PORTRAIT LENSES – USING THE OLYMPUS M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45MM AND 75MM LENSES
Whether you’re using the OLYMPUS OM-D series of cameras or one of the OLYMPUS PEN range, at some point you’ll consider extending your kit lens depending on the type of photography in which you’re interested. If it’s portraits, you’re in luck. OLYMPUS has a cracking pair of portrait lenses that will help your subjects look as good in pictures as they do in real life – the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 75mm 1:1.8 lenses.
PORTRAITS & FOCUL LENGTHS
Before I get into the individual merits of the lenses, I want to give a very simplified explanation of focal lengths. The focal length of a lens is always demoted in millimetres and is dependent on the field of view, or size, of the sensor and the length of the lens. You may have seen the phrase 35mm equivalent when describing lenses. This is based on the old film format of 35mm (actually 36mm x 24mm in size) that was the standard in photography for about 50 years before digital. Full fame digital cameras have sensors that are the same size.
OLYMPUS cameras use a smaller micro four thirds type sensor, so the focal length is shorter to achieve the same degree of magnification, allowing for much smaller and lighter lenses. In fact M.ZUIKO DIGITAL lenses have half the focal length of the full frame or film cameras. A more detailed explanation of this can be found here. Therefore, a 25mm OLYMPUS lens is the same as (or equivalent to) a 50mm lens on a 35mm film camera.
Wide angle lenses are rarely used for portraits as they effectively stretch the real world to fit as much onto the imaging sensor as possible. This results in distortion of the subject’s face, usually making the nose look bigger, and the eyes further apart. Standard lenses, such as the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8 are better but still produce unflattering distortion when used close up.
Telephoto lenses magnify the object you’re shooting on the senor, just like a telescope or binoculars and lenses are deemed to be telephoto if they are over a certain length.
OLYMPUS M.ZUIKO DIGITAL telephoto lenses are those over 25mm (in OLYMPUS terms), and slightly compress the image, which produces a more flattering result when shooting faces. Typically short telephoto lenses are used for portraits, such as the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 and the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 75mm 1:1.8 lenses, as they still allow you to be close enough to your subjects to communicate with them effectively.
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8
For the cost conscious, theM.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 is a steal. At only £279.99, this lens is a true portrait lens, offering the 35mm equivalent of 90mm – traditionally a portraitist’s perfect lens. However, it’s small size, combined with a wide f/1.8 aperture gives it a unique advantage over some other lenses.
While it works perfectly well and effectively on an OM-D series camera, it’s extremely well suited to the PEN range, such as the OLYMPUS PEN E-PL7, as it allows perfect balance when shooting with a LCD screen instead of a viewfinder. It also scores with the f/1.8 aperture, as it allows use in low light as well as providing narrow depth of field, which produces beautiful out of focus backgrounds.
That said, I still use it extensively with my OLYMPUS OM-D E-M5, as I can comfortably shoot close to my subjects to direct them without shouting, even when stepping back for three quarter shots.
A further advantage of shooting at a reasonably close range became apparent when I recently did a shoot at a fashion show, when I could shoot close to the models in an extremely limited space backstage.
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 75mm 1:1.8
As a beauty photographer I was desperate to get my hands on the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 75mm 1:1.8 when it was introduced and it has since become my go to lens for close-ups, both in and out of the studio.
Often I’ll shoot details of the face or crop close, and with the 45mm lens, that means too close proximity to the model – I’m literally in her face. With the 75mm I can stand back a few feet and still comfortably get the detail I need. Furthermore, in a studio, I’ll have lights or reflectors close to my subject’s face, meaning I can’t always get physically close enough, so the extended focal length gives my that extra space to operate.
As to the performance of the lens, it’s hard to criticise. It’s a far chunkier piece of glass than the 45mm, and you can feel the extra weight on the camera, but the optics really are first rate and up there with many of the more expensive or classic optics of the past.
Try using the lenses at f/1.8 to blur distracting backgrounds. This will also soften the perimeter of the face, as focus falls off at the hairline and ears. Be really carful with focus though, and focus on the eyes for maximum impact.
On really bright days place your subject in shade, as this provides a more flattering softer light. Or break an often quoted cardinal rule and put the subject with the Sun behind them, so it’s not making hard shadows and making the subject squint. Compensate for the shade by increasing exposure by one stop.
Have fun with your subject. If you can talk to them while you shoot, make your subject genuinely smile or laugh and engage with them, then they will relax and shine in front of the camera.