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09-17-2010, 01:26 AM   #1
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The right macro/portrait lens?

Hi all,

Iím about to step out and buy my first lens and I need some help making the decision. What Iím after is a true Macro lens (needs to be 1:1) that will also take great portraits. Iíve been reading through some past threads on this topic and have come up with a short list of lens that might be suitable but Iím kind of starting to get caught up on the idea that 70mm is the focal length for me. I realise the longer the focal length, the better for macro (scared insects), but I donít think Iíd be willing to go any longer than 70mm for portraits because Iím thinking my portrait shots will be mostly indoors.

This is leading me to focus on the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG MACRO. Have I come to the right conclusion here or are there other options I should be considering? Whatís an appropriate focal length for indoor portraits, could I get away with higher than 70mm? Or looking the other way, would there be little difference between 70mm and 50mm for macro?

Thereís probably no definite answer to any of my questions!

(My budget is around $500, this is for a K-7)

09-17-2010, 03:41 AM   #2
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For inside portraits, 70mm might be a bit too tight on an APC camera like the K-7. I think you should consider going for a wider lens like the Pentax D FA 50mm F2.8 Macro. With this lens, your view angle is like that of a 75mm lens, which is nice for portraits. For example, my favorite portrait lens is the DA* 55mm F1.4.

I do agree that a bit longer is better for macro. I'm looking to get the Pentax D FA Macro 100mm F2.8 WR for macro photography. So it all depends on what your priority will be.

If you're going for more inside portrait than macro, consider the 50mm. If your priority is with macro, the Sigma would be a good compromise between 50 and 100mm.
09-17-2010, 04:16 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Stiv Quote
This is leading me to focus on the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG MACRO.
That would have been my recommendation.

Here's some praise for the Sigma 70/2.8 which nicely doubles as a macro and portrait lens.

I think 50mm is too short for headshots. I wouldn't go under 55mm for portraits and 70mm is even better.

I've got the Sigma 70/2.8 and its wide open performance is nothing but stunning.
09-17-2010, 04:40 AM   #4
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I'd suggest the Tamron 90mm. I don't think it's too tight for portraits, in fact with 90mm you get to stay far enought away that you are not a factor in the shot. It's also a very good short telephoto. And of course an excellent macro, with both a limiting switch and an AF/MF clutch.
I've never used the Sigma 70mm macro but I have used both the Sigma 105 macro and the Pentax DFA 100mm macro and of the three I much prefer the Tamron 90mm.

NaCl(you can't go wrong with any of them but my preference is still the Tammy)H2O

09-17-2010, 05:14 AM   #5
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There's one thing to remember : macro lenses need to be the sharpest around, and most of them are. Portrait lenses need to have some softness, quite the opposite. I have the F50 f1,7 and FA50 macro, and I'd never use the macro for portraits, too brutally sharp, it's not flattering. The F50 is incredible in its own right, but it delivers softer results (and a larger OOF area) around f2.

Two opposite purposes if you ask me.
09-17-2010, 05:18 AM   #6
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No perfect solution here.

The 70mm is a bit short for a macro and many consider the 100mm macro a bit long for portraits. I chose the A 100/2.8 macro many years ago but have since added the DA 70 as my portrait lens. As I think on it I guess there is a perfect solution - get one of each.

Tom G

Last edited by 8540tomg; 01-27-2011 at 06:49 AM.
09-17-2010, 06:03 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by 8540tomg Quote
The 70mm is a bit short for a macro and many consider the 100mm macro a bit long for portraits.
I agree that 100mm is too long for (classic) portraits. I don't think 70mm is too short for a macro. The difference in stand-off difference to the Tamron 90mm was slightly more than 2cm, if IIRC. If you really want to avoid scaring critters away, I think you need to go into the 180mm+ range.

