Does Nikon 50mm F1.8 AFD make a better portrait lens on D90 than the kit lens at right

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by mike_vine, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. Simple question - will a Nikon 50mm F1.8 AFD make a better portrait lens on D90 than the kit lens at the right focal length - enough that is to justify the additional expense, space in bag, etc... Any other suggestions on a good portrait lens at a reasonable price also welcome. Thanks, Mike
  2. I have the kit lens with D90 and the 50mm /1.8. I recommend that you buy the cheap and good lens like the 50mm. It takes wonderful pictures. You will be surprised how well it works.
    For portraits, you can take the picture with the focused face with the nicely blured background. Think it is called bokeh or IQ in photo language
  3. Yes, the 50mm f/1.8 will make a nice portrait lens, but not a great one. I much prefer the 85 f/1.8, it's more expensive, but built better and much more suited to portraits (the longer focal lenght is more pleasing for facial features).
    IQ = Image Quality. It's the overall quality of the end result, and not aimed at something specific in the "chain" that makes a quality photo a quality photo.
    Bokeh refers to the quality of the out of focus parts in an image. There are differences in how lenses render these parts, and those differences can mean the background looks busy and crowded, or looks calm and smooth. Good bokeh is the latter :)
    For a good portrait lens, bokeh is an important feature, and the second big reason why I'd recommend a 85 f/1.8 over the 50 f/1.8.
    All that said, the 50 f/1.8 is quite cheap, so little reasons to not get one.
  4. A little short for a portrait lens. A 60mm f1.8 would be better, but doesn't exist. It's very usable as one, though, and it is FAR superior in every way to the kit lens at 50mm.
    I would absolutely get one, along with the fun and excellent 35mm f1.8.
  5. Mike.... Another vote to add the $120 50mm 1.8 to your bag. The shallow depth of field you can use at f/2 or f/2.8 adds a whole bunch of creative possibilities, from the portraits you seek to uses you haven't thought of yet. It lets in EIGHT times more light than the f/5.6 kit lens when you need that, too (f/2 is three stops, or eight times more light than f/5.6). Cheap and tiny and useful. Do it!!!
  6. Why would you not get one? At about 100 dollars U.S, it is probably one of Nikon's best kept secrets.
    The lens is sharp across the board. Some will argue it's a little soft below f/2.8..maybe it is, but I absolutely love this lens. Remember, on the cropped sensor, it is behaving closer to 75mm.
    There are times I will put this lens on and just walk all over looking to re-ignite my creative juices.
    Get one!
  7. A lens doesn't make photos a photographers does.....
  8. A lens doesn't make photos a photographers does.....

    But a photographer can't change the laws of physics, and bend light with his mind. So, he needs lenses. And they're not all the same. A kit lens that's at f/5 at 50mm simply isn't doing the same thing to the photons as a fast prime.

    Whether a photographer has a creative use for the differences between those two lenses is a separate topic. But I'll confess being a little weary of the "photographers, not equipment, make photographs." Without some equipment, the photographer doesn't make any photos. And certain types of photos don't happen without certain types of equipment. So, let's stop with that old saw, and be more specific. I prefer a variation on another old saw, but one that actually gets you thinking correctly on the subject:

    Would you rather have an average-quality image of a really creative idea, or a tack-sharp, bokeh-licious image of an utterly boring, poorly lit, ill-conceived scene? I'll take any lens over no lens, but a photograph is the sum of its parts: the vision, the technique, the subject, the light, and the camera/lens. If the first four of those are no good, then the fifth doesn't help much. But if the first four are in good shape, then the fifth can make an important difference.

    There's no comparing a fast prime to a slow kit zoom when you want to throw the background well out of focus. But there's also no comparing that 50/1.8's somewhat nervous-looking bokeh to that of a $400+ prime that's built with that as an important criteria. Once you start splitting hairs, there are always more to split. But once you get past the few hundred dollar range, even tiny improvements in certain aspects of the lens's behavior come at a very high price.

