Lens Recommendation

Started Feb 2, 2013 | Discussions
Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Lens Recommendation

A friend asked me to take some stills of her class teaching Wheelchair Dancing. Using my D5100, what focal length would you recommend I use to get some separation and reduce facial distortion? Unlike the video, I should be able to get within 10-15 feet of my subjects. I want to be able to photograph their expressions and upper body movements. I only have the 35/1.8 right now and I am thinking that it is too wide angle for this project.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4o0vozfqNY

Nikon D5100
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Catallaxy Veteran Member • Posts: 3,724
Re: Lens Recommendation

Shoot from at least 10 ft away to minimize perspective distortion (not the same as lens distortion). Ideally, you would want to be 12 to 15 ft away. To far away and the photo will lose emotional intimacy. Too close and you get perspective distortion (big nose, no ears - as well as hands too large or thighs too large if subject is seated).

I would guess over 50, but less than 135mm. If using a prime, I would pick the Nikon 85 f/1.8 G. It is fairly fast focusing, gives good subject isolation and is not too big and formidible to your subjects.

If picking a zoom, I would opt for my Tokina 50-135 f/2.8, but that is out of production and will not AF on your camera. The new Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 OS would be ideal, but it is an expensive lens as well as being pretty big and heavy. The older Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 (two versions) is also very good and can be found on the used market from time to time.

The older Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 AFS would also be good, although a bit long since it starts at 80mm. You might as well get the 85 prime and have the better subject isolation. And the 70-200 VRI and VRII would be good as well, although big and heavy and very expensive.

If your budget is very tight, the good old Nikon 55-200 VR (refurb for about $180) would do the job pretty well. Just watch the backgrounds and shoot wide open. Seriously, I have used this lens to good effect for portraits and action shots even though I have other lenses like the Tokina 50-135 f/2.8 and the Nikon 70-200 VRII. Bokeh is pretty good too.

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Catallaxy

OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation

Catallaxy wrote:

Shoot from at least 10 ft away to minimize perspective distortion (not the same as lens distortion). Ideally, you would want to be 12 to 15 ft away. To far away and the photo will lose emotional intimacy. Too close and you get perspective distortion (big nose, no ears - as well as hands too large or thighs too large if subject is seated).

I would guess over 50, but less than 135mm. If using a prime, I would pick the Nikon 85 f/1.8 G. It is fairly fast focusing, gives good subject isolation and is not too big and formidable to your subjects.

I was hoping to use the 35/1.8 but I can see now that it would not work for this project. Standing so far away to alleviate distortion will leave large background areas to crop. I don't want to do that because, 1. that would reduce image quality and 2. there is nothing environmental about the background to hold onto. It appears that I need to use a lens that will frame the shot properly like the 85/1.8 that you suggested. Am I correct?

nasuryono
nasuryono Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: Lens Recommendation
1

I would recommend you try the 50mm f/1.8 lens or 85mm f/1.8 lens. For better blur, go with the 85mm lens. But if it's too close, get the 50mm.

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OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation
pixd90 Senior Member • Posts: 1,454
Re: Lens Recommendation

Stuntflyer wrote:

A friend asked me to take some stills of her class teaching Wheelchair Dancing. Using my D5100, what focal length would you recommend I use to get some separation and reduce facial distortion? Unlike the video, I should be able to get within 10-15 feet of my subjects. I want to be able to photograph their expressions and upper body movements. I only have the 35/1.8 right now and I am thinking that it is too wide angle for this project.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4o0vozfqNY

Thanks for sharing the video, very touching and courageous. If you were to purchase a lens I wold consider an 18-105 which will also give you a nice walk-about lens. If you want to use a prime, ie 85mm than I would look into renting one (not that expensive) and ask your friend to share the cost.

Good shooting and please post some pictures after the event.

 pixd90's gear list:pixd90's gear list
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OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation

Okay, so I have another question. . .

If my D5100 with the 35/1.8 fills the frame for my test subject at 5 feet, at what distance would the 50mm and 85mm fill the frame for the same subject?

