Advice for portrait lenses

Started Mar 14, 2014 | Discussions
OP sapralot Junior Member • Posts: 37
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

scott_mcleod wrote:

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

Disclaimer: I no longer shoot Nikon but having owned a D700 and had experience with several of the lenses you are interested in, I thought I'd add my 0.02...

Scott, I really appreciate your feedback - even though you might have changed over to the opposite camp. ;D

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

The 50/1.4G was my main lens on the D700. I found it to be excellent, though it was not as much better than the 1.4D than I expected (superior in the corners but not night-and-day). The AF was, how can I put it... deliberate. Definitely slower than the D, but not having to keep your hands away from the focus ring was nice. I also found it to be very accurate once a small AFMA was dialled in. Not having a front element that moved in and out of the lens body made it feel more robust than the D. Focus shift did not seem to be much of a problem.

I just don't see why a focal length of 50mm should be inappropriate for shooting people. Sure, you need to know how to use it but when done correctly the results can be amazing. Just take for example these shots:

http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/40113533286
http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/73082748990
http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/46359963096
http://www.flickr.com/photos/isayx3/9511139946/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/isayx3/10980788063/in/photostream/

Or am I getting something wrong? So the 50 f/1.4 is still on my shortlist. (Would the 55 f/1.2 make sense?)

I have not used either of the ZF 50mm lenses. The Art 50 weight is not specified yet but it's physically larger than the 660g 35/1.4 Art and appears to have more glass in it so I'd expect it to be upward of 700g (maybe 800). This is big and heavy for a 50 but to put it in perspective it's similar to the Canon 135/2 L which balances superbly on a FF body.

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?

I had the 85/1.8D and sold it due to problems with focus shift around f/4 or so. Wide open or stopped right down it was fine. The 85/1.8G & 1.4G came out too late for me to try; they both get stellar reviews and if I'd kept the D700 I probably would have caved and bought one or the other.

I don't like the moving front element of the D, and the bokeh sometimes looks rather busy. But then again, I would rather fill the other gaps (105/135mm, 50mm) at first.

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?

I too found 135EFOV to be very nice (i.e. 85mm on crop or 135 on FF). The Nikon 135DC is just spectacular - marred only by some purple fringing wide-open. I know it's pricey but you really ought to try it if you can (I used LensRentals). The Zeiss 135 is, as you say, very expensive. The ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar is overshadowed but the new 135 but it is really something. I can't remember another occasion when I put a lens on a camera for the first time, looked through the VF and actually said "Wow!". I did a double-take at the front of the lens almost as a reflex reaction to see what was in there! Hard to go wrong with this one, and even though it's only a 1:2 macro the close-focus is worth having.

135mm: The price difference between the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135 f/2.0 and the Nikon DC 135 f/2.0 is EUR 600 (1.300 vs. 1.900); are those additional costs justified? And I can get a used Nikon 135 f/2.8 for around EUR 200; is the Zeiss really ten times 'better' on my D610? (Sorry for that exaggeration.)

105mm: The price difference between the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135 f/2.0 and the Makro Planar 100 f/2.0 is EUR 250 (1.900 vs. 1.650), but the sharpness, vignetting, and chr. aberration of the former seem to be much better. Hence the 135 seems to be the better deal? Then again I can get the Nikon DC 105 f/2.0 for EUR 1.000, and that lens doesn't seem to be a good deal worse than the Zeiss 100, at least in terms of sharpness. Or does the out-of-focus rendering outshine anything else? A used Nikon 105 f/2.5 is about EUR 300...

This is a tough call.

Cheers,
Johannes

chris102 Senior Member • Posts: 1,446
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

scott_mcleod wrote:

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

Disclaimer: I no longer shoot Nikon but having owned a D700 and had experience with several of the lenses you are interested in, I thought I'd add my 0.02...

Scott, I really appreciate your feedback - even though you might have changed over to the opposite camp. ;D

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

The 50/1.4G was my main lens on the D700. I found it to be excellent, though it was not as much better than the 1.4D than I expected (superior in the corners but not night-and-day). The AF was, how can I put it... deliberate. Definitely slower than the D, but not having to keep your hands away from the focus ring was nice. I also found it to be very accurate once a small AFMA was dialled in. Not having a front element that moved in and out of the lens body made it feel more robust than the D. Focus shift did not seem to be much of a problem.

