Best focal length for portraits?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by petersonphoto, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. I'm leaning towards a pre-ASPH for the softer touch, but what tends
    to be the ideal focal length? I have a .58 M6TTL.
  2. 24mm ? :) More seriously, from 85 to 135 is imho best for portrait.<br>
    <img src="">
  3. It's really down to personal preference. Do you want head shots or head and shoulders or
    environmental portraits? 75-90 is good for most situations, 35-50 is good for environmental
    portaits and 135-200+ is often used in fashion photography. I was amazed at the results
    when I took someone's portrait with the 180mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit in the R system...I thought
    it would be too long, but it really looked great!
  4. Literally ANY lens! Dependant entirely on what result you want.
  5. The 75 Lux is reputed to be the most intimate portrait shooter of the line.

    Ray Hull
  6. The many portraits I have enjoyed the most (I take only a very few myself) by all my 'favourites' like Doisneau and Lee Miller and Bill Brandt were taken with 80mm on 6x6 format (Rolleiflex usually but Bill Brandt used Hasselblad with 80mm for portraits later in life).

    The theoretical 'normal' perspective (on 6x6 format) is 85mm so translated to the 36x24 format that would be something like a 45mm or 50mm to show some surroundings for context.

    I do not enjoy portraits where there is no background (or a completely unintelligle background) and no surroundings at all. I enjoy seeing a little of the subjects environment.
  7. Sorry. My 'unintelligle' typo was meant to be 'unintelligible'.
  8. Since moving into Medium Format as well as 35mm, I find the 80mm Xenotar on my Rollei 2.8F to be an ideal portrait lense. Here's a picture of my cutie great niece:
  9. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    "The theoretical 'normal' perspective (on 6x6 format) is 85mm so..."

    Trevor, any idea why they rested on the 80mm as the norm?
  10. I think the best answer is whatever gives you the results you want.

    Using a lens that is about 2 to 2-1/2 times the normal tends to "draw" the features a bit
    better for a more straight type portrait and is what you would see in most advertising head
    shots, including jewelry and make up as they do not want any distortion. But the less of
    the subject you shoot, that is closer the shot, the better a longer lens will work to prevent

    Normal lenses can get a more exaggerated look close up or result in a more normal
    portrait at 3/4 to full.

    Wide angle can let you get wild and crazy close up and get lots more info as you back up.

    What are you looking to do--what's your style?
  11. Eric, probably because the 'actual' dimensions of the negative are not 60mm x 60mm but more like 56mm x 56mm therefore the diagonal would be 79.196mm or 80mm near enough.
  12. Sorry. My 'unintelligle' typo was meant to be 'unintelligible'.
    It was, Trevor, it was.
    75/2 Summicron is my fave for portraits. If you search for "+75 +summicron" in the archives you can find commentary on this lens, including some of my pictures with it.
  13. Dear Craig,

    Interestingly, the larger the format, the less the need for longer lenses, With 35mm I favour 75 to 135, though I got some excellent results with 58mm; with 6x7, 150 is plenty (rough equivalent on 35mm = 65mm); and with 8x10, 300mm (35mm equivalent 43mm) is adequate, though I have also been happy with 19 inch and 21 inch (around 500mm, 35mm equivalent 52mm).

    I suspect this is confirmation of the old argument that perspective depends solely on viewpoint (not entirely true, as it also depends on degree of enlargement and viewing distance -- or at least apparent perspective does, and it is hard to distinguish apparent perspective from any other kind).


    Roger ( -- and AP every week)
  14. I prefer a 50mm for portraits, i rarely shoot anything too close tho.
  15. I'll second the above post about the 50 - I love my 50 cron, wide open, for vertical head
    and shoulders work. Very smooth.

