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Sunday, 13 January 2019


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Not your traditional "portrait lens," but when shooting 2:3 aspect ratio, I love using a 40mm (FF Ultron pancake) for vertical portraits from waist up. Tack sharp and just love the look...


I do portraits and love them. I don't have a favourite lens though - however I do have a favourite sensor size, and that is full frame and beyond. You can't really beat a shallow depth of field of a full frame or medium format camera and I think this is where it really shows a difference from smaller sensors like 4/3 or APS-C.

Yes, easy question

Currently on m4/3rds, a Sigma DN 60mm f2.8. Quite like the Olympus 45mm f1.8 but its a little short for my taste.

Before that on a full frame Nikon, a Nikon 135mm f2 DC.

Cheers, Andy

This is an interesting question. I am essentially a portrait photographer, and although I have had favorite lenses for portraits over the years, I have realized that the perfect lens is determined by several things. These things change with each new portrait, so a "favorite" lens doesn't really make sense to me anymore.

I am one of those people that looks through the lens to see when a subject looks their best. I usually take 10 shots with a zoom at different focal lengths and at slightly different angles.and review each of them before I really have a feel for what's going to work. Then I set a focal length (and often switch out to a fixed lens) and select an angle and shoot away.

I find that the distance I am from the subject, the angle, the lighting, the background and the subject themself all determine the best lens.

No sense choosing a lens with great bokeh if I am using a gray background but if it's a natural light shot outdoors, bokeh may be a huge factor, for example.

So, for me, The ideal lens is really variable. Believe it or not, I may even favor a moderate wide angle lens (35mm) for some portraits.

Having said all that, I often end up using the Canon 85mm 1.2 stopped down a bit. I generally do not like very narrow depth of field, and I do not like too much sharpness or contrast. It has great bokeh when needed and it takes the "edge" off a bit in terms of sharpness.

I do think a comparable lens at 70mm might be better much of the time though, and I often use my Canon 70-200 L lense which I like better than my 24-70 at 70 mm.

I guess if my answer is "several" then none qualifies as a favorite. ;) Without checking any data though, it seems to me that the highest percentage of "hits" over the past five years or so have come from:

Pentax 77/1.9 FA
Nikon 105/2 DC
Leica 75/1.4 Summilux

The little Olympus 45/1.8 is also a "go to" portrait length lens that I really like. Of the ones listed above, I have been using the Pentax the most in recent months on the Pentax K-1. It is really special.

When I did headshots, it was invariably a 135mm if on Nikon. That let you get a full head in the frame at about 5.5 ft. for verticals. I often felt that was too close for a pleasing perspective, but as few verticals were ever used that narrow, I would move a bit further back.

On 120, it was a 150mm but only because the 180mm for the 'blad didn't exist when I bought the 150mm. I used a 180mm on a Mamiya TLR before I could afford the 'blad, and it was a nice lens, but the parallax drove me crazy.

I am talking about film here, so that's full-frame formats.

I've always like a 105 on a 35mm camera. I have an older (1997?) 105 2.8 micro but I hate the slow screw drive focus, while on the old 85 the screw is fine. I also have an 85 1.4 and LOVE the AFS drive and the look of that lens vs the 1.8 85. Even at the same aperture the 1.4 is just more pleasing to my eye. I'd love Nikon to do a 105 F2 AFS lens. In Fuji X land my new to me XPro2 with 35mm lens is very very nice. I tried the 56 1.2 a few years ago and its superb but the size of the "Fujicrons" will lead me to the 50 F2 I'll bet. The 80mm macro is calling me also. Lensrentals is on speed dial.

Yes, two (semi-seriously): Summicron 35mm ASPH, and Nikkor 50mm f1.2

For my editorial and personal portraits I prefer wide to normal lenses to take advantage of the intimacy that is created from being physically closer to the subject. My current favourite is the Sigma 24-35 f2 on my Canon 6D. In the past I've leaned heavily on the humble Canon 50 f1.4
With corporate portraits, where the client has a more conventional expectation, I typically shoot at 100mm on a Canon 70-200 2.8.
Editorial portrait with 24mm

Whale whisperer Hōri Parata, for The Guardian

Photo-essay portrait with 50mm

Actor Sam Neill for a book on New Zealanders

Corporate portrait with 70-200:

Michael Friis, for TPT Ltd

(Please excuse the watermark which my web-host Photoshelter insists on slapping on every embedded image).

