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07-20-2011, 01:43 AM   #1
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Quality Glass vs Quality Photographer

Hi all,

I've recently been itching for a 'proper' wide-angle lens. My current widest lens is my Sigma 17-70 zoom, and while it's a great lens, it's simply not wide enough!

With this in mind, I've been looking at getting the following lenses...

Tamron 10-24mm
Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6(/3.5 or whatever it is)
Sigma 8-16mm

Sadly I'm not looking at getting any Pentax glass as I really doubt whether the DA15 or 14 will be wide enough for what I need


I'm also looking into getting a 'telephoto landscape' lens. Any suggestions for this?


Now, STOP!

All this is well and good. Obviously, it's nice to get new glass, and there's no doubt if I want to get into landscapes/architecture in a more 'serious' sense, I'll need to get a wider lens, and one of more quality than what I already have.

But!

I'd like to pose a question to you all:


Does more money equal better quality, every time?

On face value, that question might seem absurd. But, to put it in context, I own a Sigma 70-300 and Sigma 55-200. Both these lenses are classed in the reviews section of this very fine forum as 'cheap,' and 'budget.' However, does this automatically mean that if I took exactly the same photo from my cheapie telephotos, and then another telephoto that costs 10 times more, would the more expensive model create a better exposure on its own merits?

Or, rather, does the creation of a great photo lie more in the way the photographer takes the photo, ie manipulating DOF, lighting, etc etc?

I'd be interested to know a few opinions on this...



07-20-2011, 01:55 AM   #2
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IMHO, its 2 separate things.

A lens that is technically good is as such and nothing can take that fact away.
DA*300/4 is sharp at f4. A Sigma 70-300 is not as sharp at 300mm and is already at f5.6. It can never be at f4.
At f5.6, I'd have to use ISO800 for example while the DA*300 can use ISO400 (finer detail retention and less noise)
Different DOF too.


A poor photo is taken by a bad photographer whatever the technical qualities of the lens.


One can always train to be a better more competent photographer. A lens cannot become a better lens.
07-20-2011, 02:06 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rainy Day Quote
Does more money equal better quality, every time?
You are being very sloppy with the language.

"Quality" = better lens or better image?

If you mean better image

Than look at it this way:

Would you rather hear a Beethoven concerto played on a well tuned $10000 home upright piano by the worlds best concert pianist

or

Played by a first year music student on $500000 Steinway concert grand?
07-20-2011, 02:08 AM   #4
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its a bit of both with more emphasis leaning towards the skill of the photographer IMO.

the extreme case would be a green-mode newbie with say a 645d and a working pro with a point and shoot. The pro will consistently produce high quality images whereas the newbie might pull a few decent ones off by coincidence here and there. If they were to switch, the quality of the images from the pro clearly goes up whereas the newbie will still keep on producing much lower quality images.
i guess what im trying to say is, the skill is what makes a photo, the gear has the potential to make it better.

07-20-2011, 03:36 AM   #5
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When you spend more money, you basically get a lens with fewer weaknesses. They tend to be faster, are sharper wide open, suffer less from things like purple fringing and distortion.

Often if you shoot a budget option at f11 and compare it to a more expensive lens, also shot at f11 you won't see much difference, but that's not really the point, is it? You don't buy fast glass in order to shoot it at slow apertures.

Finally, there is a law of diminishing returns. The difference between a five hundred dollar lens and a thousand dollar lens will actually be quite small (look at photos between the FA 35 and FA 31), but there are those who can tell and use those small differences to their advantage.
07-20-2011, 05:04 AM   #6
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I think that a more expensive lens (something relatively foreign to me!) offers better quality but usually better capability too. By capability I mean things like faster aperture, closer focus (in some case), better performance shooting into sun, better resolution and weather resistance. By better quality I mean things like (as examples) consistent build, high quality materials, durable, nice feel focus, and looks good. I think capability is particularly important but quality is probably still important to a professional from the point of view of consistent output.

