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Film Fridays: Defining the 'perfect' lens

Photo: 35mmc.com

What makes a lens 'perfect?' Is it a lack of distortion and aberrations? Is it measured by sharpness across the frame or the dreaminess of its bokeh balls? Are modern lenses, with all their technical achievements, really better than their film-era counterparts? And can a 'flawed' lens still be considered perfect?

Ultimately all lenses have some sorts of 'characteristics' based on their design. And how much you notice and appreciate these characteristics depends entirely on what you shoot and personal taste. To that regard, there is no perfect lens, or rather there is no universally-perfect lens. But there are perfect lenses for individual photographers, ones that allow you to work within a state of harmony.

35mmc's Hamish Gill dives deep into the subject. Read on...

Read: Defining the 'perfect' lens

About Film Fridays: We recently launched an analog forum and in a continuing effort to promote the fun of the medium, we'll be sharing film-related content on Fridays, including articles from our friends at 35mmc.

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doc steel

The perfect lens is that you own.

1 week ago
rbach44

A little while ago, I started to look at lens review only for entertainment's sake. Modern reviews seem to be quantitative tests that looks for measurable results rather than beautiful images. Most of the modern high sharpness/low aberration/clean bokeh lenses just don't look very nice to me compared to, say, an old AIS lens.

There is a balance between optical perfection and a nice overall rendering. I reject the notion that there is some sort of "neutral" lens that can take any post look and look like another lens. Old Nikon/modern Zeiss lenses need almost no correction and look great, while the Sigma Art lenses still look lifeless and clinical even with a good deal of film "looks" added.

I've given up the search for optical perfection. Some recent purchases of AIS lenses has made me happy giving up a bit of corner sharpness (an only a bit) for some real optical character. The search for optical perfection has grown rather boring.

2 weeks ago
sirhawkeye64

There is no such thing as a "perfect" lens (or a "perfect camera" for that matter). The key is finding one that fits your budget and provides you the results you want/need. I mean I think almost everyone will agree certain aspects are quite important, like sharpness.

2 weeks ago
skanter
skanter

All lenses are compromises, and “perfect” is totally subjective based on what characteristics are appropriate for the individual photographer - size, weight, sharpness, focal length, price, speed, et.etc.etc all are considered. One man’s “perfect” is another man’s “useless”.

2 weeks ago
light_bulb

Too many words for something that is individual in terms of taste and purpose.
The reality is that higher resolving sensors require better lenses. The whole 'clinical' nonsense might also have been applied to medium format but I have never heard about it. BTW some medium format lenses perform very well on current sensors, while small format film lenses often don't. The ultimate purpose of higher resolving sensors is not to dig deeper into lens aberrations.
Horses for courses:
While on travel I prefer lenses that can do it all like the Sigma 50 A because I usually don't hire a sherpa. For special wide open macro I am using an adapted Pentax 645 FA 120/4 .
Generally, it is useless to try to convince everybody to use your own favorite lenses. Useless also in terms of the variety that would no longer be created.

2 weeks ago
Savviest

My criteria/definition of a perfect lens is as follows:

* Outstanding image quality.
* Little CA and minor vignetting.
* Beautiful bokeh and colors.
* Flexibility to be used in multiple genres (e.g., able to close focus for semi-macro).
* Tough yet elegant build quality that makes it a heirloom lens.
* Just feels good and is a joy to use.

With all of the above in mind, the lenses that come closest to being perfect are some of my Voigtlander and vintage Leica lenses. They may not have autofocus or all the bells and whistles, but they are lenses I will have for decades after I have sold my electronic, plasticy auto focus lenses.

