D3 Portrait Lens Shootout: 24-70, 85 f/1.4, 105 DC, 70-200 VR, Pt 1

Started May 3, 2008 | Discussions thread
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smhagger Senior Member • Posts: 1,418
D3 Portrait Lens Shootout: 24-70, 85 f/1.4, 105 DC, 70-200 VR, Pt 1


For those who don't know, I'm a photographer mainly focused on photographing weddings and portraits. As such, I'm always interested to getting to know the suitable glass in the 'portrait lens' focal length ranges.

Since December of '07, I've switched over completely to FX format, sold all my DX equipment and now shoot with a pair of D3's. As such I've had to realign my lens lineup accordingly, so I ditched my 17-55, 10.5, and (sadly) my 200 f/2 VR to help fund the conversion to FX format. Thus, my lens lineup has transitioned into the following 'FX' glass: 35 f/2, 50 f/1.4, 14-24 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8, and 70-200 f/2.8 VR (x2). While shooting weddings, one of the D3's stays with my wife and she pretty much has the 70-200 VR glued onto it throughout the entire wedding, grabbing closeup shots throughout the ceremony. She has access to the 50 f/1.4 and 35 f/2 if she needs to go wider, but mainly uses the 70-200 for much of her coverage which, btw, is in the audience section of the chapel.

Me, on the other hand, whenever possible I will get up behind the pastor/officiate with my D3 and 24-70 to get the 'facial coverage' of the bride and groom during the ceremony. I take with me a shootsac loaded with the 14-24 and the other 70-200 VR. However the 70-200 VR has become quite cumbersome and I'm questioning whether or not I should hang onto it or sell it and replace it with two lenses: the 85 f/1.4 or the 105 f/2 DC lenses. Recently I've decided to pick up the 85 f/1.4 and 105 f/2 DC and, while I have all the lenses, compare the following lenses and focal lengths (all from wide open to f/4--I RARELY shoot stopped down any further than f/4):

Lens Focal length
24-70 f/2.8 70 mm

85 f/1.4 85 mm

105 f/2 DC 105 mm

70-200 f/2.8 70 mm (not uploaded for this test)
85 mm (not uploaded for this test)
105 mm

The test:

I started out the test with doing some basic focus calibration on the three longer lenses and found that each needed some AF fine tune calibration (what a God send!): 105 f/2 DC (+13), 85 f/1.4 (+0), 70-200 @ 105mm (-5).

From there, I set out to find a beautiful model, and needed to look no further than my lovely wife, Sarah! :biggrin: (BTW, out of the 5 likely models in our household, she was the only one who was able to stand still for the 30 minutes or so required to complete this test! :eek:).

I decided with this test to move my body to keep the framing as close to the same as I could with each lens as that is how I would use them and would utilize the same 'megapixels' on the subject (roughly) in each case--that helps minimize another variable and helps demonstrate the telecompression effect mentioned below.

The basic settings were as follows:

Camera: D3, Aperture Priority, (f/2.8 for tests below), ISO400, Preset WB off a Whibal Card with each lens--though the light was changing rapidly at times so it may not have been a perfect approach
Setting: Outdoors with partly cloudy (and changing rapidly) cover
Lenses: (as mentioned below)

Settings: 14 bit NEF files, Active D-Lighting set to normal (turned off in post), Vignette control turned on to 'normal', and I can't think if there should be other settings I should mention or not...

The Data:

Full size images are posted, available for download, at the following link: http://hphoto.smugmug.com/gallery/4847507_FxMvi#288644599_hKBCS

At the link above, you'll find the original, full sized image of each picture, along with a 100% face crop and a 40% reduction of the face crop.

First up: Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR at 105 mm @ f/2.8, 1/1000th (VR off):

Full sized image:

40% reduced face crop:

Next up: Nikon 105 f/2 DC at @ f/2.8, 1/1250th (DC set to neutral):

Full sized image:

40% reduced face crop:

Next up: Nikon 85 f/1.4 at @ f/2.8, 1/800th, but brought down 1/3 EV in post to match the other exposures: (Note: the sun went behind the clouds here and it dramatically affected the lighting--don't let that throw you off!

Full sized image:

40% reduced face crop:

Last up: Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 at 70 mm @ f/2.8, 1/640th:

Full sized image:

40% reduced face crop:

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