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Thursday, 09 May 2013


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And speaking about lenses... Mike, What's the best lens have you ever tried?

Interesting. I wonder the author left out Canon and Nikon; does he really believe that Pentax is in a higher league? I would really be curious to know (unless this was just to provoke, in which case I confess I fell for it).

That should stir up a real hornets nest Mike!
Surely many Nikon and Canon owners will be upset.
Personally I was surprised by the omission of Schneider and Minolta (or did the Minolta lens dept disappear with the Sony buyout?).

It hurts a bit that Nikon doesn't make your list, but what about Schneider lenses?

Does Cosina still make Zeiss lenses? Does Tokina still make Pentax lenses?

As you point out, any maker can have good and not so good designs. However, in the day of computer generated designs, I think much of the difference between makers is in the quality of components and the quality control of manufacturing. Second level makers have more variability in performance among any given lens design. If you have a good lens, model x from maker z, you get good performance, but if maker z is a 'lower level' maker, then another lens model x is more likely to have different performance from the first one. Quality control matters.

FWIW, I think this post would be much better if you explained the basis for the ranking. I know you well enough to know that you aren't basing this list on MTF charts, so I don't necessarily mean "objective" basis for your ranking - if the basis is wholly subjective, that's fine. But a naked proclomation that "X" or "Y" is the world's top lens maker, with nothing more than a footnote to (ineffectively) ward off inevitable criticism isn't nearly as interesting as a discussion about what makes a great lens maker great.


Oh, the comments you will get on this one...

In my case, let me look at my bag: Zeiss wide angle and normal, Olympus ultra, wide, normal, macro, and tele, Pentax tele... all shot in a Canon camera. I would say I agree with your list more or less. I have a couple of Canon lenses also that are really good, but they are... cold, characterless. Clinical, if you will. Arguably better lenses than most of the old ones I have, but I use them less.

Pentax fourth?

I used to think you were cool, Mike.

Though if there's a list for the Craziest Lens Makers, I fully expect Pentax to top it.

Uncontroversial but for the omission of Fujifilm.

I can't say I disagree with your list. Some people think the good lenses are the result of a special superiority in the art of lens design. Partly true, but many designs are not at all unique - the other major factor is precision manufacturing.

An authoritative article in an optics journal years ago said that many of the best lenses are designs that would have been known to everyone, but discarded by lesser lens makers because the tolerances were too tight for economical large-scale production.

Though it means higher cost, some of the premier optics houses do the necesssary component testing and hand-assembly that is required for difficult designs.

List of lensmakers for my best prints:


List of lensmakers whose prices I consider too extortionate to pay:

Olympus (hoods only)

Wow, I've actually owned two lenses from a top-5 manufacturer!* (Both rodenstock; both now sold along with the rest of the LF kit.)

Maybe there should be space for `a lens you happen to have with you' as well, whether it goes in the numbered or bulleted list.

*satire alert :)

I think Fuji might stake a claim above the "all the rest" category.

I meant to ask you this when you were writing "How Good a Lens?", but here's a different consideration: how does expertise in designing lenses for other fields translate to designing photographic lenses? This is just a guess, but I'd be willing to bet Zeiss' biggest concerns are probably microscope and lithographic lenses, then cinema lenses, then stills camera lenses somewhere way at the bottom. Pentax also makes CCTV lenses and binoculars. Fuji (how is Fuji not on your list?) has made excellent MF and now smaller format lenses, but they also make enlarger lenses for photo minilabs, cinema, CCTV, binoculars, etc.

I know as a fellow photo enthusiast it feels like we're the center of a photography universe, but I'm willing to bet that for any lens-making company, they have other businesses that they retain to keep that talent busy.

"These are the world's top camera lens makers..."

Trolling your own site? I'm disappointed in you, Mike. I expect this kind of nonsense from Ken Rockwell, but you ought to know better...

... grabs popcorn.

Zeiss...I've only used one once, a couple clicks though a 5DII with a 35f2 on it. My buddy and I were pretty sure we could detect the legendary micro-contrast even on the lcd. Supposedly the very top Olympus lenses, the 14-35f2, 35-100f2, 150f2, and 300 f2.8 have Zeiss-like qualities, but I've yet to try one since the starting price is above $2000 for the cheapest.

Great read. I am SURE #6 would be Canon and the #7 Nikon, but we may never know. Some legendary Pentax primes really command respect, IMO, especially for landscape and portrait work.

