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01-17-2014, 01:01 PM   #1
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Need a portrait lens for my K-7, ...but do I already have one that will work.

I'm a "back to school mom" and hobby photographer, although I have had one art photography exhibit. I'm taking a lighting techniques class this semester and a portrait lens was on a the list of required equipment. I was looking at favorable reviews and the fa 70 2.4 and the fa 77 1.8, then noticed some favorable reviews on the fa 85 1.4 and so on and so on. I also noticed some users recommended lenses I already own and now I'm wondering if I really even need a specifically "portrait" lens.

I have a Pentax DA L 1:4-5.8 55-300mm ED, and also a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. I purchased both of these mostly for their versatility and quality with a student budget in mind and wasn't really looking for a portrait lens at the time.

I would love a top notch portrait lens......if I need one.

01-17-2014, 01:09 PM - 1 Like   #2
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I'd recommend the DA 50mm F1.8 as a beginner portrait lens. This video should help explain why fast primes do a better job than zooms:
Beginner Portrait Lens Guide - Pentax Tutorial Videos - PentaxForums.com

You could also look at any of the other lenses listed on that page, as they'll definitely get the job done.

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01-17-2014, 01:09 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Nothing wrong with your Tamron for portraits.

"Portrait Lens" is a very vague term that can mean lots of things. Do you want to shoot head shots, full body shoots, groups, children? How much space do you have to back up?

If you want a good prime the DA 70 ($500 - 600) is very good. If you are doing this professionally then the FA 77 ($800 - $1,000) or the FA 85 ($1,200 plus) might be what you need but I would not spend a lot of money on new glass until you see if this is something you will do regularly. Shoot with the zoom for a while and see what focal length you really like.

Edit: I always forget the DA 50mm f/1.8 which as Adam noted is a good choice as well and far less money.
01-17-2014, 01:17 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I would start with a good 50mm prime myself. Not only is the focal length on our cameras near perfection for portraits, but the image quality and price point for a good 50mm lens is such a good value they are hard to pass up. a 50mm prime should be in every ones kit in my opinion.

You could even find a M series 50mm f1.7 prime for a steal fairly easily.

Here would be my recommendations in terms of budget:

M 50mm f1.7
DA 50mm f1.8
FA 50mm f1.4
DA* 55mm f1.4
FA 77mm f1.8

01-17-2014, 01:17 PM   #5
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My instructor suggested the 60 to 90mm range, but she has a film camera and I'm now thinking she isn't familier enough with digital to know that a 50mm is comparable.
01-17-2014, 01:29 PM   #6
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"Do you want to shoot head shots, full body shoots, groups, children? How much space do you have to back up?

If you want a good prime the DA 70 ($500 - 600) is very good. If you are doing this professionally then the FA 77 ($800 - $1,000) or the FA 85 ($1,200 plus) might be what you need but I would not spend a lot of money on new glass until you see if this is something you will do regularly. Shoot with the zoom for a while and see what focal length you really like."


Good advise. I will see which focal length I like before purchasing.

Thanks everyone for all the recommendations.
01-17-2014, 01:37 PM - 1 Like   #7
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50-55mm on APS-C translates as 75-83mm on film, this should be the perfect range. In addition to the other suggestions, if you only need a manual lens (I'd guess you will use full manual as part of your class anyway), you could also try to find a Takumar 55 (I have an SMC Tak 55 f/1.8 but any one of them should do), they can be had easily for cheap and they are great portrait lenses. You will just need an m42 mount adapter, which is also cheap and readily available.

However, you have to be aware that any pre-A lens (that is the Takumar, K and M series) is only usable with the flash in manual mode. This may not seem like a big deal, but it will also prevent you from using the built-in flash of your camera as a remote trigger. This may or may not be an issue for your lighting class.

Last edited by nono; 01-17-2014 at 02:05 PM.
01-17-2014, 01:39 PM - 1 Like   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by SherryO Quote
My instructor suggested the 60 to 90mm range, but she has a film camera and I'm now thinking she isn't familier enough with digital to know that a 50mm is comparable.
totally. The 60-90 range is perfect for portraiture on film.

Now here is where it gets annoying and all strange... one would be lead to believe that a 50mm lens magically becomes a 75mm lens when you slap it onto a Pentax DSLR. Sure the field of view becomes similar, but its not that simple. A 50mm lens will always render like a 50mm lens, no matter what camera it's mounted to. This means that wide angle lenses which are known for distorting things and make faces appear wider will still do that. a 50mm lens is heralded as the standard lens because it renders closer to the human eye than other lenses. On a film body this would also give you a field of view pretty close to your own...but on an APS-C it "zooms in". A lens in the 60-90 range would in term make faces seem thinner.

Its an odd world we live in with so many different formats. but you can't go wrong with any lens from 50-90mm for what your looking to do.




Now, I'm going to overload you here with junk...

The shorter the lens the further back you throw the back ground. This is a fun one I like using, take a photo of your subject with your zoom lens on it's widest setting. Then, keeping the subject the same size, take it again at the opposite end of the zoom range. Look what happens to your backdrop. This is a fun trick.

01-17-2014, 01:39 PM - 1 Like   #9
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A 50 mm lens on a crop sensor camera is equivalent to a 75 mm on a full frame camera (crop factor 1.5). It's well within the range your instructor required.
01-17-2014, 01:43 PM - 1 Like   #10
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You can take great portraits with nicely blurred out background using your 55-300mm (remember that 90mm is in there too) if you get some distance between you and your subject
It just depends on how you use the tools you have.
Check out Mike Browne's YT channel, he has a lot of great tips.
Here's one that can help;
01-17-2014, 01:51 PM   #11
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Lots to think about! I do like the look of a longer focal length....thinking 55 or higher, 70 to 85mm, and would really like to stay with 1.4 or 1.8, although that 70 2.4 has gotten some nice reviews. Guess I'm not ready to buy just without a little more research.
01-17-2014, 02:29 PM - 1 Like   #12
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Given the universe of things one can do--I suggest you spend the least for something that many would say is good--and see what difference it offers. And while it's manual focus the before mentioned Pentax M50mm f1.7 lens is superb, fast, small and cheap. Likely a BGN one from KEH for maybe $50. (Having gotten many such lenses from KEH.com it is the safest/least costly route.) This plus the zooms you have will do very nicely.
01-17-2014, 02:34 PM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by SherryO Quote
Lots to think about! I do like the look of a longer focal length....thinking 55 or higher, 70 to 85mm, and would really like to stay with 1.4 or 1.8, although that 70 2.4 has gotten some nice reviews. Guess I'm not ready to buy just without a little more research.
Can't go wrong with the M 50 f1.7. I really think that aside from your intended use it's a lens you should have anyways. Nothing more magical than learning how to use a manual lens on your new digital body and unlocking the potential of such a great value piece.
01-17-2014, 02:36 PM - 1 Like   #14
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If you have lots of money and enjoy spending it, by all means go out and get a new lens.

Otherwise, use one of your zooms--IQ will be more than adequate.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

Longer lenses need more space between you and your subject--how big is your studio?

Also, most portrait subjects prefer their images *not* to be tack sharp. Soft lighting & soft lens is often appreciated.
01-17-2014, 03:33 PM - 1 Like   #15
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Considering the class you are doing is lighting technique then you will be focusing on light set up more than trying to shoot with a narrow depth of field. Your existing lenses should be perfectly fine. Portraiture is about isolating your subject, a narrow depth of field is only one way to do this, using light and controlling you background in a studio environment is another.
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