Compression, portraits and lenses.

Lots of photographers buy lenses for shoot portraiture. In this post I will compare 4 different focal lengths and show how the compression the different lenses can effect the way a person looks in a photo.

The 4 lenses I used were the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 Nokton, the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4, Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 and the Fujifilm 90mm f/2 (137mm 35mm equivalent). Bokah is not a factor and I tried to shoot at the same settings, though I had to change the settings on the Fujifilm because the X-H1 has a base ISO of 100.

Now it should be noted that this test is not scientific and I haven’t got the exact same size head in all the images. This will make a difference to the amount of compression that you get from a lens because it is the distance between the camera and subject that effects the amount of compression but I have tried to get the distances relatively accurate and hopefully you will be able to see the differences between lenses.


The photos, top to bottom in order are the 58mm, 85mm, 105mm and finally the 90mm (137mm). As you can see the longer the focal length, the more please the look of the subject looks. With the nose and cheek bones, not being as exaggerate with the 90mm (137mm) lens compared to the 58mm . As I said above this is down to the distance between subject and camera. If I placed all 4 lenses at the same distance, whilst the longer lenses would show less of the subject, the compression would be the same.

With the Fujifilm X-H1 with its APS-C size sensor gives you a 1.5x crop factor, which is why the lens goes from a 90mm to a 137mm lens when you are comparing against a 35mm sensored camera, as you have to step further back to get the equivilent image.

So for headshots a longer focal length generally looks more flattering but when shooting longer portraits you are not just limited to long focal lengths because the distance between camera and subject is great, so the distortion is not so great. Which is why a lot of photographers like to shoot with a 35mm when shooting fashion 3/4 or full length portraits.