D5100 - Portrait Lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by michael_scullion, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. Hi,
    I am a novice to photography and recently purchased a D5100 with a Nikon AF-S 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 ED VR Lens. This Lens is sufficient for my needs as an all round lens however I have realised that I mostly take portraits so would like to invest in a portrait lens (on a budget).
    Could someone please advise on which of these two would be better for portraits? Both are Autofocus therefore work with my D5100. They seem to be the same and would offer the same portrait quality (i.e. bokeh etc.) - I think the first one is older.
    Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D AF Lens
    Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G

    And lastly, since they are budget lens - would either actually provide much benefit for portraits over my current zoom lens (Nikon AF-S 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 ED VR Lens)?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. Hi Michael. Get the AF-S. Its bokeh is much nicer, it's appreciably sharper off-centre at wider apertures (I got one when I realised that my AF-D was so soft wide open that I couldn't use it to check the AF sensor accuracy on my D800) and the handling is nicer. More importantly, for you, the AF-S lens will autofocus on a D5100, whereas the AF-D version won't. Sorry to suggest you pay the premium! If it makes you feel better, you get a hood thrown in with the AF-S lens.

    Both these lenses will have a slight sharpness advantage over the 18-105, but more importantly will let you isolate the subject from the background more. That tends to be seen as the priority for a "portrait lens" - it's up to you how much control over the background you have and whether you want that feature. If you always take photos somewhere picturesque in good light, you may find the 18-105 perfectly capable. If you want to hide an ugly background or freeze a moving subject (not that the 50mms focus all that fast, but since they don't have VR the faster shutter enabled by the increased aperture means you'll see more of an advantage if the subject moves than from hand shake) then the 50mm lenses will help.