I just don't see why a focal length of 50mm should be inappropriate for shooting people. Sure, you need to know how to use it but when done correctly the results can be amazing. Just take for example these shots:

http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/40113533286
http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/73082748990
http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/46359963096
http://www.flickr.com/photos/isayx3/9511139946/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/isayx3/10980788063/in/photostream/

Or am I getting something wrong? So the 50 f/1.4 is still on my shortlist. (Would the 55 f/1.2 make sense?)

I have not used either of the ZF 50mm lenses. The Art 50 weight is not specified yet but it's physically larger than the 660g 35/1.4 Art and appears to have more glass in it so I'd expect it to be upward of 700g (maybe 800). This is big and heavy for a 50 but to put it in perspective it's similar to the Canon 135/2 L which balances superbly on a FF body.

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?

I had the 85/1.8D and sold it due to problems with focus shift around f/4 or so. Wide open or stopped right down it was fine. The 85/1.8G & 1.4G came out too late for me to try; they both get stellar reviews and if I'd kept the D700 I probably would have caved and bought one or the other.

I don't like the moving front element of the D, and the bokeh sometimes looks rather busy. But then again, I would rather fill the other gaps (105/135mm, 50mm) at first.

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?

I too found 135EFOV to be very nice (i.e. 85mm on crop or 135 on FF). The Nikon 135DC is just spectacular - marred only by some purple fringing wide-open. I know it's pricey but you really ought to try it if you can (I used LensRentals). The Zeiss 135 is, as you say, very expensive. The ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar is overshadowed but the new 135 but it is really something. I can't remember another occasion when I put a lens on a camera for the first time, looked through the VF and actually said "Wow!". I did a double-take at the front of the lens almost as a reflex reaction to see what was in there! Hard to go wrong with this one, and even though it's only a 1:2 macro the close-focus is worth having.

135mm: The price difference between the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135 f/2.0 and the Nikon DC 135 f/2.0 is EUR 600 (1.300 vs. 1.900); are those additional costs justified? And I can get a used Nikon 135 f/2.8 for around EUR 200; is the Zeiss really ten times 'better' on my D610? (Sorry for that exaggeration.)

105mm: The price difference between the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135 f/2.0 and the Makro Planar 100 f/2.0 is EUR 250 (1.900 vs. 1.650), but the sharpness, vignetting, and chr. aberration of the former seem to be much better. Hence the 135 seems to be the better deal? Then again I can get the Nikon DC 105 f/2.0 for EUR 1.000, and that lens doesn't seem to be a good deal worse than the Zeiss 100, at least in terms of sharpness. Or does the out-of-focus rendering outshine anything else? A used Nikon 105 f/2.5 is about EUR 300...

This is a tough call.

Cheers,
Johannes

I'm not sure what lens you had, but the front element on the 85mm f/1.8 D lens does not move. Bokey is a matter of individual taste, but this lens focuses with internal and rear elements.

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OP sapralot Junior Member • Posts: 37
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

chris102 wrote:

scott_mcleod wrote:

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

Disclaimer: I no longer shoot Nikon but having owned a D700 and had experience with several of the lenses you are interested in, I thought I'd add my 0.02...

Scott, I really appreciate your feedback - even though you might have changed over to the opposite camp. ;D

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

The 50/1.4G was my main lens on the D700. I found it to be excellent, though it was not as much better than the 1.4D than I expected (superior in the corners but not night-and-day). The AF was, how can I put it... deliberate. Definitely slower than the D, but not having to keep your hands away from the focus ring was nice. I also found it to be very accurate once a small AFMA was dialled in. Not having a front element that moved in and out of the lens body made it feel more robust than the D. Focus shift did not seem to be much of a problem.

I just don't see why a focal length of 50mm should be inappropriate for shooting people. Sure, you need to know how to use it but when done correctly the results can be amazing. Just take for example these shots:

http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/40113533286
http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/73082748990
http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/46359963096
http://www.flickr.com/photos/isayx3/9511139946/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/isayx3/10980788063/in/photostream/

Or am I getting something wrong? So the 50 f/1.4 is still on my shortlist. (Would the 55 f/1.2 make sense?)