A perfectly defensible list, Mike. My take is: It depends. Schneider made, and for all know still makes, superlative view camera lenses. The consumer point and shoot "Schneider" lenses are, at least by reputation and review, maybe not quite so good. The same can be said for Leica, though with perhaps a smaller disparity between the two extremes. Fujifilm's X series lenses are top notch; Olympus point and shoot lenses maybe less so. In my experience there is no manufacturer with only superb lenses, and none with only junk.


I really like your list. Sometimes I feel like I'm caught in the crosswalk during a marathon with only two kinds of participants all laboring off in the same direction.

Seems about right, more partial to Pentax over Olympus. Never ever go wrong with Zeiss, just has a wonderful look.

Your list, dear Mike, contains two lens makers that are, in my view, absolutely essential: Zeiss and Rodenstock. Essential pour moi.

And literally "in my view": Zeiss and Rodenstock make the lenses for my prescription glasses, which I'm wearing all the time. You might say that my entire world view, near and far, is shaped by Zeiss and Rodenstock, in a way which neither Leica nor Nikon nor any other camera lens maker could ever hope to match.

BREAKING NEWS: Home Depot (NYSE:HD) has just reported a sudden and unexpected spike in the sale of pitchforks and torches.

Oh man the Schneider fans are going jumping on you for letting Rodenstock, I mean LINOS Photonics, no wait Qioptiq beat out Schneider.

I think you have to put Nikon on the list. Why? Because anyone that makes steppers for semiconductor manufacture has to be on the list. It is the most demanding optical design and manufacture problem on the planet.

Lenses for what camera?

It looks like the list is for 35mm-format cameras. What about medium format? Or large format? Remember, Zeiss started out being the "budget" lens choice for Hasselblad. Hasselblad's first choice was Kodak.

I recently came across an interview with Ansel Adams where he said, "Knowing what I know now, any photographer worth his salt could make some beautiful things with pinhole cameras."

So is the photographer worth his salt?

The greatest lens maker is the one who makes lenses that make you happy.

As a long-time Olympus owner (back to 1973), I'd agree with your list, but with just the one caveat: the Leica APO offerings beat out the Olympus lenses. Outside of that, no problems with the ranking. Schneider-Kreuznach should be in there somewhere, but not sure where...and my Perkins-Elmer solid cat lens, relabeled as Vivitar Series 1, is way up there as well.

aww, cosina needs it's own spot for sheer unconventionality.

Rodenstock? The enlarging lenses were good, and the large format lenses have a great reputation. But few of us use these anymore. Did you pick Rodenstock for any other range of lenses (that we should know about)?

In the early 1980s, I remember a shortlived, gorgeous magazine in the UK called simply "Camera" did a knockout competition among various SLR lenses. I've looked on the web many times for a copy of the tests which ran over the course of several issues but without luck. My recollection is that Zeiss C/Y beat Canon FD in the final, with Nikon F beating Leica R for third place. Anyone else remember this?

That's a good list of best lens makers at 35mm.

Lens makers with the best mikeh?

In some cases "the best lens" is one that's actually made by someone for your system unlike say, "wide angle DX primes" from Nikon (or Sigma or Tamron or Tokina or ...).

I like your list because I happen to own specimens from all top three, but it is of questionable value. The problem is in real life you never compare. You just use what you have and in almost all cases it's more than enough.

When you're as big as Canon and Nikon you must appeal to the mean and the median. Your entire revenue and marketing machine depends on the norm. So there is merit in looking at smaller brands, such as the Pentax DA primes which are warm, sharp, compact, and phenomenally resistant to flare.

If you own a 6X6 TLR then you have both top and bottom lenses from the same company.

Ha yuk yuk yuk!

We really, really, need to find ways to do photo series to show the different renderings of different lenses objectively. Lots of us don't have a clear idea what we're talking about here.

Unfortunately I don't think my initial idea is good enough. So, what I now think is needed is a view camera with bag bellows and a lens board with Micro Four Thirds lens mount on the front and a pile of m43 adapters for interesting mounts (or just direct lens boards with Nikon, Canon, Leica, Pentax, Olympus, etc. lens mounts), and a digital back. Something so that we can take pictures of a range of setups (landscape and portrait situations at least) where all variables are identical except for the lens used. (You could also do this on film, although the scanning them becomes an additional work item and another thing that must be kept absolutely uniform.)

(My initial thought was to just use M43; but on consideration, much of the difference in lenses happens outside the center portion of the frame.)