In reality, every focal length is up for grabs with a portrait. My favourite is the one that best expresses their story in that moment.

The Hasselblad XCD 90mm f/3.2 is wonderful.


Nikon 105mm f/2.5

Canon 85 1.2 or 200 f2. More environmental I’ll add in the 24L and 35L.

For m4/3 cameras the new Sigma 56mm f1.4 has won me over in a big way. I always liked a 105 Nikkor, and this is as close as it gets. The 42.5 Lumix 1.7 is also quite nice, but I prefer something a bit longer so it rarely got used. Until I got the 56, the Olympus 75 was my go to lens but also it was usually a bit too long and put me too far away from my subject. For a bit more of the environment, I also like the Sigma 30mm f1.4 and also the 16mm f1.4. The 30 is a perfect normal-ish length that works really well and reduces the foreshortening of a 25 just enough to make it interesting and gives great subject isolation. The 16 is as wide as I'd like to go, not so much distortion but with the 1.4 aperture it can also give a lot of separation from the background when you need it.

50mm equivalent, anything else either distorts or makes it too much about the environment. Anything longer than 50mm makes it a headshot.

I love my Nikon 85mm f/1.4G - it's one of my favorite focal lengths for many purposes and the bokeh is to die for. It has served me well for years.

That said, I've been doing some much wider environmental portraits lately (where the drawbacks of wide angle can be kept at bay by keeping the subject at a distance and away from the edges), and I've been making good use of the 24mm focal length, either with the Sigma Art 24mm f/1.4 (for example https://josephholmes.io/Current-and-Ongoing-Projects/Portraits-(ongoing)/15 ) or Nikon's PCE 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift (for tall spaces).

Voigtlander 25mm f 0.95 (50mm equivalent) and the Olympus 75mm f 1.8 (150mm equivalent). Between all the different camera formats I use the vast majority have been done with the standard nifty fifty lens equivalents.

Reasons, well it’s the one that’s usually on my camera and I love the look. I go to longer focal lengths when my mood feels like it. Particularly when I sense giving the sitter a bit more space.

To echo and amplify Edward Taylor, a lot depends on the subject, the pose and the effect desired. If the subject is a slim male and the pose is upper body, an 85mm lens gives nice wide shoulders, but this lens can be disastrous with a woman with wide shoulders and a 50mm or even 40mm would be more flattering. One size does not fit all.

Sony A7R3 - 24-105
Fuji X-T20 35 1.4

I've had one with each system:
- Elmarit 90mm on the M6
- Canon 85mm f/1.8 on the EOS 5D
- Sigma 50mm f/1.4 on the Pentax K-3
- Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 on the D800
- Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 now

It's all pretty consistent. I did not find the brands mattered the least. No way to tel which was taken with what, as usual.

What matters a lot in my opinion is the distance one chooses with the photographed person and the rapport you build with that person, the empathy. Building that rapport will work at different distances depending mostly on the photographer. That distance and your framing will make you choose the lens.

110/2.8 for Mamiya RZ
75 Summicron ASPH
105 for Pentax 67
110/2 for Hassy 200 series

So it looks like I must really like shallow DOF, swirly bokeh, and something around 75mm FL equivalent....

I have two.

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8D (it was cheap, it has loads of character), and the original model Lensbaby Composer (double glass) which is one of those unnecessary purchases that one day unexpectedly redeemed itself; used in a fairly reserved, controlled way it is capable of lots of different forms of early-photography ambience and gentility.

Manual focus Zeiss Biotar 75mm f/1.5 adapted to a Nikon FX mount with epoxy many, many years ago.

Sure. Jupiter 8, which fits on my Leica M4 with an adapter. It is a soviet 50mm f.2 lens. Soft backgrounds and edges and sometimes a kind of glow around the main subject, surely because of the bad coating or something. You can also get pastel colours because of the low contrast on large apertures. I kind of like all of this.

