Which nikon portrait lens to buy?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by igor_gefter, Dec 19, 2010.

  1. I am a new owner of the D7000.
    Currently have a couple lenses and looking to buy a multi use zoom, that will be used mostly for PORTRAITS for now. I also have a
    four year old boy that I would be shooting at his activities such as as sports, drama club, etc.
    I have a cheap consumer grade nikkor 70-200, but have never been able to get acceptable results from it.
    With the new D7000 I am ready to invest into a pro quality glass.
    I will be buying used, nevertheless. Is there the best place as far ad reputation and best prices to get used glass from?

    Looking for ideas of what lens I should be looking for.

    Somebody is selling a 80-200 f 2.8 AF-D ED macro for $700 locally.
    Is that a lens to get and is it a good deal? Or is there another one you would recomend getting?

    Looking for something that wod last me many years to come with great results that will not keep me looking for something else.

    Any ideas will be great appreciated.
  2. i would recommend the 24-70mm 2.8, its amazing.
    of course, in about ten mins there will be a hundred replies telling you to buy something else, good luck
    with your selection.
  3. +1 for 24-70. its highly future-proof and will be a V.Good portrait lens on DX. 80-200 will be on the longish side on DX, you'd be starting at 120mm on 35mm, which is at the edge of the portrait range. 24-70 covers 36-105 on DX so better working distance indoors. the 24-70's build and focusing speed are second to none. if you can't swing that, i'd look at getting a used tokina 50-135 or sigma 50-150II--that extra 30mm on the wide end will make a difference.
  4. ps igor, i assume you mean nikon 70-210? the nikon 70-200s are NOT consumer lenses.
  5. I would take a long look at the new 24-120 F4 VR. On dx it will be equivalent to a 36-180. Focus is not as brisk as the 24-70, but you do get some extended range that would be useful for portraits.
  6. pps if you're on a budget, tamron 28-75/2.8 will also be good portrait lens on DX. not as good as the nikkor wide open, but very good at f/4 on down...with a small, active child, more room on the wide end becomes important.
    of course it all depends on how close you are to the action...if you're shooting drama club from the seats or sports from the stands, longer is usually better. OTOH, a long tele will be too long for candid indoor shots most of the time. the main advantage of the 80-200 over the 70-210 is sharpness, 2.8 aperture and better subject isolation at open apertures. since you already have something in that length (which should be as good as anything at f/8), you can determine whether you need a faster lens which duplicates that range, or something wider and faster (which would be my recommendation).
  7. There is/was a Nikkor 80-200/3.5-5.6 AF-D lens, definitely consumer level, available as a low cost alternative to various 80-200/2.8 lenses.
    A 24-70/2.8 would be perfect as a normal to medium tele zoom lens on a DX camera (like the D7000), where the effective focal length is 36-105 mm. An used 28-70/2.8 is nearly as good and for far less money. This is a good length for adult portraits. An 80-200/2.8 is good for children, who are less intimidated if you keep some distance, at least as a second lens.
  8. Here's what I would do: get that 80-200 f2.8 for $700 because you cannot touch the 24-70 for that money. then, as budget allows, I'd get, in this order, the 50mm F1.4, the 24mm F2.8 and finally the 35mm f1.8. I have a D300 and walk around basically with the 24 and the 50 and that covers everything I want to do- except those rare occasions when I want a long tele. Both those lenses focus fast because they're small (and you can get the 50mm F1.4 in its best version now as an AF-S lens which will focus super fast). The 35mm F1.8 is a gem and also in the suepr fast AF-S and I have taken some really wonderful portraits with that, especially in low light.
    Another lens no one has mentioned today as a complement to the 80-200 is the Tamron 17-50 f2.8 which is very highly praised 'round here and can be had far far less expensively than the 24-70 f2.8. Admittedly, the 24-70 and the 70-200 f2.8 currently test, along with the 100mm prime, I believe (perhaps the 105/2.8? I can't remember) as Nikon's best performing lenses on the DxO Mark site.
