Mini-Review: Portrait Lens Shootout on D3

N

Nuteshack

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nice work, Sean .....but i can't see getting rid of the 85 1.4 based on this test ..after all, it's 1.4...find yourself shooting in the "dark" you're guna wish u had it ....;-)))
 
N

Nuteshack

Guest
ROTFL Steve ....ya, but the 85 1.4 will make fora DREAMY black-hole ....;-)
 
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Nice real world examples Sean, thanks a lot for doing this. The 70-200 is a great portrait lens on the D3, just as on the 1.5X sensors, better really as the FL is more in portrait range and DOF is shallower on a full frame sensor (closer to subject). The only problem on the D3 is corner sharpness, not an issue in 99% of portraits. This comparison also shows off the quality of the venerable 105/2 DC, my favorite F-mount portrait lens. It also helps support my decision to keep my 28-70 (have to remove it from FS here). I think it's a little less contrasty and a little warmer than the 24-70, and to my eye, maybe preferable for shooting event portraits which is how I would use either zoom. best....Peter
 
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One subtle bit of info here...

Neither of your models seemed to like the 105 :243:

Actually, to be technically correct, they didn't like 'ANY' form or recording device pointing at them! :frown:

nice work, Sean .....but i can't see getting rid of the 85 1.4 based on this test ..after all, it's 1.4...find yourself shooting in the "dark" you're guna wish u had it ....;-)))

Hey Nute,

Yeah, I thought about that too. The thing that tipped me over the top at this point was that I sense more than ever (not like it's getting further away, duh?! :biggrin:) that an AFS version is the 85 is more likely than a AFS 105, since the 105 AFS micro can be the 'excuse' Nikon has in the back of their mind regarding bringing to market an updated 85 rather than a 105 f/2. That, combined with financial decisions, led me to keep the 105 only. Also, I *do have* the 50 f/1.4 if I need it...

Hope this is making sense: I've had a 100+ fever going on 3 days now--the flu hit late this year! I did wake up at 1 AM last Friday night with some, uhmm, 'unpleasantries' (shall we say)--fearing that I was going to get the flu right then and there. Thank God that he kept me clear of it until after the wedding that day (2200 pictures, outdoors, 2 cameras=very long day!).


He has a D3. He could shoot in a black hole and still get a proper exposure.

D3 > black hole. :Crunk:

Actually, 2 D3's :wink:, but who's counting! LOL...

Nice real world examples Sean, thanks a lot for doing this. The 70-200 is a great portrait lens on the D3, just as on the 1.5X sensors, better really as the FL is more in portrait range and DOF is shallower on a full frame sensor (closer to subject). The only problem on the D3 is corner sharpness, not an issue in 99% of portraits. This comparison also shows off the quality of the venerable 105/2 DC, my favorite F-mount portrait lens. It also helps support my decision to keep my 28-70 (have to remove it from FS here). I think it's a little less contrasty and a little warmer than the 24-70, and to my eye, maybe preferable for shooting event portraits which is how I would use either zoom. best....Peter

Thanks Peter. Through this test, I did end up preferring the images and FL of the 105 DC over the 85. As I said above to 'Nute, I suspect the 85 f/1.4 will be updated before the 105 DC will be, and I know they'll only improve the 85, so I decided to wait on that one.

I agree with your reasoning on the 28-70--and I think I'll eventually look for one of those for my wife's D3 + 70-200 & Primes Kit to round things out for her.


Sean
 
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105DC vs 105VR vs 85/1.4

Great comparo, Sean. I was spurred on to do some shooting of my own (too bad my wife won't let me post her pre-bedtime, post-cold suffering shots!). I used the D3, 105VR, 105DC, and 85/1.4 with a dual-umbrella setup with two SB-800s. I processed the NEFs in Lightroom and Capture NX.

The 105DC has been praised for its skin tone rendition and I have to agree. It simultaneously seems to be contrasty while being able to handle the midtones where skin lives very well. Its sharpness was easily the equal of the others.

