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08-06-2010, 05:56 AM   #1
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Lens rating guidelines - are there any?

I don't want to lead the charge, but I was thinking about having a simple guideline, and tried to quantify quality batches myself with the following descriptions. Indeed, I am taking the idea from the guidelines I have seen on the selling part of Pentaxforums, which is useful in quantifying quality.

Some of the lens reviews are a bit over-optimistic...the number of 10's for the M 50mm f1.7 is impressive, but there have been some great 50mm lenses in the past from other companies too like Leica and Zeiss, or the old Takumars are supposed to be pretty special. Eventually, the rating gets a bit meaningless.

I'm going to start observing the following ratings for reviews I post. Until I've tried a limited lens, or used a Zeiss lens, I'm not posting any 10's...

10 amongst the best produced at this focal length, ever
9 publishable/professional usage
8 keepers, mates are amazed at your photography skills
7 good, people notice photos from it are a bit different
6 good enough
5 compromise on quality
4 mechanical faults, optically ok
3 would not use it if I had a shorter focal length to crop
2 mechanical and optical faults, use a camera phone instead
1 damages camera, suitable for knocking things out of trees

08-06-2010, 06:00 AM   #2
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Those sound consistent the implied ratings we currently use- but I could definitely add that to the help popup.

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08-06-2010, 07:15 AM   #3
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I guess the question is really whether the rating should be solely on the image irrespective of cost, or the image relitive to cost.

For me, there are many many lenses that are in the $1K and above range, that produce images only marginally better or not distinguishable at all from lenses that cost new <$500 or used < $150

to me a used lens at $100 that is indistinguishable from a lens selling for more than $1000 is a 10 because it represents unparalleled image quality for the price.

In this context many many lenses are 7's or 8's because of the Image quality for price. I rate lenses this way.

I rate lenses below 5 if there are serious issues, with respect to their use, such as internal reflections from coatings , parts in the optical path or reflections off the rear element and the camera sensor making them un-useable for digital, etc. but any lens that actually works and takes an image, unless there are serious defects is at least a 5. IMO
08-06-2010, 07:38 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by hoojammyflip Quote
Some of the lens reviews are a bit over-optimistic...the number of 10's for the M 50mm f1.7 is impressive, but there have been some great 50mm lenses in the past from other companies too like Leica and Zeiss, or the old Takumars are supposed to be pretty special. Eventually, the rating gets a bit meaningless.
I do like your ratings guide but the 50mm f1.7 is in no way over optimistic. The price and availability is a big part of why it's so highly rated, same with many Takumars. Sure the Zeiss and Leicas are "better", but are they $400 better? Many think not. I would hesitate to give the Zeiss and Leica 50mm f2 Summicron lenses 9 or 10 simply because they're so over priced for marginally better image quality. I do believe the M 50 f1.7 is sharper than the Summicron. I think price and availability should factor into the ratings.

I'm more annoyed with the folks who refuse to give an impressive lens a 10 because they're not FA limiteds. That reasoning is just dumb and illogical when you consider that many lenses are comparable to the FA ltds at half the price.

08-06-2010, 07:59 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by hangu Quote
I do like your ratings guide but the 50mm f1.7 is in no way over optimistic. The price and availability is a big part of why it's so highly rated, same with many Takumars. Sure the Zeiss and Leicas are "better", but are they $400 better? Many think not. I would hesitate to give the Zeiss and Leica 50mm f2 Summicron lenses 9 or 10 simply because they're so over priced for marginally better image quality. I do believe the M 50 f1.7 is sharper than the Summicron. I think price and availability should factor into the ratings.

I'm more annoyed with the folks who refuse to give an impressive lens a 10 because they're not FA limiteds. That reasoning is just dumb and illogical when you consider that many lenses are comparable to the FA ltds at half the price.
are all FA limites 10's? given the price / performance criteria we both agree should be there, I suggest perhaps not, a 9+ maybe, but... that discussion is for another day,
08-06-2010, 09:31 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
are all FA limites 10's? given the price / performance criteria we both agree should be there, I suggest perhaps not, a 9+ maybe, but... that discussion is for another day,
Yes, that's another discussion altogether. I don't think it's necessarily wrong to give FA ltds 10s, I may not personally agree but I certainly can respect that decision.

