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Thread: Portrait/Street lens?

  1. #1
    alexis88's Avatar
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    Portrait/Street lens?

    Hello everybody!
    I am looking for a lens that could be used for the things listed above!
    1. Portrait lens
    2. Street photography
    3. Shots in a darker environment without the use of flash.
    I am currently having a Nikon D300 and a 18-200mm Nikor lens.
    I was thinking to take something like Nikkor 35mm 1:1,8G lens. In my opinion it fits my criteria!
    What do you think?? Do you have any other suggestion? Do you think that it is possible for a lens to combine all these or I would have a better result by buying two lenses?
    Thank you all for your advice!

  2. #2
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    The lens you are looking will not fulfill all of your requirements; i.e. the f/1.8 35mm; it is okay as a street photography lens if you are trying to keep a low profile (in fact that is what I use mine for), but being a prime it is going to limit what you shoot. It is far too short to be used for portraiture. In fact the lens you already own will handle most of your needs except for perhaps the low-light requirements.

  3. #3
    alexis88's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    Thanks a lot Manfred for your reply!
    I am in generally satisfied with my lens, but whenever i try to take a picture in a dark environment it doesnt work well! I was thinking that a prime lens with a low apperture would work better.
    For the street photography I really want to keep a "low profile" because i am not so confident to get a big zoom lens and start shooting pictures! Everybody is looking at you!
    So what would you recommend as a portrait lens? And for the low light situation?

  4. #4
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    My favourite lens on both my crop-frame D90 and full-frame D800 for general photography is the f/2.8 24-70mm. It is a bit short for some portrait work on the D800, but is fine on the D90. The only downside, it is a pro lens and is quite expensive. I tend to use either the f/2.8 70-200 or the f/2 105mm DC on the D800 for portait work. Again, these are pro lenses and are quite expensive.

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    It is far too short to be used for portraiture.
    I don't entirely agree with that - some of my personal favourite portraits are with 35mm on Full Frame. Horses for courses really - you'll have an element of distortion if you're shooting close, but stepping back a little and 35mm could be OK on a D300 for 3/4 length/environmental work. 18-200, especially with the hood, could be a little conspicuous for street work - you'd be very noticeable.

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    24-70 is a great lens, but I don't use it for street - far too big and conspicuous. It's a good focal range on a crop sensor, but even f2.8 might be limiting in the dark. Playing round with my D90 (same sensor as the D300) recently has shown me what I'd accept in terms of ISO ceiling, and 1 to 1 1/3 stops bonus by using f2 to f1.8 is very advantageous if you reach ISO1600.

    If I were you I'd try your lens in good light, and then using Lightroom (if you have it) over time you can filter by focal length. You can see what your preferred focal length is for street. Then you could maybe look into a prime to fulfill that particular need. If 50mm is your sweet spot, you can pick up bargain 1.4 and 1.8D's, if 35mm is your sweet spot, you should be able to pick up a f1.8G or f2D for a good price.

    Regarding portraits, 18-200 should cover it if you have good light.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by alexis88 View Post
    I am looking for a lens that could be used for . . .
    1. Portrait lens
    2. Street photography
    3. Shots in a darker environment without the use of flash.
    I am currently having a Nikon D300 and a 18-200mm Nikor lens.
    I was thinking to take something like Nikkor 35mm 1:1,8G lens.
    1. For portraits, one can use a range of Focal Lengths.
    A 35mm Lens, on a DX body would be quite suitable for much Portrait work: in a studio; outside and for casual or candid/photojournalistic portraiture.
    A 35mm lens on a DX body is about the equivalent FoV of an 80mm lens on a ‘blad: which was the standard fare for W&P photography for many years – a 35mm lens is not too short for this application.

    2. For street work, generally, a wider lens is preferred: a fast 35mm lens on an FX body would be my choice as the optimum ‘one Prime Lens’ solution. You have a DX body – IMO 35mm is too long as a one lens solution for street work, and to be the ‘most flexible’ prime for street photography.
    The difficulty is, with APS-C / DX bodies, there are few, very fast wide lenses at reasonable prices: for your camera I would choose a fast 24mm lens as a one Prime Lens solution.

