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  1. #1

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    Seeking suggestions for a portrait lens

    Next year my Grandfather will celebrate his 90th birthday, the year after my grandmother will celebrate the same. In between these two parties they will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. I want to produce a collection of portraits of every immediate family member (~55) to give to them hopefully at their anniversary. The project could take the best part of a year, I'll like to start this summer.

    My idea is to produce sort of semi-formal portraits, heads and shoulders, using natural light or maybe a weak flash to bring out the eyes, with the subject at home. I want this to be relaxed and I won't be using studio flash, backgrounds or reflectors. I'll probably shoot indoors with light coming from a window, rooms will probably be small, so I won't be able to stand very far away from the subject. Film will probably be ASA400 optically printed to 10x8. What lens to use?

    I have two bodies:

    Nikon FM2
    Leica M4-P

    I'll probably sell the lens after the project as I rarely do this sort of thing.

    Please let me know your suggestions. One word - I cannot afford four figure Leica lenses even if I will sell them on with minimal loss.

    Thanks!
    Steve.

  2. #2

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    Find yourself an 85 f/2 lens for the FM2 and have at it. Nice and sharp. Should be inexpensive enough so that you might want to keep it. Fast enough for what you want to do. I would suggest at least a reflector to fill in some of the shadows. Doesn't need to be anything elaborate. A big sheet of white cardboard will do nicely. Cover it with aluminum foil (shiny side out) for a bit more sparkle.
    Frank Schifano

  3. #3

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    a must have

    My pick would be Nikkor 105mm F2.5

  4. #4
    SuzanneR's Avatar
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    I'd second the suggestion for the 85mm f/2 on the Nikon... and they can be had for very little at KEH. I have a 90mm on a Leica M-P, and it's a sweet lens for portraits, but I do have to back up a bit with it, so the longer lenses on the Leica might be a bit harder to use in smaller spaces, so maybe there's a Canadian built (less expensive, work very well) 50mm you can use with the Leica?? Good luck, sounds like a wonderful project.

  5. #5
    lns
    lns is offline

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    Nikon 85mm f1.4 ais or 105mm f2.5 ais. In my experience, each is a good as a Leica lens, and as good a lens as anyone has made. The 105mm is much cheaper if you can work with the focal length. I like the 85 f1.4 better than the 85 f2, but of course the 85mm f2 would be fine too.

    -Laura

  6. #6
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    A Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 or a 90mm Summicron for your Leica (they equal each other pretty much, with a continuous one-stop advantage for the Leica).
    Other 90mm Leica lenses, such as the Elmarit or Tele-Elmarit are probably less suited for portraiture and can be harsh and unforgiving (= definitely unflattering to your grandparents, unless you want that look).

    Though, for such a project, I'd rather use an SLR...

    The Nikkor 105 is a lovely lens (as I said, its signature is just one stop behind the mythical Leica Summicron).
    I've heard very varying opinions on the 85mm f/2.0, I'd say that the 105 is really a safer bet.
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  7. #7
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    For a traditional "portrait" lens, also consider the Zeiss Ikon 85mm f4. It sounds like, though, what you're aiming for is environmental portraiture, at which point I'd look for a 35mm f2 or f2.8 of some kind - again, the Zeiss Ikon 35 f2.8 comes to mind as an option. It might be nice to include some setting and background in each portrait since you're making a gift for your grandparents, who may not get to see some of your subjects very often, and would be curious about their environments.

  8. #8
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    For available light window portraiture in my experience the perfect focal length is 85 or 90mm because longer lenses in small spaces can be a a problem and 85mm ones tend to focus closer, rather than using flash to fill the shadows I suggest you use a reflector like a Lastolite or a mirror, or some cooking foil scrunched up and stuck onto a big lump of cardboard, or a space blanket because they are cheap and portable, do the job and don't destroy the atmosphere. A tripod is a must and someone to hold the reflector is useful. I find that carrying some Tracing Paper to stick to the window to diffuse the light is very useful with Blu Tack if the Sun is harsh. For a personal project like this that is so important I recommend that you read as much as you can about the subject and practice with a member of your family. until you perfect the technique.
    Ben

  9. #9

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    A 35mm is a choice I hadn't considered, but I can see the appeal for making portraits within a context. I already have a 35mm lens, so my budget would warm to that idea also.

    I should also add, I'll be making colour photographs.

    I had originally thought of shooting family groups, but a recent messy separation involving an affair with kids involved made that idea a bit delicate. I'll have some challenging subjects, I think, a few toddlers and one or two moody teenagers.
    Steve.

  10. #10

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    Nikkor 85mm f/2 is softer. Nicer for portraits and plenty luminous for available light.

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