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Author Topic: Are Primes really better for portraits?  (Read 3265 times)

spinworkxroy

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Are Primes really better for portraits?
« on: September 22, 2012, 09:31:57 PM »
I believe this is an age old question that has been asked many times.
But that was when zooms weren't fantastic in terms of sharpness.

I currently shoot portraiture 90% of the time and i constantly use the 50mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.8 prime lenses only for my shoots..granted they're not the L version but those are way too pricey. I'm shooting on the 5Dmk3.

However, i'm always "struggling" to be happy with the results i'm getting. The photos aren't bad but i jus wished they were a tad bit sharper. I've done all the AFMA stuff and still am not happy. In fact, i'm even happier with the results from my 40 f2.8 STM lens but that lens just isn't fantastic for close up shots.

Therefor this question…should i give up both primes and go for a new standard zoom lens?
It seems the new 24-70 from both Tamron and Canon are impressive in terms of sharpness in the center and corners. Primes are still better at extremes but i'm more bothered about center sharpness.

Looking at MTF charts for both these lenses at 70mm f5.6 (5.6 is what i usually shoot at, sometmes f4 but never lower), their center sharpness values far exceed what both my primes can do (because they're both VERY old designs?)

I admit, i wished Canon would update their 50 and 85 no L lenses as they're both like 20yrs old, but until that happens, should i just go for the Tamron 24-70? It's sharp, it's cheap, it's got IS…other than it being only 70 and not 85 which i'm used to…are there any other "negatives" as to why people use primes for portraits more than zooms? Especially the new models..

I'm asking becuase i never owned a 24-70 so i have no clue how it's like shooting with it. i only have the 24-105 which is a horrible lens if you want sharpness, but that's not what i bought that lens for in the first place.

Any comments will be greatly appreciated in helping me decide to give up my primes and go for the Tamron or just stick with the primes.

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Are Primes really better for portraits?
« on: September 22, 2012, 09:31:57 PM »

RLPhoto

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2012, 09:37:49 PM »
I believe this is an age old question that has been asked many times.
But that was when zooms weren't fantastic in terms of sharpness.

I currently shoot portraiture 90% of the time and i constantly use the 50mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.8 prime lenses only for my shoots..granted they're not the L version but those are way too pricey. I'm shooting on the 5Dmk3.

However, i'm always "struggling" to be happy with the results i'm getting. The photos aren't bad but i jus wished they were a tad bit sharper. I've done all the AFMA stuff and still am not happy. In fact, i'm even happier with the results from my 40 f2.8 STM lens but that lens just isn't fantastic for close up shots.

Therefor this question…should i give up both primes and go for a new standard zoom lens?
It seems the new 24-70 from both Tamron and Canon are impressive in terms of sharpness in the center and corners. Primes are still better at extremes but i'm more bothered about center sharpness.

Looking at MTF charts for both these lenses at 70mm f5.6 (5.6 is what i usually shoot at, sometmes f4 but never lower), their center sharpness values far exceed what both my primes can do (because they're both VERY old designs?)

I admit, i wished Canon would update their 50 and 85 no L lenses as they're both like 20yrs old, but until that happens, should i just go for the Tamron 24-70? It's sharp, it's cheap, it's got IS…other than it being only 70 and not 85 which i'm used to…are there any other "negatives" as to why people use primes for portraits more than zooms? Especially the new models..

I'm asking becuase i never owned a 24-70 so i have no clue how it's like shooting with it. i only have the 24-105 which is a horrible lens if you want sharpness, but that's not what i bought that lens for in the first place.

Any comments will be greatly appreciated in helping me decide to give up my primes and go for the Tamron or just stick with the primes.

Yes. Just look at the 200mm F/2. ::)

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2012, 09:50:49 PM »
While wide open, the lenses are not super sharp, you generally do not want portraits to be super sharp anyway.  If the images are really oof, try using live view and live AF.  If the results are better, you need AFMA.  AFMA is difficult to do properly, I messed my AF up when I first did it.  FoCal gives excellent results.
There are some zooms that are sharper, but they don't open to f/1.8 either.

spinworkxroy

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2012, 10:04:21 PM »
I'm coming from an angle where i only shoot 50 or 85mm..nothing more since that's all i own right now so i'm not comparing anything above 85.

