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Thread: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    rio de janeiro
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    26

    is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    i mean.. a 210 is a 210 right? what would make one better for portrats than another?
    Thanks

    Colker

  2. #2
    Dave Karp
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
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    2,283

    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    Some rate lenses based on the look of the out of focus areas, or "bokeh." Many believe that the Rodenstock lenses have the nicest rendition of out of focus areas.

    So, if you are going to use the lens open wide so that the background is out of focus, this might be a consideration.

    The bonus here is that there are a lot of Rodenstock 210s out there under the Caltar II-N label at prices generally lower than that of the Rodenstock branded versions.

  3. #3

    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    Some people believe that to be good a portrait must be flattering of its subject, in the sense of minimizing the visual impact of skin blemishes and other imperfections that are inevitable in a real human.

    Historically, there have been many lenses called "portrait lenses" that are designed specifically to do just that. Some of these lenses are overtly soft focus, while others produce more subtle effects. They do it in different ways, using different optical approaches, so each type has its own character, and it's a matter of personal taste which you prefer.

    My own taste is to favor straightforward, accurate rendering, so I use the same modern lenses for portraits as I do for any other subject. But there are plenty of people here on the forum who have much experience in using special portrait lenses and can provide good advice about them, if that turns out to be your preference too.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Humboldt County, CA
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    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    No, there is not -- there are favorite ones, though. And I am assuming that you are referring to a 210mm on a 4x5. Then one needs to know what type of portrait one wishes to achieve (head, head and shoulders, 1/2 body, full body, enviromental, self, and so on.) One tool (lens) does not work on all.

    A 210 is not just a 210 -- lots of variety in "looks" and performance. I suggest you look at the various portrait threads for examples.

    Vaughn

  5. #5

    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    I looked for and found a pre-WWII uncoated Heliar, which can be both sharp when stopped down and have that particular "sheen" to it when used at or close to wide open.
    Besides, on the issue of bokeh, these older lenses are either barrel lenses or mounted in Compound shutters, both versions have lots of blades for the aperture so that the opening is always round (as opposed to the modern Copal shutters which have some 5 or possibly 7 blades).
    A less expensive alternative would be a vintage Tessar or Xenar. They are not the same as the Heliar, but still very nice wide open and very when sharp stopped down too.
    I do think Ken Lee have some shots made with both Heliars and Tessars/Xenars on his website. Lovely work.

    //Björn

  6. #6
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    SF Bay area, CA
    Posts
    7,474

    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    Take a look at the Cooke. They're about to make another batch. Wish I could afford
    one.

  7. #7

    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    The other comments remind me that I should also add that even among lenses not specifically called portrait lenses, there are some whose imaging character is distinctive in a way that some will find especially pleasing for portraits.

    The bottom line is, there is quite a bit of variation in the way different lenses render, which is why someone can talk sensibly about a lens being better or worse for portraits.

  8. #8

    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    Take a look at the Cooke. They're about to make another batch. Wish I could afford
    one.
    This is exciting news! Thanks for mentioning it, I see them for pre-sale at Badger.

    jason

  9. #9

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Westminster, MD
    Posts
    1,656

    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    Get in line for the next batch of Cooke's if you can afford one.

    I have an XVa for my 8x10 system. The best glass I've ever owned.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Posts
    9,477

    Re: is there a "best" 210 portrait lens?

    An older Schneider Xenar 210/4.5 in a Compur Compound or later shutter -- with lots of blades (unlike later ones) -- so you can have a circular aperture opening -- would be my choice. $100 to $300, a lot less $ than most.

    In fact I would probably buy one when I find a good cheap one, so nevermind...

    Otherwise any modern 210 will do a nice job and you can always make things softer in post.

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