Official definition of reach

Started Jan 23, 2011 | Discussions
Peter Shute Regular Member • Posts: 204
Official definition of reach

Can anyone tell me if there is an official definition of the word "reach" as used in photography? Searching and asking around, I've found several variations of use, but no actual definitions. Usage seems to include:

  • focal length

  • magnification on the sensor

  • usable magnification when printed

These all make sense, but aren't the same.

People who maintain dictionaries tend to keep track of usages like these, so I'm surprised it isn't in one of them. It makes me think it's a relatively new usage. Can anyone tell me how long it's been used in photography?

Please note: feel free to list more possible definitions, but what I'm after here is a reference to an official definition, not an argument about what it means, or whether SLRs are better than compact cameras.

Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: Official definition of reach

Peter Shute wrote:
snip

Please note: feel free to list more possible definitions, but what I'm after here is a reference to an official definition, not an argument about what it means, or whether SLRs are better than compact cameras.

"Reach" is a colloquial term for the ability of a lens to "pull in" detail from a distance. It doesn't have an official photographic definition.
--
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Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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René Schuster Forum Pro • Posts: 14,180
Re: Official definition of reach

Peter Shute wrote:

Can anyone tell me if there is an official definition of the word "reach" as used in photography? Searching and asking around, I've found several variations of use, but no actual definitions. Usage seems to include:

  • focal length

  • magnification on the sensor

  • usable magnification when printed

These all make sense, but aren't the same.

People who maintain dictionaries tend to keep track of usages like these, so I'm surprised it isn't in one of them. It makes me think it's a relatively new usage. Can anyone tell me how long it's been used in photography?

Please note: feel free to list more possible definitions, but what I'm after here is a reference to an official definition, not an argument about what it means, or whether SLRs are better than compact cameras.

I don´t think there is something like an "official" definition of "reach".

So I think all we can do is try to describe how "reach" is usually used in photography.

I´d say when people talk about reach they usually talk about focal length.

I have "sufficient reach" if my effective focal length allows me to take a picture of a distant subject and it will show as big in the picture as I want it to, so I don´t have to move any closer to my subject with that given lens.

With the word "effective" I try to include variables like sensor size, crop factor, etc.

And I said "as I want it to", because what is "sufficient" reach for person A is not necessarily also sufficient for person B. B might want his subject to fill the entire frame, while person A might be happy if his subject shows at all in the picture, no matter how tiny it might look.

I think we can also say the use of the word reach is limited to tele lenses; for wide something like field of view probably makes more sense.

René

OP Peter Shute Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: Official definition of reach

Barrie Davis wrote:

"Reach" is a colloquial term for the ability of a lens to "pull in" detail from a distance. It doesn't have an official photographic definition.

Thanks for replying. Would you agree that it's odd that the term is in wide use, but not defined? Maybe it just doesn't matter. I suppose it's mostly used when people discuss getting a new lens for an existing camera - in that case it's just about focal length.

And I'm still looking for some opinions about how old this usage is.

mikeval Senior Member • Posts: 1,205
Re: Official definition of reach

Peter Shute wrote:

Would you agree that it's odd that the term is in wide use, but not defined?

Try using an English dictionary. For its history, use an etymological dictionary.

KCampbell Senior Member • Posts: 2,048
You mean from the Photographic Definitions Institute?

ISO defines many things but not the meaning for words like "reach" in the context of photography. There is no "official" definition of this or many other terms.

Kevin

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Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Re: Official definition of reach

Peter Shute wrote:

Barrie Davis wrote:

"Reach" is a colloquial term for the ability of a lens to "pull in" detail from a distance. It doesn't have an official photographic definition.

Thanks for replying. Would you agree that it's odd that the term is in wide use, but not defined?

No. I wouldn't agree. We use lots of terms that are ill-defined or with no specific definition at all... and those terms are used a lot more than "reach"...

.... "sharp," for instance...

There is no definition of how "sharp" is sharp , neither in a lens nor in an image from a lens. When it comes to sharpness, we talk of "resolution"... (ascribing a numeric value to line-pairs-per-picture-height, say)... or "definition" (ascribing values and transferring to MTF curves.)

Maybe it just doesn't matter. I suppose it's mostly used when people discuss getting a new lens for an existing camera - in that case it's just about focal length.

And I'm still looking for some opinions about how old this usage is.

Fairly recent, I think... (20 years, max?) and probably of US origin. Americans have a natural propensity for colourful language that is direct, memorable, highly inventive and extraordinarily clear....

.... only Americans could have turned "proportional modelling lights" into "model- tracking " ...

.... and we should all be very grateful for their "cutting to the chase" (there, they did it again!)... in such splendid fashion.
--
Regards,
Baz

"Ahh... But the thing is, they were not just ORDINARY time travellers!"

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Dave Martin Senior Member • Posts: 2,160
What does "Official definition" mean?

What reference is sufficient to make photographic usage of a term like "reach" [b]offical[ b]?

Would being listed in the glossary on dpreview.com be sufficient?

How about listing on wikipedia?

René Schuster Forum Pro • Posts: 14,180
Re: Official definition of reach

Barrie Davis wrote:

And I'm still looking for some opinions about how old this usage is.

Fairly recent, I think... (20 years, max?) and probably of US origin.

Really not sure, but I could imagine it is older.

