Por­trait lenses – BLURR ING THE BAC KGRO UND

Por­trait pho­tog­ra­phers of­ten opt for a slightly longer fo­cal length, and spe­cial­ist lenses...

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While ‘por­trait’ is mod­ern short­hand for the midtele­photo lengths of around 85mm to 135mm, be­cause of the pleas­ing fa­cial proportions and good work­ing dis­tance for rap­port with the sit­ter, there have al­ways been lenses by this name with the spe­cial fea­ture of soft­en­ing the fo­cus. Nikon still pro­duces one such lens, the 135mm f/2 DC. The DC stands for De­fo­cus Con­trol, which means a sep­a­rate group of el­e­ments with their own ring con­trol, en­abling you to ap­ply de­fo­cus to the out-of-fo­cus fore­ground or back­ground

On the mar­gins of se­ri­ous­ness is the ‘new’ Pet­z­val lens, which is made in Rus­sia at the Zenit fac­tory for Lo­mog­ra­phy, and there’s a Nikon-fit ver­sion. I say ‘new’ be­cause the orig­i­nal Pet­z­val lens, launched in 1840, was a break­through in de­sign. It was the fastest lens of its time, and re­duced typ­i­cal Da­guer­rotype stu­dio por­trait ex­po­sures from around 10 min­utes to 30 seconds. It did this at the cost of a nar­row field of view and pro­nounced oval-shaped blurred high­lights that gave the out-of-fo­cus ar­eas a ‘swirly’ look. Th­ese de­fects ac­tu­ally en­hanced its pop­u­lar­ity among the Pic­to­ri­al­ists, and other lenses, like the Dallmeyer, were de­signed to give a de­lib­er­ate soft-fo­cus ef­fect.

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