3 weeks ago
mahonj

What about cheaper lenses, like the Canon and Nikon 50mm F1.8's and their Zukio and Takumar (And Rokkor and Fuji) equivalents.
Not everyone can fork out for Leica and Zeiss lenses, even if they are exquisite.
There is not much wrong with an Olympus 50mm F1.4

3 weeks ago*
Copal Fit
Copal Fit

One of my most favorite vintage lenses is the mentioned Leitz 50/1.5 Summarit lens which I have in LTM mount. Wide open its bokeh is gorgeous, and it is the only Leica lens I own where I actually see the famous "Leica glow". Wide open it is not worse in sharpness than my much newer Canon 50/1.2 EF DSLR lens and still very feasible to use. No other lens provides the same glow and bokeh balls as the 50/1.5 Summarit. I bought the lens before it was hyped all over in the internet and when it was not well known keeping its price quite low for a Leica f/1.5 lens. In just 6 months, the price has now nearly doubled.

3 weeks ago
Michiel953
Michiel953

Bokeh balls? 😂😂😂

3 weeks ago
goodytwoshoes
goodytwoshoes

get any lens designed by Walter Mandler - it will be perfect.

3 weeks ago
mahonj

Hi Goody,
Nice to see a lens designer being remembered.
Mostly it's photographers.
Good wikipedia article on him.

3 weeks ago*
goodytwoshoes
goodytwoshoes

Haas once said: He likes Leica lenses, because they are very sharp but not harsh. I tested so many lenses in my life but the latest trend in optical design puzzles me - the trend seems to go towards sterile and dry. At least the last two lenses I bought for Sony are prime examples of this. Fuji is doing the same thing with their X100V - it's a shame.

3 weeks ago
Robert Schroeder
Robert Schroeder

While I am sympathetic to the approach of choosing an imperfect lens to produce more interesting images, I suspect the real challenge may be to create interesting images, images with character, using a technically near-perfect lens. A lens that doesn't add its own 'character' to a scene.

3 weeks ago
rbach44

At least in my eyes, the "technically perfect" lenses rob something that I can't describe. There are balances out there, the AIS Nikkors seem to be a good balance between technical performance while still retaining some of that old school character and rendering.

I agree that some "classic" lenses seem to go a bit too far into special effect territory, but the new techno marvel lenses feel flat and lifeless to me.

2 weeks ago
Robert Schroeder
Robert Schroeder

Like my earlier post probably already showed, I'm a bit divided there. It very much depends on what I shoot, and sometimes I'm in for some 'character', at other times I just want the subject as 'true to nature' as possible, with nothing added or taken away by an 'imperfect' lens.

That said, I continue to be astounded by how free of faults my 40+ years old Minolta lenses are when just slightly stopped down, some already wide open. No significant differences between them and good modern lenses, except in special situations with difficult out-of-focus areas or backlight, and shooting at the largest apertures...

1 week ago*
art99

My perfect lens was on the Minolta HiMatic 7s and that's what got me hooked after getting my Kodachrome 25 slides back in the mail and put in the Kodak Caroussel. That experience always put a smile on my face.

3 weeks ago
Copal Fit
Copal Fit

Just two days ago I fixed the shutter of a nearly mint looking Hi-Matic 7 camera which I got on a flee market for $15. No scratch on the lens, not even on the UV filter on top (which looked very dirty when I got the camera but simple cleaning brushed it all off looking mint underneath). I shot one test film with it so far, and I like the results with the 45/1.8 lens especially wide open.

3 weeks ago
Pixel8888

certainly contax G and mamiya 7 II rangefinder lenses. The Contax G45 Zeiss Planar 45/2.0 is still my favorite on Fuji XT x.

3 weeks ago
chev3100

Let' see what needs to be deleted from marketable lenses to make them function properly...

Prime only
No in lens AF. AF drive belongs into body.
No in lens anti shake
No firmware crap
No doublestick tape
Full metal construction
Sealed and waterproof prime.
Proper seating of individual lenses with set screws.
Metal lensring
Clickless aperture ring
Waterhouse focus wheel.
Big glass diameter
Some Petzvals, Samyang and Nikon lenses do it and are dual pic and vid use for me.
Gopro from 6 on does it.
High sharpness. Styling happens in post.

Now that I deleted most of the expensive c..pshow. Put the production cost to bigger diameter glass of better quality and better construction.

3 weeks ago*
DFPanno
DFPanno

Slow news day....

