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1234last
Photographer
Untitled Photographer
Posts: 1,179
Dallas, Texas, US


In general terms the 85mm lens is often considered ideal for head shots, I realize not everyone uses that, but this post is intended for those who do.

I have an APS-C camera, so my 50mm lens is equivalent to a 75mm (we all knew that).  The question is when people are raving about an 85mm as a very good head shot lens, do they mean a true 85mm or a cropped 85mm (which actually translates to about a 127mm lens).

What's driving this is I'm considering buying an 85mm lens but I'm sort of asking myself why I need to buy an 85mm lens (for portrait/head shots) when I have a perfectly good 50mm (equiv 75mm). 

Thank you.
Feb 01 13 07:43 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Daniel Sulla
Posts: 109
Chicago, Illinois, US


I am old school on this (not a choice I'm old) I like more of a 135mm length (full frame) or longer if there is room I prefer a 200mm. I just like the perspective. Just my my opinion. Others will say different. Giving the subject space to me gives them more comfort and a longer lens gives that space
Feb 01 13 07:53 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Andrew Thomas Evans
Posts: 23,947
Minneapolis, Minnesota, US


I think 85 is getting a little too close for a traditional headshot, could be ok for a head/shoulders shot - mostly I'm in the 100-150mm range a lot of the time.

This wouldn't really change too much between cropped/ff since the lenses still work the same.




Andrew Thomas Evans
www.andrewthomasevans.com
Feb 01 13 08:01 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Caveman Creations
Posts: 580
Fort Worth, Texas, US


If using a 50mm on a crop-sensor, it will only give you the "field Of Veiw" of an 80mm, not any of the other attributes. The 50 will not compress the background, and the Bokeh may not be as OOF. A 50 is a 50, no matter what it's on. An 85 is an 85 just the same. Now...

I use my 85mm in studio religiously. I can frame what I need to frame without being a country mile away from my subjects. I can do headshots, that are fairly loose, because it's closest focusing distance is about 5 ft. I like that framing, and I like the distance it puts me to the subject. If FOV is your biggest concern, then yeah. I'd go with the 50, because you are not going to get as much in frame with the 85 at the same distance. If you want background compression, and awesome OOF bits, then the 85 or longer is the only way to go. You just have to back up more! wink
Feb 01 13 08:03 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Ross Clark
Posts: 164
Mansfield, Ohio, US


Caveman Creations wrote:
If using a 50mm on a crop-sensor, it will only give you the "field Of Veiw" of an 80mm, not any of the other attributes. The 50 will not compress the background, and the Bokeh may not be as OOF. A 50 is a 50, no matter what it's on. An 85 is an 85 just the same. Now...

I use my 85mm in studio religiously. I can frame what I need to frame without being a country mile away from my subjects. I can do headshots, that are fairly loose, because it's closest focusing distance is about 5 ft. I like that framing, and I like the distance it puts me to the subject. If FOV is your biggest concern, then yeah. I'd go with the 50, because you are not going to get as much in frame with the 85 at the same distance. If you want background compression, and awesome OOF bits, then the 85 or longer is the only way to go. You just have to back up more! wink

+1

Feb 01 13 08:08 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Brandon Parker
Posts: 16
Riverside, California, US


If you don't mind

What would the 35mm on a crop sensor camera be ideal for...?

I've been kinda using the 35 as a utility lens for everything.  Should I be switching to my 50mm for head shots?
Feb 01 13 08:13 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Untitled Photographer
Posts: 1,179
Dallas, Texas, US


Caveman Creations wrote:
If using a 50mm on a crop-sensor, it will only give you the "field Of Veiw" of an 80mm, not any of the other attributes. The 50 will not compress the background, and the Bokeh may not be as OOF. A 50 is a 50, no matter what it's on. An 85 is an 85 just the same. Now...

I use my 85mm in studio religiously. I can frame what I need to frame without being a country mile away from my subjects. I can do headshots, that are fairly loose, because it's closest focusing distance is about 5 ft. I like that framing, and I like the distance it puts me to the subject. If FOV is your biggest concern, then yeah. I'd go with the 50, because you are not going to get as much in frame with the 85 at the same distance. If you want background compression, and awesome OOF bits, then the 85 or longer is the only way to go. You just have to back up more! wink

Thanks for the explanation, this makes sense to me. When I'm thinking about using an 85mm I'm not concerned with bokeh or what happens in the background.  I'd probably be using it with just white or black seamless paper. 

Are you using the SAL-85F28 or something beefier?  I rented the CZ once, holy cow.

