Which Lenses do i need for portrait and macro photography for nikon D80?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jean_braeburn, Jun 20, 2009.

  1. I just purchased the Nikon D80 Body. It was hard to find but nevertheless its what i wanted. I have two lenses that came with my nikon D40X, but i know that getting into portrait photography i need better lenses. My question is what do i need! i have heard so many different opinions. Someone said the 85mm 1.8, someone else said 50mm 1.4 and someone else said sigma 28-300mm macro would give me the best versatility. I want to be able to take very detailed close up shots as well as soft portraits and full length shots. My budget is around 400. I appreciate any information that you all have to offer!
  2. jean,
    there are several lenses out there within your budget which will fir your portrait/macro needs:
    nikon 60mm, tamron 60mm, sigma 70mm, tamron 90mm, sigma 100mm, tokina 105mm.
    the 70 and 90 mm options might be your best bet.
    btw, 28-300 wont give optimal IQ or 1:1 macro. 85 and 50 arent macro lenses either.
  3. I was in your shoes a couple of months ago. I had the D80 with the kit lens 18-135. I wanted to get a lens that can do macro and portrait. I went with the Sigma 105mm Macro, and never looked back. This lens also fits your budget, as it's exactly $400. The lens never came off my camera ever since.

  4. A great lens that would work well for BOTH types of photography is the unheralded 28-105 3.5-4.5 nikon lens. This has a great range for portrait work plus a macro focusing feature (well,alright, it focuses down to 1:2)
    If you limit yourself to just a 105mm lens, you're going to be wishing you had some more variation for portraits. The 28-105, is a great all-purpose lens == admittedly not offering a wide angle.
  5. Jean: how much room do you have to work? A full-length shot using a D80 and a 50mm lens means standing more than 15 feet away from your subject. And that's with the camera in vertical/portrait orientation ... if you have a reason to frame in horizontal/landscape orientation, that standing person is going to have to be close to twenty feet from the camera. If you went with a 60, or an 85, or a 105, you'd have to be quite a bit farther away still.

    But then, very detailed close-up face shots should involve a long enough lens that the facial features aren't distorted by the acute perspective effects of shooting from physically too close. A 60 might be a pretty good compromise.
  6. Thank you all for your input. I will definately research the lenses you have mentioned. I mainly do portraits so i'm thinking i may go with a lens that fits that category more... I have heard it is possible to buy some kind of macro filter? could i possibly buy a suitable portrait lens and then put the filter on the end?
  7. Get a 35 for full-body, 50 for half-body and/or 85 or 105 for headshots. Some people prefer a bit longer, some a bit shorter. Something like a 50-135 zoom would be handy, but there aren't that many options in that market. General mid-range zooms are usually slow and don't offer good enough quality in the long end.
    If you want cheap macro, get a tele lens or telezoom (NOT anything below 70) and put a high quality diopter (macro lens) on it. Option 2 is to get a basic, slowish 50 or 105 and get some extension rings behind it, but I greatly prefer just looking for an old second hand 55 mm macro lens.
    There some hybrid options too, such as the 60/2.8 micro-Nikkor, but those have their compromises.
  8. There is a certain amount of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" here. But here are my ideas.
    For macros nothing, and I mean NOTHING, beats the 105mm prime AF-S VR 2.8 micro (say macro) lens.
    And for portraits you do not need to waste the money buying an f/1.4 lens. That is just plain silly. If you were that dedicated and/or wealthy you would be shooting with a D3X. The 50mm prime f/1.8 is just perfect for portraits, especially on a DX camera like the D80. It is cheap, light weight, and sharp as a tack.
  9. To do both (head)portraits and macro, get a 90~105mm macro. Tokina, Tamron, Nikon (though that will exceed budget), Sigma: you cannot really go wrong with either one. The Tamron and Tokina are both within your quoted budget.
    In time, you can see if you need more lenses for portraits, but to "get started" now, I think you're best off with one of these.
  10. I use my Nikon 105mm AF-S 2.8 vr micro for both portraits and macros. I also use the Nikon 50mm 1.4 for portraits. But the micro is great for both, imo. I shoot with a D80.