Agree with list with one exception. I would put Leica S lenses at the very top. They are as close to perfection as it gets. Prefer Zeiss to Leica M though.

When you say top lens makers, do you mean currently and for digital? Or are you taking into account past products from the 70s through the 90s? I just thought some clarification would help, but then it would also take away from the discussion. The more limits you set the less people will chime in with comments like: "What do you mean? The Petri lens line was top notch in 1971!"

My wife and I owned and ran a 1-hour photo lab in Toronto Canada for many years. We also offered custom printing services using RA4 materials.

The lab was located in a trendy neighborhood and many of my customers used high-end equipment including: Leicas, Contaxes and Nikons.

When our customers picked up their prints many would marvel at how great their Leicas, Zeisses or Nikkors were.

I didn't have the heart to tell them that our Noritsu printer used Minolta products for all their lenses.

And, Minolta never made it to the list!

I am glad to see that Rodenstock got a guernsey. Without doubt the moden Apo-Sironar S series (Sinaron SE) have the greatest acutance and even illumination of any LF optics I have used. The LF Nikkors were no slouch and the Schneider wide-angle XLs are mighty fine too.

Many thanks for the effort you put in,


I like how Softie put it and, for me, it's more useful. Not any more objective, just more useful. The maker of the lenses of my top five shots:

1) Bausch & Lomb (circa 1912 licensed Tessar)
2) Leica
3) Canon
4) Nikon
5) Zeiss, pre-WWII.

Honorable Mentions go to Industar & Wollensak.

Wow, you didn't even make it to 10! Obiviously you know where the troubles are and put up an huge umbrella of "all the rest". But as a Nuser, I now know how my picutres are craps and how I can make those craps climb to the top: become a Zuser. Only six or seven steps, man.


I wonder, Are you just referring to camera lenses or also lenses for other applications.

I can see how excluding scientific uses may change a lens makers position in that list.


Oh dear. I started with Zeiss, and I've been working my way down.

Hi Mike:

Poking a hornet’s nest? Here’s a blog you might find of interest:


I wonder how many of those who find your listing of Pentax inconceivable have used, or even held, one of their best lenses.


In your list, you mention "clients."

Isn't a client a remote computer with access to a network or server? Can some computers really tell the difference between camera lens brands? If so, do you know if there is a preference between human-ground and machine-ground elements? This would be fascinating knowledge.

I've asked, but the client machine I use will not provide me with an answer. I therefore can only speculate, having once caught it lasciviously eyeing a Mamiya 7 sitting on a table nearby.

[I'm obviously showing my age. In the old days, clients were soft-tissue life forms that gave you money. Alas, those days are gone. --Mike

I hope a certain Steve does not read this, he will be verry, verry upset. Btw the best lens I owned was a Fuji 65/5,6 attached to a GSW690 point and shoot. Read the Dante Stella review of this machine. Problem was. I didn't like the "rangefinder experience" so I sold it again (with the camera of course).

Best lens <> average best pictures.

So my personal favourite remains a Panasonic 14-45, followed by an Olympus 9-18. Verry versatile lenses under any shooting conditions and both come with a DxO lens profile on my OM-D which makes them even greater.

Greets, Ed.

Hmmm... I think if you want a Super-Telephoto with really good quality you probably need to talk to Canon, or Nikon if Canon weren't in... The latest Canons are scary-good. Scary-expensive too. Well excluding Leica owners opinions (although the 600 is north of 10K so maybe not, depending on their pro/anti Noctilux preference).

Also how much is this for historical participation rather than current performance? I'm assuming lots?

Plus I assume you mean still cameras, otherwise Panavision should get a mention (also others, especially Fujinon).

I know it's all just for fun, partly as recent lenses, with all glass surfaces coated, are usually way ahead of anything from a few decades back, however expensive.

Not sure who I'd rate top, I'd have Zeiss in the top three certainly, I won't do a list as I doubt anyone cares... although Olympus and Pentax would be below C+N if I did, as the big boys are doing some really good stuff this millennia...

I'm a believer in the LOOK of a lens vs how sharp or distortion-free it might be. Of course, LOOK is highly subjective.

I've only owned two Zeiss lenses--for Contax/Kiev bodies--and they definitely gave a great creamy look to B&W pictures. I like that LOOK. I still have those lenses and wish there was some way use them on modern digital cameras.

I've used a few Olympus lenses over the years, most recently zooms for the 4/3 format. They have all seemed a few notches above average. I bought into the Olympus 4/3 system after trying an adapted Olympus zoom on an E-P2 body and being so impressed with it. I still use the 4/3 system because of the quality of the lenses and, of course, the LOOK.

