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11-12-2012, 08:01 PM   #16
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For the 70-135mm range - the 90mm/100/105 macros pretty much can be your prime in that region.

For the 50mm range, my Sigma 50 F1.4 is plenty sharp by F2, and gives me a stop extra for indoor shooting. And if I really need to, I can go to F1.4 for another stop. So in the 50mm range, you have to decide if the slower macro lens is enough.

For the 35mm range, the 35mm Ltd macro is pretty much all-encompassing except when compared to the 31 Ltd.

For anything wider, we don't have too much choice. Not to mention, at these FL's, a macro would touch any subject at 1:1.

Some problems with macros have been mentioned already: bulk for the same aperture and AF speed.

11-12-2012, 09:34 PM   #17
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Mostly indoors and mostly wide open would suggest faster primes rather than macro.

The discussion about sharpness is in comparison to intended defocused area--bokeh (which could refer to defocused foreground or background). Macro's can have fabulous bokeh, but to achieve defocus generally require more subject/background separation than fast primes due to the max aperture of the macro's. When you can set up the distance to the background or foreground to allow the macro's to shine, they will. Fast primes get into the "better bokeh zone" with less distance between the focused subject and the defocused area in front of or behind the focused subject.
11-12-2012, 11:02 PM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by JinDesu Quote
For the 70-135mm range - the 90mm/100/105 macros pretty much can be your prime in that region.
Yes, and the macros here are close in maximum aperture to other options. This is a good range to make a 90mm f2.8 macro fill in as a portrait lens, and delay getting something like the DA 70mm f2.4 until later. When you need the macro function too, it works, and the macro quality is a lot better than what you'd see from a close-focus zoom.

But if you'll only take portraits and very few macros, I would get a lens for the portraits. In this range, I have a Super-Takumar 85mm f1.9 and a Tamron 90mm f2.5 macro. On trips where I might run into any situation, I'll take the Tamron for flexibility. But if I really want a portrait and have some time to take it, the Takumar is the best choice. The Tamron is a lot sharper even wide-open, good enough so you can be off on the point of focus and no one notices except you. The Takumar's numbers would look terrible in a comparison test, its coatings require some care in use, it doesn't work easily with a flash, etc. The results are great, though. I'm glad I have it. (Today I might go for the Samyang 85/1.4 instead.)
11-13-2012, 02:30 AM   #19
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Macro lenses are optimized for close focus distance. They might perform worse at distant or infinity focus.

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--Anders.

11-13-2012, 03:02 AM   #20
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Newer macro lenses has floating elements and can perform in both close and portrait distances.
Macro lenses can serve as multipurpose.
90mm macro indoor might be too long, but still very good for half portraits.
Normal focal macro lens at f2.8 can be more expensive than just a normal lens, also older manual focus lenses have different character for portrait use.
What I really need for indoor shots is subject isolation. 90mm macro is fine in most cases, but in tight space, fast primes might give a better look.

Short answer: No you don't need to buy expensive 85mm for portraits. Tamron AF macro 90mm f2.8 is good.

11-13-2012, 07:15 AM   #21
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QuoteOriginally posted by slip Quote
For the most part, true macro lenses seem to be the sharpest. So why not just skip the other primes and go all macro? (if a close focal length is provided)

Just wondering...

thanks

Randy
the focus throw is too long for some applications... when the 50 macro starts hunting, and you'll miss a lot of shots....
11-13-2012, 09:55 AM   #22
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Here is an example of the Super-Takumar 85/1.9. K-7, f2.8, 1/125, ISO800. I even kept the white balance suggested by AWB. I can see the Takumar didn't capture the earring accurately, it's supposed to be all silver. This subject does not like the macro lens unless I do some softening in Photoshop.
11-13-2012, 11:31 AM   #23
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There are a lot of good bits in this thread that need to be summarized in total.

1, macro lenses are optimized to focus close, and be sharp, although many can and do perform well at normal portrait distances

2, true macro lenses are designed to be flat field lenses, normal lenses are curved field

3 macro lenses have , for older designs, of moving the entire group, a very large size for the focal length due to the length of focusing helix needed for close focus, and for floating element (internal focus) designs still a very large movement form maximum to minimum focus, which is a cost driver

4) Macro lenses above 100 mm get expensive in a hurry, and macro lenses even as short as 35mm have too restrictive a working distance for the magnification needed

For some ranges macro lenses can double as portrait lenses alsthough the sharpness can be unflattering at times, and the maximum aperture can restrict some artistic shots compared to an F1.4 lens, but, if you are always shooting at F4 or smaller it makes little difference.

