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Old March 19th, 2011, 10:55 PM   #1
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What Focal Lengths For Interviews

I am interested to hear what lenses and focal lengths are used for interviews. Having used an EX1 and EX3 for the last couple years, I never need to look at the focal length as I can just zoom. My main goal of this thread is to figure out which lenses I need to get as I do a lot of work involving talking heads.

One issue I am having is whether or not I should buy a $1300 Sony Alpha lens, the 135mm STF f2.8/T4.5 (my favorite lens). I wonder if its too long as it becomes a ~200mm lens on a S35 sensor. Btw, I used to own this lens when I was a still photographer and shot with a full-frame A900; so, I loved using it for portrait work.

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Old March 19th, 2011, 11:17 PM   #2
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

Its not too long . On my 35mm adapter I often shot at 200mm.
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Old March 19th, 2011, 11:46 PM   #3
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

At 135, you're talking about facial closeup at a distance of about 8ft.

In my opinion, it's about the longest I'd go on a interview shot because anything longer doesn't look that much different and you're just farther away which might complicate other aspects (interviewee direction/communication, etc). I am reluctant to say 200 is ok (not because it's not, it is, but you're not talking 200, you're talking 135 :-) )

The below snaps, cam was about at 8ft. One was about a 35-40mm, the tighter shot was about 100. So imagine cutting at the neck for 135, at that camera distance (which was a comfortable distance for interviewer eyelines, lighting, etc)
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What Focal Lengths For Interviews-screen-shot-2011-03-14-1.24.33-pm-2.png   What Focal Lengths For Interviews-screen-shot-2011-03-14-1.24.45-pm.png  

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Old March 20th, 2011, 01:28 AM   #4
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

Everyone has there own tastes about this. I have shot lots of interviews with people farther than 8' away and gone to the end of my 80-200 to beautiful effect and they were not extreme closeups. The adapter was probably using something between a 5D and a 7D sensor size . The background goes very soft and it can look great. Most people probably don't go so long though.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 01:40 AM   #5
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

I know, I didn't mean to sound argumentative. Just wanted to note that it's the long end of what's practical probably in most cases...and more importantly, 135 will work just fine.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 01:42 AM   #6
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

Some subjects love the camera, some loathe it. Having the camera way back on a 200mm can be less intimidating, using the remote to record while sitting at a comfortable conversational distance from the subject. But then again there are the exhibitionists who love a camera right upon their face.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 04:59 AM   #7
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

135mm for an interview!!?? You guys have a much bigger area to work with than I do!
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Old March 20th, 2011, 07:32 AM   #8
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

Most interviews I've done the camera is communally 5 or 6 feet away from the interviewee, much further away and the interviewer's shoulder gets in the way - I like tight eyes lines; it engages better with the interviewee, like an actor's CU..

For the F3 that would put it in the 50mm to 85mm range. 100mm if going tight.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 07:42 AM   #9
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

For indoor interviews, I typically wouldn't shoot longer than about 135mm ( on the F3), or wider than 50mm. I almost always use a zoom, because I need to change focal lengths quickly. On exterior interviews, I've gone longer, but not with the F3 (yet). Choice of focal length affects the way a face looks.
Usually, long is flattering, but not always.

I would like a 30-180mm f2.0 constant aperture motorized zoom for the F3. Of course, I'd probably have to hire a kid to carry it around for me...
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Old March 20th, 2011, 07:52 AM   #10
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

Steve,

My favorite lenses for interviews are fast primes so you can maximize your depth of field and that is really what you want on interviews. Here is what I use.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 (great for cramped spaces or when in need to show your subject's surroudings)
Zeiss ZF.2 50mm F1.4 (probably the most versatile one)
Zeiss ZF.2 85mm F1.4 (great for MCU or CUs)

I also think 135mm is too long of a lens for interviews unless you have a very large room or need to be really tight.

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Thierry.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 07:57 AM   #11
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

And btw, people on a budget looking for a fast F1.4 85mm should consider Vivitar's 85mm. Can't go wrong for $320 and it's all manual which is great for the F3 using a MTF Nikon adaptor.

http://bit.ly/ih6Eio

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Old March 20th, 2011, 09:22 AM   #12
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

Thierry, Do you shoot a lot of interviews with primes? Most of the time, my clients want quick focal length changes between questions.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 10:13 AM   #13
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

I tend to shoot more and more using primes. Well, that is indeed a limitation of primes and that is an aspect your clients need to accept. If they are unflexible with this, then, I'd use a Sigma 17-50 F2.8 or Nikor 70-200 F2.8 zoom. But you won't get the shallow DOF of F1.4. And I find that with the reduced size of super 35mm sensors when compared to full frame DSLRs, I really want to maximize the DOF.

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Last edited by Thierry Humeau; March 20th, 2011 at 12:42 PM.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 11:30 AM   #14
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

Surely you mean minimize the DOF, if you're after a shallow effect.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 12:41 PM   #15
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Re: What Focal Lengths For Interviews

Yeah, sorry. I meant maximizing the DOF shallowness...
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