Now I have no doubt at all that a pro can coax better images out of a cheaper lens than an amateur like myself but a more capable lens can certainly help an amateur (may be not so much a complete beginner though as pointed out on a previous post).
As an example I recently got a FA100 f2.8 macro (which is an expensive lens to me) and I have to say that this lens goes out of its way to make me look better! Its great at isolating subjects (especially portraits). Also its aperture is faster than standard zooms (at 100mm) - so my low light photos are turning out better too.
I agree with the previous post on diminishing returns, if I were to buy a macro twice the price then I doubt there would be much improvement. But for a professional, I would imagine that every little bit helps and they are capable of extracting every once of its capability.
07-20-2011, 05:18 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rainy Day Quote
Does more money equal better quality, every time?
The answer to that question is "yes". But the bigger questions are, "How do I intend to use this lens?" and "How much quality do I really need?" The needs of someone shooting moving subjects, hand-held, in available light are very different from someone who is going to be shooting landscapes in the f8-f16 range while using a tripod. If you honestly assess your needs and make your compromises in the right places, it's possible to put together a pretty decent lens kit for not a lot of money.
07-20-2011, 05:38 AM   #8
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There are many examples in this forum of people making great images with lenses some consider to be little more than trash. Work on your technique, study light, read photography books and hone your skills. Then buy the best glass you can afford. It is only then you will be able to take advantage whatever benefits expensive glass can provide.

Tom G


Last edited by 8540tomg; 07-20-2011 at 08:13 AM.
07-20-2011, 05:55 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
You are being very sloppy with the language.

"Quality" = better lens or better image?

If you mean better image

Than look at it this way:

Would you rather hear a Beethoven concerto played on a well tuned $10000 home upright piano by the worlds best concert pianist

or

Played by a first year music student on $500000 Steinway concert grand?
Maybe I was phrasing it sloppily. And yes, the way you put it is in the same general vein as my statement/question.
QuoteOriginally posted by TaoMaas Quote
If you honestly assess your needs and make your compromises in the right places, it's possible to put together a pretty decent lens kit for not a lot of money.
Well, given that statement, I'm looking to take mostly landscapes, so I'll need a wide-angle obviously; with the possibility of a decent telephoto zoom for those elusive shots that would be otherwise out of reach by a wide-angle. I would also use this telephoto for general usage, ie portraits, street shooting, etc. I'd also like to get a good prime for portraits, and perhaps another one as a 'walk-around' lens.

Obviously, I'm not going to go out and buy ALL these lenses tomorrow under your advice. I'm the sort of person who takes his time with these sorts of things.

So, advice?
07-20-2011, 06:17 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rainy Day Quote
...

Or, rather, does the creation of a great photo lie more in the way the photographer takes the photo, ie manipulating DOF, lighting, etc etc?

I'd be interested to know a few opinions on this...

Note to Self- I just had a discussion with a Nikon users about camera tech stuff, he said, "the truth is, nobody prints very many of their photos, everybody just posts them on the internet somewhere and practically everything you see is some cropped and reduced size of the original." Meaning, "what you see is not always what you get" in a print. Is that what you're worried about? Is it how much clarity you'll be able to achieve with a higher end lens when/if images printed to sizes larger than, for example, 16 x 20 or 20 x 30? - End Note

I think photography is completely 100% in the hands of the user, too many of the photos I've seen sell are fuzzy, distorted but down right pleasant to view. I have not heard very many people exclaim while buying a photo, "...that's so tack sharp, I've got to have it!"

Pretty pictures are great, but well executed photos are even better. As mentioned before, practice makes perfect, when you're ready to take that perfect shot, go buy the perfect lens. Personally, I say if you need the perfect lens to make that perfect shot, you have not practiced enough...

07-20-2011, 06:18 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rainy Day Quote
Well, given that statement, I'm looking to take mostly landscapes, so I'll need a wide-angle obviously; with the possibility of a decent telephoto zoom for those elusive shots that would be otherwise out of reach by a wide-angle. I would also use this telephoto for general usage, ie portraits, street shooting, etc. I'd also like to get a good prime for portraits, and perhaps another one as a 'walk-around' lens.

Obviously, I'm not going to go out and buy ALL these lenses tomorrow under your advice. I'm the sort of person who takes his time with these sorts of things.

So, advice?
Well you are not saying what is already in your camerabag.

In general most more expensive lenses do have smaller apperture settings and give better image quality (resolution) to some extend.

I'm not very into wide-angle, have the DA14mm, and if you want wider then the 8-16mm is I think the best lens of your list. Or Pentax DA12-24mm as an option.

