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12-31-2011, 09:01 PM   #1
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Better For Portraits: DA 55-300 or an Old Manual Prime 135?

I've already got a DA 55-300, but I've been thinking about getting an older 135mm prime for portrait photography (indoor and outdoor). The only thing is, I wonder if I would actually get better results with an older prime. I've never used anything older than an FA model, so I don't know how an M, A, or even a third party prime would perform with my Kr.

My budget will only allow me to go with something under $100 (been checking the marketplace and the bay for a couple of weeks with little to no luck).

I would prefer something with auto-aperture, but I would consider full manual if it was really worth it.

So the first question would be, would I get better results? Second question would be, what should I be looking for? I know spending more will get me more, but I wouldn't be able to go over $100 (Christmas was tough this year).

Thanks in advance.

12-31-2011, 09:12 PM   #2
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i'd take the old 135 for the shallower depth of field and better sharpness over the 55-300, but personally, i like something in the 50-85ish range for portraits, since 135 can be a bit tight for indoor shots.

if you want, i have a M135 f/3.5 lying around somewhere i can sell ya, pm me if you're interested
12-31-2011, 09:12 PM   #3
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135 is starting to get kind of long for portraits, particularly indoors where you can not back up.

Something in the 50-75 range is the usual candidate for a portrait lens, and one that is faster than the 55-300.
12-31-2011, 09:14 PM   #4
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135 wouldnt work for indoor portraits unless you got a long room or something

12-31-2011, 09:45 PM   #5
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It depends on what you mean by 'portrait'. People and other critters can be portrayed with lenses of almost any focal length. Headshots, torso and half-body shots are just subsets of portraiture. Assuming you're interested in facial features, I'll say that my favorite people-shooting zoom is an old M42 Sears-Tokina 55-135/3.5. The 55mm end is for half-body etc, the 135mm end for partial facials or very uncomfortable subjects.

Yes, with a 135 you either need a big room or a desire for half-faces. Something in the 50-90mm range is better for the sorts of portraits you probably want. Bargain lenses in this range include the M or A 50/1.7, SuperTak 55/1.8 or f/2, or a 75/3.5 enlarger lens (EL) on tubes or helicoid. Any EL will be tack-sharp. You might also find a used manual 90mm macro lens within your budget.

If you have a 50-55mm f/1.4-1.8 lens already, you can get a softened portrait look (similar to a Jupiter-9 85/2) by adding a good cheap 1.5x adapter to it, maybe Sony or Olympus. The Sony VCL-1546A on my FA50/1.4 makes it effectively a 75/1.4! A *really* cheap trick is to add a cheap +1 dioptre closeup adapter to your 55-300 and shoot at the short end. The adapter brings your working distance down to 50-95cm / 20-38in, with thin DOF.

But try your 55-300 at various focal lengths, see which work for you and which don't.
01-01-2012, 03:50 AM   #6
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I've only taken a few portraits with my M135. Here is one of them at f4 (or whatever stopped down one click is). I was not close, maybe 20 feet but I didn't pace it off.

I like my DA40 and A50/1.7 for body portraits and at some point I would like to add a M85/DA70/FA77 for torso/headshots.

My advice would be to use your 55-300 to see if 135mm's is what you want. If it is then check ebay for lens bundles. It's not uncommon to find a set of M28, M50 (either 1.7 or f2) and a M135 for less than $150. but I think the M50/1.7 or 1.4 will be more useful than the M135. It should be pretty easy to find either the M50/1.7 or M135/3.5 for $50 on ebay or similar site.

Last edited by abacus07; 01-01-2012 at 03:58 AM.
01-01-2012, 09:56 AM   #7
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I agree that 135mm on APS-C is a bit long for indoor portraits, even though I have used it on occasion, as in the wide-open Super-Takumar 135/3.5 example below. I have the 55-300mm as well, but I barely ever use it for portraits, because I take most of them indoors without flash in regular room lighting, and it is just a tad slow for that. Currently, my most-used lens for portraits is the Super-Takumar 50/1.4. You should still be able to get a good copy for less than 100$. Otherwise, the Super-Takumar 55/1.8 does a great job as well, and shouldn't cost you more than 40$.



Last edited by Ikarus; 01-01-2012 at 11:53 AM.
01-01-2012, 11:56 AM   #8
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Think of spacial relationships and subject isolation. A cheap 135/2.8 has thinner DOF and thus better subject isolation than a costly 85/2, IFF you have room to use the 135. 75-90mm works better in a smaller space, if closer lens-subject and subject-background distances are limiting factors. With any longer focal length, too-close subject-background distance can be fixed by keeping the background dark and the subject well-lit. But a 135 will need the right space and light setups -- outdoors or large rooms, supplemental lights, etc.

So, choose your focal length(s) based on the spaces where you'll be shooting. Good luck!