    None of these lenses will lose a significant amount of value over time. That's what's nice about good lenses. Or so I tell my wife.
  9. Somebody is selling a 80-200 f 2.8 AF-D ED macro for $700 locally. Is that a lens to get and is it a good deal?​
    It's only a "good deal" if it's the two ring version, with the tripod foot. It's a good lens for your boy's sports and drama club. Personally, for my style of portraits, it's near useless, as it has pretty ugly bokeh (the "quality" of the out of focus parts of the background), and it's a bit long. I shoot most of my portraits at 85, 105, or 135mm on FF, which means a zoom should cover 58-90mm.
    The D7000 can meter with manual focus Nikkors, both old ones, and new ones with "chips".
    • If you've got room, a big indoor space to work in, or you're shooting outdoor portraits mostly, an old 105mm f2.5 Ai-S is an amazing portrait lens, at about $100-200 on the used market. As an older lens, it meters in M and A mode only on your D7000, but that's really all you need for portraits.
    • The Voigtlander 58mm f1.4 SL II, another manual focus lens, but a new one, currently in production, with a chip so it meters in P, S, A, and M modes, is another pretty mean portrait lens, good for a more "formal" head and torso portrait at easy 8-10 foot distances.
    • The Samyang (yes, I am serious, they do make 1 or 2 good lenses, and this one will surprise you) 85mm f1.4 is a $400 portrait lens of amazing character and capability. It's a new lens, but has no chip, so M and A mode only. Again, that's no problem for portraits.
    The 24-70mm f2.8 is simply amazing, and priced insanely high.
    The Tamron 90mm macro is a surprisingly capable portrait lens, with a bokeh that is much more pleasing than the typical macro, and it's a good "intermediate" length for portraits. It's a good lens to look at if you think you're going to be doing any macro (food, flowers, small creatures, product) in addition to portrait, but not the best lens if all you want is portrait.
  10. I think a Sigma APO 50-150mm f/2.8 HSM would be perfect for the items you describe and also give you the "ideal" focal length for portrait; 105mm (by way of the 70mm choice with the D7000 body), but it's about $700-750 new.
  11. Get the 18-200 Nikkor, you wont need any other lenses for quite a while, if ever.
  12. You have a DX body, why not look at the 17-55. It a lot cheaper than the 24-70 but is a pro lens too. I believe the 24-120 F4 might also be a very interesting alternative to consider. I have the 24-70 and it is stunning, but I use it on a D700.
  13. I am sorry, I failed to mention that I already have the Tamron 17-50 f2.8 lens and love it.
    Should I just use it as aportrai lens? I know, it is a little short in the zoom, but it is so versatile!
    I guess, it would give me 75 mm portraits, is that enough, or should I look for something slightly longer?
  14. If you already have the 17-50 Tamron, which you _can_ use for portraits down to bust-length shots, that 80-200 Nikkor will go longer, and serve you well for the school plays, and sports.
  15. Are you happy with the range of the 17-50mm for portraits. For some it might be a bit short. For out door sports the 80-200mm f2.8 type zooms would be a good starting point. Maybe a little short if you are on the other side of the field though. A Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 might be a good portrait lens or the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8.
  16. I have a 70-300 VR that is awesome for portraits of my 8-year old. Sometimes my 18-70 is better indoors, but I took my favorite photo of him with the 70-300 VR all the way at 300.
    I think that the 80-200 would be better BUT... if it's candid portraits, big heavy lenses take a long time to move. I think I would have missed this photo if I had the bigger heavier lens.
    I think an FX standard zoom is a bad choice for shooting kid pix. Too often I have to go wider than 24 for something environmental, and something that big and heavy will be hard to hold for the very lengthy times I find myself with the camera to my face just in case magic happens.
  17. acm


