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11-08-2009, 07:27 PM   #1
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Good articles to learn lens construction/qualities?

Can any one point me to a some articles that will explain the differences/nuances in lens construction, things to look for, desirable qualities in lenses, etc? Preferably starting at a more basic level. Or if you are feeling particularly wordy, you can just explain it all to me.

Once upon a time, I was reading books and magazines, keeping up with the photographic world, and seemed to know all this stuff...but was out if it for so long, all the jargon now eludes me. Maybe that was part of the 10% of my brain I lost when I had kids, but at any rate, I need a little re-education, and google hasn't proved to be very helpful.

Thanks so much!

11-08-2009, 08:15 PM   #2
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How about this one:
Understanding Camera Lenses

This is an article for more in depth knowledge:
Lens Tutorial - photo.net

Hope this helps.
11-08-2009, 10:33 PM   #3
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Thank you, Ash. The first was a good review--could feel some of the old knowledge seeping back in.
The second, with all the math, was a bit beyond me at any point.

I'd also love to see something about qualities to look for in a lens when shopping or things to watch out for.
11-08-2009, 11:45 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by KierraElizabeth Quote
Can any one point me to a some articles that will explain the differences/nuances in lens construction, things to look for, desirable qualities in lenses, etc? Preferably starting at a more basic level. Or if you are feeling particularly wordy, you can just explain it all to me.

Once upon a time, I was reading books and magazines, keeping up with the photographic world, and seemed to know all this stuff...but was out if it for so long, all the jargon now eludes me. Maybe that was part of the 10% of my brain I lost when I had kids, but at any rate, I need a little re-education, and google hasn't proved to be very helpful.

Thanks so much!
Try the lens manufacturer's pages.

Nikon has an amazing set:
Nikon | Imaging Products | NIKKOR - The Thousand and One Nights

Zeiss:
Welcome to Carl Zeiss Camera Lenses

Leica M-mount (PDF):
http://us.leica-camera.com/assets/file/download.php?filename=file_1750.pdf

Leica R-mount:
Leica Camera AG - Photography - Lenses
on each lens' page is a separate PDF chapter (Know-How)

Pentax:
nada....

11-09-2009, 02:44 AM   #5
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Dave(95),
thanks for the Nikon links, they are really excellent !

Kierra,
I know it is hard to do but if you could be a little more decisive as to what features you are looking for and which you could skip, it would make it so much easier to make a choice. I've been there myself and I know it ain't easy. But as we all know there is no lens which is "the best" in everything, so you as a user can make it so much easier by building kind of a profile for yourself to stick to.

Me myself I am looking for user's reviews and also the usual test reviews. Here's some of them:
Pentax Lens Review Database - Main Index (obviously)
35mm Primes Reviews
All Tests / Reviews
SLR Lens & Camera Review

Looking back I could have made it much easier for myself had I thought about my personal needs for gear in the first place and then chosen the gear in the second step. I had thought there are kind of objective attributes in lenses which apply in any case but never thought many of them stand contradictory to each other.


Looking for a victim: the dreaded Pentax lens bug

Best, Georg (the former lensnerd :-)
11-09-2009, 12:19 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by georgweb Quote
Dave(95),
thanks for the Nikon links, they are really excellent !

Kierra,
I know it is hard to do but if you could be a little more decisive as to what features you are looking for and which you could skip, it would make it so much easier to make a choice. I've been there myself and I know it ain't easy. But as we all know there is no lens which is "the best" in everything, so you as a user can make it so much easier by building kind of a profile for yourself to stick to.
I'm currently in the market for a fast 50 and a wide zoom, but more than that, I guess what I am trying to relearn is the how-tos of knowing, when you shoot with a lens, that you have a good one on your hands, if that makes any sense. Maybe that is a bit too broad? Ash's first article that mentioned vignetting, chromatic aberration, etc, was a good reminder of the terms and some of the things to watch out for...I guess I'm looking for something that reminds me about what it is in certain lenses (elements, construction) that eliminates those things, if that makes any sense....