Also, i don't shoot below f4, so wide open isn't a concern for me.

That's why i'm contemplating the 24-70 because that rage is pretty much what i'm shooting my portraits at (i know there's a missing 15mm at the end)

I believe there are many other 50 and 85 prime shooters that also have the same problem as me?
The old Canon primes are well…OLD and the new Zooms are much improved over the old ones and i dare say (just base on MTF) that the new zooms are much sharper than the old Primes I own (on paper at least)…
I just wanted to know if there are any other shooters out there who actually gave up their 50 and 85 primes and went for a zoom instead.

spinworkxroy

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2012, 10:05:55 PM »
While wide open, the lenses are not super sharp, you generally do not want portraits to be super sharp anyway.  If the images are really oof, try using live view and live AF.  If the results are better, you need AFMA.  AFMA is difficult to do properly, I messed my AF up when I first did it.  FoCal gives excellent results.
There are some zooms that are sharper, but they don't open to f/1.8 either.

I am using Focal for calibration and it has improved the lens sharpness without AFMA but it's still not enough.
And i don't shoot anything below F4 so i'm not bothered about zooms not going to f1.8..because the 24-70 goes to f2.8, and with IS..it's as good as 1.8

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2012, 10:28:14 PM »
Prime lenses do have a simpler structure, so they can be made ideal for portraiture and other uses.  But some zooms ( 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II and 24-70 f/2.8 I/II) are very good for portraiture as well.  I don't have primes but because I usually use my 70-200 f/4 IS, I use it for portraiture as well.
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spinworkxroy

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2012, 10:43:32 PM »
Prime lenses do have a simpler structure, so they can be made ideal for portraiture and other uses.  But some zooms ( 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II and 24-70 f/2.8 I/II) are very good for portraiture as well.  I don't have primes but because I usually use my 70-200 f/4 IS, I use it for portraiture as well.

Yes the 70-200 is a great lens but i don't use telephotos often at all..I do have a 70-300 which i've only ever used once so I can't imagine myself getting a 70-200 for portraits alone.
At least the 24-70 could still be used for many other things.
If only they made a 24-105 f2.8 that's as good as a 24-70..

Anyways, i went to do a comparison at the digital picture between the 85 prime and both Canon and Tamron 24-70 and although the center sharpness is better on the zooms, and on paper the zooms should also be better in the borders and extremes, the actual result isn't so...the 85 surprisingly is a lot better in anything other than the center...

Oh Canon...PLEASE update your primes...

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2012, 10:43:32 PM »

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2012, 10:55:30 PM »
While wide open, the lenses are not super sharp, you generally do not want portraits to be super sharp anyway.  If the images are really oof, try using live view and live AF.  If the results are better, you need AFMA.  AFMA is difficult to do properly, I messed my AF up when I first did it.  FoCal gives excellent results.
There are some zooms that are sharper, but they don't open to f/1.8 either.

I am using Focal for calibration and it has improved the lens sharpness without AFMA but it's still not enough.
And i don't shoot anything below F4 so i'm not bothered about zooms not going to f1.8..because the 24-70 goes to f2.8, and with IS..it's as good as 1.8

Certainly, the 24-70mm L MK II sounds spectacular, and I'm tempted.  I would expect it to be better, looking at the price.
I mostly use my 135mm L for portraits when space permits.  The 85mm f/1.8 is no slouch.  I'm not entirely enthralled with my 50mm f/1.4, but I mostly use it at f/1.4.  It is a good lens.
My 2nd 5D MK III arrives Monday,  and I may very well try the new 24-70mm mk II with it.
The issue is that in low light, I need the wider apertures, and I already know that the 5D MK III only adds 1/2 stop in RAW so it does not make a f/1.4 out of a f/2.8.  Even if it added two stops to my 5D MK II, I'd still want to lower ISO and shoot with a fast prime.
I went for the hype earlier and bought a D800 with the nikon 24-70mmg.  Nice camera, but not at IS0 12800 which I found myself using with that f/2.8 lens.  The Nikon 24-70 had horrible CA when at f/2.8, so the combination was wonderful under ISO 800, but not worth the trouble at 12800 where it took a minute or two for NR to run.

