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Leica Portrait Lens


willscarlett

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I realize this is a subjective question, but I’m wondering which is a more appropriate portrait lens for Leica - the 75mm or 90mm. I typically use an 85mm with my DSLR sand mirrorless systems. I’m pondering renting the Leica Monochrom and would only pick one, if I elected to rent a longer lens. A friend also told me that the frame guides get smaller as the focal length increases. I don’t know if that’s true, but basically 75mm would give a larger frame guide than 90mm. I’m looking at the APO lenses and from what I’ve read they’re both very good, with the 90mm having more aperture blades.

 

Thank you!

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frame guides get smaller as the focal length increases. I don’t know if that’s true, but basically 75mm would give a larger frame guide than 90mm

It is true - how else could it be with a finder that has a fixed magnification?

For headshots I'd take the 90, for half-body, the 75. Personally, I'd take the non-APO Summicron 90.

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... I’m wondering which is a more appropriate portrait lens for Leica - the 75mm or 90mm. ... I’m looking at the APO lenses ...

Actually, it's not that subjective. If you're really serious about portraits, and if you REALLY want to spend your money, try the newest Leica 90mm Thambar-M f/2.2; this is the ideal portrait lens (very soft). I would NOT chose a Leica Apo Asph lens; they are far too sharp for portrait work unless you plan to add a diffuser filter.

 

OTOH, you could save allot of money and try a 90mm Elmarit f/2.8 form the 1960s or an Elmar f/4. These hazed lenses are actually ideal for portraits as long as they're calibrated (adjusted for front and back focusing) properly.

 

The 90mm FL is your best choice. Any 75mm lens option I know of would be too sharp. Besides, the 90mm FL puts you at the optimum distance to the subject. That's my opinion anyway.

The future ain't what it used to be ...

– Yogi Berra

 

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75mm would give a larger frame guide than 90mm

True but how does the 75mm frame look like? - To me: Too close to "unusable"; I got 90mms for that reason. Which Monochrom are you pondering the current M240 based? - If so an Apo Sumicron combined with the EVF might work for portraiture. - Otherwise: Run from it! - Odds to nail focus wide open are way too low; so yes I do once agree with:

I wouldn't spend money on anything faster than f/2.8.

(FTR: my opinion is based upon shooting the old M9 based Monochrom with an also old 2nd version Summicron. The current Monochrom is reported to (rangefinder) focus a bit better but will still be a serious challenge, so better shoot stopped down. I prefer the 90mm Macro Elmar these days.

[uSER=616783]@billblackwellphotography[/uSER] made a good point above: The Apos might be a tad too biting sharp for flattering portraiture.

 

In general: You'll have most fun shooting the Monochrom with 50mm & shorter.

Upon the FV image: I think a VF magnifier is nice to have with the longer lenses. - Too sad that Photix discontinued their 1.25x one; I'd love to buy a 2nd or even 3rd copy to have one with every camera.

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You can pick up a Nikkor-P 10.5cm F2.5 in Leica Thread Mount for ~$300. Use an M-Mount adapter to bring up the 90mm framelines and figure that they give 100% of the frame. Framelines on the Leica to not change with distance, and cover less FOV than the focal length that they are marked for. The Nikkor is intentionally undercorrected for spherical aberration and gives very pleasing Bokeh. It is a Sonnar formula lens, and is flattering for portraits. It's sharp on my M Monochrom, and uses easy-to-find 52mm filters and accessories. The Nikkor 8.5cm F2 is very sharp, but is over-corrected for spherical aberration- meaning edge-weighted "bokeh balls".

 

I use a 1.25x magnifier on the M Monochrom and M9 for use with Telephoto lenses. It works.

 

10.5 cm. nikkor

 

Showcase - Nikkor 10.5cm f2.5

 

The Canon 100mm F2 in Leica Thread Mount is also very nice, a Planar 6 element in 4 group design. The other "under-rated" lens- the Canon 85/1.5 in Leica mount. It is big, and heavy.

Edited by Brian
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How much do you want to include in the portraits....headshot, half body? It can make a difference. While all of the above responses give good advice, I'd add that I've used a whole range of Leica 90s for portraits for many years as well as the CV 75/2.5 recently. My experience on both film Leicas and also using the lenses on a m4/3 body and a Nikon DSLR is that the more modern the lens (Thambar exception), the more bitingly crisp the results...which, especially for female shots, can be less than flattering. I prefer a more classic look of the earlier 90s such as the Elmarit or even the Elmar f/4. If I'm looking for a more modern look, I really like the CV 75. In summary, it is hard to go wrong with any of their lenses. The frameline issue is one you adjust to, get an auxiliary finder, or a body which has evf/live viewing, or altrnatively use the lenses on a DSLR or M4/3 body. If you are contemplating going this route, try to choose a lens which is removable from its native focusing mount for use on a Visoflex, because that makes it easy to use with adapters on other SLR/DSLR bodies. Most M4/3 bodies can use the lenses with their native focusing mounts and an adapter directly, albeit at an effective 2x focal length.
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Since we're talking portrait lenses-

 

The Canon 100/3.5 is inexpensive, small, and light.

 

Showcase - Canon 100mm F3.5, Black Version, 40mm filter thread

 

The downside: it has a tendency to build haze on surfaces on each side of the aperture. I received two from a friend, sent to me to use for parts as the repair facility told the owner they could not be repaired. They cleaned up well, we each got one.

 

The Minolta Chiyoko 8.5cm F2.8 is "scarce", a 5-element in 3 group lens. Uses 40mm filters and accessories.

 

Showcase - Minolta Chiyoko 8.5cm F2.8 in Leica Thread Mount

 

I need to take mine out for some more use. It often can be found on Ebay for a good price- relatively unknown. The 1950s Minolta lenses in Leica mount are all good.