    Get the 50/1.8 - you won't regret it at this stage of the game.
  9. get the niffty 50 and dont look back it's a very good lens. I have it used it on D80 and worked magic. good for portrait since you have a crop factor so that gives me 75mm focal lenght.
    go for it mate you'll be happy.
  10. Mike,
    It's not really a simple question at. The answer is "Yes or no . . . maybe". If you are going to shoot it at f5.6, it will be sharper, but that is not the end-all of portraiture. In fact, it can be a negative. It is a little short, although I find the 85f1.8 to be a little long shooting digitally.
    So, the 50 can be too short (you don't say what kit lens you have) and the 85 can be too long (particually if you are working indoors.) I find my self shooting most of my portraits with my 70-200f2.8. But, this is usually outdoors.
    In the end, it depends on what you are trying to do that you can do with your current kit. Do you need something sharper? Do you need to blow out backgrounds. However, I also think that a 50f1.8 (or better yet, 1.4!) is something that should be in almost everyone's bag.
  11. The 50mm 1.8 AF is a great lens. Considering how cheap it is I can't really think of a reason not to have one.
  12. simple answer: absolutely!
    plus not really much of an extra spence and certainly will not occupy space at all.
  13. Thanks for all the positive contributions - much appreciated. I guess the answer is yes.
    Any alternatives anybody - without breaking the bank !!
  14. Mike.... You have the 'short-tele-on-DX' 50mm AF-D 1.8 we've been talking about for $120 new. If you prefer a little more "regular" view, there's the 'normal-on-DX' 35mm AF-S 1.8G at $200 new (but a 35mm lens is too wide for most portraiture). In the other direction, the 'mid-tele-on-DX' 85mm AF 1.8 is about $300 used, and the 85mm AF-D 1.8 is $350 used/$450 new.
    So your "without breaking the bank" lens is clearly the 50mm.
  15. i'd say yes, simply because being able to have a shallow DoF is more "portrait-like," since it emphasizes the main subject.
    that said, the 50/1.8 doesnt have stellar bokeh so you need to be careful to work around it. and i actually prefer the tamron 28-75 and sigma 50-150 for portraits.
    still, for being $120 and virtually weightless, it's kind of a no-brainer purchase. even if you weren't using it as a portrait lens, that 1.8 aperture does help in low-light conditions.
  16. The big difference you will notice is depth of field and possibly bokeh. The 50mm f1.8 is regarded as every bit as good as the 50mm f1.4 which is over twice the price. Both are much better for portraits than a kit zoom in my view as you can open them up full aperture where they will not necessarily be quite as sharp as when stopped down. This is good for portraits AND it gives a shallow depth of field that looks much better than anything you will get with a kit lens that will have very modest maximum aperture. Go for it. As someone has said the 85mm f1.8 is even better but its considerably more expensive.
  17. Peter (and others) - the 85 mm with crop factor on a D90 is effectively almost 130 mm. I understood this to be too long for a good portrait lens. Any thoughts....
  18. The answer to your question is yes. That said, if you're willing to spend a little more try to pick yourself up a 35-70 2.8D. Makes a wonderful portrait lens and a steal compared to the newest 2.8 mid-range zooms.
  19. My view? No. Get the 85/1.8. Its designed for that purpose. You will get much nicer head and shoulder shots. Even get the AIS version, and manual focus. You have to with a portrait anywayto be sure the right bits are sharp.
    The 50 was designed for groups...a universal travel lens. The bokeh is much inferior to the 85. If you use the 85 on a DX, just stand a bit further back. Not hard.
  20. 85mm on DX is not too long...for some. It's a matter of preference!
    Personally, I do not like to be too much in one's face when taking a picture. I like keeping some distance, and at a reasonable distance, the 85mm still makes a great portrait lens. Likewise, in the film days (so I'm told, I must say), plenty of people prefered the 105mm or 135mm for portraits, and found the 85 a bit too short.
    So, some people love the 50mm as a portrait lens. I don't, but I still like the lens for enough other situations to have it with me in my standard kit. I'd say: get the 50, since it's dirt cheap, start with that and see how you like it. For the money, it can't fail.
  21. Working distance! It's all about working distance. On a DX body:

    That 50mm, in portait orientation, means you're over 15 feet away for a full-body shot. At 85mm, you're looking at a very tight head-and-shoulders composition from about eight or nine feet. If you want room to crop, ten or eleven feet. Waist-up shots, at 85mm? About 13 to 15 feet. Full length shots at 85mm? Better part of 30 feet.

    So you have to think through your prospective subjects, the look you're after, and the space in which you'll be working. And you have to think about how you want to relate to the subject while you're working, and whether you want to have to raise your voice so they can hear you tell them where to move their arms. The 85 will definitely produce a flatter perspective than the 50, which can help with noses and whatnot. The 50 makes for a more dramatic perspective, but means being a lot closer when getting a tight head shot, and means you don't have to be in the next zip code when shooting a couple.

    You know you won't escape having fast primes in the 30-ish, 50-ish, and 85-ish focal lengths at some point, right? :)

    A cheap kit zoom is a great way to mentally get to know those focal lengths, and see what you actually like. But fair warning: the focal lengths on those lenses are measured at infinity. You can be in for a bit of a surprise when you've dialed in 50mm or 85mm on, say, an 18-105mm kit zoom, and compare it to the framing you get with their fixed-length counterparts. The closer you are to the subject, the more dramatic the differences, that way.
  22. Mike, if you are comparing the 50mm 1.8D vs the 50mm focal length on your zoom, yes, it offers you additional dof control, which is very good for portraiture. But what kind of portraiture are you after? There are all kinds of portraiture done from 14mm to 300mm (and longer!), it really depends on what kind of feel you want to portray.
    I always enjoy those portraits taken with the 200/2VR, it's a dreamy lens, sadly one that I will have little use for. Nor can I afford :p
  23. Yes, the 50mm lens is excellent for portraits on a DX camera. I go one further an use a 50mm f/1.4 on my DX camera for available light. In ordinary rooms, at the dinner table, in restaurants, and I'm delighted with the results.
    For example, here is an available light portrait...
    Avail Light Portrait, D70, 50mm f/1.4 1/20 f/1.4 ISO 400
  24. I carry easily in my cargo pants pocket - might have a problem with tight jeans, though. Don't let space be an issue.
  25. Mike, Thanks for your question. I was wondering exactly the same thing and after viewing all the comments, I will go for it!
  26. Mike - I'll second Laura's "Thank You" for this question. It brought out a lot of good points.
    Matt - Thank you expecially for your 6:30 a.m. post. Your info about focal lengths and working distance brought much to this discussion.
  27. Thanks all - really appreciate all the thoughtful input ! Good to hear it was a useful thread for others as well.
  28. I have a little on this lens used as a portrait lens and a sample here:

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