3 weeks ago
cdembrey
cdembrey

The one thing I do want is close focus—a 1/2 life-size macro lenses should be perfect. The two things I don't want is *clinical sharpness.* and *bokeh*, especially *swirly bokeh.*

The photographer should always be in control. Therefore any lens can be made to fulfill your vision. F/8 cures unsightly bokeh, a bit of silk stocking over the rear element will smooth-out over-sharpness, ...

3 weeks ago
zakk9

There are many excellent "half size" macros that also offer great sharpness and beautiful bokeh. A few examples:

- OM Zuiko 50 and 90 mm f/2 Macro
- Zeiss ZF/ZE 50 and 100 mm f/2 Macro
- Panasonic Leica 45 mm f/2.8 Macro

I have the OM Zuiko 50 mm and PL 45 mm, and they are indeed exceptional lenses.

3 weeks ago
Michiel953
Michiel953

“Bokeh” is easily the most misleading term in photography. Choice of lighting, background, focal length and aperture determine the “out of focus” quality of an image. And the lens in question obviously 😄.

3 weeks ago*
obsolescence
obsolescence

@zakk9 - Thanks for your recommendations. The PL 45mm has gotten some lukewarm reviews and mediocre test results, so it's interesting to hear your positive experience with it.

3 weeks ago
probert500

Om Zuiko f3.5 50mm macro is very very good. I use it professionally with no qualms.

3 weeks ago
zakk9

@obsolescence - Optically, the PL 45mm is excellent with typical Leica characteristics. What it can be criticised for is:
- Slow AF
- Focus by wire
- Focus returns to infinity when I turn off the camera
- Lens hood too shallow (the same as for the 25mm I believe)
- Price, but it's easy to find second hand

It's in my view a better portrait lens than a macro lens (except for the slow AF), and I prefer it for that purpose rather than the very sharp and contrasty Zuiko 45mm f/1.8. The PL is sharp enough, but colours and contrast are a bit subdued. It looks less "digital".

3 weeks ago
cdembrey
cdembrey

@zakk9 said: " also offer great sharpness and beautiful bokeh."

The two things I DO NOT WANT are *great sharpness* and *beautiful bokeh.*

For crop-cameras a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 1:2 Macro (9"), EF 50mm f/1.8 III (1.1" 0.35m), EF 50mm f/1.8 II (1.5') all focus close, while the EF 85mm f/1.8 (2.8') needs a Canon 500D Close-up Focus Lens (+2 diopter). For Full Frame an EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM ( 4.92') can also use the 500D Close-up Focus Lens (+2 diopter).

A Tiffin Double Fog, a Black or White Pro-mist will kill clinical sharpness. As will black or white silk stockings stretched over the front or back (preferred) of a lens.

For me, f/3.5 is as wide-open as I shoot. f/8 or f/11 is typical.

3 weeks ago
zakk9

@cdembrey Let me modify my claim a bit:
The OM Zuikos and the PL offer sufficient sharpness. The Zeiss lenses are, like most modern Zeiss lenses, extremely sharp with strong colour and contrast.

Because lenses are so different, I often carry at least two lenses at around the same focal length.

3 weeks ago
ecka84
ecka84

@cdembrey
A phone camera must be perfect for you.

3 weeks ago
cdembrey
cdembrey

@zakk9, I only use Canon EOS Digital or Film SLRs for stills. Therefore I use mostly NON-L Canon lenses. My favorite is the older non-L TS-E 90mm f/2.8 Tilt & Shift (FF), the EF 84mm f/1.8 (FF & Crop) and the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM (Crop). I only use 50mm lenses on Full Frame Film cameras.

For Motion Picture use I prefer Cooke Primes and Zooms https://www.cookeoptics.com/#

I know what myself and my clients like, therefore one lens is enough for MY style of shooting.

3 weeks ago
cdembrey
cdembrey

@ecka84, An iPhone is a lot like a rangefinder camera. For short or normal-ish lenses they look good on Retina screens, the printed page and 16x20 LightJet photo paper prints. Yes it's good enough for paid work. YMMD.