Feb 01 13 08:20 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Creative Concept Studio
Posts: 2,533
Fort Worth, Texas, US


I believe it's more than the focal length that brings the 85mm raves. The quality of the glass and the superior optics of a prime surely come into play here.

A AF-S VR-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED at 85mm will have a different 'feel' than the AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 IF-D.

Ray
Feb 01 13 08:31 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Caveman Creations
Posts: 580
Fort Worth, Texas, US


Feb 01 13 08:38 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Caveman Creations
Posts: 580
Fort Worth, Texas, US


Creative Concept Studio wrote:
I believe it's more than the focal length that brings the 85mm raves. The quality of the glass and the superior optics of a prime surely come into play here.

A AF-S VR-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED at 85mm will have a different 'feel' than the AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 IF-D.

Ray

This is also so true. It is a bit more than just focal length.

Feb 01 13 08:40 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
liddellphoto
Posts: 1,800
London, England, United Kingdom


135mm to 200mm, 85mm is popular for half body-ish shots
Feb 01 13 08:45 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Fotografica Gregor
Posts: 4,066
Alexandria, Virginia, US


I find the 85mm too short for true headshots - it's fine for 1/2 length and head and shoulder compositions but even then especially in over the shoulder looks, tends to distort a bit, making the shoulder look too large vis a vis the head....

for decades, the idea was that the 105mm was for head and shoulders portraits and the 135mm for headshots

I tend to shoot headshots at no less than 135mm preferring closer to 200mm
Feb 01 13 08:57 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Mortonovich II
Posts: 703
San Diego, California, US


Agree with other that an 85mm (FF sensor) is a little short for head shots. I use one all the time only because I don't have a 135 and yes, I always crop in a fair bit for the finished image.
Feb 01 13 08:59 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
J T Smith
Posts: 1,449
Pittsfield, Illinois, US


I use 85 for most of my beauty head shot work. It has been explained already about the perspective in relationship to "field of view" with crop sensors.

In traditional and old school opinions, the 35 mm format said the 135 mm was the ideal perspective for head shots. This perspective was considered a general and ideal go to focal length for head shot portraits.

I still prefer 135 perspectives but I don't have a problem using my 85mm on a crop sensor and use it religiously for tight and loose head shots.

I still shoot all of my beauty work with a Fuji S3 and an 85mm nikkor, but if I shot with a full frame sensor camera, I would definitely want to shoot with a 135mm prime for head shots.

J T

P.S. I also want to add that it also depends on the subject's facial features what you should use....in general I use the 85mm but if a facial structure deserved less or more of a focal length, I would adjust for that perspective that I wanted to achieve for a beauty or a "character" perspective. For instance, does the subject have a big nose, pronounced forehead, a small round face or elongated facial structure?...if we are shooting good looking models with a good make up artist, we can get by with not worrying so much about the differences in perspective between a 85 and a 135.
Feb 01 13 09:05 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Untitled Photographer
Posts: 1,179
Dallas, Texas, US


Caveman, for some reason I thought you were a Sony guy (I am) yeah I know, Sony is just a toy.

Well the Sony 135mm is way out of my price range, but the low end 85mm is not, but it's f2.8 which makes me pause.  I would think f2.8 would be fine in a studio like setting though, not too slow that is.

I think I'm just jonesing for a new lens and trying to determine which focal length is going to make a difference for me.

edit and ps:  I hear you guys saying the 135mm is better suited for tight head shots, point taken and noted. Thank you.
Feb 01 13 09:07 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Dean Johnson Photo
Posts: 56,026
Minneapolis, Minnesota, US


I like 85 mm for headshots

Here are some shot with a full frame 5D

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/080504/11/481dd6b3d5594_m.jpg

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/100127/20/4b611034cf657_m.jpg

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/080526/10/483ad048cf856_m.jpg

http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/071002/09/470249f01afac_m.jpg
Feb 01 13 09:07 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Michael Broughton
Posts: 2,173
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


Caveman Creations wrote:
If using a 50mm on a crop-sensor, it will only give you the "field Of Veiw" of an 80mm, not any of the other attributes. The 50 will not compress the background, and the Bokeh may not be as OOF.

wrong, a ff camera and an aps-c camera with lenses with equivalent fovs will give the exact same background compression. you will need to use a larger aperture with the 50mm to get the same dof, but that also means you get faster shutter speeds at any given dof and fast 50mms (or 55mms) are cheap.

Feb 01 13 09:12 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Caveman Creations
Posts: 580
Fort Worth, Texas, US


Untitled Photographer wrote:
Caveman, for some reason I thought you were a Sony guy (I am) yeah I know, Sony is just a toy.

