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Monday, 26 June 2017


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I'm sure there are people out there making images with these huge, incredible lenses that couldn't be made with other lenses. But I bet that's a minority of the people who own them.

Look at the best image you've made with humbler glass, and ask yourself if it would have been a better photograph if only you'd used a Milvus. If you like a clinical, "forensic" style of photography, then maybe yes. (You know this is you if you're disappointed by what you're seeing when you zoom in 200%!) I shoot for modestly large prints and with my style and interests have discovered that the point of diminishing returns came well before the lens in your picture! My wallet thanks me.

Mike has just lifted the lid on the largest can of worms ever to appear in TOP.

Waking up to see 70+ responses to that "favorite 35mm lens" was not shocking ...but it was at least brow-raising. Wow.

"Too bad lenses don't come with shots-taken odometers...the data you could harvest would be enlightening!". Lenses don't have meters but Lightroom does. You can easily search for images taken with particular lenses (as long as the camera could record the lens identifier in its EXIF metadata, of course). You can also use a 3rd party utility called Dashboard to analyze a whole LR database and give stats on camera and lens usage.

I'm not sure if Canon's 24mm f/1.4 lens qualifies as uber prime, but it weighs almost a pound and a half (650g), has a 77mm filter size, and is huge.

It has also been my carry around lens (and my only carry around lens) for almost eight years. It's banged up. The plastic hood (mounted forward) is held together with gaffer tape. I've gotten used to having a heavy camera and attempts to switch lenses always fail. I know how to see with it, I know where to stand to get everything framed right, and I know its quirks pretty well. I use it to shoot street, to shot concerts, at family events, and on vacation. So I guess I'm the kind of guy who would drive my Corvette to work every day.

But even micro four thirds is flirting with the big, heavy uber-prime concept in the form of the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 PRO. A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to buy that or the 12-100 f/4.0 PRO zoom. I went with the zoom.

I have plenty of small, light micro four-thirds primes that work just fine and balance better on most of my camera bodies. The 25mm would have been used strictly on my E-M1 - and rarely at that.

If I really need that kind of subject isolation, I have APS-C and even full-frame gear.

Mike, I know I'm late to the game on the "über primes" but I can't resist. I can think of several possible buyers for these beasts. One is somebody who is glad to be buying a chunk of glass that is as good as a medium format lens without having to carry around an even heavier medium format camera. Second is someone who discovers that once they have a really good prime lens they can dispense with many of the zooms they carried, which really were just compensation for less than optimal image quality overall in 35mm lenses. (Zoom till it looks good.) I know I found that when I went around the world shooting farmer portraits with just one primo 35mm lens that I didn't miss the zooms. Finally, there are camera owners (I'll not call them photographers) for whom owning something is sufficient, they don't have to actually use it to enjoy it. These folks are just a species of glass hoarders and you could build a pretty good reality television show around their fetish. Jim

Comparing lenses and sport cars is interesting. Most Ferrari/Aston/McLaren etc owners don't drive anywhere close to the limit of their cars. Similarly, most photographers don't you know -you get my drift (pun intended).

I live in an area heavily populated with hedge fund types (and others) that buy very expensive cars at bonus time. These cars run the gamut from your garden variety Aston Martin up to real super cars. Every spring the new crop hits the streets and one wonders if any of these cars will ever be driven the way that they are (in theory) designed to be driven. The answer is pretty certainly "no" and that they are eye candy and status symbols or dream realization. Sure, I'd like to own one also but know that it would never be fully utilized. I'm better off with an old Austin Healy or Morgan that I can put through it's paces when I'm out for a spin. Also applies to a lot of other expensive goods.

OMG, an honest look at super lenses! You must not be a true photographer, Mike. True photographers have shelves of high-spec cameras and lenses. They occasionally make a photo.

A Corvette would have driven away from this one (maybe needing a headlight replacement): http://www.ntnews.com.au/news/northern-territory/police-unaware-of-accident-after-wreck-found-from-cars-collision-with-buffalo-by-adelaide-river-floodplains/news-story/155dece81ce8537c9b0d15c2667584f5

"It's the same reason TOP readers might own lenses they never use: because they have lots of lenses and just happen to like other ones better."

