Portrait and Landscape Lenses

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jen_luis, Jul 26, 2012.

  1. I made the transition. Sold my Nikon D300 and bought myself the all glorious Canon 5D Mark III. I don't regret it one bit. I'm still learning as it has different buttons but it is awesome.
    Being new to Canon, the first lens I bought was the Canon EF 50mm 1.4USM. It is sharp and fast. It's my first lens but not my last.

    I mainly do landscape photography but on occasion some portrait work too. My question is, which would be a good portrait lens for indoors. I mostly work with natural light.

    And, I also need some suggestion for landscape lenses.
    I'm asking for help because I know nothing about Canon lenses but I'm beyond excited and happy that I made the transition from Nikon to Canon.
  2. What is wrong with the 50 you have as a portrait lens? I use mine a lot, if it isn't long enough for you the 85 f1.8 is, perhaps, even better then the 50 f1.4 and is reasonably priced. If that is too close to the 50 then the 100 f2 is a great "portrait" lens that is widely overlooked. If that is not long enough then the 135 f2L has an unmatched reputation as one of the greatest portrait lenses ever.
    For landscapes nothing beats, or comes close to (with the possible exception of the 17mm TS-E), the TS-E 24mm MkII. Expensive but worth every penny and some.
  3. >>> My question is, which would be a good portrait lens for indoors. I mostly work with natural light.
    35mm f/1.4 L. It's the only lens I use for portraiture on my full-frame and is also very good indoors in low light. These were all shot with that combination.
  4. 70 to 90mm would be a perfect portrait lens with your full frame sensor, so the 85mm mentioned above is probably the ideal.
  5. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    I'd use the 50 unless you're having some sort of problem with it.
  6. I use the TS-E 24mm for a lot of landscapes. Everything from about your toes to infinity can be sharp. You have to be careful here, mainly in the early mornings to close to evenings. It's manual focus only. I've missed a few really special shots up in Yosemite and Death Valley but the 16-35 backup worked ok, but not what I was looking for. There was some angle displacement with the 16-35. Not so with the great TS-E 24mm . If you set it up correctly, the scene you are taking is magically uniform on all sides and heights are incredibly sharp. The 90 TS is fantastic as well, however I use it for taking photos of paintings. Again you can make all of the 4 corners perfect. It's the only lens I've used that will do this type of work. It's also a macro. This comes in real handy when taking food shots and stuff like watches. The lighting takes hours to get it right. This type of shooting for me is by far the hardest type of photography. Well it works well for portraits if the subject is willing to wait. With models it's not a problem.

    Portraits - if I have the room I enjoy the 70-200, 2.8L. For close-ups I'll throw on a German soft focus filter Zeiss. Much less retouching and the filter doesn't make the people look out of focus. With lenses like this you can add comfort to the person or people because of the distance from the people. For me this leaves out the 50mm almost always. People can get weird about that comfort space between the camera and the subject from the 50mm and smaller, unless you don't use a full frame camera. Then the 50mm is about an 80mm and that is a good distance.
  7. >>> I'd use the 50 unless you're having some sort of problem with it.

    >>>> Being new to Canon, the first lens I bought was the Canon EF 50mm 1.4USM.

    I didn't notice you already had a 50. Jeff's right, keep using that until you feel a different focal length would
    suit you better. For me, anything longer than a 50 feels like a telephoto and removes a lot of
    photographer/subject engagement that drives good portraiture. Also, indoors at longer focal lengths makes
    any kind of environmental portraiture tough (unless you are planning on head shots).
  8. The 85/1.8 is a excellent lens and a great buy. If you want to go a little longer the 100/2 is very similar.
  9. If by portrait you mean a traditional focal length, the. 85mm
    f/18 is a fine and inexpensive lens.

