Advice for portrait lenses

Started Mar 14, 2014 | Discussions thread
Michael Benveniste
Michael Benveniste Veteran Member • Posts: 3,610
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

sapralot wrote:

85mm: I currently own a Nikon 85/1.8. Would it pay off to exchange it for the G version? (The 85/1.4 G might be a terrific lens, but I'm afraid I can't afford it.) Would it make sense to get 85/1.2 AI?

105/135mm: I love to take head shots with the 85mm mounted to my D90, hence I would prefer 135mm over 105mm. But the Nikon 135/2.0 D is rather high priced and the Zeiss ZF.2 135/2.0 is VERY high priced. Would a Nikon 135/2.8 AI do the job, too? What about the 105/2.8 AI, the 105/1.8 AI?

In general: Is it a good idea to put legacy (AI/S) lenses on a D610? Won't I lose a lot of it's value?

Hi. My name is Mike and I'm a portrait lens addict. Here are a few brief comments in addition to the advise you've received so far.

  • Nikon never made an 85mm f/1.2 AI. I suggest sticking with your 85mm f/1.8 until you see what it can and can't do on your new body. Personally, I've never felt the need for an f/1.4 portrait lens, but your style and preferences may be different.
  • A legacy lens which no one has mentioned yet in this thread is the 75-150 f/3.5 Series E. While it was sold as a consumer lens, it's been a cult favorite as a portrait zoom for a long time and with good reason. While it doesn't allow you to limit depth of field as much as a prime, and it will develop zoom creep with wear, it's an inexpensive way to explore various portrait lengths and still get great results.
  • You'll often read that a macro lens is "too sharp for portraiture." Personally, I don't agree, but because macro lenses use so much of their focus throw in the close-focus range, focus can be "twitchy" in the portrait range. This makes them slower to work with than a non-macro portrait lens. Also, while I feel both my Tokina 90mm f/2.5 and Nikon 105mm VR macro lenses have pretty nice bokeh, I was less impressed with my results on film from the 105mm f/2.8 AI-s Micro.
  • The 80-200mm f/2.8 can produce great results, as can the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR-II. But I prefer to avoid using them in that role due to their weight/inertia and overall handling. I've also had a few subjects seem to get intimidated by the sheer size of this thing pointing at them, resulting in visible tension in the shot.
  • When it comes to improving one's portraiture, lighting, make-up and rapport with the subject is more important than MTF charts or other measures of lens "IQ."
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