I think you're spot on – in my case at least. But I can't help thinking of it as a bad habit, a disease even, and the lens that finally got me cured (partially at least!) was the Zeiss 135 f/2.0 APO Sonnar. It was the best lens I never used. When I looked at the stats in Lightroom one day after owning the lens for a couple of years, I was appalled. So off it went, soon to be followed by the D800E it was used with (also something of a shelf queen) – my last exposure to DSLRs.

I saw the Otus 28 f/1.4 shown in the post, in the flesh so to speak, when it was being field tested by a well known photographer just before it's release. I was using the minuscule Leica 28 f/2.8 Elmarit that day, and the size/weight comparison between the two full frame 28mm lenses was actually funny. I have no idea who would buy a fast, very big, very heavy 28mm, manual lens, but not me, and, I got the impression, not the photographer doing the testing.

Oh my. Did you say Ken "Rocknroll"???

Good one. Thanks for the smile.

Of all the sports cars (and muscle cars) out there, I bet Corvettes, 5-liter Mustangs and Camaros are driven harder than any others. The others are basically for cheese-eaters and cork-sniffers.

MIke said "Too bad lenses don't come with shots-taken odometers...the data you could harvest would be enlightening!"

Well they do, of course - it's called EXIF. And going over your EXIF stats in something like LIghtroom can be very enlighteneing. (no pun....)

You can quickly tell that on a partiuclar shoot you used lens x predominantly. I was amazed to find after many visits to Venice that the lens I used most (80%) was 28mm. A focal length that I normally don't like... but then Venice is cramped. If you use zooms, you might be interested, as I was, to see that you used your 70-200mm 55% at 70 and 40% at 200. (I read somewhere that most people used zooms at their extremes, but hey, with EXIF you can find out for yourself)

If you only own heavy lenses, then you don't really have a choice but to use them! :)

Anyway, the hand-wringing from this audience over the Milvus 35/1.4's weight and price surprises me given the impressive photographic knowledge and experience one generally finds here. For the Mllvus, what it promises to do well is what few other lenses do: its correction of longitudinal chromatic aberration, which is an aberration that does not decrease very quickly by stopping down a lens and is difficult to correct in post-processing (unlike its cousin lateral chromatic aberration). That's why all of those pricey anomalous partial dispersion elements are in the lens adding to its weight.

No Sigma Art lens is as good as a few of the Zeiss lenses (the Otus line, the 135/2 APO, and maybe a couple of others) when it comes to this kind of LoCA or color correction. Does this matter to you? It depends on your subject: backlit water droplets like ocean spray are a pretty harsh test of this behavior that require no pixel-peeping to see. There are also some people who believe that the general clarity of the lens is improved by this color correction, but it's harder to make photos to show that.

Add to that impressive sharpness and contrast especially when stopped down (a similar behavior to its 85mm Milvus sibling), and you have a pretty unique proposition for the lens. Not all lenses look alike even when stopped down!

As for its f/1.4 aperture, Zeiss and other manufacturers seem to think that a lens won't be popular unless it has a huge aperture. They may be right: witness the outcry over their recently introduced 135/2.8 Batis and 85/2.4 Loxia by Internet pundits. But there's also a group of us who'd gladly buy an Otus-class lens with a maximum aperture of f/2 or 2.8 if that means the lens becomes smaller and lighter. There aren't such things, so we continue to slog on with their heavier lenses (an Otus 55 and 135/2 APO in my case, both of which were carried to a location shoot recently with completely controlled lighting), even though we don't always use their maximum apertures.

I understand the appeal of the new super fast, super prime lenses for certain subjects, certain effects, and certain cameras.

What I don't get is why after paying all that money, and carrying around all that weight, anyone would subject themselves to the frustration of trying to eke out that extra 1% of quality by manually focusing via the miserable screen of a DSLR, any DSLR.

It seems that there is now a group of photographers with money to spend who want the best. Top lens makers keep introducing lenses that are increasingly expensive and perform well. Two grand for a 135/2.8? Three grand for a 70-200? And people are buying.