  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “which would be a good portrait lens for indoors. I mostly work with natural light. [on a 5D format]”​
    Wear out the 50/1.4, it is very good for that application.
    A 35/1.4 and 85/1.2 or 1.8 would make nice partners for the 50.
    I would buy the 35/1.4 before an 85: most definitely.
  11. Your camera works very well in low light, so a super-fast aperture like f/1.4 or f/2 is not really necessary. You may consider a zoom lens like Canon's 24-70 for indoor portraits.
  12. Changing camera systems usually implies to explore all possibilities before the jump but the important is to verify how happy and amazed you are with your brand new 5D Mk III and you're perfectly on schedule to perform your research now, so instead of advancing some subjective suggestions here is a link to the professional lineup of Canon lenses (the L series) that will make your new body really shine according to your needs and preferences:
  13. My recommendations would be the 85/1.8 and / or the 24 -105 L f4 for people on full frame. I found the 24-70 L f2.8 was a bit heavy for my liking though a very good lens.
    For landscapes I normally use a 17-40 L f4 or if you have lots of cash the 16-35 L f2.8. The 17-40 L is a nice lens for the money and will be sharp edge to edge if stopped down a little from f4. Of course there is nothing to stop you using longer lenses for landscapes too.
  14. I too made the transition from Nikon (D2xs) to Canon, but to a 5DII. I bought the 24 mm TSE-II as my first lens and a Sigma 50mm 1.4 after. I am pleased with both, especially the 24mm. I will buy the 90mm -TSE someday.
    One of the advantages of the EOS system is that, with the use of adaptors one can use lenses made a half century back, including most Nikkor lenses. Certainly if money is not an issue then Canon's own L lenses are hard to beat. Then there are the Zeiss lenses to consider.
  15. I mainly do landscape photography but on occasion some portrait work too. My question is, which would be a good portrait lens for indoors. I mostly work with natural light.

    And, I also need some suggestion for landscape lenses.​
    There is no single optimal focal length for portraiture, just as there is none for landscapes (as the respodents here have implied).
    For portraiture with my full frame and crop bodies, I use focal lengths between 35mm and 200mm. For primes, I use the 35/1.4, 50/1.4, 85/1.2 and 135/2. I have only one zoom, the 70-200/4 L IS, which I find to be superb outdoors.
    As for landscapes, the range is 24mm to 300mm, depending on whether I want to have a more encompassing field of view or to isolate details. I don't shoot with really wide fields of view, so I don't use ultrawides, and this applies to my landscape work as well.
  16. OP wrote: "My question is, which would be a good portrait lens for indoors. I mostly work with natural light."
    I'm astonished by the number of people recommending a 35mm prime for this on full frame. I'm not saying that you can't do indoor portrait work with that (or a fisheye, it that floats your boat) but it is an outlier suggestion for sure on this camera.
    To those who aren't sure themselves what focal length they need for such a thing, I always strongly recommend a zoom that covers the potential focal lengths as a better starting point than guessing about which prime might be right.
  17. I'd stick with your 50 as the others say for the moment. Don't go for head shots with it unless you want distortion which may not make you friends (if they don't see the pics then it doesn't matter).
  18. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    OP wrote: "My question is, which would be a good portrait lens for indoors. I mostly work with natural light."​
    There are considerations other than Focal Length, for this particular niche of Portrait Photography.
    Physical characteristics of the tools are also major consideration, for me.
    That is one of the reasons why I have two different EF 50mm Prime Lenses; and also two different EF 35mm Prime lenses; and also why I choose whether or not to mount the battery grip on my 5D before entering the indoor venue; and whether or not to use a camera strap or wrist grip, or neither.
  19. I have shot a number of portraits AND landscapes with this portable, versatile, and extremely sharp Canon lens, and I'm always pleased with the results.
    70-200 f/4L IS
    My favorite landscape lens is the TS-E24 f/3.5L II, but the 70-200 is probably second on the list.
  20. Taken with the 70-200 f/4L IS on a 5D Mark II
  21. There are, indeed, considerations other than focal length. People with experience and strong points of view will make a range of decisions about lenses that might point to a variety of prime lenses for use for portrait work depending upon their individual preferences. (I acknowledged this in my previous post.)
    However, there is always a risk that forum writers will recommend "what I use" rather than trying to determine what the poster might need. In this case, there is little to suggest that our OP has unusual requirements that would call for a rather wide lens for this work. Without out any such indication, we are left to offer explanations of reasons to select a variety of lens types, to repeat a "standard" recommendation (and 85mm primes are within that category on full frame), to recommend a zoom as a way to learn more about focal length and come to a more specific conclusion, or to offer up our own preferences along with an acknowledgment of our underlying preferences and how they might differ from those of the OP.
    I stand by my observation that while 35mm primes could be used for portrait work on full frame bodies, that is regarded as an unusual suggestion.
  22. The 70-200 f/4L IS offers excellent IQ in a lightweight package.
  23. Which lenses did you like on your Nikon camera?
  24. "The 70-200 f/4L IS offers excellent IQ in a lightweight package."
    Excellent suggestion. That focal length covers both the portrait focal lengths and can be very useful for landscape. While some feel that wide to ultra-wide lenses are the "landscape lenses," I personally use this lens for my own landscape shooting far more often than I use my ultra-wide.
  25. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    That focal length covers both the portrait focal lengths​

