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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> Advice for a good Portrait Lens....
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12/16/2015 11:07:00 AM · #1
I'm starting to do more Photo Sessions and I'm finding that my fixed lens 90mm/60mm don't give me enough variance and my 18-270mm is to much. So I'm looking for advice on what lens would you choose for Outdoor Photo Sessions. And both of my lens are having issues...sigh.
12/16/2015 11:11:18 AM · #2
I know it may sound strange but the new Nikon 300mm 4.0 could work. I really like portraits done with a telephoto lens, but the long working distance can be prohibitive when it comes to connecting with the model. I know some of the top guys shooting the SI swimsuit photos would use 300mm and even larger telephoto lenses for the issue. I suggest the 4.0 over the 2.8 because it will be a lot lighter and easier to move around with.
12/16/2015 11:13:14 AM · #3
Thanks Kobba...

I think I should be asking...

If you were headed out to do an Outdoor Photo Session...what lens would you be grabbing?
12/16/2015 11:40:18 AM · #4
For me that is easy:

Olympus ZD 150mm 2.0

or

Olympus M. Zuiko 75mm 1.8

Keep in mind that µ4/3 cameras have a 2x crop factor so those lenses would be 300mm or 150mm respectfully. I prefer the compression effect from telephoto lenses. I know a lot of people who like to use a 70-200 2.8 for portraits also.
12/16/2015 12:17:56 PM · #5
I have two go-to lenses: 80-200 (it's an older model but it's divine), and the 24-70.
12/16/2015 12:18:20 PM · #6
I prefer prime lenses for portraits! I use my 50mm, 135mm, and 85mm exclusively in that order (this is on my full frame camera so you will probably need something wider).

Message edited by author 2015-12-16 12:20:37.
12/16/2015 12:35:06 PM · #7
So you're seeing a lot of recommendations for longer focal lengths, and when you have the room, that's a great idea. Very flattering results, and you don't need an extremely fast lens to get narrow DoF. On the other hand, you will be faced with situations where you don't have a lot of room to back up, and you will need something wider. It would seem to me that, being an APS-C shooter as you are, a 24-70 (36-105 equivalent) would be ideal. You might want something longer as well, and that could be a prime, say a 135 or 200. If I were packing a bag for this purpose, I would pack my 24-70, my 70-200, and 50/1.4.
I won't make specific recommendations since I'm not as versed in Nikon as Canon, but hopefully this give s you some guidance.
12/16/2015 12:36:25 PM · #8
Originally posted by elsapo:

I prefer prime lenses for portraits! I use my 50mm, 135mm, and 85mm exclusively in that order (this is on my full frame camera so you will probably need something wider).


Justin...aren't your sessions more "set up" (with models) vs a family of 4 (one being under 5 years old - and mobile). I could see that in a "controlled" environment how those lens would be excellent choices...but in the field this is what I'm struggling with - changing a lens and loosing that "spontaneous moment". Make sense?
12/16/2015 12:45:30 PM · #9
do you think that an 16-300mm is to much of a range? Along with my primes (60/90mm)

the reason I ask is that my 18-270 has a crack in it (body not lens) so I'm looking to replace that as well, but I really don't think of that lens as a "portrait" lens.

Message edited by author 2015-12-16 12:50:32.
12/16/2015 01:02:55 PM · #10
Originally posted by Ja-9:

Originally posted by elsapo:

I prefer prime lenses for portraits! I use my 50mm, 135mm, and 85mm exclusively in that order (this is on my full frame camera so you will probably need something wider).


Justin...aren't your sessions more "set up" (with models) vs a family of 4 (one being under 5 years old - and mobile). I could see that in a "controlled" environment how those lens would be excellent choices...but in the field this is what I'm struggling with - changing a lens and loosing that "spontaneous moment". Make sense?


All my photos on my website are "real clients", high school seniors and family sessions, weddings too. I've had no problems with prime lenses and little ones, but those sessions are always tough hehe

edit to add: I do have to run with them and shoot a little wider, then crop in if needed. I also like to shoot between f/1.2 to f/2.8, occasionally up to f/4 with families over 5 people. I guess it's just a matter of preference. I've heard good things about the 24-70mm and 70-200mm range.