It is true that sharp and contrasty lenses are not the most flattering lenses for portraits, but I don't think that any serious portrait will not be edited anyhow. Much easier to blur skin then to bring back resolution in the eyes/lashes that isn't there to begin with.
09-17-2010, 06:16 AM   #8
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Good comments all. If you're not in a screaming hurry, have a look at the "Single in September" Challenge currently running in this forum. Participants are each using a single lense of their choice for the whole month, and submitting one shot from each day (mine is the Sigma 28-80 Macro II). There are some amazing things being done. Cheers Paddy

09-17-2010, 06:19 AM   #9
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I am in a similar boat to you and was considering DA 35 Macro as a universal lens for both portraits and macro. According to the reviews this is a beautiful glass, however probably too short for portraits. I may still get it later for macro, but thinking about buying DA 70 first, which seems to be the right length for portraits.

Re the Sigma, it's so big and heavy compared to DA primes, not sure it's worth it.
09-17-2010, 06:34 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
There's one thing to remember : macro lenses need to be the sharpest around, and most of them are. Portrait lenses need to have some softness, quite the opposite. I have the F50 f1,7 and FA50 macro, and I'd never use the macro for portraits, too brutally sharp, it's not flattering. The F50 is incredible in its own right, but it delivers softer results (and a larger OOF area) around f2.

Two opposite purposes if you ask me.
I didn't immediately think of this, but I agree with this comment. Macro lenses have a different purpose than portrait lenses and won't give you as good a portrait as non macro. But then there's also the point of versatility. Not everyone is willing to own two lenses of the same focal length just for different shots.

As for longer lenses for portraits. The TS specifically mentioned the portraits to be taken inside. So 90mm and even 100mm are out of the question imho. 70mm should be usable though.
09-17-2010, 07:36 AM   #11
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Warning Math Involved

I think you need to do a little thinking about whether the combination of Macro and Portrait suits your need.

A lot of this has to do with space, for portraits and working distance fro macros.

Two simple things to consider are the following:

For portraits and when the subject is much further away than the focal length (10:1 or more)

Image Size = Subject size * Focal Length / Distance

and for Macro work, at 1:1 working distance (from front of the lens) is 2 X the focal length.

Think about the type of portraits you want. and you can consider for example Head and shoulders the subject is about 400mm high, for half body shots about 1 meter high and for full length shots 2 meters high. Plug the numbers into the formula along with the working distance you think you will have, indoor or outdoor, and see what focal length you need for each type of shot. For the Image size, use 24mm as the long dimension of the ASP-C format.

Then, look at whether that focal length is also available in macro, but beware, a 35mm macro means that for 1:1 you are only 70mm from the subject, and this is pretty close.

I personally like 100mm for macro to get a respectible working distance. A 35mm macro works OK for copy duty but not as well on other types of work.
09-17-2010, 07:54 AM   #12
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If you get the Sigma 70mm macro lens, you will be happy.
09-17-2010, 08:39 AM   #13
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DFA 100mm f/2.8 Macro WR is excellent with beauties or bugs.
09-17-2010, 05:47 PM   #14
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Wow, so many great comments.

The softness of portrait shots is something I hadn't considered and a great point, but I agree with Class A in that it's easier to make a shot softer in PP than the other way around.

In a perfect world with unlimited budget I'd definitely consider buying 2 separate lenses but that's just not practical right now.

It sounds like for indoor work I wouldn't want to go any longer than 70mm. Is 50mm about the minimum you'd ever go for a portrait lens? I do like the look of the Sigma but as mentioned it is a bulky beast compared to the DA Primes.
09-17-2010, 05:54 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
I think you need to do a little thinking about whether the combination of Macro and Portrait suits your need.

A lot of this has to do with space, for portraits and working distance fro macros.

Two simple things to consider are the following:

For portraits and when the subject is much further away than the focal length (10:1 or more)

Image Size = Subject size * Focal Length / Distance

and for Macro work, at 1:1 working distance (from front of the lens) is 2 X the focal length.

Think about the type of portraits you want. and you can consider for example Head and shoulders the subject is about 400mm high, for half body shots about 1 meter high and for full length shots 2 meters high. Plug the numbers into the formula along with the working distance you think you will have, indoor or outdoor, and see what focal length you need for each type of shot. For the Image size, use 24mm as the long dimension of the ASP-C format.

Then, look at whether that focal length is also available in macro, but beware, a 35mm macro means that for 1:1 you are only 70mm from the subject, and this is pretty close.

I personally like 100mm for macro to get a respectible working distance. A 35mm macro works OK for copy duty but not as well on other types of work.
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!
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