    It's ideal for indoor portraits if you live in Buckingham Palace. I don't see the requisite royalty designator in front of the OP's name however, so I would guess that more modest rooms are the case, and unless the photographer and the subject are standing in opposite corners, it's going to be a little tight.
  26. Sorry, Jeff, but I don't follow your reasoning.
  27. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    He's shooting portraits indoors:
    My question is, which would be a good portrait lens for indoors​

    How is a 70-200 lens good for portraits indoors? It has to be a really big home to be using long focal lengths, and it's a big and heavy lens. I just shot a wedding and did shoots at two homes as they were getting ready, so I went back through the photos. With a few exceptions where I was able to shoot from one room into another, every shot was between 24mm and 60mm. My second didn't take any beyond 40mm. "Indoor" has limits on where you can shoot from.
  28. I think it depends on what you mean by "portrait". If you're shooting headshots indoors, a 70-200 is perfectly fine. If you want standing full body shots, not so much.
  29. <img src= "http://citysnaps.net/2011%20photos/G.jpg">
    Re shooting portraiture with a 35mm and it being "an unusual suggestion." And the 70-200 covering
    "both the portrait focal lengths," whatever that means...


    I think the problem is many people can't think of portraiture beyond the standard corporate "headshot,"
    or a subject sitting in a chair by a window. That's a very limiting view of portraiture. Indeed a 70-200 or
    85mm lens could work for shooting headshots in an interior space, depending of course on the size of
    the space. For many who engage in portraiture regularly, the notion of a "standard portraiture lens (or two), is
    meaningless. It's something that continues to propagate on internet forums on and on.<P>

    For me, including supporting environmental elements is essential to good portraiture. That provides context and adds interest, and allows a great deal of freedom in crafting a portrait letting the photographer add or withhold information, and working with light. What also adds greatly is having a close photographer/subject engagement - it's a two way exchange. Shooting close with a 35 or 50mm helps with both environmental context and engagement; especially indoors, as I pointed
    out above a couple days ago. <P>
  30. Brad, that's an interesting photo for multiple reasons - body language, geometrical pipe patterns, the B&W conversion
    that you always do so well. But I wouldn't call this image a portrait. Not even an environmental portrait.

    A portrait is about a person - their personality and what makes them distinct and special.

