Looking for a lens for portraits (More specifics in the post)

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Hello. First of all, I am a landscape/nature/wildlife/macro photographer first and I'm not a people's person so this kind of subject is quite unnerving for me BUT I want to give it a try. The reason is my girlfriend asked me if I can do a newborn shoot for a sister upcoming this October (as a gift for her). And I said yes because it sounds like an interesting challenge to do. Another reason is now I have 2 dogs in my daily life and I would like to make pictures of them, which is a challenge for a Yorkshire and a Pug that have more energy than all of the Infinity Stones combined (MCU reference *cough* nerd *cough* :p ).
Currently, I do own the Oly 7-14mm Pro, 12-40mm Pro, and Panny Leica 50-200mm with the Oly 60mm 2.8 Macro and my very old trusty Sigma 60mm f 2.8, that I don't use these days (since I have 2 1/2 lense with the same/similar FL and f stop). The only other lens experience I have is a (gone now) Revuenon 50mm f 1.8 M42 lens and a Yashica 50mm f 1.4 M42, so not much "High Quality" bright aperture lens (with the exception of a very short period where I used a Chinese Pixco 25mm f 1.8 that I gave to a friend afterward). I'm not much of a prime shooter, to be honest :)
Now, on to the topic. I'm asking for advice, from my dear forum members and friends, on what lens (or lenses combo) should I get for the specific task of portraiture (more DoF control and fast AF required of course) for the Oly E-M1 Mark III. (While I do have enough personal experience with photography and a lot of knowledge of the whole Micro Four Thirds catalog I am looking for user experience on this kind of subjects). Initially, I was thinking of Sigma 16mm f 1.4 for wide-angle/indoor usage and Sigma 56mm f 1.4 for outdoor and pushing the DoF really far, I am not sure about the AF speed and how well the (new) Eye Tracking (of the Mk. III) is handled, especially indoors (my GF has severe hay fever so going out with the 2 puppers is not going to happen all that often).
As for the budget, I will probably get the suggested lenses 2nd hand if I can find them and while I love the Pro lenses of Oly I can't justify to myself spending on the f 1.2 primes (at least not until I have and paid for the M(other)O(f)A(ll) lenses the Oly 150-400mm Pro. And recent experiences and revelations have given me doubt that mixing Panasonic and Olympus (cameras or lenses) is good for casual but not when you want to really depend on it, still might consider it depending on your (guys and galls) experience.
So the list would be:
Panasonic Leica 15mm f 1.7 (I would probably get the DJI twin since it goes cheaper)
Sigma 16mm f 1.4
Olympus 17mm f 1.8
Panasonic 20mm f 1.7
Panasonic 25mm f 1.7
Panasonic Leica 25mm f 1.4 (first gen. goes cheaper these days)
Olympus 25mm f 1.8
Sigma 30mm f 1.4 (Maybe a bit too long for indoors)
And for the combo part (not sure I will get them at the same time though, depending on the overall cost)
Panasonic 42.5mm f 1.7 (I love the flat field curvature of this lens, very well corrected)
Olympus 45mm f 1.8 (Possibly a bit better bokeh but worse field curvature as a consequence of this)
Sigma 56mm f 1.4 (Just delightful lens overall it seems)
 
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You're good to go with the 12-40/2.8 Pro.

Not all portraits are shot longer the 25mm in 135 eq. In fact, many (many) are shot much wider, including from famous portrait photogs like Platon. The 12-40 is both fast enough and versatile enough to hit all angles. Want more light? Bounce flash. Or more artificial light like pretty much EVERY pro uses.
You've already got the tools, familiar with, too. No need to over-buy and other-think.

There's no such thing as a standard portrait, especially for a tiny subject like a newborn, for which a wider angle like 24mm will be necessary.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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You're good to go with the 12-40/2.8 Pro.

Not all portraits are shot longer the 25mm in 135 eq. In fact, many (many) are shot much wider, including from famous portrait photogs like Platon. The 12-40 is both fast enough and versatile enough to hit all angles. Want more light? Bounce flash. Or more artificial light like pretty much EVERY pro uses.
You've already got the tools, familiar with, too. No need to over-buy and other-think.

