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Portrait Lenses

edited February 2017 Posted in » Nikon D5300 Forum
I have a D5300 and these lenses:
Tamron AF 70 300mm 1:4-5.6
AFS NIKKOR 35mm 1:1.8G
AFS NIKKOR 55-200mm 1: 4-5 6GII
My question is are these lenses sufficient for just taking portrait pictures or decent zooms, or should I get rid of them and start with something different? Obviously I am new to this so please help if possible. Most pictures will be taken inside my church with low lighting. Thanks.


  • edited February 2017
    Any of these can be good portrait lenses if used right, but it will depend a little on what you're trying to do, how you compose, and where you do it. The two zooms can both render pretty nice portraits, especially in their middle ranges, if there's enough light, but without a flash they're going to be difficult indoors unless you crank the ISO up high.

    Unless you have a flash better than the built in one, you're likely to need to shoot in available light, as the built in flash can be pretty harsh. But you can try flash too, or mild fill flash if need be, with the built in flash. You'll have to watch out for hard shadows in interior shots.

    Some will depend on whether you want a pure face portrait, for example, or something more like an environmental portrait. For the latter, the 35mm may turn out fine. It's sharp and fast. It will be difficult at that focal length to get blurry backgrounds and to isolate your subject well from the environment, but you can do some of that by careful composition, and sometimes you want to associate a person with the environment. In a church, the pastor might look better with a pulpit or other appurtenances. The organist at the console, and so forth, the choir director with the whole choir. With the 35mm, you might not want to get too close to a subject. Though on the DX format a 35mm is not a very wide angle, up close it can make noses look bigger, and faces look deeper and thinner. What you will get with the 35mm is normal perspective, which means that it will resemble what you see with the naked eye. A normal lens has a nice, straightforward feel to it.

    The zooms are both pretty slow, and not ideal for indoor shots without flash, but outdoors they might do fine. A telephoto from 55mm to about 100mm can give a nice portrait, with the subject isolated from the environment by shallow depth of field. A telephoto tends to flatten perspective, and for portraits that can be good in moderation, making faces look a little flatter. Background objects will tend to be less defined, and also larger in proportion, as perspective is compressed. This can be good, as some details in the background lose their identity and become more abstract.

    I would experiment a bit with what you have before going for anything else. If you do find yourself with a little extra cash, a 50 mm. lens can be very nice for portraits, and the 50mm f/1.8G is relatively inexpensive and highly regarded. I would not spring for the 50mm f/1.4, which, though nice, is not that much better and is much more expensive. Remember that this camera will not autofocus unless the lens has its own motor, so don't get the older D type AF lenses unless you want to focus manually.

    If you're doing portraits, get out of Auto Area focus mode. Use a single point and aim it at the face, preferably the closest eye. If people are standing still, use single servo. If milling about, switch to C, and if you're not sure what they'll do, try A. In A mode, the camera chooses between S and C, and gets it right much of the time.

    Don't be too afraid of digital noise. The higher you put the ISO, the more noisy the image will be. Your main issue will be dark areas, but any expanse of a single shade will tend to show noise more. But people in indoor light may not be as demanding as birds in a bush or scenery. You may have to experiment a bit to decide where your own limits are, depending a bit on what you do with the pictures, and how big you print them. but the 55-200mm might serve all right inside at times.

    As always, remember this is a digital camera. You can experiment with zillions of pictures and delete the ones that don't work. Practice a lot, and try things out if you're not sure how they'll work.
  • edited February 2017
    Bruto, I appreciate the info. So that I won't screw up and purchase the wrong 50mm lens, what is the exact model that I need to order that fits my D3200 and my D5300? Again thank you.
  • edited February 2017
    Not necessarily this shopping source, but this lens:

    Various dealers will have this. It may also be available in "gray market" version, which means without a valid US warranty, for less. On a relatively simple lens like this, the choice is a bit less obvious (I'd not get an expensive and complicated zoom in any but the US version). Make sure that wherever you shop, and especially if not at a main stream vendor, you read carefully what you're really getting and which version. Sometimes Nikon has discounts that make the US model comparable in price to the gray market. If there is any rebate or discount, B&H, Adorama, and other mainstream dealers will show it.

    Whether or not you buy from them, B&H has some of the best web descriptions and specs on equipment.

    That's the basic, 50mm prime lens with AFS, which means it will auto focus on your camera. It's a full frame lens, as no DX-only lens, like the 35mm, is made, but it works equally well on DX.

    There may be other basic 50's made, including, I think, a very inexpensive new Chinese one that claims to be a clone of this one, but from what I've read that one does not compare optically with the Nikon, which is very good.

    If you have a kit zoom, you can get a feel for just what 50mm gets you in terms of perspective and field of view, by adjusting it to the 50mm focal length. The 55-200mm will come close at 55mm.
  • edited March 2017
    Hi, I just had this lens delivered today and tried a few indoor shots in fairly low light. You can really see the difference from the stock lens that comes with the D5300. I can't wait to get practicing with it.
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