    This photo is more about the surroundings. The person in the photo could be anyone - she seems to be a generic
    placeholder for a person who finds themself in a cold, bleak setting.
  31. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I suppose we each can define “Portraiture” as we wish. But I don’t think that the broadly accepted definition has changed much over the past several years (the second bit):
    • “A figure drawn painted or carved upon a surface to represent some object”
    • “(specifically)(now almost always) a likeness of a person, showing the face, made from life by drawing, painting, photography, etc
    From the French - ‘portraire’, same stem as the English, “Portray”, ‘to make a picture, figure or image of . . .’ OED
    On a lighter and less technical note: The way we (all whom I know) teach and address photography down here is that “Portraiture” simply encompasses ‘the Photography of People’ – and there are many sub-genres to it.
    Brad’s picture is undeniably “A Portrait” and would be classified as such, in any gallery, here.
  32. <<<Brad’s picture is undeniably “A Portrait”>>>

    Undeniably by whom? The photo police? My argument stands for reasons already stated. I've seen lots of fine portraits
    taken by Brad, and I'm an admirer of his work. This is a beautiful and interesting photograph, but in my view it's not a
    portrait and therefore it doesn't do much to advance the discussion of lenses for portraiture.
  33. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    Undeniably by whom?​

    Pretty much every definition out there.
    A portrait is about a person - their personality and what makes them distinct and special.​

    If that's the definition, then I would say at least 50% of the headshots out there are a complete fail.
  34. This is one bizarre thread, spinning rapidly out of control as various people seemingly try to show others that they know what portrait really means and it ain't what folks usually think.
    Yes, there is environmental portraiture, group portraiture, head shots, creative stuff with wide and ultra wide lenses, you name it. But declaring that any one of these is what the OP means and that all other possibilities are off the table is not helpful, especially since the OP has not told us specifically what sort of portrait shooting is the goal. (We are falling into the frequent forumtography trap of telling folks who ask that "The best thing is the thing that I use. Regardless. And no arguing."
    So let's just back up a minute.
    In general, the term "portrait lens" has a loosely defined association that immediately comes to mind in photography. When someone says "portrait lens," we don't think of 400mm telephotos (even though you could make a portrait with one) nor do we think of fisheye lenses (though you can make a portrait with those, too). We don't imagine a "portrait" of 500 people, but most typically of one. While you could think of anything between a full body (plus) environmental portrait, you could also imagine a very tightly framed photograph of mouth, nose, and eyes and not much else - but those extremes are also not the starting assumption for what someone means when they say "portrait."
    Acknowledging all of the other possible variations, and the possibility that the OP could clarify which of these we are to consider, the starting point assumption (your own creative notions aside) is that a portrait photograph most likely means the head and portions of the upper body of an individual person, shot in a semi-formalized setting (or "sitting") where the photographer might, to a greater or lesser extent, direct the subject, and where the result will be a photograph that primarily focuses on the face of the subject.
    There are reasons why the familiar short telephoto type lenses are the starting point for such photography - absent all of the outlier notions that some bring up here. The short telephoto allows the photographer to suitably fill the frame or nearly so with the individual subject's face and shoulders without having to work so closely as to make the subject uncomfortable. The slight flattening of facial features is most often (yes, not always) regarded as being a bit more flattering than emphasizing noses and chins with wider lenses. The slightly longer lenses permits greater control over the background, both narrowing its area and potentially allowing more control over how it is blurred via aperture selection. When it comes to primes, some like to occasionally make use of the larger apertures - though certainly not always.
    On a full frame camera (for Canon crop, divide by 1.6) the most common focal lengths that people will mention are in that short telephoto range, with some range of variation. The 85mm focal length is often favored for certain types of work, and a number of the 85mm primes are essentially optimized for this sort of thing. Some will use slightly longer lenses. An acquaintance likes to use the 100mm macro, and others will use the 135mm f/2 or similar. Many, in fact probably most, portrait shooters actually use zoom lenses, despite the mythology that suggests that it must be done using primes. The 70-200mm Canon zooms are frequently used for this, and there are very good reasons why many photographers might value the flexibility of the zoom over the very large aperture of the primes.
    So, unless you know something about the OP that I don't know, the recommendation most likely to be in the ball park is, if a prime is specified, one of the 85mm or so lenses or else a zoom that covers this focal range effectively. Beyond that, it is certainly valid to bring up other questions about the intended use to clarify whether or not the OP has something else in mind. It is fine to point out, for example, that if you shoot in a very confined space and need to include more than one person or a full figure that something shorter like 50mm or, yes, even 35mm might be useful. It is also fine to point out that for certain types of candid work some photographers will use even longer lenses. And then let the OP determine whether or not these notions fit.
    However, it is basically not helpful and borderline incompetent to state emphatically that the common wisdom about portrait focal length is wrong. It may be wrong for you - and I don't have any problem with that - but if you think it is right for everyone, especially for people whose needs you haven't really been able to assess - you are likely guilty of a serious lack of perspective and perhaps of focusing on something quite different than the needs of the person asking the question.
  35. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    a portrait photograph most likely means the head and portions of the upper body of an individual person, shot in a semi-formalized setting (or "sitting") where the photographer might, to a greater or lesser extent, direct the subject, and where the result will be a photograph that primarily focuses on the face of the subject.​

