What's a good portrait option?

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by wt21, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    Now that I have found my wonderful RX100, it has satisfied my need for a carry-around/go anywhere/travel cam.

    This has released me from finding the smallest ILC possible, so I can put some more money/size into my other camera.

    Currently, I have an OMD with the PL25 and some FD50mm lenses, and a 100-300. I need this camera for portrait work, and for telephoto of kids and family (my own, and in support of my kids' school -- I often take pics that they want to use on their website, in newsletters, etc.).

    I am fairly pleased with the three key lenses, but I'd like something a little better for a classic portrait.

    So, ruminating out loud, but hoping for feedback:

    I could get the Oly 75mm (or maybe a CV 75/2.5) for portrait, to slide in with my other lenses, but should I consider any other cameras? Would the new Fuji EVF-only XPro camera with the 35/1.4 and 60mm macro get me what I need? I would still be short the long telephoto. What about a Nikon D600 FF that is coming? Lots of lenses there, but I have grown addicted to the EVF WYSIWYG approach, and the more accurate CDAF. But I loved my 5D when I had that. Just love the FF gradient transitions. Maybe try NEX again once the 35/1.8 is out, along with the 50/1.8 (though that's a little short for what I want in portrait). Maybe 3rd times the charm? (having used NEX now twice).

    I dunno -- Thoughts or suggestions for a good portrait/event camera? I don't want a body as big as a D700 or 5Dii. I still prefer D5000/Rebel sized or under, but I want to get a good portrait set-up, with the capability to shoot action/event.

    I'm thinking just getting the 75mm for the OMD is the answer, but I want to be open to other options. Any input/thoughts are appreciated.
     
  2. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    If you already have a camera body then you can rent lenses and see what focal length you want with that particular camera. You can also rent cameras and see what feels right in your hands beyond holding one in the store. That's generally the advice that I offer to people asking.

    As to the 75mm on your OMD, many portrait photographers make use of the 85mm range of lenses, some wider like 50mm, some not like 100mm, a 75 would be in the middle and you'd already have a camera body that you are comfortable with.
     
  3. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx SC Top Veteran

    758
    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Chuck
    The crop factor enters in here, I believe. Portrait photographers using an 85 mm lens are most often using a full-frame camera or a APS-C which gives a field of view like a 125 mm (Nikon) or 135 mm (Canon). The 75 mm mounted on the OMD will act like a 150 mm lens, so it's really on the long end of what those photographers might use and is close to the FOV of the 100 mm.
     
  4. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    Took a portrait of my dad at 100mm on a crop [so 1.6 = 160mm fov] and it turned out great. That is the reason I suggested rentals, because short of buying and reselling that is the best way of seeing if what works for each individual. A 135mm is still a good portrait length btw. and canon makes a cool little 135mm soft focus macro lens for just that. Or go to a camera store with your camera body and a memory card. Try a few lenses while there, no rental fee though your subject matter might be a bit limited, but a legit method since you are looking to buy. Take the memory card home, review your images on your computer, then weigh in on the lens that felt the best and gave the best results.
     
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  5. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx SC Top Veteran

    758
    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Chuck
    Definitely an individual thing. With my 40D, I preferred the FOV of the 85mm f/1.8, which also happened to be the longest prime I owned. With MFT, I've had pretty good luck with the Oly 45mm f/1.8, but I've also been pleased with the PL 25mm f/1.4 for group or environmental portraits, recognizing that I may need to crop. I don't plan to buy the 75mm, because I just don't see myself using it enough to justify the price. But that's just me - YMMV.
     
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  6. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    Thanks guys.

    I wasnt really concerned about the crop factor, though. I was thinking more in terms of the bokeh, quality of the available portrait lenses across systems, and the wisdom (or lack thereof) of picking up another system just for portraits.

    I found a well priced CV 75mm 2.5 on mu-43 though, so I'm going to give that a go on the OMD, and see what I think. Its about a stop slower than the 75/1.8, but it has two shining qualities: a) it cost me less than half the price of the 75/1.8, and b) I can buy it (mZD 75 is hard to find). I'll report back what I find out.
     
  7. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    the Oly 45mm is pretty bokehlicious for portrait use and is a pretty decent value. If you have the bread for the 75, that would be my choice, although for indoors it's likely too long most of the time. I used my 100-300 for a shot of my wife once at the zoo and I LOVED it.

    You definitely don't need a new system for a single use
     
  8. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx SC Top Veteran

    758
    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Chuck
    The women in my family have made it perfectly clear that sharpness in a portrait lens is a very bad thing....
     
  9. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    It's likely that I've been conditioned by using the smaller 4/3 sensor or previously zoom lenses on APS-C sensors, but I have a preference for portraints where the background isn't turned to complete mush, as long as it isn't too distracting. I like a portrait to be slightly wider than normal and include some recognisable context in the background. By that criteria, the PL25 and O45 are fine for my needs.
     
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  10. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    shoot wide open....and add softness in post. As my lenses have gotten sharper, my post skills have had to improve to hide "real life". No one wants to see pimples, and pores. If time permits, I'll do a post on some cheats I use for portraits later this week.
     
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  11. Crsnydertx

    Crsnydertx SC Top Veteran

    758
    Jan 21, 2011
    Houston, TX
    Chuck
    Looking forward to the tips, Luke.

    Re shooting wide open in very bright lighting, a neutral density filter would be a good accessory, no? Unless built in as on the X100.
     
  12. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    an ND filter is an essential tool in every kit. Ideally though I imagine portraits would be away from harsh light. They are not my specialty, but I like shady areas outside with reflected light...the kind of strong light that would require ND filters would also bring in harsh shadows unless you're using a fill flash.

    Don't get too excited about tips Chuck.....my tips are all sleight of hand and software cheats....maybe a portrait specialist can tell us the best in cam settings or lighting techniques.
     
  13. Livnius

    Livnius SC Veteran

    475
    Jun 3, 2012
    Melbourne. Australia
    Joe
    I recently read a blog article where the the author suggested an idea for touching up portraits in such a way as to get a bit of that softer look but keeping a little of the natural beauty that comes with imperfection.

    Layers.

    Im not versed in photoshop layers stuff but I gathered the basic idea was to make 2 copies of the image....one 'softened' to remove blemishes etc and the other natural. Do all the cropping and adjustments equally with the exception of the final blemish removal on the one copy. Layer the 2 in photoshop with the natural image over the top of the blemish free image....with the 'natural look' layer set to zero, slowly increase the opacity of that layer until you find a nice middle ground.

    Haven't tried it yet, only got photoshop very recently, but the idea sounds solid.
     
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  14. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    My fave shot of my wife was put together in a similar fashion Joe.......I'm going to do a "making of" post. But the basics you describe are a simple and effective method for anyone. I'll try to dumb it down for people who fear the Photoshop.
     
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  15. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Nik Color Efex has a good filter for portraits called dynamic skin softener, but in my experience to make it look nice (i.e. non-plastic) you need to turn the filter strength WAAAAYYYYYY down, or significantly reduce the opacity of the modified layer.