens is not detected. It was a broken gear. It is made of soft plastic. Not a single workshop of the Russian Federation has this part. Why? Because it often breaks). Try to find on Alikha, wait, and replace. Most likely, you will just buy another lens. Of course, you may be “lucky” and it’s just that the aperture blades are bent …
- Sony example. Here ( ↴ ) I cited a similar situation with a specific lens of Aunt Sonya as an example, the release of which photographers greeted with joy.
The economic aspect of owning optics or a camera
If you buy a camera as an element of entertainment, then the question of profitability is not worth it, buy the best that you can afford. If something is too expensive, but you really want to try it, use the rental.
💥 Life hack. Buying used lenses through Avito, negotiate the possibility of “money back” for a couple of days. This will give you the opportunity to test shoot and see if this lens is needed at all. It is reasonable and fair to offer the owner some compensation in the event of a return.
In the case of acquiring equipment for earning money, it will be a mistake to spend an amount that is inconsistent with the planned earnings. If shootings are rare or for little money, then owning expensive equipment is burdensome: estimate the fall in the cost of equipment after the warranty period and in general for the year. It may be worth considering rental options, or looking for a cost-effective configuration.
🎃 It’s good to buy new equipment. Often the first year of the warranty provides for the exchange of a non-working device for a new one. For example, this is what Viltrox does. But exactly at midnight of the new year, the lens becomes a magnifying glass.
It’s time for the sweetest part:
Tips for choosing a specific lens
for portraiture on a budget.
🧨Let’s drop the bomb first: modern lenses are too sharp for portraiture. The author plans to collect 3-4 real portrait lenses and show
kuzkinumsome real portraits. But later. In the meantime, let’s say that to soften modern optics, it’s good to use some light filters like Marumi DHG Soft Fantasy, or breathe wet on a protective filter. Some use Vaseline.
💥Let’s start with APC cameras. On cameras with a crop of 1.5-1.6 , a standard zoom lens (28-70 2.8) for a full-frame matrix becomes a completely portrait option, covering the portrait range of 44-105 mm.
- Among the optics of the early 21st century, there are models that will outlive us in strength. For example, Tokina AT-X PRO AF 28-70mm 1: 2.6-2.8, which can crack nuts, costs 120-150 bucks, has no soap, but portrait softness at the long end, like all tokins of that time, it catches flare and glare in the back light, which means that it is quite suitable for “tube” photographs.
- I do not know such an experienced Nikon-lover who would be indifferent to the Nikon Nikkor 35-70 mm 2.8. Two problems: it is often with a “fungus”, which leads to some loss of contrast / color + you will most likely have to focus with your hands.
- Slightly cheaper there are Sigmas and Tamrons with similar focal lengths. But I remained indifferent to them both in terms of design and design. Old optics always have their compromises in color or backlight behavior, but there must be charms. I did not find them in the old Sigma and Tampon zooms.
⁉And here the question arises: “Why is there no lens of all time for crop cameras Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 Art DC HSM in the list? It is not difficult to give an answer. ① In terms of focal lengths, this lens does not solve portrait tasks, but is an excellent staff member for a videographer whose orientation is purely horizontal and the model most often occupies part of the frame. ② The cost of this lens can hardly be called humane for a used one. market. For those who want to increase the aperture of a full frame lens on a crop camera, there is a solution: ③purchase a Metabones Speedbooster or Viltrox EF-FX2 adapter. Your full frame lens on a crop camera will get an increase in aperture, less cropping. The negative points will be an increase in flare in backlighting. an additional lens appears, a tolerable deterioration in the work of focusing algorithms and the softness of the corners on Wiltrax.
💥Option . For cropped cameras, televisions with a maximum aperture of 2.8 have been released, which can also serve as portrait lenses. At the same time, these used lenses fit into 200 bucks.
- Tokina 50-135 F/2.8
- Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8
🎩Of course, if you don’t want to blur the background, then all lenses like the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 become interesting, but I’m not so great at recommending these things. For the sake of such lenses, it is hardly worth buying a camera. In fact, for studio shooting with pulsed light and aperture closed to 7.1, any modern lens will work just fine. But it is desirable for us to be able to have at least some charm of optics with an aperture of 2.8.
Why are zoom lenses bad for portraits?
Where can I find a cheap autofocus prime?
