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View Full Version : What is YOUR favorite portrait focal length?



C. D. Keth
12-Dec-2006, 19:20
What is your favorite focal length for portraits? Post the format, also.

I'm curious to find out what people like to use compared to the diagonal of their format.:cool:

Peter Galea
12-Dec-2006, 19:36
500T on 4x5.

Jay DeFehr
12-Dec-2006, 19:43
14½" for 8x10, 10" for 5x7, 8" for 4x5, 6" for 3x4, 150mm for 6x7, and 58mm for 35mm.

Jay

Christopher Perez
12-Dec-2006, 19:45
360mm and 240mm on 8x10
210mm and 180mm on 4x5
80mm on 120 format

These assume head/shoulders as well as full length images.

brook
12-Dec-2006, 19:47
16" in 8x10, 12" in 5x7

Frank Petronio
12-Dec-2006, 19:55
150mm on 4x5

Ron Marshall
12-Dec-2006, 19:56
300mm on 5x7

Scott Davis
12-Dec-2006, 20:26
12" for 5x7, 14" for 8x10.

C. D. Keth
12-Dec-2006, 20:31
Thanks to everyone taking a minute to respond.

This is interesting. I'll give it a day or two and then post some data and observations ;)

I'll figure out average preferred portrait length for each format, average multiple of film diagonal ("normal lens") for each format and overall, average multiple of short side of film for each format and overall, and the average multiple of the long side of film for each format and overall. Is there anything else you guys would like to know while I'm making my excel sheet? :D

Steve Hamley
12-Dec-2006, 20:41
Why would you do it?

Steve

Jim Galli
12-Dec-2006, 20:43
13 - 16" 8x10

C. D. Keth
12-Dec-2006, 21:23
Why would you do it?

Steve

It's a curiosity thing. Portraits are so variable in their characteristics and people are so particular about their "perfect" portrait lens that I'm curious about how everyones' preferences average out by format and in general.

Brian Vuillemenot
13-Dec-2006, 00:21
300 mm on 4X5

Ole Tjugen
13-Dec-2006, 00:31
240mm (Heliar) or 14" (Ross "Cabinet" Petzval) on 5x7".

Armin Seeholzer
13-Dec-2006, 03:00
210- 360mm on 4x5
240-480mm on 8x10
Chears Armin

Struan Gray
13-Dec-2006, 03:18
150 for 6x6
240 - 360 for 4x5

Mark Carney
13-Dec-2006, 03:30
305 on 4x5
150 on 6x6

John Kasaian
13-Dec-2006, 03:44
250 (as in WF Ektar), 14" and 19" in 8x10
13" in 5x7

Rider
13-Dec-2006, 07:37
180 on 4"x5".

Christopher Perez
13-Dec-2006, 09:30
I left a couple things out... 2nd try...

110SS-XL, 150, 180, *210 on 4x5
180, *210, 240 on 5x7
240, *300, 360 on 8x10

*== If I had only one "portrait" lens to live with in that format

C. D. Keth
14-Dec-2006, 09:34
I think this has gone on enough. Data time. I realize most people here won't be interested in this, but I'll post it anyway. It was just for my curiosity.

My data pool was 16 4x5, 9 5x7, and 16 8x10 preferences.

Average preferred focal length:
4x5: 253mm
5x7: 273.25mm
8x10: 353.53mm

The next sets of info will compare the average preferred focal length of a format to its diagonal, its long side, and its short side. Overall averages for all formats will also be included.

Ratio of preferred portrait focal length to format diagonal:
4x5: 1.55:1
5x7: 1.31:1
8x10: 1.09:1
Overall: 1.32:1

Ratio of preferred portrait focal length to format long side:
4x5: 1.99:1
5x7: 1.54:1
8x10: 1.39:1
Overall: 1.64:1

Ratio of preferred portrait focal length to format short side:
4x5: 2.48:1
5x7: 2.15:1
8x10: 1.73:1
Overall: 2.12:1

What do I get out of all this? Not a whole lot other than to satisfy my curiosity. I do think that it's interesting that as the format size increases, peoples' preferred portrait lenses get shorter with respect to the dimensions of the film. Any ideas why this is?

brook
14-Dec-2006, 09:45
What do I get out of all this? Not a whole lot other than to satisfy my curiosity. I do think that it's interesting that as the format size increases, peoples' preferred portrait lenses get shorter with respect to the dimensions of the film. Any ideas why this is?

Bellows draw on larger formats and distance to subject on the smaller.

