What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?

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zenpmd
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What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
8 months ago

For me, my portraits are likely to be ad hoc, and travel orientated, where sometimes more reach is helpful, and I am sort of lusting over Fuji's upcoming 85mm equivilent as its so fast, but on the other than the 50mm equivilent would most likely do, despite not offering quite such as natural look for a face.

It seems to me the only benefit of an 85 vs a 135 is its size, and being able to use in tigher spaces, but such spaces are going to be few and far between.

135 offers more reach and shallow DoF control (although I suppose if you compare a Canon 85 1.2 and a 123 f/2 then they have roughly the same shallowness ) so maybe the only benefit of a 135 is more reach?

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Bob Tullis
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In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

zenpmd wrote:

For me, my portraits are likely to be ad hoc, and travel orientated, where sometimes more reach is helpful, and I am sort of lusting over Fuji's upcoming 85mm equivilent as its so fast, but on the other than the 50mm equivilent would most likely do, despite not offering quite such as natural look for a face.

It seems to me the only benefit of an 85 vs a 135 is its size, and being able to use in tigher spaces, but such spaces are going to be few and far between.

135 offers more reach and shallow DoF control (although I suppose if you compare a Canon 85 1.2 and a 123 f/2 then they have roughly the same shallowness ) so maybe the only benefit of a 135 is more reach?

One's "ways' are usually a subset of the many ways one might take on a particular subject. (The world is bigger than one person's experience of it).   In time you might tire of your habits and look to make a change in your expressions, and come to appreciate the different perspective and approach.   And if you don't, it really doesn't matter if you ever understand the difference, as long as you're happy with your approaches and results.

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dsjtecserv
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

zenpmd wrote:

For me, my portraits are likely to be ad hoc, and travel orientated, where sometimes more reach is helpful, and I am sort of lusting over Fuji's upcoming 85mm equivilent as its so fast, but on the other than the 50mm equivilent would most likely do, despite not offering quite such as natural look for a face.

It seems to me the only benefit of an 85 vs a 135 is its size, and being able to use in tigher spaces, but such spaces are going to be few and far between.

135 offers more reach and shallow DoF control (although I suppose if you compare a Canon 85 1.2 and a 123 f/2 then they have roughly the same shallowness ) so maybe the only benefit of a 135 is more reach?

Keep in mind the principle that on the same format, for the same subject framing and f-number, depth of field is the same. Thus the 85 set at f/2 would be equivalent to the 135 at f/2, assuming that you have framed the subject the same with each. Thus the 85 at f/1.2 would give shallower depth of field than the 135 at f/2.

Dave

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Glen Barrington
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I think "reach" is the key. . .
In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

Clearly, you should use what gives you the results you want.  However, I think the 85 makes a great portrait lens in that provides the shallow DOF and pleasing perspective without having to step back too far from the subject to acquire a nice frame filling (but not too full!) image.

From your description of what/how you shoot, this might not be much of an issue for you. But for people trying to do portraits in small rooms or studios, the 85 (or even a 60-75) might make more sense.

Life is FULL of compromise, this is just one more!

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EinsteinsGhost
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

For me, my portraits are likely to be ad hoc, and travel orientated, where sometimes more reach is helpful, and I am sort of lusting over Fuji's upcoming 85mm equivilent as its so fast, but on the other than the 50mm equivilent would most likely do, despite not offering quite such as natural look for a face.

It seems to me the only benefit of an 85 vs a 135 is its size, and being able to use in tigher spaces, but such spaces are going to be few and far between.

135 offers more reach and shallow DoF control (although I suppose if you compare a Canon 85 1.2 and a 123 f/2 then they have roughly the same shallowness ) so maybe the only benefit of a 135 is more reach?

Its not just shallower DOF (one can achieve that with slower but longer lenses too). It is also about the perspective. 85mm equiv will provide a wider FOV (less compression).

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PenPix
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to EinsteinsGhost, 8 months ago

EinsteinsGhost wrote:

For me, my portraits are likely to be ad hoc, and travel orientated, where sometimes more reach is helpful, and I am sort of lusting over Fuji's upcoming 85mm equivilent as its so fast, but on the other than the 50mm equivilent would most likely do, despite not offering quite such as natural look for a face.

