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85/1.4 or 105DC ???

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by PhilY, Jun 6, 2005.

  1. The lust is upon me and it is evil but buying time has arrived.

    Current glass is 17-55 and 70-200VR and I need (ok, ok -- I "want") a lens to compliment. I "need" something for those, as the fem commercial says, light days. Something to throw in my bag when I don't want to carry trhe big VR but might need something longer than 55 without compromising image quality. It would need to be somewhat of an "all-around" lens to justify the cost of quality -- low light, portraits, good at distance for tight landscapes, etc

    My all time fav on 135 film for portraits was 135MM. The 1.5X crop version would be the 85/1.4. Low light? That would be the 85/1.4. Portraits? Yep -- 85/1.4. The 85/1.4 seems to do a good job at distance from what I can see. Indoor sports? The 85/1.4 seems an excellent choice. I have pretty much done my homework on the 85/1.4.

    "So", you ask, "what's yer problem?" Well, there's that 105/2DC clouding the picture. I don't like the idea of the 72MM threads but it's a great lens. It may be a little long for indoors and portraits but is it really? Anecdotal evidence suggests it might not be as good as the 85 at tighter aps and longer distances but is it really not? There's that 1.4 vs 2.0 for low light and that is a given but the 105 seems a contrasty, sharp lens. I think the boke is a toss-up but is it really? The 105 costs less. Why can't there be just *one*?

    So, help me out, guys -- 85/1.4 or 105/2DC. What's your thoughts?

  2. jgrove


    Apr 13, 2005
    I had a 105mm DC F2 for a while and i never got on with its DC control, but thats not to say it isnt good, i just didnt seem to find it useful.

    The 85mm F1.4 lens i would like but cannot justify the cost (at the moment) i felt that on a digital slr the crop factor would be to much for most work. 85mm times 1.5 = 127.5mm at F1.4 cooool but a bit much. So i opted for a very cheap option a 50mm F1.8! LOL (The 1.4 may have suited me better but here in the UK they are double the price)

    If you get a 105DC please post some images!
  3. Crop factor is over-hyped. The reason the 85-135 range is considered ideal for portrait is because of the relation of subject to background and proportion of facial features. If you shoot a portrait with a 50 or 60mm too close in order to compensate for crop factor, you'll get distorted faces. Likewise if you step back too far with the 85, your images will look flat. My thoughts on crop factor are to just accept it and concentrate on maintaining correct proportions.

    As far as the 85 being an "all-around" lens, I'm against it. It's really built more for portrait work than anything else. It doesn't even stop down past f/16 and for indoors it can be a little long. On my light days I go with the 50/1.4. Normal perspective, enough reach for head-waist portraits or group shots, and excellent for low-light.
  4. GeneR

    GeneR Guest

    I'd sure like to have the 85mm f/1.4. Right now the 50mm 1.4 is my "light" lens. But my primary use for the 85 would be as a portrait lens, not really a walk around.

    Good shooting,

  5. Thanks

    Thanks for the suggestions, guys. I already have the 50 range covered with the 17-55 plus I have that lens cap called the 50/1.8 when I need a tad more light. What I'm after is a little more FL to add to my 17-55 when I don't want to carry the 70-200 but have more uses than just added FL. In that respect, I *think* the 85 may be more versatile and was looking for more/different opinions.

    Again, thinks!

  6. Hi Phil,

    Of course, all of our responses merely reflect personal preferences, and you'll have to make a final decision based on your own shooting style and habits.

    But...for what it's worth, I have the 105/DC, the 85/1.4, and the 50/1.4 (which has also been mentioned in this thread), and if I could only keep one of them for portrait use it would be the 85.

    The 105/DC is a terrific lens, but if I'm shooting that focal length, I actually prefer the old 105/2.5 AIS. The latter gives images that aren't quite as "clinical" (for want of a better word) than the DC lens.

    The 50/1.4 is a wonderful walking around lens, and great in low light, but its bokeh is not spectacular -- the 45/2.8 P is better for full body portrait work.

    The 85/1.4 is simply perfect for what I prefer to do most....that is, portraits, plus available light outdoor work where I want to isolate the foreground subjects. It is also lighter and more compact than the 105/DC.

    As I said before, the choice is yours, and certainly you won't go wrong with any of the possibilities.....but all in all my vote goes to the 85.

    Best wishes,

  7. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL

    It seems that the 85mm f/1.4 would be the logical choice. I have my eye on the same lens later this summer.
  8. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Phil :

    I have both the 85mm f/1.4 and the 105mm f/2 DC, and they're different kettles of fish entirely. Both are superb lenses, but where the 85mm f/1.4 is crystalline with creamy background bokeh, the 105mm DC allows you to "play" with the focus in other ways.

    The best way that I can characterise the attraction of the 105mm DC is that it's like forties' glamour shooting. That slightly OOF glowing look that some photographers produced with vaseline on a lens filter is within your control, or you can just shoot for crispness without changing the detent at all. You can play with foreground or background bokeh depending on positive or negative detent settings. With a pretty fast wide-open aperture, the 105mm f/2 without detent changes allows for a fair bit of low light work as well.