For portraiture I tend to come back most often to a fast 50 and a fast 85 (on "full frame")—the 85mm for headshots, and the 50mm for more "environmental" shots. Specifically, the 50mm is a Sigma Art 1.4, and the 85mm is a Canon EF 1.2—both lenses allow me to get great results even when I want to shoot wide open. (Yeah, I know, I'm "one of those people" infatuated with a narrow depth-of-field aesthetic for portraits...)

It all depends on the subject, the setting, and the intent of the portrait.

I think I might be a little ignorant in this regard but when I shot a lot of informal environmental portraits I used the Canon F2 35mm EOS cheapo lens with what I thought were good results.


On an APS-C digital camera I fell in love with 50mm lenses for portraits. I use a Nikon f/1.4 AFS, and like it so much for what I use it for (portraits at f/2 to f/5.6) that I have put off moving to full frame.

On film, the old chrome 90mm Summicron is pretty fantastic.

Yes, there’s one that enjoy to use more than any other for portraits, and from which I got my best work. It’s the Olympus 45mm f1.8.

I love the Sigma 'art' lenses. I've taken portraits with most all of them from the 35 mm f/1.4 to the 135 mm f/1.8; the 85/1.4 is merely big rather than gigantic with basically no shortcomings, and the 105/1.4 is optically gorgeous if ginormous. But I generally find myself defaulting to the 135/1.8 because of the very comfortable working distance.

I don't do nearly as many portraits as I used to, but when I lived in Los Angeles and was producing portraits and headshots regularly, my favorite lens was the Canon 85mm f/1.8 on 35mm film (generally Kodak TMax 100), followed by the 50mm f/1.4. As long as I'm using a normal to short tele lens though, I find lighting and background to be more important to the quality of a portrait than the lens itself.

With 35mm film, either my Contax or Zeiss rangefinder, my favorite is longer than most would choose, and the longest I've ever used for portraits... a 135mm Zeiss lens.
Most of my work is ethnographic portraiture, and outdoors rather than in a studio. If I did studio work I don't know if that would be my first choice.
And I haven't found a favorite yet for my digital camera.

Olympus 25/1.8 and (based on your recommendation) the Panasonic 42.5/1.7. Although if my budget suddenly grew unexpectedly, it might be the f1.2 versions of those same two lenses. I do wish there was something around 50-55 (100-110 equivalent) in native m43 mount though.

When I was active professionally, portraits were often called for for corporate use in the architectural/construction industry. Sometimes I persuaded the clients that doing it 'properly', with lights, umbrellas, seamless, etc was the right way. In that case I generally shot 645 and used a 150mm lens.

Just as often if not more, I wasn't given that opportunity and had to shoot at a moments notice with what I had on hand. Fortunately, after a while I always took at least one useable portrait lens with me. For 645 that was the 150, 110 or 210. For 35 it was a 100, 105 or zoom. For 4x5 it was a 210 or 300.

As the 'spontaneous' portraits often had unpredictable locations and surroundings, I tended to go for longer focal lengths if possible to get rid of the backgrounds. This allowed me to use reasonable apertures, ie, f/4-5.6 for 645 to make sure most of the face was in focus and still blur the background. As most lenses of that time still had a fair amount of spherical aberration and had no aspheric elements, bokeh was generally very nice. I never used my App-Rodagon 240; it had some problems in that area.

Now, as an amateur, on m43 I tend to use the 75/1.8 or 45/1.2 Olympus lenses; for FF I like the Sony 85/1.8 although it's often a bit short or an adapted Canon 70-200/2.8 and on the Leicas the 75/1.4 or pre-ASPH 90/2. I'll use any of these wide open at times, although the majority of shots will be stopped down if the light is available.

I think my favourite today is the Olympus 75/1.8.

For 35mm an old pre AI Nikkor 80-200 f4 and the Nikkor 85 f1.8. Ok maybe one more the Leica 90mm f2 Summicron. On M4/3 I have been enjoying my Nikkor 60mm macro lens and MF the 150 Blad lens was my go to. For LF I have used my Rodenstock 300mm Geronar wide open and it does a really nice job.

I take portraits regularly with an AF Nikkor 85mm 1:1.8D lens and a Nikon D3X camera. I use my feet to zoom. This combination has never let me down.

Leica Noctilux... wide open. It comes pretty close to that medium format look.