    Some of us don't subscribe to the Popular Photography view of portraiture, and prefer to look at the great portraits that have been taken over time, try to understand what makes them great, and use the same thought processes in our photography. While we don't know that the OP is interested in making great portraits rather than textbook-based snaps, it would certainly help to broaden one's horizons in order to take better portraits.

    For example, this is generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest photographic portraits ever taken - http://www.alscotts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/stravinsky.jpg The head and shoulders of the subject take up less than 10% of the frame.

    And what is regarded by many as the best portrait series ever put together (with some controversy over the titling) is Avedon's In the American West, which included images like this - http://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/february21/gifs/avedon_James_Story.jpg - all taken with a "normal" (50mm) lens equivalent.

    And 70-200 doesn't work in many interiors without standing in another room, unless you live in Dracula's castle. Most of the range is way too long for anywhere.
    the common wisdom about portrait focal length is wrong.​

    And "common wisdom" is driven more by advertising than anything else.
  36. For what it's worth I prefer 24mm for shooting environmental portraits.
    On the other hand I kind of like tightly framed face portraits. Here's a family portrait, shot indoors at 400mm. (200/2 + 2x converter. Hand held at 1/10 second, it is slightly blurred.)
  37. I agree with G Dan. People who are recommending a 35mm lens probably shoot with a 7D which would make the 35 a 56MM lens.
    I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II and would recommend: 1st place the Tamron 24-70 VC, 2nd place 24-70 F2.8 Version I, 3rd place Tamron 28-75 F2.8. 4th place Canon 24-105 F4L . If you have the money and cost is no object; the 24-70 F2.8 II. However, I have the money and still prefer the Tamron 24-70 F2.8 VC because I shoot a lot of low light handhelds especially run and gun video at sunset or dusk.
    The 24-70 range is my main lens for most things so it is wear I don't mind spending the most money. I would also recommend getting the Canon 17-40 F4L for wide angle. Canon 16-35 F2.8L again if you have the bucks. However, I am able to easily cover the 17-40 range with Flash so for me 16-35 is not needed.