I picked up a Sun Optical 9cm F4 for $20 at a camera show- needed a lot of work, but matches for Elmar 9cm/4.

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Thanks to all for the replies! I should've been a little more clear in my post - I'm not necessarily looking for a lens exclusively for portraits, but one with a longer focal length, which could be used for some portraiture if I wanted. Yes, I do agree that 75mm is a bit close to 50mm. Even when I'm shooting with my D800, I generally don't carry anything longer than 85mm, unless I go out with a specific purpose in which I know I'll need that type of lens.

 

Anyways, these are all good tips and I'll probably ending up going with some type of a 90mm. Thanks again to all!

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. A friend also told me that the frame guides get smaller as the focal length increases. I don’t know if that’s true, but basically 75mm would give a larger frame guide than 90mm.

 

This image should give you an idea of what the framelines look like for various focal lengths:

 

http://www.studio-plus.fr/images/NOUVELLESIMAGES/leica%20m6%20viseur%20cadres.jpg

 

The viewfinder magnification (e.g. 0.72) is fixed for a specific camera. I think the Monochrom has a 0.68 finder, so the middle column (0.72) will be close enough to show you how the various framelines will appear with that camera. Framelines are displayed in pairs, so the 90mm framelines are the inner set in the bottom centre panel - a pretty small 'window' to compose in, which may take a bit of getting used to for photographers familiar with SLRs or EVFs.

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... I'm not necessarily looking for a lens exclusively for portraits, but one with a longer focal length, which could be used for some portraiture if I wanted. ...

This being the case, I'd opt for a late 90mm Elmarit-M f/2.8 (the one with the built-in shade). The 90mm Apo Asph is perfection - very sharp, but very expensive. In either case plan to use a diffuser filter for portraits. I'd pass on the Summarit(s).

 

My personal 90 is currently a CV Apo-Lathar with a screw-to-M adapter. It's plenty good enough for a ~2% use lens.

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The future ain't what it used to be ...

– Yogi Berra

 

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This image should give you an idea of what the framelines look like for various focal lengths:

 

http://www.studio-plus.fr/images/NOUVELLESIMAGES/leica m6 viseur cadres.jpg

 

The viewfinder magnification (e.g. 0.72) is fixed for a specific camera. I think the Monochrom has a 0.68 finder, so the middle column (0.72) will be close enough to show you how the various framelines will appear with that camera. Framelines are displayed in pairs, so the 90mm framelines are the inner set in the bottom centre panel - a pretty small 'window' to compose in, which may take a bit of getting used to for photographers familiar with SLRs or EVFs.

 

Thanks for that frame guide. It's good to see this beforehand! Looks like when I put my D800 into DX mode.

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This being the case, I'd opt for a late 90mm Elmarit-M f/2.8 (the one with the built-in shade). The 90mm Apo Asph is perfection - very sharp, but very expensive. In either case plan to use a diffuser filter for portraits. I'd pass on the Summarit(s).

 

My personal 90 is currently a CV Apo-Lathar with a screw-to-M adapter. It's plenty good enough for a ~2% use lens.

 

Thanks for the input. Bill!

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  • 2 weeks later...

There are some surprisingly good (and surprisingly inexpensive by Leica standards) lenses available from the former Soviet Union. These are 39mm Leica Thread Mount lenses made for the Zorki and FED cameras (make sure you're not buying the Zenit 39mm mount versions which have a different flange distance). Canon also made excellent LTM lenses, many in the general "portrait" focal lengths (75-105mm - you simply have to choose the FL you prefer, many classic photographers even used the 50mm).

I mention them as an alternative to the pricey Leica "collector's lenses"

 

My report on 50mm versions of these and a Canon lens at LINK: Soviet LTM lenses and a Canon LTM on a Canon VL2.

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It is the signature of the lens that is important. The 75mm Summarit, which I have is very sharp. I use it for portraits of men. The 90mm tele-elmarit is a softer lens, which I use for women. A 50mm is best for two people while a 35mm lens is best for three. I assume that you are asking about shoulders and above. This is my opinion. Others may disagree with me.
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I think the traditional view that a "portrait lens" usually meant a short tele. anything above a 50 - 135, isn't written in stone. I do a lot of portraits with a 28mm, 35mm, or even a 21 equivalent lens and on the other end, I've read of photographers using really long lenses with the model quite far away when they wanted a really flattened picture frame. So there are so many people, even here on photo.net that take fabulous portraits with wider angled lens.
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This being the case, I'd opt for a late 90mm Elmarit-M f/2.8 (the one with the built-in shade). The 90mm Apo Asph is perfection - very sharp, but very expensive. In either case plan to use a diffuser filter for portraits. I'd pass on the Summarit(s).

 

My personal 90 is currently a CV Apo-Lathar with a screw-to-M adapter. It's plenty good enough for a ~2% use lens.

I have the CV as well and its a fine lens. I don't use if very much, but when I do, I like the results.

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Bit late to enter this fray. Many good recommendations here in this post. You would be hard pressed to go past them.I would offer an alternative view to Billblackwellphotography: the 'sharpness' v 'softness' debate. I like sharpness. If you want clarity, precision, clear view, go for one of the lenses recommended to do that. If you want 'softness' (maybe a euphemism for those 'special', and cherished, optical aberrations), go for those recommendations. I like clarity and sharpness. At the end of the day, it's your choice. My go to portrait lens is a 75mm voigtlander (though it's actually a japanese cosina). It's clean, sharp, good contrast. As they say, you choose your horses, and you place your bets. Regards, Arthur (apiarist1)
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