M4:3? The Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 pro at about 50mm or the older Pen FT 60mm f1.5. Fuji? The 60mm f2.4. Nikon Full frame? 105 f2.0 DC or the AIS version of the 105mm f2.5. Canon full frame? the 100mm f2.0. Leica R? The original 90mm Summicron f2.0 R. Medium format? The Schneider 180mm f2.8 on the Leaf Af7i. 4x5 inch film? The Zeiss Planar 250mm f5.6.

Yes. The Sigma 60mm f/2.8 for Micro 4/3rds. It's longer than I would like, but there is just no arguing with the results...

All my portraits are shot on an m4/3 with a 25mm (50 equiv.) f/1.7 wide open. I always use two speedlights, one for on-axis fill on a bracket camera right and a handheld one camera left. A very light, mobile, no stands set up. The wide aperture gives a pretty shallow dof and the 50mm equivalent allows me to work close to my subjects with low powered flashes set at minimal power.

All my portraits are shot on an m4/3 with a 25mm (50 equiv.) f/1.7 wide open. I always use two speedlights, one for on-axis fill on a bracket camera right and a handheld one camera left. A very light, mobile, no stands set up. The wide aperture gives a pretty shallow dof and the 50mm equivalent allows me to work close to my subjects with low powered flashes set at minimal power.

Fuji 56 1.2 - just...wow. I rented this lens to prove I neither wanted it or had a use for it. I have been proven deeply wrong. (Especially on the XH-1, not sure what it is but it looks better there than on my XT2)

Nikon 50 1.2 AIS - love it, don't have the reflexes for it anymore. I'll keep telling myself that too...

Canon 85 1.8 - on film, anyway. Did better with this than teh Nikkor 85 1.4 I was supposed to love more.

Zeiss 135 3.5 on a Tech 70 or Baby or Master Technica - Wonderful on 4x5 HP5+, transcendent on TMAX 400, but a special magic on lamented Fuji FP3000. Going to sob now, thanks.

And lastly, I have a number of portraits with my fuji 16 1.4. Far too wide for a portrait lens, adds distortion, and yet, I think I have more close-in, personal portraits with this lens than almost any other. A function of being with my family, and travel being a high shooting time, but still, a wonderful lens that helps me to to capture the personality of the subject.

I love Stephen Voss's portrait of Jeff Sessions.

My favorite portrait lens would be a Nikon 60mm lens, but I don't have one. They do make a 60mm macro ("micro" in Nikon argot) at one time, but macro lenses are just too sharp for people pictures.

My favorite environmental portrait lens would be a Nikon 40mm, but that too doesn't exist.

So I make do with Nikon's nearest DX equivalents. A 24mm and a 35mm.

What's that you say? A zoom lens?

They're too fat and scare most casual subjects who are not used to portrait sessions.

I prefer candid portraits so I use an EF 135mm f/2L on my 6D. If this lens had IS it would be perfect. I used this lens at the 2018 All Souls Procession finale back in early November. Working in near darkness with an unstabilized lens and no flash meant my keeper rate was pathetic but the pictures I did manage to capture make me happy. For group shots I use my EF 40mm f/2.8 pancake.

14" Kodak Commercial Ektar (f/6.3) on 8x10 and now 11x14.
Here is my first portrait on 11x14 film (HP5):

Zeiss Jenna 85/2 Sonnar. Killer lens. I had it on a Kiev Contax copy and got some exquisite results from it.

For semi serious/personal snaps, most of my subjects don't mind being close to me so I can converse with them&get personal, so I tend to use either a 35mm or 50mm.

Most of my published portrait work was done with another favorite, the 85mm f/1.2L:

My favorite portrait lens is the 35mm Sonnar that's permanently attached to my Sony RX1.

Of course, the only portraits I take are of my dog -- Miss Abby -- so a short focal-length lens works quite well for me. 8^)

Leica R Summilux 80, which can now be used on the SL quite effectively. As your featured post shows, it does need a little space to work in to get any more than a headshot.

On m4/3 the Oly 45/1.8 and 75/1.8 (a beauty), and on FF the Sony 55/1.8

Fuji 35/1.4. The vast majority of my portraits these days (http://www.paultatterson.com) are shot with that little gem. Before jumping to Fuji for most of my work a couple of years ago, the Nikon 58/1.4G was my go-to.