I have not used either of the ZF 50mm lenses. The Art 50 weight is not specified yet but it's physically larger than the 660g 35/1.4 Art and appears to have more glass in it so I'd expect it to be upward of 700g (maybe 800). This is big and heavy for a 50 but to put it in perspective it's similar to the Canon 135/2 L which balances superbly on a FF body.

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?

I had the 85/1.8D and sold it due to problems with focus shift around f/4 or so. Wide open or stopped right down it was fine. The 85/1.8G & 1.4G came out too late for me to try; they both get stellar reviews and if I'd kept the D700 I probably would have caved and bought one or the other.

I don't like the moving front element of the D, and the bokeh sometimes looks rather busy. But then again, I would rather fill the other gaps (105/135mm, 50mm) at first.

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?

I too found 135EFOV to be very nice (i.e. 85mm on crop or 135 on FF). The Nikon 135DC is just spectacular - marred only by some purple fringing wide-open. I know it's pricey but you really ought to try it if you can (I used LensRentals). The Zeiss 135 is, as you say, very expensive. The ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar is overshadowed but the new 135 but it is really something. I can't remember another occasion when I put a lens on a camera for the first time, looked through the VF and actually said "Wow!". I did a double-take at the front of the lens almost as a reflex reaction to see what was in there! Hard to go wrong with this one, and even though it's only a 1:2 macro the close-focus is worth having.

135mm: The price difference between the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135 f/2.0 and the Nikon DC 135 f/2.0 is EUR 600 (1.300 vs. 1.900); are those additional costs justified? And I can get a used Nikon 135 f/2.8 for around EUR 200; is the Zeiss really ten times 'better' on my D610? (Sorry for that exaggeration.)

105mm: The price difference between the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135 f/2.0 and the Makro Planar 100 f/2.0 is EUR 250 (1.900 vs. 1.650), but the sharpness, vignetting, and chr. aberration of the former seem to be much better. Hence the 135 seems to be the better deal? Then again I can get the Nikon DC 105 f/2.0 for EUR 1.000, and that lens doesn't seem to be a good deal worse than the Zeiss 100, at least in terms of sharpness. Or does the out-of-focus rendering outshine anything else? A used Nikon 105 f/2.5 is about EUR 300...

This is a tough call.

Cheers,
Johannes

I'm not sure what lens you had, but the front element on the 85mm f/1.8 D lens does not move. Bokey is a matter of individual taste, but this lens focuses with internal and rear elements.

My bad! I thought of the rotating focus ring...

Dodi73
Dodi73 Senior Member • Posts: 1,827
Re: Advice for portrait lenses
1

Johannes

if you want to impress a woman, you can do this straightly on camera with the 105 DC (or 135)

Before (D200 + 105 DC F/2 DC set to 0)

AFTER (focusing on her EARS and setting DC to R 5.6, always wide open at F/2)

Definitely smoother and younger, isn't she ?

DC neutral, another sample wide open on D200 (sorry at the time I shot JPG and couldn't recover too much highlights) - my sister in law

My mother in law before and after DC cure

The whole image is smoothened and softened a bit and excessive detail is somehow reduced to a pleasant minimum (especially for a woman)

Another one, our friend Anna

Of course this is the MOST extreme setting you can preset, but you can dodge in the middle for a milder effect.

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All the best from northern Italy, Dino.
I'm on the NIK side of photography.

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Stacey_K
Stacey_K Veteran Member • Posts: 8,440
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

sapralot wrote:

Or am I getting something wrong? So the 50 f/1.4 is still on my shortlist. (Would the 55 f/1.2 make sense?)    <snip>

and the bokeh sometimes looks rather busy.

This "sometimes busy" bokeh is why I'm no fan of the nikon 50's (the 1.4 and 1.8 models). It's hard to tell when it's going to rear it's ugly head and ruin a shot. I can see the 50 being useful but the current nikon 50's just are iffy in the regard.

Options are the 58 (expensive) or the 60mm f2.8. I'm waiting to see how good the new sigma is myself. Yes it's likely big and heavy but sometimes sacrifices have to be made somewhere and I'd rather not make them on image quality unless I have to.

