Do lenses have subjective qualities not shown in any technical specification?

Started Mar 31, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Alex Notpro
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Do lenses have subjective qualities not shown in any technical specification?
Mar 31, 2013

I used to love the 50 f/1.4D and 85 f/1.8D  on my D7000, but now that I upgraded to a D700 I need a longer lens for portraits. I prefer old 'D' lenses over their AF-S equivalents, as I believe they perform better as investments in addition to taking photos that are 99.9% as good as the newer lenses (I once compared the 50 f/1.4D to the 50 f/1.4G for several days before making this sweeping generalization).

So. Thorn between the 85 f/1.4D, 105 f/2DC, and 135 f/2DC, and not wanting to spend too much money upfront (I don't like buying lenses with the intention of returning them), I decided to buy two old primes to study and compare: 105 f/2.8D Micro, and 135 f/2.8 AI-s.

So now I can play around with cheap primes in the 3 focal lengths, 85-105-135, before deciding which one to drop $1,000+ into.

Now here's where it gets interesting...

After much real-world testing, mostly in "home studio" conditions (kids in my living room, bounced flash and off-camera flash), I quickly concluded that I don't like the results from the 105 f/2.8D Micro.

When bench-testing (lab-like conditions), the 105 is sharp. In real usage, it's too often un-sharp and the colors seem off and unattractive, and boring. The 85/1.8 is a reliable stunner, always sharp in the plane of focus, even wide open, beautiful colors across the frame. The 135/2.8 is a close second, despite being handicapped by the Manual Focus.

Hence the question. Do lenses have subjective qualities not shown on any technical specification? Otherwise, what exactly in the technical specification of these lenses, is the 105/2.8D lacking relative to the other two?

 Alex Notpro's gear list:Alex Notpro's gear list
Olympus PEN E-PM2 Olympus E-M1 Panasonic Leica Summilux DG 25mm F1.4 Leica Nocticron 42.5mm Apple iPhone 5s +11 more
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