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Best focal length for portraits?

Craig Peterson , Jan 17, 2006; 07:38 p.m.

I'm leaning towards a pre-ASPH for the softer touch, but what tends to be the ideal focal length? I have a .58 M6TTL.


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Fred B. , Jan 17, 2006; 07:42 p.m.

24mm ? :-) More seriously, from 85 to 135 is imho best for portrait.

Stuart Richardson , Jan 17, 2006; 07:58 p.m.

It's really down to personal preference. Do you want head shots or head and shoulders or environmental portraits? 75-90 is good for most situations, 35-50 is good for environmental portaits and 135-200+ is often used in fashion photography. I was amazed at the results when I took someone's portrait with the 180mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit in the R system...I thought it would be too long, but it really looked great!

John Amiet , Jan 17, 2006; 08:11 p.m.

Literally ANY lens! Dependant entirely on what result you want.

Oculus New York , Jan 17, 2006; 08:13 p.m.

The 75 Lux is reputed to be the most intimate portrait shooter of the line.

Cheers, Ray Hull

Terry Rory , Jan 17, 2006; 08:32 p.m.

The many portraits I have enjoyed the most (I take only a very few myself) by all my 'favourites' like Doisneau and Lee Miller and Bill Brandt were taken with 80mm on 6x6 format (Rolleiflex usually but Bill Brandt used Hasselblad with 80mm for portraits later in life).

The theoretical 'normal' perspective (on 6x6 format) is 85mm so translated to the 36x24 format that would be something like a 45mm or 50mm to show some surroundings for context.

I do not enjoy portraits where there is no background (or a completely unintelligle background) and no surroundings at all. I enjoy seeing a little of the subjects environment.

Terry Rory , Jan 17, 2006; 08:35 p.m.

Sorry. My 'unintelligle' typo was meant to be 'unintelligible'.

Paul Neuthaler , Jan 17, 2006; 10:00 p.m.

Since moving into Medium Format as well as 35mm, I find the 80mm Xenotar on my Rollei 2.8F to be an ideal portrait lense. Here's a picture of my cutie great niece:

Rollei 2.8F Xenotar

Eric ~ , Jan 17, 2006; 10:16 p.m.

"The theoretical 'normal' perspective (on 6x6 format) is 85mm so..."

Trevor, any idea why they rested on the 80mm as the norm?

Mona Chrome , Jan 17, 2006; 11:02 p.m.

I think the best answer is whatever gives you the results you want.

Using a lens that is about 2 to 2-1/2 times the normal tends to "draw" the features a bit better for a more straight type portrait and is what you would see in most advertising head shots, including jewelry and make up as they do not want any distortion. But the less of the subject you shoot, that is closer the shot, the better a longer lens will work to prevent distortion.

Normal lenses can get a more exaggerated look close up or result in a more normal portrait at 3/4 to full.

Wide angle can let you get wild and crazy close up and get lots more info as you back up.

What are you looking to do--what's your style?

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