It is reasonable if the reader does not stoop to trust my text, but starts searching for “sample photos” from the mentioned lenses. What will the attentive reader see? Zoom lens designs create all sorts of “nervous” lines in the blur area, while many prime lenses create a smoother blur. Whether this is important, each photographer decides for himself.
Probably the most common portrait prime lens is the Canon 85 1.8. Now this lens has been re-released for a new aperture 2 mount, slightly better backlight resistance and a shorter focusing distance. All this is great, but I want to remind the noble dons that …
🤔Until 2008, while cheerful soldos rang in our pockets. only the lazy did not scold the torn bokeh 85 1.8. Comparing it with older brothers (1.4 and 1.2 in two versions), it’s hard not to notice the difference. Everyone sees it … professional photographers . But not clients.
From myself I recommend Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm 1: 1.8G IF SWM. The issue price is about 330 used bucks.
There was a time… Minolta had a great 85 1.4, and there was a great and even unique Minolta STF 135mm f/2.8 T4.5. But Aunt Sonya leaked the A mount along with all the Minolta lenses, and her own. And promises to support the bayonet mount and cries about the prospects of translucent mirror technology were quickly forgotten.
But if you suddenly decide to take an old Sony camera with A mount, then let me remind you of the existence of a compact Sony 85mm 2.8 SAM, which has quite acceptable bokeh for a portrait, a poor plastic case and a wonderful price of less than a hundred bucks. On the crop, it will become more “narrow” and this is worth bearing in mind. The last crop DSLR was the Sony dslr-A700 at 70 bucks, but the Sony Alpha SLT-A77 II is still about 400 bucks. It’s not worth it. But on the A-mount (crop) there is a cheap one in used. glass Sony 16-80mm f / 3.5-4.5 ZA A Vario-Sonnar T. Its pitfall is not so much in the absence of aperture 2.8, but in a weak construct that tends to break. But the “drawing” itself has a very suitable character for a portrait.
There are three cheap and fully functional portrait lenses on the micro 4/3 system : Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and Xiaomi 42.5 1.8. The only difference between them is that Xiaomi focuses a little more slowly, while it also does not have a focus ring. Is it a minus? Is not a fact. Given the cost of Xiaomi (60 bucks) compared to Panas (220) and Olympus (140), I would choose Xiaomi if I was a beginner and poor. And if there was money, then Olympus would prefer. There is also Olympus 75 1.8. On the secondary market, it is available for about 550 bucks, but still this is too specific a focal length.
🎁Once upon a time, at the beginning of the digital era, an Olympus CAMEDIA TCON-14D telephoto attachment was made for the C-8080WZ camera. It increases the focal length by 1.4 times without loss of aperture and without visible distortion. Large, it well covers the micro-matrix and even APS. This is not a Chinese craft, but a real working thing with a cost of up to 50 bucks. Fitting it is not a tricky task, and requires the usual ingenuity. As a result, the amateur can have an additional focal length.
⛔Speaking of out-of-focus blurring, it should be noted that this effect has nothing to do with the specifics of our vision. Perhaps this is the reason why such techniques cannot be found in the paintings of the pre-photographic era. Maybe there is some exception.
⛔Speaking of blur, you need to keep in mind that with one aperture value, for example, 1.8, the field of sharpness will differ for different matrices. I’ll give you the DOF calculator (Depth of Sharply Rendered Space).
😲A task for the photographer. Imagine that we have three cameras: FF, APS, DoubleCropMicra. Each camera has a portrait lens with a diagonal angle of 28°. For a full frame it will be 85 mm, for APS – 56 mm, for micro – 42 mm. Question 1: What is the depth of field at aperture 1.8 when focusing on an object at a distance of 3 meters. Question 2: At what aperture do you need to stop a 85 full-frame lens to get the same depth of field as a 42mm mic at 3m?
Answer 1. Thanks to the DOF calculator (Google help), we find out that a lens for full-matrix cameras with a focal length of 85 mm will give a depth of field of 13 cm, a lens for APS-matrices with a focal length of 56 will give a depth of field of 19 cm, and twice Crop from an Olympus or Panasonic with a focal length of 45 mm will give a depth of field of 23 cm.
Answer 2. Turning to the depth of field calculator again, we learn that a full-matrix 85 mm portrait lens focused on an object at a distance of 3 m will give a depth of field of 23 cm at aperture of 3.2, while the portrait lens for the double CropMicro provides this depth of field at aperture of 1.8. This is where you need to take a breath.