Thanks, Dave, for the links. I will definitely take a look at them.
11-09-2009, 01:34 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by KierraElizabeth Quote
... differences/nuances in lens construction,
Lots of info on non-AF lenses at the Adaptall-2 site including info in the individual lens descriptions and catalog reprints.

Adaptall-2.com

H2
11-10-2009, 01:34 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by KierraElizabeth Quote
Ash's first article that mentioned vignetting, chromatic aberration, etc, was a good reminder of the terms and some of the things to watch out for...I guess I'm looking for something that reminds me about what it is in certain lenses (elements, construction) that eliminates those things, if that makes any sense....
It makes sense, but I wouldn't go there if I were you - looking at the construction rather the results is likely to be very misleading. that is, you might read that ED glass (extra low dispersion) helps with chromatic aberrations, and that might be true, but that doesn't mean all ED lenses automatically have less CA than non-ED lenses. Plus, not all ED glass has exactly the same amount of dispersion, and one manufacturers "extra low" might the the same as another's "low", etc. Better to actually look at the test results themselves rather than guessing who the tests *might* turn out based on the construction. A lens can have all the right kinds of glass and construction characteristics and still be a below average lens; another might be a very simple nothing-fancy design and yet just blow you away.

11-10-2009, 02:13 PM   #9
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Lenses are like wine...

QuoteOriginally posted by georgweb Quote
Looking back I could have made it much easier for myself had I thought about my personal needs for gear in the first place and then chosen the gear in the second step. I had thought there are kind of objective attributes in lenses which apply in any case but never thought many of them stand contradictory to each other.

Best, Georg (the former lensnerd :-)
I sooo hear you with this, and believe one of the greatest challenges in evaluating lenses is appreciating the numerous trade-offs that must be made. I enjoy reading through lens reviews on this site, because of the nuances many of the reviewers illuminate. I recently purchased a M50mm f4 macro, which makes a great example; I think it is an under-appreciated lens because it is slow-- but I want to maximize depth of field in my macro work anyway. This lens is very crisp and lacks field distortion. Some macro folks don't like the lens because it is 50mm, but that focal length is great for miniatures... and so on.

I wish there were a lens database that evaluated a broad range of characteristics for all the lenses: color temperature, bokeh at full and stopped-down aperture, area of primary focus, focus ring range and stiffness, consistency of manufacture, and so on.

Trouble is, since there are so many trade-offs, I want to have more than one lens for each task!
11-10-2009, 03:16 PM   #10
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Knowing about our gear is fine so long as you don't get carried away like on this video.

YouTube - lightenupandshoot.blogspot.com - pixel peepers episode 2
11-10-2009, 05:04 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by DavidWasch Quote
I enjoy reading through lens reviews on this site, because of the nuances many of the reviewers illuminate.
+1. Here's another good example for it, Pentax Lens Review Database - 35mm F2 AL Amongst all the '10' grades there is a 7 and a 5 and they give good reasons for it - horses for courses.

Kierra, I guess the best way to choose a lens is to just browse through the photos on this forum. On the lens discussions there are some good photo threads. As you said you want a fast 50 you may have some fun here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/71778-fifties-association.html

Good luck, Georg (the stubborn manual 50s user)
11-10-2009, 06:12 PM   #12
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There some great books available, like Rudolf Kingslake books.

A general introduction on photographic lenses, from an historical point of view: A History of the Photographic Lens

A more technical book on lens design: Lens design fundamentals

But my favorite resource is Arthur Cox's Photographic Optics. This book contains everything you need to know about lens design, including a comprehensive list of the common lens types and some very useful tables featuring many lenses from various lens makers.

Cheers!

Abbazz

Last edited by Abbazz; 11-16-2009 at 07:20 PM.
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