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Thread: For the experienced portrait photographer - choices

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    For the experienced portrait photographer - choices

    Hi,

    I have been doing more and more of this style and it's really appealing so thought I'd invest in a lens specifically for this work. I have narrowed it down to one of three due to the style I like taking:

    • Canon 135 2
    • Canon 200 2
    • Canon 300 2.8

    Each has it advantages but get exponentially more expensive, so by the time I get to the 300, the arguments for need to be very convincing.

    I have a choice which is leading the race but will keep that to myself for now. If there are others I have not listed that meet the basic criteria of prime, max aperture f2 (but will consider exceptions to that), min focal length 135 (so I don't want 85 1.2 suggestions as good as it is), max focal length 300 (if I want to be extreme I'll use my 600).

    Would prefer advice from experience as opposed to "I heard from a friend" as I have read many reviews already, hence the list. I have also tried all but one lens for a very brief time and have gleaned an idea from that, but have never lived with any of them.

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    Can i answer if you were choosing Nikon ?

    200 F/2 - you can always then use it for sport too, indoors mainly, and add a 1.4TC and you have all but a 300 2.8 anyhow with minimal degradation

    Id imagine you have the 135 range covered with other lenses anyhow, eg 70-200
    Darren
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    Today may be the day, Or not ! Roosta's Avatar
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    Allan, Curirosity has got the better of me, What are you shooting for, If I can be so bold?
    They call me "Blue" it's a red head thing.
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    Have owned the EF 135 f2L for about 12 months,and personaly feel that it is one of the best in the Canon range -value for money. Mainly use it with a 5DII to which it matches with perfectly - sharp as a tack wide open - nice size not to bulky well balanced on 5DII with a grip,has a great reputation when used for portrait work - some people say they find it to sharp wide open for portraits - I do not and admit mine rarely gets opened up past f2.8. If you like to use a 200mm I would also recomend trying the EF 200 f2.8 almost like a big brother to the 135 and almost as sharp wide open,the one lens I have owned and still kick myself for selling.
    Mike
    Canon 5DmkII, Canon 1DmkIIN, EF 24-105 f4LIS, EF 70-200 f2.8LIS, EF 135 f2L,EF 300 f4LIS, EF 17-40 f4L, EF 100 f2.8 Macro USM, Sigma 50 f1.4 EXDG, 580EX & 420EX,Cokin P filters.
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    Roosta, this will be nearly exclusively be used for my portrait work, both strobe and natural light, studio and outdoor. I do a few different styles ranging from historic to family portraits with the odd model portfolio. I abhor the distortion produced by shorter focal length as they normally don't enhance the image of the subject, with the exception of some environmental portraits where 35mm is actually quite nice, rarely go beyond that though. If this hasn't answer your question, have a look at my website in the portrait section for some of my public work.

    Thanks Mike, very helpful. Since you bought it up, and I notice you own one, how do you compare the 200 2.8 to the 70-200 2.8? I have the 70-200 2.8 already and it is nearly always my portrait lens of choice when using the 5D2.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Having recently had the pleasure of a studio shoot, I can see what the problems generally tend to be. (never done it up to that first and only attempt)

    the size of the studio is going to be a major determining factor here. No use in having a 200mm lens, if you can't fully utilise the lens... say in a studio with only 5 meters working distance(unless you only want head shots).

    Of the two longer lenses, Kiwi's comments re the teleconverter make a lot of sense, unless you're an uber pixel peeper and the minimal loss in sharpness over a proper 300/2.8 is too much to bear.

    I'd say the 135/2 is going to be the better all rounder.
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    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


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    Allan
    I have recently bought ( 2 months ago) 135 F2 and love it, I have other L series lens but if I can use 135/2 I will.
    The bokeh this lens produces is very pleasing and I have found it to be very sharp even at F2.

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    Hhonestly, I'd just keep using the 70-200. I absolutely adore mine, it is such an incredibly sharp lens with nice bokeh. I'd go for something with more reach like the 300 f2.8 but they are superbly expensive and probablky won't bring much to your portraiture. I'm thinking 135 f2 would give you better bokeh in that focal length so probably worth jumping on that one. At 200mm f2.8 and f2 are both pertty dary shallow DoF's so I wouldn't worry too mcuh.
    Canon stuff 5Dmk1 w/ 24-70 f2.8L, Canon 5Dmk1 w/70-200f2.8L, 100mm f2.8 macro, 50mm f1.4, 580exII
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    As someone who owns the 85/1.2L II, 135/2L and 300/2.8L IS, they all deliver excellent results, but in all honesty it doesn't make a huge amount of sense to use a very long focal length for portraiture.

