Recently I purchased a SMC Takumar 105/2.8 lens with the hope of using it in portrait photos. And it works great for that, I’m happy to report. But it also left me wondering how my other lenses and cameras work in portraiture. So I pulled together some good representative examples.


My ‘real’ portrait lens (until I buy an 85mm, I guess). It allows me to stand a reasonable distance from someone and still capture a photo that isolates their face. The 2.8 minimum aperture allows me to fuzz the background. Though the bokeh that all the kids love is pretty indistinct. No bubbles or swirls that I’ve noticed.

The first example is a posed portrait, where I could really dial in the focus as my patient partner waited for me.

A black and white close up portrait photo of a person. They are wearing a grey sweatshirt, dark jacket, a knit hat and glasses. The background is entirely blurry.
1/125s, 2.8, 105mm/2.8, Ilford Delta 100

And this one is a more candid portrait where I tried to capture a friend laughing. As a result it’s a little softer, but I think it showcases the person and the emotion.

A black and white portrait photo of a person laughing. They are wearing a dark sweatshirt, dark sunglasses and dark hat. The person is in focus, but somewhat soft. The background is blurry.
1/500, f4, 105mm/2.8, Ilford HP5

50mm/f4 Macro

I’ve done very little portrait work with the 50 Macro, but it’s a decent choice for well-lit and staged portraits. Thanks to its focus and narrow DOF It would be tough to use with a moving subject. Not a lens to use for bokeh-filled portraits in my experience.

A close up black and white portrait of a person surrounded by the leaves on an apple tree. The person is wearing a scarf, a knit hat and glasses. They are smiling.
Unknown exposure, probably f4, 50mm/4 Macro, Ilford HP5


The ‘normal’ lens for my camera. The wide open aperture combined with the yellow tint that can appear thanks to the radioactive glass (yay, thorium) can make it a pleasing portrait lens. I don’t get as close as I do with the 105mm or the Macro, but I can still get results I like.

A color profile portrait of a woman. Her brown and grey hair is braided. She is wearing glasses and a faded jean jacket. The background is a blurry tree.
1/125, f8, 50mm/1.4, Portra 400


Not a lens I’d typically use for portraiture of a human. But in the case of this wide-faced Bob’s Big Boy statue the 35mm is exactly what I needed. I don’t get any background isolation at f8, though. I wish I’d tried this shot more wide open.

A black and white photo of a Bob's Big Boy face mold.
1/30, f8, 35mm/3.5, Ilford FP4

Moskva V, 105mm

With a 6×9 negative the Moskva’s 105mm lens ends up with an effective focal length of 45mm. Combine that with a minimum focus distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) and it’s not a good camera for traditional close-up portraiture of a single person. I think it would be good for groups of 2-4, though.

I’ve noticed that the Moskva doesn’t really have an infinite focus. Might be something out of alignment. But with a shot at f22 I would expect the background to be sharper here.

A black and white photo portrait of a person. Behind them is a creek, which is crossed by a bridge. The background is not very sharp, but the objects are recognizable.
1/6, f22, Moskva V 105mm with 6×9 negative, Ilford HP5

Same location, but with a wide-open aperture to show off the Moskva’s swirly backgrounds. Makes me a little dizzy, to be honest.

A black and white photo portrait of a person. Behind them is a creek, which is crossed by a bridge. The background is quite blurry and looks somewhat swirly.
1/100, f4, Moskva V on 6×9 negative, Ilford HP5

Voigtlander Bessa 66, 75mm/f4.5

Similar to the Moskva, the Bessa 66’s 75mm lens becomes a 41mm lens when you take the 6×6 negative into account. Its minimum focal distance is about 1 meter (3.5 feet), so it’s not great for close up work either. As with the Moskva the background gets very swirly when you shoot wide open.

I have very few portrait examples with this camera. And this out-of-focus shot is probably the best one. Because the Bessa 66 is not a coupled rangefinder you have to estimate your focus without any visual feedback. This is extra hard when working with an open aperture and the resulting lost of depth-of-field.

A black and white photo of a woman at night. The woman is wearing a dark jacket, glasses and a knit hat. She is standing in front of a display of holiday lights. The entire photo is slightly out of focus.
1/2, f4.5, Voigtlander Bessa 66 75mm on 6×6 negative, Lomography Berlin 400

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