Three shots from lock-down, made hand-held with available light.

https://bit.ly/2AScRku

https://bit.ly/312KEC9

https://bit.ly/2Z2LbRK

3 weeks ago
ecka84
ecka84

@cdembrey
"Three shots ..." - Kind of useless really. Too small, too messy. For my taste.
"they look good on Retina screens ..." - The thing is .. Retina screens are no good. It's a pure marketing BS. I mean, the pixels are too small to see, so the details are too small to see too. And I want to see all the fine detail. Size matters. Try a nice 40"(ish) UHD screen instead. In comparison, iPhone pictures, MFT pictures, APS-C pictures on Retina screens are all a waste of time and money for serious photography.
"it's good enough for paid work" - Yes, it can be enough for selling snapshots, photoshopping magazine pages or covers, Instagram and other cheapography. Nothing else really. While the real cameras are meant for enjoying (at least) a meter wide pictures in ultra high-def (A1/A0/+).

2 weeks ago
Martian Keyboard

" A lens that maintains focus while zooming"

A "parfocal" type lens is found on cine cams but not so popular on DSLRs
where video has become a great feature. I would think parfocal would be
so handy. It would make the lens more perfect.

They're used on television and cine cams so why not DSLR too.

Without a parfocal lens, I don't
think DSLR auto focus works quite right while zooming , - not sure.

I wonder how useful a parfocal lens would be to a regular photographer.

Thanks DPReview.

3 weeks ago
cdembrey
cdembrey

@Martian Keyboard More expensive, with no real benefits for stills.

3 weeks ago
Robert Schroeder
Robert Schroeder

I could think of at least one reason. With long telephoto lenses, aiming at a subject can sometimes be made easier by starting with a shorter focal length and then zooming in. Even if you'll refocus anyway just by pressing the shutter button for the shot, that technique doesn't too work well when the subject gets totally out of focus through zooming.

3 weeks ago
probert500

Start the other way - long to wide, and you should be in focus all the time.

3 weeks ago
David610

The perfect lens needs to be with you (preferably on the camera) when you happen on the perfect image. The 'perfect' Bigma lens you left behind because it was too big or heavy for the day, is no use in this situation.

3 weeks ago
Rod McD

I agree largely with what Hamish Gill has to say, but not completely.... The argument runs that imperfections may deliver some of the character we seek and that the choice for the intended image is what counts. And that's right - the camera is a just a tool for the purpose of image-making. OTOH. there are imperfections no-one has ever found a positive use for..... PF & CAs are my pet hate. I understand, though I'm not one of them, that some people obsess over bokeh, but I've yet to meet anyone who thinks PF & CAs have any merit at all. Not too keen on flare either. I look for designs that don't give me either.

3 weeks ago
obsolescence
obsolescence

I agree (re: digital capture). Many lens reviews state that PF and CA are "easy to correct with software," but there are varying degrees of effectiveness with different Raw processors, it takes extra time to get it right, and I find that those corrections may get applied unevenly or may cause denigration of color more broadly. For example, a photo of a building against a blue sky that has purple fringing, after correction may have a gray line where the purple had been -- better but still not satisfactory.

Rectilinear distortion correction is another controversial subject. Modern lenses are often designed to use software correction to reduce size and complexity. While this is quite effective, it can degrade edge sharpness and reduce the effective angle of view.

Highly corrected lenses are much larger and heavier, so unless one is a glutton for punishment, it's really a balancing act.

3 weeks ago
probert500

Once you get a lens "signature' it's on all your photos. I prefer neutral.

3 weeks ago
snapa
snapa

I'm glad DPR only has a "Film Friday" article only once a week, thank you. I wonder if there are any stats on how many people shoot primarily film vs digital cameras today. It would be interesting to know how many people (percentage wise) still shoot film cameras. I would assume it would be less than ~1% of people today.

3 weeks ago
cdembrey
cdembrey

1%? maybe in Kansas. Check-out https://tokyo camera style (.) com/ In Japan film seems to be a BFD.

