A favorite normal lens - and why

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
kcdogger Veteran Member • Posts: 3,371
Re: A favorite normal lens - and why

fferreres wrote:

kcdogger wrote:

Off topic a bit

I think it gives clues as to what why a favorite is so, without which, how do we make any sense of it? If I ask what's your favorite food, it's good to get ideas for food to try. But with a a 50mm lens, yes, can give ideas of 20 more 50mm lens to try. But if you are trying to narrow your next lens to 1 or 2 more, how does the reader discern which one may be a better fit for him or her, and have a chance to make a better choice than randomly?

- Can't say that I really have a favorite yet. I have way to many lenses still - over 150, and have gotten rid of maybe another 250. I want to use them on my digital m4/3 cameras with IBIS, but only the primes - no zooms, as I would have to reset the focal length each time it changed in IBIS.

Yes, I hope someone makes some miraculous device that can let us use IBIS with uncoded lenses.

Nice thing - I recently did a quick and dirty sharpness test with my primes up to 200mm, with the idea of identifying weaker ones to get rid of. Upon looking at 100% in PS Elements, I was pleasantly surprised at the consistency of the lenses. They all produced quite well, and I only found one that was obviously not up to par. I did find a couple with lesser contrast, but overall they were quite good. 46 lenses tested.

I did a lot of tests early on, and one thing I realized is that it's hard to assess sharpness.There are many takes, but I will segment into two that are very broad:

1) One point of view takes as job to make flat space -an imaginary plane- as detailed as possible, to be recorded on a medium.

2) I am more inclined to define the goal much differently, as the perceptual outcome when a reproduction is show to a person, of a scene that happened in 3D space (instead of a plane, imagine a box giving weighted importance in relation to the DOF, exactly how and what happens in this entire region, weighted by distance to a central region, is the goal to maximize). The perceptual aspect makes aberration components very critical, as when we observe the world, our eyes have their own physical characteristics, vary by person, but they are of a somewhat same "model", with a lot of variability. But in general, our visual system will scan and process, and take into account any aberration in our eyes that is useful to produce a mental visual outcome. If we feel happy, it may present to our mind more vividly, and the aberrations will encode information about object depth and other subtle cues, aberrations which will not be evident to our mind at all, just like our optical nerve is completely invisible but it's like having the sensor completely broken in the center region without us even noticing.

Mood and attention, feelings, motivations, our visual system, our eye and retina pros and flaws (which generate information and cues as well, and limitations of visual system),are widely rich. So I now evaluate lenses on a different class. It may have limited resolution, which in practical terms it only means there's less leeway to the magnification or detail it will have, weight a lot less than before. Resolution can easily be enslaving, and severely limiting. Yet, often times, I want the image to look crisp or sharp, where it should be, and to transition elegantly. And if it is less sharp, there's a million reasons why it may be less sharp, some look elegant or pleasing when looking at images, some produce a feeling that is quite underwhelming, insipid or purely uninteresting or unmoving. Some say "clinical look" but that's one aspect, and will vary by lens, but the point to the image being less interesting, less alive and more dead or "inanimated".

But those trained to see photography as defined by (1) above, they have gotten used to photos as abstract 2D replicas, bit by bit, of the original scene. Abstracted and detached from how we'd perceive them. Like a model at scale, the more accurate the mapping, the better. There's nothing wrong with the replica mentality. It's a different goal and expectation from photography I guess. If I were to be a scientist, I'd very much feel compelled to see the photo as information about the objective reality that I am making a copy of. Because in science, we are about accurate measurement, without our human bias (unless a social "science", which has nothing scientific in general) so this prevails. But I like photos for their ability to immerse you, to freeze a moment, and when rewatched, transport you back to that moment, almost as in froze motion, pausing the world and letting you explore it for a moment.

I'd also argue there's a third group:

(3) That photography is art. So the scene is intended to produce an aspect, a perceptual impact, which may be ambiguous, but is more of a creation of the photomaker (which requires the photographer). This one may have images with very low res, very thin DOF, more extensive processing of color, detail, maybe even non local changes (changes that aren't driven by the information in the scene, like for example, leaving only a red roof with color and making all the rest B&W). The scene is more emerging from the creator, than passively coming, and thus it includes sets, and photos that are way more intentional, much like in food photography dishes are usually coated with oil, or done differently, to create an emotion that was not actually part of the object being represented).

I think this mode as third dimension, the dimensions are:

  • Plane vs 3D region
  • Human Perception vs Objective Depiction
  • Creative vs Authentic (or Artificial vs Natural)

Depending on your position or your modes of photography, you will have vast different needs, and this is excluding needed magnification, angle of view, etc. Let's take some example:

Myself: Leaning towards 3D Region, to Human Perception, and leaning on Authentic. Then, you se the kind of images I post or the lenses I favor weight things much differently. I don't need a huge number of lenses, and I am very picky in ways that will not make much sense to others. However, I depart from authentic in the very blurred zones, and the authentic part is mostly within the 3D region, the rest left to the lens imagination. If it's a landscape, then the 3D region of care extends to the entire frame, but I seldom do landscapes.

A food photographer: 3D Region, Human Perception, Creative

A landscape photographer artist: Plane, Objective, Creative.

A father documenting moments in a son's party: this one will vary person to person.

A high end real estate photographer: Plane (transition matters little), Objective (more transactional goal) and Creative (must look wow, will be significantly processed, illumination will have been very important, how to setup or decorate the spaces, etc).

And so...there will be many combinations.

Now this was a simple test with a target in my basement, and different adapters used depending upon the mount of the lens. Tripod and shot with my Olympus EM1 vii, so don't ask me for more stuff about the lenses - just checking for sharpness (and contrast and color). My collection is not of expensive nor exotic lenses And I can't tell you the internal make up of a lens - i.e. X lenses in Y groups, or whatever, and frankly, couldn't care less.

Anyway, the time - for me - was well spent and the lenses all performed well and were consistent across the board. Admittedly, I have only kept lenses with a good reputation on these forums, and lenses with names that I can actually spell and that are relatively cheap, and have already gotten rid of many others, and some good ones too, and all duplicates.

I still have a lot of duplicates. They mostly occur when I see a lens with many problems which I likely can fix, or when like the lens so much, and the one I have is in poor condition overall. Contrary to the case of many, instead of getting another because my copy seemed a little underwhelming for, say, sharpness, it's often the inverse: it seems a little too good, and I am curious if all are the same.



Huh?  I just use my lenses and cameras to take pictures that I sometimes like.  The philosophy is beyond me.  My lenses are pretty much from just OEM and third party Japanese makers. None of that fancy European stuff with the whoopee-do names.



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