Another new group is the performance afficionados who try to get everything out of 35 mm. Consider that my Nikon 35/1.4 AI-S is around 300-400 grams and compact, performing well for its time. The current Nikon and Sigma 35/1.4 lenses are similar in size, going to nearly 700 grams and those feel large to me. Now the Milvus tops that. My Hasselblad lenses are smaller. I can only assume that there are people who want to reproduce every pixel as well as possible and are also waiting for high megapixel bodies.

It is not just Corvettes. I recently scratched an itch by purchasing a 2007 Mustang GT convertible. I was elated to discover that most of the cars I considered had averaged less than 3000 miles of use, per year, since manufacture. This seemed to be true of the convertible SS Camaros that I looks at, as well. Maybe it is a function of not being able to admire the car while you are inside of it.

The comment from Roger Moore about the X-rayed Leica box, made me think of Schrodingers Cat. Can the very act of looking at a Leica change the nature of it?

Hmmm.... I've worn out the focus motors on a used Canon 135/2.0L (bought used) and a Canon 35/1.4L (bought new). That's quite heavy use for an amateur. Took about 10 years.

Had the motors replaced by Canon, sold them, and bought a new 135/2.0 and a new 35/1.4L mark 2.

Those two lenses and a 5d3 body do 90% of my photography, and fit a small Billingham L2 bag. These "super primes" aren't very heavy if you can resist the compulsion to carry loads of unnecessary junk ;)

I do also use a 24mm TS-E and an 85mm/1.2 - but they only come out when needed.

So... Four carefully chosen "super primes". No weight problems.

On the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate bridge, the tollbooth attendants were asked by one of the local newspapers if they could tell what a person was like by what car they drove.

Their response was, "No, you really can't tell what a person is like by the car they drive; except for Corvette owners, they're all terrible."

What about the BMW M2 coupe or M235i? Both seem reminiscent of the old school 3 series coupes.

I think gear collection is part of our hobby too, not just taking pics, processing, or sharing. What's "nice" about our hobby is that you can get the absolute best gear in the world for just a few thousand dollars. Cycling is another obsession some folks have and you can get one of the best bicycles in the world for the price of a Sony A9. On the other hand, the best car can cost millions, for example, a Bugatti Chiron ... in a way, it's all virtue signaling in a way. But, I'm sure someone out there needs this level of performance in their lenses, bikes and cars.

Through my life I have had many cars, first Fiats Toyotas Chevrolet, then Volvos, BMWs and Mercedes, then I reconsidered, and set myself back to Toyotas and Hyundais. By far, and by an extremely wide margin, something from here to Alpha Centauri round trip, my best car has been my indestructible Toyota double cab 4x4 pickup truck from 1993, like this one


I still have it and use it. I already told my family that I want to be buried with it. This car takes me every year towards "paradise", solitary beach, in Northern Chile, from the starting settlement, a 120 Km trip that takes 3 days to complete, no roads, no trails, just sand dunes, rocks, wet sands and just plain rugged desert. It has never let me down in 23 years, not a single failure. If you don't believe, see this stupid video about the single cub version.


You can see some picture of solitary beach and around in my flickr.

Don't have a lens that I love that much, the closest is my Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

Just looked up the price of the 28mm Otus on the picture - 4500 Euros! Wow! The tripod collar for it is probably sold as an accessory. Now I wonder how much this is?

(Sorry, couldn't resist).

You may like this - regarding the BMW2002 - it says a lot about cameras - old performance cars needed to be learnt how to drive and love em - new ones you just get in - same with Cameras

Blame it on the "experts" and "testers", that demand perfect f1.4 lenses, which in turn requires huge front elements, at least a dozen of lens elements, with plenty of exotic glass. As an example, just look at recent 50 f1.4 lenses, from Sony, Sigma, and Leica.

What I find funny is the testimonials such as:" yeah, the lens is huge and heavy, but I see no CA, no vignetting, and no lack of sharpness in the corners when I pixel peep at 400%".

"Of all the sports cars (and muscle cars) out there, I bet Corvettes, 5-liter Mustangs and Camaros are driven harder than any others. The others are basically for cheese-eaters and cork-sniffers."