Thinking about you folks not "making" pictures (like in German), but "taking" them or even "shooting" them, I could imagine the origin of the word "reach" in the field of photography comes from those familiar with weapons, no matter if revolver, gun or something artillery, where reach is probably one of the most important factors to describe the efficiency of a system or its ammunition.

Americans have a natural propensity for colourful language that is direct, memorable, highly inventive and extraordinarily clear....

"..direct and extraordinarily clear", lol, indeed! Can be quite helpful now and then! I, too, prefer a clear language, with only the minimum amount of necessary "sugar coating".

But what also comes to my mind here is something like your English term "to make love", yes, very direct and clear! So direct and clear that I wouldn´t dare to use its 1:1 German translation ("Liebe machen"), unless I really don´t care if people might get the impression I was raised by all time drunk proletarian idiots in some slums without the slightest trace of culture and education!

Direct and clear is o.k., but this one is a little too direct and clear for Good Old Europe, lol! Just like that other term, "to beat the s... out of someone", grrr!

And please no stupid super-patriot reply now; pointing out little differences has nothing to do with bashing the US, really not my intention!

René

Dave Martin Senior Member • Posts: 2,160
Re: Official definition of reach

Peter Shute wrote:

Can anyone tell me if there is an official definition of the word "reach" as used in photography? Searching and asking around, I've found several variations of use, but no actual definitions. Usage seems to include:

  • focal length

  • magnification on the sensor

  • usable magnification when printed

These all make sense, but aren't the same.

People who maintain dictionaries tend to keep track of usages like these, so I'm surprised it isn't in one of them. It makes me think it's a relatively new usage. Can anyone tell me how long it's been used in photography?

Please note: feel free to list more possible definitions, but what I'm after here is a reference to an official definition, not an argument about what it means, or whether SLRs are better than compact cameras.

I think the Oxford Dictionary of English (Kindle Edition) includes a sufficient definition:

reach
n.
(2). the extent or range of something's application, ....

Here's a reasonable photographic usage I think... "The Bigma lens has sufficient reach for a Bluebird at 100 yards."

Dave

PS I found a similar thread you started on Birdforum.net please let us know if you come up with a better Official Definition..

sherwoodpete
sherwoodpete Veteran Member • Posts: 7,766
There isn't one

Whenever it is used, there is always a more appropriate term available, with a precise technical definition.

"Reach" is a colloquial term, but it has no specific meaning in photography.

Regards,
Peter

suddenlybees Regular Member • Posts: 224
Re: Official definition of reach

Peter Shute wrote:

Would you agree that it's odd that the term is in wide use, but not defined?

You kidding me? Half of the stuff we think is so important isn't defined.

Try "image quality", "performance", or, stepping outside of the photographic domain..."love"?

Plenty of stuff that isn't defined. We each still "know" what it means - sometimes.

OP Peter Shute Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: Official definition of reach

Dave Martin wrote:

I think the Oxford Dictionary of English (Kindle Edition) includes a sufficient definition:

reach
n.
(2). the extent or range of something's application, ....

I feel that's a bit vague because any camera can photograph a distant object. The resulting photo may not show the subject as more than a dot, but it has still "reached" it. For that reason I feel it ought to be tied down more precisely, and that it should be about the end result, not something as simple as focal length.

But I'm dropping my quest for an official definition, I doubt there is one. I suspect the term came into use before digital, when just about everyone's camera was 35mm, certainly most of those seeking more reach. "Back then" (not that long ago) the main variable was focal length, although I suppose a finer grained film might help "reach" the Bluebird you mention below. Therefore those who suggested it just means focal length are probably right.

Here's a reasonable photographic usage I think... "The Bigma lens has sufficient reach for a Bluebird at 100 yards."

PS I found a similar thread you started on Birdforum.net please let us know if you come up with a better Official Definition..

Yes, I felt people were becoming impatient to have that thread finish, so I tried again here.

jeffcpix Senior Member • Posts: 1,674
Re: Official definition of reach

My copy of the OED won't run on my current computer (nor
does the publisher have any interest in solving the problem) but
as I remember, it always provided info on where the word was
first used in a specific context as well as the date).

"Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp -- or what's a heaven for?"
Robert Browning.

Man's reach -- lens reach. Heavens! it doesn't seem too hard a concept to grasp.

OP Peter Shute Regular Member • Posts: 204
Re: Official definition of reach

jeffcpix wrote:

Man's reach -- lens reach. Heavens! it doesn't seem too hard a concept to grasp.

As I said, I'm mainly interested in why it's not defined than in finding an actual definition. But I'm also surprised how many people seem to think the meaning is obvious.

Yes, our cameras "reach" the subject, but will do that from huge distances. A satisfactory definition of the term ought to define some parameter that determines when the subject has been reached satisfactorily. Unless that's possible, I can't see how the word is useful.

AnandaSim Forum Pro • Posts: 13,422
"Reach" is a colloquialism

Peter Shute wrote:

Can anyone tell me if there is an official definition of the word "reach" as used in photography? Searching and asking around, I've found several variations of use, but no actual definitions. Usage seems to include:

  • focal length

  • magnification on the sensor

  • usable magnification when printed

"Reach" is a colloquialism and really doesn't warrant studious, detailed formalism. I take "Enough Reach" to mean "the relative size of the subject displayed on the image is satisfyingly big enough to enjoy". To have "not enough reach" means the image representation of the subject is too small.

I don't really see any absolutes in this and whether you achieve the resulting image size optically or digitally isn't the issue as long as you are satisfied with the result.

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