I'll go for the 56mm f/1.2 on my Fuji X-T2. Love the handling, sharpness, rendering, colors, …

I have 3 favorites, all canon 50mm f1.2, 85mm f1.2 and the 135mm f2. I thought about selling the 135 and getting the 70-200 f2.8, but I just love how this lens renders the OOF areas wide open. The 85 is sharper than the 50 in most situations, but the 50 is so versatile! I’m starting to realize that the 135mm works best for people with long noses.

Cooke PS945 (9" for 4x5) is without peer.

Current medium format favorite is Hasselblad's Ziess 150mm f/4 Sonnar. On 35mm it's a Nikkor 105mm f/1.4, before that the 105mm f/2 DC. The Nikkor 200mm f/2 is excellent, but kinda a beast to drag around. If I'm not sure what I'm getting into then it's a bread and butter 70-200mm f/2.8 - one of the older ones that's supposedly soft in the corners. What I'm really excited about is, for Christmas, the kids gave me an Agfa Plenex 6x9 folder and a 6x9 back for my dusty Graflex. Can't wait to try out an 1800's Darlot and some old lenses. @KirkDeckerPhoto and @ShootingWithFilm on Instagram

35 Summilux-M and 50 Summilux-M. Both non-ASPH.

I bought the Sony A7 as soon as it became available and used it with my Leica M lenses. For portraits it was the Summicron 90mm but I also used the Zuiko 90mm 2.8 that had been on my Olympus OMs (from 1 to 4Ti). For me adapted Leica M lenses did not have any particular advantage except high resale value (at the time), and they lacked AF so I sold them all to finance "native lenses".

I should mention that I shoot all my portraits in "landscape mode", which explains why 135mm is a bit too long for me.

My favorite portrait lens now is the Batis 85mm. It makes very clear pictures, has AF and IS. It is a bit large but not very heavy compared with the Summicrom 90mm. I do not need an 1.4 aperture. Or is it that the in-focus range is too thin for my taste?

My next lens will be the Batis 40mm. My 35mm 2.8 Zony and 55mm 1.8 will have to go. I will use the Batis 40mm for environmental portraits. Is 40 mm to short for portraits? Will the subjects nose be too large? That does not depend on the focal length but the distance between camera and subject. With the A7r3 there is lots of room for cropping

Zeiss FE 1.8/55 Sonnar for Sony A7 series. Wonderful portrait lens for everything except tight headshots, and such a useful focal length. I honestly can't think of a good reason not to own this lens if you shoot Sony full frame. It isn't even that expensive considering the quality of the glass.

A Canon 50mm f1.4 on a Sony a6500 for most of my theatre headshots,

Hands down, no question. A Pinkham and smith Series Two. If I make a bad portrait with that it is my fault!

300mm f/5.6 Fujinon on the 8x10 Deardorff - or on the 5x7 Deardorff. A bit of a different feel in 5x7 and it works well for both formats.

I don't shoot portraits anymore, but my favorite wedding portrait lens was the 50mm f1.4 Canon EF at f1.4 to f2.0. My 50mm Summilux is a close second, a better all-round lens.

Olympus m43: 25mm f1.2, 45mm f1.8 or f1.2, 75mm f1.8
Canon: 50 f1.4; 135mm f2

The manual f/4 200 on my Pentax 645Z. Often stopped down to 5/6 to get both eyes in focus, if I'm in tight. I often start with the 120, only to discover that I want to stay where I am but get a narrower view and then the 200 comes out. (I suppose I should add a 150.)

Sony 85 f/1.4 GM

A 150mm Nikkor-W on a Sinar Norma with a 120 roll film back. Yes, it's a little odd. The great big camera is, strangely, less intimidating than a black Nikon; I think it's because I can't hide behind it. I have to come out from behind and engage with the subject.

I almost always use a 50/1.4, and there are lots of good ones from a bunch of different companies. But my all-time favorite portrait lens is the Leica 75mm f/2.0 Summicron M. Wide open it's just spectacular, and has a perfect field of view (at a comfortable subject distance) and geometry for portraits. The bokeh is the best of any lens I own, which is really important for wide-aperture portraits.