    Good luck.
  3. I use the AF-S G lens for portrait work, and found it nicer than the older cheaper version. Another option is the Tamron 60mm f/2 macro lens. Works very well and also gives you a decent macro lens in the bargain.
  4. Thank you for your detailed response.
    The Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G it is then!
  5. Just another thought...
    If I go for the Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G on my D5100 I am putting an FX lens on a DX body...so it will actually be a 82.5mm.
    Is 82.5mm ok for single portraits?
    Is 82.5mm ok for group portraits?
  6. Several things:
    1. The 50mm f/1.8 AF-S is not only a better lens, it is the only one of those two which will autofocus with your camera. The "D" lens will only autofocus with camera bodies that have an autofocus motor. The D5100 has no motor. So there is no choice. Get the AF-S.
    2. A 50mm lens on a Nikon DX body will give you the same field of view that you would get with a 75mm lens on an FX body.
    3. As to whether this lens will work for single and/or group portraits: Any focal length can be used for portraits. It depends on what you prefer, and sometimes on how much room you have to back up. The nice thing about a relatively fast lens like the 50mm f/1.8 is that it can let you throw the background out of focus and thus isolate your subject. For group portraits, in small rooms you may find that you can't back up enough to get everyone into the photograph.
  7. Michael, you know the answer to that one! Set your zoom to the 50mm (not 82.5mm) setting and see what it will look like. Get someone to stand infront of you and see if you can get full length/groups or just head and shoulders at the working distance you want or can use.
    If you want/need groups in a confined space, then the 35mm f1.8 AFS might suit you. It's a little short for head and shoulders but full length and groups is OK. You can check by setting 35mm on the zoom and trying 3 people.
  8. Michael, just for your reference:
    Both are Autofocus therefore work with my D5100.​
    This is a misunderstanding. For the D5100, you need lenses that state AF-S or AF-I (for Nikon); for Sigma look for HSM. Unfortunately, Tokina and Tamron are not so clear to indicate the presence of a built-in motor.
    Second, do what Mike suggested here above and use your zoom to understand what a 50mm looks like; the advice to get a 50mm with APS-C for portraits is repeated a lot, but that does not mean it is always the right advice. I seriously never liked 50mm on APS-C, also not for portraits. Too long for group-shots, too short for head-shots. But that's me, and my preference. Use you zoomlens to first determine properly which focal length suits you and your style of photography. And then start searching for a good lens around that length.
    Finally, focal length is focal length, regardless of the sensor behind it. So a 50mm FX lens looks the same as a 50mm DX lens on your camera. Simply put: no need to make conversions from 50 to 75 mm, keep it simple. 50 is 50.
  9. With any lens you can get portrait and group photos.
    What makes a portrait lens (contrast, color rendition and bokeh aside) is a reasonable coverage at an optimal distance, and the optimal distance is dictated by a correct perspective. If you consider all the parameters, it says that a 50mm lens on a DX camera will let you to frame a half body portrait at a distance which is not too close (the nose looks prominent, the face looks too ovoid), nor too far (the face looks flat).
    To frame a group with the same lens, you`ll need to get too much backwards, so the perspective change, and the look could turn too flat. Think that there is difference between a very close face portrait, and a full body portrait... with the same lens, as Wouter says, you`ll need to get too much close for an extreme close up, so one lens does not fit all.
    In real life, most of us (casual portraiture shooters) simply use the lens at 28mm or so to take a full body or group, and zoom to 105mm to get a close shot. Or a wide angle for groups and a macro for closer shots, and either of them at intermediate distances... it all depends on your level of "pickiness".
  10. Cheers everyone. Much appreciated.
  11. Either the 50mm f1.8G or the 60mm f2.8G micro would be a good choice. While the lens is part of the "portrait" look, most of it comes from use of flash. I also suggest you buy one or two flash (a pair of SB-700 would work) that you can use off camera with lightstands and umbrellas. Most of the "look" of a portrait comes from skilled use of lighting.
    Kent in SD
  12. (on a budget)​
    I think a couple of SB-700s might smash the budget wide open....!
    most of it comes from use of flash​
    Maybe the OP prefers naturally light, outdoor portraits.......I certainly do!
  13. You already have a portrait lens. Set your zoom to 105mm and wide open, back up so that you get the head filling however much of the frame you want, and make sure the background is far enough away that it drops out of focus. Bokeh is just a fancy word for the background being out of focus, and there are many ways to accomplish that other than just a wide aperture. Granted, 5.6 makes it more difficult, but there's a lot you can do with the lens you have. Put it through its paces as much as you can before you rush out to buy another lens.
    As for a 50, that's a little on the short side for my tastes for a head and shoulders portrait shot, even on a crop sensor camera. On a full frame camera, I have typically done head shots with an 85 and more often a 105. Using my crop-sensor D200 and D7000 bodies I use either my 24-70 at 70 or my 70-200 at something in the 70-105 range and sometimes even 200. Sometimes I shoot wide open at 2.8, other times I might be down as far as 5.6 or 8, but can still drop the background out of focus if the focal length is long enough and the background is far enough away.
  14. Michael--
