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09-17-2010, 06:10 PM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by Stiv Quote
Ok so if I understand correctly, if I go with the 70mm Sigma, I'd need to be roughly 3m away from my subject to get a good half body shot (1m). That's good to know, 3m is a long way when you're indoors unless your subject is standing in the corner!
Especially since you want some background separation as well so that the background can be out of focus

A 50mm might be better or maybe a little shorter, bit then that is restrictive with respect to working distance for a macro

09-17-2010, 07:55 PM   #17
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How to get a feel for things: Do you have the 18-55 kit lens? If not, get a cheap manual 28-80 (the FF equivalent of an 18-55) for ten bucks or so. And get a cheap manual 70-200 for another ten bucks or so. Borrow or steal a store manikin or the equivalent. (Old blowup sex toys work too, eh?) Or find a very patient and cheap model.

Now, SHOOT! Try all different focal lengths and distances (camera-to-subject, subject-to-background, etc). Experiment with lighting too. Shoot wide-open and stopped-down, fast and slow, fixed and zooming, with and without digital filters and effects. Learn what these different combinations do, and find out what works for YOU.

That's on the portrait side. On the macro side, enlarger lenses are cheap; tubes are cheap; bellows cost a bit more but can often be found for under fifty bucks and are quite flexible. Enlarger lenses are quite sharp, edge-to-edge. Longer lenses (of any type) give a greater working distance than shorter lenses, so you don't scare the bugs off so quickly.

Lenses longer than 75mm mounted on bellows can also be used for general photography... including portraits. I use various cheaply-bought enlarger lenses in 50-75-90-105-140-162mm lengths for all sorts of stuff. Lenses from wrecked old 6x6 etc folders can do also. I use a projector-enlarger lens (Industar-58u 75/3.5) on macro tubes set with a fixed focus of 1.5m, good for head shots. These all are very useful in situations where you control lighting and placement. And they are FUN! (And cheap.)
09-17-2010, 09:48 PM   #18
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Why do you have to buy new ?

There are many many used but excellent portrait lenses in the 35 - 50 range (scan this forum's threads for details) and either a used Tamron 90 or Sigma 105 would give you a reasonably priced but superb, macro lense perfect for skittish insects (as well as being very good long portrait / short telephoto lenses - great all rounders in fact).

Your $500 (with maybe, just maybe a touch more) would get you two dedicated lenses perfect for the intended job instead of something that falls in-between the best tool for either job, and in the case of a 90/105 you get a lot more versatility too.
09-18-2010, 07:47 AM   #19
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Re: is 50 the shortest for portraits - I really like the DA40 for that role as well, and now that I have it the FA43. Even a 35mm will work, 28 starts to get a little funny but I imagine you could do it.

09-18-2010, 04:48 PM   #20
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The criterion is distance, not focal length.

For shots showing just a bit more than the face, you want >2m distance. You typically don't want to shoot a head and shoulders portrait with a 28mm because you'll have to be too near for that (causing distorted face features). A full body shot with a 28mm on the other hand will often work.

So think about what kind of portraits you want to shoot and that you are limited in how close you can get in any event in order to avoid distortion. For classical head and shoulders portraits you don't want to go below 55mm. Note, however that cropping an image from a 50mm lens can give you the same image as if you had shot with a 55mm or 70mm lens in the first place. What matters is the distance to the subject, so if you stay sufficiently far away with a 50mm lens and crop, you'll be fine.

Reducing the distance by reducing the focal length doesn't work, unless you are prepared to see more distortion than classical portrait photographers are ready to accept.
09-18-2010, 05:00 PM - 1 Like   #21
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I agree with Creampuff. Portraits were the last thing I intended when I bought my DFA 100mm macro, but one day someone asked for a protrait and that's what I had on. Even though I have most of the prime focal lengths covered, there's something about the rendering, flesh tones and bokeh that makes this my favorite protrait lens. I make room for it. This lens loves flash and fill-flash as well.
09-18-2010, 05:59 PM   #22
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ron Kruger Quote
I agree with Creampuff. Portraits were the last thing I intended when I bought my DFA 100mm macro, but one day someone asked for a protrait and that's what I had on. Even though I have most of the prime focal lengths covered, there's something about the rendering, flesh tones and bokeh that makes this my favorite protrait lens. I make room for it. This lens loves flash and fill-flash as well.
Hush now man, don't let the cat out of the bag on how good the lens is!
Threadstarter, there are plenty of advise presented here but you have to be clear what kind of portraits do you want to shoot (head shots, half-body, 3/4 body, full length, groups, etc.) because people have been shooting portraits using all sorts of lenses from wide angle to super tele. A lot depends on camera to subject distance and intended perspective.