On the other hand, giving other amazing lenses lower scores because 9s and 10s are reserved for FA ltds? Sheer idiocy. Imagine if a car magazine refused to give high scores for certain brands because they're reserved for Mercedes.
08-06-2010, 09:34 AM   #7
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What if Vincent van Gough had spent less on his paint, as he rated it a 10 because it was a lot cheaper than the best?! Is the M 1.7/50 better than the M 1.4/50, as in the ratings at the moment?

We have a self-portrait photo of my grandfather which is treasured. Mainly, its his photographic taste coming through, but partly the quality is thanks to the kit and processing. I think he used a Rollei of some form, and its been printed and framed well. Maybe his kit cost the equivalent today of a few thousand pounds, but spread over the lifespan of the photo which is over 50 years old, its not really that expensive.

What I am trying to say is no one remembers what camera he used or what it cost, but everyone likes the output. Its all about the quality of the photo, and the cost is long forgotten.

I'm aiming for about 10 B&W prints a year, in a family album. Compromising on the lens for value reasons, when the photos can't be taken again, is for me a bad economic decision. I'd rather change my mobile phone contract, or miss a meal or two in a restaurant in order to step up to the better lens. In such a case, I'd really want to know I had bought the M 1.7/50 bcause it was better than the M 1.4/50, not because it was USD 50 cheaper. Incidentally, I am led to believe that the 1.7 is better than the 1.4, I really hope its not got a better rating just because its a bit cheaper.

I just bought a dedicated M 85mm rather than just using the 50mm at a closer distance. The 85mm lenses might not be as good value as the 50's, but should they be marked down for their price?
08-06-2010, 09:39 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by hoojammyflip Quote
I don't want to lead the charge, but I was thinking about having a simple guideline, and tried to quantify quality batches myself with the following descriptions. Indeed, I am taking the idea from the guidelines I have seen on the selling part of Pentaxforums, which is useful in quantifying quality.

Some of the lens reviews are a bit over-optimistic...the number of 10's for the M 50mm f1.7 is impressive, but there have been some great 50mm lenses in the past from other companies too like Leica and Zeiss, or the old Takumars are supposed to be pretty special. Eventually, the rating gets a bit meaningless.

I'm going to start observing the following ratings for reviews I post. Until I've tried a limited lens, or used a Zeiss lens, I'm not posting any 10's...

10 amongst the best produced at this focal length, ever
9 publishable/professional usage
8 keepers, mates are amazed at your photography skills
7 good, people notice photos from it are a bit different
6 good enough
5 compromise on quality
4 mechanical faults, optically ok
3 would not use it if I had a shorter focal length to crop
2 mechanical and optical faults, use a camera phone instead
1 damages camera, suitable for knocking things out of trees
A half increment on the ratings would help on the "inflation." There are a lot of lenses that I would give a 7.5, 8.5 or a 9.5 to but are better than the lower whole number.

Plus, you just stated a preconceived bias in that you aren't giving any tens because supposedly the Zeiss 50s and Leica 50s are better and they are NOT. Pentax developed the 8-element S.T. 50mm f1.4 to dethrone that. However, this is where the option of a 8.5 or 9.5 would come into play.

On the flip side, there are quite a few people that low ball the ratings because a lens doesn't magically make them Ansel Adams.

08-06-2010, 09:40 AM   #9
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Anecdotally, there was a tv program with a French farmer on a while back. They offered him some really nice red wine. He refused to drink it, as he said he might never enjoy his ordinary stuff again. He rated his ordinary stuff highly.
08-06-2010, 09:45 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by hoojammyflip Quote
. . .
I just bought a dedicated M 85mm rather than just using the 50mm at a closer distance. The 85mm lenses might not be as good value as the 50's, but should they be marked down for their price?
I don't think rating a 50 against an 85 is logical either. As far as price goes, it shouldn't weigh too heavily but should be taken into account. I would expect a $700 50/1.4 clobber a $199 50/1.4. However if it turns out to be slightly above average, its likely to get dinged in the ratings.
08-06-2010, 09:48 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Blue Quote
Plus, you just stated a preconceived bias in that you aren't giving any tens because supposedly the Zeiss 50s and Leica 50s are better and they are NOT. Pentax developed the 8-element S.T. 50mm f1.4 to dethrone that. However, this is where the option of a 8.5 or 9.5 would come into play.
I don't doubt that Pentax 50's are better as I have read as such on other forums. Apparently Rokkor glass was very good, maybe better than Pentax. I'm just concerned about the validity of rating them as the best without having tried some of the other brands' 50's, such as a Minolta Rokkor.
08-06-2010, 09:49 AM   #12
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Well, everything's relative, so once you start asking for subjective ratings, any system will necessarily fall apart! It's really just an opinion system, and you can read enough good or enough bad opinions to know whether to do more research or just walk away.

There are a ton of ratings for the M50/1.7 as well. It's a cheap lens, but good, and sharper than the 1.4 version at f/1.7 to above f/2 (or whatever). So why not have one? Who knows what else people who review the lenses have? In some cases they tell you, and they tell you why it's better than the rest, and they give it a 10 because of how it compares to whatever else they've used. But some might just buy it right after the kit lens and marvel at how it performs... A new standard, a 10!

You can really only compare to your own experience, so all ratings should be taken with a grain of salt, or just for another opinion.

Oddly enough, the M50/1.7 is my only M series lens, it was the first prime I bought and I used it almost exclusively on my K1000 when I first got into photography. I don't use the lens much any more, but I'm holding on to it.
08-06-2010, 09:53 AM   #13
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Incidentally, value is known to change according to how much money is available. If a tramp has USD 400, he is not going to consider spending it on a FA limited. But if someone who lunches in Nobu has USD 400, she is going to be interested in knowing which lens is best, the FA 1.4 or the M 1.4...price is irrelavant.

Here is a bit on a Pentax 50 beating Leica from Herbert Keppler:
Rangefinder Cameras - Tips and Best Buys
08-06-2010, 09:54 AM   #14
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There's also what's valued more in a lens--sharpness? Bokeh? And the latter is also subjective.

So maybe we need some kind of form where it asks you 10 questions of various aspects with a rating scale and it spits out a number at the end. Nah, that sounds horrible!
08-06-2010, 10:10 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by hoojammyflip Quote
What if Vincent van Gough had spent less on his paint, as he rated it a 10 because it was a lot cheaper than the best?! Is the M 1.7/50 better than the M 1.4/50, as in the ratings at the moment?

We have a self-portrait photo of my grandfather which is treasured. Mainly, its his photographic taste coming through, but partly the quality is thanks to the kit and processing. I think he used a Rollei of some form, and its been printed and framed well. Maybe his kit cost the equivalent today of a few thousand pounds, but spread over the lifespan of the photo which is over 50 years old, its not really that expensive.

What I am trying to say is no one remembers what camera he used or what it cost, but everyone likes the output. Its all about the quality of the photo, and the cost is long forgotten.

I'm aiming for about 10 B&W prints a year, in a family album. Compromising on the lens for value reasons, when the photos can't be taken again, is for me a bad economic decision. I'd rather change my mobile phone contract, or miss a meal or two in a restaurant in order to step up to the better lens. In such a case, I'd really want to know I had bought the M 1.7/50 bcause it was better than the M 1.4/50, not because it was USD 50 cheaper. Incidentally, I am led to believe that the 1.7 is better than the 1.4, I really hope its not got a better rating just because its a bit cheaper.

I just bought a dedicated M 85mm rather than just using the 50mm at a closer distance. The 85mm lenses might not be as good value as the 50's, but should they be marked down for their price?
You're really throwing out a lot of hypothetical criteria that do not apply to the vast majority of photographers.

Will the 50 1.7 give you better photos than the 1.4? Maybe, maybe not. It's certainly not conclusive. The 1.7 is half a stop slower yet it's sharper at the lower apertures than the 1.4. Perhaps it's worth missing a meal for the 1.4. What we do know is that it gives you another $50 so you can get that M 85mm you've always wanted. So should it be rated higher than the 1.4? I believe so. Sharper, marginally slower and $50 cheaper.

If that portrait of your grandfather had been taken with the 50mm 1.7 instead of the 50mm 1.4, would anyone notice or even know the difference? Would anyone care?

The ratings are far from perfect and it would be folly to rely completely on it but it does have its uses.
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