3 weeks ago
snapa
snapa

If you include people who take pictures using their cell phone cameras, the number is probably closer to .001%, or less. ;)

3 weeks ago
j102030

Less than 1% of people today? If we round the global population up to 8 billion that would be 80 million. That's still quite a lot.

3 weeks ago
photographytragic

But a lot of people adapt one or two film-era lenses to modern mirrorless digital.
It's interesting to see if your old favourites stand up to the test (technical or otherwise)
Even some that had that beautiful character you liked might lose it (due to reflectivity of the sensor etc) and vice-versa.
My expectations were wrong (both ways) for about 80% of the lenses from my "chromies" camera collection!
The biggest shock was how many were good wide-open (I never used them that way back in the day)

3 weeks ago
focal yokel

Having purchased 2 Pentax cameras within the past 10 years, based on their incredible cost/benefit ratio (not my primary system — I’ve got all kinds of 35mm film and digital equipment), I keep finding myself looking for and at older Pentax mount lenses (pentax hasn't changed their basic mount since the 1960s (variations, yes — but they are all K mount). The oldest lenses will mount and work on a modern body.

I recently bought a Lester Dine (I believe only available in K mount), 105/2.8 macro lens. 1970s? . It was developed for dentists. The kit comes with lens, ring flash, and other accessories, in a case.

Un. B. Lievable. I have an old, manual, 55mm Micro Nikkor that I always thought of as “the best” macro I had ever used, but the Dine blows it away. Completely. I’m going to have to dedicate entire days of shooting to get good with this thing (macro = different headspace/setup).

The whole kit: $80.00 on craigslist.

Gotta’ go. I suddenly have plans for tomorrow.

3 weeks ago
Eric Hensel
Eric Hensel

That lens was made by Kiron -and came in other mounts. I've read it is the same as the equivalent Vivitar Series-1 lens, as well.

3 weeks ago
aidaho

There are good lenses, and there are those I love. Sometimes these sets intersect.

3 weeks ago*
shleed

Good article - the "perfect lens" is always one that suits what you the best. It's not always the technically "best" lens.

3 weeks ago*
n3eg
n3eg

The perfect lens is the one that sells for $80 on eBay that you just found in perfect condition at a Goodwill store for under $7.

3 weeks ago
Becksvart

The perfect lens is a unicorn, so. (Throughout the years I've seen lenses in good conditions at local auctions or "yard sales" and the like, and people know what they are worth. Much more often I've seen lenses in rather-less-than-good-condition that I've had no interest in trying to restore)

Ebay > unicorn

3 weeks ago*
AbrasiveReducer

I know of two perfect lens types. One is a a very wide lens that performs exactly the same in all 4 corners. The corners needn't be great, but they need to be equal, so you know the lens is as good as it can be.

The other is a lens you got rid of, only to discover the new improved version is inferior.

3 weeks ago
Parry Johnson
Parry Johnson

I agree that there's no one perfect lens. However, depending on the subject, financial outlay, weather, physical constraints, etc., there is a BEST choice.

When I was a kid, all I could afford was a Praktica LTL3 stop-down metered 35mm with a 50mm f1.8 lens. Was that combination "perfect" by any standard? No, but it was perfect for me at that time. Instead of spending all my extra money on lenses or other "perfect" accessories, I bought film, chemistry and a cheap enlarger. Again, "perfect"? No.

Photographers, as artists, should always strive for perfection, and they have to use whatever tools are available. Sometimes we just put too much emphasis on possessing and admiring the mechanics rather than creating, or attempting to create the best we can achieve.

3 weeks ago
Parry Johnson
Parry Johnson

While I'm on this bit of a rant, I have to point out that there's a difference between "good" and "good enough", and it is related to "perfect", as perfect is the alternative form of good, and as the author of the article wrote, what is "good" or "perfect" is subjective.

The problem lies with those who just want "good enough". They're the superzoom, phone camera, point-and-shoot, Instamatic users of the photography world. They want quick results and short-term gain, and they aren't artists.