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Stacey

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OP sapralot Junior Member • Posts: 37
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

Hi Dino,

Yes, that's quite amazing. Although the max setting might be way too much for my taste. BTW: What do you mean by 'dodge in the middle for a milder effect'?

This might be of minor relevance, but if I compare the most interesting images on Flickriver shot with the Nikon 135mm f/2.0 DC lens with those shot with the Nikon 135mm f/2.8 AIS lens there is a safe winner...:

Nikon 135mm f/2.0 DC: http://www.flickriver.com/lenses/nikon/135mmf2dc/
Nikon 135mm f/2.8: http://www.flickriver.com/lenses/nikon/135mmf28ais/

Of course it's possible that the f/2.0 is much more popular than the f/2.8. Or that only the more capable photographers are willing to spend that much money for a lens? ;D

Luke Kaven Veteran Member • Posts: 5,705
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

Definitely, some of the better photographers in the group are using the DC lens.  So many people had the 135/2.8AI at one point in their lives.

But there's also a reason.  Look at the bokeh on the DC.  Wow.  That's the way it's supposed to be!

OP sapralot Junior Member • Posts: 37
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

Stacey_K wrote:

sapralot wrote:

Or am I getting something wrong? So the 50 f/1.4 is still on my shortlist. (Would the 55 f/1.2 make sense?)

and the bokeh sometimes looks rather busy.

This "sometimes busy" bokeh is why I'm no fan of the nikon 50's (the 1.4 and 1.8 models). It's hard to tell when it's going to rear it's ugly head and ruin a shot. I can see the 50 being useful but the current nikon 50's just are iffy in the regard.

Options are the 58 (expensive) or the 60mm f2.8. I'm waiting to see how good the new sigma is myself. Yes it's likely big and heavy but sometimes sacrifices have to be made somewhere and I'd rather not make them on image quality unless I have to.

Hi Stacey,

Thanks a lot for your feedback!

Do you mean "busy" in the following sense?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedigitalfly/4636358199/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedigitalfly/4281894635/

Granted, it is somewhat less than perfect. But I won't spend > EUR 1.700 for a 50mm lens... And the 60mm isn't very fast.

What about the older 50mm lenses from Nikon?

Cheers,
Johannes

Dodi73
Dodi73 Senior Member • Posts: 1,827
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

sapralot wrote:

Hi Dino,

Yes, that's quite amazing. Although the max setting might be way too much for my taste. BTW: What do you mean by 'dodge in the middle for a milder effect'?

This might be of minor relevance, but if I compare the most interesting images on Flickriver shot with the Nikon 135mm f/2.0 DC lens with those shot with the Nikon 135mm f/2.8 AIS lens there is a safe winner...:

Nikon 135mm f/2.0 DC: http://www.flickriver.com/lenses/nikon/135mmf2dc/
Nikon 135mm f/2.8: http://www.flickriver.com/lenses/nikon/135mmf28ais/

Of course it's possible that the f/2.0 is much more popular than the f/2.8. Or that only the more capable photographers are willing to spend that much money for a lens? ;D

Hi Johannes

with "dodging in the middle" I mean "adjusting at your pleasure" (between the two extremes) and btw this is a pic taken with the 105/2.5 on D700 - It's me and my wife in 2010, @ F/4 - believe me, whatever you choose, you can't go wrong.

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All the best from northern Italy, Dino.
I'm on the NIK side of photography.

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Luke Kaven Veteran Member • Posts: 5,705
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

sapralot wrote:

Stacey_K wrote:

sapralot wrote:

Or am I getting something wrong? So the 50 f/1.4 is still on my shortlist. (Would the 55 f/1.2 make sense?)

and the bokeh sometimes looks rather busy.

This "sometimes busy" bokeh is why I'm no fan of the nikon 50's (the 1.4 and 1.8 models). It's hard to tell when it's going to rear it's ugly head and ruin a shot. I can see the 50 being useful but the current nikon 50's just are iffy in the regard.

Options are the 58 (expensive) or the 60mm f2.8. I'm waiting to see how good the new sigma is myself. Yes it's likely big and heavy but sometimes sacrifices have to be made somewhere and I'd rather not make them on image quality unless I have to.

Hi Stacey,

Thanks a lot for your feedback!