    I can understand that you'd want to diffuse the background, but when working with a long lens, as you know, you need a greater working distance. If you're shooting outdoors and have lots of room, that won't be a problem, but trying to direct your model from 25 metres away is not ideal.

    Most of my portraits are taken indoors, and I almost always use my 85/1.2L II. If I want a full-length portrait, I need a fair amount of room, and I'm shooting with a full-frame DSLR. The 135 is an absolute stunner, but for indoors work it's too long if you want anything other than head-and-shoulders portraits.

    As far as focal lengths, you already have 85mm, 135mm and 200mm covered with your 70-200, and with a 1.4x TC you almost have 300mm, and of course you have up to 400mm with a 2x TC.

    What you'd be buying is a wider aperture and more sharpness, but in the case of the two longer lenses, you'd be paying a lot of money for that.

    The 135/2L is the fastest-to-focus lens I've ever used; it's ready before I am.

    My recommendation is the 135, as it's not too long and you won't be paying an absolute fortune for a lens that's better used for other subject matter.

    As I mentioned, you've already got the three focal lengths covered (or can do so inexpensively with a tele-converter). 85mm is classic portrait length, but the 135 is a winner for a bit more compression. Sure, 200mm and 300mm are quite doable, but it comes down to working distance, and you need a fair amount of it if you want full-length portraits.

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    Today may be the day, Or not ! Roosta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allann View Post
    Roosta, this will be nearly exclusively be used for my portrait work, both strobe and natural light, studio and outdoor. I do a few different styles ranging from historic to family portraits with the odd model portfolio. I abhor the distortion produced by shorter focal length as they normally don't enhance the image of the subject, with the exception of some environmental portraits where 35mm is actually quite nice, rarely go beyond that though. If this hasn't answer your question, have a look at my website in the portrait section for some of my public work.

    Thanks Mike, very helpful. Since you bought it up, and I notice you own one, how do you compare the 200 2.8 to the 70-200 2.8? I have the 70-200 2.8 already and it is nearly always my portrait lens of choice when using the 5D2.
    Thanks Allann, nice shots, This might be a bit obvious, but here is a usefull link, it covers all the above lenses and has some hefty reviews. May help, or you may have already read them. anyway.
    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/C...rait-Lens.aspx

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    A. P's Culinary Indiscriminant mongo's Avatar
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    Don’t know a great deal about Canon but understand that in the 200mm range the 200 f1.8L is the ants pants if you were insane enough to spend that sort of money.

    The 200 f2 is no slouch.
    Nikon and Pentax user



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    Quote Originally Posted by Roosta View Post
    it covers all the above lenses and has some hefty reviews
    Thanks, but I was after peoples opinion that live with them from AP. I have read a heap of review which helped narrow down the choices. Most reviews you read are done by companies/sites speciallising in that sort of thing, but there is nothing better than a photographer that uses them day in, day out. hence the post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xenedis View Post
    The 135/2L is the fastest-to-focus lens I've ever used; it's ready before I am.
    Thanks, I was hoping you would pop by and offer a little feedback as I knew you had the lenses in question from our last meeting. I'll let the cat out of the bag and say the 135 is top of the list by quite a stretch for exactly the reason you stated, the aperture. the 85 was tempting me, but I did some extensive research of my library and most of my portraits are at the long end so it ruled that choice out fairly quickly. Yes I already have the focal range covered, and if I used that excuse for a new lens, I'd never buy another lens again. Just like a carpenter may have a hammer that he can use, will not stop him from buying compressor and nail gun. I am looking the the nail gun...

    Quote Originally Posted by mongo View Post
    The 200 f2 is no slouch.
    Correct, this one was leading the race for quite some time until i have a play with the 135 in at Photo Continental. The focus speed as xenedis mentions is just blindingly fast, even faster than the 600 and that is amazing.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    I think from the comments made here, people are in the same ball park that I had thought, however if anyone else wants to put their 2cent in, always like hearing peoples thoughts on lenses.

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    But the focus speed is least important element for portraiture, Id have thought.

    What else do you think the 135 f/2 gives you above the 70-200 2.8 ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    But the focus speed is least important element for portraiture, Id have thought.
    Far from it, have you ever tried taking a shot of two knights going hammer and tongs, or a knight on horseback jousting coming straight at you? Yes agree for a sit down portrait, but that is only a small part of the portrait work I do.