    3. For low light work: lens speed is a criterion of high import. If “darker environments” means also “sometimes shooting inside buildings” – then I would again suggest that 35mm on your camera is too long as a fast Prime: inside you can only step back as far as the wall behind you – again for this application, and if a Prime Lens you want, then I would choose a fast 24mm lens as being more flexible than a fast 35mm lens.


    Depending upon how far you wish to push the ISO on your D300, you might consider a faster (non varying maximum aperture) zoom: something in the region of 17 to 50 F/2.8 – there are Third Party manufacturers as well as Nikon.

    WW

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    The 24mm f1.8 could be a tempting proposition on a crop body, but there is some focus shift.

  9. #9
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    2. For street work, generally, a wider lens is preferred: a fast 35mm lens on an FX body would be my choice as the optimum ‘one Prime Lens’ solution. You have a DX body – IMO 35mm is too long as a one lens solution for street work, and to be the ‘most flexible’ prime for street photography. ...
    OTOH, Cartier-Bresson used a 50mm. While many folks prefer a 24 or 35 equivalent lens for street shooting, it's not as if a 50 equivalent (i.e., 35 on APS-C) is completely unsuitable...

    Just me, but the 35/1.8 is so inexpensive ($200) that whether or not it's exactly what you need for your three purposes, it's not a huge penalty to get it just to see and learn whether or not you like shooting with a fast prime. It should be useful at all three of your purposes, and will give you a very good idea of whether you will want to go wider or longer on your next fast prime.

    The only other way to tell would be to analyze any shots you've already taken that are similar to what you want to get with your fast prime, and looking at the focal lengths you used in your EXIF. Lightroom's data or ExposurePlot might be useful to see if you have any favored focal lengths.

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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by alexis88 View Post
    Hello everybody!
    I am looking for a lens that could be used for the things listed above!
    1. Portrait lens
    2. Street photography
    3. Shots in a darker environment without the use of flash.
    I am currently having a Nikon D300 and a 18-200mm Nikor lens.
    I was thinking to take something like Nikkor 35mm 1:1,8G lens. In my opinion it fits my criteria!
    What do you think?? Do you have any other suggestion? Do you think that it is possible for a lens to combine all these or I would have a better result by buying two lenses?
    Thank you all for your advice!
    Hi Alexandros,

    The lens(affordable) I use with my Nikon D300: for portrait = nikon 55-200mm/ 18-105mm.
    for low light = 50mm 1.8D

    For street, I use my phone cam or Canon G11.
    ( my D300 is too bulky and conspicuous. )

    Hope this helps.


  11. #11
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    . . .While many folks prefer a 24 or 35 equivalent lens for street shooting, it's not as if a 50 equivalent (i.e., 35 on APS-C) is completely unsuitable...
    Agree.

    A 35mm on DX is certainly not 'unsuitable', at all. And that's why I worded my response, as I did.

    You make a good point about the value for money of the 35 Prime. (indeed better VfM than the canon 35/2).
    As I mentioned, there are not many wider fast prime lenses, that are as well priced.

    WW

  12. #12
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    Can I add a morsel to the cheap lens equation: The real cost is not buying the lens. Most decent glass sells well and quickly on sites like eBay (and others): with almost stupidly high prices at times, so the real cost if you don't like the lens is a bit of depreciation plus eBay fees. In effect you can "rent" a lens for the summer for about 30 or 40 dollars and see how you get on. If you like it, keep it, if not sell it. Keep all boxes and packaging.

    Or buy used in the first place: makes the proposition even cheaper as resale price will be close to buying price usually.

    My son and I have tried a few lenses (and battery grip etc) in this way: buying off eBay, use for a while and sell on if we don't wish to keep. Mostly L glass for Canon in our case as we build up his lens range. Key lenses that I know I want I still buy new (as I require guaranteed and pristine for non-exerimental equipment).

