suitable lens for portrait

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ahmed_rasmy, Jun 30, 2014.

  1. i have bought Nikon D3200 and i want to buy suitable lens for portraits which one is better 50mm f/1.8G or D or 35mm f/1.8G ?
  2. Hi Ahmed. Well, "it depends". They're both perfectly capable lenses, but it depends what kind of portrait you're trying to take - that's more important than any minor optical quality difference between them.

    The "classical portrait" - upper body to head-and-shoulders - is typically taken with a longer lens: something in the 55mm-90mm range for your camera (this is a conversion of the focal lengths typically sold as "portrait lenses" for film cameras).

    The reason for this is distance: the closer you get to your subject, the more the edges of the frame look distorted and the more "squashed" they'll look - the nearer you are to your subject, the bigger their nose will look and the smaller their ears will look, for example (because you're proportionately closer to the nose than the ears, assuming they're facing you). Get too far away and the subject looks a bit "flat" because of the reverse effect.

    A shorter lens like the 35mm lets you get more of a wide angle, which can be especially useful for shooting full-height portraits or getting a crowd into the shot. For a single person, shot straight on, 35mm is probably wider than you want. However, you can always crop the middle out of the resulting image (with a small loss of quality) to get the effect of the 50mm lens, whereas it's harder to turn a longer lens into a wide-angle, so one could argue that the 35mm lens is more flexible. You can certainly take good portraits with a wider lens, it's just typical to work at slightly more unusual angles to make a feature of the distortion. The 35mm isn't very wide, so this will be a subtle effect anyway.

    If you have a kit lens such as an 18-55, you can see the effect of the field of view of these lenses by zooming to 35mm and 50mm. Perhaps try some sample shots at those lengths and see which you prefer? The prime lens is likely to be somewhat sharper than the kit zoom, and can blur the background more by using a wider aperture, but what you're looking at is the same.

    The other advantage of using a longer lens is that it will be more effective at blurring the background away: if you fill the frame with your subject with both lenses (which means you'd be standing farther away with the 50mm lens), you'd see less of the background with the 50mm than you would with the 35mm, and the amount that the background blurs is correspondingly more at the same aperture. If you're wanting to isolate the subject, or hide ugly surroundings, this can be useful - and it's one reason that "portrait lenses" typically have fast apertures like f/1.8.

    So, to head off a long discussion, if I wanted a lens for taking conventional head-on portraits, of these two, I'd choose the 50mm - but do your own experiments, because you may disagree about the look you like, and it may be that you don't find you don't need either of these. Though I'd also consider the 85mm f/1.8 AF-S if you can afford it. This would also have the advantage of giving you a focal length that your kit lens doesn't cover - though I don't know what other lenses you have and whether this is an issue for you. I have a personal bias towards longer lenses because I typically shoot candid shots of people rather than staged portraits, and a longer lens makes this easier.

    Finally, can I suggest doing an image search for images shot with these lenses to see whether the look of one seems better to you?

    I hope that's some help. Good luck.
  3. I like Andrew's recommendation of the 85/1.8G, my copy is outstanding. If the OP has the 18-55VR kit lens, the 85 could provide substantially different results, generally better for portraits.
    My least favorite lens that the OP asked about is the 50/1.8D, which I think is often overrated, and will not AF on a D3200 body.
  4. A 60mm Micro f2.8 is the right balance for your camera. You need a lens that says "AFS" on it.
    Kent in SD
  5. Might I throw in the 50mm. 1.4D. An older lens but fantastic for portrait with wonderful bokeh.
  6. Got the AF 50/1.8D, remarkable "value" and quite good in most reviewable aspects, but mind the bokeh looks awkwardly bad in certain conditions (the background undiscernible yet not smooth). I understand the AF-S 50/1.8G is better bokeh-wise but still no cream machine. And you need an AF-S lens (with a built-in motor) for auto-focus on the D3200.
    Also got the Tamron 60/2 macro; bokeh nicer; I like to use it for portraits at f/2.8 (at f/2 the images look kind of desaturated). The older Tamron 90/2.8 macro (version with BIM) is also known for good bokeh and quite inexpensive; there is a newer non-extending stabilised VC version.
  7. I think for a portrait that looks natural the camera should be at the same distance from the subject as you normally looking at the subject. There are people that you tend to look at them at much closer distance than other so take picture of them at that distance. The focal length of the lens is then be chosen for the framing/composition.
  8. Of the 2 choices of focal length, I'd go 50mm and definitely the G variant....equally +1 Sem for the Tamron 60mm f2.

    The D3200's viewfinder is not great for using MF lenses...the pentamirror is no-where near as nice as the D7100's pentaprism.

