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02-20-2010, 06:45 PM   #1
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Choosing a (Portrait) Lens/ Parameters

I'll soon be needing a new lens for shooting fashion non commercial.
It's for a friend who is a design student - And for me it's a hobby.

I need some perspective here.

Pentax SMC-FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited
Pentax SMC-FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited - Review / Test Report

Pentax SMC-FA 50mm f/1.4
Pentax SMC-FA 50mm f/1.4 - Review / Lab Test Report

Sigma AF 30mm f/1.4 EX DC
Sigma AF 30mm f/1.4 EX DC (Pentax K) Review / Test Report

Sigma AF 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Lens Review: 4. Test results (APS-C): Digital Photography Review

Sigma AF 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM (Canon) - Review / Test Report

They all cost pretty much the same where I live - so pricing is not a parameter by which to choose - 425/$660/AUD732

I realize I am the only one who knows what will make me happy - I just need some fresh eyes on the subject.

I like wide angle A LOT!! So my first purchase of a 10-20 Sigma was a no brainer

Now I want a lens that renders the image beautifully and with nice bokeh, good colors and sharpness. I know - I'm modest....

I would like to do some pictures of 1 model full length body shots in scenic locations. But also be able to do waist up and close ups with blurred background.

Just writing this helps a little... It sounds like I should by the 43mm ltd and use it along with my 10-20mm doesn't it?

Because the 30mm 1.4 wont do corner sharpness for when I don't want to separate the background with the bokeh

And the 50mm Sigma, although it will look better on camera and be nice to have HSM and I could use same filters as on my 10-20mm, it doesn't render as good or "special" is less contrasty and has a "blander" bokeh

But the 30mm 1.4 is brighter much sharper in the middle, and the 50mm is being praised as "the new standard standard prime" on dpreview

I've read SO many things about the 43mm Some say it's fantastic, some say that is only because when u give out that much cash u gotta be happy so as not to be sad and people get charmed by the look and feel more than the IQ it produces...

Can someone knock some sense into my head

I plan to get a really big OctaBox, like 180cm/6 ft, for use with multiple speedlights.
Does this have an impact on which lens would be best?
I imagine that it would be easier to frame the shot without softbox when using a longer lens? Or is that that of no consequence?

03-02-2010, 12:30 PM   #2
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From options you've given sounds like IQ is your biggest concern. My piece of advice won't make you too happy, however. I do not recommend any of the above for location shots. Why? Because they're too wide and using 30mm for face close-ups will make your models look round and heavy, and that is not what's fashion about.
If you want best quality go for 77mm or 70mm for lower cost.
My choice however would be 50-135 and you can find great outdoor portraits shot with this lens plus it's very versatile and quite fast.
Just to make things clear I am far from being an expert, and others might give you some better ideas.
Cheers mate
03-13-2010, 05:03 AM   #3
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Well, in fact your answer made me widen my approach to include some narrower lenses.

I use a K200D so the 50-135 X 1.53(pentax APS-C) would equal to 76.5-206.5 which I would think a bit on the tele side of things.
BUT (!) I took a look at the 70mm Sigma, the pentax 70/77 is out of price range, and that led me to the 24-70 2.8 and 28-75 2.8 of sigma and tamron.
They both look great and I would be able to use them in my living room/"studio" 5X4 meters tiny
So thanks for your reply and for dragging me out of my one track narrow DOF 1:1.x way of thinking...
It might seem I'm over complicating things, but I use it as a learning experience, and one can learn a great many things researching a new lens. Plus saving money and avoiding a misguided investment is a great motivator.
03-13-2010, 05:15 AM   #4
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Check to see if you can get a used DA 70 Limited. I actually got mine, used, from a Dane for a fair price and I love it.

Edit: This is a really good price for a new DA 70, lowest I've seen in quite a while.

http://www.japanphoto.se/product/objektiv/pentax/pentax-objektiv-70mm-f-2-4-smc-da-limited/ ~3900 DKr

03-13-2010, 09:30 AM   #5
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"Fashion" is a very broad category.

If you're doing full figure/long shot of a model on a beach, the wide stuff you're talking about makes sense. But once you get close to the model, it's a whole different story.

When you say fashion, what are you trying to sell? Clothing? Jewelry? Or simply relate a classy lifestyle?