There's no such thing as a standard portrait, especially for a tiny subject like a newborn, for which a wider angle like 24mm will be necessary.
I would guess because of their size it would be preferable to shoot between 25mm and 100mm. Going wide would be for something like interaction either with the environment (a blanket or a toy) or with their parents (the typical baby holding hand or finger :D ).
Thanks for reminding me about the artificial light, I have an Olympus FL-LM3 coming tomorrow from MBP, 38 quid almost new. (Should be powerful enough for close-ups)

I don't mind having a lens or two extra in my arsenal if I pay 150-250 £ for each. If it's more then that then I would put more value and question if it's worth it and what for :)
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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@L0n3Gr3yW0lf Ovidiu, ramp the iso to 400-800 with the FL-LM3 to extend its range or to allow (say) f/8 for better DoF with portraits. It's a terrific little flash.
Thanks, I will do that. The reason why I asked for advice on all those lenses is that I want a bit more creative fun with thinner DoF. I have a lot of experience with f 2.8 and smaller but not as much bigger than f 2.8.
I can't wait to play with the FL-LM3 with the puppers since High ISO is the minimum start with them :)
 
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@L0n3Gr3yW0lf When you get camera to subject distance very small (less than 1 to 2m), it's amazing how little DoF you have with (say) the 12-100 at 60-100mm, even at f/8 or f/11.

There are lots of myths about shallow DoF.

Camera to subject and subject to background is the important ratio. After getting that right, having a large f-stop becomes less important.
 

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I also believe your 12-40 would cover you in the majority of situations, but if you want to use this specific photoshoot as a way to expand your kit into new areas I would pick the 3 Oly small primes: 17/25/45 f1.8.

If you enjoy shooting primes, and portraits, you can later on evaluate the awesome 75mm f1.8 and the equally excellent sigma 56mm f1.4.
 

junkyardsparkle

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I would guess because of their size it would be preferable to shoot between 25mm and 100mm. Going wide would be for something like interaction either with the environment (a blanket or a toy) or with their parents (the typical baby holding hand or finger :D ).
Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the time you'll probably be shooting downward more than horizontally, and unless you're crazy tall, you won't be using a 100mm for that, and even the 56mm might feel a little cramped. I used my Oly 25/1.8 quite a bit during the infant phase of my nieces and nephews (and not all that much since then, tbh). To reiterate what's already been touched on, at those closer ranges you won't really need more than that for reasonable DOF control. On the other hand, as a counterpoint to some of what's been said, anything slower than f/1.8 might prove frustrating under some circumstances (there are times when you'll want to use available light, even when there's not much of it... babies sleep a lot).
Thanks for reminding me about the artificial light, I have an Olympus FL-LM3 coming tomorrow from MBP, 38 quid almost new. (Should be powerful enough for close-ups)
You probably won't like the results of direct on-camera flash for baby pictures, and the baby probably won't like it either. Use bounce flash, or some other diffused method (I got a lot of mileage out of a small shoot-through umbrella, hand held). Two more cents for ya. :D
 

comment23

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I also believe your 12-40 would cover you in the majority of situations, but if you want to use this specific photoshoot as a way to expand your kit into new areas I would pick the 3 Oly small primes: 17/25/45 f1.8.

If you enjoy shooting primes, and portraits, you can later on evaluate the awesome 75mm f1.8 and the equally excellent sigma 56mm f1.4.
Same. I got a lot of mileage out of my 45mm 1.8 with an E-M10 (original) when my girls were babies. Paired with the 17mm 1.8 (a beautiful thing to own) makes for a really versatile and affordable combo for photos of young ‘uns.

Alternatively the 25mm 1.8 alone, as a compliment to what you already have, would work.
 
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Lcrunyon

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Since you already have the 12-40 pro, I‘d consider spending that money on a good flash and a diffuser (a Rogue Flashbender, or whatever your preference is) — if you don’t already have one. I think that taking control of the lighting is probably the most important piece of portraiture. If you choose an Oly flash, you can then use your FL-LM3 to remotely control the flash off-camera, but there are plenty of other options as well, many that are far less expensive.

Personally, I don’t feel the sharpness or subject separation of the Olympus 1.8 primes was enough to justify them over the convenience of the 12-40 pro zoom. I can’t speak to the other lenses on your list.

You can use your 60 mm macro for a little more reach and compression, as well.
 