    Portraits? Only 85 mm 1.4
  18. Portraits? Only 85 mm 1.4​
    Good luck shooting a 4-year old with that...
  19. @Igor: A used 28-70mm f/2.8 would meet your needs. It has fine optical quality, can produce a fairly shallow depth of field, and has very nice bokeh. Additionally, it will work well for stage and some sports situations. Not cheap though, even used. My favorite lens, DX or FX.

    While not primarily a portrait photographer, I have numerous CD artist photo credits using my 28-70mm on DX. I just scored an album cover with it on FX (as in 12" LP plus CD). For stage work (primarily music and modern dance), this is my DX money lens. Some will say that a 28-70mm on DX makes no sense. Not so. From the front row, it's near perfect.

    As to buying used, I prefer local vendors. I've heard good things about KEH (www.keh.com), but haven't used them.
  20. On film the "optimal portrait range" is somewhere in the 60mm-135mm range with some photographers and can range up to 200mm depending on who you ask. This translates to roughly 45mm-90mm on DX, with some people telling you that you can go all the way to a 135mm.
    Because of this, I'm going to throw a wrench into everything and suggest either the Nikkor AF-S or SIGMA HSM 50mm f/1.4. Call me a purist, but for portraits I don't think anything compares with a fast prime.
    50mm on DX is roughly equivalent to 75mm on film/FX, which is on the slightly wide end of the "optimal portrait range". You could also look at the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 (D or G, doesn't matter) and you would be on the other end of the "optimal portrait range" on DX.
    OTOH, if you are looking for a good all purpose ZOOM that you can use for portraits, I'd go with either the Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 or the 24-70mm f/2.8. The 17-55 is a great standard zoom on DX and the long end is great for portraits. The 24-70 is a standard zoom on FX and will future-proof you in case you ever move up to an FX format camera. It also gets you further into the "optimal portrait range" on the long end on DX.
    Finally, I'll bring the 105mm f/2 DC into the conversation. This is a beautiful lens that is just slightly long for most portrait photographers on DX. HOWEVER, this lens has defocus control which, when used properly, renders some of the best BOKEH for portraits. It's fast, although if hunts for focus on some cameras...never tried it on the D7000, and it's relatively small, although heavy. This is my "inconspicuous" lens that I love to use at NBA games (no pro photographic equipment allowed) and for children's portraits and sports. Portraits because I can be far enough away that they will act more natural and sports because it's a medium telephoto and kids don't move quite as fast on the field.
    Just a few more things to think about.
  21. I you are serious about portraits, the 85/1.4 either the AF or the newer AF-S Nikkor lenses will work the best Nikon can offer for this purpose. No need to wish you luck, just get some experience.
  22. it would give me 75 mm portraits, is that enough, or should I look for something slightly longer?
    this changes the conversation slightly, since there would be too much overlap with 28-70 or 28-75. again, 50-135 or 50-150 are perfect complements to 17-50--i used that combo for three years.
    the other alternative i see is 85/1.8 or 85/1.4--a 50/1.4 will only give you a wider aperture over 17-50/2.8--for a bit more length. but since we're talking about kid pics, i think a zoom would be so much better than a prime.
  23. Btw no one has mentioned it but according to B&H the Sigma 50-150 has been discontinued (except for Pentax which they still have in stock). Since it's so good and so well liked I am assuming they're bringing out another version for more $$$.
  24. KEH is a great source for used lenses. Their rating system is quite conservative. I have bought bargain grade lenses that look like new.
    Making a lens recommendation without knowing what lenses you currently and the exact shooting conditions you intend to shoot under is difficult. For example, if you are shooting mainly outdoors in good light, Nikon's 70-300mm VR lens is a good choice if your son. If he is going to be closer to you, Nikon's 18-200mm may be a good choice. If you are going to be shooting indoors and/or in poor light, an f2.8 lens like the one you mention is a must. Or perhaps a 50mm f1.8 will do the trick. So, if you can provide additional details, it may be easier to narrow down the choices for you.
    In any case, your pictures will improve the most with improved technique regardless of the lenses you use.
  25. +1 for tokina 50-135mm or sigma 50-150mm.

    For prime, the new sigma 85mm 1.4 is great and if budget is a constraint, get a used nikon 85mm 1.8.
  26. Thanks all for the replies.
    I have been given way too much information and need to take some time to sort it out
    and decide what would be the right choice for my situation.

    In a meanwhile, the guy is selling an older
    Nikor 80-200 2.8 AF-D for $700 (I know it is old, but is still a pro quality lens)
    Is this a really good deal or should I pass on it and get a lighter 70-300vr or 55-200vr ?

    I will need a zoom lens fir outdoor auction shots of my kid sooner or later.

