Advice for portrait lenses

Started 6 months ago | Discussions thread
sapralot
New MemberPosts: 23Gear list
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Re: Lists
In reply to Luke Kaven, 6 months ago

Thanks, Luke!

Great compilation, very helpful. And a lot of food for thought.

Apropos 50mm: I make extensive use of the Nikon 35 f/1.8 when shooting kids with my D90 (1.5 crop), in other words I wouldn't rule out 50mm on full frame:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sapralot/8610384386/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sapralot/12106464724/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sapralot/8597662907/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sapralot/11781788743/

Luke Kaven wrote:

Ok.

Here are lenses that I like for portraiture that are inexpensive, but perform without compromise.

105/2.5 AIs - Wonderful bokeh, great rendering. Contrast very low wide open, needs to be stopped down to f/4 or so.

75-150/3.5 E - The cult classic. And a bargain price. Wonderfully rounded way of painting, very smooth for portraiture.

85/1.8g - Optically very clean, with good bokeh. Excellent price/performance. The 85/1.4g is a bit better, but not significantly, and not at all in the inexpensive category.

Here are lenses that I like for portraiture in most every situation.

135/2 DC - As good as few portrait lenses ever were. Bokeh from heaven. Sharp across the frame by f/3.2. Breathes a little bit, so at closest focus distance, it is about 115mm. A nearly perfect portrait length.

180/2.8D ED-IF - Wonderful lightweight telephoto, sharp wide open, with superb bokeh. Perfect for frame-busting portraits. Good flare resistance. Also breathes a little bit, so at closest focus distance, it is about 150mm.

Lenses I would like to add next:

105/2 DC - At least as good as the 135/2 DC.

60/2.8 AF-s micro - Clean, no geometric distortion, very usable perspective especially for fashion.

Lenses I dislike:

24-70/2.8g - Optically, this is a great lens. While it is sharp wide open, it has hideous eyeball-slicing bokeh. And the pincushion distortion at 70mm is too much. This is a good lens for events, or for studio work, stopped down to f/8.

50mm anything - Unflattering perspective and distortion exaggerates the parts of people's faces that they very much do not want to have exaggerated.

85/1.8D - Sorry, not even a contender. Blown away by 85/1.8g.

In answer to your final question: All of the very good AI lenses can resolve out to the limits of the D800 sensor. Even my 28/2AI can resolve pixel-level detail on the D800, but with a special character. The high spatial frequencies (the fine detail) are present, but rolled-off somewhat. This is partly the intent. The aesthetics of these lenses have something to do with rendering the middle frequencies prominently. I've always liked this look, and I still do. There are lenses that are sharper, but suffer from being antiseptic.

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