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Friday, 25 July 2014


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Wow. Funny: I just posted a new image (I choose not to divulge the lens that was used) to my tumblr. (Then I read your fine post.) All rules broken. Except for film emulsion. Would have broken that one, too, back in the day...


Well this is TOP / Mike being powerfully useful.

You have mentioned moving TOP to a new format. Please consider a richer way of finding this type of post - the "forever useful / excellent reminder / teaching" stuff.


A new look at this may be interesting = lenses are designed (slightly) differently for digital sensors, have new features (CPU, VR), and also the cameras have new lens-abilities.

Following Thom Hogan's suggestions, I tested my Nikkor lenses and found that all six had back-focus problems! So it wasn't all my fault...

Luckily, my D800 has an in-camera adjustment to fix that; all needed at least -10 to -19. What a coincidence, eh?

Still, it's there (in a few cameras) and made a visible difference for me (at 100% view anyway). One new gimmick that works.

I do prefer articles more about technique rather than tech, Even when they're outdated, something is always still useful and the exercise to convert it to today's tech is also informative.

I had a Fuji GS645S, the same one as in the picture. I always hated that lens for the reasons you cited, and it had possibly the worst bokeh of any lens I've ever used, including multiple Nikkors. I guess I wasn't the only one.

Next: "How to Stress a Photographer".

Nice reminder - But most f2.8 to f4 lenses are best at f5.6 to f8. Think of what that Fuji would be if the ISO could be bumped up a'la digital! Your pix of the Zeiss 35 f2.0 ZM Biogon should have been of the f2.8 ZM Biogon, which is actually very usable at its maximum aperture! Few lenses have excellent performance wide open, those that do usually cost beaucoup dinaro. I have not seen anything to contradict the axiom that an f2.0 aperture for a 50mm lens is as good as it can get for ultimate performance. The new Leica, Sigma & Zeiss Super f1.4 50's are tempting, however. The ultimate successful test of a lens is that you keep it forever (or, as long as the camera lasts)!

Check that I meant the Leica, Sigma & Zeiss Super f1.4 50's!

I've heard many say that different examples of the same lens can vary in performance. I must have gotten lucky and gotten a better Fuji GS645 than you did. Mine is suburb all around. While I use it on a tripod almost all the time, I've used it handheld, in dim lighting, wide open, too. No complaints. It's about the sharpest lens I own (and I own a bunch)!

"I've even used a few "Macro" lenses that are not actually optimized for the closeup range—the superb Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm ƒ/2 Macro (note: the film version, not the same lens I mentioned earlier) is one of these—thankfully, since that made it better as a general-purpose normal lens."

True also of the OM Zuiko 90/2 Macro. This was a great disappointment to me. I bought this legendary lens, fool that I am, to do Macro shooting. It's IQ started to deteriorate closer than about 1:4.

I've never understood why, given that they already had an excellent 85/2 for general work, Oly made a 90/2 "Macro" that isn't.

I sold it on, and continued to use lenses labeled Macro that were actually designed for that purpose, The Zuiko 50/3.5, Kiron 105/2.8 and Tamron 90/2.5 (With matching teleconverter, also an excellent 180/5 macro).

BTW: As far as I can tell without buying one, from tests and examples, the 50/2 Macro is no better for actual macro than the 50/3.5.

BTW II: The Tamron 90/2.8 AF Macro lens is as good or better than any of the above @ 1:2 and 1:1 for flat field copy work. Only the 50/3.5, at 1:2, is competitive.


Another superlative example [of a very consistent lens]: the Olympus 75/1.8 for micro 4/3. Many consider this to be the best m43 lens of the entire system. I use it wide open for portraits, it's exquisite



Here's a link to a recent portrait done with the 75/1.8 on a GH2. Available light from a large window, 1/125 @ f/1.8, iso 160 (the subject gave his permission for me to post this online).


To add to to my previous comment about the 75/1.8.

Thanks (and best of luck with the move),

It's hard to know when you're being serious, and when you're being satirical.

It's the time again to wish for zoom lenses of great quality like an 18-22/4,
30-40/2,8, or 60-90/2 so that I can continue to wildly “throw the zoom ring from one end to the other“.

I must be getting old—I remember when you published the original! Was a highly useful read to me back then.

It's interesting, to me, how camera/lens manufacturers now use software backflips and gyrations to correct some really bad lens performance. When I bought a Nikon D-7000 they included an 18-105mm kit lens. I intended to ebay the lens immediately, but discovered that the image quality was pretty good, and with the image stabilization, effectively a much faster lens than the actual maximum f-stops would suggest. But that was shooting jpegs. When I shot raw, as I prefer, I found out that the raw files were incompatible with my ancient versions of Photoshop and Lightroom. I downloaded the free Adobe raw to .dng converter. The converter strips out most of the software corrections, leaving you with files with ridiculous barrel distortion and obscene corner falloff. Don't even ask about the results from the Sony 16-50mm that came with my NEX-6. Sigh...

