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Monday, 07 September 2015


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"For purists who don't cotton to that newfangled autofocus nonsense"


I just tried the new 35/2 by Meyer Optik Görlitz, an old German brand that currently gets revived. Available in both Canon and Nikon mounts it has no AF and no automatic aperture, i.e. you have to stop down manually before every shot. Optically it seems very nice with smooth bokeh. A few pictures can be seen here: http://www.meyer-optik-goerlitz.de/carsten-bockermann-zeitlose-reportage-mit-den-figmentum-objektiven/


The hail storm of new or reengineered 35mm lenses for DSLRs is a bit bewildering to me. I'm actually preparing to sell my "old" Canon 35mm F1.4 because, honestly, I just never use it. Even when my Canons were my primary cameras I tended to grab the F2 more often than the F1.4, which is just such a bulky brick of a lens. (Its Pain-Gain Ratio (PGR) = 1.83.) The much smaller, lighter F2 lens produced equally lovely images to my eye and has a PGR = 1.0.

I was a big fan of the old Canon EF 35mm f/2 lens — the one that some people didn't like because of the sound of the AF motors and because of an oddity of how it switched between AF and MF modes. But it was (and still is, if you can find one) a darned fine performer. It is very small and light, the image quality is truly excellent (with the minor exception of a tiny bit of softness in the furthest corners), and the sound of the lens really isn't _that_ loud!

I second the Canon 40mm Pancake. I love that lens. I use it with silent shutter mode on my 5D mk3. It's my street photography stealth assasin rig. And, even though it's not advertised as water proof, it survived a dunk in a lake last summer, so did my 5D3. Also, don't be scared off by the STM focus. Yes, it's not as fast as USM (all my other lenses are USM), but I have never missed a shot with it from slow focus. It works on my kids as well as running dogs, the two hardest things to photograph. Not bad for $125.

And for the Fuji users I think a lot of us want a compact f2 with f stops ring for the X cameras. Insatiable.

Seems the new one, not the old, has weather sealing....big deal for some.

"organic optical material"
AKA plastic, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Anyone seen the patent number for that ?

I am in my early 60's and at this point in my life I want something that is lightweight and trouble-free.

I bought the Sony-Zeiss 35mm ƒ/2.8 for my Sony A7R. It is an excellent image maker and, at 120 grams, it weighs next to nothing. Sony-Zeiss recently introduced an ƒ/1.4 version and it weighs 630 grams. I have no interest in a lens this big and heavy. In the rare event that I need the extra speed, or more shallow DoF, I will dig out a 380 gram ƒ/1.4 Nikkor that I still have.

Perhaps I'm being heretical here, but what is the fascination of f/1.4 lenses? How often will most of the folks who buy this new Canon 35 mm actually shoot at f/1.4? I know next to nothing about lens design. However, it seems to me that it should be possible to make a highly corrected lens (better corrected than any of the available f/1.4's) that would be much smaller/lighter, and perhaps less expensive, provided that it had a much smaller maximum aperture, say f/2.8.

I suppose the obvious counter-argument is that such lenses wouldn't really be cheap, so few people would want to give away the extra speed of f/1.4 and shallow depth of field in exchange for smaller/lighter and (marginally?) better optics. I would. I don't even own any f/1.4 lenses any more.

I agree with Eric Erickson. The arthritis in my wrists and hands is getting to the point that I have problems unscrewing the cap from a soft drink bottle.

A Canon 5D3 and 90mm f/2.8 Tilt & Shift is way too BIG/heavy. So I've been experimenting with focus stacking. No reason that a 45mm lens on M4/3, or a 60mm on DX, can't deliver the needed results for full page Webb Press printing (magazines/catalogs).

From my seriously warped point of view, I'm seeing a replay of the switch from 4x5 to 35mm for PJs. CaNikon is playing the part of Graflex (BIGGER is better, and mirrorless is slowly finding an audience that appreciates small/light more than good enough cameras.

Have you seen the Cambo ACTUS mini view camera?? It works with cameras as small as M4/3 to as large as MFD backs. Yet still fits in the palm of your hand https://www.cambo.com/en/actus-mini/ For me, an ACTUS fitted with a Sony α6000 (tethered to Capture One) and a 50mm EL Nikkor f/2.8N lens would be the perfect table-top rig. Also seems like it would be good for landscape and fine-art photographers.

If T.O.P.'s comments column isn't the place for a long technical discussion by Ctein about "how lens design and aberration correction works," then why not have him devote one of his now-irregular columns to this subject?

I certainly am interested in reading his thoughts about this, as will (I suspect) pretty much every other photographer who isn't an optical engineer, but has witnessed the surprisingly large negative effects upon image quality that simultaneously occur when some distortion corrections are done by software during the post-processing of RAW files.

