In need of much help for choosing a portrait lens (D7000)

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by allan_martin, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. Hello!
    First, I'd like to say I've been looking for this answer for days and I've read lots of threads, many in this forum actually. However, I still can't make up my mind.
    Here's the facts: I have a d7000, a 18-200mm and a 35mm 1.8. I want to shoot waist to head outdoors portraits mainly and sometimes inside my house. Consequently, no control over the lighting and need for wider apertures.
    I was recommended the nikon 50mm 1.8, the nikon 60mm 2.8 micro, the nikon 85mm 1.8 and the tamron 90mm 2.8 (all under $600, which is my budget).
    I discarded the 50mm as it's so close to the 35mm and would not give me bokeh as good as the longer focal length ones. Same thing applies for the 60mm.
    I then ended up with the 85mm 1.8 vs the tamron 90mm.
    Browsing a lot over the past days I discovered that the 85mm has some limitations, like not being sharp and having aberrations when wide open, like f1.8 or f2.0, things that would only go away at f4.0.
    The tamron is slower and opens only 2.8, but has better IQ, sharper and has macro.
    What should I do now? If I want to shoot wide open, I have to consider the aberrations and lack of sharpness of the 85mm. If I take the tamron 90mm, I'll have to shoot no wider than f2.8.
    I'm very confused right now.
    Please give me some thoughts that help me decide which one to take or if there's any lens that would be a good competitor in this case, please suggest it!
  2. 60mm f2 macro tamron
  3. What you want is the Sigma 85/1.4 HSM. Glorious bokeh, fast AF, lovely results even wide open. It's a lens made just for the sort of use you describe. It's arguably as good looking or better than Nikon's own 85/1.4, and certainly in an entirely different league than the 85/1.8.

    But first, use your 18-200 at 85mm to make sure you actually like that focal length for this use. A fast 50 may still - despite being on 15mm longer than your 35, be what you're looking for, in terms of working distance. Use your 18-200 as a focal length labortatory!
  4. If you've never worked with an f1.4 lens before, beware that the DoF is extremely thin. What can happen is the nose is in focus but the eyes are not. You might find f2.8 is more usuable.
    Kent in SD
  5. I would take a close look at the Nikon 35-70 f2.8. The 35mm would give a nice full length portrait, and at 70mm on a D7000 it would give the same field of view as a 105mm on a full frame body, excellent for head shots. Perhaps a little heavy, but it has good reviews for image quality and they can be had from the auction site for well within your budget.
  6. If you are considering zooms, I would add the 28-75mm f2.8 tamron and 50-150mm f2.8 sigma in addition to the 35-70mm 2.8 mentioned by Bill. I would choose a zoom if you are shooting events (more candid) while a prime would be good enough if you have more control...
  7. I know you think you want first off an 85. I have the Nikon
    85 1.8. I sometimes find it too tight for waist to head.

    I suggest the Voigtlander Nokton 58 f1.4 AND the Nikon 85
  8. You may not want to shoot wide open as much as you think you do. Otherwise, you will become the guy who comes back here after he buys a lens and shows a photo where only one eye is in focus and wonders what he's doing wrong... It happens all the time... The depth of field is just too too small, and virtually no lens is at its best wide open.
    In a pinch, my 50mm f1.8 works well for waist-up and H/S portraits (I usually go to f2.8 - 4 on that). When I have tons of space, my old and very cheap Manual Focus 105mm f2.5 is AMAZING (I generally keep it at f4 or maybe f2.8 or 3.5). and in between, the 70mm end of my 70-300 VR zoom is wonderful wide open at f4.5.
    I've used macros for this and they are, if you can believe it, too sharp sometimes.
    Everything you have mentioned will probably blow the 18-200 (which is, from all reports, a bit weak on the D7000 with that camera's high resolution) out of the water. I loved my 18-200 on my D50, not as much on my 12MP D90 (I replaced it with a combo of the 18-70 - used - and 70-300VR -reburb). Can't imagine that I would want to use it on the D7000 for anything critical.