    You may want to think about using extention tubes (I have Kenko for Nikon) for 'macros'. I started macro shooting by using them and it quickly escalated into my 105mm :) But the tubes are inexpensive and work great! They are a bit tricky at first and work best with a prime lens. (I will agree with Paul Garland, nothing beats the 105mm)
  11. The Kenko tubes for Nikon run about 170 bucks. A good price to pay if you are 'trying or testing out' if you like to shoot macro. Plus, if you buy a micro/macro down the road, the tubes will work well with the lens as well.
  12. You have focussed on lenses, but I have to wonder if you've thought about the really important thing--lights? Are you using monolights such as B800, or do you have three or four Nikon SB flash? What about a softbox? What other light modifiers do you have? If the answer is, as I suspect, "none" then this is where you need to put the money. The difference between a pro portrait and a snapshot is not the camera or the lens, it's the lighting. Take a really close look at portraits taken by pros and you will quickly see this. The cheap photo places at Walmart etc. have put more money on lighting than camera & lens. Next time you go by one, peek inside and look at that huge softbox they have. Even outdoor portraits generally have an extensive lighting system--light stands, monolights, octobox, reflectors, etc. Simply getting your flash off camera on onto a light stand using CyberSync trigger would be a better improvement than buying a new lens.
    For $400, buy two Nikon SB-25 flash from E Bay ($100,) two cheap lightstands ($50,) two umbrella swivels ($20,) and two 36 inch umbrellas ($75.) Buy two CyberSync triggers and transmitter ($200) or find used on E Bay. Also get a four in one type folding reflector. The difference in your portraits will be dramatic; you will be stunned. Lens, not so much.

    Kent in SD
  13. Forgot to mention. For the close up shots, buy a Canon 500D for your longest current lens. They work great. There's another brand available on E Bay (Marumi?) that might even be less money and give more magnification. Buy a small Lumiquest softbox for one of the SB-25 flash I suggest above and you have excellent macro capability. Even with close up shots, lighting is a key. That's where to put your money.
    Kent in SD
  14. Kent- I do have an umbrella lighting setup. Its cheap but it works. I thought it would be something good to start out with to play around with lighting. I also have an external flash.. sb600. I dont have any kind of setup to set it up away from my camera though. Thanks for all of the tips!
  15. Get a real SC-27 or an off brand one (a friend of mine had some no-name one and it worked flawlessly with his SB-600, but YMMV) -- this will get your flash off camera and preserve TTL. Not sure what kind of TTL the D80 supports, but you might also want to use the integrated flash as a master. Natural light or one light (possibly with natural light) goes far if you know how to apply them.
    Don't stress too much about the gear; make some decision where you want to go, buy a minimum set for that (e.g. a single lens) and then work on it from there. With experience you will know what more you will need. Of course in the meantime you will be tempted to buy more stuff, but that's another story ;-)
  16. I am by no means an expert here but I think a lot of the responses dont really fit your needs as far as budget. Personally I would go with the advice given of the 50mm f1.8 and stop there right now. Once you have worked with it you can grow into your next lens. Perhaps as Kent said the money would be better spent in lighting and I dont think anyone mentioned a light meter but I would add that as an essential. Lenses are like heroin habits. Its all consuming and leaves you always wanting just one more. I think you should focus on mastering the 50mm which is really a 75mm for you and disregard fancy accessories etc or more expensive lenses. you may find that you bought something you never wanted or needed and did not realize it at the time. Just my thoughts. Peter
  17. I'd suggest the Nikon 60mm micro-Nikkor. For one, you get true macro focusing, to 1:1. Second, on a DX cropped sensor body, it gives the functiomality of a 90mm lens, which isn't far removed from 85mm, one of those excellent focal lengths for portraits. If you buy an 85mm, it won't be good for macro without accessories, and the cropped factor will look like a 125mm lens. I don't care what zoom you look at, but only one Nikon zoom really does true macro, and that is the no-longer-made Micro Nikkor 70-180mm zoom. Anything else just close focuses, but does not do real macrophotography.
