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HomeForumsThread #7533

Figure Photography at 50mm (Non-Macro)

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  • Tsunami3kVery Important Boarder
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    There's a lot of buzz in the DSLR world about 50mm lenses these days. I guess a lot of older models are getting replaced by more modern designs but all the internet chatter has me thinking about getting one again.

    Few things have that peculiar look like a really fast lens with a shallow depth of field and, while some 50mm lenses are definitely *very* expensive, there are usually some available that offer an affordable chance to get that magical look.

    I was curious if anyone here has done a figure shoot with a 50mm lens (or even thought about it like me) and what your thoughts on it are. I guess my biggest concern is whether not a typical 50mm lens can focus close enough to make figure photography practical. Perhaps an extension tube would be necessary?

    I'm trying to wrap my head around everything I should consider before taking the plunge on a new lens so I welcome any expertise anyone might be able to add.
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  • AsakoOm nom nomRegular Boarder
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    I use a 50mm quite often, though it is a macro so I can get very close... however, I usually don't get all that close. A non-macro lens will still be fine from ~30cm (depending on age/type etc) so normal shooting distances should be fine, I think. I have an old manual 50 I could test a little bit if you want to see some examples. Maybe with my modern 50 macro and then with the ancient manual 50 (a 1965 Super Takumar).

    I guess it really depends what sort of shooting you want to do, as I don't see the need to get in to macro closeness most of the time.
  • ChristownRegular Boarder
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    A good quality, fast 50mm is my favourite lens to photograph with.

    I've found it works quite well for figure photography too.
  • Tsunami3kVery Important Boarder
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    These responses are great; thank you both!

    Asako (3 years ago) #2102753I use a 50mm quite often, though it is a macro so I can get very close... however, I usually don't get all that close. A non-macro lens will still be fine from ~30cm (depending on age/type etc) so normal shooting distances should be fine, I think. I have an old manual 50 I could test a little bit if you want to see some examples. Maybe with my modern 50 macro and then with the ancient manual 50 (a 1965 Super Takumar).

    I guess it really depends what sort of shooting you want to do, as I don't see the need to get in to macro closeness most of the time.

    I completely forgot to mention it but it seems like you got my meaning anyway; I have a 100mm macro [that I love] so truly close-in macro shots are covered but my real concern was whether or not I could get reasonably close with a 50mm. Intuitively, your example of 30cm seems like a good, usable distance. I really appreciate your offer to take example shots. Should you have time that would be great but if not, even a rough idea of how much of a 1/8th scale standing figure would be in-frame from 30cm away at 50mm would really help to clarify things for me.

    Christown (3 years ago) #2103686A good quality, fast 50mm is my favourite lens to photograph with.

    I've found it works quite well for figure photography too.

    Haha, so many people have such high praise for their 50s that I've thought about getting one for many years. I'm sure it'll be a fun lens overall but since I enjoy figure photography so much I thought I'd lean on the community here a little to push me over the decision-making edge should a solid 50mm lens compliment this specific usage as well.

    I don't buy new photo gear very often so you've both re-ignited my excitement about this idea!
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  • takarayamaEnjoyer of Life.™Very Important Boarder
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    3 years ago • Updated 3 years ago
    Heyas, TSUNAMI3K.

    Looking to buy a new lens, eh? A 50mm is nice to have but mine is rarely on my camera since I got the 15-85.

    For examples, the following two photos were taken with Canon's 50/1.4 lens.

    http://s1.tsuki-board.net/image/thumbnails/takarayama1348289046.jpeg http://s1.tsuki-board.net/image/thumbnails/takarayama1348289048.jpeg

    If I recall correctly, that's the closest I could get with the lens on my 60D (crop sensor). Would the nearest focussing distance be closer or farther away on your 5Dmk2?

    While it's a nice lens, I wouldn't have got it today with my experience of it. Sigma's upcoming 50/1.4 Art lens looks like a nice one but it costs about twice as much as the one I have.