  9. For flattering waist-to-head portraits the 50mm on a Dx body will do just fine. I'm going to agree with Matt that you should experiment with the 18-200 to see how the different focal lengths look and help you decide on what you want. For waist-length portraits your 35/1.8 should work well, too. Try it.
  10. I find the 60mm f/2.8 Micro (G version) a superb portrait lens. Use wide open and it is sharp yet soft at the same time. It equates to a 90mm lens which is nicer than 85mm in my opinion for such purposes. Lovely colour and quiet, accurate AF.
  11. The sigma 85mm 1.4 is completely out of my budget, unfortunately.

    I wasn't really considering zooms, id rather stick with the faster ones.
    The first time I experimentes on the focal lengths using my zoom, I thought the 85mm would be great. But I'll make some more tests and see if 50mm would go or not.

    However, if I settle for the longer focal length, 80mm-100mm, you all agree the 85mm 1.8 is better than any other alternative?
  12. It's a good alternative, but the best one is the one that comes closest to actualizing your vision, and only you can be the judge of that. Any of those lenses mentioned, in the right hands, is capable of making outstanding portraits.
  13. I find my 85mm 1.8 lens to be very sharp. I use it all the time on my D3 and D3s,ether wide open or stopped down to F2.I believe this photo taken last week of my wife on a train platform was shot at 1.8. I also do not find the bokeh to not be distracting. I like using a 105mm too, for pleasing perspective when shooting head and shoulder portraits.
  14. It's an aps-sized camera, right? I find it extremely unlikely that a 50mm lens would not give you exactly what you want. That's equivalent to a classic portrait focal length. The bonus is that you can use it a little more wide open than you could an 85mm lens without having just the nose in focus... because it's still a 50mm lens. It might not seem that much longer than 35mm, but it's actually a significant difference when you're talking portraits.
    I would forget about this "bokeh" nonsense. You will get all the blurring you need, and nobody notices "quality" of bokeh except people on internet camera forums.
  15. Blow up of Butterfly
  16. The best bang for the buck I've seen is the Samyang built 85mm f1:1.4 Nikon chipped for $300. Their names are many but all about the same in image quality. Mine is a Bell & Howell branded but others are Rokinon, Vivitar, etc. Stunning shots at any aperture. Another shout out for the Voigtlander 58mm f1:1.4 SLII. I'd pass on the Nikkor 85 f1:1.8. I've tried many and really tried to like it but just don't like the images. Either of the two I've mentioned will knock the socks off an 85 1.8
  17. If you want to shoot inside your house you need to figure out how much space you have.
    Subject size (S), focal length (F) and working distance (D) are directly related to each other. On DX shooting verticals the relationship is D=F/24xS. Half length portraits are about 3.5 ft subject size. So with a 50mm your working distance will be 50/24x3.5=7.3 ft, so around 7 ft. With an 85mm the working distance will be around 12 ft.
    Besides the camera to subject distance you need to have some room for yourself as well as some room for the subject. As an absolute minimum, if you are shooting someone against the wall, you need an additional 6 ft.
    So if you want to use an 85mm indoors you need about 20 ft of space.
  18. For what it's worth, I never did warm up to the 50/1.8E on my D200... but I love the Voigtlander 58/1.4. It was a combination of the nasty bokeh that the Nikon 50s have and an awkward (for me) focal length. For portraits on a DX body I much prefer a 60ish lens. My favorite shots with the Voigtlander tend to be shot at around ƒ/3.2. Unless you're shooting in low light or really do want only part of your subject's face to be in focus I don't think you'd miss much by going with an ƒ/2.8 lens of any sort (zoom or prime). An 85 may, or may not, give you enough room to work with on a DX body.
    In the 60ish range you've got three obvious contenders: CV 58/1.4 (manual focus), Nikon 60/2.8 and the Tamron 60/2. But before you start trying to narrow down the specifics, I agree with the suggestions to try out your zoom lens at the various focal lengths to see which feels like a better fit for you.
  19. I have both the 50 1.8 and 85 1.8. Both are supersharp, and I am also using them on a DX body (D300). If you are very close to the object, the 50 is very nice, but many portrait models do not want a camera so close, and in those cases, the 85 on the DXb-body is perfect. Most lenses are a bit soft on their most open aperture, but will you really, really notice it unless you are pixelpeeping?