  18. For macros nothing, and I mean NOTHING , beats the 105mm prime AF-S VR 2.8 micro (say macro) lens.​
    that's a pretty strong statement but in actuality, the tamron 90mm is sharper and significantly cheaper. the nikon 105 VR is good for double duty because of VR, but for macro performance, there are plenty of lenses which are as good or better. in fact, just about all of them will deliver good IQ. the nikon is great for handheld macros, but it's almost 2x the OP's budget.
    The 50mm prime f/1.8 is just perfect for portraits, especially on a DX camera like the D80. It is cheap, light weight, and sharp as a tack.​
    there are two problems with the 50/1.8. it's not actually "just perfect" for portraits on DX as 75mm (equiv.) is kind of a 'tweener length. it's too long for walkaround use and just a little short for the portrait "sweet spot" which is around 85mm. the other problem is the bokeh is quite harsh. the nikon 50/1.4 AF-S and sigma 50/1.4 HSM both have better bokeh, which is why you'd want to use them for portraiture . one thing i've noticed about the 50/1.8 is it's quite soft wide open. even at 2.8, its not really sharper than the tamron 17-50 wide open. still, the 50/1.8 is a very good deal for the money, and can be used with a Canon 500d for improved close-up performance. but if i were you, i'd go for the sigma 70mm or the tamron 90mm.
  19. It's crucial to get the SB-600 off camera. That way, you don't have direct on lighting and can control the shadow. That will give you the "pro" look. You can get the flash off the camera three ways. One is to use a sync cord such as Nikon SC-29 (or is it SC-27?) That will get you about three feet, which might not be enough. The second way is to use an optical slave. These slide onto the base of the flash and trip the flash when you fire your D40 pop up flash. Indoors, they work pretty well. No TTL, but simply take test shots and adjust the power level on flash manually. Third way is to buy radio triggers such as CyberSync. There are also cheap triggers on E Bay, some of which are getting decent now. With these you can trigger flash from 30 to 450 feet away. I suggest buying older Nikon SB-25 flash because they are relatively cheap, have plenty of power, and are easy to use in manual mode. If your main photo pursuit is people portraits, putting together a lighting system is the best use of your money. There's another forum on Photo Net here called "Lighting" and the people there are more into that than they might be on a general info Nikon board.
    Kent in SD
    One SB-800 with Lumiquest softbox, off camera, fired by Nikon CLS. If this is the sort of thing you want to do, you need lights, reflectors, softbox/umbrellas, etc.
  20. Jean,
    I did a brief overview of the posts, however I didn't see what lenses you actually have. I would guess, if you moved on from the 40x, the 18-55 and 55-200? I would suggest using what lenses you have to go take portraits, and figure out which focal length fits you best. Your current lenses may not be able to give optimal dof control, but they would definitely serve you well in helping you to find out which FL fits you best. I may actually go for a lighting related equipment if portrature is your key focus (I am still pondering how I can deploy a BD at a zoo....)
    Macro? My affordable recommendation - 55mm 2.8 AIS Micro Nikkor. You'll need to manual focus of course, and there is probably no metering on your camera. With macro metering and AF isn't too critical imo, since I use manual focus and manual metering anyways when doing macro stuff. The 55/2.8 goes down to 1:2 natively, with a extension tube goes down to 1:1, and does really well at infinity focus - I've done people portraits with it - damn good glass. But because it's manual focus, it doesn't work really well when babies are moving all over :( Also, even wide open it does tend to get a little too sharp - certain things you do not want to resolve on your photo.
    (PS: I love this lens and use it most of the time when I'm not in a wildlife park or zoo. So. I'm biased)
    If you really want to spend money on a new lens for human portraiture, I'm the wrong guy to give you advice. I do portraiture of "wildlife" and my fl starts at 200mm ;-)
  21. I think the 50mm 1.4 is my favorite lens. I have a D700 but I loved it on my D200 too. The 85mm would be better for tight head shots, 50mm better for full length. I don't think you can go wrong with the 50mm though.