Turner Reich
14-Dec-2006, 09:47
150mm on 645, 210 on 4X5.

tr

Giacomo GIRINO
14-Dec-2006, 09:58
Curious: average preferred focal length is quite close to format diagonal, i.e. 'normal' lens favoured for portraits in LF. In 35 mm it is very often said that, for 'perspective' reasons, longer focal legths, typically 135 mm, are to be preferred.
Is there any reason why this doesn't also apply to LF (apart from what brook aòready said)?

Ron Marshall
14-Dec-2006, 10:02
The average for 4x5 was 253, while the diagonal is 153. Quite different!

Giacomo GIRINO
15-Dec-2006, 03:44
4x5, with a ratio of 1.55, gets the largest value here. Still far from the 3.15 ratio you get with a 135mm lens on 35mm camera (1.96 with an 85mm lens)

Gordon Moat
15-Dec-2006, 09:54
With full body portraits I use a 135mm on 4x5. The same lens gets used for torso portraits on 56mm by 72mm (Linhof 6x7), and a somewhat prefer that. I also have a 210mm, though I think I want a 180mm for 4x5. Headshots I do with 35mm gear, using either an 85mm, 105mm, or (rarely) a 180mm; smaller camera is less intimidating to subjects.

Ciao!

Gordon Moat
A G Studio (http://www.allgstudio.com)

Steve Hamley
15-Dec-2006, 11:36
Curious: average preferred focal length is quite close to format diagonal, i.e. 'normal' lens favoured for portraits in LF. In 35 mm it is very often said that, for 'perspective' reasons, longer focal legths, typically 135 mm, are to be preferred.
Is there any reason why this doesn't also apply to LF (apart from what brook a˛ready said)?

Also depth of field. Take a 480mm lens and focus it for a "head shot" on 8x10 and you'll find that at "people-friendly" shutter speeds the depth of field will be very shallow - like ears not sharp. That's fine if it's the effect you want, but if you or your customer want a sharp portrait, a shorter lens will probably work better.

Steve

Jim Noel
21-Dec-2006, 14:59
Christopher,
Thanks for doing this. Is it useful? It should be for beginners or those who have done few portraits and wish todo so.

Why do youdo it?
I think I can answer that. You do it because you are inquisitive and that is a tremendous trait to have if one wishes to learn and keep learning rather depending on what someone may tell them.

Thanks again. I find it interesting.

C. D. Keth
21-Dec-2006, 16:51
Also depth of field. Take a 480mm lens and focus it for a "head shot" on 8x10 and you'll find that at "people-friendly" shutter speeds the depth of field will be very shallow - like ears not sharp. That's fine if it's the effect you want, but if you or your customer want a sharp portrait, a shorter lens will probably work better.

Steve

If you keep the same framing and f/stop, the depth of field will stay the same, no matter the focal length. That is to say if I were to take the same photo as you did but with a 240mm lens and stood half the distance from the subject you did I would have the same depth of field. The perspective would be different, however, because I am closer.

C. D. Keth
21-Dec-2006, 16:53
Christopher,
Thanks for doing this. Is it useful? It should be for beginners or those who have done few portraits and wish todo so.

Why do youdo it?
I think I can answer that. You do it because you are inquisitive and that is a tremendous trait to have if one wishes to learn and keep learning rather depending on what someone may tell them.

Thanks again. I find it interesting.

Thank you. I'm glad you found it interesting. I was very curious about focal lengths for portraits because many people on 35mm use 2x normal focal length and up and I was wondering if LF shooters kept a similar proportion, because it would mean very long bellows very quickly:p

andy bessette
23-Dec-2006, 19:15
Yo Christopher,

thanks also from me.

I am just starting out with large format, and have had to make some assumptions of my own based on my 35mm preferences (85-105mm). This led me to choose a 240mm lens (I also have 210 & 300mm) for 4X5 portraiture, which is such an important part of my photography.

Interesting thread. I enjoyed.

best, andy

Ed K.
24-Dec-2006, 02:12
Two cents -

On the larger formats (8x10), a slightly longer than normal (360) lens can be used for a full shot or a 3/4 shot. It's nice to have longer though, to flatten things out more. I use a 19" quite often with good results on 8x10. For 4x5, I've had good portraits using 210 all the way up to 360, with 300 being a nice balance between bellows extension and perspective. With powerful strobes, such as the trusty 4800 Speedos, a little stopping down brings the DOF into acceptible range, if desired.

I find that larger film just give more opportunity to have more of the surroundings for a portrait. Things are less extreme if it is not a head shot, and the focal length at times is a bit less important than the camera height it seems.

The longer lenses really help with the typical foreshortening problems though. Rarely does one wish to see a head and shoulders shot with a huge body and a little pin head - longer helps, but camera height related to subject helps more. Even more so for group portraits - great to bring a ladder!!!