Like, have you planned out any of your shots yet, which you should do before thinking of buying additional expensive lenses that may not work?
03-13-2010, 02:13 PM   #6
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I will recommend to add to the list of portrait lens the following:
Voigtlander Nokton 58 mm f1.4
Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II - Review / Test Report

The price of a new Nokton lens is comparable to a new Pentax SMC-FA 50mm f/1.4 lens (for example at adorama.com). The IQ of the Nokton is superb and the built is outstanding. Distortion is minimal to zero. There has been an excellent thread on the Nokton 58mm with examples at www.Pentaxforums.com:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/18979-voigtlan...-4-review.html

I bought my Nokton for outdoor shots in low light. I use it also indoor as well as for portrait with my K-7: I love it.

Hope that the suggestion will help ....
03-17-2010, 01:19 PM   #7
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Thanks for all your replies, I'm really happy I posted my question, I learn something new every time I look into your suggestions, about technical stuff and what I want from my photos...

I do actually have some setups in my head, should've included them from the start

It's clothing, the locations range from woods to rooftops, street to some rather cramped basement
"hallways" (Do you call it hallways in a basement?), corridors, also some night time long exposures
with streaked out lights from cars then freezing the model with a flash when she steps into the frame.

I don't have any lenses that do good bokeh, go under f3.5 (5.6 at narrow focal range), I'll list them:

18-55mm 3.5-5.6 ALII
Sigma 10-20mm 4-5.6 (400)
Sigma 28-200mm 3.8-5.6 (uselessly soft) (30)
Chinon 50mm 1.9 (25)

The Nokton.... Nice one *drooling* but no AF - I'm ordering a split image focus screen from jinfinance to try out with my Chinon 50mm 1.9 cause the focus beep is no use at 1.9 - I might very well get this later on.

I just found out that I can get the Sigma 24-70 2.8 Macro for 410/460€ wich would give me 2.8 and sharpness in a variable package. And I could maybe pick up an m42 70mm wide aperture lens for 40 also... is this what you call LBA? Am I showing early signs....

I gotta find a better paying job
03-17-2010, 01:33 PM   #8
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I'll just stick my two cents more in here, even though I'm in no way the expert:

If you're doing a posed shoot, you should use primes and not zooms. You'll get more "bang for your buck" with those lenses as far as cost, and I would think that you would be on a tripod anyway. So just set the shot up with the proper distance from camera to subject.

Yeah, there's a real romanticism to following your model on foot, bending down and angling here and there, as if you were a famous fashion photography. But the fundamentals of having your camera on a tripod and the shots planned out in your head beforehand can't be understated. Sure, you'll improvise as you start shooting, but that comes after.

Also, I don't see why you should care about autofocus at all with a staged shoot. Manual focus and the control it offers you is the way to go.

03-17-2010, 04:36 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ira Quote
If you're doing a posed shoot, you should use primes and not zooms. You'll get more "bang for your buck" with those lenses as far as cost, and I would think that you would be on a tripod anyway. So just set the shot up with the proper distance from camera to subject... Also, I don't see why you should care about autofocus at all with a staged shoot. Manual focus and the control it offers you is the way to go.
I'll back Ira on this. AF zooms are generally for diverse, rapidly changing, and/or well-lit scenes, and/or you want minimal gear. If you have and/or want near-total control of the situation, such as the staged shoots you describe, you'll probably be happier with the better IQ (and lower cost) of manual primes. If you're unsure of or shaky with focus during movement, you can apply Catch-In-Focus.

My suggestions for inexpensive primes: 24mm and 28mm, f/2-2.8 for full-body shots. (Your 10-20 can also be useful here, stopped down a bit, with careful control of lighting to minimize unwanted backgrounds.) Your Chinon sounds decent, although you might want to go faster at that FL (a cheap 50/1.4) or a little longer (55/1.8 or the glorious cheap Helios-44 58/2). I'd get that fast 70mm! And any 100/2.8 and 135/2.8 would be good. I can't imagine any of these setting you back more than ~40 apiece. Well, maybe a bit more if they're labeled 'macro' (go for the bokeh).

Yes, I'm picking fast-ish primes -- not that you'll use them all wide open. IQ leaps when you stop down a fast lens a bit. Again, if you carefully control light, you can isolate your subjects as well as with thin DOF but with greater sharpness. Many of the notable fashion shots of earlier eras were done with moderately slow 'normal' lenses, and careful lighting.

I'll say it again -- lighting rules. Most lenses stopped down are quite crisp. It's perspective and lighting and shadows that make an image vivid.
03-17-2010, 11:42 PM   #10
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Think longer

A lot of wise advice above. I just want to add my approach - longer is better when circumstances allow.
The shot below was taken as a snapshot with a 200mm lens.

