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Thread: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

  1. #1
    SpeedGraphicMan's Avatar
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    Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    Hello all!

    I just recently acquired a Kodak 2d in near mint condition with extension rail, and other misc accessories for $200.
    My goal is to shoot 8x10 portraits. I would like recommendations as to what focal length for head and shoulders shots.
    Also if there are any recommendations as to which lenses I can acquire on the very cheap, I would appreciate any info!
    Thanks in advance!
    "I would like to see Paris before I die... Philadelphia will do..."

  2. #2
    Scott Davis
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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    A really nice lens for portraits on 8x10, without being too terribly expensive, is a Kodak 14" Commercial Ektar. The reason that people start using shorter focal lengths with bigger formats than you would expect if you extrapolate from 35mm or 2 1/4 is that at 8x10 and larger, you're approaching if not exceeding 1:1 reproduction ratios, at which point bellows draw becomes an issue, as does light falloff due to bellows extension.

  3. #3
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    A 420 Fuji L is a good choice, although there's lots of good options.
    Last edited by Peter De Smidt; 15-Dec-2014 at 09:31.
    May tomorrow be a better day.

  4. #4

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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    12"-14"-16" are comfortable 8x10 portrait focal lengths. I find that shorter lenses kind of intrudes on your sitter's "space" while longer lenses require greater distance which will be limited by your studio space. For budget friendly lenses look at Wollensak and Ilex (Ilex made a 375mm 15"-er that's underappreciated) Commercial Ektars and Dagors are sometimes found at modest prices, but usually only after quite a hunt.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  5. #5

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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    I have a bad habit of snarfing up Ilex Paragons and Wollensak Raptars on Ebay for my portrait project. No one ever wants them so they go cheap, and they're great performers, especially for portraits. Tessars (which they are) have a nice softness that isn't really visible, but is there underneath it all keeping them from getting an edgy modern look, built on a core of good sharpness. I have both the 300mm, which I use mainly on 5x7, and Ilex's Caltar version, 14-3/4" f/6.3, as well as some shorter ones you wouldn't want to use on 8x10. Both the 300 Paragon and the 14-3/4" Caltar cost me about $205 each. I don't know if you can find a real lens near those lengths with a working shutter for much less.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  6. #6
    Scott Davis
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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    Oh, and another option would be a Bausch & Lomb Tessar. I'll look up the model I have at home (which certainly covers 11x14, maybe more), but they're usually pretty cheap as they're most often found in barrel, and for whatever reason they lack the cachet of other brand name lenses. The f4.5 tessars are big-ass lenses, so you'd need a substantial lens board (my Tessar just barely fits on a 6 1/2" board, with a Packard shutter front-mounted) and a pretty beefy front standard to hold the weight. The 2D should be able to handle the 8x10 sized B&L Tessar, but the big beast I have would definitely stress it.

  7. #7

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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    Ask yourself if you want extremely sharp, or just quite sharp. Then get a 12 or 14" Tessar IIB (F6.3), or IC (F4.5). Ask yourself if you want higher contrast (get coated), or not.

  8. #8

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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    There are a lot of lenses for portrait type of work in the 350mm size range for 8 x 10 and that is what most of mine are. Longer than that and your bellows extension starts to get very long for head/shoulder shots. For head and shoulder portrait images, you may find that anything less than 300 mm may start to distort facial features too much (as well as have your camera disturbingly close to your subjects). So, I would recommend that you look in the 300mm - 360mm size range. I have a Kodak 2D, and if your rear extension bed fits snugly, then heavier lenses might work fine. However, if it is loose at all or wiggles, then heavier lenses will cause a problem.

    The two big questions for portait type of work are (1) do you want tack sharp images or do you want more soft type of looks and (2) do you want a shutter on your lens. Many of the more modern lenses will work pretty well for portrait work especially for you just starting out and will give you very sharp images (as well as typcally having shutters). However, if you are looking for more moody soft lenses, then you would normally go towards the older lenses many/most will not have shutters on them.

    Since this is your first venture, I would recommend that you look around for some of the less popular lenses that you can many times find for $100 or less (the ilex paragons were already mentioned). This could give you a good entry level sharper focus lens to start with. You can also consider one of Reinhold Schable's Wollaston Mensicus lenses. I have his 285 mm and it works well at less than $100. This would then give you a variable softer image lens as a starter.

    Here's another "left field" idea. If you can find an old Petzval projection type of lens that may only have an image size that works for 4 x 5 or 5 x 7, take it apart and only use one of the lens elements. The focal length and image size will get larger (probably larger than 8 x 10) and they sometimes produce really great results for soft look portraits. Many times, you can find these for $50 or less.

    Last thing is - come over to the Palm Springs area some time and I'll show you all the different lenses I use for my 8 x 10 portrait type of work.

  9. #9

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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    Yousuf Karsh used a 14" Commercial Ektar for most of his work. Richard Avedon used a 360mm Schneider for his American West portraits. Jock Sturges used a Fujinon 250mm F/6.7 lens for his early work.

    You can look at these photographer's work to get an idea about the lenses.

  10. #10
    multi format
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    Re: Seeking recommendations on portrait lens

    pretty much any lens can be called a portrait lens.
    you just need to decide what focal length you want
    ( do you want the lens in their face or some room between you and the subject.
    do you want head+shoulders or 3/4 or full length or environmental portraits )

    if you want inexpensive barrel lenses you might consider a wollaston meniscus
    from all reports they are worth their weight in gold ...
    enjoy your coffee

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