    - John L. (
  16. 50lux and 75lux - whereby I would not use the 50 with poeple not
    really used of beeing close to a camera - the 75 provides the best
    distance and in my eyes perfect look - 50 gives you more contral and precesision but this is philosophy...

    now on top the 24mm is quite avangard ! Yes, why not with people you know very well - someone why enjoys the fun of beeing close to the nice 24mm asph... yes...
  17. I use a 35mm lens for portraits when shooting with leica simply because it's the only lens I own for that camera. At the same time, this focal length suits me because I like to include surroundings in portraits. As others have pointed out, one could use just about ANY focal length lens for portraits. I have shot portraits with lenses ranging in focal length from 15mm to 85mm. What focal length/s have you yourself used for portraits, and why?
  18. Well, I plan on using a 35 asph lux as my main all-around lens. But I also want a pre-asph lens for softer portraits and thought maybe a 50mm would not make much of a difference as far as the focal length....I have read that the 35 and 90 focal lengths are most popular for M shooters, and I'm assuming the 90 would be used for portrait situations.
  19. Craig, I have read the same thing about 35/90 combo. At the same time, having owned lenses in the 90mm range over the years, I know I myself rarely use that focal length. There's nothing wrong with it; in practice I simply don't use it. Instead, I reach for a 50mm lens when I want the "reach" of a lens longer than the 35mm focal length. If I were to win the lottery, however, I would buy the 75mm summicron in a minute. Now THAT would be a sweet second lens.
  20. Dear Bill,

    Too right! Since getting the 75 Summicron I almost never use my 90 Summicron. That and a 35 Summilux is the perfect pair for me.


    Roger ( -- and AP every week)
  21. I believe it became the norm because the 80mm was the lens associated w/ the Rollieflex, which many used.

    On my Hメbld I find myself using the 60mm Distagon a lot, which is the 6x6 equivalent of 35mm on 24x36 format. I love the combination of subject as well as the ancillary info it provides. For a more formal result Iメll use a 120mmMakro-Planar, which is roughly the equivalent of the 75mm in 24x36 format.

    On my Leicas I've always used the 35mm. The 50mm and 90mm generally just remained on the shelf.
  22. craig,
    this is an example of a 75 'Lux on a M3. although it has been reported that this is the way to
    go, i neither really find my 50mm 'Lux inferior for portraits, nor do i find the nose overly
    pronounced. it is true, though, at least for my taste, that a 250mm on a 'Blad creates a
    somewhat flatter image,
    but the difference between a 50 and a 75 doesn'T seem to be dramatic. on top: at least for
    me, the 50 is easier to focus, smaller and more versatile ...
  23. oops. whatever happened to the attached .jpg? another try ...
  24. ok, this works now. and here, in comparison, a portrait with the 50mm 'Lux. very grainy, available light ...
  25. FWIW August Sander used a standard lens for his legendary pix, he preferred full length. For tighter shots one ought to consider slightly longer (your choice) lens.

    Bruce Gilden would probably choose the wide lens, but that isn*t a product I would give my client as a portrait rendition. Not unless I want to get kicked out on my bum.
  26. Hi everybody. I'll confess upfront to not owning a Leica, but I do love fast glass, and my outfit is a kind of cousin to Leica. I shoot a Minolta XD-11 with a 58mm f1.2 and an 85mm f1.7, both chosen for their beautiful bokeh in portrait work. Which lens I reach for depends on the circumstances, but I love them both. Jay
  27. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    "Jay De Fehr", now that's a name I haven't seen for awhile! How goes it?!
  28. Eric!

    How the hell are you, my friend? Long time no type. Are you shooting Leica now?

  29. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    Great Jay! How's those home made 11x14 plate glass cameras coming along? Shooting Leica, not lately, gosh no. Not until digi...Hooked. Going email...
  30. Thanks everybody for the advice....I can always count on this forum to get great responses. I have purchased a very nice 50 Summicron and plan on picking up a 35 lux ASPH very soon (if I can find a good used one, I think I'll need some luck). I think they will compliment each other well.....I will post my results in the future, so keep an eye out!

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