"Faster lenses" - Can we bury this term?

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norjens Regular Member • Posts: 106
"Faster lenses" - Can we bury this term?

"Fast" is an adjective used for things that are moving quickly, for things that take less time than usual, generally anything to do with shortening time consumption.

And, in my opinion, misused to describe the relative width to length of some internal lens components.

There was some limited logic to using the adjective "fast" in its origin: ISO-1600 was not a thing back in the film days, and changing from a roll of iso-100 film to one with iso-200 was a process quite a bit less fast than the iso dials of today. So there really wasn't much of an exposure triangle, it was more like a 2D scale, and the way to get a faster shutter speed was to get a lens that could go to a wider aperture/FL ratio.

I say "limited logic", because:

1) It is the shutter that is faster! The lens just prevents the faster shutter speed from underexposing the image.

2) There are other picture taking sub-processes that make use of the adjective "fast": Focusing, the mentioned shutter, movie framerates, recycle time between shots... In general it is best practice to avoid as best as possible the duplicate use of words for different things in the same class.

2) It was, and is, being used for the f-stop, while it is the t-stop that would actually allow a faster shutter speed. So if anything, t-stop should be used exclusively for bright t-stop lenses, but we know that it is not.

So I would say that even from the start it was a bad terminology and misuse of the adjective "fast" that has a definition in the English dictionary that is very different from the way it is used by some photographers. Since then, two additional reasons have come along:

1) Film has been replaced by DSLR (and maybe mirrorless in a few years) as the most popular system to put lenses in front of. These enable quick change of iso and iso values in the thousands, reducing the previously quite direct between lens performance and available shutter speed.

2) Autofocus has become commonplace, introducing another feature of a lens that can and should be described with fast/slow. When asking "which lens is faster?", one can get as answers "the faster focusing one" from one respondent and "the better light gathering one" from another. Experienced photographers (and especially DPreview forum nerds) would usually understand the intention from context, but most people are not.

It is in my opinion time to stop using this outdated and illogical term, and replace it with something that does not needlessly cause confusion among newer ILC photographers, there are few enough young ones as there is. Elitism never helped any community grow in either quality or quantity.

I have started to use the term "brighter" instead, but I would like to hear other suggestions for a good replacement adjective. "Brighter" still falls in the trap of ignoring the difference between f-stop and t-stop, but at least it is a more direct description of the expected result: "When using a brighter lens, you can use a faster shutter speed and capture the same amount of light."

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MOD Labe
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