Ooh that's my lens! The 35mm Biogon.

I'm currently doing the budget version of the Leica for a year, A Bessa R2 with the above lens and HP5+ film, and loving it.

By sticking with the same camera and lens combo, I have definitely started to 'see' how the lens sees, which is a complete change to how I used to shoot digital.

I am also aware of the rangefinder's and the lens's limitations, which have really helped me compose better, shoot faster, and because it's film, choose what I shoot and don't more effectively.

Thanks for all of the great articles, keep it up!

One other way to keep from stressing a lens is to stay in it's sweet spot.
It's one of the reasons APS-C looks so good to me. I'm a Nikon user with a few older primes. The 50 1.4 and 105 2.5 are really nice on my DX camera.
Back in my large format days it was not unusual to have a 210mm as a normal for 4x5 even though logic would dictate something more in the 150mm range. Granted the larger image circle also helps a lot if your are shifting the lens.
Finally there's the old darkroom trick of going one size up for an enlarging lens. About all the negatives I work with anymore are 6x6 and I've been really pleased with how the prints look done with a 105mm 5.6 Nikkor which is a bit longer than the 75mm one would expect.
So how long has it been since anyone mentioned enlarging lenses on TOP? Do they even make enlarging lenses anymore? Suddenly feeling a little old here.

"The goal of learning all this is to get to know your lens."

I agree wholeheartedly.

"Many amateur photographers conceive of their lens kits in terms of wanting to "cover" all the focal lengths or "be able to handle" any actual or imagined situation. They also like toys. Therefore they tend to overbuy lenses and have too many in their arsenals."

Guilty - and yet - it's through actual use that I discover which lenses really work for me. Am I supposed to buy on the basis of tests or user recommendations? Sometimes that has worked, sometimes not (as with the Zuiko 90/2 'Macro' above). So I (over) buy what seems likely to please, and find out which do through experience.

"One common result: under-familiarity with their own lenses, especially since amateurs may not shoot very much or very often."

Well, yeah, I only shot a little over 12,000 last year. (Still haven't dug out of that blizzard; it should be fewer this year.)

"My feeling as a teacher is that one of the best things a hobbyist photographer can do to improve their seeing and their pictures is to limit the focal lengths available to them and use fewer lenses rather than more. Cartier-Bresson got by with one lens (although he often carried three, he only very seldomly used anything but the 50mm) and Sebastiao Salgado used three when he was making his early, formative work. You need more?"

Buy what if I don't want to be Henri Bloody C-B? Both these people are photojournalists/street shooters. I am totally uninterested in photojournalism. I've done street shooting, quite successfully, to my mind, using a completely different approach than the HC-B style. But my real loves are elsewhere.

I do take landscapes. I don't know how many lenses St. Ansel carried with him, and I don't care, as I find my own way to make the images I like.

"My preference and my habit has always been to use one or two lenses at a time."

I agree, and don't. I'd guess maybe 95% of my images are shot with three lenses. If I ignore more casual work with Panny GM1 and 12-32 (and before that, Pens with compact lenses, and a series of 'enthusiast' compacts), it's over 95% with two lenses, but they are zooms.

And yet, were have wildly different photography habits. I like many different kinds of subjects, from macro to long tele, and most of my shooting is done on the road.

These images from last Wednesday may be eclectic, but they are things I noticed and, to my mind, captured quite well. To do so required a great range of focal lengths and focal distances, although only two lenses. If that's what one wants, a couple of fixed focal length lenses will not work.

Like HC-B, doing most of his shots with one of the three lenses he carried, I also carry a super wide zoom, 60/2.8 macro and, for low light, Panny 20/1.7.

They may not get much use, but when the shot presents itself, in a place I may never visit again, in light I won't ever see exactly again, I'm ready. The beauty of µ4/3 is that they are small and light.


This is a great post, fully valid today still in terms of learning. This should be mandatory reading.

A good companion to this post would be a link to your Sunday Morning Photographer post on LL about 50mm lenses and "metaphysical doubt". That was a classic!

...gotta say, I had that same Fuji 645 and it was amazingly dead sharp, even wide open. Everything I shot with that thing was premo! You must have had a bad copy. I actually sold it to an assistant, for practically nothing, 'cause it bugged me that it was so hard to see and use the meter; he fell on it running for a bus and broke the whole thing! Sad...

I can say that I was never a Fuji lens "fan", I never thought the view camera stuff was all that sharp, it was really hit and miss. Nikon was the way to go there, or old "panda" Schneiders (or, of course, red dots). I had a video/cinematographer buddy in DC that spent much more on his rig than normal because he requested a Nikon lens on it when most of them were Fuji's. Nikon quit making those lenses, and when he went to sell it, there was a bidding war on between the knowledgeable, just based on the lens.

The Fuji 680 stuff was stellar tho, looked like Hasselblad.

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