My Ode to Fast Glass

Started 10 months ago | Discussions thread
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MediaArchivist
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My Ode to Fast Glass
10 months ago

I am continuing this thought from a previous thread, a thread that was popular enough that it is now closed.

In a nutshell, I like fast glass. My three favorite lenses are a 24/2, 50/1.4, and 85/1.4. I find myself using them wide open most of the time. I like the shallow DoF. I would never claim such a pursuit is "better," because I don't think the term "better" is appropriate for matters of style.

What do I get with fast glass? I get good, bad, and ugly:

  • Shallow DoF. Love it. Want it. Seek it. Do I miss shots because a razor thin DoF is difficult? Yes.
  • Bokeh. Sometimes worse, sometimes better.
  • More speed (faster shutter).
  • Less grain (lower ISO).
  • Vignetting, particularly on FF (in practice this is less of an issue than a chart might indicate, but it is real nonetheless).
  • Odd lens effects: CA, flare, etc. Love it. It gives the images a "look," which I like (most of the time).

Am I inviting a link to the (now infamous) DxO/LL article with charts demonstrating why fast glass is useless? Yes, but a careful read of the article in question reveals it makes no such claim. Sure, there are diminishing returns, but all of photography is a compromise somewhere. My compromise does not have to be yours.

Shallow DoF is not easy! I find myself contorting, climbing, bending, and reaching to get the focal plane lined up so my subject is as sharp as I can make it. This is work! This is difficult! But that's OK, because I (hopefully) end up with shots nobody else has. Not better shots— different shots.

Many lenses start to show their limitations at their extreme aperture. I embrace these— to me they are features and not flaws. I try to work lens flare into the shot, as well as CA or focal plane curvature. These are exacerbated at the widest apertures. The difference from one lens to the next can be described as "character," and again— it makes the shots different. Not better— different.

So, does my ode ring true to you? Or am I being a ludicrous romantic about fast glass (you won't hurt my feelings if you reply "yes")?

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