Leonardo da Vinci probably never said, "Darn, that hair looks awful on Mona's left side -- now if I only used that other rare, vintage brush with bigger bristles!" No, he used the paints and brushes he had available, and technically they might not have been that good compared to what else was available. Did he lose sleep over it? Did he write articles or send letters to all his friends lauding the benefits of a new brush he found?

3 weeks ago
Parry Johnson
Parry Johnson

I know this is all tongue in cheek, but just take a moment and ask yourself why you're creating -- then take out a lens you haven't used in awhile and rediscover why you kept it in the first place.

And, for the record, I'm using my Tamron Adaptall 200mm f3.5 today -- another imperfect lens.

3 weeks ago*
focal yokel

da Vinci might have. When he asked his apprentice for a certain brush, and he then smacked them in the head and said, “No! Not that one . . . THAT one.” The apprentice might have thought to find out why.

Plus, Everybody knows that Edvard the Stinky, down on the riverside, is the best brush maker in town . . .

3 weeks ago
Michiel953
Michiel953

Actually, the Nikkor 50/1.2 AiS is the most perfect imperfect lens I’ve ever used for (b&w) film photography.

For digital the Nikkor 58/1.4G takes that award.

3 weeks ago
n3eg
n3eg

I have a perfect Nikkor 50mm 1.8D - it outperforms the 1.8G, and it's cheaper.

3 weeks ago
fPrime
fPrime

I’ve got both the 50/1.2 AI-S and 50/1.8D. The D is used for moving subjects and the AI-S for stills. They’re both great lenses!

3 weeks ago
citizenlouie

To me, the perfect lens is the one that's technical perfect. The perfect lens isn't necessary the best lens for a given situation or a person. A perfect macro lens needs to be more perfect toward smaller aperture range (as with landscape), and it's just the exact opposite for a portrait lens. Even defining technical perfection is very different depends on the genre you're usually shooting. Bokeh quality requirement is not the same for portrait and landscape photography. Some like bubbly bokeh. As a landscape photographer, I want my bokeh balls perfectly round, even at the edge, not swirly or cat eye bokeh! I enjoy the portrait posted on that website, but I'd never buy that lens. It's just not sharp enough for landscape and bokeh is quite complex and busy. As a portrait lens, it's very dreamy and beautiful. Even people shooting the same genre might have different approach. Beside 50mm, I use short telephoto, but some people like ultra wide. I like compression, some don't.

3 weeks ago
Class A
Class A

Too bad the article does not include the the Pentax SMC-FA 43mm or the Pentax SMC-FA 77mm Limited. There is a white paper about the latter describing how benchmark performance was sacrificed in order to achieve pleasing rendering.

The former is two lenses in one: Funky rendering near wide open, ultra-sharp stopped down. This lens was even available in the Leica L39 mount.

3 weeks ago*
HamishGill
HamishGill

Funnily enough, I’ve just bought both of those lenses

3 weeks ago
focal yokel

I’ve got the 77, and it is a great lens.

3 weeks ago
offertonhatter

Make that another +1 for the 77mm. I love mine because of the rendering, not for the perfect performance. It is a great portrait lens.

3 weeks ago
digilux

the 43mm for Mamiya 7II is f*cking close to perfection

3 weeks ago
tamerdem
tamerdem

75mm aposummicron is technically flawless lens with very clinic outputs. But I like characteristic 50mm summilux asph more.

3 weeks ago*
Michiel953
Michiel953

Has anyone mentioned “sharp equals perfect” yet?

No?

Sharp equals perfect.

3 weeks ago
focal yokel

There’s also contrast, bokeh, and that “certain something” . . . (that results in series of notably better shots when reading cards that have a lot of different lenses being used).

3 weeks ago
Michiel953
Michiel953

Yokel: Je ne sais what you’re talking about...

3 weeks ago
themountainphotographer

As it is all subjective, my Zeiss 50mm f/2 Planar on my Leica M is an amazing lens. Very sharp even right to the edges at f/2, nice 3D pop, colour and bokeh. Amazing! For me, perfect.