Leica? I've owned several E. Leitz lenses but none of the newer ones badged "Leica". The Leitz lenses were very good but the best thing going for them was the fact that they fit on Leica rangefinders. I loved using those cameras.

I discovered photography with a borrowed Pentax Spotmatic and 50/1.4 lens but I never owned a 35mm format Pentax camera. I did use the Pentax 645 system, however, and I felt the photos made with those 645 lenses had a LOOK every bit as good as those done with other photographer's Hasselblads with Zeiss lenses.

Other than an enlarging lens, I only remember owning one Rodenstock large format lens back in the 1980s along with several Schneider lenses. The Rodenstock was an oddball to me. It had a softer, cooler color rendition that I never liked at all. I replaced it with a Schneider of the same focal length, a lens whose LOOK I liked much better.

I was bumpin along with you (actually---pretty smart list!) until Rodenstock. That one threw me off your dune buggy. No way I wouldn't put Schneider ahead of Rodenstock. But in the spirit of your list---I'd put Fuji (LF) in there in R's place ;-}

Hey! Got my densitometer! Thanks. What a hilarious piece of old tech.

I'm not sure how you pick a best manufacturer. My experience has been that there are particular lenses for a particular use that I just love for their rendering and return to them over and over. I may then change cameras or tire of their output and have a new love. The Sigma lenses on the DP series are incredible, but doesn't mean I think every Sigma lens is going to be a winner. The midrange Tamron Nikon is one of the best lenses I ever used for rendering, flexibility and weight, but it's a DX and is gone now.

I am with the others who choose Zeiss and Pentax at the top, in terms of pure rendering love. But I don't own any Zeiss since Pentax has lenses that are half the size and auto-focus, for times when that is handy. They win by far on the practical side.

Really, are there any better lenses than the FA Limiteds? Didn't think so. And their medium format lenses are some of the best.

Olympus would then be third. Their digital lenses are only workmanlike -- which of course is enough for the working photographer. Perhaps only the 75mm has broken through this trend to create images of innate beauty.

I will concede Leica fourth place, though I have never afforded to use any of their best lenses.

Everyone else is below that.

I suppose I'm showing my age here but Zeiss Planars for taking and Schneider Componons for enlarging are way better than my humble abilities so that puts them on the list.
In college back in the early 70's I had a job that entailed shooting with a 43-86mm Nikkor. Amazingly I'm still a Nikon guy but that mutt permanently disqualifies them from the list no matter how many stunning 14-24 2.8s they turn out.
Normally I don't hold a grudge but that junker really hurt my feelings.
During my short time shooting motion picture film I did develop a real fondness for Cooke glass but we're talking stills here.

Gotta throw my opinion on the pile. Fujinon. The Fuji lenses I use for LF work are phenomenal. The ones on my GW690III and GA645 are terrific too.

My second camera was a Leica M3 bought new for $278. Dual range Summicron. I had the best! Until I realized that my brother was getting better images out of his Canon Ftb with the cheap 50/1.8 when we were shooting side by side. Maybe he was just a better photographer.

Any cursory review of sites, from DXO Mark to SLR Gear to Lens Rentals, that actually test lenses will reveal that there is nothing special, except the price, about so called Zeiss lenses. Occasionally they have a really good one, but they are frequently bettered by a Canon or Nikon which you neglect completely with your list. Of course we all love the prejudices of our youth. But that is what they are. Yours looks to be an avoidance of mainstream equipment, to be contrarian?
I had a pretty good OM system before being abandoned by Olympus. They had a small handful of superb lenses, but most were very ordinary, but nice and compact.

...there's a guy on the interwebs sales sites that handles view camera lenses who's notorious about his hate of Zeiss stuff, but I have to say, love Zeiss, but have never shot with some of the newer, faster stuff for press type cameras they put out in the 60s and 70's, BUT spent most of the 70's shooting with a 40's era Zeiss Tessar 250mm, jammed into an old Ilex shutter on 4X5 and 8X10, I'm not even sure it was coated, and you can put a loupe on that stuff today and it was "solid" sharp, and contrasty!

