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05-27-2011, 08:25 AM   #1
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Portrait Lens Question

So the word is out on the Jupiter-9. It's much more expensive than I'd hoped to get it for. Most sources are in Russia and I'm not sure I want to buy from anyone out of the country with less than 100% positive feedback. After doing research through the lens database site, this was the lens I wanted to save money(as I am saving to buy a super wide angle and you can't buy those vintage.) If I have to end up spending ~180 bucks on the Jupiter-9, with no real guarantee on the shape it's in, am I better off buying the Rokinon 85mm($269 new)? I have the SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4 already. Should I just be happy with that? Or there is the Helios 44-2 58mm.

so Jupiter-9 MC vs Rokinon 85mm vs SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4 vs Helios 44-2 58mm.

I want a good portrait lens for my 1 year old daughter and wife. Unique bokeh is a plus. The Jupiter-9 and Helios seem to have that.


Last edited by kenafein; 05-27-2011 at 08:35 AM.
05-27-2011, 09:27 AM   #2
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I might get the Rokinon and the Helios. That way you have a lens with a KA mount and less quirks in rendering, or switch to the Helios for something different.

I like the 50-58mm range for portraits, and you can get five different lenses for the same price as a cheap 85.
05-27-2011, 09:35 AM   #3
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I have the ST and FA 50/1.4's, and other 50-55-58's including the Helios-44M, and the Jupiter-9, and they are all different lenses. I don't have the Rokinon. The Helios-44 (any version) is cheap and unique and everybody should own at least one. Rather than the Jupiter-9, I tend to use a Nikkor 85/2 that I got cheap and modded for PK-mount fit; it's lighter and a bit easier to use than my Jupiter, which really could use a good CLA.

So, what should you do? I like the results from the Jupiter, but ~US$180 seems like too much to me. BTW I've bought from numerous sellers in FSU (former SovUnion) states and only one tried to screw me; any who are long-term on eBay should be OK. With patience, you *may* find a Jupiter from a stateside seller.

My advice: If you are in a hurry, and want the peace-of-mind of a warranty, get a new Rokinon or a clone. If you have time and can take a risk, keep scanning eBay and dealers for ANY 85mm. And do get the Helios.
______________________________________________________________

But if your main concern is DOF, there are cheaper ways to get there. You will get a similar FOV and slightly thinner DOF shooting a 135/2.8 at 2.5m as you would with an 85/2 at 1.5m or a 50/1.2 at 1m. Different perspectives with different distances, of course, but otherwise somewhat similar renderings of subjects. (If those distances seem too close, double them; the relationships remain.) And good manual 135/2.8's are MUCH less expensive than 85/2's and 50/1.2's.

Another consideration: Do you really want such thin DOF for portraits? Where one eyeball is sharp and everything else is soft? My favorite portrait lens is an old M42 Sears-Tokina 55-135/3.5 that I use wide-open or maybe stopped-down as far as f/5.6. With it, subjects are sharp, and suitable distant backgrounds are soft. No, it's not a low-light lens. For lower light, a Fast Fifty like your FA, or the Helios 58/2, or 100-135/2.8's. I won a SuperTak 105/2.8 for under US$20 a few months ago.

Or, to get weird: I like enlarger lenses (EL's) on bellows. Lenses longer than 80mm can usually reach infinity focus on M42 or PK bellows -- but you don't need infinity for portraits! And 75/2.8 EL's can be dirt cheap -- a few months ago I got 4 high-quality 75 EL's for US$10 total, shipped. I use one 75/3.5 on tubes with focus fixed to 1.5m for portraits. EL's in the 90-110mm range aren't rare nor expensive either.

Anyway, you have several options. The trade-offs are time, money, and nerve.
05-27-2011, 10:02 AM   #4
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You guys bring up some good points. I picked up a Helios on the cheap(eastern block, I'll give it a shot, won't be here until July) and I am eying a SuperTak 105/2.8. The Jupiter at 100 would have been worth it to me, but it's just too popular now. I'll consider the Rokinon at a later date, after my super wide angle purchase.

Thanks!

