My Top 3 Sony Full-Frame Portrait Lenses: The Breakdown with Miguel Quiles
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My Top 3 Sony Full-Frame Portrait Lenses: The Breakdown with Miguel Quiles

October 25, 2019


In this video I’m going to share with you guys my top 3 favorite Sony full-frame lenses for shooting portraits. Welcome back to The Breakdown my name is Miguel Quiles and I thought I would take some time today, to talk to you guys about my favorite portrait lenses, when I’m shooting with Sony full-frame cameras. Now for the lion’s share of my work I actually use a lens like this this is the 85 mm f/1.8 lens from Sony. Now if you shoot with other brands 85 mm 1.8 is a very common focal length to be able to get for any system, but specifically with Sony I really really love this lens. It actually gives me the ability to shoot very close-up portraits which, if you follow my work online, you’ll see that I love shooting very tight cropped portraits, and the 85mm does a really good job of flattering features on people’s faces. It doesn’t actually give them kind of a round distorted look to their face, which I really like with this lens. Now with the 85mm 1.8 from Sony, it also features the focus hold button, as does the other two picks but we’ll talk about those momentarily. But this focus hold button will help me to be able to get the eyes in focus, since I have it set to IAF on all of my full-frame camera bodies so the 85mm 1.8, if I go through all of the images that I’ve shot over the last five or six years, chances are 85 mm is where I shot them
at. Alright let’s talk about my second pick or portrait lenses on the Sony full frame system, which is the 100mm 2.8GM STF lens. STF stands for Smooth Transition Focus. This actually has two lens elements in the inside of this lens, and what it does really without getting too technical, is that it gives you better blurred backgrounds, so if you’re photographing people, you get a really nice separation between your subject, and the background, a little bit different than what you would get if you were shooting wide open on an 85nn 1.8, even though it’s a f/2.8 lens. So the really cool thing about this, and you might be wondering well if you have an 85 mm lens, why would you get a 100mm lens? They’re both very similar focal lengths. The really great thing about this in particular is that it actually gives you much sharper subjects, so for example if I’m photographing and taking a portrait of a person, let’s say they have really good skin, and I want to be able to capture that skin texture in the image, I would reach for the 100mm STF lens over the 85mm 1.8, because I could actually get more detail, more texture in that portrait. Now the inverse is also true if I’m taking a portrait of somebody, who maybe doesn’t have great skin maybe they have scars, or they’re very self-conscious about those things. I would not grab this lens I would actually go for the 85mm so I tend to switch between these two lenses just depending on how much of the sharpness I am trying to get out of this portrait, and am I trying to blur a background or not, so 100 mm STF really awesome lens! Now the third lens that I really love to use when I’m shooting portraits, whether I’m in the studio or shooting on location, is the 70mm to 200mm lens from Sony. Now this particular one is the G master version which is an f/2.8 aperture, and it is a really fantastic lens if you’re going outdoors, and you don’t want to switch lenses, because obviously you have an 85mm and a 100mm, but let’s just say you don’t want to invest in a bunch of lenses, you just want to buy one lens, go outside and take a bunch of portraits. The 70-200mm is the lens for you. This particular lens, the reason why I reach for it, is that it actually gives you prime lens type of sharpness, at every single focal range, it’s a really awesome lens to be able to do that. Now the downside of it is, it is quite a bit bigger and heavier than these two lenses, so you will be walking around with a little bit of added weight on your camera. However any situation that you run into, if you want to shoot a tight shot, if you want to shoot a full body image, you could do all of that with a 70-200mm without any type of compromise alright everybody so those are my top three portrait lenses. Whether I’m shooting outdoors, if I’m shooting in the studio, these are the ones that I reach for every time when I’m shooting. Now one of the things that I also want to mention again, is that all three of the lenses that we talked about have this focus hold button on the side of the lens, which I typically will set to I autofocus. now if you’re not sure what I autofocus is I did a video for Adorama for my episodes of The Breakdown, where you can actually see, and we’ll link it here in this video. You could actually watch and see exactly what that I autofocus feature will do, but all of the lenses do offer that, and it’s something that’s very, very useful, when you’re shooting portraits. With that being said I hope you guys enjoyed this episode. Make sure that you like comment and subscribe, and if you get a chance make sure that you go check out the Adorama Learning Center they have a lot of great content there on cameras, video drones, all sorts of great stuff. So thank you so much for watching The Breakdown and I will see you in the next video. Bye everybody!

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  1. Yes the 100mm gives you sharper subjects because of the fstop but the blur amount is VERY limited and does not create the type of 3Dish subject isolation that WOW me. I tried the 85mm 1.4 GM, 135mm STF and 100mm STF. For close ups and flowers, sure the STF ones are great but for portraits, neither gave me the isolation I like. The 135mm Sigma ART 1.8 was much better for my needs than either of the STFs.

  2. That's awesome. I was always wondering how you capture so much details in the face of your models. Awesome job Miguel!