EKB Regular Member • Posts: 303
Re: Lens Recommendation
1

Stuntflyer wrote:

Okay, so I have another question. . .

If my D5100 with the 35/1.8 fills the frame for my test subject at 5 feet, at what distance would the 50mm and 85mm fill the frame for the same subject?

Distance-to-subject is proportional to focal length (given a fixed subject-width and sensor-size), so the distance for a 50mm would be 5 ft x 50mm/35mm or 7.1 ft, and the distance for 85mm would be 5 ft x 85mm/35mm or 12.1 ft.

 EKB's gear list:EKB's gear list
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OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation

EKB wrote:

Distance-to-subject is proportional to focal length (given a fixed subject-width and sensor-size), so the distance for a 50mm would be 5 ft x 50mm/35mm or 7.1 ft, and the distance for 85mm would be 5 ft x 85mm/35mm or 12.1 ft.

That's great to know, Thanks!

EKB Regular Member • Posts: 303
Re: Lens Recommendation

Stuntflyer wrote:

A friend asked me to take some stills of her class teaching Wheelchair Dancing. Using my D5100, what focal length would you recommend I use to get some separation and reduce facial distortion? Unlike the video, I should be able to get within 10-15 feet of my subjects. I want to be able to photograph their expressions and upper body movements. I only have the 35/1.8 right now and I am thinking that it is too wide angle for this project.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4o0vozfqNY

How much light will you have? If using flash is not an option, then even a fast 2.8 zoom might not be fast enough. Even with the extra stop of a f1.8 prime, you might still find yourself cranking up your ISO and muttering darkly about the motion blur from your subjects because you can't get your shutter speed high enough to avoid it.

 EKB's gear list:EKB's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 Nikon D90 Nikon D500 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G +3 more
OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation

EKB wrote:

How much light will you have? If using flash is not an option, then even a fast 2.8 zoom might not be fast enough. Even with the extra stop of a f1.8 prime, you might still find yourself cranking up your ISO and muttering darkly about the motion blur from your subjects because you can't get your shutter speed high enough to avoid it.

Understood! I will find out about the use of flash.

EKB, Please view the video link from my initial post. What would you suggest the minimum SS be without flash?

EKB Regular Member • Posts: 303
Re: Lens Recommendation

I wouldn't want to give a minimum shutter speed. It's too much a matter of taste & tolerance.

Looking at the video, I notice that someone was using flash to take still photos. Not only can I see when the flash goes off, but I also notice one or two shoot-through umbrellas in the background, when the video camera zooms out. (At 2:35, you can see one in the upper right corner, and a second to the upper left.) So whoever it was, was using off-camera flash to light up their still photos.

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OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation

So, it turns out that the dance studio is 30' x 100'. I only have the 35/1.8 right now. Almost everyone says that the 50mm is a must have lens(not sure if they are referring to full frame)and others say that the 85mm is better for portraits on crop sensor camera. I guess that I want to buy only one right now for my D5100. For the time being I think that I will stay away from zoom options(not sure why though). My fear is that I will have to stand too far away with the 50mm to avoid facial distortion, forcing me to crop in post.

This is an example, taken off the web, of what I will be photographing. I would like to shoot closer in to get facial the expressions and of course at a better angle.

EKB Regular Member • Posts: 303
Re: Lens Recommendation

If you have to do without flash, then staying away from zooms might well be a good idea.

If the web image you posted shows the sort of framing you want, then a 50mm will give that framing at (very) roughly 15 feet and a 85mm will need roughly 25 feet. I'd say to go with a 50mm unless you know that you'll be forced to stay back 20 feet or more, or unless you want to concentrate on head-and-chest shots with few or no full-body shots of the dancers. If you want to take mostly head-and-chest shots at maybe 12-15 feet, and then step back to take some full-body shots at roughly 25 feet then go ahead and get a 85mm.

