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10-01-2013, 11:44 AM   #1
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HELP, Need opinions on 2 lenses for portraits!

Hi all! I'm having trouble deciding between two lenses and was wondering if you could give me your opinions. I do not have any super nice lenses (I use the K-5) so I occasionally RENT a lens for a period of time so I can get some better people pics. I have quite a few people wanting photos, ranging from senior pics to family portraits (all will be outdoor).

I was going to rent this one: SMC Pentax-DA* 55mm F1.4 SDM Reviews - DA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database as I figured it was a good focal length for portraits and had good reviews

but then I saw this one...

SMC Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited Reviews - FA Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database and I loved the reviews and the photos I've seen taken with it! I was dead set on getting this one, but I keep reading about how you should use longer focal lengths, 50mm or longer, for better portraits, so now I'm torn!!

What do you think? Would the 31mm be OK for portraits? If not, why?

10-01-2013, 11:49 AM   #2
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For portraits you should get the 55mm so that you're not plagued by perspective & lens distortion. You'll also be able to get nicer bokeh. The 31mm is by all means a nice lens, but not a portrait lens IMO.

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10-01-2013, 11:57 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
For portraits you should get the 55mm so that you're not plagued by perspective & lens distortion. You'll also be able to get nicer bokeh. The 31mm is by all means a nice lens, but not a portrait lens IMO.
Thanks! I definitely want a good bokeh, and for some reason I was getting the feeling with reading reviews and stuff that the 31mm did give a really smooth bokeh effect, which is why I thought it would be ok. I thought it might be easier to work with as well since I can get a little closer with it, but if the distortion would be too bad, I wouldn't like that. However, when I use the KIT LENS (18-55), I really don't notice much distortion in that range, so... hmm...
10-01-2013, 11:59 AM   #4
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Have you considered a zoom? Though not as fast as the primes you mentioned and certainly a lot bigger physically but the Tamron 28-75 f2.8 might be a good option for portraits. I used to have this lens on my old K-x and it's quite impressive - used it on portraits, general walk around, etc.

10-01-2013, 12:05 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by laughlady99 Quote
Thanks! I definitely want a good bokeh, and for some reason I was getting the feeling with reading reviews and stuff that the 31mm did give a really smooth bokeh effect, which is why I thought it would be ok. I thought it might be easier to work with as well since I can get a little closer with it, but if the distortion would be too bad, I wouldn't like that. However, when I use the KIT LENS (18-55), I really don't notice much distortion in that range, so... hmm...
The distortion happens because with a wider lens, you need to be closer to your subject, which distorts their face. Digitalrev has a great video about this if you want to learn more!

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10-01-2013, 12:07 PM   #6
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I agree with Adam on focal length. If you like to work far from your subject, an even longer lens would be good; a 70mm, 77mm, or 85mm perhaps.
10-01-2013, 12:10 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by K57XR Quote
Have you considered a zoom? Though not as fast as the primes you mentioned and certainly a lot bigger physically but the Tamron 28-75 f2.8 might be a good option for portraits. I used to have this lens on my old K-x and it's quite impressive - used it on portraits, general walk around, etc.
I actually have that Tamron lens, and I love it in general, but when I used it for taking photos of my daughter I didn't care for the quality I was getting. The previous time I used it for outdoor portraits, it seemed to be hit and miss on whether they turned out nice or not. I really like the quality of the images I get with prime lenses and that is what I want to focus on with these next few groups of photos I want to take.

Thanks for the info Adam, I will check into the distortion information!
10-01-2013, 12:18 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by laughlady99 Quote
I really like the quality of the images I get with prime lenses
No argument there Agreed with the other posts. When I played with portraits using the Tamron I usually find myself in the long end (70-75mm) and moved away from the subject to avoid distortion - my wife doesn't like her nose "big"

10-01-2013, 12:24 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by K57XR Quote
No argument there Agreed with the other posts. When I played with portraits using the Tamron I usually find myself in the long end (70-75mm) and moved away from the subject to avoid distortion - my wife doesn't like her nose "big"
I find myself zooming in all the way most of the time too, and correct me if I'm wrong but zooming in all the way like that really reduces the quality of the image, and prevents the image from looking as good on a larger scale.
10-01-2013, 12:50 PM   #10
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Come now, on APS-C, 31mm is equivalent to almost 50mm FOV on full frame... surely distortion's not that bad? Shooting further away also tends to flatten features, IMHO. Looking at this sample page, the (full frame) focal length I personally prefer is... 50mm. That's the classic portrait focal length, is it not? That translates to ~33mm on APS-C, does it not? Plus, can't cameras like the K-5 correct lens distortion? Both lenses seem like they would make fine portrait tools to me...