Do you mean "busy" in the following sense?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedigitalfly/4636358199/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedigitalfly/4281894635/

Granted, it is somewhat less than perfect. But I won't spend > EUR 1.700 for a 50mm lens... And the 60mm isn't very fast.

What about the older 50mm lenses from Nikon?

Many of the 50s have what is called "double-draw" bokeh.  The newer G lenses are a little better with that.  But your samples are showing exactly what Stacey is referring to.  It's not awful, but not very good.

The 60 isn't fast, but it isn't slow either, and it is in a very sweet spot, with distortion at about zero, and a perspective that works for high fashion.  It knocks me out.  None of the 50s can do that.

But I'm not saying you shouldn't have a 50 of course.  The 50/1.8g is very nice.  Definitely a huge improvement of the 50/1.8d.

Stacey_K
Stacey_K Veteran Member • Posts: 8,440
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

sapralot wrote:

Do you mean "busy" in the following sense?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thedigitalfly/4636358199/

That is exactly the kind of bokeh I have seen from the 50mm f1.8G. Obviously not all the time but when it happens it's like "omg what happened??"

I'm not buying the 58 either. I can't see spending that much for it. On ff if you can shoot at f2.8, the DOF is pretty shallow so I've been happy with my sigma 70mm f2.8 as my "normal" lens until something better comes along. I hope the new sigma is and is around the 1000 USD mark or less.

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Stacey

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Stacey_K
Stacey_K Veteran Member • Posts: 8,440
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

Dodi73 wrote:

 btw this is a pic taken with the 105/2.5 on D700 -

Even though I have the 105mm f2 DC, I recently picked up an early *sonnar* 105mm f2.5 (pre Ai, chrome barrel) to play with. In the past I have had some really great sonnar design lenses in other formats and am interested to see how the nikon version renders.

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Stacey

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Rservello
Rservello Senior Member • Posts: 1,157
Re: Advice for portrait lenses
1

I wrote a whole paragraph that disappeared. Anyway, this is the Voigtländer 58mm f1.4 sl-II Nokton. Beautiful lens. And not a ludicrous price.

Some photos I took this morning.

Very minimal cc was done. The only light source is an open window.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/49019071@N03/
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2334596/
* Sensitive Internet User Disclaimer: All opinions are my own and are not meant to offend you or damage your precious beliefs.

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TQGroup
TQGroup Senior Member • Posts: 1,372
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

One important issue in choosing a lens is your personal shooting style and the specific type of portraiture you plan to do.

For example, do you regularly use multiple light setups or only available light or available light with fill-in flash, etc, etc? Do you prefer more formal "posed" portraits or more spontaneous shots? Will you use a tripod or hand held in poor light? Do you do shoot indoors or outside? What about sunset / twilight portraiture? Is it only one person or larger groups?

How you like to / plan to shoot, where you shoot and specifically what you shoot has a huge bearing on your lens selection and is often far more important than splitting hairs in esoteric lens performance analysis. For "portraiture" I can use at least 6 or more lenses, often more than 4 in a single shoot.

There is no single "best" portrait lens, but there is a best lens that will overall work best for you and to find that you need to understand what, where, when, how, why and who (thanks, R. Kipling :-D) you plan to shoot.

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scott_mcleod Senior Member • Posts: 1,033
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

sapralot wrote:

scott_mcleod wrote:

sapralot wrote:

After using a D90 for more than five years I finally made the switchover to full frame - and I have absolutely no regrets about picking the D610. But having an FX body is only half the story, now I need to get some appropriate lenses, too. And since I love to shoot portraits, I plan to restrict myself to two, at a max three tele respectively standard primes. Maybe you can give me a word of advice?

Disclaimer: I no longer shoot Nikon but having owned a D700 and had experience with several of the lenses you are interested in, I thought I'd add my 0.02...

Scott, I really appreciate your feedback - even though you might have changed over to the opposite camp. ;D

You're welcome!

50mm: The Nikon 50/1.4 G seems to be a good deal, especially considering that I like to work with a shallow DOF. Or should I wait for the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG? And what about the Zeiss ZF.2 Planar 50/1.4?

