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  1. #1

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

    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.
    Last edited by momus; 10-15-2013 at 10:10 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2

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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. #3
    Chris Lange's Avatar
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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.
    See my work at my website CHRISTOPHER LANGE PHOTOGRAPHY

    or my snaps at my blog MINIMUM DENSITY
    --
    If you don't have it, then you don't have it.

  4. #4
    MDR
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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. #5

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

  6. #6

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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.
    Last edited by pen s; 10-15-2013 at 11:57 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7
    Chris Lange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MDR View Post
    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.
    +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.
    See my work at my website CHRISTOPHER LANGE PHOTOGRAPHY

    or my snaps at my blog MINIMUM DENSITY
    --
    If you don't have it, then you don't have it.

  8. #8

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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. #9

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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. #10

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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.

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