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GH2/Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 portrait

Discussion in 'Street, Documentary, and Portrait' started by DHart, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Picked up a new legacy lens... Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4.

    I bought this lens to achieve a somewhat "painterly, art-look" with portraits. I think it's going to be dandy for that!

    View attachment 156906

    This is a portrait of a woman who lost her son (US Army Sgt. Elijah J. Rao) to a devastatingly powerful, zero-range IED explosion in Afghanistan a year ago. She is only now beginning to emerge from what has been a very dark tunnel for her this past year.
    • Like Like x 17
  2. DesertRose

    DesertRose Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 1, 2010
    She is beautiful. I am so sorry for her loss.

    - Michelle
  3. Gwendal

    Gwendal Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 6, 2010
    A beautiful shot of a beautiful person indeed - I'm curious about the handling, I was interestedin that lens but felt it would be too big and heavy on a m43 body ?
  4. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Thank you folks for the comments.

    Gwendal... the 85/1.4 is quite a mass of weighty glass.

    Some background on why I bought it.

    I earn my living as a portrait (mostly) photographer. The vast majority of that work is done with a 5DMkII and 70-200 f/2.8L lens. And I always work with some sort of camera support with that lens, even though I always shoot it wide open (f/2.8). I'm just more confident that I can get reliably crisp images that way.

    So having recently gotten a GH2, I started to think about how I might, if I ever wanted to, achieve the same look of ultra shallow depth of focus portraits with my m4/3 system. I've never used my m4/3 for professional portrait work, but the idea of trying it appealed to me. Who knows, perhaps some day I can let the big Canon gear go! (Not any time soon, I'm sure... I still need that big, gorgeous FF sensor for much of my work.)

    After some study, I felt the 85/1.4 would be just the optic to achieve this look with m4/3 and bought it as a special purpose lens, to used almost exclusively for shallow depth of focus, painterly portraits with the GH2. Given a high enough shutter speed, this would not be difficult to hand hold. But I just prefer using some form of camera support to help minimize any image degradation from camera movement. This can be a bit less convenient in some circumstances, but I do what I feel I need to do to ensure top image quality when I'm working for a professional result. (For walk around and vacation pictures, I use mostly the wonderful Panasonic native lenses, which I rarely feel any need for camera support with.)

    Working with smaller, lighter, shorter focal length lenses, which have IS, I feel I can get away from camera support, but with the long, heavy lenses and no IS, I prefer the support.

    It is certainly possible to achieve a similar look on m4/3 with something like an 85/1.8 instead, which would be smaller and lighter. And if you keep the shutter speeds up there, working without camera support is do-able. Even easier to work with, and getting a similar result, is the 50mm f/1.4.

    I've been working with the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 which is quite a bit lighter and smaller than the 85/1.4. The 50/1.4 gives a 100mm equiv. field of view and very shallow depth of focus with the fast 1.4 aperture - great for portraits with isolated subjects. The result is quite similar to what I get with the 85/1.4, except with a much easier to handle weight and size and the lower magnification factor is less susceptible to camera shake.

    Lastly, I also recently acquired a Voigtlander 35mm Noktor f/1.2 Aspherical lens - again, primarily for portrait work with the m4/3. All three of these fast prime lenses are mostly dedicated to shallow depth of focus portrait work. I haven't even had them long enough to put them through their paces yet. But I've shot all three of them enough wide open to see the dramatic shallow depth of focus which I was seeking. They effectively become 70/1.2, 100/1.4, and 170/1.4 lenses.

    Of the three, the 50/1.4 and 35/1.2 are much easier to work with and also yield dramatically shallow depth of focus, with great resulting bokeh. This effect is maximized by short camera to subject distances.

