Entry level headshot lens

Started Sep 28, 2013 | Discussions thread
Osvaldo Cristo
Osvaldo Cristo Veteran Member • Posts: 4,282
50mm for FX, 85mm for DX

thebasharjobs wrote:

Hi there,

I'm an entry level photographer that'd like to explore...entry level headshots. Being entry level unfortunately means I work on something of a budget and have been looking around the internet weighing the various pros and cons of everyone's suggestions.

For awhile I was set on a 50mm 1.8g until progressively more digging uncovered the distortion level to be way too much in certain cases and not an optimal lens for portraits (yet the price point remains haunting).

After that the resounding cry across the internet seems to settle upon anything between a 85-135mm lens that's mostly out of my price range.

I did stumble upon the 70-300mm f4/5.6 thats attractively priced. While it wouldn't offer the crispness of a prime nor does it have the lowest f stop it seems like it might be ok for someone just starting out. Any thoughts?

Welcome to dpreview!

You can make your headshots virtually with any lens, but I think you can go for a "more classical" approach (translation: my personal preference):

  • For FX (commonly named "full frame") cameras, for full body, torso and head, the usual is 50 mm, 85mm and 105/135mm
  • For DX cameras, the usual for full body, torso and headshots is 35mm, 50mm and 85mm

Once decided for focal length you probably will look for aperture. Bigger aperture will offer you more creative options. Although most of the headshots are made at f/2.8 and smaller, some very interesting effects can be reached with f/2, f/1.8 and even f/1.4 - it is particularly critical when using DX cameras.

Last but not least, the bokeh is particularly important for better portraits, so my suggestion is looking for lenses with better ones.

I shot DX and my preferred lens for that application is Nikkor 85 f/1.4 AFD (and my faithful Nikkor 135 f/2 DC). The newer Nikkor 85 f/1,4 AFS looks marginally better, but sincerely, I think both are overpriced for their performance. If you are looking for the best cost/performance ratio, I think the Nikkor 85 f/1.8 is a better option, mainly if you can get an used sample in good condition.

All the best... and enjoy!


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O.Cristo - An Amateur Photographer
Opinions of men are almost as various as their faces - so many men so many minds. B. Franklin

 Osvaldo Cristo's gear list:Osvaldo Cristo's gear list
Olympus Stylus 1030 SW Nikon D200 Nikon D300S Nikon D810 Nikon AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED +32 more
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