The 105VR came out much better than I thought, considering its macro origins. I was prepared to not like its rumoured punch and clinical sharpness, but it did well. What I was surprised to find was a distinct widening of her face that I can't quite explain yet, since the 105DC did not show the same tendency. I have to wonder if there is some sort of focal length shifting that occurs as it goes into a closer focusing range, thereby causing more telephoto perspective compression than its nominal 105mm focal length. This is all too bad, because I found its images actually quite good in pulling out skin shadow details.

I too found the 85 to be the coolest of the lot with the 105DC in between, closer to the 105VR. The interesting part is once the WB (and the slight underexposure evident with the 85/1.4) was equalized between the lenses, the images were extremely close to one another. After a lot of PP fiddling, the differences were so subtle it was hard to find a difference. All were razor sharp at f/5, where I shot them at. I'm sure more differences would surface at larger apertures, but it was an interesting test nonetheless, and would indicate that with sufficient PP, the differences are very slight and personal tasts comes into play in determining which one is the better shot.

When not equalized for colour, the 85/1.4 was, under these situations, quite awful -- its coolish cast and underexposure tendency were definitely not flattering, causing additional shadows and a sickly skin tone that also seemed to pick up all sorts of blemishes. However, the images picked up significantly with PP and the image was pretty much the equal of the 105DC. A good showing for a lens I was feeling somewhat ambivalent about -- other images from this lens have also shown a bit of this coolish, unflattering look to them.

My conclusion?

The 105DC wins in terms of providing the nicest out-of-camera shot. No PP was necessary to its images so there are some time savings. Glorious, three-dimensionality, subtlety, biting sharpness when you need it. Compact and not scary to people like the 70-200VR!

The 105VR was a surprise, both in terms of the better image quality than I expected, but also for the facial distortion/perspective compression that I haven't yet explained. Sharpness I expected and it delivered. The perspective compression I didn't like.

The 85/1.4 is a bit of an enigma to me. It's solid, sharp, well-built, good bokeh, etc. as one would expect. A great lens capable of great images. It definitely will stay in my bag as a low light lens and a perfect D3 walkaround companion with the 28/1.4, but I really don't know if I'd use it instead of the 105DC for portrait work. It's not like I'm disappointed, but I'm not blown away either, perhaps this is just a product of the hype around the lens.

What's readily apparent is that some quick post-processing can help equalize a lot of the differences between these lenses.

These were under studio situations, so this situation may play out differently at the wider apertures where softening occurs or where depth of field and defocus transitions are important considerations. The 24-70 is actually my primary lens for events and group studio work but I'll definitely try to incorporate the 105DC more. I'm also intrigued now by the 135/2 DC.

Martin
 
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the upcoming AF-S 85VR will only be f/2 though

Phil,

Are you sure? That would be disappointing, unless there is a 1.2 version in the works at the same time and the f/2 version is as sharp at f/2 as the 200 f/2 VR.


Sean
 
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Thanks for that great comparison. It gives me a basis for decision-making. Well, in case I can afford a decision towards FX some of these days :smile:

It also confirms my own impression of 105DC vs 85/1.4. Although the 85 is a gem of a lens there is something special about how the DC renders skin. It also has more tolerance towards specular highlights in the back ground.

Cheers
 
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MIIJI?

Also, thanks for the discussion.

I picked up the 105/2/DC today for use as a portrait lens with the D3.

I have to say I was getting a bit of buyers remorse after fiddling with the DC, and was considering returning it altogether.

But, after reading this thread (and others) and the stellar reviews on this lens I am thinking I should give it a bit more of a chance.

A great thread.
 
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Appreciate all the effort that went into these posts, Sean. If I could only have 3 lenses
for my D3 they'd be the 28-70, 105 DC, and the 200 f2 VR. :biggrin:
 
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Very informative discussion. Thank you all. I am NOT a portrait shooter by anyones definition of the term, but this thread has been invaluable in helping me better understand lens comparisons and the the interaction between design, purpose and quality.

One quick question: can the 105 D/C be used for other than portraiture?
 