Message edited by author 2015-12-16 13:20:45.
12/16/2015 01:56:37 PM · #11
what do you think about this lens?

they do not currently have the 28-70mm f/2.8 available

Message edited by author 2015-12-16 13:58:53.
12/16/2015 02:24:57 PM · #12
IMHO a prime like this is a steal and can do nice portraits on a cropped sensor.
edited to update lens to newer version.

Originally posted by Ja-9:

what do you think about this lens?

they do not currently have the 28-70mm f/2.8 available


Message edited by author 2015-12-16 14:30:15.
12/16/2015 02:33:32 PM · #13
Ja-9, you have been looking at kind of "super zoom" lenses i.e. lenses that covers a huge range of focal length. These kind of lenses are always going to be convenience lenses and they always have a bunch of compromises by design - not offering optimal performance in any specific area except having the zoom range. When you are looking at specifically portrait lenses, you want something that could blur out the background while keeping your subject in sharp focus. Generally fast prime lenses between 85mm and 200mm are best suited for portraits. On your crop sensor camera, even the 50/1.8 would be an excellent portrait lens. You mentioned you already got 85/1.8 which is just about as good as it gets for portraits. You can compliment it by either adding a 50/1.4 if you need wider angle portraits or a 135/2 for more of outdoor/tighter portraits.

Thing about 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 is that these zoom lenses offers quality that comes pretty close to the primes and also offers convenience of a zoom. You do note how they don't cover a huge zoom range like 18-200 in a single lens as then they won't be able to offer same quality.

EDIT: Oh I noticed you are asking about "photo session" (thinking family photo sessions) lenses not a single person portrait lens. You probably want wider angle lenses. A 24mm lens on crop Nikon will be like a 36mm on FF. If I have to do a group photo my lens of choice is my 35mm/f2 which is what the 24mm will offer you. Sounds like the 24-70/2.8 would be ideal lens for you. Unless Nikon has an equivalent of Canon's 17-55/2.8 DX...

Message edited by author 2015-12-16 16:56:48.
12/16/2015 03:05:32 PM · #14
Regarding the wide angle lenses, however, remember that anything under 50mm is going to give you distortion if you're too close.
12/16/2015 03:19:51 PM · #15
Originally posted by MEJazz:

Ja-9, you have been looking at kind of "super zoom" lenses i.e. lenses that covers a huge range of focal length. These kind of lenses are always going to be convenience lenses and they always have a bunch of compromises by design - not offering optimal performance in any specific area except having the zoom range. When you are looking at specifically portrait lenses, you want something that could blur out the background while keeping your subject in sharp focus. Generally fast prime lenses between 85mm and 200mm are best suited for portraits. On your crop sensor camera, even the 50/1.8 would be an excellent portrait lens. You mentioned you already got 85/1.8 which is just about as good as it gets for portraits. You can compliment it by either adding a 50/1.4 if you need wider angle portraits or a 135/2 for more of outdoor/tighter portraits.

Thing about 24-70/2.8 and 70-200/2.8 is that these zoom lenses offers quality that comes pretty close to the primes and also offers convenience of a zoom. You do note how they don't cover a huge zoom range like 18-200 in a single lens as then they won't be able to offer same quality.


I basically agree with everything here- the super zooms give you flexibility but the performance is really just not there, especially for the ability to blur backgrounds, which you really need in portraits. For zooms, it's a lot of cash, but honestly the differences between the 28/24-70 and 80-200 2.8 and something like the 18-200 (as an example of a super zoom I've used a good bit) are night and day.

For the crop sensor, if I were taking my gear for an outdoor portrait session, my bag would have my 24-70, 80-200, 30mm 1.4, 50mm 1.8 and 85mm 1.8. I would take both because I have the lenses, and would shoot predominantly on the primes unless I was really changing a ton between framing quickly (which I normally wouldn't do, I'd instead progress through my shots, getting the shots I wanted from each lens/pose. This way, I'd mostly use the 30 for wider framing, and switch to the 85 for close ups). If I didn't have the money for the 24-70 and 80-200, I'd take the 30mm 1.4, 50mm 1.8D, and 85mm 1.8D. The 50mm is just not wide enough on a crop sensor at times, so I would often use the 30 over the 50 overall. You'll note that this setup is also pretty close to what Elsapo suggests, once you account for the fact that he's shooting fx, though it's slightly wider throughout the whole range.
12/16/2015 03:20:48 PM · #16
Found a 17-55/2.8 DX Lens for Nikon. Can't believe they want close to $1500 for it! I have the Canon variant of similar lens and it has become my favorite lens on the crop body. Canon version also has IS/VC but its the image quality that wins me over.
12/16/2015 03:32:29 PM · #17
I don't think I read your entire original post the first time. BUt yeah, I can relate to the problem. I can't afford/justify lenses that would make things much more convenient. I wonder if having 2 bodies (each with a different prime) would be a more affordable option while allowing for sharp images from multiple distances?