The 50/1.4G was my main lens on the D700. I found it to be excellent, though it was not as much better than the 1.4D than I expected (superior in the corners but not night-and-day). The AF was, how can I put it... deliberate. Definitely slower than the D, but not having to keep your hands away from the focus ring was nice. I also found it to be very accurate once a small AFMA was dialled in. Not having a front element that moved in and out of the lens body made it feel more robust than the D. Focus shift did not seem to be much of a problem.

I just don't see why a focal length of 50mm should be inappropriate for shooting people. Sure, you need to know how to use it but when done correctly the results can be amazing. Just take for example these shots:

I totally agree - see below

http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/40113533286
http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/73082748990
http://davidolkarny.tumblr.com/post/46359963096
http://www.flickr.com/photos/isayx3/9511139946/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/isayx3/10980788063/in/photostream/

Or am I getting something wrong? So the 50 f/1.4 is still on my shortlist. (Would the 55 f/1.2 make sense?)

Apologies for not being clearer - I really like the 50/1.4G and I can't see why you couldn't use it for people. Maybe a bit wide for head-and-shoulders stuff but fine for a lot of other applications. It also makes a great all-round lens; I used mine for landscapes and stitched panoramas (up to 22 frames in Death Valley) and the results were very pleasing.

The 55/1.2 gets a lot of positive reviews for it's "dreamy" quality wide-open which might be great for people shots; opinions seem to differ on whether this is desirable or not. Personally I like it, though as a viewer rather than a shooter as I rarely photograph people. Either way it's also a fine general-purpose normal lens when stopped down, the AIS mechanics are top-notch and the focus throw and feel are beautiful. But... AF helps a lot on DSLRs especially in low light or with "ambiguous" subjects (unsuitable focusing screens and low-magnification viewfinders), so some of the usefulness of the AIS may be lost compared to the G, depending on what conditions you shoot in. I really enjoy manual-focus lenses but I also shoot a lot of stuff in very poor light and I'd be sunk without AF in those circumstances.

I have not used either of the ZF 50mm lenses. The Art 50 weight is not specified yet but it's physically larger than the 660g 35/1.4 Art and appears to have more glass in it so I'd expect it to be upward of 700g (maybe 800). This is big and heavy for a 50 but to put it in perspective it's similar to the Canon 135/2 L which balances superbly on a FF body.

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?

I had the 85/1.8D and sold it due to problems with focus shift around f/4 or so. Wide open or stopped right down it was fine. The 85/1.8G & 1.4G came out too late for me to try; they both get stellar reviews and if I'd kept the D700 I probably would have caved and bought one or the other.

I don't like the moving front element of the D, and the bokeh sometimes looks rather busy. But then again, I would rather fill the other gaps (105/135mm, 50mm) at first.

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?

I too found 135EFOV to be very nice (i.e. 85mm on crop or 135 on FF). The Nikon 135DC is just spectacular - marred only by some purple fringing wide-open. I know it's pricey but you really ought to try it if you can (I used LensRentals). The Zeiss 135 is, as you say, very expensive. The ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar is overshadowed but the new 135 but it is really something. I can't remember another occasion when I put a lens on a camera for the first time, looked through the VF and actually said "Wow!". I did a double-take at the front of the lens almost as a reflex reaction to see what was in there! Hard to go wrong with this one, and even though it's only a 1:2 macro the close-focus is worth having.

135mm: The price difference between the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135 f/2.0 and the Nikon DC 135 f/2.0 is EUR 600 (1.300 vs. 1.900); are those additional costs justified? And I can get a used Nikon 135 f/2.8 for around EUR 200; is the Zeiss really ten times 'better' on my D610? (Sorry for that exaggeration.)

Not really an exaggeration and the sort of decision that plagues a lot of people (I went through this a while back with a film Leica - I'll spare you the details, the regrets, etc., ;)). Since I assume this is a hobby and making money is not involved, I guess it really comes down to how much you're likely to use the lens and whether buying that particular item means you have to go without something else for a while. I don't think there's any combination of measurements that could say the Zeiss is 10x better. Maybe you could buy a used 135 AIS and see how it works out on the D610 for a while, how much you use it, whether you enjoy manually focusing, and so on. If you decide to get the Zeiss later and sell the Nikkor you're unlikely to lose much.

