85F3.5/DX/VR usage comments/samples as a portrait lens?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by fast_primes, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. Can someone provide links to the usage of the Nikon 85mm F3.5 VR DX macro lens as a portrait lens? Half body, head shots and eyes only shots in particular.
    Commentary about using the 85mm macro as a portrait lens, appreciated as well.
  2. The micro Nikkor lens is sharp. If you plan on photographing ladies over 25 or so in age, they may not like that much *sharpness* in their faces. On the DX body, it is a 127mm lens, and not quite in the 90mm to 105mm range that generally gives a good view of a face or head-and-shoulders portrait.
  3. If you mean relatively thin DoF portraits:
    - the max aperture is relatively small
    - bokeh at its wider apertures is sharp-edged and crescent-shaped, see the portrait-like samples in the Lenstip review
  4. If you're looking at a cheap macro to use for longish portraits on DX, I'd have a look at the older (non-VR) Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro, which gives you a bit more speed. I relied on that (for short portraits on FX, actually) until I got an 85mm prime - though I went with a cheap 85mm f/1.4 Samyang, which is "okay" and certainly cheap. Given the choice, I'd certainly look more closely at the 85mm f/1.8 AF-S now it's been launched - it hadn't when I got the Samyang.

    I've generally not heard brilliant things about the 85mm macro. It's not awful, but it may not be as good as you'd hope for the price. The old Tamron is a bargain; the new VC version is even better, but costs a lot more. I've no personal experience with it, however. If you've already got it, however, there's no reason it shouldn't be fine for portraiture - it just won't lose the background as completely as a faster lens.
  5. On DX if i'd look for a combined Macro / portrait lens ( if the Macro is a must..) i think i'd go for the 60mm f/2.8.
    Ok no VR but you get a faster lens at aorunfd the same price which is useful for half body shots too without being it to long for that ...
    If it must be 85mm and no Macor is required i'd go for the 85mm f/1.8 at about the same price range i guess..
  6. Admittedly many 'portrait' images are mostly animals, but Pixel Peeper is always a good place to start to see actual examples taken with a given lens.
    try Pixel Peeper lenses/?lens=13199 [Nikon forum blocks this one, as it does so many]
  7. If you happen to also need a macro lens, then it is a no brainer. Yes, a f1.8 or f1.4 lens would be even better but most of the time you want to make sure that all facial features of your subject are in focus so you don't shoot at these wide aperture. In fact f3.5 would be a good starting point. If you are taking formal portraits in a studio setting, how it renders the background is not an issue at all.
    Personally I use the Sigma 50/1.4, known for its beautiful bokeh, for half body shots, and the AFS 85/1.8 for anything closer. The bokeh from 85/1.8 is not too bad, considering its size and price.
  8. fast primes, you are aware the 85/3.5 isn't particularly fast, right? on DX, i would look into the nikon 85/1.8G or the tamron 60/2 if macro is a must.
  9. If you happen to also need a macro lens, then it is a no brainer​
    Is it? The old 90mm Tamron isn't much more expensive, is f/2.8 and covers full frame (if you want that). No VR, admittedly. The 100mm Tokina is even cheaper, but it won't autofocus on some bodies. The Tamron's deeply recessed, which means it doesn't quite have the working distance that you'd hope, but I wouldn't say the 85mm is the only option here.
  10. Having been able to "see" specific photos shot wide open with the 85F3.5 micro and 85F1.8, it was immediately obvious that the Nikon F3.5 macro would not do as a general purpose lens--thanks JDM! It simply does not provide the thinness of depth-of-field I need for subject isolation. I have misgivings about the new Nikon 85F1.8 AF-S lens. It seems entirely too bulbous to fit easily in a Domke F-803 satchel bag with a compact Nikon body, plus a 35F1.8 DX/18-55 VRII combo. I'll have to handle the 85F1.8 G lens and see.
    My objective was and is a compact/low-key/simple 3 lens system with critically sharp 28mm, 50mm and 85 to 135 full frame equivalents, that I can easily carry over my shoulder for 18 hours at a stretch. My genres are travel, street/urban and architecture. Nikon appears to offer this combination above their competitors (Pentax, Fuji, Samsung, Canon) and at the lowest cost as well!
    I've never been into strictly macro per se. But I've done enough to realize that the ubiquitous "90/100" FF standard is too short if butterflies or other critters are the subject. So if I ever do get another macro (have owned at least 4), it will either be the Nikon 85F3.5 or Pentax 100f2.8 WR macro (49mm filter thread, 350g). All other macro choices are either too short, too heavy or too inconvenient (manual focus) to use.
    Thanks for all comments and suggestions.
  11. Having been able to "see" specific photos shot wide open with the 85F3.5 micro and 85F1.8, it was immediately obvious that the Nikon F3.5 macro would not do as a general purpose lens​
    I have not done this by myself, but keep in mind that most candid/portrait are done at about 5-7 ft away from your subject, and you need enough DOF so that the facial features of the person can all be in focus. While you have a f1.8 lens, you would not want to normally shoot it at f1.8 and f3.5 is just about the widest I would go to keep the ears and nose in focus and to account for slight movement of the head. At that distance, I also doubt that there will be a substantial difference in the degree of blurriness at f1.8 vs f3.5. The F3.5 VR lens is more compact, lighter, and has VR. With the latter, you can shoot at lower shutter speed to allow for a lower ISO to reduce noise. In contrast, the f1.8 lens can be used as a 85 mm lens on FX and when the light levels are low, e.g. indoors.

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