50mm F1.4 or 135mm F2.8 for portrait?

Started Dec 5, 2012 | Discussions thread
EarthQuake Senior Member • Posts: 2,382
Re: 50mm F1.4 or 135mm F2.8 for portrait?

Molan wrote:

rpenmanparker wrote:

skygca wrote:

Molan wrote:

I am all new in portrait photography, I got the 50mm F1.4 for low light (aquarium) shoot, and the 135mm F2.8 as a cheap concert lens (would have bought the Sony 70-200 F2.8 G if it wasn't so bloody expensive).

Now I want to take some nice pictures of one of my friends (female), and I am wondering witch lens is the right choice?

50mm F1.4 has lower aperture for nice booke, but 135mm have more focal length and F2.8 at 135mm can give nice booke too.

It’s an A77 by the way.


The 135 F2.8 STF is the sharpess lens in the world. That also, should be your portrait lens due to its bokeh -try it. Another good portrait lens is the 35G F 1.4.

I am sorry, but I find your advice unsound. Portrait lenses are not about sharpness. If one sees any references to sharpness it is that soft lenses are favored to complement the subject especially women. Bokeh is not an issue now and never has been in portraiture by its very nature. For a portrait lens, the single most important factor is the appropriate focal length to give proper perspective to the subject. You can't use a short lens without getting the bug-eyed, big nose effect we all know so well. Too long a lens (and the 135mm is WAAAY to long) flattens the subject and makes him/her less interesting besides also eliminating separation of the subject from the background.

This information used to be de rigeur. Every decent photographer knew it. When did it get lost and forgotten. Principals like this don't change.



Thx for all your comments.

I found this on the web, showing various focal lengths for close up headshots:


I must say I personally favorers the longer focal lengths, 200mm I visible better than 70mm, unless the girl needs additional slimming (the one I am going to shoot doesn’t).
I must say I am surprised to see the differences, I never though of it before seeing it like that. The difference from 135mm and onwards are very small, so I’ll start with 135mm (200mm) for outdoor close-up and maybe only use 50mm (75mm) for full body, or maybe just 135mm for both.

I’ll try and see the results.

In regards to sharpness, F2.8 should soften the skin a bit, although I must say I have some prety sharp shoots like this one, in F2.8:


Otherwise Photoshop can soften the images a bit more.


Remember that at full body distance, perspective exaggeration is going to be much less extreme than for a head shot. Perspective distortion is dependent on distance, and to get the same framing with 200mm and 75mm, the 75mm shot has to be much closer.

So when you back up with 75mm to frame a full body shot, any negative aspects of perspective distortion will disappear.

Not to mention you're going to need a megaphone to communicate with your model if you're trying to do full body portraits at 200mm - you will require some serious distance for that.

But honestly, you should just try for yourself and see what you prefer.

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