05-27-2011, 10:41 AM   #5
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Great choice on the Helios! It's a fun lens, as I picked up a superb copy a few months ago from Belarus. I've tried selling it, but it seems no one wants it. I guess I'll keep it for now, as it's a fun, affordable, and great gateway portrait lens.
05-27-2011, 11:11 AM   #6
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I own two 58mm helioses myself... a fun lens. But I'm not sure how useful it will be for you since you already got the FA50.
I spend a long time having CZJ Pancolar 80/1.8 as my portrait lens. A great piece of optics. I was lucky to pick it for about 200$ and it was worth much more. So I sold it to a canoninst for approximately 300$.
Much recommended if you have such opportunity
05-27-2011, 11:31 AM   #7
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With the Helios, as I have the 44M-4 (not preset), I think it would do well with the FA50, as the Helios is sharp wide open, something that the FA50 can struggle with at f/1.4, depending on the subject and distance from the subject. Buttery bokeh vs. swirly bokeh can be a dilemma you'll face, as the FA50 has some really nice bokeh, plus the advantage of auto-aperture and AF, whereas the Helios has swirly, crazy bokeh, but no AF and no auto-aperture. I've had the same problem with trying to find the best portrait lens and looked at the same lenses you have, Ken. I still have the Rokinon 85 on my wishlist, along with the FA77 and DA70. Since cost is an issue, I'd say stick with the Helios for now, and if you find you need longer, you can always get it later. It's easier, and cheaper, to go short, then it might be to go long (85mm) only to find that you need something in-between the 50mm and 85mm length. It simply depends on your application and how far you'd like to be from the subject.
05-27-2011, 03:58 PM - 1 Like   #8
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I'll expand a little on what I just posted; and more!

A 75mm enlarger lens on tubes or thin bellows will the the cheapest and sharpest headshot portrait lens you can imagine. Macro lenses in the 90-105mm range are exceedingly sharp too, but rather more costly. A decent 1.4x TC on your FA50/1.4 will become a 70/2 that should do great for slightly softer portraits. Hmmm, and my two-buck Tomioka 55/1.4 would become a 77/2!

And adding a thin (10mm) macro-tube ring to a 100 or 135 brings the far-focus WAY in. I just tried that with an M42 135; infinity is now a little over 2m, for good sharp headshots. (With that ring, focus range on my ST135/2.5 goes from 1.5m-->infinity to 1-->2m.) Similarly, for softer shoots, a +1 diopter closeup adapter on any lens brings the focus range down to 0.5-->1m, for VERY THIN DOF even on slow lenses like a 50/4.

There are many many ways to use lenses for portraiture. I like to think cheap.
"There's more than one way to skin a cat," she mused,
as she pinned its little feet to the dissecting board.


05-27-2011, 07:15 PM   #9
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Rico you've got all the tricks. I never really considered getting a TC. I read a post by someone awhile back saying you could use a 0.8x to shoot wide, but I couldn't really find any for sale. TC 1.4x are easy enough to come by. When my helios gets here it will make it an 87mm, and I guess 2.4?
05-27-2011, 09:39 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by kenafein Quote
Rico you've got all the tricks. I never really considered getting a TC. I read a post by someone awhile back saying you could use a 0.8x to shoot wide, but I couldn't really find any for sale. TC 1.4x are easy enough to come by. When my helios gets here it will make it an 87mm, and I guess 2.4?
The math is, multiply everything by the TC factor. So [58/2] * 1.4 --> [81.2/2.8].

Wide adapters are something else. TC's mount behind the lens; tele, wide, close, and fishy adapters go in front of the lens. I call these lens-front adapters, strap-ons. I rather (strongly) doubt that you'll find ANY behind-the-lens 0.8x TC (or WC). You WILL find strap-ons of 0.6x, 0.5x, 0.4x, and on down, and they generally suck for still pictures. Such can be acceptable with cine/video for various reasons; and they're OK for still work, as long as you don't expect the results to look very photographic or have anything resembling image quality.
05-27-2011, 10:39 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
...And adding a thin (10mm) macro-tube ring to a 100 or 135 brings the far-focus WAY in. I just tried that with an M42 135; infinity is now a little over 2m, for good sharp headshots. (With that ring, focus range on my ST135/2.5 goes from 1.5m-->infinity to 1-->2m.)
That's good to remember, because the minimum focus distance on these lenses was not that short. My Super-Takumar 85/1.9 is 2.75 feet, SMCT 105/2.8 is around 4, and all my 135s are around 5. Sometimes that puts your subject in another room.
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