Originally posted by tate:

IMHO a prime like this is a steal and can do nice portraits on a cropped sensor.
edited to update lens to newer version.

Originally posted by Ja-9:

what do you think about this lens?

they do not currently have the 28-70mm f/2.8 available
12/16/2015 03:39:54 PM · #18
Originally posted by tate:

I don't think I read your entire original post the first time. BUt yeah, I can relate to the problem. I can't afford/justify lenses that would make things much more convenient. I wonder if having 2 bodies (each with a different prime) would be a more affordable option while allowing for sharp images from multiple distances?

Originally posted by tate:

IMHO a prime like this is a steal and can do nice portraits on a cropped sensor.
edited to update lens to newer version.

Originally posted by Ja-9:

what do you think about this lens?

they do not currently have the 28-70mm f/2.8 available


I hadn't thought of that!!! But I'd have to get my D90 refurbished (approximately $250 ish)
12/16/2015 04:20:16 PM · #19
Hi ya.

For your Nikon D7000 the choice for me is simple 18-35 f1.8 from Sigma Art

I know its wide but at the 35mm end it is devine, the render is wonderful and wide does come in handy for portraits.

Obviously the best lenses for portraiture are primes as already stated..
12/16/2015 06:22:09 PM · #20
I loves me my 50mm f1.8 Sigma for Nikon lens for ports, but if you're doing larger groups, you probably do need something a little more versatile. I would also pack along my 18-200 and 70-200 Nikkors Of course you could go hawg wild and use a wide-angle lens but then you may have some serious distortion to correct in post!
12/16/2015 06:39:44 PM · #21
Since a lot of people said clever things about that I'll start with a recommendation: don't go with a 3.5-5.6 lens! What you can get from 2-8-1.4 lenses is by far another story. Of course at 200mm. you could use somehing more than 2.8, but it means that you will have great quality and sharpness. Johanna suggested 80-200 2.8 which is a rather cheap lens considering its SUPER quality. But of course it a pretty long lens for your APS-C. 50 1.8G (or D) is very cheap and you'll have an equivalent 75mm. 1.8 which is perfect in most situations. If you want a super lens, which could be a medium wide angle on a possible future full frame camera, go with 35 1.4 Sigma Art - it's one of the sharpest lenses I have ever seen, surely the sharpest 35mm. - great at 1.4 too. You could decide which kind of bokeh do you prefer: 70-200 will give you, most of the times, completely blurred and uniform out of focus areas, while shorter lenses provide more 'artsy' images with peculiar bokeh. I even tried some portraits with 24 1.4 on a full frame and I love that kind of bokeh. Super long lenses bokeh is less 'creative' and perfect for wild life, less for portraits, but of course it can ba a matter of taste.

ETA: my favorite portrait lens in my bag is 105 f/2 DC. Sure it's a long lens on APS-C but I love its bokeh - sweeeeet!
12/16/2015 06:48:34 PM · #22
Yes, Alessandro is right. The bokeh on the 80-200 is creamy smooth. You won't get little circles with it.
12/16/2015 08:06:42 PM · #23
Originally posted by tanguera:

Yes, Alessandro is right. The bokeh on the 80-200 is creamy smooth. You won't get little circles with it.


my only problem with it is it's a big lens...

All great comments and suggestions...thank you
12/16/2015 08:22:09 PM · #24
ok, what's the difference?

Lens - 5 pin vs Lens - 8 pin
12/16/2015 09:13:57 PM · #25
Janine, my go to lens is the Nikon 24-70 or the 50mm. I have used these on my D80 as well as the FF D600. As a casual photographer, I am probably missing something in other lenses that others with more experience will find better; however, I have been really happy with these two. The Nikon 70-200 is also a very sharp lens with nice results if you have enough room.
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