What is a good portrait lens for home studio?

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Mar 25, 2011
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I am not sure of the exact distance between the lens and the subject but I am thinking 10 - 15 feet or maybe 10 to subject and then a few to the background. I was looking at the 35 1.8 on a DX body because it would give me 52mm, about normal...at least in the olden days.

I am guessing a 50mm would also work. 85mm seems to be pushing it.

Was hoping for suggestions on a home studio. Thanks.
 
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Mar 20, 2011
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well, i use a 105mm on an FX body as my go-to portrait glass.

an ~85mm on a DX body would be around the same'ish?
 
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Nov 13, 2009
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15 feet could be in the 85-105 range on DX if you're looking for headshot only.

For 5 to 10 feet I would think a 50 mm lens would be ideal.
 
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Nov 10, 2008
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Full body? 50 mm

head and shoulders, 85/105 from 5/6 feet.

very tight head/face 135 at 5/6 feet.

Cut by 1/3 for DX format. Above is FX or film.

People need to be 5+ feet from background for you get nasty shadows on it.

So the studio needs to be 15 feet long and 8 ft higher proper light placement. 12 ft high is better for standing subjects.

For DX, a 35 1.8 and 60 2.8 are perfect. For FX, 60 and 105. If you go to far away with a long lens, features get compressed.

Start with a single moonlight, umbrella, and reflector.
 
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Thanks. I saw a 35 1.8 for sale on craigslist and was kind of skeptical because of the price, new or used. In other words it is on the cheaper side so I thought it might not be any good optically.
 
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On DX, 50mm is perfect for me. I usually shoot chest up and the distance is 10-15 feet. I shot with a 105 once, but it was really too long.
 
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Thanks. I saw a 35 1.8 for sale on craigslist and was kind of skeptical because of the price, new or used. In other words it is on the cheaper side so I thought it might not be any good optically.
Price has nothing to do with optical quality. One of Nikon's sharpest lenses is the 18-55 kit lens. Speed and focal length have more to do with price than optical quality.
 
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Price has nothing to do with optical quality.
Well that's debatable but there are certainly sharp, cheaper Nikon lenses such as the 85 f/1.8. The higher priced Nikon pro lenses are better built and will handle heavy use better than a kit lens.
 
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Jan 26, 2008
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It's always such a subjective question with no one right answer. Even something like perspective distortion can be used creatively so there are no rules other than those you impose on yourself.

Having said that I can tell you that I've used a lot of lenses in the studio and for the work I do (crucially important when you're taking advice and suggestions), I've circled back around to using two zooms.. the Nikon 24-70mm and 70-200mm.

I love primes and shoot with them quite often but when it comes down to working with clients of all types and having the most flexibility, the 2 zooms really do it, and the IQ is so great that I never feel that I'm giving up IQ by not using primes.

If I did have to pick primes, I would say that the focal length's that do what I like are the 35mm, (I skip over 50mm), 85mm, 135mm and 200mm.

That's what works best for me.
 
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The higher priced Nikon pro lenses are better built and will handle heavy use better than a kit lens.
if speed isn't an issue, you can buy a dozen kit lenses for the same price as the pro zoom, and afford to throw a few away as they wear out.
 
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for portraits I use 2 lenses both zooms - 70-200 f2.8 and the 18-70...but my goto lens is the 70-200, whether in the studio or on location.....but i shot over 20+ yrs with only a 70-210f2.8.....I did everything with that one lens, portraits, weddings, wildlife, teams....
 
Joined
Mar 25, 2011
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atlanta ga
for portraits I use 2 lenses both zooms - 70-200 f2.8 and the 18-70...but my goto lens is the 70-200, whether in the studio or on location.....but i shot over 20+ yrs with only a 70-210f2.8.....I did everything with that one lens, portraits, weddings, wildlife, teams....
I wish I could afford it !
 
Joined
Apr 10, 2009
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As others have said there's no one answer, and different people will prefer difference lenses for different reasons. In the studio I tend to use the 85 f1.8, 28-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8 however I prefer to use the later on a tripod.
 

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