    But the net focal distance works against full body shooting in limited spaces. I shot Valentine's Day card images for a friend at her house, and we were restricted in the shots by the necessary distance for shooting. The detent changes gave her that luminous Hollywood star type of look, which she was extremely pleased with in the end, but I felt that I could have done a better job than I did. Better planning on my part would have allowed us to shoot outside or in another location, but I waited until the last minute, and the weather was awful. Still, the images worked very well for her needs regardless of my personal desire for other results.

    You can look around the Cafe or over in that other forum and get a pile o' shots to consider with the 85mm lens, so I won't belabour the issue with a lot of talk about that lens.

    I truly love both lenses, and probably almost evenly split my shooting between them (excepting some museum shooting where the 85mm is clearly superior). But for a distinctive look, I tend a bit more towards the 105mm f/2 DC. If only they made that lens as an 85mm length, life would be almost perfect (in that respect alone, alas!).

    John P.
  9. Thanks for your reply, David. I was hoping there would be some with both in their bag. I feel certain I will also own both at some point in the future but, due to the cash outlay and a new body on the horizon, I need to put first things first. Your stated use is my intended use so your comments tend to support my original impression -- the 85 should be first out of the gate.

    Thanks for your help!

  10. Does kinda look that way, huh. Maybe we can both show some "newbie" 85 shots in the near future.

  11. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Perspective is determined by subject distance, not lens focal length. The reason 85mm-135mm on full-frame is considered ideal is because the FOV provided allows you to get the composition you want while maintaining an ideal subject distance. But the working distance changes when you put the lens on a DX sensor (assuming you want equivalent FOV/compositions).

    If a full-frame shooter with a 90mm lens stands next to a DX-DSLR shooter with 60mm lens and they both shoot the same portrait, the results will be the same as far as FOV and perspective, with the only slight difference being DOF. The 60mm DSLR shot will not distort facial features any more than the 90mm full-frame shot.

    That said I'd agree that 50mm is a bit short for most portraits types other than full-length. After all it only provides a FOV equal to 75mm on full-frame. 60mm is certainly useable though for many portrait types, although of course for tight headshots you'll want something longer (just like you'd want something longer than 85mm on full-frame for those shots).

    Getting back to original poster's question, I think the 85 1.4 is the way to go (at least, that's the one on my wish list, although I probably won't be making a purchase for a while). The 105DC will work great for tight headshots, but for other portrait types you may run out of working distance indoors, so I think the 85 is a bit more versatile. The extra stop could also come in handy for low-light shooting. Max aperture of f/16 is no biggie IMHO; I can't recall ever stopping beyond that for anything but macro shooting. After about f/13 diffraction starts to become an issue on DX sensors anyway.
  12. Ah -- there simply is no substitute for experience. I greatly appreciate your reply, John.

    Your comments serve to confirm what little I could garner about the 105DC. While it is no doubt a great lens, it is a somewhat more "specialized" tool for specific purposes. A portrait shooter's secret weapon, so to speak. While I don't shoot portraits professionally, there is a good possibility I will be doing so in the future so I will certainly have the 105DC on my short list. Your comments regards the DC tend to make that lens a "need" moreso than a "want" for that purpose.

    Since I made my original post I have been wandering around aimlessly with my 70-200 shooting at 85 and 105, both indoors and out -- something I should have done in the beginning. That little exercise seems to indicate the 105 *may* be a little too long for my immediate plans. I'm going to do some more of that wandering around.

    I do have a question, though, if you don't mind, assuming you have used the two for this type shot. What is your impression of the two at longer distances stopped down to F8/F11 or so, i.e. tight landscape type shots? I have always used a 70/80-200 lens for tight 'scape shots and would like whatever short tele-prime I match with my 17-55 to have that capability. I understand both a first and foremost portrait lenses but would enjoy that flexibility.

    Thanks for your help!

  13. At this point, I agree on all points, Jeff. Other than going on a dust bunny hunt, I don't think I have made a single shot tighter than F16 since going DSLR and the F16s have been few and far between. My original thinking months ago was that 85 would be the best FL for my first "pro" prime but that danged 105DC keeps jumping out at me. Walking around shooting with my 70-200 at 85 and 105 tends to confirm 85 is the way to go.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  14. Classic question to which I can only answer... get both.

    Purely for portraits I believe I would go with the 105dc (just because I own the 85). If I was owning the 105, then I'd probably say go with the 85... unbelievable.
  15. Um hum. This forum is loaded with folks that just *love* to spend other people's money. Come to think about it, so do I. 8)

    Yep. I know the feeling. Wanted the 28-70 -- bought the 17-55 -- still want the 28-70. The only lens I have EVER owned I would not change is the 70-200VR. That lens is one of those "pry my cold, dead fingers from it" things. All others have been / are recyclable.

    Have you shot your 85 "at distance" stopped down?

  16. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    I'd go for the 85 mm - even though I have the focal length covered by another great lens, the 70-200VR. There's something about portraits taken with that lens . . . I want one :shock:
  17. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Phil :

    Hurm. I guess that I need to expand a bit on my earlier post.

