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Old Jan 5, 2010, 12:09 AM   #1
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Default Portrait Lenses

Hello every. I am almost entirely new to the photography world. I just bought a Canon Rebel T1i with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens(kit costing me $749.99) after few days of researching T1i vs 50d($1199.99 kit). Before the newly purchased Canon Rebel T1i, I owned a Sony Cybershot DSC-H3 (which I am soooo ready to throw it in the ocean!). I am a Accounting Major and not going to school for photography. I am 25 years old and I want to start capturing the "moments" in life early because I am not getting any younger. I like to take pictures of family and friends (portraits) and am in the process of learning photoshop.

Now, the question is, I have an extra $450.00 to spend on lens. What "one" lense or "set" of lenses would you recommend? Any advice/help will really help me.

"

26-Jul-2006 11:36 The 50mm/f1.4 and 50mm/f1.8 are the BEST PORTRAIT LENSES that Canon offers. I own a Canon Rebel 2000 and Digital Rebel XT and have used both these lenses for several months. Pictures have been outstanding and my professional customers frequently cite the sharpness, light balance, depth of field, color reproduction, and "bokeh" (intentional blurring of background in portraits) from these lenses. Some people question the usefulness of a 50mm lens on digital SLRs with a 1.6x crop factor (i.e., 50mm lens = 80mm on a dSLR like the Digital Rebel XT)... I can vouch that the range is beautiful and relevant, focusing more closely on key subjects in portraits.

WHAT DO THESE LENSES HAVE IN COMMON? They are both fast (the f1.4 is blazing fast - dSLR can hardly keep up!), details are incredibly sharp (you can see individual hair strands), virtually no chromatic (color) aberration, no dithering or shadows in the corners, focusing is rapid and quiet (thanks to Canon's patented Ultrasonic USM technology) and photo quality parallels even my professional Canon "L" lenses. These fixed aperture lenses also provide superior pictures than telephoto lenses at 50mm because of better glass and aspherical elements.

HOW ARE THESE LENSES DIFFERENT? Having tested both lenses across 1500+ pictures, there are 5 key factors that make the f1.4 superior (justifying the $300+ price tag).

1) FASTER ESPECIALLY IN LOW LIGHT: Extra f-stop makes the f/1.4 better for indoor photos or low light. Great companion to the 480EX flash. I was able to take nearly 40 pics/min with flash and the fastest Sandisk 1GB Ultra II CF card

2) NO CHROMATIC ABERRATION, whereas the f/1.8 has slight yellowing of photos under certain lighting conditions or where edge definition is low

3) FULL AUTO/MANUAL FOCUSING RANGE: f/1.8 requires flipping between auto and manual using a switch, while f/1.4 can be manually "hot" focused/tweaked after auto focusing

4) SUPERIOR BUILD QUALITY: The f/1.8 is plastic and feels cheap, like it might fall apart anytime. The f/1.4 is metal, weighty, and is for the proud lens owner

5) CLEANER "BOKEH" - f/1.4 produces beautiful blurring of background in portraits ("bokeh") while the f/1.8 leaves less clean edges. Canon reviews suggest this is due to the f/1.4 having 8 lens elements vs. 5 elements for the f/1.8

WHICH LENS SHOULD YOU BUY? This is a question of utility vs. value. The f/1.4 costs over $300 while the f/1.8 can be acquired for under $75. The f/1.4 will last forever while the f/1.8 will probably break under normal use in a year. Does this justify the 4x price tag? If you are a budding photographer looking for a "play lens" then the f/1.8 will more than over-deliver. If you are a photo enthusiast who looks for "the perfect shot," you will want the f/1.4 because it surpasses every expectation (and so you're not left wondering, "what if"). If you are a photo professional, you already have the f/1.4 lens among your bag and are not reading this review. :-)" - quoted this from another site. I am reconsidering these two lense due to this statement.
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Old Jan 5, 2010, 1:58 AM   #2
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The 50mm F1.4 is a stop brighter the the 50mm F1.8. Also the 50mm f1.4 is a USM ring mount motor while the f1.8 is a dc gear motor, that make the F1.4 faster in focusing. Also the F1.8 lurks a bit when autofocusing while the f.14 is very quick and smooth.

The part about the f1.8 not lasting is kinda incorrect. I have had my since 1992. It is also a very sharp lens. It is a bit noise. But for the value, it is something I can live with.