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comment23

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All the suggestions here are good (even mine!). But I would emphasise the advice that the kit you’ve got will do fine. The main thing is a good subject and newborns (and dogs) are always beautiful so you’re covered there.

@Lcrunyon’s suggestion to control your lighting is probably the best advice on new kit, if you really want an excuse to buy some, and fortunately the cheapest too. A new Godox TT350o will set you back only about half the cost of the cheapest 1.8 prime (Olympus 45mm) bought second hand.
 
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Darmok N Jalad

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I really like the P25 1.7 for shooting groups indoors. It’s cheap, light, and can handle portraits if you can be closer to the subject. I’m more of a stealth shooter though, so I like that it’s fast enough without a flash most of the time. I usually get a lot of good feedback on my people shots, and I use this lens quite often. I also have the O45 1.7 for the indoor work. This is on the E-M5iii, and I have no complaints with the AF speeds. Here’s a cat sample with the O45. Not exactly the speediest of creatures as a benchmark, though.
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Camera to subject and subject to background is the important ratio. After getting that right, having a large f-stop becomes less important.
This is spot on. I’ll guarantee you that either of your two 60mm lenses given the right distance ratios will give you a facial portrait with DOF so thin that you’ll step down so you don’t end up with JUST the eye in focus. I’ve always hated portraits where the tip of the nose is blurry because “thin DOF!!!”

I’ll also recommend with others a wider focal length for babies. It’s not really fun to shoot a sleeping infant from across the room because you’re using a 50mm+ lens. Same with dogs who are also moving fast.
 

junkyardsparkle

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@Lcrunyon’s suggestion to control your lighting is probably the best advice on new kit, if you really want an excuse to buy some, and fortunately the cheapest too. A new Godox TT350o will set you back only about half the cost of the cheapest 1.8 prime (Olympus 45mm) bought second hand.
I'll second that second... Godox kit is affordable and expandable... if you're willing to order the the Adorama house brand version, you can also throw in a transmitter and still come in under USD $100... of course, the thing about off-camera lighting is that you can't just buy it, you have to learn how to effectively use it... but it's effort well spent.
 
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Not passing this off as a fantastic baby portrait, but as an example this is 50mm f/4 (50mm f/2 on E-300) so DOF control will not be an issue with the lenses you have.

As others have suggested, if you’re looking to get something to improve your chances of some great shots, lighting is the way to go. This photo was a shoe mounted flash (FL-36 I think) bounced off the ceiling.
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L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Finally my GF's dooogy, Spud, sat still enough to manage a picture :) still struggled with moving the AF point fast enough :) (Come on Olympus, everyone is bringing animal detection or even more advanced then that, you can do it on single processors).

I will come back to tha k all of you guys for all the advice and expand my thinking after I finish my first round, I'm at work tonight).
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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First of, thank you all for all your advice and information. It's very helpful.
I also believe your 12-40 would cover you in the majority of situations, but if you want to use this specific photoshoot as a way to expand your kit into new areas I would pick the 3 Oly small primes: 17/25/45 f1.8.

If you enjoy shooting primes, and portraits, you can later on evaluate the awesome 75mm f1.8 and the equally excellent sigma 56mm f1.4.
It seems everyone agrees on the Pro 12-40mm and since I am extremely happy with the sharpness it's probably going to be the one I will try first. The prices on used 17/25/45mm seem to be quite affordable, though I am not sure how much use I would get out of 25mm f 1.8, I have noticed I used more of the opposite ends of FL then the middle of the road.
While 75mm f 1.8 does sound like an awesome lens and FL to go into I'm not sure I would use it enough but I will think about it ... hence I was leaning more towards 56mm f 1.4 for the WR, a bit faster (mostly for light since the DoF would be similar because of FL distance, but of course the perspective of both would be quite different).

Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the time you'll probably be shooting downward more than horizontally, and unless you're crazy tall, you won't be using a 100mm for that, and even the 56mm might feel a little cramped. I used my Oly 25/1.8 quite a bit during the infant phase of my nieces and nephews (and not all that much since then, tbh). To reiterate what's already been touched on, at those closer ranges you won't really need more than that for reasonable DOF control. On the other hand, as a counterpoint to some of what's been said, anything slower than f/1.8 might prove frustrating under some circumstances (there are times when you'll want to use available light, even when there's not much of it... babies sleep a lot).

