Test of some potential portrait lenses

Started Jan 12, 2012 | Discussions thread
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OleThorsen Veteran Member • Posts: 3,088
Test of some potential portrait lenses

Until Nikon releases a fast Nikon 1 portrait prime, we have some alternatives to fill the hole temporarily as portrait lenses with somewhat shallow DOF like:

  • 17-55 f2.8 AF-S DX (FX eq FOV 46-150mm, ø86x111mm, 755g/26.6oz)

  • 24mm f1.4 AF-S (FX eq FOV 65mm, ø83x89mm, 620g/21.9oz)

  • 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (FX eq FOV 65-190mm, ø82x133mm, 900g/31.7oz)

  • 28-70mm f2.8 AF-S (FX eq FOV 76-190mm, ø89x122mm, 935g/33.0oz)

  • 35mm f1.4 AF-S (FX eq FOV 95mm, ø83x90mm, 600g/21.2oz)

  • 35mm f1.8 AF-S DX (FX eq FOV 95mm, ø70x52mm, 200g/7.1oz)

  • 40mm f2.8 AF-S DX micro (FX eq FOV 109mm, ø69x65mm, 235g/8.3oz)

  • 50mm f1.4 AF-S (FX eq FOV 136mm, ø74x54mm, 280g/9.9oz)

  • 50mm f1.8 AF-S (FX eq FOV 136mm, ø72x53mm, 185g/6.6oz)

  • 60mm f2.8 AF-S micro ( (FX eq FOV 163mm, ø73x89mm, 425g/15.0oz)

  • 85mm f1.4 AF-S (FX eq FOV 231mm, ø87x84mm, 595g/21.0oz)

  • 85mm f1.8 AF-S (FX eq FOV 231mm, ø80x73mm, 350g/12.4oz)

  • 85mm f3.5 AF-S DX VR micro (FX eq FOV 231mm, ø73x99mm, 355g/12.5oz)

and of course the three Nikon 1 zoom kit lenses, where the 30-110mm is the most obvious choice because of the combination of focal length and largest aperture in the tradional portrait range.

  • 10-30mm f3.5-5.6 VR (FX eq FOV 27-82mm, ø57x42mm, 115g/oz)

  • 10-100mm f4.5-5.6 PD VR (FX eq FOV 27-272mm, ø77x95mm, 530g/18.7oz)

  • 30-110mm f3.8-5.6 VR (FX eq FOV 82-299mm, ø60x61mm, 180g/6.3oz)

Since I only have a few of these lenses, I have only tested 5 of the lenses, shown in bold above. I'm really not a portrait photographer, and I don't have any patient and willing models around me, so I chose two sweet dolls with a height of 35cm/14in, which are approximately the same size as a head and shoulder portrait. All 5 lenses was tested on a solid tripod triggered with an IR remote. I don't have any studio facilities, so I used my SB-N5 in manual 1/32 output swivelled to the side to trigger my SB-800 in SU-4 mode manual output adjusted to different apertures, bouncing at the white ceiling in my dining room.

The distance to the wall behind the dolls is 1.8m (5.9ft). I have adjusted the subject distance so the dolls are framed approximately equal at the different focal lengths. This of course changes the perspective.

Approximate subject distance

  • 30mm (82mm) - 1.5m (4.9ft)

  • 50mm (136mm) - 2.3m (7.5ft)

  • 70mm (190mm) - 3.2m (10.5ft)

  • 85mm (231mm) - 3.8m (12.5ft)

  • 110mm (299mm) - 4.8m (15.7ft)

All samples are shot as NEFs processed with Capture NX2, with the Portrait Picture Control with sharpening 1, Auto White Balance, Contrast with a weak S-curve, and a combined selective USM and High Pass sharpening step. Note the pictures' colour space are Adobe RGB so you have to see them in a colour space aware browser or download them and use a colour managed picture viewer. I couldn't hold the details in the strong red using sRGB.

The samples shown are downsized to 1300x870. If you're interested, full size JPGs and NEFs are available packed in a zip file at the following links:

The NEFs contain my PP steps in CNX2, though the original without any PP are available within the NEFs in CNX2. Opening the NEFs with other programs will only show the original NEF.

28-70mm f2.8 AF-S + FT1 (FX eq FOV 76-190mm)
28-70mm f2.8, 28mm (76mm) f2.8: sharpness excellent, CA very low
28-70mm f2.8, 35mm (95mm) f2.8: sharpness excellent, CA low
28-70mm f2.8, 50mm (136mm) f2.8: sharpness very good+, CA medium
28-70mm f2.8, 70mm (190mm) f2.8: sharpness very good+, CA medium

30-110mm f3.8-5.6 VR (FX eq FOV 82-299mm)
30-110mm f3.8-5.6 VR, 30mm (82mm) f3.8: sharpness excellent+, CA none
30-110mm f3.8-5.6 VR, 70mm (190mm) f4.8: sharpness excellent, CA none
30-110mm f3.8-5.6 VR, 110mm (299mm) f5.6: sharpness excellent, CA none

35mm f1.8 AF-S DX + FT1 (FX eq FOV 95mm )
35mm f1.8 AF-S DX, f1.8 sharpness very good+, CA very low
35mm f1.8 AF-S DX, f2.0 sharpness very good+, CA very low
35mm f1.8 AF-S DX, f2.8 sharpness excellent, CA none

50mm f1.4 AF-S + FT1 (FX eq FOV 136mm)
50mm f1.4 AF-S, f1.4 sharpness fair, CA low
50mm f1.4 AF-S, f2.0 sharpness good, CA low
50mm f1.4 AF-S, f2.8 sharpness very good+, CA very low
50mm f1.4 AF-S, f4.0 sharpness excellent, CA none

85mm f3.5 AF-S VR DX + FT1 (FX eq FOV 231mm)
85mm f3.5 sharpness very good, CA low
85mm f4.0 sharpness very good+, CA very low
85mm f5.6 sharpness excellent, CA none

The bokeh of all the tested lenses are very pleasing in my opinion. In my book I separate bokeh and OOF/DOF (Out-Of-Focus/Depth-Of-Field) qualities. Bokeh is the quality of the OOF elements of the pictures independent of DOF, and not necessary the OOF/DOF potential. The OOF/DOF potential is a consequence of focal length and aperture used, and closely follows the well known DOF formulas, where longest focal length and largest apertures reduce the DOF.

I hope the future Nikon 1 portrait lens will be somewhere between 35 to 50mm f1.2 and sharp wide open.

See my next post for downsized samples

Ole Thorsen

Knowing what
thou knowest not
is in a sense
(Grook by Piet Hein)

 OleThorsen's gear list:OleThorsen's gear list
Nikon D70 Nikon D200 Nikon D300 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon 1 V3 +28 more
Panasonic Lumix DMC-F5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 (Lumix DMC-FT1)
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