    LV focusing is very precise, but not well suited to spontaneous portraiture unless you have a lot of continuous light and you can use an external screen, which is by no-means a bad thing, just very 'fixed'.
  9. I tend to think that usually, when someone says "portrait", refers to a close head portrait, more than to the classic "loose" head&shoulders (or half body) shots. So I have made my own focal length "rules".
    A lens two times (2x) the format diagonal, will give you the "right" distance for that "classic" head&shoulders frame, but if you want a "head only" framing, you`ll need to get too close to my taste. Here I`d use a lens with three times (3x) the format diagonal.
    For full length and group shots, I`d take an "standard" lens (same as the format diagonal).
    About which specific lens, I`d not mind too much about it. Although most people don`t care, the choice of a background and light is more to my taste than the out of focus rendering quality of each lens (bokeh). There are obvious bokeh monsters to avoid (usually the lenses who show double shaped high contrast OoF surfaces, say a 50/1.8AFD), but most lenses will work.
    As mentioned, the choice of a good background and a nice illumination is way more convenient than being worried about the bokeh performance, mainly for two reasons:
    One, most people refer to the highlight reproduction performance; there is no lens that show a highlight spot in a nice way (to my taste). There are only dreadful and ugly. So avoid highlight spots, and the background blur will be nice with almost any lens.
    Two, stop down the lens and bokeh will improve. A wide open, close up shot with one eye in focus, the other and the nose out of focus, use to be unacceptable (to me). Of course there are shallow focus nice portraits, or you can shoot at a perpendicular to the axis face, but in my experience, mine are worth for two or three times of fun... so usually I shoot at least at f5.6.
  10. (Actually, "standard" lenses use to be slightly longer than the format diagonal, so it could be near 1.2x, -say 35mm in DX-).
    And of course, there are no stone-written rules. It`s matter of each one`s taste.
  11. Of the options suggested so far, I'd give a +1 to the Tamron 60mm f/2 macro. To me the "bokeh fringing" of the two (50mm and 85mm) Nikkor lenses is excessive and ruins the appearance of OOF highlights. Those lenses also show an excessive focus shift with stopping down, and will almost certainly appear to back-focus at smaller apertures. Besides which the Tamron offers a very useful macro facility that it doesn't hurt to have.
    I've noticed from the DXOmark graphs that Nikon has taken to correcting CAs at the centre and very edge of the full-frame image circle, instead of going for a compromise; i.e. having the crossover point at about 2/3rds field. This is quite nonsensical in practical use, especially when those lenses are used on the DX format. So I wish they'd rethink their CA design algorithm to give lower overall fringing - as has nearly every other company producing photographic lenses.
  12. Oops - I'd missed that the 50mm f/1.8 AF-D was under discussion. Definitely avoid that - partly because it has iffy bokeh and is soft wide open (though it's very sharp stopped down), partly because it won't autofocus on the D3200. The same applies to the 85mm AF-D (although that is very sharp at wide apertures). No AF-D lens will autofocus on a D3200, so I would be wary of any suggestion such as the 50mm f/1.4 AF-D (you can use it, but not with autofocus). Plus that lens is quite soft at wider apertures, although it does have good bokeh. If you're looking at an f/1.4 50mm for the D3200, I'd look at the Sigma (the older and cheaper one, probably) - but it's still quite a lot more expensive than the lenses you're discussing.

    I confirm RJ's concern that there's quite a bit of longitudinal/axial chromatic aberration ("bokeh fringing") on the 85 f/1.8 AF-S, and also the 50mm AF-S. This is something I go out of my way to avoid - and the Tamron 60mm isn't entirely without it, though I concede it's less extreme than the others. You can work around it to some extent, and it doesn't bother some people at all, but it's something to consider. Of course, the Tamron is also a macro lens (although quite a short one), which is useful - but it won't blur the background as much as the 85mm, and it's twice the price of the 50mm f/1.8 AF-S. But I'd certainly consider it if that's in your budget.
  13. it


    You can use any lens for a portrait, don't believe anything else.
  14. 85mm f/1.8G
    50mm f/1.8 D
    35mm f/1.8G
    Conclusion: all can produce lovely portraits :)
    My recommendation would be:
    35mm if you like to show a person in their surroundings;
    85mm for head shoulders or isolating a person from their background;
    50mm is a compromise between the two.
    Avoid the 50mm f/1.8 D on your camera - it won't auto focus. Get the 50mm f/1.8 G instead.
  15. I agree fully with Chris here, who has really wonderful examples. I use any focal length from wide to long depending on what type of portrait I want to do, like his examples here. My folders have many examples of all focal length lenses.
  16. Chris pics are really nice, he clearly shows the idea we all have, but...
    All kind of bikes will take you to the store. But there are road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrid bikes. Short, long and mini-mal surfboards. Large, medium and small format cameras. Tennis, golf and basket shoes...
    Does it mean that with a large format camera you cannot take football pics? Or someone cannot use a longboard to ride big waves? Or that you cannot use a full suspension ATB on a perfectly flat highway? But IMHO, the important thing here is to know why we use one and not the other.
    We can love a flat environmental portrait like the first one (my favorites), a very close perspective, 3D effect, funny one (how many people use to see dogs at such distance? What BeBu said), or a more balanced, relaxed shot like the third one. This effects have been deliberately taken using certain lenses. Imagine the dog, with the 35, the lady with a 85 and the environmental portrait with the 50... things would be perfectly nice (or funny), but completely different.
    Horses for courses, if someone ask for a portrait (specialist) lens, I think we should give the most conventional (orthodox) answer... :)

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