    Maybe it would be worth renting a 50mm lens to try out at home so you don't end up with a piece of glass you have no use for. :)
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  • Tsunami3kVery Important Boarder
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    Hi there Takarayama-san!
    takarayama (3 years ago) #2105642Looking to buy a new lens, eh? A 50mm is nice to have but mine is rarely on my camera since I got the 15-85.

    Yeah, all the talk of 50mm lenses lately has rekindled my interest in getting one. I've wanted one off and on for a long, long time since the fastest lens I've ever owned is f/2.8.

    takarayama (3 years ago) #2105642
    For examples, the following two photos were taken with Canon's 50/1.4 lens.

    http://s1.tsuki-board.net/image/thumbnails/takarayama1348289046.jpeg http://s1.tsuki-board.net/image/thumbnails/takarayama1348289048.jpeg

    If I recall correctly, that's the closest I could get with the lens on my 60D (crop sensor). Would the nearest focussing distance be closer or farther away on your 5Dmk2?


    Thank you for the example photos. A full-frame camera will be able to close focus by exactly the same camera-to-subject distance but, being full-frame, will include more of the view to the left, right, top and bottom of the photos. Maybe a more convenient way to think of it as the exact same images as yours but thinking of your photos as simply being cut from the middle ~60% of a larger photo. If that's the case then it's looking like I won't be able to get much closer than a whole-figure shot of a 1/8th scale figure. I suppose I could use an extension tube but they're kinda fiddly.

    takarayama (3 years ago) #2105642While it's a nice lens, I wouldn't have got it today with my experience of it. Sigma's upcoming 50/1.4 Art lens looks like a nice one but it costs about twice as much as the one I have.

    Maybe it would be worth renting a 50mm lens to try out at home so you don't end up with a piece of glass you have no use for. :)

    It's precisely the buzz from the Sigma that's got me thinking about it again. It sounds like an extremely capable lens but it's a lot of money for a one-trick pony. One secret strategy I've been pondering is to actually pick up a used prior-generation lens since I suspect that, with the new Sigma plus a new Canon just around the corner, a lot of 50mm lenses will be flooding the market soon.
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  • LuzaiRegular Boarder
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    3 years ago
    I used to use an old manual Canon EF 50mm f1.8 as my primary figure photography lens and currently use an Olympus 45mm f1.8. I used it on a micro 4/3 camera though so the crop factor makes it equivalent to 90-100mm. The minimum focusing distance isn't too bad, about 2-3 feet, and I find the narrow field of view (I think that's the term for it, how much of the background you can see basically) to be advantageous, especially in indoor set shots where more background = more work. The DoF is pretty decent, I often need to step down to a smaller aperture to get enough body parts of a scaled figure in focus but wide open is great for figmas. I've tried using extension tubes for close up shots with the 50mm but found the magnification way too crazy to get anything but dust specks on even the shallowest tube lengths so I usually just crop photos to get 'close ups'.

    (PICTURE #216610 with the 50mm and PICTURE #581181 with the 45mm)
  • Tsunami3kVery Important Boarder
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    Luzai (3 years ago) #2280579...I've tried using extension tubes for close up shots with the 50mm but found the magnification way too crazy to get anything but dust specks on even the shallowest tube lengths so I usually just crop photos to get 'close ups'.

    (PICTURE #216610 with the 50mm and PICTURE #581181 with the 45mm)

    I tried extension tubes and they definitely do what they say but even the smallest one (13mm IIRC) on some lenses put the focal point at what seems to be *inside* the lens. I like to get close but sometimes even the far focus with tubes is too close. They're neat and I can see where they'd work for a lot of situations but they're also not nearly as plug and play as I first hoped.

    I'm between cameras right now but I have an EOS M arriving on Friday to tide me over until the next generation of cameras come out. It includes a 35mm/f2 equivalent lens which could prove fun to play with and I may use this "between SLRs" time to commit to a 50mm lens since I also got the adapter that lets me use all of my "big" lenses with the M.

    I love the pics you shared. If they're any indication of what can be done at 50mm them I'm stoked!
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