What type of lens do I need?

My camera is a Olympus OM-D Mark 10 II.

I need a lens that will take a life size full length portrait that will be used for a reference photo for an oil painting.

I’m having trouble understanding lenses. The photo has to be clear and sharp. I have an Olympus Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 IIR MSC.

I also just purchased an Olympus Digital 45 mm 1:1.8 and it also has 0.5/1.64ft -~ It’s a Portrait lens  called Prime and doesn’t move. It works OK for above the waist and the photo is clear enough to do a painting with a life-size face.

I understand to avoid wide angles because they would force me to move too close to the subject and will cause distortions. Telephoto lenses would be more useful.

I will be using a tripod and I will be using camera raw. Also, I understand I need to be eye level and at least 15 feet back. I understand at life-size, I will have a foreshortening problem that Photoshop could correct.  

What is the best lens for me?


  • dencaldencal -
    edited March 2018

    Save yourself some cash. Use the lenses you own. Take a waist to head shot,then a waist to floor shot, using your tripod platform elevator. Then stitch together in photoshop.

    Build a high resolution, pin sharp, mosaic of any image.


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  • Your camera has a micro 4/3 sensor measuring 17.3mm x 13mm. If you make a viewfinder out of a piece of cardboard or paper that has an opening of that exact size, you can use it to frame your subject and at the desired composition and subject distance, the card distance from your eye will be the focal length distance you'll need to frame the camera image to the same composition with that sensor (or film) size at that subject distance. For example, if your viewfinder ends up 45mm from your eye when you have the subject framed as you desire, you need a 45mm focal length lens for that composition at that subject-to-camera distance. If it was 65mm from your eye, you would need a 65mm lens, etc. This obviously works better with larger cameras, but it is one way to figure it out with any camera.
  • Hello! I have this same question. So, in Mark's photography guide it says: 

    "If you don't know where to start when shopping for cameras, consider the Olympus OM-D E-M10, because it's well designed, easy to use, and priced very competitively.

    It is a "Micro Four Thirds" camera, which means the sensor is smaller than a full-frame sensor. This means your image resolution will be lower than a full-frame camera's, but still much higher than with a compact point-&-shoot camera, and it means the crop factor (see the Focal Length section) for your lenses will be 2. Thus, a 25mm lens on this camera would be the 35mm-equivalent of 50mm lens (the numbers simply double). Lenses with longer focal lengths tend to be more expensive, so your lens selection will generally be cheaper than it would be with a full-frame camera, since you're always "getting double". Just be sure to buy lenses that are designed to fit Micro Four Thirds cameras. Olympus lenses are considered to be very good.

    You can usually buy the camera with a "kit" lens (a relatively cheap lens included with the camera for a good price) or without a lens (if you don't want the kit lens and would prefer to buy other lenses). The kit lens with this camera is a 14–42mm lens, which will have a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 28–84mm. This will not be adequate for full-length portrait photography if you intend to paint life-sized (for that you will likely need to purchase an additional lens), but it's a good all-around lens for pretty much everything else and won't cost you much."

    You're saying the distance from your eye for the shot to be framed right is the lens size that you need. Do I understand right that what Mark is saying about the Olympus OM-D-E-M10  is that you need to cut that length in half? So if it has to be 85mm away to frame the shot you'd beed a 42mm lens for this camera? 

  • Sorry I didn't respond sooner. What I'm saying is with any camera, if you make the viewfinder opening the same physical size as the camera sensor size, the distance you hold the viewfinder away from your eye to frame the scene exactly as you want it will be the lens focal length you'll need for that cropping. I'm not comparing a micro 4/3 camera to 35mm film equivalent or any other format camera. I'm stating a general rule for any size camera sensor and the perspective of a viewfinder for it.

    So, if we take your example and you have made a cardboard viewfinder that is the same size as your 4/3 camera sensor (17.3mm x 13mm hole) and you find it gives you the framing you want when 85mm from your eye, then you need an 85mm lens to achieve that perspective with your camera from that same point in space.

    Mark's statements are based on the fact that mathematically, the sensor of a full-frame digital (or 35mm film) camera compared to the 4/3 format sensor is about twice as wide (36mm vs 17.3mm) and twice as high (26mm vs 13mm). Hence, the equivalency factor for the 4/3 format lenses is about 1/2x when compared to a full-frame sensor or 35mm film camera. Therefore, Mark's guidelines imply that a full-frame camera viewfinder would end up being 170mm from your eye to get the same view you get with your 4/3 format viewfinder (or camera lens) at 85mm. That's because the hole would be twice as wide and high as your 4/3 viewfinder and so would have to be twice as far from your eye to get the same framing. You can check this out simply by making a viewfinder with your index finger and thumb and framing something up, then making the hole twice as big and moving your hand out to achieve the same framing. It will be twice as far away from your eye as it was before.

    In your situation of doing a full-length portrait, you also have to consider how much physical space (i.e., camera to subject distance) you have to work with. Outdoors, usually no problem and a "normal" lens (your zoom lens set to around 26mm) or one twice the normal focal length (like your prime 45mm f/1.8 lens) might give you pleasing perspective, but inside a small room you might have to use a wide-angle lens (e.g., the 14mm setting on the zoom) to get the entire subject in and, as you correctly state, that will cause distortion of the figure.

    Your question also really depends on how much room you have (camera to subject distance) as well as the type (size) of camera in order to choose the proper lens focal length. Image size and magnification also play a role but unless you are trying to become a commercial photographer instead of a painter, don't worry about that either. If you can frame the full figure using the 26mm or longer setting, you should be fine. Backing up from the subject a bit and using the 45mm lens might give you a more pleasing perspective due to the compression effect of the longer focal length.

    If you really need to know a specific focal length and you know the other variables (magnification, image size desired, and camera to subject distance) there are optical formulas posted all over the internet to determine the exact lens focal length you'll need. But trust me, that's overkill for your purpose and you'll be better off just framing with your camera to see if you already have what you need or using the cardboard viewfinder trick if your current camera lenses aren't giving you what you want.

    The 85mm f/1.8 lens sounds like a good piece of glass. If desired, you will be better able to control shallow depth-of-field with that lens due to its wide maximum f/1.8 aperture vs the f/3.5-5.6 of the zoom lens. Shallow depth of field and selective focus can be particularly effective with portraiture.

    I might also add that shooting from eye level for portraits isn't necessarily the best approach in many situations. If you think about it, a low camera angle imparts greater stature to the subject psychologically. A high angle diminishes the stature. That can be used very effectively, particularly in propaganda photos to make someone look heroic or conversely, weak.

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