Many photographers argue the best type of lens for portrait photography is a prime lens, and I would have to say that the majority of the time I would agree with this and the reasons are as follows:
Prime lenses have superior image quality. Even though the image quality between prime lenses and the top end and high spec zoom lenses is very similar prime lenses still have better image quality. The difference may be negligible, and you may have to go pixel peeping or create super large prints to see it, but prime lenses still have the edge and since image quality is everything to me I use a prime lens for portrait photography whenever possible.
Prime lenses are fast. Prime lenses are faster, i.e. have a wider maximum aperture, than zoom lenses. A wider aperture means a shallower depth of field which makes it easier to capture a tack sharp subject/model against a nicely blurred out background. It is worth pointing out that when shooting at very wide or ultra-wide apertures you need to take care and be spot on with the focal point to make sure the bits you want sharp are actually sharp.
Prime lenses result in a more engaging image. When using a prime lens you have to get in nice and close to the model in order to get a frame filling shot. Having to get in close allows you to communicate with the model, talk to the model and direct the model which leads to an engaging and captivating shot you don’t get from standing a long way back and zooming in with a tele lens.
Prime lenses are less intimidating. Prime lenses are smaller than zoom lenses and, in my experience at least, don’t seem to intimidate the models as much as the larger zoom lenses do. Being less intimidating means you can get in closer to the model with a prime lens.
Prime lenses are better value for money. It is possible to pick up a very good prime lens for a fraction of the cost of a top end zoom, which makes a prime lens much better value for money. Okay, there are some exceptions to this. For example the Canon 50mm f1.2L prime lens is stupidly expensive and costs more than a top end standard zoom. Likewise, the Canon 35mm f1.4L lens is also stupidly expensive. On the whole, prime lenses are cheaper and better value for money than zooms.
CANON EF 35MM F2 IS
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 35mm/ 42mm/ Aperture:- 2 - 22/ Min focus:- 9.4"/ Dimensions:- 3.07" x 2.46"/ Weight:- 11.8oz/ Image stabilization:- Yes/ Price (approx.) $USD/£GBP:-$550.00/£445.00
The 35mm focal length is a great length for portrait photography, and it is a personal favourite. The field of view of a 35mm lens is considered wide, and in order to get a nice frame filling shot you have to get in real close to the model, which results in some very engaging shots. It is worth pointing out that some models don’t like a photographer up close, and when photographing people like this I switch to a lens with a longer focal length. Given the choice I would use the 35mm every time.
The 35mm f2 IS lens is a great lens and one I highly recommend for portrait photography. The build quality of this lens is very good, and whilst it is not up to the same standard as the L series lens, it is still strong, robust and well built. This lens is not weather sealed, but given this is not an L series lens this is not unexpected.
The image quality of this lens is superb and I guarantee you will not be disappointed with it. Images are sharp, crisp and bright. Colours are vivid but not over-saturated and the bokeh, i.e. out of focus background is simply superb. This lens is not an L series lens and it is not made with L series optics, but the image quality is not that far off. The image quality of this lens is better than that lenses costing several times more.
Buy the Canon 35mm f2 IS lens from Amazon.com or buy from Amazon.co.uk.
CANON EF 40MM F2.8
Focal Length – Full frame/APS-C:- 40mm/ 64mm/ Aperture:- 2.8 - 22/ Min focus:- 11.8"/ Dimensions:- 2.69" x 0.9"/ Weight:- 4.6oz/ Image stabilization:- No/ Price (approx.) $USD/£GBP:- $180.00/£145.00
First off the 40mm focal length may seem a bit of a strange one, but sitting between the 35mm and 50mm lenses it is a good choice when the field of view of the 35mm is a little too wide and the field of view of the 50mm isn’t quite wide enough. I have to admit that I was a bit wary of the 40mm focal length but now I have used it several times, I can honestly say that this is a great focal length for portrait photography.
Many photographers like to use really wide apertures for portrait photography, and won’t use anything narrower than f2, and these photographers wouldn’t even contemplate using this lens which is their loss. Even though the maximum widest aperture is only (and I lose this term loosely) f2.8, this aperture is more than good enough to nicely blur the background, providing it is not over busy and you can get a half decent distance between the subject and the background that is. The good thing about using f2.8 apertures is that you don’t have to be so precise with the focusing like you do shooting at wider apertures.
The size and dimensions of this lens makes it an ideal lens for portrait photography. It is small, it is light and it won’t intimidate the subject. This lens is unobtrusive and discreet, which is the main reason I bought it.
The image quality of this lens is superb and I guarantee you won’t have complaints in this department. Images are sharp, images are crisp, images are bright, colourful and vivid. This lens is a top performer and has better image quality than many lenses costing several times more.
The build quality of this lens is superb and it is very well made, which given the low price, is quite surprising. I was expecting the build quality of this lens to be similar to that of the Canon 50mm f1.8, i.e. cheap and nasty, but it isn’t. This lens is feels quality and actually feels like a sturdy lens.
The only moveable parts on this lens is a MF/AF switch and the focusing ring. There are no bells and whistles on this lens, and it is simple and user friendly. It is the simplicity of this lens that makes it.
Buy the Canon 40mm f2.8 lens from Amazon.com or buy from Amazon.co.uk.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.