    Two other legacy primes that I recently acquired, again for shallow depth of focus portraits, are the Canon FDn "new" 50mm f/1.4 and Canon FDn "new" 135mm f/2.8. I haven't worked with the 135/2.8 much yet, but I have spent some time testing the 50/1.4 and I'd say this... if you don't have any fast legacy primes yet and you want to achieve this kind of look with m4/3, I would strongly recommend picking up a nice condition, used Canon FDn "new" 50mm f/1.4 (lots of them on eBay) and nice, inexpensive adapter - like the Fotodiox (through Amazon) and start with that. It's a fantastic lens that, in my tests, is only very, very slightly behind the Zeiss and gives nice results at 1.4, and even moreso at f/2. At f/1.4 you will need to punch up the contrast a bit and sharpen in post, but that's so easy to do. Contrast and sharpness improve significantly at f/2 to f/5.6. A little work with the RAWs in post will bring the images to a fantastic look. The Canon 50/1.4 and adapter all together shouldn't cost much more than $100. For portrait work on the m4/3, I highly recommend this set-up, it ROCKS.

    By the way, I only shoot RAW, no jpgs. IQ from jpgs can't even begin to compare to RAWs.
    • Like Like x 8
  5. deckitout

    deckitout Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 28, 2010
    Essex UK
    Great write up thanks
  6. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Phil... thank you. Glad if it can be of help to anyone.

    Here are a couple more shallow DOF portraits, this time, the GH2 w/ Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton Aspherical @ f/1.2, ISO 320.

    Being a much shorter focal length than the 85, you can see more detail in the background, but it's still nicely bokeh'd out.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Moved the partay inside... GH2 w/ Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton Aspherical @ f/1.2

    GH2 w/ Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton Aspherical @ f/1.2, ISO 320

    I love this lens! Wonderful damped focusing mechanism.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    • Like Like x 6
  7. Gwendal

    Gwendal Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 6, 2010
    First off - thanks for all the information ! The sheer mass of glass is what made me pick up the Summicron-R 90mm instead - with the adapter, it is just a bit heavier and larger than the Nokton (that I also have - and love). Another thing I was afraid of was the bokeh - but in the images you posted here, the Planar bokeh is better than the Nokton...
  8. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Beautiful photographs without the explanation and more-so with it. The first one in particular shows BOTH her beauty and her pain remarkably well. The next two the fog seems to lift a little bit and they're sort of lighter and show her in a happier light. But the first is so overwhelmingly powerful that I'm still really drawn back to it. I wish her the best. I can't imagine that level of pain...

    • Like Like x 1
  9. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Gwendal... obviously you are well aware of the use of legacy lenses... sorry for the long winded explanation... hopefully it will be new information for some here. I love your Night Shot Creamy, BTW... very nice.

    Ray... thanks for your comments. Yes, finally, her ability to smile genuinely has returned and she's emerging from the darkness somewhat. I do think the images capture the phases. A loss such as this, by such a violently destructive, intentionally triggered manner are a bit hard to comprehend... it still doesn't seem real, and may never, but it is.
  10. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    What a powerful portrait, Don. I don't have words for what she's been through. I have to work most of tonight and the weekend, but I'll find a little more time to spend with my sons after seeing this.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Thanks, Amin for your kind comments. Hold your boys close.

    Being awoken from a deep sleep to the sound and sight of two US Army officers in dress uniform, one a chaplain with bible in hand, is the worst nightmare that a parent of one of our heroic military members can have. The shock and disbelief is profound and life changing. And all that follows such a thing in the days, weeks, months that follow are even worse. Sharon is a changed woman to her core from that December morning.
    • Like Like x 2
  12. I truly LOVE the first one Done. I would try slightly sharpening the eyes selectively. BRAVO.
  13. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Don, this first one is a powerful and moving tribute. I admire your friend's ability to withstand all that she has, which is unimaginable to many of us. And I thank you and your friend for these intimate photographs. I hope you will print the series.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    She has the look of so many Gold Star Mothers. That look is etched in my brain as I do the work that I do.
    Thanks for posting and give her a hug for me....
    • Like Like x 1
  15. BillN

    BillN Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    SW France
    The first image is what she feels - nothing will change that!
  16. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Bill, sorry my friend.... I know you understand...
  17. Roel

    Roel Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 4, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    The first image is gorgeous. Well done.

    I am sorry to hear about her loss.
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