« 'A Striking and Painful Image...' | Main | Olympus E-510 Part I—My Rationale »

Wednesday, 06 February 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I think I recall Arthur Steel telling me, one time, that he'd cobbled together a 1200mm for his iconic picture of the Diana and Charles wedding:


Hubble's shot of the Horsehead Nebula is pretty iconic too but that's probably not what you meant.

Mike, when I clicked on "this lens" I laughed out loud. I don't understand people's desire to intimidate others with big lenses, big trucks, etc. I can't stand carrying big lenses around because they weigh me down and scare people. I wish Nikon would resurrect their 100mm/2.8 series E, one of the smallest telephotos ever for its focal length, but by the time they slapped on VR and an AF-S motor, it probably wouldn't be so tiny anymore...

For that lens, they could at least have put an extra "n" in "canon" to make "cannon".

Re: telephotos.

There's a gallery on pbase (don't know the link) of landscape pictures taken with medium telephotos. I like 'em. If I come across it again, I'll send you the link.

I bought a beat-up screw-mount Takumar 400 mm lens once (about $85CAN), mostly I think so I could brag about owning one. I used it twice. The first time was with two 2x converters (giving 1600 mm equiv.) and took a really boring picture of my neighbour's chimneys. The second time I used it to shoot migrating Canada Geese resting near a pond. That picture was only slightly less boring than the chimneys. I'm not blaming the "boring" on the lens, that's down to me, no doubt about that. All I remember is what a pain it is to use something like that and how inadequate my cheap tripod was with that kind of weight. After that, I understood why they sell expensive tripods.

Concerning the Leica upgrade program, I thought it was pretty neat until I learned from two reliable sources that the first upgrade will cost you 1,200 Euros or about 1,800 US Dollars. Has Leica been reading the newspapers? Do they know what’s going on in their biggest market? Bring on that Sigma DP1! I can hardly wait.

Indeed, I also cannot think of a body of celebrated or collected photographic work composed mostly of super tele shots.

But a "collectors' edition" of your friend's book is selling for $1,000+ through amazon. A more modest edition is selling in the $176 - $300 range. I guess significance is in the eye of the beholder...or seller.

Mike, as long as you insist on full-size sensors you'll miss out on the best part.
If I mounted my Nikon D200 (There MUST be an adapter somewhere.) that 5200mm Canon lens would be the equivalent of a 7800mm tele. Beat THAT!

On the Leica -- it's harvest time.
On Bush -- you can say anything you want about a painting, but if you like it, you should take the time to discover what the painter intended. This is a symptom.
On long photography: Hasn't the Hubble done a significant body of work?


I have no problem with George's self deluded misinterpretations of artwork- it's when he applies the same measure of "insight" where people's lives are concerned that kinda rubs me the wrong way...

Not only has the "taut string or strap as monopod/IS" idea been around for ages, it even already existed as at least one commercial product: the Black Cat SteadiStrap.

Still, the video is an excellent example of the power of viral promotion. I'll bet the people behind Black Cat are kicking themselves for not thinking to do something like this to promote their product. With a good but inefficiently-communicated idea like this one, there's a lot of power in being the first to communicate it efficiently.

"[...] and I'm afraid [...] there is still no significant body of art photography that's ever been done with a super telephoto."

Umm ... what about Andreas Feininger's cityscape pictures of NYC from the '40s?


Puplet: Are you referring to the Eagle Nebula photo called the "Pillars of Creation"? Offhand, I can't recall any iconic photos of the Horsehead Nebula, though I know the Hubble has photographed it.

Thank you for the mention of the 5200mm Canon lens, which I did not know existed. I think it cries out to be used for street photography.

Armchair photographer takes on a new meaning.

Y'know, if they aren't going to throw in a free car to carry these lenses around in (like a certain classy manufacturer did) I just don't care.


pax / Ctein


I belong to a photography workshop. I show up with an Oly e300 or Lumix L1, and one or two extra lenses: a lensbaby 2.0 and that Russian fisheye. I once used a flash with a Lumiquest softbox.