Ditto for Goerz Red Dot Artars, which should be on your list as well, easily moreso than "Rotten-stock" (which is what we used to call 'em). People forget that the "Red Dot" Artars big feature (NOT that they were coated, which they were, but...), compared to all modern lenses, was that they were designed with the sweet spot somewhere between one-fifth life-size, and one-half life-size. So imagine you're shooting a coffee maker on 4X5, full frame. Well, that's pretty much quarter life-size, and is razor sharp on your 8.25 Red Dot Artar in a Compur shutter! Most of your Schneiders and Rotten-stocks, and even you Nikons, are set for infinity (or thirty feet or something like that). And if you got a "process" lens from another manufacturer, it was set for half-life-sized to twice-life-sized, or maybe just 1:1.

Gotta tell ya, I have three today, and I'll never give them up...they'll have to pry them from my cold dead hands to get them next to me in the coffin...

49 comments so far, yet not one has included the word "bokeh," whatever that is. Must be a record.

[To quote from this post, "'Bokeh' simply means blur, specifically out-of-focus blur (as opposed to the kinds caused by subject or camera movement)." That's what it is.

And if you care about that record, why'd ya break it? --Mike]

Mike Plews, your "review" of the Nikkor 43-86 is still making me laugh, you are a funny, funny man!

More interesting to me is: who are the greatest lens makers going forward ?

Top of the list, I'd have to have Zeiss. I'm impressed with their transition to the digital age. They're producing optically and mechanically excellent lenses that seem near universally respected.

Olympus is iffy ... their reputation seems to be riding on (1) micro 4/3 having greater breadth than Sony NEX and (2) 2 or 3 excellent lenses (45 & 75 come to mind). Could go either way.

Canon and Nikon in no particular order. They produce lots of mediocre stuff, lots of "price performer" stuff (Nikon's 85/1.8 at $400 !) but also some truly excellent stuff (mostly "pro" zooms and exotics). Sony, on the other hand, has the Zeiss label on most of its truly excellent stuff. They have the capability to be a top lens maker, but they simply won't do it. They'll produce the pedestrian stuff very well.


Leica, I suppose, but at very high prices that can't be objectively justified. Zeiss is only justified by a willingness to pay for diminishing returns; Leica is only justified by a desire to have something most people can't afford.

Sigma ? With their new "Art" line, they're raising optical and mechanical quality along with their prices, apparently attempting to produce "best" instead of "cheapest". I don't think they'll succeed, but they'll produce a few gems that will attain cult status. (Samyang, too).

Forget Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung (though Samsung is no slouch).

So that's my list for lens makers going forward:

- Dennis


Just joshin' with the bokeh quip; it's seems impossible to read anything about camera lenses for the past several years without seeing it referenced in some way.

I wonder if radio telescopes can be designed to include sweet OoF zones...

One word: Fujinon.

Someone who did understand lenses once old me that Canon was good at primary colors but not at anything in between, in other words they lacked subtlety. I moved from Canon to Zeiss and never ever missed the Canon lenses for one nanosecond.

Omitting Canon from the list seems very reasonable to me.

well , it is difficult to agree or disagree with your TOP ranking .
do you mean best lenses optically ? or does the build is part of the assessment ?
plus different formats , different focal lenghts..
plus it is strange not to see Schneider Kreuznach in that list...

for anyone who has owned and used the 2.8 Rolleiflex TLR, one remembers that the Xenotar was better than the Planar despite all the hype attached to the Zeiss name

Hi Mike,

For 35mm, I would say the Leica APO R lenses are the best - 280/4 APO, 180/2.8 APO, 180/3.4 APO and 90/2 APO not to mention the Leica APO-Telyt-Modular R 400mm f/4!

What about the Leica M lenses: SEM 21/3.4, 28/2.8 ASPH, 50/1.4 ASPH, 90/2 APO and I love the 50/0.95.

For Medium Format, I love the Rollei Schneider 40/3.5 Super Angulon, Schneider 90/4 Macro and Schneider 80/2.8 Xenotar and Zeiss 80/2.8.

Yes, the Leica S lenses. I love to get the Leica S 120 APO. The Leica S 70/2.5 is great.

The Mamiya 7 43/4.5 is one of the best WA I have ever used. The 80/4 is no slouch. I have read great things about Mamiya 6 50/4 but I have never used one.

For LF, I believe Rodenstock 150mm f/5.6 Apo-Sironar-S is great. I have the N version. The Nikkor M 300/9 is great. I love to get a Nikkor SW 90/8.

Just my 2¢. Thanks.

Have a nice weekend.

Well as a pentax man, I can say the 40,70 and 35 macro limiteds are a joy to use. I have a manual 50m 1.7 can see a difference in rendering with it compared to the digital lenses. Pentax still suffers from being the underdog, see it from the comments here, or dpreview where i normaly lurk.