Of course, the calculator simplifies all cases and does not take into account the shape of the bokeh, but the trends are transparent.
The optics that we are working on now is somehow a fast-moving stream that is unlikely to survive the next 10 years. The volume of workmanship, quality and design of the optics make these lenses a convenient tool, but at the same time the product is not of interest to a collector or a photographer passionate about artistic optics. Thanks to the opportunity presented by the photographer-collector Petr Ivanovich Tabak, I want to acquaint interested readers with the work of several lenses.
All rights to the portraits and the lens belong to the author – P.I. Tobacco ©. The following lenses are presented: LOMO RO500-1 F=90 2.2, Meyer Optik Görlitz Trioplan 100 mm f 2.8, Astro gesellschaft berlin soft focus 75 2.3, Heliar 12 4.5 voigtlander, self-made monocle, Special cinema anastigmat 50mm 4.5, Dallmeyer PENTAC F2.9.
film projection lens
LOMO RO500-1 F=90 1:2
If we talk about the resolution of the lenses of the early 20th century, then it is specific to each lens. To close this topic, I present to readers two photographs from the PO500-1, which were taken on a Yi-M1 Micro Four Thirds camera on an MFT mount through a universal adapter on an open aperture (no aperture in the lens) with manual focus. The camera has a “double crop” matrix with 20 megapixels. Thus, the thoughtful reader can understand the dignity of the PO500-1 himself.
In conclusion, I’ll say that while some “grow a photo-ass”, stubbornly redrawing their subjects, other photographers are engaged in portrait photography.
A continuation may follow.
This article will be written
forevergradually, to the best of the author’s ability.
To begin with, let me remind myself and the reader that portrait lenses are a special topic, it is better to dance carefully in it. With that, let’s get started.
The first group of portrait lenses is non-autofocus lenses with a focal length of 85.
Field of view: 28°
Diameter 82 mm
Weight: approx. 900 gr.
Note 1: Unfortunately, not all professional photographers are able to focus with optics with such a large aperture. Ophthalmologists believe that the deterioration of vision by the age of 40 is widespread, and this imposes restrictions on the professional capabilities of photographers as well.
Other disadvantages of Helios 40-2 are low contrast and serious backlight if strong light sources enter the frame (see photo on the left). Obviously, the best time to take a photo with this lens is overcast romantic weather…
One of the interesting effects that this lens does is considered to be “twisting”. I like this effect and I even specially made lens attachments to create such pictures. What stopped me was the realization that such images do not at all reflect the image that arises in my brain, and that is what I want to convey.
Let’s compare the nature of the swirling image in the photo of a moto girl (© Tigra Girl) and my daughter. In the first case, Helios-40 worked, in the second, a special nozzle for Sony 50 1.4.
As a rule, the owners of Helios 40 significantly process photographs in the sense of color correction. lens illumination leaves much to be desired. At an open aperture, the lens gives sharpness only in the central part of the field, which should be taken into account when building a composition.
About the price. At the beginning of the 2,000th Helios 40-2 was lying around at all flea markets and cost about $ 150. And, believe me, this was an adequate price for a lens with so many minuses. Today they are asking for about $ 700 for it.
So, in parting, let’s take a look at the practically unprocessed photo from the concert, taken with the help of Helios-40. We see the disadvantages of optics enlightenment, it is possible that poor internal blackening, very specific circles of confusion.
Now let’s move on to more significant creations of the photo-prom.
😎Over the past few years, non-autofocus lenses of the Samyang brand have entered the Russian market, which are also available under the names Walimex, Rokinon, Opteka, Falcon, Vivitar, Bower, Polar, Bell + Howell.
Among these products is a very worthy Samyang (Rokinon/Bower) 85mm f/1.4 Lens.
Field of view: 28.3°
Weight: approx. 516 gr.
This lens is already modern quality optics. Starting from an open aperture, the subject gives sharpness over the entire field, has a small weight for its class.
The nature of blur (bokeh) is quite worthy of showing off on a par with expensive autofocus brothers. In many forums, test photographers broke their spears and teeth in an attempt to belittle the merits of this lens.
Despite the fact that this lens costs about $ 500 in a new condition, and even cheaper by hand, it is unrivaled.
Please note that “Note 1” (see above) remains in effect. But this Samyang 85mm f / 1.4 still has a minus: it does not hold backlight well.
However, when compared with Helios 40-2, then this problem with backlight is almost not a problem.
With all the pluses, I would not risk taking this lens for commercial shooting.