    If you need a little speed you already got the 50 1.5 pick up the 28 1.8 cheap, fast and does the job when you need to shoot video or photos in low light.
  38. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I wouldn’t necessarily say this thread is spinning out of control as a result of many people declaring what it is the OP needs.
    I would agree that the OP has NOT provided clear guidelines as to what particular type of Portraiture rocks their socks . . . and also I agree that it is blinding obvious – if the OP is reading theses opinions, that a response and comment from the OP would be appreciated by all.
    I expect that these various ‘opinions’ of what Portraiture is, or is not - is just as much filling in time as it might be idle gesticulations or chest beating – but I think an important point is that all of this could be settled by a few sentences from the OP.
    It is also interesting to note that it appears thus far the OP has only made two contributions to P.net: this thread; and a previous question regarding . . . (hold your breath . . .)
    “Landscape Lens for Canon 5d Mark ii . . . I'm looking to buy a landscape lens for a Canon 5d Mark ii. Money is no option. I'm looking for a sharp lens. No longer than 300mm.”
    It is also interesting to note on that previous thread different ‘types’ of Landscape Photography were canvassed: but there was not the passionate debate dissecting Landscape Photography as much as we have seen here where Portrait Photography has been under the microscope – perhaps the phase of the moon was different in the previous thread . ..
    In that previous thread, I note that 29th post appeared to show some frustration . . .
    “Dear OP,
    Every lens listed so far can be used for landscapes with excellent results, as will many other fine Canon lenses. Perhaps you even own one or more of the ones that have been mentioned. It's difficult to believe that you own a camera body without any lenses.
    It would help (greatly) if you would tells us what lenses you own already. Then please tell us what types of photos you would like to take that your current lens collection cannot achieve.”
    BUT alas the OP was silent, then.
    Silent that is: until seven months later when they began this thread.
    I think the behaviour of the OP is more commonplace than the general occurrence of threads spinning out of control AND perhaps the 'post a vague question and disappear attitude' is the single most common reason for threads spinning out of control? As such practice can only cause frustration by active, competent and knowledgeable contributors.
  39. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator Staff Member

    People who are recommending a 35mm lens probably shoot with a 7D​

    Comments might be better if you actually read what was posted:
    Brad -, 35mm f/1.4 L. It's the only lens I use for portraiture on my full-frame​
  40. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

  41. While I don't think my comments about the thread and the more general issue of how to provide useful feedback to original posters (as opposed to stroking our own egos) are at all irrelevant, the observations about this poster are quite interesting.
    I've seen cases sort of like this before, though this one sounds very odd if your description is correct - two, and only two, odd posts in a period of many months from a poster who then never returns to the thread after that? Strange.
  42. I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me why the 70-200 is not a good portrait lens. The short end on full frame is close to the angle
    of view of a 240mm lens on 4x5, a widely used portrait focal length before the digital era. The long end creates a nice tightly cropped
    head shot, and there are plenty of sweet spots in between. If I wanted a one lens solution for most portrait work, I'd choose the 70-200.
  43. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me why the 70-200 is not a good portrait lens.”​
    My understanding of what has been written on this thread: is that no person has stated that a 70 to 200 is ‘not a good portrait lens’.
    However, it has been noted that for portraiture shot INSIDE, the 70 to 200 would be of limited use.
  44. My best portrait lens for FF cameras is 28/1.8, also good for landscape although I prefer 20/2.8.
  45. I use my 70-200 f/4 IS as a portrait lens all the time. I also use my 100 f/2.8 IS macro as a portrait lens. Personally, I find IS very useful in portrait work because I can usually reduce the shutter speed when I am working indoors which means lower ISO and less noise.
    One of the nice things about thee 5D III for portraits (I am talking generally about head/shoulders shots, not environmental portraits here) is the silent mode which for me is very useful in allowing subjects to relax and, perhaps, get distracted from the camera.
  46. Wow. Who would have thought so simple a question would stir up so much discussion?
    For indoor portraits, I'd say the earlier advice to use the 50mm f/1.4 until you feel some kind of lack is the best advice.
    For tighter in, the excellent EF 85mm f/1.8.
    For zooms, there are lots of wonderful ~24mm to midtele options. If you use the high ISO capabilities of your camera, you might not even need more than f/4. For a lot more money, you can get f/2.8. An excellent inexpensive and underrated zoom lens is the Canon EF 28-135mm IS (=VR in Nikonspeak).
    All EF lenses will work on your camera, just remember that anything labeled EF-S (from Canon) or "digital only" (from others) will not mount or, if they do, will not cover the whole sensor.

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