105mm: The price difference between the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135 f/2.0 and the Makro Planar 100 f/2.0 is EUR 250 (1.900 vs. 1.650), but the sharpness, vignetting, and chr. aberration of the former seem to be much better. Hence the 135 seems to be the better deal? Then again I can get the Nikon DC 105 f/2.0 for EUR 1.000, and that lens doesn't seem to be a good deal worse than the Zeiss 100, at least in terms of sharpness. Or does the out-of-focus rendering outshine anything else? A used Nikon 105 f/2.5 is about EUR 300...

This is a tough call.

The DC Nikkors are quite special and have a property that you can't get in any other lens - the ability to choose whether you want the foreground or the background to appear more abberated. You've probably already seen it but Photozone has a really nice illustration of how this looks: http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/222-nikkor-af-105mm-f2-d-dc-review--test-report?start=2At nearly half the price of the Zeiss 100 and with the DC function it may well be what you're looking for. The real trump card of the ZF135 is the Apo part - it's really extremely well corrected for colour errors. Whether this is worth the $$$ for what you want to use it for is another thing

Overall, you could get the 105 DC and the 50/1.4G - new - for less than the Zeiss Makro Planar, so that might be a good setup.

Sorry for not replying earlier - I'm in a different hemisphere...

Scott

OP sapralot Junior Member • Posts: 37
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

Luke Kaven wrote:

Many of the 50s have what is called "double-draw" bokeh. The newer G lenses are a little better with that. But your samples are showing exactly what Stacey is referring to. It's not awful, but not very good.

The 60 isn't fast, but it isn't slow either, and it is in a very sweet spot, with distortion at about zero, and a perspective that works for high fashion. It knocks me out. None of the 50s can do that.

But I'm not saying you shouldn't have a 50 of course. The 50/1.8g is very nice. Definitely a huge improvement of the 50/1.8d.

What about the Sigma 50mm/1.4 EX DG? Would that be an acceptable alternative?

(Since no one knows when the Sigma Art 50mm/1.4 DG shows up?)

Luke Kaven Veteran Member • Posts: 5,705
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

sapralot wrote:

Luke Kaven wrote:

Many of the 50s have what is called "double-draw" bokeh. The newer G lenses are a little better with that. But your samples are showing exactly what Stacey is referring to. It's not awful, but not very good.

The 60 isn't fast, but it isn't slow either, and it is in a very sweet spot, with distortion at about zero, and a perspective that works for high fashion. It knocks me out. None of the 50s can do that.

But I'm not saying you shouldn't have a 50 of course. The 50/1.8g is very nice. Definitely a huge improvement of the 50/1.8d.

What about the Sigma 50mm/1.4 EX DG? Would that be an acceptable alternative?

(Since no one knows when the Sigma Art 50mm/1.4 DG shows up?)

Compare the MTF of the Sigma EX DG

http://www.photozone.de/nikon_ff/616-sigma5014ff?start=1

To the Nikon 50/1.8g

http://www.photozone.de/nikon_ff/631-nikkorafs5018ff?start=1

I think I would avoid the EX DG based on this.  For a couple of months, I'd wait out the Sigma Art 50, if it's anything like the Art 35.

Brooke A Contributing Member • Posts: 537
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

Keep all your glass you list, and also any AIS.  Every piece you mentioned is great for portraits. The D610 has the AF screw and the AIS tab, so you are good to go. The new camera will not devalue your lenses, but save you a lot of money spent (for nothing) if you hang on to them.

Happy shooting.

-- hide signature --

Brooke

xtm Senior Member • Posts: 1,153
Re: Advice for portrait lenses

I would go with the 200 f/2.0 VR. Sell everything and anything you can and I promise, it will make your jaw drop each and every time you use it.

 xtm's gear list:xtm's gear list
Nikon Df Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED-IF VR +2 more
TQGroup
TQGroup Senior Member • Posts: 1,372
Re: Advice for portrait lenses
1

... not just your jaw! Your arms and bank balance will drop too! Seriously, my friend's 200 F2 VRII is a gem of a lens for short periods of hand holding, otherwise its a tripod / monopod. Its not a very practical lens for travel, panoramas, street, etc but in the right environment it is unmatched!

 TQGroup's gear list:TQGroup's gear list
Nikon D500 Nikon D850 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 10-24mm f/3-5-4.5G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED +24 more
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