View Full Version : Favourite (normal and telephoto) portrait lens

David Payumo
28-Jan-2000, 19:23
So what are your favourite len(s) for full-length and half-length portraits? Wh at are your favourite lens for head shots? I want a len(s) in the normal to tele photo length for these type of shots.

Doug Paramore
29-Jan-2000, 00:15
David: I am stuck in the house on a rainy day and I seem to be hogging the answer column, but it isn't intentional. I would like to offer my opinion on portrait lenses. I worked in a portrait studio when we shot large format portraits. I first impulse is to tell you to get the sorriest piece of junk lens and then scratch it with sandpaper for portraits, but that isn't what you want to hear. However, for women, it is probably best. In all seriousness, if you are going to be doing portraits which please a customer and look great, the last thing you need is a blazingly sharp lens. No one wants a portrait that looks like a medical study of skin blemishes, and that is what you can get with a sharp lens and larger format. The ideal for head and shoulder portraits is a variable soft focus lens. You can control the amount of diffusion from a great deal to almost none. A soft focus lens gives a different look than a diffusion filter over a sharp lens. The skin really glows with a soft focus lens. To prevent distortion of the features, a head and shoulders lens needs to be at least 250mm and 300mm is better if you have room and the bellows to use the longer lens. A 300mm takes quite a lot of bellows extension at close distance. For 1/2 and 3/4 length, I would go for a 210mm, but you can use a 150. The longer lenses just work better for portraits. That lens also needs a bit of diffusion. There is a difference between diffusion and out of focus. A diffused image is sharp but surrounded by a tiny bit of diffusion. You can save yourself a lot of retouching with diffused lenses. Using the longer section of some of the old convertable lenses at large apertures can give you some really nice portrait images, as they usually don't sharpen up until two or three stops down from wide open. I don't know if your intent is to do large format portraits comercially or just for your own enjoyment. If you want to do protraits of men with contrasty lighting and every pore in the skin showing, go for the same focal lengths and get the standard lenses. Hope this helps. Doug

Scott Walton
29-Jan-2000, 09:39
David, I too like the soft focus 250mm. I use an old Rodenstock Imagon (with the disks) and love the look. For the full lengths, I still use a 250mm for the compression. For the head and shoulders stuff... a 360mm and you cannot beat the look that a long tele will give you. Cheers, Scott

Dave Anton
29-Jan-2000, 12:04
For portraits, nothing beats a sharp 250mm and a good make-up artist...

30-Jan-2000, 23:46
Regarding the portait lenses? Does any one have experience with a variable soft focuse lens, the kind where you rotate the front element? I'd like to chat with someone about the technic to using one of these things. Thanks, David