It seems to me the only benefit of an 85 vs a 135 is its size, and being able to use in tigher spaces, but such spaces are going to be few and far between.

135 offers more reach and shallow DoF control (although I suppose if you compare a Canon 85 1.2 and a 123 f/2 then they have roughly the same shallowness ) so maybe the only benefit of a 135 is more reach?

Its not just shallower DOF (one can achieve that with slower but longer lenses too). It is also about the perspective. 85mm equiv will provide a wider FOV (less compression).

+1  Sometimes you don't want the extra clutter in the background, or you have a narrow background to work with.

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RhysM
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Variety
In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

zenpmd wrote:

For me, my portraits are likely to be ad hoc, and travel orientated, where sometimes more reach is helpful, and I am sort of lusting over Fuji's upcoming 85mm equivilent as its so fast, but on the other than the 50mm equivilent would most likely do, despite not offering quite such as natural look for a face.

It seems to me the only benefit of an 85 vs a 135 is its size, and being able to use in tigher spaces, but such spaces are going to be few and far between.

135 offers more reach and shallow DoF control (although I suppose if you compare a Canon 85 1.2 and a 123 f/2 then they have roughly the same shallowness ) so maybe the only benefit of a 135 is more reach?

It's just variety. Neither is tangibly better, some may prefer the perspective of 85mm some the 135mm. Some prefer to be a little further away from the person they're photographing to make them feel more at ease, some prefer to be a little closer to interact more.

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digitalride
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to dsjtecserv, 8 months ago

dsjtecserv wrote:

Keep in mind the principle that on the same format, for the same subject framing and f-number, depth of field is the same. Thus the 85 set at f/2 would be equivalent to the 135 at f/2, assuming that you have framed the subject the same with each. Thus the 85 at f/1.2 would give shallower depth of field than the 135 at f/2.

Dave

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Many times the goal is the blurriest background, not necessarily the shallowest depth of field.   The 85 1.2 will always have a blurrier background than a 135 f/2:

http://howmuchblur.com/#compare-1x-85mm-f1.2-and-1x-135mm-f2-on-a-0.9m-wide-subject

but a 100mm f/2 is blurrier than a 50mm f/1.4 beyond 2 meters:

http://howmuchblur.com/#compare-1x-50mm-f1.4-and-1x-100mm-f2-on-a-0.9m-wide-subject

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zenpmd
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to digitalride, 8 months ago

Thanks everyone. I am still a bit confused by FOV - because surely it is the same if the composition is the same? Eg. you just stand nearer with the 85mm?

With the graphs, how to you interpret them? I don't get it! Thanks

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digitalride
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to digitalride, 8 months ago

Also, a longer focal length gives a narrower view so it can be easier to exclude distracting background elements.

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Erik Magnuson
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

zenpmd wrote:

Thanks everyone. I am still a bit confused by FOV - because surely it is the same if the composition is the same? Eg. you just stand nearer with the 85mm?

No, the AOV for a lens is constant. If you move closer, you may get the same size subject but the amount of background behind the subject will be wider.   Think about what would happen if you used a 28mm (or 14mm) and stood really close to get the same framing.

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zenpmd
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to Erik Magnuson, 8 months ago

Thanks. I think I am starting to understand. Are there any pages showing examples of this?

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MediaArchivist
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In reply to RhysM, 8 months ago

Or at least portraits. I don't do many formal seated portraits, but I often do "ad hoc" portraits at events. I have 4 lenses for portraits (all on FF, no crop factoring):

  • 50/1.4
  • 70/2.8
  • 85/1.4
  • 135/2.8

There certainly is a difference between 50mm and 135mm, but I would not say that 50mm is "bad." For full body shots it works great, and I also have many great head shots. 85 and 135 probably have the overall best count of "great" shots, about evenly split between the two. These are completely different lenses with completely different characteristics, neither is better or worse strictly due to the focal length or any other attribute. 85mm is easier to work with if space is cramped, in other situations 135mm is better.

Is is nice to be able to provide shots from both!

