Comparison of: Zeiss Otus, Sigma 50 Art, Nikkor 58G, Nikkor 50/1.4G, Nikkor 50/1.8G

Started Aug 10, 2014 | Discussions thread
Johan1967 Regular Member • Posts: 383
Re: Couple questions - nice effort, but the testing may mislead some as it stands

anotherMike wrote:

Regarding your thoughts on the whole "seen" versus "measured" thing, I remember a discussion a high end (subjective) audio reviewer had with the designer of a very expensive / top tier / super high end pair of speakers (might have even been the anat reference but I can't remember) and he said if he hears something but it doesn't correlate with the measurements, he doesn't dismiss it (as I think you have done here), he looks to improve his measurements, or perhaps better defined, improve the scope of his measurements.

The thing is - there is yet no absolutely completely correct and complete objective test that will tell us the be all and end all of lenses. Subjective rendering does come into play. I'm trained in the technical side of photography (bachelors of science) and am generally one who would love for there to be a completely objective answer, yet in everything I've done over the years, I've found there isn't one. There are things I can see subjectively that to my knowledge nobody has made a test for. And the older I get, the more I tend to question as opposed to pronounce absolutes when it comes to lenses, even though by nature I'm a hard-headed, very opinionated, stubborn type. I think being open to the "why" and trying to find a test around that is a good thing.

In the case of lenses, one has to shoot at varying distances, and also keep in mind that test charts and scenes aren't the same. I'll go to say that lately, shooting on the D800E, while there certainly are a class of lenses that are better than the others by virtue of their usually tested attributes, the differences in them are often vastly more about which lens was tuned by the designer to a task versus another task. Again, I'm not knocking you because you don't like the 58 - it's (greatly) overpriced from where I sit as well, but I don't think you fully grasp that designers at times tune lenses to task and they may not measure as well. Sato is a pretty good designer - yes, I think his last few efforts don't really work quite as well as I personally would have hoped on the D800E as older bodies, but he heavily involved in the 14-24 and we know how good that lens is. I'm pretty sure if he had wanted to, he could have decided to make his 58 a sharpness monster, but he had other ideas and goals and he didn't. We can argue whether the lens is worth it or not, but I'd say obviously there are people who are using it in real life getting good results. Perhaps if you ended up testing in a different scenario (distance) you might find it does better.

The multiple type of test scenes is a pain in the rear for sure. I don't test for a website or for anyone but myself, but over the years I've learned I won't have a good idea of a lens until I've done 3-5 different test scenes across three distance ranges and then have repeated the test a couple of times on different scenes (and different days) to make sure I root out test error, and then on top of that, I need to shoot with the lens for a while in real life. It's a stupid amount of work and I completely understand why very few people bother with it - far easier to mount a test chart and load imatest and have a go at it. But ultimately I think if you were to keep an open mind to what the 58 might be designed to do, you might gain some understanding of the differences in a designers objectives and perhaps come up with a test you could add to your efforts so far that could illuminate that. Reading your responses, I get the feeling you've closed off your mind a bit to it, but again, I don't know that for sure. I say this because you've got a nice presentation and I really like the path you're taking - yet I think it's important to be able almost be your own critic and ask yourself "okay, if this lens fared so poorly here yet people like it, what can I test that shows me what people like" before dismissing it. Not saying it ain't a lot of work at all though.


Edit and addendum: I have learned the hard way regarding those last sentences about openly questioning what you see when testing. Years ago I got into fierce, ugly, seriously unprofessional battles with the Zeiss crowd. Just go ask Johan I just didn't see the point of the brand. Over the years though, I started questioning myself with the "okay, I'm not seeing it, but these guys are passionate about it and not all of them can be idiots, so what am I missing?", and when I got the d800E, I went out and did a re-evaluation, with open eyes and open mind this time. Perhaps the 800E and it's ability to be a reviewer of sorts did it, or perhaps it was my growth as a lens tester, I don't know, but after closing down my preconceptions and looking and thinking, I started to see what made some (but not all) of the Zeiss lenses special, and while I don't plan to own every focal length they make, I think I now understand why there were so many fans, and admit I was wrong to dismiss them years ago.

Very well spoken!! Yes, I remember we had our battles a few years back.  And it shows great character from you to to be able to start again with an open view. I hope I will be able to do that as well, because not everything is so black and white as is presented in heavy discussions. But it is not easy to leave the old positions. 

As for the 58 from Nikon I think it is a lens with which Nikon is rowing against the stream. Instead of building a lens with high sharpness (what Nikon can do), they decided to do something else in the form of a great bokeh-lens. I am sure that people who can use it properly will get fantastic results with it. In every test it will probably get the lowest rankings which is bad for marketing this lens, but in real world it is another story. IMO it takes quite some guts from Nikon to do this in this difficult time.

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