I rarely use it these days because my eyes aren't as good as they once were at manual focusing.

Here's an example (on Portra 400) of what it can do:


In my early B&W days, it was a 35mm Summicron M, as all were environmental portraits. In my latter colour film days, it was the 90mm Summicron R, shot at f/2,which was slightly softer than other apertures. In my current Fuji X days, it is an adapted 85mm Rolleinar (simple 4 element Sonnar) shot wide open (and sharp) at 2.8. I did some tests with the 55-200 zoom and decided that the most flattering perspective for a face (to my eyes) was in the 120-135mm range (35mm-e), hence the 85mm (127mm) Rolleinar.

Hi Mike,

As a companion to your new G9 consider the m.Zuiko 75/1.8. Higher magnification than a typical portrait lens (best for head shots) but it renders beautifully.

Have never used either the Nocticron 42.5/1.2 or Pro 45/1.2 but have certainly seen lots of lovely work from both. The tiny m.Zuiko 45/1.8 is a portrait bargain so long as you can accept some field curvature (i.e., are not making loving portraits of brick walls).

In days past I dearly loved the C/Y 85/1.4 Planar and the Hasselblad 150/4 Sonnar. Skin tones have always been a Zeiss strong point.

I love the Fuji 90mm f/2. Great balance on my X-T3 with battery grip. Good contrast and color. Great sharpness. I have to get a bit too far away for more than a head and shoulders shot. I also use the 56mm f/1.2. For candid work, the 50mm f/2 "Fujicron" is light and unobtrusive.

Depends what you mean by portrait (headshot, upper body, full length....)

For me Zeiss Planar f2.8 80mm... (Environmental portraits, obviously)

Jane Bown of the UK Guardian/Observer used a 50mm Zuiko/Olympus for many of her portraits.

I've always thought that the "traditional" portrait lens (80mm-ish to 110mm-ish) was a bit limited, although excellent within those limitations.

No Brainer for me, tha large Amazon is incredable value with no snob appeal. Not perfect but for the money and build it is perfect.

Semi-serious answer: the older is the model, the older must be the lens, ideally the same age.

The Nikon 24/1.4G is probably my favorite portrait lens. When you get it right, that lens sings.

(Runner-up: Panasonic/Leica 42.5/1.2)

For a while I shot a number of environmental portraits with the Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm 3.5 lens featured on a Rolleicord Va. I liked the slightly wide view and the tonality and focus transitions were beautiful, in my opinion - both in B&W and colour.

In a moment of holiday madness, I traded in my little Olympus 45mm 1.8 towards the PRO 25mm 1.2 - and then subsequently exchanged that for the PRO 45mm 1.2 when they were on sale in December.

I reasoned that because I had done a number of head shots last year, it would make sense to 'invest' in a lens that could be used to pay for itself. (as well as feeling that I prefer smaller lenses in the 28-50mm walk-around lengths).

But I can't help but feel that was a mistake.

I've grown to love the 25mm FOV on a m4/3 - in part because of the aspect ratio. And the insanely complex 25mm PRO had something special about it.

Just rack that Panny 12-35mm f/2.8 out to 35mm and shoot it wide open...job done.

For Candids the Oly 75mm f1.8, usually wide open or f2 (sharp, snappy and rich), but in closer the 45mm f1.8 at f2.2-2.8 (magical, natural and importantly, gentle). I must admit though the 12-40 at 40 wide open is a contender, especially with it's better close focus.

No. I find myself going beyond the 90mm-equivalent length a lot (especially in a studio), so I went from the 85mm f/1.8 to the 70-200 f/2.8 in Nikon, or now from the 45mm f/1.8 Olympus to the 40-150 f/2.8 Olympus. Wider isn't inconceivable, only somewhat rare.

If wedding portraits count, i do. my favourite is the nikkor 105 DC
On a dx body, It's restricted FOV makes it so good for faces. At f/4 i don't think I have a better lens.

For my m43s, I like the Olympus 45 1.8 , the Panny-Leica 25mm f/1.4 and the Panasonic Lumix 35-100 f2.8 at 75 -80mm.
For my Fuji system, the 50 f/2 or the 50-140 f2.8.
And I still have an older Canon 40D with a 100mm f2 lens which is quite sweet.

