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Thread: help choosing portrait lens?

  1. #21
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
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    Re: help choosing portrait lens?

    Bernice, I agree.

    I am an old man hobbyist, just turned 69, started shooting formal portraits with DSLR D70 15 years ago. Mostly Punk Rockers.

    I shot snapshot Pentax H3 from 1957, until D70, good travel pics. Sunny 16, never a meter.

    Now 12 years retired from my automotive career.

    LF gets me up in morning. But sometimes I lose steam.

    I shot a woman friend 2 months ago with 11x14 HP5 in studio, the 5X7's were bad, so I didn't develop the 11X14 as I figured i blew focus on them also. My D750 shots were good of course. Backup...

    2 days ago I processed the 11X14 and was greatly surprised how good they are. Scanned on V700, copied on light panel with iPhone.

    The head shots will be contact printed this week.

    However the sitter wants all Digi destroyed and prints only for her. I will keep negs and 2 prints. No showing them here.

    As I am sure some have noticed, I have posted some real bad outside 5X7 images lately. So be it, I will work on that.

    I like studio work, by myself and one sitter. I also like still life with made up sets.

    Not a hiker. Last year was my last motorcycle ride after 55 years. I do not want a final fall. The bike will be a photo prop...

    It occurs to me, some of us are 'reenactors' of old photography. I am a docent at a Historical Village, my self defined task is shooting old time style group images, in 1890 costume and camera gear.

    I used to shoot events, such as documentary movie openings now I am convinced there is never a need for 99% of those paparazzi shots. Just pop the flash a 100 times and leave. Shot 8 years of a big Chicago Film Fest.

    They deleted it all.
    sin eater

  2. #22

    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    Re: help choosing portrait lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernice Loui View Post
    Suggest deciding what the finished and mounted print might be, then decide on how to achieve it which includes possible lenses-lighting-pose-film-processing and all related to achieve the print with portrait sitter in mind then proceed to sort out how best to achieve this.


    Bernice
    I fully agree with your post, that's exactly what I've been doing. I realize there is no single "best" lens, you'll notice I never asked for such. But the lens is currently the piece I could use a little help with. I've never been interested in the wide angle everything sharp environmental portraits (though that seems to be the popular trend lately). My Nikkor 210mm works very well for 3/4 length sharp studio work, but I want something a little closer with a nice soft out of focus area which is why I mentioned 240mm. My research lead me to the Heliar but I still had questions which was one reason my original post.

    If I just wanted the rarest, most expensive lens, I'd just look for a Petzval or Lanthar. I'm not looking for the mythical silver bullet, even though many seem to think of Heliars as that, I really just feel it best suits the look I want. But I'm open to lesser known alternatives which is the other reason I posted. There have been some really interesting suggestions, but so far I haven't seen anything that keeps me from wanting the Heliar. I'd be really happy if there was something cheaper and easier to find that did.

  3. #23

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    1,559

    Re: help choosing portrait lens?

    Suggest starting with virtually any good Tessar formulation from 240mm to 300mm with a taking aperture about f8. Reasons for suggesting a Tessar, these are common, not expensive and will have enough lens personality to allow evaluation images to be made. From there, variations like a Heliar to the entire world of soft focus lenses can be considered.

    Personal preference for head/shoulder and similar Portraits would be a Kodak f4.5 Ektar (12" for 5x7, Tessar made with Lanthium low dispersion glass) or f4.5 Schneider Xenar (300mm for 5x7) with a typical aperture of f8. The text book and what is considered "classic" portrait image of this type would have the plane_point of focus at the portrait sitter's eye (eye lashes are good to focus on) with the focus falling off rapidly and almost entirely out of focus by the portrait sitter's ears. This is camera/lens only and does not even begin considering how lighting, pose, portrait expression capture and more would be done.

    IMO, Lanthar is overrated having owned and used them in the past. This is another one of those "cult" lenses similar to the Heilar. Not a fan of the swirly OOF produced by a Petzval, this is an opinion and nothing more or less.

    Realistically, need to start some where. This is were reading about and looking at web transmitted images is not the same as real world, real time experience with image making. It may be you're a serious Heliar or Petzval fan and nothing else will do.. Maybe you'll discover the Lanthar just does not work for you at all. Difficulty can be obtaining a good representative sample and using the target lens under your image making conditions and print expectations.

    This is where sharing and generosity of other LF folks can really help. Loaner lenses will also give a modest point of reference as to what a given target lens should do as there are often optical performance variations in vintage lenses. Performance variations with modern lenses tends to be less.

    Regardless, always test the lens extensively, burn LOTs of film then sleep in the choice of owning or returning any potential target lens.


    Bernice




    Quote Originally Posted by gnd2 View Post

    I want something a little closer with a nice soft out of focus area which is why I mentioned 240mm. My research lead me to the Heliar but I still had questions which was one reason my original post.

    If I just wanted the rarest, most expensive lens, I'd just look for a Petzval or Lanthar. I'm not looking for the mythical silver bullet, even though many seem to think of Heliars as that, I really just feel it best suits the look I want. But I'm open to lesser known alternatives which is the other reason I posted. There have been some really interesting suggestions, but so far I haven't seen anything that keeps me from wanting the Heliar. I'd be really happy if there was something cheaper and easier to find that did.

  4. #24

    Join Date
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    Re: help choosing portrait lens?

    Thanks Bernice, I appreciate your input. Heliar seems to have approached cult status a little more recently than the others, I didn't realize this when I started searching for one. I like to "buy smart, buy once" when possible, but like you've said, lens selection is a personal choice that requires experience and you have to start somewhere. At least I should be able to recoup a good deal of the cost if I buy something I don't like, but I hate selling things and usually just end up keeping too much.

  5. #25

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    1,559

    Re: help choosing portrait lens?

    Can be difficult to not possible when shopping for vintage lenses. Think of this being similar to shopping for clothes, where ya really don'l and will not know how that appealing item of clothing looks on you or fits until ya try it on and have a good long look in the mirror.

    ~Ya just gonna need to purchase some vintage lenses and try them on for size to see how they look and fit for you.~

    Over the decades, I've cycled over more lenses than is worth mentioning. There is zero attachment initially during the trail, much like dating. It is not until that date (lens in this case) has proven to be OK and good for both before the date (lens in this case, again) can proceed with a longer term relationship and/or commitment. With that, the collection of present VC lenses and related are all HARD earned and fought for. They have been selected out of more than a few replicas, tested to extremes during a time when lens testing was easy using color transparency film, highly controlled studio condition, high volume_high quality E6 lab processing and all that. The good dates (lenses) ended in a stable long term relationship, the not so good dates (lenses) had to find another.


    Such is the way of shopping for vintage lenses,
    Bernice



    Quote Originally Posted by gnd2 View Post
    I like to "buy smart, buy once" when possible, but like you've said, lens selection is a personal choice that requires experience and you have to start somewhere. At least I should be able to recoup a good deal of the cost if I buy something I don't like, but I hate selling things and usually just end up keeping too much.

  6. #26
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Stuck inside of Tucson with the Eastern Seaboard Blues again...
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    Re: help choosing portrait lens?

    If you buy reasonably smart, you can probably afford several nice yet substantially different portrait lenses. Half the fun is exploring and learning...
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  7. #27

    Join Date
    May 2015
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    Memphis, Tennessee, USA
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    Re: help choosing portrait lens?

    I think you should consider a Goerz Dogmar as a more than adequate stand in for a Heliar. It will certainly save some money and they can usually be found in shutter up to about 14"

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