Lens Testing for beginners?

Started Feb 3, 2013 | Questions thread
sean000 Veteran Member • Posts: 7,297
Re: best to use a tripod and manual settings

A common mistake is to test handheld, because that is how you intend to use the lens. The problem is that unintended movements make handheld testing unreliable. You want to see how good the lens is optically, so use a tripod, use manual exposure (sometimes even manual focus), make sure the shot is level in every way, use the anti-shock delay setting (or timer or cable release if camera doesn't have anti-shock), and turn off stabilization while using the tripod. Your goal is to control all the variables so you can get a measurement of how good the lens can be optically. Do your comparisons with other lenses at the same time under the same settings and conditions.

After you perform controlled tripod tests, then you can move on to handheld tests under less controlled conditions. If you see something that concerns you, go back to tripod testing for that scene so you can figure out where the problem is... It may not be the lens at all. Alternate between tripod and handheld comparing different settings and focal distances so you can figure out whether you are dealing with too slow a shutter speed, one that doesn't seem to deliver consistent sharpness (shutter shock), not enough depth of field, etc.

Actually I try not to worry about it and just enjoy the new lens. I will often take a lot of real world shots before i get around testing. If I am happy with those real world shots then i will just do some basic tests to see where the lens is best. If I notice something odd in the shots, like softness on one side, i will test more thoroughly. Sample variation does exist, but the vast majority of lenses perform as designed. Still, the tests are useful not only to see if your copy is up to spec, but also to get and idea of how good your lenses can be. This gives a sense for what f-stops are best for the lens, what shutter speeds (if any) to avoid, and when you are better off using a tripod.


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