 EKB's gear list:EKB's gear list
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JCB123 Senior Member • Posts: 1,271
Re: Lens Recommendation

Stuntflyer wrote:

Remember that it is distance that determines perspective and not focal length. For portraiture you need to be at least 8 feet from you subject to avoid undesirable perspective effects (big nose, small ears) but not so far as to make your subject appear flat against the background. the latter depends on how distant the background is but you generally need to be closer that 20 feet.

An 85mm is a classic focal length for head & shoulders portraits for Full frame cameras but its not so good for a DX camera like your D5100. Remember it is distance not focal length. For DX the ideal would be 55mm to 60mm. The Tamron 60mm f2 macro makes for a nice portrait lens on DX cameras.

But you don't want every shot to be head and shoulders. You may want some tightly framed head shots, some loosely framed full body (seated or standing), some group shots and some showing more of the environment. These are all portraits and are mostly best shot from 8 to 12 feet away (distance not focal length). That means a range of focal lengths or at least a couple. Fast primes are good but the most convenient way to gain this flexibility is a zoom. If you are shooting in a studio and using a backdrop which is a good distance behind your subject, then a slow zoom will do the job. The 18-105 is plenty sharp enough for this and has the range of focal lengths that you need. If you want/need to use differential focus to isolate your subject from the background though you will need an f2.8 zoom (or fast primes) In that case refer back to Catalaxies' earlier post.

Regards

John

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OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation

EKB wrote:

If you have to do without flash, then staying away from zooms might well be a good idea.

If the web image you posted shows the sort of framing you want, then a 50mm will give that framing at (very) roughly 15 feet and a 85mm will need roughly 25 feet. I'd say to go with a 50mm unless you know that you'll be forced to stay back 20 feet or more, or unless you want to concentrate on head-and-chest shots with few or no full-body shots of the dancers. If you want to take mostly head-and-chest shots at maybe 12-15 feet, and then step back to take some full-body shots at roughly 25 feet then go ahead and get a 85mm.

Thanks EKB,

That's the answer I was looking for.

OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation

JCB123 wrote:

An 85mm is a classic focal length for head & shoulders portraits for Full frame cameras but its not so good for a DX camera like your D5100. Remember it is distance not focal length. For DX the ideal would be 55mm to 60mm. The Tamron 60mm f2 macro makes for a nice portrait lens on DX cameras.

But you don't want every shot to be head and shoulders.

John, I would like some DoF. I will be able to move in and out freely since this is a practice session for the dancers. The room is 30'x100'. If I stay within 8'-15', would the 50/1.8 be able to cover a range from upper body to 3/4 body and perhaps even full body? If I needed to go wider for a group shot I have my 35/1.8.

I see the advantage in the flexibility of zoom lenses, especially @ 2.8. I was just hoping that a small light prime like the 50/1.8 would do the job.

I had the D600 for two weeks and returned it because I hated the bulk and weight not to mention the dust spots.

JCB123 Senior Member • Posts: 1,271
Re: Lens Recommendation

Stuntflyer wrote:

JCB123 wrote:

An 85mm is a classic focal length for head & shoulders portraits for Full frame cameras but its not so good for a DX camera like your D5100. Remember it is distance not focal length. For DX the ideal would be 55mm to 60mm. The Tamron 60mm f2 macro makes for a nice portrait lens on DX cameras.

But you don't want every shot to be head and shoulders.

John, I would like some DoF. I will be able to move in and out freely since this is a practice session for the dancers. The room is 30'x100'. If I stay within 8'-15', would the 50/1.8 be able to cover a range from upper body to 3/4 body and perhaps even full body? If I needed to go wider for a group shot I have my 35/1.8.

I see the advantage in the flexibility of zoom lenses, especially @ 2.8. I was just hoping that a small light prime like the 50/1.8 would do the job.

I had the D600 for two weeks and returned it because I hated the bulk and weight not to mention the dust spots.

Hi

Yes the 50mm will do that. You will need to balance DOF with available light. f4 to 5.6 will provide enough DOF I think. Avoid direct flash if you can - bounce off the ceiling if it is white and not too high. Try and do some test shots to check what aperture you need before the main or important part of the shoot. If ambient light is making a significant contribution to the exposure take care that your shutter speed does not slow too much. Some blur in the hands and feet of the dancers will convey a sense of motion/action, but this is very much depends on your personal taste.