  22. For half-length portraits you can use a 50mm 1.8 with a bounce flash or use the built in flash in manual mode, with the lowest power setting to trigger the sb600 (off camera) with a flash slave attachment
    For headshots : inexpensive 55-200mm VR with the same off camera flash setup
  23. For half-length portraits you can use a 50mm 1.8 with a bounce flash or use the built in flash in manual mode, with the lowest power setting to trigger the sb600 (off camera) with a flash slave attachment
    For headshots : inexpensive 55-200mm VR with the same off camera flash setup
  24. I agree with Alvin: it would be good to experiment with the lenses you have to get a feel for the type of focal lengths you need for different shots. You are getting every one else's preferences but not your own. I have been shooting informal portraits for 40 years and have sucessfully used everything from a 28mm lens to a 200mm lens for typical head and shoulders shots. Some of it depends on the type of portrait. If you want to include some of the background as in an "environmental" portrait, you use a wider angle lens. For full length 50mm or less depending on the amount of room you have. For head and shoulders I like 50mm 1.4 or 1.8 on DX or FX. For tight head shots 85-105 on DX is nice, but I have done it with the 50mm as well. If you look through my people portfolio and my 70's portfolio you will see many examples of portraits with different focal lengths. Latey I have been using a D80 too.
  25. An image shot with the 55-200mm VR with an off camera flash, triggered by the builtin flash at manual mode - lowest power setting
  26. Shot with D70, 18-70 kit lens at 65mm, window light and slight fill flash from camera.
  27. the nikon 50/1.4 AF-S and sigma 50/1.4 HSM both have better bokeh, which is why you'd want to use them for portraiture
    The bokeh from the Sigma 50mm f1.4 is intoxicatingly smooth, and it allows me to shoot indoors w/o flash with a reasonable working distance (I don't have to back out of the room to focus). Think of the Nikon 50mm f1.8, which I also have, as an inexpensive, light, all around lens, but it is not designed to do portraiture, and its bokeh overall is ill defined if not a bit harsh (by comparing to the Sigma). The DPreview just posted the review for Nikon's new 50 mm f1.4. It seems that although the new Nikon is much improved in the area of bokeh, the Sigma verson is better still and the Sigma is better wide open in sharpness. In contrast, the Nikon is lighter, smaller, and is optimized to provide striking corner to corner sharpness stopping down.
  28. Environmental type portrait, Nikon F (film) 28mm lens.
  29. D80, 35mm f 2.0 lens at f 5.6
  30. D70, 50mm f 1.4 lens at f 2.0, natural light.
  31. Nikon F (film), 105mm lens, natural light
  32. oops, here's the shot.
  33. Nikon F (film) 50mm f 1.4 wide open
  34. Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro, or aNikon 50/1.8 Both are super sharp lenses and best for DX portrait. 400 budget ? . . . the AF 50/1.8 (= 75mm a perfect and super sharp portrait lens on a DX body, and better for full portrait too).
  35. Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro, or aNikon 50/1.8 Both are super sharp lenses and best for DX portrait. 400 budget ? . . . the AF 50/1.8 (= 75mm a perfect and super sharp portrait lens on a DX body, and better for full portrait too).
  36. > For macros nothing, and I mean NOTHING, beats the 105mm prime AF-S VR 2.8 micro (say macro) lens.
    The 105mm VR 2.8 is a great lens, but optically there are better lenses. And depending on the type of subject one shoots mostly, other options might be better. Nikon's Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4 offers a more comfortable working distance which is useful for shooting insects and shy animals. Then there's Nikon's excellent 70-180 Micro-Nikkor zoom, or the shorter focal length Micro-Nikkors, which are great for product photography.
    I've the 105mm VR 2.8 myself, and whilst I certainly think it's a lovely lens also suitable for shooting portraits, the earlier versions had AF which was prone to hunting. In addition, the lens has some lateral and longitudal chromatic aberration and lacks the biting sharpness of my 35 year old Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5 P.C. For portraiture work, that's a good thing, but for close-up photography, I often prefer the 55, which is much more compact and weighs nearly two times less.
    John Shaw, the renowned nature photographer states in his book 'Closeups in Nature' that his favorite 'flower portrait lens' is (was) a 200mm f/4 telephoto, in combination with some extension and/or a closeup filter. And there are plenty of lovely butterfly and bug shots in his books shot with the 300mm f/4.5ED IF telephoto lens. Both options give you a very comfortable working distance, and are hard to beat optically. Yes, you'd lose the convenience of autofocus, but most delicate macro work requires manual focus anyway.