3 weeks ago
mferencz

As somebody said, the modern Voightlander lenses provide this old style quality and slightly different IQ. Not cheap but not Leica expensive. They have a great niche product.

3 weeks ago
otto k

It's the one that makes you smile when you use it :)

3 weeks ago
Clickalot

I'll take the Summar, please.

Last one I had was so beset with "clng mks" that I swapped the front element for one from a Petri 50mm f1.9. Nestled perfectly onto the mount ridge and tightened up with the retainer ring as if it were designed to.

Shot real sweet afterwards, maintaining its dreamy smoothness and uncanny shadow penetration.

3 weeks ago*
PLShutterbug

“ clng mks”?

3 weeks ago
Clickalot

Now there's some irony to take us into the weekend...
Someone with the handle PLShutterbug doesn't recognize the old print mag Shutterbug's abbreviation for "cleaning marks".

Believe me, if you had pored over their lens ads every issue it would have instantly clicked.

3 weeks ago
PLShutterbug

I was too busy out taking pictures to pore over lens ads.

3 weeks ago
jnd

From reading DPR comments for couple years I would say the perfect lens must be something one doesn't have yet, it's smaller and lighter than what manufacturers produce, cheaper than shops sell. Perfect lens is the one which resolves ever so slightly more detail without unwanted aberrations. Everyone wants to have one but can't for their life get it and will always think it's the one they want to buy next.

3 weeks ago
Tom_A

I still occasionally shoot with my rolleiflex. I love its Schneider Xenotar lens, esp back when I still did black and white Darkroom work, it was always magical when the picture appeared in absolutely splendid quality. And it had a perfect view angle for general use.
My other perfect lens (among far too many) was my experience when I bought some 7 years ago a just released fuji xe1 in kit with 35mm f1.4. Mechanically it is not the quickest focusing lens but its rendering and sharpness amazed me. I had a Nikon d200 and I much preferred the fuji output (which is also because of tye camera). I still use the lens often on my xt2, I know I will like the output.

3 weeks ago*
Geekapoo
Geekapoo

I think about it less as what is the perfect lens (as it's so subjective IMO) but instead what is my favorite source of great lenses. I gravitated to Fuji lenses a couple of years ago and feel that a large percentage of the lenses this company makes are very special.

3 weeks ago
aris14
aris14

Perfect lens is the lens you have and with which you made an image that made you and the people who saw it or use it happy.

3 weeks ago
darlot

I have most of highly regarded lenses across Leica , Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad, Rolleiflex etc. Each has different characteristics, I agreed in the article about Leica 50 summarit f1.5, it is my Leica fav lens.

However, there is only one lens and one camera that i think about it so often with lot of memories, it was a Canon FD 50mm f1.2 S.S.C and Canon A1. When I went to high school, my dad who didn't know anything about photography, took me to the camera store and asked for a camera for me, a sale man instead of selling him a cheap camera , he sold him those combo, and back in the day, it was super expensive. he didn't make lot of money but he bought it for me. I used those combo one lens/one camera until I graduated college. Great combo ! When I migrated to the US with one suit case with a dictionary and few pairs of clothes, camera was something that you didn't think you ever need, I gave it to a friend. It was the first and only lens and camera that I wish i still have it.

3 weeks ago*
Mortal Lion
Mortal Lion

There is no such thing as a perfect lens and any lens can the the perfect lens. Stop thinking about the lens and start thinking about the image.

3 weeks ago
Eric00

I would put it somewhat differently, but do agree with you in general. Yes, think and execute the image, and the lens that allows you to create your image vision, will be the perfect lens for your artistic creation. Wide, macro, long, whatever. Labels, brands, and size doesn't matter, if your image results in what you wanted to capture.

3 weeks ago*
themountainphotographer

As Mr. Adams once said “the most important part of the camera is the 12inches behind it”.

And that, Mr. Adams is where it all goes wrong for me.