You probably won't like the results of direct on-camera flash for baby pictures, and the baby probably won't like it either. Use bounce flash, or some other diffused method (I got a lot of mileage out of a small shoot-through umbrella, hand held). Two more cents for ya. :D
Very true and something I have been pondering on. and given babies are such small little peeps magnification and close focusing is going to be very important as well. It's why I was thinking of a fast-ish wide-angle prime to get some DoF magic :)
I am not a big fan of artificial light BUT since I am starting to experiment with macro it might be a good time to learn it at least to know when I can avoid it most often and when it's absolutely necessary. the f 1.8 and f 1.4 would give me a bit of fallback when lights do go dim or I want to use more natural light.

Same. I got a lot of mileage out of my 45mm 1.8 with an E-M10 (original) when my girls were babies. Paired with the 17mm 1.8 (a beautiful thing to own) makes for a really versatile and affordable combo for photos of young ‘uns.

Alternatively the 25mm 1.8 alone, as a compliment to what you already have, would work.
There's a lot of points racking up for the Oly 17mm f 1.8 now :)

Most of my shots of my daughter at infancy were with the 25mm f/1.4. The AF sucked compared to other lenses I own but the focal length was perfect and the quality of images excellent.
I was thinking of 20mm f 1.7 for the baby shots since it won't be jumping and dancing around ... at least not until it figures out how cribs work of course :p

Since you already have the 12-40 pro, I‘d consider spending that money on a good flash and a diffuser (a Rogue Flashbender, or whatever your preference is) — if you don’t already have one. I think that taking control of the lighting is probably the most important piece of portraiture. If you choose an Oly flash, you can then use your FL-LM3 to remotely control the flash off-camera, but there are plenty of other options as well, many that are far less expensive.

Personally, I don’t feel the sharpness or subject separation of the Olympus 1.8 primes was enough to justify them over the convenience of the 12-40 pro zoom. I can’t speak to the other lenses on your list.

You can use your 60 mm macro for a little more reach and compression, as well.
Thank you for the advice on the flash and diffuser, definitely need to get a diffuser. I have asked peeps around which Olympus flashes (or 3rd Party) work wireless tricker with FL-LM3 but I didn't get quite concrete answers. I would be aiming for the 36R or something around that, I'm not ready to throw more than 100 quid on an additional flash just yet.
I would have the feeling that f 1.8 is not as significant of a difference then f 2.8 on our small format, f 1.4 would be more significant I would guess, the reason I've been thinking to eyeball the Sigma f 1.4s or maybe the Leica 1.4s

All the suggestions here are good (even mine!). But I would emphasise the advice that the kit you’ve got will do fine. The main thing is a good subject and newborns (and dogs) are always beautiful so you’re covered there.

@Lcrunyon’s suggestion to control your lighting is probably the best advice on new kit, if you really want an excuse to buy some, and fortunately the cheapest too. A new Godox TT350o will set you back only about half the cost of the cheapest 1.8 prime (Olympus 45mm) bought second hand.
That Godox would be interesting, does it work wirelessly in conjunction with the FL-LM3?

I really like the P25 1.7 for shooting groups indoors. It’s cheap, light, and can handle portraits if you can be closer to the subject. I’m more of a stealth shooter though, so I like that it’s fast enough without a flash most of the time. I usually get a lot of good feedback on my people shots, and I use this lens quite often. I also have the O45 1.7 for the indoor work. This is on the E-M5iii, and I have no complaints with the AF speeds. Here’s a cat sample with the O45. Not exactly the speediest of creatures as a benchmark, though.
View attachment 840150
I would use the flashes only with specific intent. For the little furballs it would be more of spontaneity. it's why I keep my big Oly with the 12-40mm Pro on standby for such moments. What I can tell you about Hawk and Spud (the puppers) is that nobody told them that The Speed of Light is the fastest speed in The Universe. :p

This is spot on. I’ll guarantee you that either of your two 60mm lenses given the right distance ratios will give you a facial portrait with DOF so thin that you’ll step down so you don’t end up with JUST the eye in focus. I’ve always hated portraits where the tip of the nose is blurry because “thin DOF!!!”