You should see the hardware most of the other guys (and they are all men) bring. They bring enough gear to stock a store. There's one guy, a retired schoolteacher, who shleps a ringlight and battery pack. Another brought two Pelican cases full of dreck. Someone else brought along two photo backpacks filled with gear, a laptop AND an assistant - for a WORKSHOP. I mean, we're paying to attend, and he had an assistant.

I figured out what "Meetup" stands for: middle aged men with expensive toys: http://digcam.meetup.com/99/members/2699552/

With my Lumix L1, I didn't even bring along a flash; it has a built-in bounce setting. Not to brag, but I took the best shots there. How do I know? The owner of the studio called me, from over 75 people, to assist her with clients. She shows up with a D70, and one lens.

And what's even worse, the people with all this stuff, which adds up to thousands, are the ones who complain about the cost of workshops. That's like the guy who buys a Rolls, and then fills up at the cheapest self-serve pump - which I've seen.

Really. I was once in DC, and I saw a guy filling up his Rolls at a Hess. Or the woman I once saw parking her Fleetwood at Costco.

Speaking of silliness, did you see the new telephoto from Sigma? It looks like a bazooka, and I think it needs a power source.

Have you read the carping on the dp review forums about the Sigma DP1? They haven't seen it yet, and the forums are filled with comments about its shortcomings. All products are compromises. Everyone is waiting for the perfect camera, or car, or you name it. Ricoh is selling a fixed lens job with a 28mm equivalent, and people are living with it - despite the tiny diodes, which limit it to below ISO 200.

Every time I read about noise, I think of what you once wrote: "I've heard more noise about noise, than about the national debt."
Ever hear of Noise Ninja, Noiseware or dFine?
I have noise reduction on my e300 and L1, turned off. I run everything through Ninja.
No one ever refused to use Tri-X because of the visible grain pattern in enlargements.
I might even buy the new Fuji medium format folder. It looks delicious. If I have to buy an exposure meter, so what? Freestyle, here I come.

I agree the DP-1 is not here yet. And when it arrives it will have a very wide 28mm (35mm-equivalent) field of view. For me, it should be 40mm or 50mm instead.

Tom Kaszuba, who was featured recently in Random Excellence uses a 200m lens for a surprisingly large amount of his landscape work. In fact, he calls it his favorite lens. The shot of the lighthouse was taken with it as well.

I am sure I am not alone in saying that the one thing I am looking forward to seeing you write about is the selection of your next piece of kit. I know this site is not about gear and stuff, but it's common knowledge you are in the market. What are your thoughts, what has the process been like. Oh, on second thought, wait till its a done deal, I can't abide "oh you should get a &%* because its #@$ is so incredible" type posts.


"A more modest edition is selling in the $176 - $300 range."

Want mine?

Mike J.

"With a good but inefficiently-communicated idea like this one, there's a lot of power in being the first to communicate it efficiently."

Good point, but I think what actually happens with such ideas is that they get communicated again and again, cyclically. I can name several examples of this that I know of. There is--or, was, while traditional photography stayed relatively static for so long--a tendency for the same ideas to come and go, and come around again.

Mike J.

"Thank you for the mention of the 5200mm Canon lens, which I did not know existed."

I can't take credit for that--that is Phil Aynsley's contribution, and the reason I credited him by name in the byline.

Mike J.

One more thing: Years ago there was a store in NYC called Spiratone. You should write about photo stores that are similar to that one. I think what cries out for togs is a store that carries house brands, for less than name brands, which come from the same factories.

Just my two cents.

What about Arthur Morris for a photographer sustaining a body of work with a telephoto? (http://www.birdsasart.com)

Having just come back from a trip where I had a blast shooting wildlife (mostly birds) with a 20d and 100-400, I'm all for having a supertele around. It's completely useless for landscape and such, but that's why we have more than one lens. I've consistently found wildlife to be one of the most fun things I can take pictures of, which is the whole point for me.

Speaking of the imaginary street digicam we all seem to be waiting for...why do digicams have such slow lenses? In the 35 mm days, I was under the assumption that an f1.4 was more costly, in part, because of the diameter of the high-quality glass required. With short focal lengths I would think an f1.4 or f2 would be so small a diameter that the material cost would hardly be an issue. Neither would depth of field/focus issues.
What's the technical reason for the slow lenses?