    Well, firstly, I'll say again that the 85mm f/1.4 and 105mm f/2 DC are completely different animals for portrait use from a variety of perspectives. It's not just the focal length that plays into this, IMO.

    Having said that, one can make the argument that both have a pleasing bokeh, both are "fast glass" (the 85mm obviously more so), and that both allow enough distance to avoid the flat image sometimes prevalent with shorter lenses.


    The overall "feel" to each lens is entirely different. I use the 85mm much more for a documentary feeling - it's sharp, clean, and sets off the subject from the background incredibly well, better, in fact, than the 105mm for most shots. The 85mm delivers those crisp images of 100 year old people where every wrinkle tells a story of great interest, but the stories are kept specific to that face. It really captures that moment, that face, the essence of what you're seeing...

    But the 105mm DC is more, well, complimentary to the subjects. I mentioned the luminousity, almost a glow that it can be used to bring to people (or not, as you see fit). As well, there's a bit of kindness to shooting from a longer focal length where the subject doesn't the "camera up the nose" feeling, and then gets a bit more relaxed. Then too, the detent control isn't a gimmick or trick, as it allows me to play with the foreground and background focus in ways I just cannot perform with any other lens. While the 85mm has, in most cases, a better separation from the background, it cannot come close to allowing the artistic control that the DC does.

    And I consider myself not to be much better than a mediocre "people shooter" and get these results. I think that talented portrait photographers would realise a much greater result from both lenses than I do.

    If I were in your position, I'd get ahold of each lens and try test shooting them. That is, if you don't succumb to lens lust disease and get both lenses ! :lol: :twisted: :twisted: :lol: It's a distinct possibility, IMO.

    Of course, I'm lucky in that I found a 105mm DC at a great price, so buying both wasn't the wallet-breaker that it is for them new, and now I can play with both.

    I'd personally probably give an edge to the 105mm f/2 DC for artistic opportunities, which in no way denigrates the exceptional 85mm f/1.4 . This isn't in the league of the comparison of shooting the 28mm f/1.4 in low light with about any other lens of that length, where the 28mm f/1.4 blows them all away (IMO). The differences between the 85mm f/1.4 and the 105mm DC are distinct, clearly observable, and controllable, but neither is obviously "better" than the other (again, IMO).

    And in answer to the question about shooting fully or substantially stopped down for landscapes, no, I've not tested them for that. I have a couple of other lenses that I've been using in that stead.

    But it does give me something to play with in the next day or three ! I know that the 85mm is supposed to have more colour-fringing than the 105mm when stopped down, but heck, that could be a good thing for me to work with and learn to use. Thanks for the inspiration - I'll try and shoot a bit tonight or tomorrow with the sunset on the mountains here.

    John P.
  18. John,

    Thank you for your follow-up. Though I was pretty sure I understood your original thoughts, I appreciate the expanded version. If I were after a lens purely for formal portrait use, I think the 105DC would be the odds-on favorite. In this instance, what I am actually after is a lens that does many things well and just happens to be a great portrait lens. Yeah, I know -- that's convoluted thinking (I do that quite often) but at this point in my photography, I don't feel I can drop the big dollars on a narrow purpose lens. In effect, what I'm trying to do is convince myself I can use a narrow purpose lens (85 or 105) in a broad range. Hey -- I've never been accused of being overly intelligent. :lol:

    In that light and all things considered including that "clinical" sharpness, it looks like focal length is becoming the driving force. You are probably correct in that I will eventually end up with both but, at this point, I'm thinking the 105 may be a bit *too* long. Normally it's easier to move forward a bit than to back up -- when you're up against the wall, you're up against the wall. Both the good and bad thing is I have two great lenses from which to choose. It would be easier if one had a clear advantage for my intended use. ((sigh))

    I would appreciate seeing those "distance" shots if you get a chance to shoot them. Again, thanks for your help!

  19. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Phil :

    Heh. Well, I think that the lens question is always a tough one. I'm not so sure that either lens is a "special purpose" lens, actually. They're both just wonderful primes, albeit different in characteristics, IMO. For portrait work, I've found enough distance for both, but if you want to get full body, the 105's definitely too "long" for some indoor locations.

    Here's another thought for you. The 105mm DC costs less than the 85mm f/1.4 . {evil chuckle}

    I do know that I've seen the 105mm DC go for as little as $600 (used), while the 85mm f/1.4's usually in the high $800 range (used again). For some odd reason, the new 105mm is higher than it used to be relative to the 85mm f/1.4 . Odd.

    I'll try and get some distance shots tomorrow. I did a few quick shots in the evening last night, but I didn't time it very well with respect to light - not very good.

    John P.
  20. What about the 135DC?

    You started the thread saying you like the 135mm, albeit on 35mm so a whole different animal with x1.5.
    I love my 85. Rarely(never?) do we see the "wish I hadn't bought it" remark.

    To use the 105DC you know you are not working in confined spaces.
    The 105 seems to close to the 85mm to own both.
    Anybody have the 85mm/135mm combo.

    I'm definitely lusting for a 135 or 180.
    Right, I agree the 70-200 is a keep-forever-nearby tool but I'm looking for the walkabout compact candids lens...135 anyone?
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