Anyone Else Have Difficulty Settling on a Portrait Lens for 35mm?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by momus, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. momus

    momus Member

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    Every few years I seem to go a little (more) nuts and go on a quest for a "good" portrait lens for my Nikon cameras. For other focal lengths, I don't have this problem. My 50 is a non ai H 50 2.0, and my 135 is a Canon FD 135 2.5. But a good 85-105 seems to elude me. So far it's like this:

    Nikon non ai 85 1.8: really nice lens w/ great build quality and feel. Soft at f1.8, sharpened right up at the next f stop. But the diaphragm blades gave ugly octagonal shapes if you had a busy background.

    Bower (Rokinon/Samyang, etc) asph 85 1.4: Beautiful piece of glass, and a great value w/ smooooth bokeh! Hard to say why this didn't work, but it didn't. Had a somewhat digital/clean look when you were stopped down.

    Nikon ai 85 2.0: Very light and compact for an 85 and very good build quality. Inconsistent bokeh though. Sometimes it's smooth as can be, stopped down it can give those strange Nikon octagonal dealies. Ruined a few shots on my first roll, but maybe you can be careful and avoid those situations? Soft at f2, sharper at f2.8, never as sharp as the 85 1.8, but it has a marvelous way of blurring out things on portraits. Seems to be a very low contrast lens. If I worked on the printing I think I could make good portraits, but it is not so hot as a walk around lens.

    Nikon 105 2.5 (both the early and late designs): I've owned both designs and found them way too sharp for portraits. Maybe I could use the old vaseline on the UV filter. I just don't want to see every pore on a person's face, and it can't do that thing where you only get the front of the face in focus. It always gets the whole head sharp, even at 2.5.

    Leica R 90 2.8 Elmarit w/ an adapter: Build quality, IQ, and coatings all speak of a lens in a different league. Quite difficult to find a clean example, and getting one cleaned is not cheap. The last 2 samples were a little inconsistent when used as a walk about lens. Truthfully, I want something cheaper too.

    Anyone else have this problem? Maybe it's me, but since I manage to get what I want at other focal lengths, maybe it's not. Should I just have a dedicated portrait lens and forget about using it for other stuff? Perhaps that's the fix.
     
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  2. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    No problem whatever. 105mm/f2.5 Nikkor P. The sharpness is not a problem, I also use a 16 1/2" Artar for a LF portrait lens. You can make a sharp photo soft, but you cannot do the reverse.
     
  3. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    85/1.4 Ai-S or the 105/1.8 Ai-S.

    Favorite lenses longer than 50mm I've ever used, but I mainly do portrait work with my hasselblad.
     
  4. MDR

    MDR Member

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    There is no such thing as a portrait lens for 35mm the 85 -90mm thing is nice to get a distortion free image but in reality take the focal length you are most comfortable with if you feel comfortable the model will feel more comfortable too. A 50mm can be used for portraits quiet well so can a 35mm and 20mm (for example some nudes by Jean Loup Sieff 21mm Super Angulon, Bill Brandt etc..) the distance between the photographer and the subject is just as important as the focal length imo. BTW 135mm is a Portrait focal lenght so is a 180mm lens.
    I recently discovered the 75mm focal length and absolutely love it in fact I vastly prefer it to the traditional 90 to 105mm portraits focal length. The 105mm p-Auto Nikkor is my favourite landscape lens for 35mm.
     
  5. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Fujinon made a SF lens for 35mm portraiture, but I think it was only available in screw-mount.
     
  6. pen s

    pen s Member

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    You say the 85 f1.8 Nikon is soft wide open.

    Then the 105 f2.5 is too sharp!

    I guess the question is; what specifically are you looking to see in a portrait? If that quality is hard to quantify in words or, "you'll know it when you see it", then I think your search may run into diffculties. There may be no specific lens that creates the 'magic' you are looking for. Or at least no lens that will fit your Nikon.

    As an aside. Although I have no personal expierence, quite a few people admire the 90mm f2.2 Leitz Thambar. It is apparently unique in it's rendering. They are very thin on the ground and command high prices. They are in LTM and will fit M39 and, with an adapter M mount cameras.
     
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  7. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    +1

    My "favorite" "portrait" lens is a 35mm, mainly because that's usually what I have on my Nikons. On my Leica it's a 50...on the hasselblad probably the 150 or the 180.
     