I have an SP 1000 with a 50 f/4 Macro, if you're interested.

I just wish people in these comments would stop using "sharper" to mean "better".

The Nikkor 43-86?! That dog's even more famous than Lassie!

Hmm lens are a very personal thing. Some prefer absolute sharpness over everything else, some may even prefer the heft of a big telephoto to show that they are getting their monies worth. Others will argue that because their favorite brand is the best seller in all markets then surely their lens must be the best.

I've been fortunate to have had near enough all the Takumars at one stage or another and their tactile quality - the absolutely beautiful precision engineering cries through as your first overriding impression which is then built upon by looking at the images they return. The K series Pentax lens are Takumars with a more modern mount and if anything might be a smidgen better imo.

Currently I have the 3 FA Limiteds 31 43 & 77 (which I can blame or Thank Mike for, his article in Luminous Landscape many years ago being one of the deciding factors for me looking at the Pentax brand), and an A series 50 f/1.2 and I cannot think of anything that I could add to that set that would improve upon them baring one particular lens - the Zeiss T* 2/50 Makro-Planar.

I cannot afford the Leica stuff, marvelous as it may be, Olympus? let down by their sensor choice perhaps? especially in high ISO for instance but I have one seriously good photographer friend who does rave about their lens designs. So I am looking at the list and thinking yes, I would generally agree.

And everyone can come at me and say that according to this test or that test that my lens choice is weak but my simple argument back to them is this: that every lens that I own returns an image that I am trying to imagine, but just that little bit better than I could hope for, when I take a picture of a person, they look and see themselves but in a more favorable light and deep down inside I know that each lens is patiently waiting for me to get to a skill level where they can really show me what they are capable of. And for that I love them just that little bit more.

I'd love to see you rank the world's greatest 35mm lenses. Would be a fun read and discussion! Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon tops the list for me :).


...to your brothers credit, had a few Canon FTb's in the 90's I was keeping running, really perfect cameras, and I tried to get as pristine copies of the last series Canon multi-coated 'breech lock' lenses for them, which I thought were really fine as well. Long story short, I took one of the old FTb's in for clean lube adjust back in the 90's to a place in Chicago that specialized in Canon, and the old Japanese repairman that used to work for Canon, made a point of coming out of the back room when I picked it up, and told me that it was one of the best cameras Canon ever made and I should hold on to them! Wish I had taken his advice!

"So I think it's probably a good idea to fully understand what Adobe is envisioning here before damning them to the heavens."

Couldn't disagree more strongly with you Mike. They are as transparent as most companies (or as little) and Adobe has been trying to capture the "don't upgrade unless I have to crowd for quit a while. They said as much when they first tried to cut off the CS3 crowd from an upgrade. This is ONLY about money and trying to get as much as they can from every user.

Actually, Mike, you are absolutely right on. Though the gap between one and two is VERY small. Not in terms of "accuracy", but in terms of character. And in terms of character, I choose Maitani.

The Best Autofocus lenses than money can buy :
According to Luminous Landscape in 2002, Pentax was the best.

[That guy and I only sort of agree. --Mike]

After wasting a lot of time on various photo forums, I can say that lens partisans are quick to point out an optical defect in a non favored brand, but any such defect in their brand adds "character."

Mike, I should ask you what kind of point of reference you had in mind when you compared... I mean - well, you're totally entitled to your opinion and stuff, and naturally you have immense experience with many lenses and many things photography, but I am not sure I grok you rightly, you know...

I suggest two lenses that I find very interesting - one is Nokton 40/1.4... I think it gives Pentax SMC FA 43/1.9 Limited decent run for the money. Another is not a lens per se, because, say, you cannot mount it on anything really - it is the so called lensor of Ricoh GXR system - the 33/2.5 macro, aka 50mm module (50mm being so called EFL)... I should suggest that this lensor and GXR body would be quite wonderful nifty fifty of modern days...

Just my cents, really...

I'll put another vote in for Fujinon. I own and have used extensively the Olympus Zuikos (the OM-series 35 mm lenses that I'm pretty sure drove Mike's choice) and the Canon L pro series glass (and agree with the poster above about their big teles; they're amazing) and the Fujinon X-mount stuff is really superb.

Just a side note: A good candidate for the sharpest lens I ever shot with, but do not have the good fortune to own, is the Canon 200/1.8L. Astonishing lens with mind-blowing bokeh.

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