As to people claiming that macro lenses are too sharp, let me say that the vast majority of portrait shots do require post processing of some form (blemish removal, smoothing skin, eye enhancement, etc.) and it is dead easy to soften an image that is sharp and full of detail straight out of camera than otherwise.

Working portrait shooters shoot fast and work quickly and like other forms of photography the adage to use the best lens possible applies here. The Sigma 70mm is nice and sharp as a macro lens BUT it isn't the fastest in terms of focusing speed, not exactly light and compact and with a max aperture of f/2.8, the options to render OOF backgrounds for portraits can be limited compared to something like the FA 77mm Limited, the Pentax gold standard for shooting portraits imo. Not to say the Sigma can't do the job but it is always good to have more options on the table.
09-18-2010, 06:26 PM   #23
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If you want to do portraits and macro's the sigma 70 is second to none on APS-C. Rendering is superb for both uses. The 90/100mm macros were designed to do exactly the same thing on 35mm film, which is why they were so popular.
The sigma has limiter switch so AF is not to bad fro general use, the only downside is weight, it is a beast!
anyway here are couple of snaps.





09-18-2010, 07:29 PM   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nick Siebers Quote
Re: is 50 the shortest for portraits - I really like the DA40 for that role as well, and now that I have it the FA43. Even a 35mm will work, 28 starts to get a little funny but I imagine you could do it.
It's not so much 50mm is the shortest possible for portraits but trying to keep the focal length long enough that the op can get a single lens for both purposes, macro and portraits. Even at 50 mm for macro 1:1 you are only 100mm (4 inches) from the subject.
09-19-2010, 07:02 PM   #25
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Thanks everyone for all your comments and suggestions. Admittedly I'm less sure about what I want now than when I started but I've got a lot more information to base my eventual decision on.

If anyone has any more suggestions for me I'm still listening but I think it's time for me to spend some time exploring all my new options...

Thanks again!
09-19-2010, 08:22 PM   #26
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Just as parting thoughts:

QuoteOriginally posted by Stiv Quote
What I’m after is a true Macro lens (needs to be 1:1) that will also take great portraits.
The Sigma 70/2.8 EX fits this description. I've used it for both.
See my first post for great macro shots by others. Here's a portrait I did:



The image is a bit soft because a) it shows a female and I did PP work to make it look that way and b) it was shot in low light and there is some shake blur. The lens itself is much sharper than this.

Yes, a longer (150mm+) macro lens can make it easier to shoot bugs that get easily scared. Yes, a shorter portrait lens doesn't require as much distance but wouldn't be good for portraits focusing on the face.

QuoteOriginally posted by Stiv Quote
That's good to know, 3m is a long way when you're indoors unless your subject is standing in the corner!
Remember that this is not the consequence of using a lens that is too long, but a necessity to avoid distortion of facial features. This can also go "wrong" in the other direction: The Pentax 100mm is a great lens but personally, I find it too long for standard portraits. It will yield a "compressed" look which sometimes is what people go for, but its not your standard look.

While there are specialist lenses that are better for their respective applications (who wouldn't pick a FA 77/1.8 if they could? <- Note that this one requires even more distance), if you are looking for a "double talent" lens, I'm not aware of a better choice than the Sigma 70/2.8.

Last edited by Class A; 09-19-2010 at 08:29 PM.
09-20-2010, 12:06 AM   #27
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Why not get a 70-85mm manual for portrait and your perfect AF macro? There are several m42 choices under $100. How much motion is a willing model going to have? The bugs aren't exactly willing and fast.
09-20-2010, 01:22 AM   #28
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QuoteOriginally posted by troglodyte Quote
Why not get a 70-85mm manual for portrait and your perfect AF macro?
Very rarely does AF make sense during macro shots. Most of the time it's MF only. If macro lenses didn't have other usages, they didn't really need to be AF capable.
09-20-2010, 02:08 AM   #29
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How does the Sigma 50-150 mm F2.8 compare to this 70 mm F2.8?
- More flexibility for portraits!!!
- Not sure if you can use extension tubes for macro's...
09-20-2010, 06:53 AM   #30
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QuoteOriginally posted by troglodyte Quote
Why not get a 70-85mm manual for portrait and your perfect AF macro? There are several m42 choices under $100. How much motion is a willing model going to have? The bugs aren't exactly willing and fast.
I would turn this around, get an AF portrait lens, and an MF macro. When doing true macro, i.e. anything approaching 2:1 or going all the way to 1:1 I find you are on a tripod and focusing manually any way.

An AF portrait lens may be of more general use, but true macro work is usially so deliberate, and focus is so difficult to achieve with AF because the camera is NOT looking necessairly at what you want to be in focus, that AF is not worth it.

just my $0.02
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