  8. nwilkins

    nwilkins Member

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    Nikon 105 2.5 all the way. should be no problem only getting the front of the face in focus - at 4 feet away and F2.5 you should have less than an inch depth of field.
     
  9. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    Do you have example photos showing the look you'd like to achieve? It may be simpler to start from there.
     
  10. Tebbiebear

    Tebbiebear Member

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    I love the using a Nikkor 135 F2.0 for portraits when shooting 35mm, but If I know I am shooting portraits I usually bring out my RZ67.
     
  11. Fast14riot

    Fast14riot Member

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    I also enjoy 75mm focal length but otherwise use a 28 or 50.


    -Xander
     
  12. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    This was discussed in a previous thread where people went round and round because one group defined "portrait" in the conventional sense (head and shoulders) while the other group believed it meant a 3/4 view of the subject or even full length. So a choice of lens depends on how you define portrait. For the conventional portrait in 35mm the preferred focal length is 80 to 105 mm to avoid distortion of the subjects features. For MF and LF the same rule applies with the use of lenses that have an equivalent angle of view. All this is usually covered in books on portraiture.

    SO ... before going any further we all need to agree on what "portrait" means.
     
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  13. momus

    momus Member

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    I have examples. These I like. The first is w/ a Leica R 90 Elmarit, the next three are w/ the 85 2.0. I'm warming up to the 85 2.0. Maybe I just had some flat light on the first roll yesterday. I looked at some old photos from the 105 2.5's I owned (the old design seems razor sharp!) and I did notice that I was able to just get the front of the face in focus, but wow, it's too sharp for my tastes. The last one shows the occasional weird bokeh w/ the 85 2.0.

    Perhaps I don't need another lens, I just need another model like the first gal :}


    ebay Web Image404_filtered from Minolta Scan Dual III.jpg
    ni8.jpg
    ni26.jpg
    ni3.jpg
     
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  15. MDR

    MDR Member

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    The 80 to 105 is the preferred and classic focal length for this type of photography because it as you said avoids distortion but honestly why should the photographer care about these conventions using a 35 or 50mm gives you a certain amount of distortion but it's not really that bad imo and a creative photographer can use these shortcoming to his advantage. I wouldn't go wider than 35mm though. I fully agree with your post I just think that people should start to think outside the box.
     
  16. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    85mm or 135mm Zuiko. I prefer 135mm which fills the frame and gives me around 10-12 feet of working distance which doesn't scare my baby girl.
     
  17. blockend

    blockend Member

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    The Zeiss Otus 55mm 1.4 sounds pretty impressive at the shorter end.
     
  18. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I think the ideal portrait lens on a 35mm camera is 90mm, which when filling the frame with the head allows a great perspective in terms of viewing distance.
     
  19. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    agree is not something the third planet does...

    but the answer to op is use more light and stop down out of focus is not normally seen by our perception
     
  20. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    The Canon FD 85mm 1.2L is the best I've ever used.
     
  21. nwilkins

    nwilkins Member

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    in terms of focal length for portraits it is all personal preference. you can use whatever you like. I borrowed a 70-210 zoom lens and found that what I liked was in the 90-120 range. The 105 sits nicely in there for me.
     
  22. D Olson

    D Olson Member

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    No problem what so ever. Head and head shoulder shots 70/200 2.8 VR, Head to waist 100 to 135. Full length 85 1.4. The 70/200 is my most used and versatile lens. If it's mature women portraits or babies I go with the 28/105 D as it's a bit, just a hair softer.
     
  23. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Zeiss Sonnar 135/1.8 and Planar 85/1.4, with AF for Minolta bodies. The latter is also available in an older manual version for other mounts.
     
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  24. Alan Gales

    Alan Gales Member

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    I loved my 100mm Zeiss for my 35mm Contax. Yes, it was sharp and showed every flaw in women of a certain age. I just used a soft filter on the lens when I wanted to smooth skin.

    If I were you I would keep the 105mm Nikkor and buy a couple soft filters to use when needed.
     
  25. damonff

    damonff Member

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    That's my pick. It lives on my F6.
     
  26. chip j

    chip j Subscriber

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    Cosina makes an expensive one in that range--85mm-105mm--in Nikon mount, but I don't know much about its performance.