3 weeks ago
n3eg
n3eg

That's why I only use my LCD - I can be more than 12 inches away, so I never screw it up.

3 weeks ago
Becksvart

Lion: Which is kind of the point of the article

3 weeks ago
thinkinginimages
thinkinginimages

I've come across a few lenses that, I guess, I'd consider "perfect", but it's so conditional. I've handled cameras from large format to 35mm to digital, but I'll stick to film. It's more than the glass and numbers, but the handling and feel of the lens on the camera body, too. It's a bit of a human/mechanical partnership.

I put Leica's lenses on top. It's hard to say why, maybe it's the clarity. I do like the feel of them. Hasselblad lenses created lovely images, but I found them a little stiff. Mamiya was the sweet spot in medium format. Sweet images, sweet handling and feel.

Since I was an Olympus owner, I did like their lenses. Small, light, quick to use, nice images. But I have to give Sigma a big thumbs up, too.

It was so much harder to make a great lens on film days. There was no computer/software to process out the "flaws".

3 weeks ago
Tibor1

For me, some of the Voightlander lenses are as close to perfection as possible. Sharpness, extremely high microcontrast, lack of CA haze under all conditions, unbelievable color rendering, pleasant bokeh and.... craftsmanship. A joy to use. And they can be fully AF with a special motorised adapter created for Sony e-mount!

Then the pentax FA limited series - not perfect in terms of CA but otherwise capable to "upgrade" your photos by one class at least just because of mivrocontrast + color rendering. And then the appearance and mechanics.... a pure joy to hold and use. The main reason I still use Pentax cameras.

Regards,.

Tibor

3 weeks ago*
probert500

OTH - film handles angled light better than sensors, and also coatings have become more critical. Also - because of flatness of sensors and pixel peeping, aberations become all the more visible so standards have risen. Another thing is that APS and smaller sensors require ever sharper lenses than FF and higher.

Are lenses better now - many are bigger(thanks bokeh people - not) - some are excellent - not sure on the whole. The fact that anyone makes a less than perfect nifty fifty makes me wonder.

Tough racket.

3 weeks ago*
entoman
entoman

"what makes a lens perfect?"

That's easy. Does the lens produce the type of result you want from it? If it does, and it's affordable, then it's perfect.

Sometimes "flaws" are desirable for effect.

3 weeks ago
Mariano Pacifico

My perfect lens is 35mm when I drive by shooting indescriminately. 28 when walking. 16 for architecture. Along came addiction to pixel photography akin to breaking down pictures at microscopic picture element level. Tired of it. Now I shoot using smartphone for instant gratification

3 weeks ago
Crypt Keeper
Crypt Keeper

"what makes a lens perfect?" Technically, the one that makes your ventral tegmental area release more dopamine per second into your nucleus accumbens.
In other words, the one that make you happier.

3 weeks ago
354essar

Either of the two 23mm f/2 lenses from the X100 series would be my perfect lens (prefer the older one). Or the Leica 28mm Summaron in M mount. Or the Minolta G-rokkor 28mm.

3 weeks ago
entoman
entoman

I've got 2 perfect lenses - my 100mm Canon macro and my 16-35mm Canon. I've got 3 imperfect lenses - my 100-400mm and 300mm F2.8 Canons which are too big and heavy for comfortable use, and my 180mm Canon which lacks stabilisation. I've also got a very "average" lens that I'd happily exchange for something better - my 24-105mm Canon.

3 weeks ago
Becksvart

Optically my favorite lens is the Canon EF 35/2 IS USM because I like the 35mm focal length (on ff) and it can focus rather close and has just the kind of bokeh I love. It's also sharp in the center wide open. It produces the results I want, but not how I want them to be produced..for one it doesn't AF silently and adapted to my A7rii it doesn't AF well when the light levels drop. It's rather cheap and I can feel that dopamine looking at mfd shots I've taken with it.

I would also say the Voigtländer 35 2,5 with a close focus adapter except that those corners do not get sharp no matter the f-stop. It looks elite, handles well and does sunstars.

3 weeks ago*