Regards

John

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OP Stuntflyer Regular Member • Posts: 126
Re: Lens Recommendation

JCB123 wrote:

I see the advantage in the flexibility of zoom lenses, especially @ 2.8. I was just hoping that a small light prime like the 50/1.8 would do the job.

I had the D600 for two weeks and returned it because I hated the bulk and weight not to mention the dust spots.

Hi

Yes the 50mm will do that. You will need to balance DOF with available light. f4 to 5.6 will provide enough DOF I think. Avoid direct flash if you can - bounce off the ceiling if it is white and not too high. Try and do some test shots to check what aperture you need before the main or important part of the shoot. If ambient light is making a significant contribution to the exposure take care that your shutter speed does not slow too much. Some blur in the hands and feet of the dancers will convey a sense of motion/action, but this is very much depends on your personal taste.

Regards

John

Based on what you said. . ."You will need to balance DOF with available light. f4 to 5.6 will provide enough DOF I think", I could get one of the recommended zooms. I say this because I won't be metering at f/1.8 or f/2.8 for these kinds of photos. Correct?

JCB123 Senior Member • Posts: 1,271
Re: Lens Recommendation

Stuntflyer wrote:

JCB123 wrote:

I see the advantage in the flexibility of zoom lenses, especially @ 2.8. I was just hoping that a small light prime like the 50/1.8 would do the job.

I had the D600 for two weeks and returned it because I hated the bulk and weight not to mention the dust spots.

Hi

Yes the 50mm will do that. You will need to balance DOF with available light. f4 to 5.6 will provide enough DOF I think. Avoid direct flash if you can - bounce off the ceiling if it is white and not too high. Try and do some test shots to check what aperture you need before the main or important part of the shoot. If ambient light is making a significant contribution to the exposure take care that your shutter speed does not slow too much. Some blur in the hands and feet of the dancers will convey a sense of motion/action, but this is very much depends on your personal taste.

Regards

John

Based on what you said. . ."You will need to balance DOF with available light. f4 to 5.6 will provide enough DOF I think", I could get one of the recommended zooms. I say this because I won't be metering at f/1.8 or f/2.8 for these kinds of photos. Correct?

You said you wanted 'some depth of field'. I took this too mean that you did not want shallow depth of field such as that obtainable with a fast aperture, such as f1.8 or perhaps even f2.8.

If my assumption was correct then you will need to stop down a bit. I was stating that f4 or 5.6 should give sufficient depth of field because stopping down further could make things difficult to maintain a fast enough shutter speed. Unless of course you will be using flash.

If you won't be using flash then you might well need to use a fast aperture, assumi,ng that you don't want to raised the ISO too far, in order to maintain a fast enough aperture. It's a juggling game

If you will be using flash then the shutter speed becomes less of an issue provided that the flash has sufficient power to freeze action. The use of flash can be problematic though if the cieling is coloured or very high.

If whatever lighting you are using will allow you to shoot with an aperture of f5.6 then a variable aperture zoom such as the 18-105 could be used. If not you would need a zoom with a constant aperture of f2.8. (or possibly f4 ) but at f2.8 the depth of field will be fairly shallow. The primes of course will also work, but although they will open up to even wider apertures this is at the expense of depth of field. They do have other advantages though in that a good prime will usually yield sharper results with better micro-contast - images may have more bite and sense of depth to them. Zooms (and the recommended f2.8 zooms are very good) offer convenience, in not having to run back and forth or change lenses. Zooming with your feet is good but only if you have time and space to do so. Primes are considerably smaller and lighter than fast zooms.

The faster the lens the more options you have. They all stop down to f8 or f11 for greater depth of field but only the faster ones open up if you need it to get enough light.

Sorry that this wasn't a yes or no answer, but neither of those would have been correct.

Regards

John

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