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dsjtecserv
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to digitalride, 8 months ago

digitalride wrote:

dsjtecserv wrote:

Keep in mind the principle that on the same format, for the same subject framing and f-number, depth of field is the same. Thus the 85 set at f/2 would be equivalent to the 135 at f/2, assuming that you have framed the subject the same with each. Thus the 85 at f/1.2 would give shallower depth of field than the 135 at f/2.

Dave

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Many times the goal is the blurriest background, not necessarily the shallowest depth of field. The 85 1.2 will always have a blurrier background than a 135 f/2:

http://howmuchblur.com/#compare-1x-85mm-f1.2-and-1x-135mm-f2-on-a-0.9m-wide-subject

but a 100mm f/2 is blurrier than a 50mm f/1.4 beyond 2 meters:

http://howmuchblur.com/#compare-1x-50mm-f1.4-and-1x-100mm-f2-on-a-0.9m-wide-subject

Absolutely correct. I was responding to the mistaken assumption about the depth of field. And if I may add to the references:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52635436

Dave

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Mark Scott Abeln
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Not much of a market?
In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

I know that Nikon doesn't make a modern 135 mm prime lens, while they come out with refreshes of the 85 mm frequently.

Now the AF DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2D is a marvelous portrait lens, from what I've seen, but is rather old.

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joejack951
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
In reply to EinsteinsGhost, 8 months ago

EinsteinsGhost wrote:

Its not just shallower DOF (one can achieve that with slower but longer lenses too). It is also about the perspective. 85mm equiv will provide a wider FOV (less compression).

Don't confuse shallow DOF with a magnified background. Long telephotos compress scenes and magnify the background and thus can blur out a distracting background better than a wider angle lens. But, for a given f-stop and subject framing (note that camera to subject distance will vary for different focal lengths to keep the framing the same), DOF is equal regardless of focal length (as has been stated already). F/1.4 at 24mm yields the same shallow DOF as f/1.4 at 85mm for a given subject framing, but the 24mm includes a much less magnified and thus less blurred background than the 85mm lens.

It should be noted that both wide apertures and long telephotos can be utilized to create subject isolation which is a combination of the DOF and background magnification in an image.

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joejack951
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Re: Not much of a market?
In reply to Mark Scott Abeln, 8 months ago

Mark Scott Abeln wrote:

I know that Nikon doesn't make a modern 135 mm prime lens, while they come out with refreshes of the 85 mm frequently.

The 135mm f/2 DC AF-D was introduced in 1995 just like the 85mm f/1.4 AF-D, the latter of which was only recently updated to a G lens. Nikon does not make a slower aperture version of its 135mm lens so you can't really compare refreshes comprising of both 85mm lenses (f/1.4 and f/1.8). The 85mm lenses seem to me to be a lot more popular in general which is likely why Nikon has paid more attention to them than the 135mm lens, but not by much if Nikon releases a new 135mm lens in the next year or two.

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Leonard Migliore
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In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

zenpmd wrote:

Thanks. I think I am starting to understand. Are there any pages showing examples of this?

http://stepheneastwood.com/tutorials/lensdistortion/strippage.htm

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chkproductions
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Re: What is the point of an 85mm portrait lens vs a 135mm?
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sean000
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Re: You answered your own question
In reply to zenpmd, 8 months ago

zenpmd wrote:

It seems to me the only benefit of an 85 vs a 135 is its size, and being able to use in tigher spaces, but such spaces are going to be few and far between.

135 offers more reach and shallow DoF control (although I suppose if you compare a Canon 85 1.2 and a 123 f/2 then they have roughly the same shallowness ) so maybe the only benefit of a 135 is more reach?

You just answered your own question... at least in terms that matter most to you. There may be other pros and cons, but a big pro of the 85mm is that it's going to be smaller/lighter and easier to use in tight spaces. The advantage of the longer 135 is that it gives you a bit more reach in larger spaces (or outdoors) and will isolate the subject even more.... which you often need in outdoor spaces where you can't control the background.

Of course there are other pros and cons to each lens, depending on the two lenses you compare and your wants/needs. Keep and eye on the minimum focus distance... that's a very important metric. For example an 85mm portrait prime often has a shorter minimum focus distance than a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom. Of course you can always stand back with the 70-200 and zoom into a longer focal length, but only if you've got the room to back up.

Sean

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