01-01-2012, 12:32 PM   #9
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I would buy a Pentax-M 135/3.5 as an experiment. I think the going price is around $40 and it's a great lens. You can figure out whether manual focus, manual aperture and the focal length work out for you, and if not, sell the lens for about what you paid. There aren't many 135s with A settings around, maybe a Sears or a Pentax-A 135/2.8. The Pentax-A is over your budget.

A Pentax-M 100mm f2.8 might fit your needs better than a 135, and address some of the concerns others have mentioned, for maybe $120. An 85mm would be nice but they all are way over your $100.

The answer to your question is more about your personal preferences, so a $40 experiment is a good idea.
01-01-2012, 01:06 PM   #10
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After all of the recommendations you guys have made, I think I'm looking into something else. I'd still like to get 135 or even a 100 as a prime to try out. But now I'm looking into getting either:

SMC-Pentax FA 28-105mm F4-5.6 Reviews - FA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

or

Pentax-F 35-135mm F3.5-4.5 Reviews - F Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

I know someone had a:

Pentax-F 35-70mm F3.5-4.5 Reviews - F Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

that might suit my needs, but I haven't heard back from the guy, so I don't know if the lens is still available.

Going with the range that you guys have suggested (and after having taken a look at a lot of pictures at different ranges) I'd like something that has a 50-80 range. I'd also like for it to replace my DAL 18-55 kit lens which is why I'm not looking for something specifically in the 50-80 range. I'm hoping the IQ would be better with one of those I mentioned than it is with the DAL. Since I've never used any of the other lenses, I really don't know for sure.
01-01-2012, 01:25 PM   #11
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Whoops. The one someone had for sale is actually this one:

Pentax-F 35-105mm F4-5.6 Reviews - F Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

But I think the 35-70 would be a good one too.
01-01-2012, 01:47 PM   #12
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For a dedicated portrait lens, I wouldn't go with anything above f/3.5 and that's for a 135mm. For anything shorter than 85mm, I wouldn't go with anything above f/2. It's not that you always want to use it wide open, but it's good to have the option.

Last edited by Ikarus; 01-01-2012 at 01:54 PM.
01-01-2012, 02:08 PM   #13
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I've used an SMC-A 70-210 f/4.0 quite nicely for portrait type shots - however, as mentioned, those are all outside, and are often waist up, shoulders up, or face only; that range simply wouldn't work indoors for me, where something wider like 24-28mm is more useful, especially if trying to get more than waist upwards type of shots.

I agree on the DOF, that's one of the things I really liked using the 70-210 - the longer focal range helped in reducing the DOF and isolating the subject.
My 'ideal' overall considering I've done portrait type shots both indoors and outdoors would probably be something like 24-135 f/2.8, which AFAIK just doesn't exist, which would allow for lower light indoor shots as well as smaller space indoors, but also be quite nice for outdoor type portrait shots as well. Ideally, constant aperture, or at least starting out on the fast side at wider angle (assuming a zoom), 2.8/3.5 or faster ideally.

I could see something like the Tamron 24-75 f/2.8 being pretty nice here as a compromise, probably quite nice for indoor portraits, but a bit on the short side/more 'telephoto feet' for the types of outdoor portraits I've enjoyed taking.
01-01-2012, 02:08 PM   #14
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Are you using flash? If so, a KA mount may be a lot of use unless you have an *istD
01-01-2012, 02:14 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
After all of the recommendations you guys have made, I think I'm looking into something else. I'd still like to get 135 or even a 100 as a prime to try out. But now I'm looking into getting either:

SMC-Pentax FA 28-105mm F4-5.6 Reviews - FA Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

or

Pentax-F 35-135mm F3.5-4.5 Reviews - F Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

I know someone had a:

Pentax-F 35-70mm F3.5-4.5 Reviews - F Zoom Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

that might suit my needs, but I haven't heard back from the guy, so I don't know if the lens is still available.

Going with the range that you guys have suggested (and after having taken a look at a lot of pictures at different ranges) I'd like something that has a 50-80 range. I'd also like for it to replace my DAL 18-55 kit lens which is why I'm not looking for something specifically in the 50-80 range. I'm hoping the IQ would be better with one of those I mentioned than it is with the DAL. Since I've never used any of the other lenses, I really don't know for sure.
Non of those you can get new since they arent in production anymore.

If you also want to replace your kit lens then look at these.
Pentax/Sigma 17-70 mm
Sigma 24-70 f/2.8
Tamron 28-75 f/2.8
(i did those 2 last numbers out of my head so i hope they are correct)

If you want a "pure" portrait zoom then
Pentax 50-135 f/2.8 is super for that
Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 is another option.
You have the focal lengths that are mostly use that way, although some like to use wider lenses though since the images look more personal then.

I've the DA*50-135 myself but I also use the DA*16-50, DA40, DFA100 and Sigma 30 for portraits, it all depends on what kind of look and feel you want.


ps. maybe the DA18-135 or sigma 18-125 might do the trick as well, never seriously looked into those lenses myself though...
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