But if you are looking for a good portrait lens and since your budget max is 450 dollar. The ef 85mm f1.8 USM would be better for portrait work. The 50mm lenses are a bit short, and will require you to get closer to your subject. The longer reach of the 85mm is better suited for it. Also it is a very good lens for indoor and night time shooting as it is a very fast prime lens also. It has pretty much the same benefit of the ef 50mm F1.4 with better reach. The lens new is about 370. You may be able to get both the ef 85mm F1.8 USM and the ef 50mm f1.8 for 450. I have both these lenses in my kit.

Beside portrait, what else are you planning to shoot? That would help narrow down the type of lens that would benefit you. You may want to look at the ef-s 55-250 for more zoom and get the ef 50mm f1.8, that would be around 340 dollars for the 2 lens also. There are allot of options, knowing what you like to photograph will help us give you recommendations.

Last edited by shoturtle; Jan 5, 2010 at 2:25 AM.
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Old Jan 5, 2010, 4:02 AM   #3
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There are many different kinds of portraits.

For most of them the lens you have now stopped down to f8 or f11 is just fine.

The most important thing in all photography is LIGHT, almost all professional portrait photographers invest a lot more money in flash equipment, backgrounds, etc than they do in lenses because that allows them to control the light.

However if you are talking about what is commonly referred to (on internet forums) as a "portrait lens" then they are usually talking about a wide-aperture (fast) medium telephoto lens. I wish the term wasn't in use because people think they have to use these lenses for shooting portraits, and it's just not true.

On your camera a medium telephoto could be 50, 85, 100, 135mm. Ideally you want a usable aperture of at least f2 to get the out-of-focus background which seems to be so important for a "portrait lens".

The 50mm f1.4 is nice enough, but not really much more durable than the f1.8, despite the review you copied in.

For head & shoulders pictures you will probably find the 50 gives you a decent working distance, but for head shots 50 is a bit short. 85 is a decent compromise and the Canon 85mm f1.8 is a very nice lens.
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Old Jan 5, 2010, 5:16 AM   #4
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Hi and welcome to Steve's.

It is going to depend on the room you have to shoot in. You will probably find the 85mm a bit too long some of the time and the 50mm to short at others. I've had a 50mm f1.8 mkII for quite a long time and I use it with my 5DmkII, 1D mkIII and my APS-C cameras. It's not a lens that comes out often which is nothing to do with the lens but more with my laziness and liking to use my zooms. However when it does get played with I love the results. I also have the 85mm f1.8 and his is a fantastic lens. Again I don't use it as much as I could, often if I want something in that sort of range I go for the 70-200mm f2.8 which although not as sharp just adds flexibility. The 50mm f1.4 is a lens I've considered many times but I've really not been able to justify the cost. The main gain I see is the better AF over the pretty basic option on the f1.8 option but still for most of us it is a large price to pay.

Here is a sample with the 50mm f1.8 mkII (plastic fantastic). It was taken with the 5D (original version) and I've cropped it to give the same field of view as you would get with the T1i. The 2nd shot is a 100% crop so you can see the per pixel quality. Unfortunately I was shooting at ISO 1250 so there is a bit of noise/loss of resolution but it should give a good idea. This is not edited in any way.




The 85mm lens is sharper still and with very fast AF.

I would personally be very tempted to get both the 85mm f1.8 and the 50mm f1.8 mkII as you should be pretty close to your $450 budget.

Another option and what is likely to give you more flexibility and help give you better shots in many conditions and that would be to get a good external flash. The Canon 430EX II that I would go for. For a large amount of my portrait work both indoors and out I will use flash which when done correctly really helps the quality.
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Old Jan 5, 2010, 4:58 PM   #5
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Thank you all so much for your help and your picture samples. The 85mm f1.8, 50mm f1.8 mkII, 70-200mm f2.8, and ef-s 55-250 seems like something I can work with. If any other recommendations, it would be appreciated.

(As of now, with the lack of experience I have, I like to and tend to photograph people. I hope that answers your question, shoturtle...)

The 430 EX II Flash is also on my list.

Thanks again!
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Old Jan 5, 2010, 5:41 PM   #6
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You may want to look at the Metz 48 AF-1 flash also. It preforms just as well as the 430 EX II, but cost less. And it is excellent build quality.

If you are focusing on people for now, think the combination of the ef 85mm and the ef 50mm f1.8 would be a good combo of lenses for you to start with.
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