    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    What else do you think the 135 f/2 gives you above the 70-200 2.8 ?
    I'm mainly interested in the bokeh and shallow DOF, and the extra "sharp" stop for lower light work (e.g. Film Noir). I admit, I could get away with using the 70-200, but if that was the excuse, no-one would buy the 135, or the 200's or even the 85's, but they do sell. Why do YOU think that is? For the abbey banquet, I hired an 85 1.2 and the ability to work at 2 1/2 stops below where I normal work was quite nice, however that was an extreme night, working with what was no better than candle light.

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    ahh, so, you are really talking about sportraits, well, yes, af speed is very important. Still reckon in thiose cases 200 on a full frame would allow you to cover the 300 well also.

    But hey, your money, youll end up with both eventually

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    I think the 85 1.2 or Nikon 85 1.4 sell not so much for the low light but for the sharpness and bokeh. Cant argue, Id have them in a heartbeat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mongo View Post
    Don’t know a great deal about Canon but understand that in the 200mm range the 200 f1.8L is the ants pants if you were insane enough to spend that sort of money.
    The Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM is long-discontinued and was seriously expensive.

    I've only once seen one in a store (in 2005 or so) and the price was $10,100.

    Specimens do turn up on eBay from time to time, but still command high prices; it's probably the most coveted Canon lens.

    Quote Originally Posted by mongo View Post
    The 200 f2 is no slouch.
    Indeed; I've looked at it once, and it is stunning.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allann View Post
    Thanks, I was hoping you would pop by and offer a little feedback as I knew you had the lenses in question from our last meeting. I'll let the cat out of the bag and say the 135 is top of the list by quite a stretch for exactly the reason you stated, the aperture. the 85 was tempting me, but I did some extensive research of my library and most of my portraits are at the long end so it ruled that choice out fairly quickly.
    Yes, that's the deciding factor.

    It's rather like buying a Ferarri whose top speed is 300km/h, when the majority of your driving is done at 60km/h.

    I've seen some of your shots taken at long lengths. You can certainly diffuse the background with a shorter length, and you don't need to be a long way away.

    I've used my 300/2.8L IS for a few portraits, but in all honesty, when I've shot with it, portraiture hasn't been the objective; and when I do shoot portraits, it never comes along. The 85 gets used far more than any other lens for portraits, followed by the 35/1.4L and then the 135/2L.

    I'd love to use the 135/2L more, but it requires more working distance, and typically I don't have that if I'm doing indoor shoots. I did use it for an outdoor portrait shoot at Berrima a few months ago, though, but I still found myself shooting tightly, as that tends to be my style.

    I know of someone who uses a 200/2L IS for portraits, and the images look great, but you really do need a fair amount of distance if you want full-length shots.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allann View Post
    Yes I already have the focal range covered, and if I used that excuse for a new lens, I'd never buy another lens again.
    Indeed -- a fair point, and I'm no different. Mind you, it's been several years since I bought a lens. :-)

    I have seven lenses, of which two are zooms. I have overlap at the 35mm end of my 16-35/2.8L II (35/1.4L), and my 70-200/2.8L IS covers my 85/1.2L II, 135/2L and 180/3.5L Macro, although that lens doesn't get used for portraits. I never bothered with a 24-70/2.8L, as I just wouldn't find it useful for most of what I do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    But the focus speed is least important element for portraiture, Id have thought.
    For most portraits that would be true, yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    What else do you think the 135 f/2 gives you above the 70-200 2.8 ?
    The advantages of the 135/2L over the 70-200/2.8L IS are:

    1. one extra stop;
    2. sharpness (razor-sharp);
    3. smaller size;
    4. smaller weight; and
    5. smaller price.


    My 70-200/2.8L IS is very sharp, and I've never questioned its sharpness, but the simplicity of the prime, which is a lot less optically complex (10 elements vs. 23) allows it to deliver better performance.

    However, I'm sure that if he shot with the 70-200, he wouldn't be longing for more sharpness.

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    Ausphotography Veteran rwg717's Avatar
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    Allann, I have been using the 300 for sport for some years now but only on the 5DMkII, and great stuff, can't remember it taking a genuinely bad photo of it's own volition. It has always been my fault or that of someone who got "in the way" at the time when a shot was discarded.
    Having said that, I have tried it once on portraits and even on a f/f camera, it is BIG!!!! Too big in fact unless you have a massive studio with first class lights. The IQ of the 300 is just fine but without sufficient room I think it's just too big and heavy really. I always wanted the 135 for this sort of work and sadly didn't buy one, but for what it's worth and the cost of the 300 I'd be going with the 135 as it's an f2 lens (as you already know).
    Richard
    I've been wrong before!! Happy to have constructive criticism though.Gear used Canon 50D, 7D & 5DMkII plus expensive things hanging off their fronts and of course a "nifty fifty".

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