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03-02-2016, 02:53 PM - 1 Like   #1
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The simpler the lens design - the better!

Here's a link to an interesting article that claims "the simpler the lens design the better". Too many elements/groups and fancy ED glass in a lens can make that lens' photos flat and lifeless.

Do you agree?

03-02-2016, 02:58 PM   #2
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I'm going to go out on a limb and disagree. I think it has more to do with how the photographer controls the lens, and sets up/preps for the shot. We've probably all seen some amazing photos taken with both simple and complex lenses that drop some jaws.

Edit: now where's Digitalis and Heie to prove them wrong outright....
03-02-2016, 03:10 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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That is why I only shoot Lensbaby.
03-02-2016, 03:12 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by geomez Quote
That is why I only shoot Lensbaby.
Then you won't mind sending me all the nice lenses in your sig...

03-02-2016, 03:38 PM - 3 Likes   #5

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QuoteOriginally posted by geomez Quote
That is why I only shoot Lensbaby.
I only use a body cap with a pin-hole in it.
03-02-2016, 03:47 PM - 11 Likes   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
I only use a body cap with a pin-hole in it.

I look through the viewfinder and memorize what I see.
03-02-2016, 03:56 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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Kidding aside, I think the author's point is not so much "the simpler, the better", as "a super-corrected sharp-corner-to-corner lens is not necessarily the best lens for the job" - something that has been said many times on PF. He has lots of charts and diagrams to make his point, but anyone who has ever talked about older lenses having "character" will understand what he is saying.
03-02-2016, 03:59 PM - 2 Likes   #8
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I read that article a few days ago, and to put it bluntly: it is a massive oversimplification to say that that low element primes are inherently superior to overcorrected modern lens designs. For every example he gives I can think of another low element prime that would do worse than the modern equivalent - and the reverse is true as well. While it is true that low element primes have more character than over corrected designs, it is ignoring the fact that people simply have different artistic vision - people who want high corner to corner resolution can have it, people who want contrast can have it.

None of the examples in his images are taken with a static subject under controlled lighting. His tests are invalid.

Last edited by Digitalis; 03-02-2016 at 04:04 PM.
03-02-2016, 04:06 PM - 1 Like   #9
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Adding to Digitalis, Every piece of fine music, novel engineering and work of art has to have a degree of sophistication and intricacy to it for it to be effective. What separates them from the rest is creating this degree of workmanship with simple/fundamental formulae in a way that makes the audience marvel in wonder at its beauty and simplicity simultaneously.
03-02-2016, 04:41 PM   #10
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He's singing from the same basic song-sheet as YouTube's "Angry Photographer" - I recognise his name from many of Angry's threads.

I wouldn't say his tests are invalid so much as they are not objective. Like AP, he's looking for the subjective in his lenses, and that sort of beauty is too much in the eye of the beholder for any sort of test to demonstrate an objective truth. I think there are other problems with his pics - he seems to have chosen perspectives that demonstrate the flaws (or virtues) he seeks to point out. Whether the bias is conscious or unconscious is something I leave for others to decide.
03-02-2016, 04:43 PM - 2 Likes   #11
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Telescope eyepieces are the same way. Some love the simple 4-element PlÉ÷ssl with its ~50░ field of view, others love the 100░ field that 8+ elements can manage. Light inherently gets scattered passing through glass and any air-space between elements even with the best coatings, but adding elements for other corrections are generally considered to be worth the effort.
03-02-2016, 04:47 PM   #12

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QuoteOriginally posted by Fenwoodian Quote
Here's a link to an interesting article that claims "the simpler the lens design the better".
Good to see the blogger using a Ricoh GR!
03-02-2016, 04:47 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
t is a massive oversimplification to say that that low element primes are inherently superior to overcorrected modern lens designs.
I agree. I have a few nicely complex lenses on my shelf that offer rather lively rendering. I also have a few simple lenses that are duds despite their elegant simplicity. That being said, there is an impressive array of simple 4-element Tessar-design (and similar) lenses for various formats, many of whom have legendary status. A short list of lenses for multiple formats would include:
  • Zeiss (and certain licensees) Tessar (duh)
  • Schneider Xenar
  • Agfa Solinar
  • Rodenstock Ysar
  • Kodak Ektar
  • KMZ Industar
  • Yashica Yashinon (many)
  • Minolta Rokkor (many)
  • D. Zuiko (many)
  • ...and a host of others
A Flickr image search for "Tessar" brings up a nice set of good stuff, including many from the non-Tessar, Vario-Tessar, but the general trend of excellence should be evident.

Edit: This link for tagged Tessar 50/2.8 is even better


Last edited by stevebrot; 03-02-2016 at 07:34 PM.
03-02-2016, 06:10 PM   #14
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Interesting to note that (I believe) this is part of the philosophy that Pentax put into the 560mm. My impression is that it has received a lot of criticism for the same reason. Yet I personally quite like the image results- nice color and contrast with often a certain element of 'clarity' about the images.
03-02-2016, 06:17 PM   #15
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Sure, interesting. My Industar 50-2 definitely has something special to it. Photos are very lifelike, practically no CA. But the resolution is fairly low - even on APSC the edges never become sharp. And its contrast is.. well, not as low as some other old manual lenses, but it is definitely not as high as the DA lenses that I have, and the colours are not as saturated.
The examples in that article, while interesting, kind of ignore light quality in each shot. I'd like to see this done in controlled conditions, then we can talk about "flat nose, 3D nose"

I would agree with the article that reviews might be pushing the lens development into the wrong direction - massive lenses, lots of glass, fast aperture, highly corrected. There are other directions that could be taken, but get practically no representation anymore, except with extremes like Lensbaby, Holga,.. But I think with Pentax K, we have a big variety, from regular primes, macro primes, to Limited and * primes, each following a different philosophy, with different priorities.

QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
4-element Tessar-design (and similar) lenses for various formats
And aren't the Pentax DA limited pancake lenses based on the Tessar design? (so, all DA limited except 15mm and 35mm macro) This is what makes them pancakes, sharp, but not super sharp and rather slow aperture.
So Pentax might not be far from that guy's "line of realism" at all. Is the HD DA 70mm known to have better 3D contrast than the FA 77mm ltd? The 77mm has an extra piece of glass and older coatings, faster aperture

Edit: One more thing, from the article: "Solution for modern lenses: improve glass and coating quality on old designs" -- this certainly echoes a lot of people on this forum. Someone should make that Triangle diagram thingy for Pentax primes

Last edited by Na Horuk; 03-02-2016 at 06:52 PM.

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