    Adrian

  13. #13
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by alexis88 View Post
    Hello everybody!
    I am looking for a lens that could be used for the things listed above!
    1. Portrait lens
    2. Street photography
    3. Shots in a darker environment without the use of flash.
    I am currently having a Nikon D300 and a 18-200mm Nikor lens.
    I was thinking to take something like Nikkor 35mm 1:1,8G lens. In my opinion it fits my criteria!
    What do you think?? Do you have any other suggestion? Do you think that it is possible for a lens to combine all these or I would have a better result by buying two lenses?
    Thank you all for your advice!
    How dark of an environment and what type of support are you using?

  14. #14
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Portrait/Street lens?

    The focal length that you use depends on your style of shooting. H.C.B.primarily used a 50mm lens for his photography and did excellent work with that focal length on the 35mm film format. In fact, IMO, he was one of the greatest photographers of all time....

    Sure, he used a 50mm lens! But, did he use this lens because he regarded the focal length as optimum or did he use a 50mm because any other focal length required an accessory viewfnder on the early Leica cameras with which he worked?

    Timing was, IMO, one of the greatest attributes of a Bresson image and trying to use an accessory viewfinder would cetainly slow down shooting. As the Leica equipment evolved, so did Bresson's choice of lenses.

    In this image, we see Bresson using an M series Leica rangefinder with an auxillary viewfinder which indicates that he was shooting with other than a 50mm lens.

    Portrait/Street lens?

    Photographers of Bresson's era did not commonly use the plethora of lenses we are used to using at this point in time. It was not handy to use other than 50mm lenses on early Leicas and the M-2 Leica could only be used with 35mm, 50mm and 90mm lenses, without mounting an auxillary viewfinder on the hotshoe. The M-3 was also a PITA to use with extra lenses. The 35mm and 90mm lenses that I used were quite a bit slower than the 50mm. My 50mm was an f/2 while the 35mm was f/2.8 and 90mm was f/4...

    The great selection of focal lengths we have at our disposal these days did not become available to photographers until the advent of SLR cameras with automatic lenses.

    Rather than saying Henri Cartier Bresson primarily used the 50mm lens because he considered it the ultimate focal length, I would venture to say that HCB was able to capture his wonderful imagery despite the limitations of the equipment of the era in which he did most of his work.

    Now for today's street photographer, there are IMO at least two different styles of shooting; neither of which is right or wrong. Shooting from close up with shorter (less conspicious lenses) and shooting from a distance with longer focal length lens which will allow capturing an image without the subject being aware of your camera and without the subject being influenced by the fact that he/she is being photographed.

    In most of Phil's great images of the Dubai area, the subjects seem to be aware of his camera and actually seem to be interacting in the image. I love his work but, it just isn't my style. I like the approach of standing off and capturing the subject while that subject is unaware of my camera.

    Portrait/Street lens?

    The longer lens will also allow me to use selective focus to isolate my subjects, even though the maximum aperture of my favorite people lens is f/4 (Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS).

    Portrait/Street lens?

    In the "Dark Ages" when I was shooting with a Leica M-2 rangefinder camera, I most often used only the 35mm and 90mm lenses and very seldom mounted a 50mm lens unless I needed the extra speed of that lens. I liked the 35mm focal length for environmental portraiture and the 90mm for "getting closer" to isolate subjects.

    I shoot with a "white" Canon L lens but, I reduce the conspicousness of this lens by utilizing a smaller round, screw-in lens hood. IMO, this reduces the profile of the lens and despite the "white" color, the lens is not that conspicuous.

    Portrait/Street lens?

    If I were really worried about the "white" color of that lens all that much, I would use a Lenscoat or some other coverng. Nikon users do not have the "white" lens problem. However, even with my "white" Canon lens, I shoot fast enough that most of my subjects are unaware of me shooting...

    The 70-200mm f/4L IS lens is one of my favorite lenses for shooting people both in street photography and portraiture. I probably shoot at least 1/3 of my imagery using this lens and 2/3 using the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens...

    If I wanted the most inconspicious lens possible, I would slap on the 40mm f/2.8 "pancake" lens. But, I don't use mine all that often since 40mm is kind of an awkward focal length on my 1.6x cameras...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 15th July 2013 at 03:19 PM.

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