I'll note that there seem to be a fair number of rather impressive wildlife shots out there, taken with long telephoto lenses.

And while I'm sure that frame-filling photos of lions, crocodiles etc. taken in the wild with a 28mm lens would be impressive, it doesn't seem the sort of thing you could make into a long-term career.


I think you hit a nail on the head with that long-tele comment; only, it's perhaps not the nail you intended.

No, I don't doubt that no significant work of art has been produced by a long telephoto. You know your art history - that's one reason to keep coming back here - and if you say so, it's probably entirely correct.

But photography is not only about art. Indeed, _most_ photography is not about producing art. You may want to record a slice of reality for any number of reasons, none of which are primarily (or even at all) about making a significant image in the artistic sense. That Sigma may well be overkill (as well as perpetual vapourware), but really long lenses do legitimately appeal to a lot of people like bird and nature photographers (effectively producing a record, not an artistic statement); law enforcement; sports and so on (and as other commenters have said, astronomers are synonymous with very, very long lenses). You can't produce art with them? That's fine; they're not made for that purpose.

There's something significant here about the profound difference between between focusing on the image and on the subject; don't yet know how to expand on it in a good way, though.

The longest lens I've owned was a 500mm Nikon mirror lens. I was often disappointed with it because wasn't sharp; usually due to haze in the atmosphere that I had never thought much about...being a wide-angle user mostly. After figuring that out, I tended to use it for "close-ups" (10-15 feet away from the subject) in nature. It gave a very 2-dimensional look with odd bokah that worked quite nicely on some subjects.


I do think there is good news on the DP-1 front: there was not just a prototype, DPReview was allowed to take it out onto the streets of Las Vegas *and* publish the results, which must mean Sigma is quite happy with what they have so far.

But seeing as how long it is said to take before it will be available to buy, they probably still have some manufacturing issues to sort out.

That said, as vaporware goes - this one looks pretty solid. Lets hope it will be a success and inspire other manufacturers to introduce similar models - preferably with a 35mm equivalent focal length.

The Hubble can't be that good - it's hasn't got enough suffixes after the name (VR IS ED ASPH DO USM etc...)! Plus it's got a filter on the front! No self-respecting photographer would ruin the resolution of their lenses with a filter!


Michael, I attended a GAPW nature photography workshop some years ago. The instructors all used Nikon (Nikon is a sponsor) though Gary Stanley used Tokina lenses (he advertises for Tokina :) The attendees almost all shot Canon. I had my Minolta gear and one guy actually had a Hasselblad MF kit. Anyway, the Canon users were all 30's to 60's males with one or more white lenses ... a couple retirees ... hobbyists. But there was one woman in her 30's who toted a lowly Rebel (film, of course) with a kit lens and a tele zoom and could rarely be bothered with the tripod she brought along. While the rest of us were practicing our postcard shots, she was wandering around looking for other things to shoot. During one of the critiquing sessions (which featured slides we brought with us, because overnight processing was unavailable on Mount Desert Island after tourist season) this woman presented possibly the most interesting shot of all; a shot of a kettle over a camp fire that she'd "snapped" (handheld) during a previous workshop.

"Indeed, _most_ photography is not about producing art."

Did I say it was?

Mike J.

Mike: Thanks for the offer for your copy of "There & Gone" but, er, my shelf space is tighter than Manhattan parking.

Speaking of Manhattan, D'oh!

Earlier I remarked that I, too, could not think of a "significant body of work" performed with tele lenses. But back in 2000 Philip-Lorca diCorcia created a series titled "Heads" in which he covertly photographed NY pedestrians with a very long lens and a remote strobe. (One cantankerous subject actually took diCorcia to court to challenge this work...and lost the case.)

Prints are now selling for typically outrageous prices (see an example on Artnet: http://www.artnet.com/artwork/425277601/424038914/philip-lorca-dicorcia-head-4.html) . Whether or not you or I consider this "significant" is beside the point. It really does represent a well regarded series created exclusively with long lenses.