ScottyP

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2012, 11:42:51 PM »
I have learned (slowly) that using the max aperature of your expensive wide aperature lens is not often the sure path to sharp photos.  If  your subject is motionless (and well-behaved) then great, but if they are moving AT ALL, then, with a DOF of just an inch or so, it is tough to get a picture that is "sharp" on all the stuff on which you feel like you want to be sharp (both eyes, or even 1 eye vs. the nose or chin, etc.) .  Close it down a little, enjoy the nice cozy margin or error.

But then, I am shooting kids most of the time.
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spinworkxroy

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2012, 12:54:07 AM »
Again...I'm not shooting at max aperture.i never go below f4 and with portraiture i do...low light is also not and issue. I never go over iso800. The question is..Can the new 24-70 zooms be better than a prime at f5.6 and low iso... should i give up the primes or will i regret it...i know i can rent one and try but i doubt just one day can I really get my answer...so I'm hoping there are others who have already replaced their primes for a zoom and share their experience...bare in mind..I'm only looking at f5.6 and not max aperture

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2012, 01:01:21 AM »
Again...I'm not shooting at max aperture.i never go below f4 and with portraiture i do...low light is also not and issue. I never go over iso800. The question is..Can the new 24-70 zooms be better than a prime at f5.6 and low iso... should i give up the primes or will i regret it...i know i can rent one and try but i doubt just one day can I really get my answer...so I'm hoping there are others who have already replaced their primes for a zoom and share their experience...bare in mind..I'm only looking at f5.6 and not max aperture
If you are serious about wanting a 24-70mmL, buy one from Adorama.  If it is not everything you had hoped for, you have 30 days to return it.  This is not a free rental deal, only serious people should do this, please don't abuse it, or it will go away.  At any rate, you will only be out the shipping cost both ways and you can give it a serious workout.

spinworkxroy

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2012, 01:05:19 AM »
Again...I'm not shooting at max aperture.i never go below f4 and with portraiture i do...low light is also not and issue. I never go over iso800. The question is..Can the new 24-70 zooms be better than a prime at f5.6 and low iso... should i give up the primes or will i regret it...i know i can rent one and try but i doubt just one day can I really get my answer...so I'm hoping there are others who have already replaced their primes for a zoom and share their experience...bare in mind..I'm only looking at f5.6 and not max aperture
If you are serious about wanting a 24-70mmL, buy one from Adorama.  If it is not everything you had hoped for, you have 30 days to return it.  This is not a free rental deal, only serious people should do this, please don't abuse it, or it will go away.  At any rate, you will only be out the shipping cost both ways and you can give it a serious workout.

Haha..unfortunately I'm not in the us..and where I'm from..No one gives any full refunds for any reason...i guess I'll have to just rent one for my next few shoots and decide on my own...it's better than buying and selling 2nd hand...

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2012, 01:14:53 AM »
I currently shoot portraiture 90% of the time and i constantly use the 50mm f1.4 and the 85mm f1.8 prime lenses only for my shoots..granted they're not the L version but those are way too pricey. I'm shooting on the 5Dmk3.

5.6 is what i usually shoot at, sometmes f4 but never lower)

If you're shooting with F5.6 most the time and rarely lower (larger) than F4.0.. Why did you choose the prime vs zoom? What was the factor? and if you're shoot portrait 90% at F5.6 - 4.0, a prime lense wont show much improvement over the zoom (unless pixelpiping)

TBH: when i read your post: 5dm3+portrait+L is too expensive+ portrait @ F5.6... I laughed & wondered: Did you think spending $3000+ on the 5d3 will make your photo to be much improved? what enforced ur stance on never "lower" than F4.0?
Try to loose it out a-little bit... Shoot at f1.4, f2.0 etc.. experience it, have fun with them.. the L lense are especially designed to shoot at those aperture... the 50 1.4 & 85 1.8 isnt a slouch.. they do performe amicably well

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2012, 01:14:53 AM »

spinworkxroy

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2012, 01:25:10 AM »
Well..when I started portrait...I've always read primes are better than zoom..hence my decision...Not really knowing much then...and i would agree if compared to the older zoom lenses.. as to why i shoot only at 5.6..it's just my choice of framing..I'm not that into bokeh..

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2012, 01:27:57 AM »
I'm baffled by this. If you are shooting portraits at f4 and above and still not happy I don't think any amount of gear will solve your problem.

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Re: Are Primes really better for portraits?
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2012, 01:27:57 AM »