why 85mm lens for portraits?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by abudhabiandy, Jun 22, 2009.

  1. abudhabiandy

    abudhabiandy Member

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    Hi, why use an 85mm lens for portaits - surely a 50mm will do?
     
  2. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    Good explanation from a mag. several years ago;

     
  3. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    It depends on how close you want to get. With a 50mm lens, you need to get closer to the subject than with an 85mm to get the same amount of the person (e.g. head and shoulders) in the frame.

    When you get closer you change the perspective. Too close and features look different. e.g. noses look larger and the image is generally un-flattering.


    Steve.
     
  4. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Any lens will do, it all depends on your intend for the portrait.

    The only advantage the 80 has over the 50 is it will isolate the face from the background a little more. It also give you a little more social distance from the sitter.
     
  5. David Brown

    David Brown Member

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    Yes, a 50mm will do. One uses something else because one wishes to.
     
  6. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    One issue is nose-to-ear ratio. At 50mm, if you fill the frame with your subject, you will find that the nose gets a bit exaggerated relative to the ears, because the field of view is quite large. Of course you can stand back further and crop... but then you throw away quite a lot of frame. 85 usually balances faces out a bit more, especially Western faces. Actually I like 105 even more, especially for tighter crops.

    Let me suggest standing in front of a mirror with the different lenses, fill the frame, and just see what perspective does for ears and noses!

    I think 50 is effective for environmental portraits, but tight crops or head-and-shoulders shots with that field of view won't flatter.
     
  7. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For the classic portrait 85mm provides a more natural appearing perspective. A head and shoulders 50mm portrait creates a subtle unnatural distortion of the features. Also, a good 85mm shot on a wide aperture provides a pleasing bokeh, isolating the subject from the environment, and reinforcing the subject of the portrait as the subject, rather than just part of a composition.

    There are no rules, just reasons.
     
  8. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    one reason why i see it suggested to use a short telephoto lens,
    is so you are not in the face of your subject if you are doing a head/shoulders thing.

    it isn't a rule to use a 85mm lens, but like most "rules" they are there to be broken ..
    so use whatever lens you want...
    i often make environmental portraits
    with 50mm or wider lenses.
     
  9. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    If you like long thin noses use a 50 mm lens, if you wish normal perspective use about a 105 - 135 mm lens, if you want something in-between use 80 mm. It is all a matter of perspective.

    Of course, you can go for a 28 mm lens and get all nose. :D

    PE
     
  10. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    My favorite portrait lens is my Zuiko 100 f2.8 . I like to be a little further away from my subjects so they dont feellike their space is being invaded, and they relax a bit more. The 85 would be my second choice, but the 50 ONLY if nothing else is available, at that distance there is distortion of facial features on bust shots and close-ups.
    Rick
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    My favorite for that was my Minolta Rokkor MC f/2.8 21mm lens.

    Steve
     
  12. David William White

    David William White Member

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    True about the camera-to-sitter distance being the biggest factor in exagerating perspective (making noses bigger, hands bigger, etc.) but this seems to be psychologically mitigated by printing 10x8 or larger, for some reason. A 50mm close-crop portrait will look more unnatural at 5x7 than it will at 11x14. Don't ask me why, though...
     
  13. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    The differences between normal and short tele portraits is more obvious if you look at a lot of portraits.

    Back when I was advising the high school yearbook we had a shooter in town who used conventional short tele lenses and a beginning shooter starting a studio in in his garage who was using a normal lens (the only one he owned for his 645).

    Our policy was to allow the seniors to submit their own portraits for the book.

    Looking at any individual picture they all looked fine but laid out 100 at a time on a table and cropped to roughly the same head size, the portraits shot on the normal lens just looked weird. In some cases it was hard to recognize individuals you saw every day.

    In that exaggeration of nose size by the normal lens used too close to the subject - in particular - became strikingly obvious.
     
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  15. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    I think a 50mm can take very flattering portraits if you remember two points: take the picture in profile or with the cheekbone closest to the camera; don't get too close. But even close up and head-on the results can be good:

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    That's interesting. I wonder if it has to do with the average viewing difference of a 5x7 vs an 11x14 print? Perhaps at a distance our brain is taking in other details and kind of "ignores" the disproportionate relationship we would instantly pick up when viewing a 5x7 print just inches from our face?
    Just a guess.
    I love the portraits from a Minolta 85mm. Lovely bokeh and tones. Sometimes I think the 100mm or 135mm lenses shot wide open look better for certain tight head/shoulder crops - but it's all in what you want to fill a frame with.
    I personally feel 50mm is a little wide for a classic portrait, but it makes a good whole body portrait lens. For whatever reason, I have a hard time deciding between 35mm and 50mm for environmental portraiture, because it seems with a 50mm I can't get enough of the background in to really tell where they are good! I'm always wanting just a little more of the environment in there. So I have to back way up w/the 50! :smile:
    Jed
     
  17. Leighgion

    Leighgion Member

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    As already said, it's about flattering perspective, framing and isolation.

    I don't think the classic portrait lengths like 85mm and 105mm should be looked at rules so much as classic recipes. They're on the books because they work in a reliable way, but are by no means the only way to whip up something tasty.
     
  18. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Some great portraits are made with 28mm & 35mm lenses. It's really about the style you wish to shoot, my preference is actually a standard 50/55mm lens but I've used everything between 28mm & 200mm over the years

    Ian
     
  19. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    I've done "portraits" with everything between 15 and 300mm...

    But for head & shoulder/torso shots which look (however subjectively) natural, short teles are hard to beat.
     
  20. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    You can use any focal lenght you want depending on what you want to get. A good 'vision' is the thing.
    [​IMG]
     
  21. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    *******
    Do a head and shoulders portrait sitting. Use a ca. 85mm and a ca 50mm. Achieve the same head size on each negative: you will see the difference.
     
  22. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    It flattens the perpective, but sometime you don't want to do that. Creativity is the thing.
     
  23. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    A signature, about 7 times as long as the reply... :surprised:
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Does Pumalite have GAS or what??

    Steve
     
  25. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    I am probably three times as old as you. Been buying caneras since twelve and using them. No GAS here. Smarty remarks have no room in my life.
     
  26. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    How about a sense of humor? Steve meant nothing by that, just trying to have a bit of fun. Tongue in cheek... :smile: