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04-27-2011, 08:56 AM   #76
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QuoteOriginally posted by asdf Quote
But I can tell you more about good pencils than "derp, one that draws good."
It would likely be a pencil that fits well in your hand... that feels good to draw with...

04-27-2011, 09:43 AM   #77
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QuoteOriginally posted by Just1MoreDave Quote
I have a list of specific qualities I compiled from your original contributions to the thread so far:
- "high optical quality"
- "ergonomics are important"
- not the DA 55-300, not slow or noisy or f5.8, better AF than the DA 55-300, not a zoom
- rated highly by magazines
- not some Zeiss lenses

Want to add any?
You forgot "endorsed by Ansel Adams". That was one of his/her early comments.
04-27-2011, 10:42 AM   #78
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hound Tooth Quote
I have a list of specific qualities I compiled from your original contributions to the thread so far:
- "high optical quality"
- "ergonomics are important"
- not the DA 55-300, not slow or noisy or f5.8, better AF than the DA 55-300, not a zoom
- rated highly by magazines
- not some Zeiss lense


My god, there are like 3 lenses that fit this criteria. None of them would rank high in my books, either!
04-27-2011, 12:18 PM   #79
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QuoteOriginally posted by paperbag846 Quote
It would likely be a pencil that fits well in your hand... that feels good to draw with...
"Hay, pretty drawing, what pencil did you use?"
"Hay, nice treehouse, what hammer do you use?"
"Hay, tasty omelet, what spatula did you wave?"
"Hay, kewl sasquatch, what chainsaw do you use?"

And so on.
Or, it's a lousy worker who blames their tools, etc.

"Aw, this is all focked up, I need to buy a new US$5000 [whichever]!"
"Hay, that's a sh!tty [whatever], you need to get a better [whichever]!"
"What, you only wear a Timex, not a Rolex? No wonder you're so late!"

Yes, for some specific types of photography, specific lenses of certain quality are mandatory. And for other types, they ain't. What are your specific requirements, parameters, limits? Does your livelihood / survival depend on meeting certain standards? If not, how much are you willing to spend, to feed your ego?

My ego is OK, I hope. I very much like having and using the DA10-17, K50/1.2 and Macro-Tak 50/4, Schneider Betavaron, Nikkor 35/2 and 85/2, etc, some of which weren't cheap. But I've also sold shots from a 1mpx Sony DSC-P20 (912x1216 px); from a 5mpx Sony DSC-V1 in noisy NightShot mode; from a wind-up Canon Dial-35; etc. I don't use those for calendar-quality landscapes (although I could). I don't use a 16x20" viewcam for impromptu street shoots (but I could). Different tools for different purposes. Pitch hay with a pitchfork, not a rake.

04-27-2011, 02:06 PM   #80
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QuoteOriginally posted by wtf_cowboy Quote
Speed seems to be a key factor for me. It just eliminates the possibility of not being able to capture the moment.

I'm young (25) for having done this for ten years and lucky to have cut my photography teeth on a very primitive, but optically sound, mamiya 1000dtl with it's included 55mm 1.4 champion. I've gone through at least a dozen lenses and none compare.

This thread has made quite a few passionate photographers post about what a good lens is; I ask, is not a good lens just a lens that inspires it's user to go out and capture a slice of time and share it.
I think you're right, but that's straying into the idea of a lens as an artistic tool rather than a technical achievement. For me (And, I think, likely for you as well) the lens is more important as an artistic tool than as technical instrument. Perhaps being both is what makes a great lens?
The 55 1.4 is quite a nice lens, BTW. Paired with a DTL you have quite a nice film kit.

QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
I have always found that my best images convey not what I see with my eyes nor what my mind's eye saw, but rather the feelings I had that prompted me to press the shutter release in the first place.

Good photography for me, with the exception of photojournalism, is all about conveying the subjective feelings and emotions of the photographer.
This is something of an impressionist approach to painting, conveying emotion or feeling over precise rendering of details. Something like a Sudek or Stieglitz photograph. I like this idea of photography, and, if we're using this as a definition of a good photograph, then the best lenses are the ones that suit us, not the sharpest, contrastiest, Af super-zooms.
04-27-2011, 09:59 PM   #81
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
I have always found that my best images convey not what I see with my eyes nor what my mind's eye saw, but rather the feelings I had that prompted me to press the shutter release in the first place.

Good photography for me, with the exception of photojournalism, is all about conveying the subjective feelings and emotions of the photographer.
Yes, my point was that a lens will never be able to second guess what you are trying to capture (an image? a feeling? a vision?). A lens may be more suitable to your goals than another and as a result that lens may be great for you, but this doesn't necessarily make it great for anyone else.

To make the discussion useful to others, one has to approach it either as "what makes a lens a great optical instrument" or as "what makes a lens great for getting X done".

QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
"Hay, pretty drawing, what pencil did you use?"
"Hay, nice treehouse, what hammer do you use?"
"Hay, tasty omelet, what spatula did you wave?"
"Hay, kewl sasquatch, what chainsaw do you use?"

And so on.
Or, it's a lousy worker who blames their tools, etc.

"Aw, this is all focked up, I need to buy a new US$5000 [whichever]!"
"Hay, that's a sh!tty [whatever], you need to get a better [whichever]!"
"What, you only wear a Timex, not a Rolex? No wonder you're so late!"
However, everyone knows the importance of picking the right tool for a job. And some tools can be crappy. So the truth is somewhere in the middle. Tools matter up to a certain level - you need to pick the right one and it has to have enough quality to allow you to perform the job you need it for.

Maybe the jobs we do don't require the best tools, but that doesn't mean tool quality is an irrelevant concept. I can drive myself around in an economy car as efficiently (or more efficiently) than a guy using a supercar. But if we're on a racetrack, it's a different game altogether. Sayings like "the best car is the one you have" or "the best car is the one you like driving" are just feel-good statements that don't mean anything.
04-28-2011, 04:01 AM   #82
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To me sharpness is most important. I hate worrying that my picture will come out blurry/soft. Thats why I love my Da 35 limited. All other aspects of photography I can take care of while taking the shot or in post process (or fail to, in which case it's my own fault).

By the way, I skipped all the posts in this thread except for the ones by Hound Tooth. That guy is hilarious and brutally honest he he, please post more!.
04-28-2011, 05:15 AM   #83
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
Yes, my point was that a lens will never be able to second guess what you are trying to capture (an image? a feeling? a vision?). A lens may be more suitable to your goals than another and as a result that lens may be great for you, but this doesn't necessarily make it great for anyone else.

To make the discussion useful to others, one has to approach it either as "what makes a lens a great optical instrument" or as "what makes a lens great for getting X done".
Your basic point was well taken. In fact that's why I said what I did - to reenforce your point that when talking about a "great" lens' we are getting into an area that goes beyond mere objective technical specification.

My problem with this sort of question:
"what makes a great lens?" implies that that we can separate form from function. All else being equal is a sharp knife always a better tool than a "dull" knife? No. It depends on what you want to do with it.

Anyway been thinking about it and I can think of one optical quality that's hard to imagine is not always an advantage no matter what you are trying to do - contrast. Sure you can always pump it up in PP but that's not the same as having optics that are inherently contrasty with a good tonal range.

04-28-2011, 09:50 PM   #84
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
Your basic point was well taken. In fact that's why I said what I did - to reenforce your point that when talking about a "great" lens' we are getting into an area that goes beyond mere objective technical specification.
Right. I was just reiterating.

QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
My problem with this sort of question:
"what makes a great lens?" implies that that we can separate form from function. All else being equal is a sharp knife always a better tool than a "dull" knife? No. It depends on what you want to do with it.
I'm not sure if this comparison works. In general, people would want a knife for cutting stuff, so sharpness would be their normal expectation.

QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
Anyway been thinking about it and I can think of one optical quality that's hard to imagine is not always an advantage no matter what you are trying to do - contrast. Sure you can always pump it up in PP but that's not the same as having optics that are inherently contrasty with a good tonal range.
There are always exceptions. If you're trying to create a dreamy sort of scene, lack of contrast is a plus. There was a very nice photo I've seen on mflenses, but I can't find the thread now - it was taken with what would normally be called a bad lens - very low resolution and contrast - on regular scenes it would look crappy, but it produced a very nice landscape looking almost as a painting. Maybe the effect could have been obtained in PP, but it sure helps to get it from the camera.

But like with the knife, most people in most situations would expect a lens to deliver contrast.
04-29-2011, 10:59 PM   #85
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
But like with the knife, most people in most situations would expect a lens to deliver contrast.
An excellent metaphor in this case.

So... serrated or smooth? Curved or straight? Cleaver or slicing? Hunting or utility or kitchen? Each and every one of those (and many others) can be "sharp", yet each tends to excel at different things and suck at others. I know some people who use a hunting knife for everything they do, even in the kitchen. I bet even world-famous chefs have favorite knives that they use for purposes other than the one the manufacturer intended.

I'll never forget when I was at my in-laws' and I reached for a particularly sharp-looking knife to cut some tomatoes. My mother-in-law immediately leaped in and exclaimed "Oh no! You can't use a bread-knife for that! Here, use this more appropriate knife." She handed me a chopping knife. I squished 2 tomatoes with it before going back to the bread knife. It just served my purpose better and resulted in tomatoes that were cut neater.

Of course, I got some glares from the in-laws. How DARE I use an inappropriate kitchen implement to cut tomatoes?!? I bet they're still hoping their daughter will divorce me.
04-29-2011, 11:41 PM   #86
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hound Tooth Quote
An excellent metaphor in this case.

So... serrated or smooth? Curved or straight? Cleaver or slicing? Hunting or utility or kitchen? Each and every one of those (and many others) can be "sharp", yet each tends to excel at different things and suck at others. I know some people who use a hunting knife for everything they do, even in the kitchen. I bet even world-famous chefs have favorite knives that they use for purposes other than the one the manufacturer intended.

I'll never forget when I was at my in-laws' and I reached for a particularly sharp-looking knife to cut some tomatoes. My mother-in-law immediately leaped in and exclaimed "Oh no! You can't use a bread-knife for that! Here, use this more appropriate knife." She handed me a chopping knife. I squished 2 tomatoes with it before going back to the bread knife. It just served my purpose better and resulted in tomatoes that were cut neater.

Of course, I got some glares from the in-laws. How DARE I use an inappropriate kitchen implement to cut tomatoes?!? I bet they're still hoping their daughter will divorce me.
But they didn't offer you a blunt knife, did they? Sharpness was still understood to be a desirable property.

Mapping your story back from knives to lenses, I think it is similar to someone saying: "you can't shoot a portrait with a 50mm, here's an 85mm that is more appropriate!" The dispute in this case would be primarily around what focal length is more appropriate, not on whether you should use a sharp lens or a soft one (or else they would say "you cannot use that sharp 50, here's a soft 85 that is more appropriate!").

This is why some properties, while they may not be artistic, are still useful to measure, because people would want them most of the time. Few people would complain about a lens being too sharp, the same way few people would complain that a knife cuts too well. They may disagree on what knife/lens to use, but they wouldn't really argue that the knife/lens should be sharp - most of the time. Occasionally, you'll find a use for a soft lens or a blunt knife, but those are sort of specialized scenarios, rather than mainstream ones. In general, you'll always want the property that is harder to achieve and it is harder to sharpen a knife than to blunt it.
04-30-2011, 08:45 PM   #87
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
Mapping your story back from knives to lenses, I think it is similar to someone saying: "you can't shoot a portrait with a 50mm, here's an 85mm that is more appropriate!" The dispute in this case would be primarily around what focal length is more appropriate, not on whether you should use a sharp lens or a soft one (or else they would say "you cannot use that sharp 50, here's a soft 85 that is more appropriate!").
I would never consider focal length as a lens quality that makes it "great". The focal length is what it is. It is neither a quality nor a defect of a lens. Assuming everyone is referring to focal length as a quality is erroneous. At no point did I refer to focal length.
04-30-2011, 09:58 PM   #88
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QuoteOriginally posted by Hound Tooth Quote
I would never consider focal length as a lens quality that makes it "great". The focal length is what it is. It is neither a quality nor a defect of a lens. Assuming everyone is referring to focal length as a quality is erroneous. At no point did I refer to focal length.
I think we are actually in agreement because focal length was corresponding to the knife design in your story.
05-01-2011, 12:51 AM - 1 Like   #89
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QuoteOriginally posted by slip Quote
what makes a great lens?
One that takes great images of things I didn't see at the time and therefore makes me rich and famous.
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