    What would be a better choice for this purpose from the three lenses listed above?
  27. You can buy a brand new 80-200 for $1100 with a 5-year warranty. I have two Nikon pro-level lenses that have been in for a total of 6-7 repairs. [Hard use, no abuse.] Personally, I'd buy new as I've exercised the warranty repeatedly. One minimum repair charge on that 80-200mm is likely to cost at least $400. YMMV.
    You need to figure out what you actually need, what you can afford, and what risks you're willing to take -- then go from there. The lens choices you pose all have somewhat different applications and strengths. I suggest that you sit down and figure out exactly what you plan to shoot and your priorities. It's not going to be a single lens in the long term, since no lens does it all. Consider getting the 'best' lens for what you specifically want to accomplish now (other than 'everything').
    The 70-300mm VR may be the best compromise lens. The 105mm equiv. should be good for portraits and you'll be able to get action shots from a distance.
    I haven't used this lens, so I can't recommend it first-hand. Drawbacks: No really shallow depth of field for portraits, unknown bokeh (at least to me), and long working distance for most portraits. Some people say any lens is a portrait lens, and I'll provisionally agree. On DX, I've gone 17-200mm or so, as long as can I get wide apertures and decent bokeh. However, the sweet spot for DX generally is in the 50-70mm range, unless you have some particular style that demands otherwise. The 70-300mm is on the edge of this, but workable.
  28. igor, i would recommend a 50-150 over a 70-300 VR (or 70-300 VC, which has better IQ and build quality than the nikon version). you can still find new ones out there, though its been discontinued, as well as used copies. the 50-150 covers the entire portrait range on DX and does so with constant 2.8 aperture. stopped down to 5.6, it's as sharp as anything out there and bokeh is impressive. i would say it's pretty comparable to the 70-200 II in terms of IQ--the nikkor is a bit 'cleaner' and the sigma slightly warmer and more contrastier, but the biggest difference is FF compatibility and VR, also size--which is pretty impressive considering it costs $1400 less. maybe at some point, i'll get around to testing the two lenses against each other.
    an 80-200 for $700 is a good deal if its in good condition, but, as i said earlier, that may be too long for portraits, except outdoor portraits. on DX its 120-300, which is far outside of the portrait 'sweet spot' chris mentions. i wouldn't let price determine choice, since you will be stuck with this lens for a while. the 50-150 is simply a better length and weight for what you want to do, and i doubt its optically any worse than the older nikkor.
  29. For 35mm film cameras, lenses in the 75mm to 105mm range were generally considered to be portrait lenses, with 75mm and 85mm lenses at the shorter end of that range excellent for environmental portraits showing some of the subject's surroundings, and 105mm lenses at the longer end of that range good for head and shoulder shots. The classic portrait lenses for Nikon 35mm SLR film cameras were 85mm and 105mm fixed focal length lenses. The classic portrait lens for Leica 35mm RF film cameras were 90mm fixed focal length lenses. Leica also currently makes a couple of 75mm lenses for RF film and digital cameras which work well as portrait lenses.
    If you have a digital camera body with a "crop factor," you would have to adjust those focal lengths accordingly to match the camera you are using.
    Lenses longer than 105mm or so, in 35mm film format, such as 135mm and 200mm lenses, are too long to be much use as portrait lenses, although they are good telephotos for shooting sports events, wildlife and the like.
    People seem to like zoom lenses because they offer considerable flexibility in focal lengths without having to change lenses. The downside of zooms is that they are typically larger, heavier, have smaller maximum apertures, and are less useful for shooting under available light conditions than fixed focal length lenses. Fixed focal length lenses are typically smaller, lighter, faster, and better for available-light shooting, but one trades off flexibility in composing and framing for those qualities.
  30. Thank you all for responses as they are much appreciated.
    I ended up picking up a deal I just could not refuse.
    The guy was selling a three months old Nikkor 80-200 ED F2.8 for $575. It looks absolutely brand new for half price.
    It is not exactly an ideal portrait only lens. Yet, I will end up using it for theater shows and sports my son is involved in.
    I am also planning to use it outside for portraits or indoors when the space allows.
  31. That will work great for most of what you want to do. If you pick up a 50mm f1.4 -- AF-D in the $200 range and the new better AF-S for $400++ (or the Sigma 50/1.4 which people love, also in the 400++range) -- or, perfectly serviceable though the bokeh freaks don't like it's bokeh which to me is like complaining about the precise temperature of your ice cream -- for hardly more than $100,. the 50/1.8 AF-D -- then you will be COMPLETELY covered.
    I hardly take the AF-D 50mm F1.4 off my D300 now that I've gotten it.
  32. The best lens may be the pro version of the lens you have now, if you like the focal range. The 70-200mm f/2.8 VR is
    one stellar piece of glass. I purchased mine on eBay for $1,250. As new, in the box. The better the lens you get, the
    more you will enjoy your camera.

    Best deals on eBay are often times buy it now. Look every half hour till you see what you want in your price. Use pay
    pal and look for a seller with a good reputation. I purchased a lens once on eBay for more than some good used cars
    sell for. This was the first time the seller had used eBay. A warning sign to be sure. I had the gentelman take the
    lens to a local camera store in his area, and they checked it out for me, and I paid them, and they shipped it for me.

    (edit. Missed the fact you posted your purchase. Great lens, you will love it!)
  33. Peter made a great post, but how you use your lenses all breaks down to your own personal shooting style. Some
    people think the 300mm f/2.8 is the greatest portrait lens ever invented. Others want in a little closer, while still
    staying far away with a 135mm f/2 DC. I happen to like a 70-200mm VR at the sweet spot of 100mm for portraits.
    The lens you choose will do portraits, shoot sports and be a great all around lens if you like the lens. The magic will
    happen in your hands, not in the equipment.

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