Well the Sony 135mm is way out of my price range, but the low end 85mm is not, but it's f2.8 which makes me pause.  I would think f2.8 would be fine in a studio like setting though, not too slow that is.

I think I'm just jonesing for a new lens and trying to determine which focal length is going to make a difference for me.

Any hammer will build a house, no matter if it's a Sony hammer, Canon hammer, or Nikon hammer.
An 85mm f2.8 would be a nice lens. My 85mm is f1.8, but I don't usually go wider than 2.8, and that would have to be on like a half body shot. I tend not to like one eye out of focus. I like for the entire face to be in focus. My preference.

A 2.8 lens stopped down to 5.6, and yeah, you're probably going to have to add some light in-studio. But, have you looked out the window today? Hell, it's a sunny 16 kind of day anyway! wink

Feb 01 13 09:13 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Kent Art Photography
Posts: 2,657
Ashford, England, United Kingdom


It shouldn't matter what size sensor, or film, you are using.  An 85mm lens used to be the accepted focal length to produce natural looking headshots.  Things do seem to have shifted a bit over the years, and shorter focal lengths have become the norm.

It might have something to do with having to use a megaphone to communicate with a model, though.
Feb 01 13 09:14 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
BlueMoonPics
Posts: 3,937
New York, New York, US


These are all full frame...

135mm
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/120928/06/5065a74958dcb_m.jpg

85mm
http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/111026/19/4ea8bcef474a0_m.jpg http://photos.modelmayhem.com/photos/120221/07/4f43bc83a2d8c_m.jpg
Feb 01 13 09:19 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Bob Helm Photography
Posts: 18,104
Cherry Hill, New Jersey, US


The reason the 85mm FL was the recommendation was because of the perspective of shooting head shots at that distance. Actual recommendation was for 85-105 FL and in a small studio the 85 worked better.

The limited DOF and the rendition of the OOF BG were secondary considerations. The 75mm effective FL is a little short for portraits and the 127 EFL of the 85 is a little long but that is by classic definitions and in real world photographers use a wide range of lenses with great results. Outdoors I prefer a 180mm (full frame).
Feb 01 13 09:39 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Creative Concept Studio
Posts: 2,533
Fort Worth, Texas, US


AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 IF-D on D800: used for different poses headshot to 3/4 in studio and out.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8378/8405365325_71ed9ab5bf_n.jpg


Both at f/1.4 glow added in post:
http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8356/8350934847_4cc7ca3133_n.jpg

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8518/8350718014_20c849dc2e_n.jpg


http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4057/4613328975_d5b3ee1bcf_m.jpg

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5178/5398315038_89053125d9_n.jpg



Ray
Feb 01 13 09:43 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Kaouthia
Posts: 3,152
Lancaster, England, United Kingdom


Caveman Creations wrote:
If using a 50mm on a crop-sensor, it will only give you the "field Of Veiw" of an 80mm, not any of the other attributes. The 50 will not compress the background

Of course it will.  Try that 80mm on a 4x5 large format and see how compressed your background is.

Field of view is what gives the "compressed background".  Focal length, by itself doesn't.  It's a factor of focal length AND sensor size/film size (which translates to field of view).

Feb 01 13 09:43 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
J T Smith
Posts: 1,449
Pittsfield, Illinois, US


So much attention is being paid to field of view in this discussion. In my opinion the main argument should be the differences in distortion.

Yes, we can talk about dof and the lack of space, but that still doesn't improve the subjects beauty or character. What focal lengths distort or doesn't distort a human face should be the main concern, in my opinion, to the original post?
Feb 01 13 09:53 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Kaouthia
Posts: 3,152
Lancaster, England, United Kingdom


J T Smith wrote:
So much attention is being paid to field of view in this discussion. In my opinion the main argument should be the differences in distortion.

Yes, we can talk about dof and the lack of space, but that still doesn't improve the subjects beauty or character. What focal lengths distort or doesn't distort a human face should be the main concern, in my opinion, to the original post?

It doesn't matter if I'm shooting with a 70mm on a crop body, or a 105 on a full frame body, or 365mm on a 4x5 large format.  My field of view, distance from subject, and perspective will be identical.

Field of view defines the distance at which you shoot.  That distance defines perspective distortion.  That's why it's kinda important. smile

Feb 01 13 09:55 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
NothingIsRealButTheGirl
Posts: 32,026
Los Angeles, California, US


J T Smith wrote:
So much attention is being paid to field of view in this discussion. In my opinion the main argument should be the differences in distortion.