Last edited by Doundounba; 10-01-2013 at 12:51 PM. Reason: errors
10-01-2013, 01:07 PM   #11
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I found this thread on the 31mm lens and there are people pics scattered here and there in the thread, I think they all (along with the other photos) look very nice! https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/lens-sample-photo-archive/153328-pentax-f...d-samples.html

I'm not noticing much distortion either really? Can you see now why I'm torn between the two? I guess my thing is I've found more SHARPER, smoother images as samples online for this lens even though I have that nagging voice that says be safe and go with the 55mm!. :/ ehh!
10-01-2013, 01:31 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by laughlady99 Quote
I find myself zooming in all the way most of the time too, and correct me if I'm wrong but zooming in all the way like that really reduces the quality of the image, and prevents the image from looking as good on a larger scale.
Generally, no. That's only true for "digital" zoom, which is really just cropping the image, and which you shouldn't be doing in your DSLR. If you have to, you can crop on the computer afterward.

Zoom lenses do present different image quality at different focal lengths, but most of them are pretty good at the 50-70mm range, because they expect you to use it the most.
10-01-2013, 01:37 PM   #13
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The 31mm is a fantastic lens, but you may need to spend some more time with it. I do not run into any noticeable distortion with the lens, but I do have more CA. This is an issue i run into with all the FA limiteds. I do not have the 55mm 1.4, but i do not hear of many complaints in that department. The newer lenses might have newer coatings with help in this area. However, if you have a bit of time to spend in Lightroom this can easily be fixed. Also have you considered a 50mm 1.2?
10-01-2013, 01:53 PM   #14
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"Portrait" means different things to different people. Some shots are large group shots where you might have trouble fitting a lot of people into the frame. Others are individual head shots, or head-and-shoulders shots, where you need to isolate your subject. So I would base this decision on what type of portraits you really intend to take.

What others are saying about the distance is true. If you get too close to someone with a lens, their face will look distorted. On the other hand, there are diminishing returns, and once you are a sufficient working distance away from your subject(s), adding another 20 feet of distance isn't going to magically turn someone into a supermodel. And it forces you to shout louder.

In summary, you want to minimize distortion by keeping a satisfactory working distance, and isolate your subject from a distracting background by choosing a relatively long lens, or at least avoiding a wide angle lens.

I have both the 31 and the 55, and they are both awesome lenses. Without knowing more about how you intend to shoot, the safe bet would be the 55, because you are outdoors and presumably have room to move around. But just realize you might have to step back a bit to fit large groups in the shot.

Or, you could rent both, I suppose.
10-01-2013, 02:06 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Doundounba Quote
Come now, on APS-C, 31mm is equivalent to almost 50mm FOV on full frame... surely distortion's not that bad? Shooting further away also tends to flatten features, IMHO. Looking at this sample page, the (full frame) focal length I personally prefer is... 50mm. That's the classic portrait focal length, is it not? That translates to ~33mm on APS-C, does it not? Plus, can't cameras like the K-5 correct lens distortion? Both lenses seem like they would make fine portrait tools to me...
They talk about perspective distortion, not field distortion. The wider the angle, with the subject the same size (filling out) in the pics, the things closer will appear bigger as things in the image will get more compressed with the distance. I short, your nose will look bigger the wider the angle if you aim to fill the frame the same way.

If this is a problem or not is up to photographer, maybe the photographer even consider it a feature!

I use the 55mm, a lot. It's a wonderful lens if you like the focal length slightly longer, like I do. Its weathersealing makes me shoot in all weathers with my K-5 and it has a quiet AF. On the other hand I've been drooling over the 31 too, it's a classic lens that really is unique in many ways and quite small.
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