11-13-2012, 11:40 AM   #24
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QuoteQuote:
But in the hierarchy of what makes a good photo, sharpness is usually not in the top 5.
There's absolutely no reason a macro lens can't be sharp and possess good colour cast, excellent contrast, have low CA and vignetting, etc. Just because it is a macro doesn't mean it won't have whatever else you want. As for portraits. in the good old days... portrait lenses were softer than other lenses and in a class all by themselves. People bought them in part for the time they saved them retouching the negatives. I'm surprised you don't see those advertised anymore. I guess in the age of digital softening, it's better to shoot sharp and then soften the image to taste. They have software for that, and it works very well.
11-13-2012, 11:48 AM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
There's absolutely no reason a macro lens can't be sharp and possess good colour cast, excellent contrast, have low CA and vignetting, etc. Just because it is a macro doesn't mean it won't have whatever else you want. As for portraits. in the good old days... portrait lenses were softer than other lenses and in a class all by themselves. People bought them in part for the time they saved them retouching the negatives. I'm surprised you don't see those advertised anymore. I guess in the age of digital softening, it's better to shoot sharp and then soften the image to taste. They have software for that, and it works very well.
I didn't imply that the macro lens did not have all those characteristics as well. The only charachteristic the OP mentioned was sharpness and thats why I said what I said.
11-13-2012, 11:55 AM   #26
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All you had to say was "Sharpness is a bourgeois concept."
11-13-2012, 11:56 AM   #27
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My standard 'walk around lens' is the DFA100mm macro. I've come to love the focal length for just about anything. I do find the autofocus to be hit and miss for stuff at a distance though. If it hits it, it's extremely fast but if it misses and goes hunting it can take ages to finish (I use a k100d), so I generally just stick to manual. f/2.8 will do a decent job indoors as well.

QuoteOriginally posted by HSV Quote
Bear in mind that I'm not very experienced in photography...

Why would lack of sharpness be an advantage? Why would you choose a lens that you know is less sharp?

In my limited retouching I do on portraits, I find it a lot easier to un-sharp something (usual skin, using "dust and scratches" in PP) than in it is to sharpen something (and look natural, of course). Well, I don't have a workflow at all, I just treat every image in a case by case basis.
The skin can become pore-city when subject to the obscene sharpness a macro lens brings to the party. Even on the smooth skin of a child, every little bit of dirt, sand, food, and other gross stuff they like to keep on their faces will pop into existence. This isn't to say it can't be used for portraits, they can do a fine job, it's just something to be aware of that you may have to do more retouching to make things flattering. Real life is actually pretty gross and a good sharp lens will exemplify this. A macro set at f/8 is not something you should aim at a girl you like.
11-13-2012, 12:08 PM   #28
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QuoteQuote:
Real life is actually pretty gross and a good sharp lens will exemplify this. A macro set at f/8 is not something you should aim at a girl you like.
More that we usually don't stare at people, usually our looks tend to be more fleeting. We are not used to seeing an un-moving person from a foot away, not moving while we check him or her out. As for what girls like.. Make them look thinner, make them look taller, and make them look like they'd look when they've a had a gazillion dollar an hour make up artist work on them for a while. If they question your treatment, just say, " I just like the photos to look like what I see." You can't go wrong.
11-13-2012, 12:36 PM   #29
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I shared a similar thought with the original poster a number of years ago and decided to act on it. In my case I sold my old SMC Pentax M 100/2.8 to get the much more expensive A 100/2.8 macro. I thought, as there would be no loss of speed, the macro could serve as both macro and portrait lens. This was a tough call as the M 100 was my goto portrait lens back in my film days. The macro, while OK for portriats, was a little too sharp for this application. It's large size also intimidated the subjects. Most folks prefer a lens with less of a hard edge than a macro for their portraits - especially the ladies. I still use the A 100/2.8 for macro work but have pretty much replaced it for portraits with the DA 70/2.4. Ironically, the DA 70 portraits remind me a lot of the old M 100/2.8 results.

Tom G
11-13-2012, 06:53 PM   #30
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I am writing only what I've read over the past few decades... There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch... more important than absolute sharpness, macro lenses tend to be evenly sharp from center all the way out to the edges of the frame. Macro lenses work best with a fairly flat field. Conversely, non-macro lenses work better for subjects that have more depth, typically with some loss of sharpness as you move from the center to the edges.

Also, keep in mind that a really sharp lens can make some subjects look worse. Don't assume sharper is always better.
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