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06-03-2009, 08:08 AM   #1
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Looking for a new portrait prime

I think I have it narrowed down to the following:

Sigma 50 f/1.4 - might not be long enough, but the bokeh and sharpness look amazing.

Pentax DA* 55 f/1.4 - slightly longer, which suits my style well, but the bokeh doesn't seem as good as the Sigma. Weathersealing would be nice.

Pentax FA 77 Limited - legendary quality, no HSM or weather sealing. The sample shots I've seen show somewhat busy looking bokeh sometimes.

Pentax FA* 85 f/1.4 - the speed looks great, and from the few samples I could find, the bokeh is more pleasing to my eye than the FA 77's. Sharpness might be a little lower though. Probably the most expensive and hard to find.

Does anyone have some opinions to offer up or some example portraits that could help me decide? I have the FA 50 1.4 now, but I don't like it real well because it's just not sharp and contrasty enough wide open.

06-03-2009, 08:30 AM   #2
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There are quite a few FA* 85 f/1.4. They're going for a little under the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4.

Personally, I'd go with the 77mm. It's designed to render skins tones better, great focal length (on both film and APS-C), fast, sharp wide open. Sure it may not be weather sealed, but it's not very often you shoot portraits out in the rain. And you don't require ultra fast focusing for portrait, though the screw drive is meant to be pretty fast at focusing.
06-03-2009, 08:48 AM   #3
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Eventually you'll want both a 50/55 and the 77. I switch between my 50 and 70 often when shooting portraits. The 70/77 need quite a lot of working space/distance.
06-03-2009, 09:14 AM   #4
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It does depend on you also, what focal length you like. I actually use a 125mm as my portrait lens.
There is also the DA 70mm which is cheaper than say the 77 and 55

there are also some manual focus alternatives if that doesnt scare you, such as the voigtlander nokton 58mm f1.4 and zeiss 85mm f1.4.

I have the 77 as well and it is very very good so I can recommend that.
I am not personally so impressed by the 55. it has sdm but focuses very slowly, doesnt seem that much better than the fa 50mm and costs a fortune. way to much for a lens around 50mm when there are so many good and cheap 50mm lenses. The zeiss 50mm f1.4 is another alternative there.

The fa 85 seems a great lens too bad its not in production anymore. I dont know anything about the sigma as I sold the sigmas I had and am not interested in getting any more of them.

I guess in conclusion Id recommend the 77mm out of the ones you listed. although the da70mm is a much more affordable alternative if you dont need the extra speed.

06-03-2009, 12:35 PM   #5
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Why not add the 70mm f2.4 Limited to your short list? I used it for a while as my prime(ary) portrait lens...until I got the DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 and now that's my "prime" portrait lens. When you think about it, it covers the portrait focal length perfectly...although it's not EXACTLY a pancake lens.
06-03-2009, 12:39 PM   #6
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No, go 77mm, it's a stop faster, sharp wide open and can be used on film.
06-03-2009, 12:51 PM   #7
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The 70mm is also quite sharp at 2.4, but as you say, a stop slower...
06-03-2009, 01:34 PM   #8
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I've actually owned the DA 70 before and ended up selling it off because it just wasn't fast enough for me. It gave pretty shallow DOF but I want even shallower for a stronger separation of subject and background.

Thanks for all the input so far. The FA77 seems pretty highly recommended but I just can't shake the often-nervous bokeh I'm seeing in some sample shots. Maybe it would work out all right in practice though. I think the focal length is almost perfect -- I also have the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 and it's great for portraits at the short end, and even some at the long end.

06-03-2009, 02:21 PM   #9
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Definitely the 77mm. The 85*'s are much more expensive (and larger) with only minimal gain in IQ over the 77mm (much the same as the FA50 and the DA55*).

I'm like you...the DA70 didn't do much for me so I went for the 77 instead. Very glad that I did.

c[_]
06-03-2009, 03:49 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by lunelson Quote
I also have the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 and it's great for portraits at the short end, and even some at the long end.
A lot of people seem to use a 70-200/2.8 for portraits...push it out to 130mm or so and you'll get more bokeh than the 77/1.8.

That said, my 77 is easily my favorite lens since I got the studio/model bug...
06-03-2009, 04:19 PM   #11
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If you don't mind the extra effort you could always go with a Jupiter-9.
06-03-2009, 05:05 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by lunelson Quote
The FA77 seems pretty highly recommended but I just can't shake the often-nervous bokeh I'm seeing in some sample shots.
Somewhere I recall seeing a side-by-side comparison in the same circumstances. The bokeh was similar but the win went to the 85. However, if you had not seen them side by side I doubt you'd notice.

Once can have bad bokeh situations with any lens. Not everyone prioritizes this in their shots. Because the FA77 is used in a wider range of circumstances odds are you're going to see more shots with nervous bokeh. Though it's never a head wrecker.

Today I shot some portraits and went for the FA43. I didn't want to be too much further from my subject in order to keep close rapport. I think the solution is to get both these FA lenses. And still save money over the FA*85!
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