  20. Hi Allan,
    Every single lens that was mentioned in this thread could do portraits very well... the difference is in style and in photographer's preferences. To make your choice even more difficult, my advice is to go for an inexpensive Nikon 105/2.5 AI-S. My copy really sings on D7000.
  21. Guys, but if you're saying that the 50mm Smith be more usable due to being shorter, wouldn't I get almost the same results if I shot with the 35mm 1.8 and then cropped it?
    Oh god I'm getting more confused then when I started the thread.

    For those recombining the 60mm, isn't slow focus a downside for portraiture?
  22. Allan, I think what are typically labeled portraits are done with slow moving or stationary subjects. My experience is that the fast but wickedly inaccurate focus of my Sigma is more of a hindrance than the manual focus action on my CV 58. FWIW, the Sigma is known for its fast focus, the Voigtlander for its manual focus, and the Nikkor for its leisurely auto focus. I'd start to worry more about the focusing if the AF is inaccurate (like the Sigma which gives me about a 33% hit rate) or if I was shooting something fast moving (birds, sports, little kids, etc).
    Sigma 30/1.4 @ ƒ/1.8
    Voigtlander 58/1.4 @ ƒ/2.8
    Voigtlander 58/1.4 @ ƒ/3.2
    Nikkor 85/1.4 AF-D @ ƒ/1.4
  23. On the D700 I would definately go the 50mm/1.4 The bokeh will be very good, the lense is sharp, the format with the smaller sensor will place it as a perfect portrait lense for what you have described. I use the 85mm and the 50mm 1.4 lenses with a D700, they are both very very good.
  24. I owned the Nkon 85mm f1.8 and it was the worst Nikon lens I've ever owned. Yes, sharp enough, but on a digital body I got tons and tons of CA (purple fringe) and it was the very worst lens I've ever owned when it came to flare problems. To be fair, I was using it as a general purpose outdoor lens. It might work fine for indoor portraits. Just make sure flash isn't hitting the lens directly. Of all the lenses listed so far, I'm thinking the Nikon 35-70 f2.8 is the best within your budget. Also keep in mind that there is such a thing as too sharp when it comes to portraits. A young person with perfect skin might look OK if shot with a sharp lens, but older people don't want every wrinkle, mole, and nose hair captured in macro detail. Same for those with blemishes. The traditional portrait lenses are the Petzval, Heliar, Verito, Imagon, etc. These were all around f4 and had a deliberate soft/sharp quality to them. I still very much prefer their classic look myself, as do many high end portrait shooters. As for 50mm lenses, most of the pro wedding photogs I'm friends with have gone with the sigma 50mm f1.4, but usualy they are using their Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 for portraits as it's just a faster workflow for them. (all of them are using d3 though.)
    Kent in SD
  25. Hi Allan:
    I have the Nikon 35mm f/1.8, a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 and a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 and use them on D90 and D80. The lens I use the least is the Nikon because at 35mm you need to get in too close, which is distracting to the subject. The one I use indoors most is the 50mm f/1.4. I find that in normal homes, there is insufficient distance to frame up properly with the 85mm f/1.4. The difference between a 35mm and a 50mm lens indoors may surprise you. 15mm doesn't seem like much, but it is.
    I have to echo what the knowledgable people before have said about DOF. Wide open, you only get inches in focus with a f/1.4 lens. I certainly do not regret buying any of these lenses; but this amateur finds them a challenge wide open.
    There may be another approach. You say that you have no control over lighting. Why not take some control? Have you considered a Speedlight (flash)? A speedlight is much less expensive than most lenses. I use SB600s, which have been replaced by the SB700. I got a Gary Fong Lightsphere as a freebee when I bought my last lens. It really spreads the light out so you aren't creating harsh shadows. I am pleasantly surprised by what I get when I use it on my SB600 Speedlight.
    I will add this caveat. If your 18-20mm is the 1st generation like mine is, it is really soft. I thought I was doing something wrong until I got the fast primes and now I can place the blame squarely on that lens. The addition of a Speedlight may not give you what you want with that lens. Hopefully you have the 18-200mm VR II.