    As for good portrait lenses on DX: I use a 20mm f/2.8D for group shots indoors, a 28mm f/2.8 AI-S for environmental portraits, a 50mm f/1.4 for half body shots and the 105mm f/2.8 VR for head shots. If I didn't had the 105, I'd use a 85mm f/1.4, which I believe is still the king of portrait lenses. Not cheap, though.
  37. Generally you want a longer than "normal" (50mm in FX, 35mm in DX) because they will compress features, which is generally more flattering. Also the smaller DOF has its benefits.
    In the FX world (or old 35mm film world), the standard was somewhere between 90mm and 120mm. The rough equivalent on the DX D80 would be a 60mm to 80mm. You can go longer, but usually you start getting into issues with camera to subject distance and/or minimum focusing distance of the lens.
    Personally I shoot the Nikon 60mm f2.8 macro and 85mm f1.8, both of which are affordable great lenses. The 85mm is frankly the sharpest lens I've ever used and has extraordinary DOF/bokeh quality (people claim the 85mm f1.4 has even better bokeh - but it's damn expensive). Both my lenses are pre-D, which makes them even cheaper, but they don't lack quality and I've never found an issue on the D80 or any other camera.
    The 50mm f1.8 is also very affordable and at 1.5x crop of DX (approx 75mm equiv) makes a pretty good portrait lens, but I don't find it as compelling as 60mm or above. Still, it's definitely a very sharp lens.
    Certainly you can get good/great photos from lenses of less than 50mm, but you can start to get apparent distortion of features, like noses, that are less than appealing. Also you can be forced to get closer to your subject than comfortable.
  38. PS: It's a bit more expensive, but the Nikon 35-70mm f2.8 makes a great all round and portrait lens. It also does amazing macro...
  39. For the kind of Portrait work I do, the lighting is much more importat to me than the lens. I shoot Canon and use a 17-40 F4L and alien Bees Studio Strobe. If I want to get close-up detail I use my 70-200 Zoom lens stand about a foot away a zoom into the eye, hair or lips depending on what detail I am looking for. I would suggest NOT purchasing anything else until you learn what you already have. I took great shots with my 18-55 cheapo kit lens because portrait shots often look better a little soft without too much detail.
  40. The Nikon 60 and 105 are amazing. The Tamron 90 is also a great lens.

    Basically, for portraits the focal length breaks down to how much working distance you want/have. For head shots, too wide of a lens can be unflattering, but anything 50 and longer on DX is fine.

    For macro, the question of working distance is also important, but perspective becomes involved. Many people seem to shoot down the 60 micro because the 105 offers more working distance, but forget about perspective. Of the flower shots I've seen, I like ones taken with the 60 more.
    As far as the 50 AF-S goes. It is a great lens, and great for portraits. This is one of my favorite lenses. However, it does not do well for macro or close up work, because it has a maximum magnification of 1:0.16.

    Your budget of $400 comes close to either the Nikon 60 or the Tamron 90. Personally, I would go with the Nikon for build quality, but the Tamron is also nice. I have gotten to use both and think that you would probably be happy with either. If you don't need autofocus (and for portraits/macro you probably won't) the old Nikkor 55 AIS macro is also a great lens, and could be had within your budget.
  41. Yeah, but on the D80 the Nikon 55mm AIS would only work with manual metering unfortunately... :-(
    I agree on the Tamron 90 - great lens as well. Wish I still had mine.
    If you buy used from say KEH, $400 will get you just about anything you want, particularly if you choose "Bargain", which usually they are in great shape...
  42. Thank you ALL for your great suggestions. After looking at and messing with a friend of mines 35-70 2.8 i am definately going to purchase that after i have some experience with the 50 1.8 i just ordered :) Thank you all again your suggestions were very helpful!
  43. I think you will be pleased with the 50mm F1.8. There is a guy on here named Vladamir Labaj I believe and I see his work in the Fashion galleries. The pictures he gets with that little 50mm F1.8 are nothing short of amazing. He is my favorite and proof that you dont need to spend yourself broke to get that picture.
  44. A good rule of thumb, works for any camera, is: You want to be about 6 feet away from the subject for a head shot. Use a lens that works for you at this distance.

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