Are you interested in capturing portraits? In this article, we will explore some of the lenses and processes to consider for capturing stunning studio portraits with your micro four-thirds camera.
The Advantages of Micro Four Thirds for Studio Portraits
All cameras offer different capabilities for capturing the perfect shot. Micro four-thirds cameras, for instance, have a unique ability to capture fantastic studio portraits.
Their size, small weight, and extremely high-quality lenses allow a photographer to compose images with ease, for a relatively low cost compared to more traditional full-frame cameras.
With the ability to hand-hold the camera for more extended periods due to its’ weight, the studio environment becomes a perfect place for either a Panasonic, Leica, or Olympus micro four-thirds photographer.
The Best Settings To Use for Taking Four Thirds Studio Portraits
When looking at some of the photography masters in history, many of them take inspiration from the painters before them. What these visionists portrayed through their art were simple, but complex compositions.
For instance, choose one of the most iconic images of all time, the Mona Lisa. Looking at the half-length portrait, the first thing you may notice is how Leonardo da Vinci framed Mona.
Many imaging manufacturers have taken the same compositional inspiration when designing lenses for micro four-thirds cameras.
Unlike paint though, obtaining a three-dimensional portrait composition is much faster. All a photographer needs to do is open the lens to the widest aperture and focus on the eye of the subject.
Something to note though, if you are adopting an aperture of f/1.2 or f/1.4, keep in mind your depth of field. You may find when focusing on the eye of your subject; the nose or ears become out of focus.
To overcome this, all you need to do is adjust your aperture for f/4 or even f/8, which changes your depth of field to allow more of your subject to be in focus.
Generally speaking for studio photography, you should change your m43 camera to the lowest ISO and set your flash sync speed to the manufacturer’s specifications (usually around 1/125 second).
Once you have the settings on your camera, set up your lights, and then decide on the lens.
What Lenses Are Options for M43 Studio Portraiture?
There are three main categories of portrait lenses for studio portraiture, fast primes or fixed focal length lenses, standard lenses, and telephoto lenses. All range in price depending on the aperture and focal length.
If you are wondering what lens to get for portrait photography, it comes down to two factors – the size of your studio and your budget.
These prerequisites generally determine the aperture of the lens and focal length and brand.
The Best Four Thirds Lens Brands for Studio Photography?
These are common questions, so let’s dive in and explore the micro four-thirds lens brands, focal lengths on offer, and maximum apertures. The four third lens brands which are suitable for portrait photography include;
- ZY Optics
Many of these brands have an extensive lineup of lenses. To narrow down the selection of lenses, choosing a focal length to compare is generally the best way to decide what is best for you.
The Best Focal Lengths for Studio Portraits
Generally speaking, a focal length of 42mm-45mm on four-thirds lenses is best. At this focal length, the type of compositions shot in a studio environment will look similar to paintings.
A definition would be a basic mid-shot that includes some of the torso and then frames the eyes on the top third line of the vertical orientation. Some of the more famous M43 portrait lenses include:
Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 PRO
At roughly 90mm (in 35mm equivalent terms), this stunning 45mm lens offers an impressive maximum aperture of f1.2. The bokeh produced by this lens is impressive.
Creamy, with excellent background separation ensuring each headshot, is isolated from the background, so in other words, your portraits will ‘pop.’ If you are after the best lens for studio portraiture, then this is the lens for you.
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2
Leica optics don’t disappoint. Like the Olympus M.Zuiko 34mm f1.2 Pro, the 42.5mm focal length and build are similar, but in our opinion, this lens provides a sharper image.
Most people choose this lens if they own a Panasonic or Leica, but don’t let that stop you if you are an Olympus owner. The only downside is the aperture ring, unfortunately, doesn’t work on Olympus M43 cameras.
In saying this, if you want the sharpest images in the studio, this is an outstanding choice.
Other notable lenses in the 42-45mm range include the Voigtländer Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95, the Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f/1.7, Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 and for the more budget-conscious the ZY Optics 42.5mm f/1.2.
Lenses for Small Portrait Studio Spaces
If you have a photography studio that lacks space (like a home studio) then adopting a lens with a wider focal length or zoom may be a better choice.
If this is you, then you need to look for a focal length ranging from 25mm-45mm. At this range, you won’t have to walk back as far; however, there will be one major downfall to the resulting photo.
Your subject won’t portray as much depth of field as what you would have received on a fixed focal length with a wider aperture (f1.2). In other words, you can obtain the same composition, but there won’t be as much separation between the person and the background.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to some of the more expensive primes, then you best look at either fixed focal length or zoom. One of the most popular zooms on offer at the moment is the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO.
The Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO is a considerable option. There is no light loss between focal lengths, and with a sliding focus ring, switching between manual and automatic focus is simple.
If you look closely at the photos what you may notice is the lens isn’t going to produce as many beautiful bokeh balls as a prime due to the amount of glass in the lens.
The bokeh balls may appear less rounded, and the out-of-focus areas aren’t going to be as creamy.
If you are after a wider prime that doesn’t offer as much versatility but is still a good contender for studio photography, then look for something with a focal length of 25mm.
At an equivalent of 50mm (35mm equivalent), this focal length becomes ideal if you have a portable studio and prefer capturing environmental portraits.
Five lenses stand out in the 25mm range for portrait photography, with one exception of 30mm.
Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO
Like the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 PRO, the 25mm f/1.2 version is just as brilliant. Image quality, build, and design all achieve high levels of praise from users.
The lens includes weather sealing, which is perfect for outdoor studio portraits in all weather conditions.
At the most top end of the price scale, you will notice the PRO lens won’t disappoint, especially when combined higher ISO’s.
One thing to keep in mind, though, this lens isn’t light when compared to others in the same focal length.
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4
If you are more budget conscious and require the same focal length, then the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 is the lens for you. With a lower quality build, this lens has seen more years than the Olympus.
For this reason, the technology doesn’t keep up with autofocus, but for studio portraiture, this isn’t too much of an issue. What might be a problem, though, is when photographing high contrast scenes.
In these scenarios, you may see some chromatic aberration and purple fringing.
Some other lenses which you may wish to explore are the Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f/0.95, Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.7 ASPH, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN.
From these three lenses, it’s worth trialing the Voigtländer if you are after a photo that looks different from most but expects to pay a higher price.
As you might understand, there are many elements to achieving stunning portraits in a studio environment with m43 equipment. Equipment is essential.
However, clothing choice, background elements, and lighting also play a significant part in producing a memorable portrait.
So the next time you find yourself in the studio environment experiment with ideas and equipment as this will be the best way to create your iconic style.