    While "rules" in photography always seem to be made for the purpose of breaking them, there is a better argument to be made for NOT using a 50mm lens as a portrait lens. Can you do it? Sure--probably everybody here at one point or another has done this, but as the two links below show, this lens does not produce the most pleasing look of a person's face. Of course there are always exceptions--how far will you be from the person you are shooting (too close and the distortion becomes much more apparent). Back in the film days of cameras, the 50mm was the kit lens of most cameras and as such it did double duty for most types of photography for the casual user. Now, with so many lens options, the 50mm isn't heard from so much--except generally as a decent lens at a good price--with price generally the primary selling point.
    As a test, take a series of portraits with your zoom lens now at different focal lengths (be sure to include 50mm) and compare them. What focal length provides you with the better looking image -- all other things being equal.
    The links below demonstrate that same experiment (if you don't want to do this yourself).
    But if you are indeed looking for a lens primarily to just take portraits, there are better options than the 50mm.
    Take care.
  15. I have a D7100 with the 18-105 and I find that lens to be very good at portraits. I always shoot wide open and often at 105mm, but the zoom ability is handy for groups. I have the AF 50mm f1.8 and that is good too, which I tend to use in low light situations. I shot this one at f 2.5 for portraits. My folders have plenty of examples of both. As mentioned above, any lens can be used for portraits depending on the effect you want.
  16. David, the tests in your links are perfectly right, in the way they show how the camera to subject distance affect the look of a portrait`s face.
    But they equally contribute to misinformation, and I find them somewhat misleading.
    Maybe I`m missing something, but the first link is referred to a test with a FF camera. The field of view with a given lens is 1.5 times wider than with a DX camera. The photographer says that "the lens distortion really starts to stretch out my face at about 60mm... ", so with a longer lens results could be acceptable, I guess.
    On a DX camera, a 50mm lens have the same field of view of a 75mm lens on a FF camera. So why not to use a 50mm lens on the D5100?
    About the second link, it is even more misleading, not only because it is not mentioned the format used, but because the lens seems to be the culprit of an ugly look... it looks like the idea is "the longer the better, simply because shorter lenses suffer more "distortion" (let`s aside the term "distortion"; in photography it is somewhat... "delicate"). :)
    The only thing here is focusing distance, or better, camera to subject distance. In any format. With any lens.
    The focal length of the lens only affect in the way it forces the photographer to modify the distance to fit the frame. You can get the very same distortion with a 24mm lens or a 150mm lens, depending on the format. Just this.
  17. The only thing here is focusing distance, or better, camera to subject distance. In any format. With any lens.​
    Yep, that's all there is to it. Or put another way, it's all about perspective. Perspective being how apparent subject size changes with distance.
    The portrait photos in the two links above shows how perspective distortion looks - not "lens distortion". Has nothing to do with the lens.
    For instance using a DX camera and standing about 6 feet from the subject, you will need:
    85mm lens for head shot
    35mm lens for half body
    24mm lens for full body
    (depending a little on how you compose and how tall the person is)
    In all cases the perspective will be exactly the same.
    But the OP asked about a portrait lens and as mentioned above that would usually mean a large aperture prime.
    To get the best effect I suggest the 85mm f/1.8 G.
    That's equivalent to 127mm on full frame which will give you a decent perspective compression and the effect of f/1.8 over the f/5.6 on the zoom will be very visually apparent.
    So the 85mm on DX will not be used for group shots, but he could use his zoom for that. And he could do great looking full length portraits but have to be around 30-35 feet from the subject. But it will look great.
    PS. Well, looking at the prices I see that the 85mm f1.8 is actually around $500. Given that the 50mm f1.8 is around $200 it would be better to start with that considering value for money. So the 50mm f/1.8 G then. Further down the road he could look into the 85mm.
  18. grh


    +1 on the 85mm, but I'm not a real fan of 50mm in any event. Use on a crop-sensor camera does not change the focal length, so just get that out of your head now. The only comparison is view angle, nothing else, and it's hardly worth thinking about because it's physically impossible to produce precisely the same shot on 2 differently sized sensors. The math does not allow it. Apologies, but the level of ignorance that surrounds this issue is just ghastly.
    Yes, the 50 is markedly less expensive. Welcome to photography.
    Most Tamron lenses for Nikon have a BIM. There are some decent choices in off-brand lenses.
  19. The focal length remains constant when you move a lens from an FX camera to a DX camera because focal length is a property of the optics and the optics didn't change. Field of view does change, and a common shorthand for field of view is to say the focal length that would produce that field of view when used on a 35mm film camera (or an FX camera). Hence, a 50mm mounted on a DX camera is equivalent to a 75mm mounted on an FX or film SLR.
    Now that that bit of pendantry is out of the way, the 50mm on the DX camera is like having a 75mm lens, which is on the short side of "classic" portrait lenses but not really so much so as to be cause for concern.The 50mm 1.8G lens is excellent, affordable, capable of amazing images on a camera like yours and I'm sure you'll love it.

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