Kjell

Last edited by bilybianca; 02-19-2012 at 10:07 AM.
03-23-2010, 10:24 AM   #11
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Found some manual primes

1 cosinon auto MC f=1.7 50 mm no.799248
1 cosinon Auto MC F=2,8 28mm No. 785198
1 cosinon Auto MC F=2,8 135mm No.785736

Seller... The SELLER, not the buyer (Edited from "buyer" Sorry *lol*) have no clue what this is. they are asking 60 for the lot.

Are they any good do you think - Assuming they are mint condition of course?

Last edited by esben; 03-23-2010 at 01:04 PM. Reason: changed "Buyer" to Seller
03-23-2010, 11:00 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by esben Quote
1 cosinon auto MC f=1.7 50 mm no.799248
1 cosinon Auto MC F=2,8 28mm No. 785198
1 cosinon Auto MC F=2,8 135mm No.785736

Buyer have no clue what this is. they are asking 60 for the lot.

Are they any good do you think - Assuming they are mint condition of course?
On your other post, I gave this thread: Manual Focus Lenses :: View topic - Test of 8 M42 35mm lenses

Bottom line: Cosinon ranked dead last in these tests.
03-23-2010, 07:51 PM   #13
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From what you have written, and from the lenses you provide, yes you should get the FA43. It is great for portraits since it renders such a nice 3D image.

QuoteOriginally posted by esben Quote
I've read SO many things about the 43mm Some say it's fantastic, some say that is only because when u give out that much cash u gotta be happy so as not to be sad and people get charmed by the look and feel more than the IQ it produces...
Well, I have bought quite a few lenses that I wouldn't shout about and some I wish I had never bothered with. I am also not immune to criticisms of a given lens, but there are some I just would never want to part with. The FA43 is one of those.

To counter some of the criticisms I started FA43 too soft? which has some images that may be useful. There are also tons on my Flickr stream, like this wedding shot.



However, if portrait and bokeh is your prime concern, I would start by getting a lens not on your list, the FA77. Since it is a longer focal length you will get narrower DOF at the same aperture. It is a great general purpose lens for any time you cannot get too close to your subject (stage shots, etc.). Comparisons put it mighty close in bokeh to the mystical 85mm lenses, though it is much lighter and smaller, also being cheaper and more available.
03-24-2010, 05:04 PM   #14
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The things youo need to consider before picking any lens are:

what type of shots, full body, head and shoulders, ? etc.

next, location, what size studio and how much distance between you and your subject.

the reason for asking these questions is that

Image size = subject size x focal length / subject distance

Until you know the subject size and working distance, you simply won't have any clue of focal length.

image size will be either 16 or 24 mm (since ASP-C sensor is 16 x 24mm)

It is a lot less to buy a lens that fits your studio than a studio that fits your lens
03-25-2010, 08:06 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
The things youo need to consider before picking any lens are:

what type of shots, full body, head and shoulders, ? etc.

next, location, what size studio and how much distance between you and your subject.

the reason for asking these questions is that

Image size = subject size x focal length / subject distance

Until you know the subject size and working distance, you simply won't have any clue of focal length.

image size will be either 16 or 24 mm (since ASP-C sensor is 16 x 24mm)

It is a lot less to buy a lens that fits your studio than a studio that fits your lens
Completely agree with Lowell :-)

Now, some have advised you get a telephoto... I have a DA70 and love it, and sure, you can take great portrait with a 200mm...
But the OP is talking about fashion shots... which means, I suppose, that the goal is to show the clothes...

So I'm guessing that the majority of the shots will include the full body of the model, or at least the upper half of the body.

So amongst the lenses you listed in your first post, i would choose the FA43. Sure you can get great results with a cheaper lens, but if, as you stated, where you live you can get an FA43 for the price of a FA50 I would not hesitate.

Not only I think (and I'm not the only one) that the FA43 is really great, I believe that the focal length can be very versatile in your situation: back up a little and you have your body shot, move closer a bit and you have your head & shoulders shot... try shooting a full length body outdoor with a 100mm lens: you'll be on the other side of the street, with people passing non-stop between you and your subject :-)

As to the DOF thing, the FA43 is at its sharpest at f4, which will give you a nicely blurred background while keeping your subject entirely in focus (if you're not too close). Then if at the end of the session you want to do some portraits with thin DOF, move a bit closer, open up your aperture and enjoy the magic :-)

Now having said that, let me be clear that you can get great results with an old/cheap manual fast fifty (my favorite is S-M-C Takumar 55/1.8 in M42 mount), but since you asked about the FA43...

Good luck with your decision and have fun with your new lens
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