  3. Miguel, why did you specifically choose the 85mm 1.8 versus the 85mm 1.4GM? I have the GM as I bought it before the Sony 1.8 was launched. I guess I would have saved the money and bought the 1.8 had it been available, but despite its weight, the GM is still a better lens.

  4. Wouldn't the 90mm 2.8 macro be a better choice rather than the 100mm? It is a stellar lens and has macro as well. For beauty work and portraits, it seems the 90mm would better all around.

  5. Thanks for that. Is their a reason you prefer the 85 1.8 over the 1.4 g master. Is it price, weight or image quality or a combination of these.

  6. Just checked out your instagram Miguel and your images are stunning. So are your subjects by the way, which always helps get a great image! : )

  7. I have the STF and it's phenomenal for product and food photography. Tight portraits shots are amazing. Most people use STF glass wrong, like using it for full body portraits. Use faster lenses for mid and full body portraits. It's also amazing for video, especially outdoors because I can achieve a smooth background without ND filters. Pair this lens with a flash and it's one of the sharpest and contrasty lenses in the Sony lineup.

  8. I bought the 70-200mm GM lens and it's the best that I've ever owned. But I will eventually the 85 or 100 GM and a 35mm lens someday just for portraits.

  9. I've never tried the 100mm STF, but IMO it is highly specialized lens for portraiture only, with slow AF and less light gathering. It is capable of fantastic results, but needs more attention and time to produce them. 
    My personal top 3 of portrait lenses would be (not in particular order):
    1) 55mm 1.8 – truly the best lens ever created for the FE mount system – small, light, amazing sharpness, bokeh, colours and microcontrast. This is a gem and I haven't found any disadvantage. It's also super versatile. You can shoot almost anything with a 50mm. 
    2) 85mm 1.4GM – amazing lens with fantastic bokeh. Super sharp, no vignetting and almost no CA which is a common con among 85s. It has 11 aperture blades and produces one of the most beautiful bokeh I've ever seen. 
    3) 90mm 2.8 Macro – surprised? It is a super sharp lens with amazing colours, but it's not suitable for every subject as it pronounce imperfections. It's not very good for video and this maybe its only con. It's a little bit longer than other lenses, but much lighter than the 85 1.4. Ah, and it also doubles down as a macro lens 🙂 

    I'm deliberately excluding the 70-200 2.8. IMO it is Sony's worst GM lens. The AF is not as quick as on Canon's nor it is as sharp. Strange, but this is my own experience. It's also extremely heavy, large and expensive. I really loved my Canon 70-200mm 2.8 L IS II and I'm patiently awaiting to fill this gap with another brand. Hopefully Sigma when it comes out with its version of this powerhorse in FE mount.

  10. noticed the orange ring attached to the side of the camera several times from different photographers, anyone knows which brand is that please?

  11. Thanks for sharing! At 4:15, can you look the trial video you made for the shoot. I can't find it but would like to revisit it again. Thank you

  12. Ah, you left out the 90mm macro! My favs. are the 55 mm F1.8 ZA
    the 90mm macro and the 70 -200mm 2.8 I look at your portraits with wonderment.

  13. 100mm stf is nice, just I don't like because is T/5.6, I tested it…. it is nice, but very limited use. I prefer my 85 GM

  14. I would add that the f/4 flavor of the 70-200mm is also a fine choice for those on a tighter budget. Still tack sharp! But do love my 85 1.8 on the A7rii.

  15. The 100mm shouldn't be any sharper than the 80mm f1.8.
    As far as sharpness goes the two lenses benchmark exactly the same resolving 40 Perceptual Megapixels (40 P-Mpix).

  16. What is that dangling on the side of your camera when you hold it up? I see them on many cameras on Youtube, but I do not know what they are.

  17. These are way too expensive with the exception of the 85 f/1.8. This is why people aren’t willing to jump in behind Sony, you shouldn’t have to spend that much to get a decent lens for your already expensive Mirrorless bodies.

  18. Sony should have made 85mm 1.8 STF.. Abit more faster and more useable focal length. And with shorter focal length, I bet it would be physically the same with the 2.8 100mm STF.

    The STF i think is very unique. And you can really see the uniqueness of the photos.

    The 70-200mm is a good 1 single lens for portrait. Good for openshoots where there are more than 1 photographer shooting one subject.
    It's expensive.. You can almost buy the STF and the 85mm 1.8 with it's price.

  19. 85mm lens on 135 format, the worth of it is over-exaggerated. It compresses and flattens the face way too much, so that people look like paper dolls. Kill the background, and you have nothing: no story, no environment, no context, and a face run over with a steam roller. This is all more exaggerated with studio lights, that further remove natural 3D look of the face. With 100mm, 135mm etc lenses, things only get worse, ending with utterly flat, ironed, comic-book like images. Yuck!

  20. According to DXO Mark, Sony lenses are the sharpest compared to other brands. Considering a Sony full frame. It's just that my hands are larger than average and I wish the grip was about a half inch further away from the mount than it is. I hate adding a grip to it since it becomes bulky. I guess I'd have to stick to lenses which have a smaller filter size, otherwise it jams my fingers.

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