Obviously, you have never been amongst the Hoonigans of the Subaru STI and Mitsubishi EVO tribes, who will not only drive their cars far harder than those pathetic dinosaur American cars, but will also leave them in shame and in the dust.

The EVO IX went head-to-head on Top Gear against a Lamborghini and held its own. Jezza nearly soiled himself with delight.

Knew the E21 series well but owned only an E30 323i. Lovely car but would I take it over my present Fiesta ST? No!

I imagine BMW could reinvent the 2002. Perhaps they have already as the Mini Cooper S.

- '638 Supercharged Horses Under The Hood, and 600 of Them Died of Boredom'
THAT is a great line. I love to watch some of the hot rod auctions on TV but intuitively mark most of them off my fantasy list for just this reason. I'd like a daily drive-able hot rod with enough in reserve for the occasional times my foot feels heavy.
- The Otus, Milvus lenses leave me scratching my head for having the same vibe...I eventually Lightroom/Photoshop my images somewhat and create a jpeg to share and show. These lenses would be wasted on me, but I would be open to borrowing some for a couple of days, that's it.
- The "Check This Out" link to the corvette pickup truck conversion reminded me of my favorite author John D. MacDonald and his most famous character Travis McGee's vehicle called Miss Agnes, a 1936 Rolls Royce converted to a pickup truck, though I think Miss Agnes would be much cooler than a corvette pickup. This is a '39 Rolls Royce truck, close enough...

The best drivers car of the eighties was the Sierra, by quite a distance. Specially, that gem called sapphire cosw 4*4. Although the earlier 4*4 2.8I were very, very good.

Bimmers, I'm afraid, are way overvalued. A bit like a Leica lens. Never have I driven a worse manual than BMW.

We live in very affluent societies. We love to spend money.

"Mike replies: If BMW would build a roadgoing 2002N with a turbo four and a pricetag under $30k (think New Beetle) it would have an enormous hit on its hands. Unfortunately I don't think the concept gets along well with either modern safety requirements or BMW's current upmarket product placement needs."

Mike they do have the M230i, which is similarly sized car, for around $38k... But it's too modern "looking", and I think it's Ugly ;-( You could push it well over $50k, if you chose the M240i variant.

I agree whole-heartedly on the BMW front. BMW went from the ultimate driving machine to the bloated, out-of-shape former star college athlete of cars. I have fond memories of my parents' 1983 two door 328e. It was magic. It would cruise so smoothly, but handled like a dream. It was the perfect car. It could cruise down the highway comfortably, or take a side road and carve through the turns. Why, in America, is it considered 'better' if is grows larger. I think better should be better.

On a side note, if you have never seen Doug Demuro's videos on YouTube, he does some great reviews. He did one on the M2 not long ago. He touches on some of the points brought up about the old BMW.


If BMW would build a roadgoing 2002N with a turbo four and a pricetag under $30k (think New Beetle) it would have an enormous hit on its hands.

They do have such a thing and it's called the Mini Cooper S. And it's a BiG hit!

BMW makes the Mini marque in Oxford, but they're basically FWD, hot hatch, BMWs.

*** Late to the Party! ***
I was involved in a multi-car accident on the Belt Parkway in NYC while driving to LGA many years ago. There were multiple cars totaled, but the old BMW Bavaria I was driving took the brunt of the force and probably saved my life. Years later, a leased Z3 showed up at my house. I did not care much for that car (spouse's toy), even though she was kinda sweet, safety was an issue and I am not pointing to its size. I would like to see BMW bring back the 2002N.

I cannot criticize those with big glass needs. I still own a Schneider ALPA Apo-Helvetar 5.6/28 mm XL, LB that is in storage which I find hard to let go of. I am now planning to downsize, sell the house, and I am seriously considering buying an Airstream and traveling for a few years. At this point, landscape photography is now entering my little brain and I fear I would miss that big bubble of a lens. I tell myself, I cannot count on being able to turn my Fuji's sideways and pano my way across America.

I really like the Zeiss lenses I own. So much so, I will be departing with my Fuji 35 f/2 because I also have the Zeiss Touit 32 f/1.8, and downsizing for living life as a photographer in an Airstream is calling. They are both excellent lenses, but there is something special about the 32 copy I have.

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