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85mm-135mm lenses are great for portraits because of compression perspective distortion, meaning they flatten facial features. However at those focal lengths, you have to step back a few meters from your subject, because the angle of view is too small.

Can I have the same effect yet be one meter away from my subject? In other words, are there lenses or lens types that have compression distortion yet have a wide field of view? For instance, a lens with the field of view of a 40mm yet the distortion of an 85mm?

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I think you'll find the answer in What does it really mean that telephoto lenses "flatten" scenes? -- this isn't a magic property of a telephoto lens, but just a matter of perspective. So, basically, you can't have your cake and eat it too. –  mattdm Sep 12 '13 at 18:44
    
Yes indeed, that other question explains it well. Next time when I am constrained by space (subject distance), I'll just use a wide-angle lens and then crop the result. Thank you for the quick answers. –  William C Sep 12 '13 at 18:52
    
Glad that helps. Note, though, that assuming your telephoto lens can focus at the distance you're using, that'll actually have the same visual results as cropping but (depending on how much you have to crop) may give better image quality. –  mattdm Sep 12 '13 at 19:04
    
Yes I will use the narrowest prime lens (highest focal length) I have that will fit the subjects at that subject distance (space constraint), then I will crop afterwards. –  William C Sep 12 '13 at 19:08
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4 Answers

You are misunderstanding the compression. The face appears flat because you are observing it from a distance and thus the angles of it ARE flat. If you move in closer, you are viewing it more from the side/off-axis and you get more depth. The focal length is simply used to crop the image for you.

You could take a portrait with an 135mm lens at 3 meters or you could take a photo with a 14mm lens and crop it down to the same field of view and the flattening would be the same. It would have an impact on other aspects of the photo, but not the angle at which the face is being seen or the compression you describe.

Similarly, the field of view of the lens is a direct result of the focal length of the lens and the size of the image circle it projects on to the sensor. You could theoretically make a lens that would project more information for that focal length (through a bigger image circle), but would then need a different size sensor to capture the expanded image circle. This would be the same as having a <1 crop factor.

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The only thing that matters is your subject distance. I'll say it again, only. So to answer your question, can you stand 1 meter away and get the same compression? No.

Take a look at this for more information: What is background compression?

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Yes indeed, that other question explains it well. Next time when I am constrained by space (subject distance), I'll just use a wide-angle lens and then crop the result. Thank you for the quick answers. –  William C Sep 12 '13 at 18:52
    
@WilliamC - I'm not sure you are getting it yet since you mention using a wide angle and then cropping. Cropping and focal length have NO impact on background compression. You could use a standard zoom so you don't have to crop and you would still have the same amount of background compression. Use your distance from the subject to determine how "flat" you want them to appear and then use whatever focal length is necessary to get your desired shot composition at that distance. –  AJ Henderson Sep 12 '13 at 18:56
    
People normally talk about using primes as doing better at a given focal length because it FORCES you to move to the appropriate distance, but it isn't that focal length that matters, it is the distance to the subject and that focal length just happens to match up with the particular style of composition. –  AJ Henderson Sep 12 '13 at 18:59
    
@AJ, Yes I understand now that given the same subject distance, the faces of my subjects will have the same flatness whatever the focal length I use. Therefore I will use the narrowest prime lens I have that will fit the subjects at that subject distance, then I will crop afterwards. I understand it now, right? –  William C Sep 12 '13 at 19:04
    
@WilliamC - yeah, if you are shooting primes that's correct or if you shoot zoom, then avoid the crop, but yes. –  AJ Henderson Sep 12 '13 at 19:16
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The difference between the compressed look of a telephoto lens like an 85-135mm and the distorted look of a wide angle lens is referred to as perspective. The only factor that determines perspective is distance.

Perspective is created by the angles between the camera (more specifically the geometric location of the entrance pupil, which may be in front of or behind the front of the lens in a complex lens system such as most all camera lenses) and various points on the subject. The reason a telephoto lens makes a subject look compressed is because at the distances need to frame the subject those lines are almost parallel to each other. Additionally, the ratio of the distance from the camera to the nose and the camera to the ears is much less. Likewise, the reason a wide angle lens makes a subject look distorted is because at the distances needed to frame the subject those lines are at much larger angles to each other. Additionally, the lines to the nose and to the ears are of more significantly different lengths. If you are shooting at 15 feet the six inch difference between the tip of the nose and the earlobes is only 3.3% of the distance from the camera. But if you are shooting from only three feet away, the six inch difference between the nose and ear is 16.7% of the camera distance.

diagram

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No.

Except if you do "reverse" lens dedistortion, you might be able to pull it off, by digitally warping it and resampling.

See this:

Beauty focal length

To me 135mm is the purrfect focal length.

So I crop that out (left) and then also the 50mm (middle) and apply lens distortion(right):

dedistortion

This was quick and dirty. perhaps you can do better if you try harder. Note that the model changed expression and pose a bit between shots and I cant counter that.

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