    I have enjoyed the responses that you have received to your question. Great stuff.
    Regards, John
  26. Kent, besides the 35-70, wouldn't you recommend any primes then?
    John, I've heard that about the f1.4 as well. Think I'll be fine with a f1.8.
    Haven't thought about flash yet, maybe it's a good approach. Gonna take a look at that.
    I used the 35mm for general low light situations as the 50mm would be too long. But maybe, after all, it should be good for portraits. Consequently, would you recommend the 50mm 1.8?

    I can't be that bad having the 35 and the 50.
    ps: I'm cutting out the macros 60mm and 90mm as they are too sharp and probably to slow. Anyone objects it? Please say why! haha
  27. I see single focal lenses mostly as special purpose lenses, but that's a reflection of my style. I love fast zooms because they are so quick to get a shot with, and are more versatile. BTW, I was just assuming you had a lighting system (i.e., flash.) Often, it is flash that is the important thing in most any portrait. when you control the light, that is huge. Light isn't cheap though. For $300 you could buy a pair of older Nikon SB-25, a set of radio triggers (RF-603), some inexpensive stands and umbrellas. (Ebay, of course.) If you are really headed into actual portraits, eventually you will be putting lights at the top of your list.
    Kent in SD
  28. Macro lenses use to be slower than others; that`s right.
    About if they are too sharp... this is something I cannot get at all. Of course there are rendering differences between lenses, some could be more pleasant than others, but I find this affirmation to be another classic staled trite.
  29. The 'macro lens is too sharp' - yes, it can render a skin a bit too precise, but it's not like that cannot be corrected in editing afterwards. Better to start with details then leave them out from the beginning. So 'combining' the macrolens with a portrait lens isn't that bad an idea.
    From many earlier discussions on the AF-D 85 f/1.8, I've come to belief Kent's sample was a bad one. The behaviour he describes is nothing like mine. It has slight CA wide open - as nearly all fast lenses. Mine isn't stunning sharp wide open (on a D300, I think the earlier shots on a D3 look much better, but the D300 and D7000 are a bit less forgiving), but from ~f/2.8 on, it's plenty sharp. And for head-shots, a wider aperture than that is usually not all that needed. So, in case you do want a 'dedicated' portrait lens, the 85 f/1.8 is still a nice alternative.
    Sure a 50mm can work as well - it's a matter of preference (I dislike 50mm on APS-C). For that, you really would do well using the 18-200 and define for yourself which length works better for you.
  30. Okay, I'm settling for the nikon 85mm 1.8D. Anyone objects? Any reason why I shouldn't besides the ones that have already been said? Any lens that would perform better (besides the 50mm)?
  31. Okay, I'm settling for the nikon 85mm 1.8D. Anyone objects? Any reason why I shouldn't besides the ones that have already been said? Any lens that would perform better (besides the 50mm)?​
    as long as you have room to back up enough to use it...
  32. Peter, I'm expecting to use it mostly outdoors, that why I was worried about the CA and fringing.
    Guess I'll have to find shades to get away from bright sunlight.
  33. CA and fringing are disturbing issues, but maybe not as problematic under real life shooting.
    Check this thread; lots of info and samples about the topic.
  34. duplicate/delete
  35. My real life shooting with the Nikon 85mm f1.8D. Not always this bad, of course, but was difficult for me to predict when it was going to happen. Below shot, sample from 85mm f1.8D used outdoors.
    Kent in SD
  36. Kent, so what alternative would you recommend instead?
  37. Allan, you'rll keep going in circles like this. As said before, I suspect Kent had a bad copy of the 85 f/1.8. And heck, this photo shows it. And I can only repeat: I never managed to get this excessive CA from my 85 f/1.8 - nowhere near this much. It's not free of it, but it's no worse than my 80-200 f/2.8, for example.
    Given the other thread you have running... the advice given there makes sense: one lens at a time. If you are sure to replace the 18-200, do that first. Then find out for yourself calm which focal length works best for you, for the kind of portraits you want to make. And with that experience, revisit this topic. One step at a time.