That Canon 5200mm f/14 is a big lens, but it's a lightweight at 100kg/220lb. The Zeiss 1700mm f/4.0 lens for Hasselblad weighs in at a shocking 256kg/564lb. Apparently custom made for one person, no price revealed -

1) Is it me, or do the DP1 shots on dpreview (admittedly a pre-release camera) look awful?
I see blotches of smeary chroma noise(?) everywhere (or what maybe noise-suppression?) and a strange combination of oversharpened in-focus elements, with smeary 'bokeh' (hesitate to use that term with these images) of the oof areas. Oh well. Maybe it IS just me.
2) I'm worried that the Leica upgrade path is really a means to sustain cash-flow during 2008-09 while M8 sales begin to decline and before the full-frame(?) M9 appears. Maybe a good move in some terms, but I'd hoped that the company was going to concentrate on a more fundamental improvement of the problems that the camera has faced.

Its been said before but photography means different things to different people. To some its in the gear, and I can understand that as I like to handle fine machinery as much as the next man.(No,I don't have any 'White' glass, nor an extended battery pack screwed to the bottom of the camera, nor a Metz unit hung on a flash bracket) When I meet a fellow photographer and his first question is about gear I run.

I'll second the comment on the work of Andreas Feininger. He has quite a few "perhaps significant" tele images of NYC.

Regarding the Sigma DP-1: I began shooting the street with a CoolPix5700. For obvious reasons I soon realized it wouldn't work and switched over (with much anxiety) to film. After struggling through a series of hard-working but inept film P&S's I switched to a Bessa L with a 21mm Color Skopar f4. Shooting from the hip with hyperfocal distance focusing opened a whole new world of street shooting nirvana to me. My street kit now consists of a Bessa R4M with a Voigtlander 28mm f1.9 Ultron Asph. and a Bessa R2 with a 75mm f2.5 Color Heliar for street portraits. The longer it takes for a camera manufacturer to develop a decent digi-cam for street shooting the less i even care. My gratitude to Voigtlander for providing a line of carefully considered, practical, streamlined and reasonably priced rangefinder gear is enormous and perhaps lifelong. Who knows? It would take a LOT to get me to switch now. And yes, i have a Leica M7 and two hideously expensive Leica lenses in the closet that are too valuable to even consider taking to these Central American mean streets. Long live the Bessas!

Dear Mani,

It's gotta be you. Seriously. I just perused the DP1 photo gallery on my good display and I can't see ANY of what you're talking about. They look like normal, ordinary, good-quality digital photos to me.

Pixel peeping on 1/3 scale images from a prototype camera is a fool's errand, so I'm presuming you're talking about really obvious artifacts. I just ain't seeing them, not even in the coupla ISO 800 photos.

Only place I saw big chroma blotches is in their flare tests, where they were pointing the camera directly at a reflection of the sun-- no surprise there are some luminous blotches there!

pax / Ctein

Check out Reinhart Wolf's "New York" from Taschen Press, 1980. Shot on color 8x10 with Rodenstock lenses: 360mm, 480mm, 600mm and 1000mm. (From the flattened perspective of many of the skyscrapers, it's obvious the longer lenses were used a lot. Also, I recall reading an interview with Wolf where I swear he also mentioned using 1200mm).

The book includes statements by Truman Capote, Le Corbusier, Jean-Paul Sartre, among others.

Andrew C.,
Don't forget that those aren't "super-telephoto" lenses on that format. On 8x10 (for which 300mm is a normal lens), a 600mm lens is approximately equivalent to 90mm or 100mm in 35mm.

Mike J.

Regarding the Sigma DP1; I just watched a video interview on the Imaging Resource site with Sigma's Thomas Sobey. He claims the camera will be available late March/April, and will cost around $800.



Here's another blog on that $99000 lens (for those of you wo can afford it), along with photos, and why it was used.



"This makes me slightly grumpy. If people really cared about long telephotos, they'd be much more enthusiastic than they are about the photographic possibilities of the APS-C crop factor."

Ahh, come on. It's not like any of are about to buy a 1200mm lens. But it's simply fun to look at and think about really big and really expensive varieties of anything.

"But it's simply fun to look at and think about really big and really expensive varieties of anything."

I'm missing that gene....

Mike J.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007