For telezoom you can considder 50-135mm, wich is also a great portraitlens or the 60-250, wich is a wonderfull lens, but a big lens to handle for portraits (I think).
07-20-2011, 06:52 AM   #12
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H.C.B. had 3 lenses: 35 mm, 50 mm and 90 mm...
OK, these lenses where among the best money could buy, but still only three focal lengths and rather 'slow'!
I, and I can and will only talk for myself now, shot the most (and best) of my work with the DA 15 mm, DA 21 mm and the DA 35 mm macro. I still wonder why I spend the money on a FA 50 mm, a D-FA 100 mm macro and a DA* 16-50mm...

While at the art school when 'learning' photography, some 35 years ago, a mentor once told me to get the gear I felt I deserved.
I got an old and used Rolleicord with a Xenotar 75 mm fixed lens, I felt that the Rolleiflex with a Planar 80 mm was far above my head... This was the best advice I ever got in 4 years of art school!

Till I made the step to digital, I hardly bought new stuff, always looked for used gear that others did not wanted anymore and I still use it and feel good with it.
I am a professional photographer for 31 tears now, still surviving the jungle...
07-20-2011, 07:03 AM   #13
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I think that there have been a lot of different opinions on this issue over time, but here is my take.

first of all, quality of any product (in this case a lens) is a function of what you intend to do with the product.

this discussion has been around for ever, and the old metaphore was comparing a chevrolet to a cadilac. Both represented "quality" in terms of complying to their designs but were considerably different in cost.

before you go out and spend, you need to really consider what you want to do with a lens.

Some have offered an example of the DA300/4 vs a 50-300/5.6 zoom, saying there is no way you can reproduce a similar F4 shot with the zoom (F4 does not exist) and say for example that you need to go to F8 for comparable sharpness. Does this mean better quality. Actually No it does not. It means the two lenses were built to different performance requirements and specs.

Can you take quality photos with lenses built to different requirement specifications YES, within the lenses design limits.

it is up to the photographer to understand the limits of the lenses and how to make use of the performance properties of the lens.
07-20-2011, 07:10 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by 8540tomg Quote
There are many examples in this forum of people making great images with lenses many consider to be little more than trash. Work on your technique, study light, read photography books and hone your skills. Then buy the best glass you can afford. It is only then you will be able to take advantage whatever benefits expensive glass can provide.

Tom G
+1 for Tom G.

I would like to add, even as I consider myself a beginner, that it is important to know (and I mean REALLY KNOW) your equipment. Practice on each lens, and learn its limitations. Then learn to use the limitations to your advantage in different lighting conditions.

I remember advice from a senior photographer who saw me bring roles of film (good old ZX-5N and M50 1.7) about 11 years ago. I was teaching myself with various settings, stable lighting, on a single object. He said "A $50 lens and $1000 camera will get you $50 pictures; a $1000 lens and $50 camera will get you $1000 pictures". Understand that this is a concept only. But regardless, both the equipment and the skill can be a limitations - independent of each other, or worse, together.

I end with my current mentor's quote, spoken in context of the medical field - "A fool with a great tool is still a fool".
07-20-2011, 07:42 AM   #15
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A better hammer does not make one a better carpenter.
A perfectly-made picture of boring crap is still boring crap.

Landscape photography does not require AF. The landscape probably isn't moving around much (except in seismic zones). Landscape photography does not require ultrawide lenses. Look at books filled with landscape photos. The vast majority were shot with the APS-C equivalent of the 18-55mm range. I have DA10-17 and Tamron 10-24 and I use them more for interiors than for 'scapes. My 'scape lenses are all good manual primes, fairly cheap: Zenitar 16/2.8, Tokina 21/3.8, Kiron 24/2, Komine 28/2 CFWA, Isco Westron 35/2.8 -- and the 16-21-24 are often indoors lenses too.

Not long ago (but I don't recall where & who) I read of a leading Chinese landscape shooter. His kit? An old 6x9cm folder on a tripod, using B&W and 'chrome. The lens was likely 105/4.5 stopped down to f/32, roughly equivalent (FOV and DOF) to 30/1.4 stopped to f/9 on APS-C. My ancient 6x9's, a Kodak Monitor (US$7) and a K.W.G&T Patent-Etui (US$43), both fit the bill. I should take those out for some slow shooting.

It is in a lensmaker's interest to sell you expensive glass.
It is in *your* interest to decide what tools suit you best.
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