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snip ...
My wife and I spent quite some time studying the 30% views side by side in NX and both clumped the lenses as follows: the colors of the 70-200 & 24-70 are more 'yellowish / orange' (Jaundice tendency), while the two primes are close to one another and more realistic--with the 105 being picked straight out by both my wife and I in terms of accuracy of color/tones. Overall the sharpness is very close between the 70-200 and 105 DC with the 24-70 being the softest (could VERY WELL be focus tuning issue) and 85 f/1.4 sharpest. Micro-contrast: the 85 f/1.4 is definitely the most harsh of the 4 lenses with the 105 DC seemingly able to 'hide' the very small shadows from the texture on the skin--yet all the while keeping the resolution (it's pretty difficult to try to explain) very high. I think this trait of the 105 DC is what leads me to rank the 70-200 as being slightly sharper than the 105 DC (below)--I think it isn't actually resolution, but micro contrast that makes the 70-200 appear to have a very slight--and I mean VERY slight--edge in 'sharpness'.

snip ...

Micro-Contrast: tendency to show shadows from very fine skin 'bumps'/texture in the well lit and transitioning into shadow areas

Nicest to the skin
105 f/2 DC (almost looked like some blems were removed from the skin, it was so good!)

snip...

My wife and I both picked the 105 f/2 DC as the best 'skintone' lens out of the bunch, but this really shouldn't be a surprise as Nikon designed it as such! I really like having the 105 DC on the body as it's nice and light and gives good reach. Interestingly, I had the most 'resistance to focus' with the 105 DC under darker focusing conditions than I did with the other lenses--not sure what that is all about, but it was annoying at times.

snip ...

Thoughts, comments?


Sean

Sean,

Wonderful tests that helps sort out the differences. I would like to make two comments.

First, why does the 105 DC have the behavior you (I and others) observed? I have computer modeled the lens design of the 105 DC as presented in the Nikon patent. Is it exactly the same as what Nikon manufactures? Likely not exactly, but it is closed based upon my observations. One of the interesting aspects of this lens is its spherochromatic behavior which is not typical of most lenses. Without going into a bunch of analysis, let me summarize by saying that the blue and green portion of the spectrum are very well chromatically corrected while the red portion is shifted from the blue/green image an amount that gives the 105 DC its interesting character. Recalling that spherical aberration is constant over the entire field of view, this chromatic "error" is more or less uniform. In fact, the lens does have a small amount of coma and some oblique spherical aberration. Again I note that the blue and green spectrum are nicely corrected together while the error of the red is almost constant everywhere. [Lateral color is very nicely corrected.] My explanation for the skin looking as it does is in large part to the residual chromatic residual I mentioned above. The "odd" behavior of the softening of the skin while still appearing sharp is similarly explained by say having the blue/green sharply focused and the red slightly defocused.

Second, many years ago (hmmmm.... mid 1970's as I recall) I designed and help manufacture a set of lenses for custom package printers made by one of my clients. A major speciality of this company was making photographs for schools and churches. The lighthouse would allow us to make a structure that held a number of lenses that would print say an 8x10, 2 5x7, and a bunch of wallets at the same time from the same negative. The point of this is that I had to compute the color factors for each lens and its placement in the structures (we had about two dozen configurations). Once I knew the color factors, I then specified a filter pack to go over the input of each lens so that the photographs looked identical when printed. Even changing the F-number of the lenses could change the color factors, which can happen with our photographic lenses under discussion. BTW, by 1980 this company was printing over one billion photographs each year! What an operation! :biggrin:

Hope the above helps clarify rather than cloud the issue. :smile:

Regards,
 
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MIIJI?

Also, thanks for the discussion.

I picked up the 105/2/DC today for use as a portrait lens with the D3.

I have to say I was getting a bit of buyers remorse after fiddling with the DC, and was considering returning it altogether.
But, after reading this thread (and others) and the stellar reviews on this lens I am thinking I should give it a bit more of a chance.

A great thread.

The DC features takes a bit of getting use to. Give it some time. Remember, the DC feature is introducing controlled amounts of under/over-corrected spherical aberration. As such, the plane of best focus will shift (or you refocus) and the sharpness will degrade some as a consequence of this "new" spherical aberration. It is a great lens and can be used for many applications. It you want to learn more about the DC features, use the search feature and you should be able to locate more stuff I have written about this very cool :cool: lens.

Regards,
 

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