If the cost of the first two lenses was relatively small, now their older brother is waiting for us.
😎Under the legendary name Carl Zeiss comes several portrait lenses. . Among them there is even an autofocus copy with the Sony label.
Personally, I really don’t like its price of 45-50 thousand rubles. If you compare its plastic construction with non-autofocus brothers, then you will understand me.
By the way, non-autofocus lenses will cost about 30 thousand rubles.
So, Sony Carl Zeiss Planar T*85mm f/1.4 ZA (SAL-85F14Z).
Carl Zeiss is Carl Zeiss. Why is he better than Samyang? Perhaps the fact that I have not seen defective copies. Otherwise, there is a difference, but it is not such that a novice photographer would see it or that it would interfere with making a great shot. Everything is like with wine: a little more smoke, a little less sourness, a little brighter …
When buying a lens, it is always important to know its liquidity. Those. sales loss. Non-autofocus optics are so reliable that you may prefer a used version. Ebay to help you.
Carl Zeiss gives its lenses the names PLANAR, DISTAGON, BIOGON. All these names are worth some lyrical digression.
Lyrics of optics Carl Zeiss
Symmetrical lens design by Dr. Paul Rudolph, manufactured by Carl Zeiss in 1896. The optical design of Planar type lenses is often copied by other manufacturers.
The PLANAR scheme can effectively correct aberrations. The name PLANAR is translated from Latin as “plane”.
A lens with a focal length equal to half the diagonal of the frame is made from a compact lens design that is close to symmetry. Biogon has quite a lot of advantages: a wide enough angle for street style work, no distortion, excellent color reproduction and uniform resolution.
The last Biogon lens is located 18.8 mm from the film, which means that Biogon cannot be used in SLR cameras.
However, for the Biogon design, the Hasselblad Superwide Camera SWC was created. This camera is a real achievement of scientific and technical thought in the field of photography.
This optical design allows for an even wider angle than the Biogon. The design takes into account the need for space between the rear lens and film for SLR cameras.
Having finished my digression about Carl Zeiss, I will return to portrait lenses.
So, we ran non-autofocus portrait lenses with a focal length of 85 mm and a price range from $500-1600, by the way, hooking one autofocus lens.
To clear our conscience, we note that in the secondary market of portrait optics there are many miracles and simply interesting things. And all this can be tasted: CZ Sonnar 85/2.8, color-heliar 75/2.5, Jupiter 9 (85/2), Hexanon 85/1.8, Konica Hexanon AR 85/1.8, MC Rokkor 85/1.7.
You can say a lot that the constructive lens is rubbish, that the aperture ratio is small for a modern portrait lens, but the price of $250 is a strong argument. For an amateur, it can be a very worthy option.
Thus, the Sony line in the 85 mm focal length has two lenses. Both are optically excellent and questionable in design.
Pentax portraits and what’s close
At the time of writing, Pentax doesn’t make full-frame cameras, but their lens listing suggests a desire to move in the direction of FF. A long-standing desire warms the soul of Pentax admirers.
– The Pentax SMC FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited is a portrait lens priced around $1100 for full frame and crop cameras.
– The Pentax SMC DA 55mm f1.4 SDM is a portrait lens priced around $800 for non-full frame cameras.
– Pentax SMC FA 50mm f/1.4 is roughly a portrait lens priced around $500.
– Pentax SMC DA 50mm f/1.8 is a roughly portrait lens priced around $300.
On photographic equipment, Pentax usually calms down the soul of those who can afford not to make money with photography. This is primarily due to the lack of full-frame cameras and autofocus adequate to competitors (K + N). But the color reproduction and optics pattern of Pentax is at its best.
To be honest, I mentioned Pentax only to clear my conscience. A system with a famous history ( the Pentax story ) today has such a limited circle of admirers that it is difficult to find photographs taken at an open aperture.
First of all, the Sigma AF 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM. At $800, this lens is truly worth considering. I can honestly say that it is a competitor to top lenses in all respects.
The only thing that can be said bad about this lens applies to all lenses of this brand: check when buying. marriage occurs.
On the other hand, what’s the trouble – to check the focus and chromaticity?
By the way, comparing the photo of a girl against a background of greenery and a photo of a girl in beige tones (above), you can feel the difference in the blurring of plans by lenses with max. aperture 2.8 and 1.4. Here it is up to you to decide – do you have to pay for these opportunities?