I’ll also recommend with others a wider focal length for babies. It’s not really fun to shoot a sleeping infant from across the room because you’re using a 50mm+ lens. Same with dogs who are also moving fast.
True, I am not a fan of unfocused elements on a face because of too little DoF. I am probably going to make pictures of the baby from every single angle and distance possible, learning is all about trying everything to see what fails and what does not :)
With these 2 puppers as soon as they see you get to their level they are in your face like "^&% on velcro :p ... until they get more used to me I will have to try more 40mm and past FL, especially when they are not paying enough attention.

I'll second that second... Godox kit is affordable and expandable... if you're willing to order the the Adorama house brand version, you can also throw in a transmitter and still come in under USD $100... of course, the thing about off-camera lighting is that you can't just buy it, you have to learn how to effectively use it... but it's effort well spent.
I'm not sure Adorama sells in the UK, I know I can import but the Trump tax is quite noisy :p. While I do like to read to learn stuff I am most proficient by doing, trial & error ... but I will get there, everything I learned about photography was self-taught.

Not passing this off as a fantastic baby portrait, but as an example this is 50mm f/4 (50mm f/2 on E-300) so DOF control will not be an issue with the lenses you have.

As others have suggested, if you’re looking to get something to improve your chances of some great shots, lighting is the way to go. This photo was a shoe mounted flash (FL-36 I think) bounced off the ceiling. View attachment 840197
Very beautiful picture of a very beautiful baby. Since this is not a paid gig (but more of a present) I will have some wiggle room for time, edit and reshoot (to test what I learned the last time). :)
 

junkyardsparkle

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I am not a big fan of artificial light BUT since I am starting to experiment with macro it might be a good time to learn it at least to know when I can avoid it most often and when it's absolutely necessary. the f 1.8 and f 1.4 would give me a bit of fallback when lights do go dim or I want to use more natural light.
That sounds like a healthy attitude to take towards all kinds of things that people tend to have more polarised views of. :D As far as I know, good old north lighting still looks as good as it did in past centuries... in fact, one of my favorite uses of camera-mounted bounce flash (with my own version of a black foamie thing in place) is to point the flash at a wall, rather than a ceiling, effectively blasting a virtual "north light window" into place for a few milliseconds... it's the closest I'll ever get to playing with a portal gun in this life. :rolleyes:
There's a lot of points racking up for the Oly 17mm f 1.8 now
I can attest that it focuses fast, and was probably my favorite lens for flying furballs... but the ones in my world have all been sub-light-speed, and come to think of it I don't remember ever even hearing any sonic booms... :hmmm:
I would have the feeling that f 1.8 is not as significant of a difference then f 2.8 on our small format
It's more than a stop of difference, I would call it significant... especially if you're trying to get subject separation from a wider lens; the 17/1.8 usually gives me just enough wide open for the candid mid-distance stuff I tended to use it for once upon a time. The 17.5mm Nokton at f/1.4 gives about the same rendering (but wider) at a given distance as the 25/1.8 wide open. It's the absolute aperture you want to think about. I've also found f/1.8 vs. f/2.8 to have practical significance as far as how dim things have to get before autofocus becomes unreliable (no surprise there).
That Godox would be interesting, does it work wirelessly in conjunction with the FL-LM3?
Only in a "dumb" optical triggering way, no TTL (many flashes have this "legacy" feature). A major selling point of the Godox/Flashpoint stuff is that it incorporates a very flexible radio wireless system, for instance the TT350 can operate not only as a radio sync'd off-camera flash, but also as an on-camera transmitter for other remote flashes. It's pretty great, especially compared to all the "joys" of haphazard optical triggering (another case where you probably want to slap on a "black foamie thing", btw).
 
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Apollo T.

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@L0n3Gr3yW0lf
You have almost 2 months to prepare which is great. My first suggestion is to get a doll about the expected size of your subject. Practice with that subject- approximating the surroundings as best you can. Your results should give you an idea of what to do. Check your library for nooks on baby phoyography. You pick your faves and practice those shots. This could be a good time to work in B&W.

One of the most important things to remember during practice sessions--DON"T give your GF a lot of chances to hint about... you know- jumping off a cliff.

Back to seruous- if you expect to shoot at your home set up a suitable area (studio?) and practice, practice, practice. or visit a local hospital's nursery to learn what you can Pretend to be a doting uncle.

Have fun with your challenge
 

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