  38. I think you will find the 85 and 90 on a crop sensor camera too long for head to waist portraits inside a home.
  39. I don't shoot Nikon (I shoot Canon), but I have the Canon version of the 85 1.8 and find that focal length to be very nice on my 5D. This brings me to another thought, and that is where are you shooting (inside or outside. I have a crop sensor camera (40D) with he 85mm, and I found it a bit long for inside shoots, unless the room was very large. For outdoors it was fine. Also remember that getting blurred backgrounds can be done with slower lenses as well, by placing the subject a fair distance from the background. I shot portraits with my 70-200 and my old 40D and had great success with blurred backgrounds as long as the subject was far enough from the background. Still, a fast lens is nice to work with in this respect. I am shooting between f1.8 and f2.8 and having great success. I agree that a shorter focal length with your camera may be the way to go, but in the end it all depends on your shooting style etc. Play with your 18-200 and see what focal length you tend to shoot at with your current body. If you plan on giog full frame then think about a longer prime. I find the depth of field with my 5D to be much shallower than the same lenses were on my 40D. Good luck.
  40. This is likely unhelpful for several different reasons, but there is rumor of an 85mm 1.8 G being announced in January. I know- vaporware. Having said that, I shoot a 50mm 1.4 G for indoor portraits, mostly. When i think portraits I usually think of planned shots, and will use flashes indoors, so the lens speed doesn't play much role (shoot at f/4 or whatever.) If I'm after candids indoors I'd prefer my 35mm f/2. I just picked up a 35-70 f/2.8 which is really flexible and sharp. I love the portraits w/ my 105mm 2.8 VR, but it requires about 10 meters. If I could only have one lens in the "portrait" range I'd keep the 35-70 f/2.8. Sorry that violated your no-zoom stipulation, but there you have it. (And I wouldn't wait for the 85mm 1.8 G)
  41. About Kent`s sample; this is certainly an unfortunated behaviour. But...
    After a deeper look, I see a strong backlited scene, with bright, textureless (maybe overexposed) highlights, always surrounded by the blackness and shadows of the trails and racks. Is there a best scenario to show this issue?
    In the thread I linked above, both Andrew G. and myself posted some pics trying to extract the highest ammount of fringing from our 85/1.4 lenses (and others)... We choose a high contrast scene, clear background and dark subject to accentuate the fringe. Andrew`s pics are closer to Kent`s effect because he placed the light somewhere at the side of the subject, recording the fringing all around the highlight spots, not only as a single border like on mine.
    I`d not say that Kent`s sample is a bad one. But I can say this is a extreme scenario. Is there a lens that performs perfectly right under this conditions? I doubt so.
    And if you check the pics at the end of the linked thread, you`ll see that in "normal" conditions the heavy fringing issue is hidden or disguised, at least partially or even totally (wide open). Close the lens a couple of stops and the problem is gone.
  42. BTW, using the NX2`s longitudinal CA reduction tool, this kind of fringes can be significantly reduced.
  43. Hi Allen,
    I tried reading the whole thread and IMO it's too much technobable without taking a good look at what you want to do.
    You need a lightstrong lens, with proper focal lenght to take a proper portait with. Having to shoot with litte light will mean wide open which allways come with shallow DOF, so that should not be a breaking point.
    I read you have chosen the Nikon 1.8/85mm AF and think you made a good choice as tested at nikkor-af-85mm-f18-d-review--test-report. I have had it myself, nice lens, definitely sharp, nice bokeh. The chromatic aberration is really not as bad or extreme as internet exxaguration makes it,, and in my experience shows in harsh backlit pictures with the aperture wide open. It
    I personally love extremely thin DOF, so went for a 1.4/85mm D in combination with a.o. a 2/200VR for that purpose.
    if you have more light at your disposal, natural or artificial, you will be able to close down your aperture, and consequently the DOF will improve with the sharpness, and the CA will also get less
    The 85mm translates on DX in a virtual 135mm, maybe a little too long for waist to head inside (depending on the size of the space you're shooting in) but an additional 50mm will translates in a (cheap) virtual 75mm alternative which serves that purpose very well. The additional advantage of the 85mm on DX is that the virtual 135mm will allow for tighter close-ups if you want to, with having the camera in the face of the model.
