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Thread: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

  1. #1

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    Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    Hi,
    I am a landscape photographer, but would like to try some portaiture in a studio. I am wondering if I can get away with using a 210mm lens on a 4x5 camera when shooting a full length portrait, or would a 150mm lens be a better option. I am wondering if the working distance might make things a bit awkward? If there are no problems with using a 210mm, I will not have to buy a 150mm!
    Cheers

  2. #2

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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    The 210mm is fine for portraiture. Keep in mind two potential limits -- the distance from the camera to the subject, and your bellows length.

    For full length work, you need to get far enough away from the subject -- easy to check out.

    For close, facial shots, you need enough bellows extension to focus -- also easy to check out.

    Check out what you have first, before buying.

  3. #3

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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    Hi, Steve. A calculator like this may be useful.
    https://tinyurl.com/2p9x9fyj (I used the tinyurl site to shorten the link).
    Plug in 4x5 for format, 210 or other focal length, a distance to subject, and then look over to Angle of View to see the horizontal (longer dimension, as they have it) measurement in feet. Use the second method, which gives the measurement when you actually focus on that distance.

    If you include a seated portrait in your "full length", of course you can be closer and still get head to toe. However, always keep perspective in mind: depending on the pose and on your style and vision, you may find that, especially with a 150, in a frontal seated pose, the knees and feet become rather large relative to the head. With a 210, for instance, focusing on the subject's face at 8 feet gives an angle of view that includes 4'5" on the long dimension, but the forward foot on a crossed leg could be only about 5 feet away. With a 150, this is exacerbated for the same framing, with the subject's face only 5.8 feet away and the same foot about 3 feet closer to the lens.

    I have used my 210 (my longest 4xx5 lens) for portraits for decades, and depending on the subject, lighting, and desired perspective and drawing, it can be used for even head and shoulders portraits, though my own preference is for a upper body framing with cropping later if desired; it keeps my lens around 6 feet from my subject, which I find a good starting point for many subjects, both in terms of perspective and the depth-of-field a usable aperture/shutter speed combination gives me (more a consideration now that I am not using strobes but continuous lighting).
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  4. #4

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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    By the traditional metric for portrait lenses, film length + film width, 9" would be ideal, but that's just a guide. I use 210 mm.
    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

  5. #5
    multi format
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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    Hi steve_p

    The beautiful thing about photography is there aren't really any rules, so. ... you can use pretty much any lens to make portraits. With longer lenses and full length like you want, a big space to shoot in helps (unless you have a telephoto!)
    Have fun
    John

  6. #6

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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    Thanks for the comments folks. I was aware that a full length portrat is going to mean working quite a distance from the model. I was wondering if anybody found this to be a hinderence? i had not considered the point that Philip brought up about the limitations of a 150mm lens when the subject is sitting. I'll bear that in mind when I buy a 150mm lens.

  7. #7

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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    There is no "best", just trade-off lens choices based on needs.

    ~How much of the portrait sitter must be in perceived focus? This determines lens aperture needed from the lens.
    ~Does out of focus rendition, in to out of focus rendition of any importance?

    ~Full length, 3/4 length, head-shoulder or ?

    ~Soft focus or "sharp"?

    Will the camera used properly support (stability, bellows and camera extension enough, camera movements are typically nil for portrait work) the lens needed to achieve the portrait image goal?

    What about lighting?

    Back-drop and props?


    Bernice

  8. #8

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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    And the thing no one seems to have mentioned: facial distortion. It works both ways, with lenses that are too wide AND lenses that are too long.

    A nicely-illustrated discussion of that topic: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4164807
    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

  9. #9
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    Quote Originally Posted by mdarnton View Post
    And the thing no one seems to have mentioned: facial distortion. It works both ways, with lenses that are too wide AND lenses that are too long.
    Right. I've used all kinds of lenses for 4x5 portraits, but 99% of those shots are done with a 150, and to a lesser extent, a 210.
    A lot of distortion can be minimized or avoided with careful camera placement, as well as good subject blocking.

  10. #10
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Best 4x5 lens for portraiture in a studio

    Agree

    I love my Nikon DC 135

    I may add the DC 105

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