I don't know about others, but I'd love to be disabused of my prejudice that favors lenses that "get it right in the glass," especially if this saves me money and opens doors that are (by personal choice) firmly closed to me.

That looks like a damn teleeeephoto 35mm to me!

I for one would love to hear Ctein explain why software corrections aren't worse than optical ones. I don't get into arguments about it but it's seems intuitive that optical would be better.

An article please.


At what point does improved resolution begin to be irrelevant for the purposes of picture making?

Leaving aside the fact that such massive resolution requires that we have almost godlike perfection of technique to fully capture it, the following thoughts come to mind.

All that this lens, and the contemporary 50 megapixel Canon cameras let you do, is increase the limits of being able to frame loose and crop later. Pretty soon, we'll be taking pictures paying no heed to framing (and hence composition) or choice of focal length at the moment of image creation. I don't see how this is a positive development.

Other than that we are at the stage where using all the resolution that these cameras and lenses give us results in massive 6 foot wide pictures for display.

Print them any smaller, and we pointlessly throw away the increased detail that technological progress and additional expense have delivered.

Except for a very small number of artistic applications-such as the pictures of Andreas Gursky- I fail to see the practical utility of being able to print tack sharp 6 foot wide images. Few homes or other venues are big enough to display them at a reasonable viewing distance.

Usually you are so close, you get the field of view best achieved by a choice of longer focal length, scanning them with your eyes as if restricted by blinkers, a most unsatisfactory aesthetic experience.

Absent a creative revolution in photography that unlocks benefits from all this increased resolution, count me unimpressed.

Dear Dave & JG,

I'm not particularly interested in writing that at present, because it'll draw out exactly the same sorts of people that fact-based columns about depth of field, diffraction, and “film vs. digital” do. That is, people who are strong on opinions and short on knowledge. Sometimes I'm in the mood to argue with them in the hopes of enlightening them. Currently, not. It'd be more aggravation than enjoyment.

JG, you're experiencing sample bias, a logical fallacy. You've noticed the cases where this is done badly. You don't notice the cases (the majority) where it's done well. I can point to a whole lot of glass-corrected lenses that are pretty crappy in one respect or another. Which “proves” that glass correction is inferior, right?

In fact, I reviewed a lens where this was handled badly––the Olympus 12mm f/2 ( http://tinyurl.com/7cc9l8s ). There is so much undercorrected barrel distortion in this lens (5-6%? something like that) that fixing it in software introduces smearing that looks like undercorrected coma or spherical aberration. 1-2%? That you can correct invisibly in software, giving you close to a distortion-free, pixel-sharp lens. 5%? No way. Software correction is just a tool in the toolkit, like the choice of glass in the figure of a lens element. It's not a miracle worker. No tool is.

But… think about this. I was seeing those software artifacts because the lens designers made poor choices in glass. They were so fixated on optimizing other lens characteristics and minimizing other aberrations, that they let a huge amount of geometric distortion through. That's poor correction in glass, not in software. If they'd done a better job of balancing off the aberrations against each other ( and it is ALWAYS a balancing act) it would have been a much better lens.

That's really all I feel like saying on the subject.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

The current 35/1.4L has been my favourite lens for about the last 10 years (since the original 5D) - I could just use that and the 135/2.0L for the rest of my life if I had to. Very little you can't photograph with a 5D3 and those two lenses.

Tried "little cameras" (OM-D EM-5, Sigma DP2M and DP3M) - just not as good. Not as responsive, not as transparent.

I'll be getting the 35mm/1.4L mark2 as soon as the UK price has dropped a bit.

Advantage to optical correction over software correction? Best corrected lens + all analogue workflow, of course. That said, I'm standing pat with my Zeiss Distagon 35/2.0 ZS, since I "don't cotton to that newfangled autofocus nonsense."

Size matters to me in these matters, and to me, it's a big turnoff. I suspect that the same folks who choose big cameras also favor large pickup trucks. They're big people, and I'm not. With small hands, I never appreciated Canon's jumbo lens mount. Maybe that allowed some impressive maximum apertures on some rare premium lenses, but it negated the goal of compact lenses at the outset.

I know that big cameras can impress the common folk, but they're generally a pain. If I wanted a bigger camera, I'd chose a Pentax 645D and get a much bigger VF and larger pixels and better ergonomics, too. A 35mm prime lens weighing a pound and a half is just ridiculous. I'd rather carry three or four Pentax Limiteds in my pocket and call it a system.

This Pentaxian laughs at Eric Erickson's notion of "pancake"...

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