    Good luck with the pictures taking
  44. If you're going to do anything indoors, IMO, 60 is right about where you'd want to be and 85mm will almost certainly be too long. The Tamron 60/2 would be on my list. If you're going to get a fast prime for the express purpose of separating the background, the nasty bokeh on the 85/1.8 would be on my mind.
    What would I replace it with? One of the aforementioned zooms, one of the 60s, etc.
  45. Allan, I bought my 85 1.8 used, so I do not know what is in the box if you buy a new one, but I'd really consider buying a lens shade that you always have mounted, so that any flare issues may be minimized.
  46. Screw-in metal sunshade included in box when buying a AF-D 85 f/1.8 new (bought mine ~3,5 years ago, no reason to assume this has changed).
  47. Alan, I've owned Nikon's 85mm F/1.4 AIs, F/1.4G (current) & F/1.4D lenses. I love the 85mm length. To my mind of thinking its my "standard lens" on a FF camera. Never liked the 50mm length personally, the 85mm was just right. Admittedly on a cropped sensor in a crowded environment its a bit too long. I don't see the issue with Macro's being too sharp. Yes they are sharp, in today's world though you can easily soften the portrait in post to your desire. Yes, I do remember my 85mm F/1.8D having CA issues, but then again so does every fast lens including your 35mm F/1.8. Like all lenses, stopped down the CA on my 85mm F/1.8D goes away mostly. You want to shoot fast glass wide open with no CA? I've got just the lens for you then, the 200mm F/2.0 VR. Don't have $6,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Then you'll just have to live with it like the rest of us because there is no lens alternative (fast prime less than $6,000 from Nikon anyways). The alternative is to pick up a copy of DxO optics for $130 and it can pretty much correct any CA issues that the 85mm F/1.8D will throw at you. Even Lightroom does a half way decent job.
    I think the most important thing here, is that whatever you settle on, that you keep it and use it for a good long while. You've got to know your gear to the make the best of it. Sure if you pull the 85mm F/1.8D out of the box, take 5 pictures and complain about the CA and sell\return it, then you will have learned nothing. You've got to keep it for a good while, learn where CAs are the highest and where they are acceptable and where they don't exist. Learn how to focus with a tele F/1.8 lens. It ain't easy. Once you spend a year or so getting acquainted with the 85mm F/1.8, then you can decide to sell it to move on to better things or keep making good pictures with it. But what ever you do, you will have learned something and be much more informed for your next purchase :).
  48. The Tamron f2.8 28-75 would be an excellent choice. It is a nice compromise and very sharp. Here is a sample taken with the D200. (or, look under Lens Tests)
  49. The trilogy of portrait lenses in Nikon FX (and film) were always the 85/105/135 focal lengths.With the D7000 it becomes a bit less easy as the 85 becomes a 127. To get a closer DX focal length suggests the 50, becoming a 75. This lens is not optimal for head and shoulder shots though.
    I would consider a 24-70 or even the 35-70 2.8 with is older, has equivalent IQ and is cheap used. That gives you a 50-110...probably optimal.
    If you have another body then there are a host of excellent used Nikon 80-200 2.8s on the market.
    If you want to go wide, the 12-24 Nikon is also good. In these three lenses you have everything covered and inexpensively.
    In many respects these older AF-D zooms are easy to use because they have aperture rings and AF fast.
    What do I use on a D700? An old 105 2.5 and an 80-200 F4 ais. The former has a dreamy quality IQ and the F4 is sharp as.
    With portraits AF is unreliable. So as you are having to fine tune focus manually, why go to the expense of an AFS lens?
  50. Sure, and 58*1.5 = 87mm (60*1.5 = 90mm). Nikon's got their 60s and the pricey 58. Tamron's got their 60, and CV's got their 58. And, of course, there are a few Nikon ƒ/2.8 zooms to cover that range too. Did I mention you can get decent background separation without going all the way to eleven? The 85/1.4 is legendary because of how it separates the background, not just because it's fast.
    CV 58/1.4 @ ƒ/3.2
  51. One more with the 85mm 1.8 lens
  52. One last one with the 85mm 1.8 at 1.8

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