Yes, we can talk about dof and the lack of space, but that still doesn't improve the subjects beauty or character. What focal lengths distort or doesn't distort a human face should be the main concern, in my opinion, to the original post?

Focal length is not what distorts. Distance to camera distorts.

Feb 01 13 09:57 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
NothingIsRealButTheGirl
Posts: 32,026
Los Angeles, California, US


Assuming rectilinear lenses, if you frame up a headshot with a 135 and then put a 50 on the camera the heads will have the same distortion.

(although with the 50 the head will occupy a much smaller area of the frame)
Feb 01 13 09:58 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Caveman Creations
Posts: 580
Fort Worth, Texas, US


The Space Cowboy wrote:

Focal length is not what distorts. Distance to camera distorts.

Yup.

Plus, FOV between a Crop sensor DSLR, and a FF DSLR, as it is a jump, it is not quite the jump up to 4x5, or 8x10 View, which is a huge jump in FOV. My 50mm on my T3i looks the same as a shot with that 50mm on my 5D MKII. You just have to back up more to get the framing the same. The background is relatively the same compression. The 85mm on my T3i, and again on my 5D MKII pulls the background up towards the subject due to the fact that it is magnified more. I've never shot Medium or Large Format film, but I do realize that a 50mm becomes a wide wide angle lens on those formats. I can't talk about the differences in that. But, 1.6 crop vs. FF DSLR, the 50mm does not magically compress (magnify) the background more because it's on a crop sensor.

Feb 01 13 10:09 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Kaouthia
Posts: 3,152
Lancaster, England, United Kingdom


Caveman Creations wrote:
You just have to back up more to get the framing the same. The background is relatively the same compression.

But it's not.  You've moved, your perspective has changed.

Caveman Creations wrote:
the 50mm does not magically compress (magnify) the background more because it's on a crop sensor.

It's not magically anything.  It's called physics. smile

Feb 01 13 10:10 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Caveman Creations
Posts: 580
Fort Worth, Texas, US


Kaouthia wrote:

But it's not.  You've moved, your perspective has changed.

And that change in perspective, changes background compression. big_smile Just like DOF changes as you get closer, or farther from the subject. That is where FF vs. Crop has the biggest difference. In the DOF category, and it's still somewhat minimal.

Feb 01 13 10:12 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Kaouthia
Posts: 3,152
Lancaster, England, United Kingdom


Caveman Creations wrote:
And that change in perspective, changes background compression. big_smile

Exactly, that's the point.  If you want the same perspective, same background compression, and relative field of view, you need to shoot from the same spot with a different focal length on a crop body vs a full frame body, same as you do shooting different sizes of film.

DX crop, full frame, 645 medium format, 6x7 medium format 4x5 large format and 8x10 large format all require a different focal length lens in order to get the same field of view and the same perspective.

Feb 01 13 10:14 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Caveman Creations
Posts: 580
Fort Worth, Texas, US


Ok. I get what you're saying. But, a shot framed the same way, will look the same. That's what I'm gettin' at. It becomes distance to subject that makes lens choice imperative when BG is not a concern. And, as you have said before, the perspective of the shot, is what determines lens choice. If you want that background to be pulled right up behind the subject, one needs a telephoto lens. If you want the background farther looking from the subject, one would need a wider lens. But, putting a 50mm on a crop sensor, and putting it on a FF, when framed the same, have the same BG compression.
Feb 01 13 10:19 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Select Models
Posts: 35,357
Upland, California, US


Fotografica Gregor wrote:
I find the 85mm too short for true headshots

Totally agree with this on a full frame camera... but works pretty good for headshots on an APS camera.  I use my Nikon 85 F1.8 primarily for low light images.  I shot alot of headshots and head and shoulder images with either the Nikon 24-120 Nanocoat F4 ED-VR...

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v330/GaryAbigt/Alexandra2.jpg

or the 70-300 ED-VR.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v330/GaryAbigt/IMATS13S1.jpg

Feb 01 13 10:20 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Kaouthia
Posts: 3,152
Lancaster, England, United Kingdom


Caveman Creations wrote:
Ok. I get what you're saying. But, a shot framed the same way, will look the same. That's what I'm gettin' at.

But what I'm saying is, to frame it the same way, you need to be stood at the same spot, which requires a shorter focal length on a crop body.  Your distance to the subject has not changed, so your perspective distortion has not changed.

If you shoot the same lens and move back, as you suggest, your perspective HAS changed, and your frame isn't the same.

