Portrait lenses – BLURR ING THE BAC KGRO UND
Portrait photographers often opt for a slightly longer focal length, and specialist lenses...
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.