The Fuji 60/2.4 is stellar for portraits, a severely underrated lens because of the very slow autofocus.
I also loved the Mamiya RB67 127/3.8C - fantastic portraits wide open. Better in my opinion than the 150 soft focus, which was supposed to be the portrait lens of the set. The 250mmC was a fantastic lens as well, for longer shots -- but I digress, talking about these old lenses... the Fuji is where it's at on modern bodies (and iirc, I posted several shots here some years ago answering this same question, trying to demonstrate the nice portraiture capabilities of the Fuji 60/2.4, so I guess I'm repeating myself).

Further to my comments above regarding focal lengths for portraits, here's one using my 135mm on a film Nikon many years ago.

The vic is my daughter, but I can't remember why I put her through this at the time; there must have been due cause or it wouldn't have happened. Unfortunately, we weren't that kind of snappy family, which today, makes me sad.


As I do primarily environmental portraits my main lens is my Nikon AF-S 24-70 f/2.8 G. I rarely use a focal length longer than 50mm. For one portrait project I'm using strictly my lovely old AI-S 28mm f/2.8.

I keep on gravitating to the Pentax 90mm/2.8 Macro on my 645Z for portraits. It is just the right length -- not too long, not too short -- and has much better than average sharpness wide open. My best lens for sure.

Semi-serious might even be a stretch in my case, but I stick with my Panasonic 20mm for portraits too. Having a bit larger aperture wouldn't hurt, but at the rate I take portraits I can't justify buying brighter normal lens for just that niche.

Of course if the framing gets tighter than full-length or half body etc. I'll switch to the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. In that case I can get as thin a depth of field as I could wish for and oh so lovely rendering.

Two preferred portrait lenses : Nikon 105 2.0 DC, and a pretty old Leica 90mm 2.0 Summicron
Lovely for portrait images

Oly 75mm f/1.8. Magic.

For me the 85mm Canon f/1.8 was magical on the 5D MK1. A bit too sharp for some portraits, maybe.

Since 2012, the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 for m4/3 has been my favourite. But I enjoy portraiture without being particularly good at it.

That Stephen Voss shot is like a color class. Look at all the various shades of green (in both portraits) and the grays. Very nice.

The best results that I get are I think with the Sigma 30mm f1.4 Art series in my Pentax APS-C cameras. I have longer primes including 50 and 55mm lenses, and I have also gotten good results from a 70-210mm Pentax lens, but the results of the 30mm just seem more intimate - especially head shots.

I do my wife's promotional photos. I've gotten some great results with the Pentax-FA 43/1.9, 50/1.7, and 77/1.8, all on my K-1. They all have a wonderful look.

I've got both the MF and autofocus Pentax 85mm "Soft" lenses, but struggled to ever get the right amount of softness. Very hard to preview in the finder or on the LCD.

Did get one good result with the old Komura 100/1.8, with it's Ernostar formula providing crazy swirly bokeh. It's "bad in a good way" at wide apertures.

@Rob L: Regarding your comments that protraits with the Fuji XF56mm f/1.2 look better on the X-H1 than the X-T2: Yep! The X-H1 does that! 😉 Seen it consistently with all of my lenses, also (you should see image quality from the X-H1 using the new XF200mm f/2.0 or 8-16 mm f/2.8 – Holy sh*t! 😲)

Moreover, all the pros I know that have transitioned from the X-T2 to the X-H1 say exactly the same thing. I attribute it to a hypothesis that the X-H1 is manufactured to achieve and maintain exceptionally tight tolerances that extract maximal optical performance from the lenses.

@Mike: Yep, the 56mm f/1.2 is kinda pricey; I recommend buying a nice clean used one on the Buy/Sell forums, e.g. Fred Miranda. They sell used and often, like new, for ~$650-700. I've bought several lenses this way and have had 100% positive transactions.

Although my favourite portraitist John Bown [do you mean Jane? --Ed.]invariably used an OM 85mm at a wide aperture to brilliant effect, for the 'natural' looking portraits I prefer I'd echo Bernd Reinhardt's comment above that anything other than around 50mm (on 35mm) creates an effect that detracts from my intention.

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