Caveman Creations wrote:
If you want that background to be pulled right up behind the subject, one needs a telephoto lens. If you want the background farther looking from the subject, one would need a wider lens.

Right, but telephoto and wide are relative terms.

To give an extreme example, 4.28mm focal length would be pretty extreme wide angle right?  But that's what it uses in the iPhone to give you a similar field of view to a 35mm lens on a full frame body, and as you said, 50mm is considered a wide lens on a 4x5 large format.

Caveman Creations wrote:
But, putting a 50mm on a crop sensor, and putting it on a FF, when framed the same, have the same BG compression.

You won't though.

So you put a 50mm lens on a full frame body, your subject's head is filling the frame, and you have the view of the overall scene that you want.

You put that same 50mm lens on a crop body, you've cropped off 1/6th off the top, bottom, left and right sides of your shot.  So, you move back a little bit to get your subject the same size they were before.  The view of the environment is still not as wide as it was on the full frame body despite your subject being the same size.  By stepping back, you're also increasing your focus distance to the subject and, as a consequence, your depth of field, bringing the background closer to being in focus.

Feb 01 13 10:20 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Armando D Photography
Posts: 557
Houston, Texas, US


http://www.sebstudios.net/for-photograp … 50mm-85mm/

A good read about lens + distortions and when to use them and when not to opinion wise'
Feb 01 13 10:43 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Leighthenubian
Posts: 2,748
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Untitled Photographer wrote:
In general terms the 85mm lens is often considered ideal for head shots, I realize not everyone uses that, but this post is intended for those who do.

I have an APS-C camera, so my 50mm lens is equivalent to a 75mm (we all knew that).  The question is when people are raving about an 85mm as a very good head shot lens, do they mean a true 85mm or a cropped 85mm (which actually translates to about a 127mm lens).

What's driving this is I'm considering buying an 85mm lens but I'm sort of asking myself why I need to buy an 85mm lens (for portrait/head shots) when I have a perfectly good 50mm (equiv 75mm). 

Thank you.

Maybe don't focus on the "what" of taking a headshot, but on the "why".

Wide angle lenses and close cropped portraits of people rarely looks good. They exaggerate dimensions. FL's like 85, 135, 200 are preferred because they maintain perspective and compress the background.

On a cropped body your 50 is fine at normal headshot framing distances. Someone else mentioned that it's more like a 80mm.

Keep what you have and focus on lighting, posing etc...

Feb 01 13 10:46 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Photos by Lorrin
Posts: 6,912
Eugene, Oregon, US


Some questions do not have a black and white answer. 

This is one of them.

(edit: to be clear - black and white here means there are no right answers)
Feb 01 13 10:59 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Hugh Alison
Posts: 2,079
Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom


Have a look here, see if the fotos were on full frame or crop, and decide for yourself.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/canon85mm/



The 85 is a great headshot lens on cropframe.


The 85 is a great portrait lens on cropframe.
The 135 is a great headshot lens on fullframe.


Also see what people are using here:
http://www.flickr.com/groups/100strangers/
Feb 01 13 11:01 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Michael Broughton
Posts: 2,173
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


Caveman Creations wrote:
Ok. I get what you're saying. But, a shot framed the same way, will look the same. That's what I'm gettin' at. It becomes distance to subject that makes lens choice imperative when BG is not a concern. And, as you have said before, the perspective of the shot, is what determines lens choice. If you want that background to be pulled right up behind the subject, one needs a telephoto lens. If you want the background farther looking from the subject, one would need a wider lens. But, putting a 50mm on a crop sensor, and putting it on a FF, when framed the same, have the same BG compression.

you can't frame a shot the same using the same focal length lens with two different sensor sizes. that's basic geometry. you don't have the slightest clue how background compression works. it's determined by the distances between the camera, the subject and the background. take a shot with a 28mm lens and a shot with a 300mm lens without changing those distances then crop the 28mm shot to match the fov of the 300mm shot and you'll get the exact same background compression.

Feb 01 13 11:21 am  Link  Quote 
Photographer
Awesome Headshots
Posts: 2,363
San Ramon, California, US


Lorin Edmonds wrote:
Some questions do not have a black and white answer.

This is one of them.

I don't think the OP's shooting in just black and white, probably color as well, so kind of a mute point. wink

To the OP, my suggestion is to rent a few 85's (1.4 and 1.8) to see which one if any blows your skirt up. 99% of my Headshots and portraits are shot with an 85mm 1.8 indoor and out.

Feb 01 13 11:23 am  Link  Quote 
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