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Saturday, 13 October 2018


Another factor that I suspect (though probably of somewhat limited compass) is that photographers started figuring out that their high resolution sensors were capable of giving them medium format-like results, but that their existing lenses (mostly zooms) were not up to it. Many of us decided that for some purposes we'd be glad to pay for a lens that could step up to the plate in terms of quality. We might grumble about the price and weight, but the resulting system was still cheaper and lighter than going medium format.

I think it’s probably like you said about big tele lenses: it’s about prestige and pride.
Nobody buys a Lamborgini because it’s actually a better car.

And nobody needs fifteen durn elements in a prime! :-)

Could be, but maybe more related to what you were saying a bit earlier about amateur yearnings for large telephoto lenses- don't really need 'em, but... mine is bigger than yours!

It's gonna be the preverbal cold day in hell when these $$$megaliths$$$ improve on the performance of my SMCP f1.4/50mm or even an old Elmar or Summar, stopped down a little, (which is now possible with current digital cameras).

There’s a technical point here, as well as the less rational appeal that you’ve identified. Your Zeiss Planar was corrected for good performance at the resolution of film. Today’s sensors, especially the very hi res ones, exceed film resolution by quite a bit. Hence there’s a need for higher resolution lenses. That means more corrections, and more elements, since each piece of glass gives the designer extra parameters to use in making corrections: glass type, curvature, position, etc. That extra flexibility costs size, weight, and money. Whether one really uses all that capability to make better photos or just enjoys the envy from those with smaller, less conspicuous lenses is another matter.

I'm sticking with the old small and cheap lenses.

I recently upgraded to a 5Ds and was surprised to see that the ol' cheapos do make use of the extra resolution, but not necessarily to the edges of the frame. And that doesn't really matter to me.

The ol' 50 1.4 sure is strange at f1.4, but to me, that's a feature and not a bug. And I don't shoot fashion :) At f4 it's sharp as a tack and makes use of the the 50mpx sensor.

And so, I'll take the DSLR vs the mirrorless with a big lens any day...

FF has really moved to be medium format, I can buy any system I want and I want small size and big performance and I use Fuji, My fave set up is the XE3 with the 16 mm f1.4, a lovely set up.

I'll argue that ever since digital broke through to the mainstream in the last decade, advances in image quality have been more rapid than in the preceding decades and it became easier than ever to do image quality comparisons: just zoom in to 100% and share over the Internet. This was ample ground for the type that values image quality a lot in their photography, but also those who value gear a lot as part of their hobby (or primary aim of their hobby?) Subsequently, we have lens companies interested in making money and a customer base who want both a large aperture and high performance at every aperture in order to create the sort of shallow-dof shot that can be seen everywhere on the Internet.

These days people want to pixel-peep on images shot wide-open. It's pretty much a fad. And for that they need these giants. For the rest of us, those who like a little D-o-F and feel no need to shock our viewers with razor sharp eyelashes, the smaller lenses are fine.

Correct me if I am wrong, but my impression from the reviews is that these modern giant primes are simply in a different optical league than the 50 1.4 lenses of the film era. At least on digital sensors they are. And you must leave out the Summilux as it was in a different league from the Nikkors and the rest in the film era.

All these boutique lenses seem ideal for bokeh lookers.

It is generally believed that this lens is a Pentax design, equivalent of their new 50/1.4. From what I read in the forums, K1 owners have been waiting for this lens (although there are several very good 50-55 mm's in Pentax's lineup)

I use my 50/1.4 (pre-aspherical) Summilux-M for two reasons.

1. I appreciate the extra stop without much extra weight since I handhold all my shots.

2. The "bokeh" of this lens is almost legendary and to me, that's an art form.

It sits on my M6 all the time now.

That's the Tokina version of the new Pentax 50 1.4 (reportedly Pentax designed, perhaps even both made at the same plant in Vietnam, not sure). I was just using with my K1 yesterday, out for a walk in some beautiful woods with my wife. Man, it's heavy, but I like it. To me it has nothing to do with liking big zooms and such. I just like how it renders. Still, when I switched to the 31 limited the camera felt like a lightweight wonder all of a sudden. I don't mind these big lenses as options, but I really wish more companies could do what Fuji has done with their modern f2, weatherized primes.

That Zeiss looks an awful lot like my Fuji 35 mm f/1.4 that I love so much.

Segmentation - it's not enough to have lots of MP inside, you won't notice that unless you squint at the model number. But a massive prime on the front ... that's self-evident.
FF 35 today is up there with MF film, maybe better. APC wipes the floor with 35mm film. Of course, none of this necessarily implies decent pictures.

For some, a big lens (and a big camera) is a status symbol. As has been said, it’s easier to sell performance. Mike, how can we start a trend for small lenses full of character?

"You want the real answer why we must have ƒ/1.4?"

The other major advantage of ƒ/1.4 back in the day was that it gave you a brighter viewfinder image, which made it a whole lot easier to focus accurately manually. Of course, that hasn't been an issue since everyone switched to autofocus cameras and is even more irrelevant now that we're all switching to mirrorless cameras with nice bright EVFs.

Sigma started this trend with their Art series and I bought in. I own a bunch of them, wonderful lenses at relatively bargain prices compared to Nikon/Canon equivalents.

But one Nikon 50mm F1.8 is so much fun I use it for the exact opposite of the new super sharp large aperture lenses.

The Nikon Normal 50mm f/1.8 Nikkor AIS Manual Focus Lens from long ago is a very light, small pancake lens that is so soft, it's almost like you are putting a diffusion overlay on the lens.

For certain subjects it's just magic! Long live soft focus lenses.

I really would love a EF 40mm with the image quality of the 24-70 ii. As it is, I use the zoom as an adjustable 40- a pretty darn heavy one though.

A con-man, way-back in the 1800s said: There's a sucker born every minute. This mantra is still taught in MBA programs world-wide.

Could it be that the old 1.4 lenses suffered from focus shift as they stopped down, and were kinda poor optically in the corners? With digital cameras and better sensors, the lens limitations became much more obvious. Also, mirrorless cameras with more accurate AF actually permit 1.4 to be used with some hope of correct focus.

Let's not overlook that both the current Summilux and Noctilux were developed in the 1990s for use with film. I suspect the new generations, when they arrive, will be significantly larger.


And then there is this, soon to be released by the Nikon Mothership:


Mike, I think I may have an explanation for where this particular lens originated. If you research cine lenses, you will see that Sigma not too long ago introduced a line of very successful and relatively “inexpensive “cinema lenses based on the Art series. Well, Tokina answered with a line of similarly priced cinema lenses that are even better corrected but almost twice as big. My hunch is that these new still lenses may be the same optics but this time rehoused for still photography.

It's the Hefty Fifty.

Nuts. The Leica ASPH 50/1.4 has to be one of the highest performing 50/1.4 lens out there and it's tiny compared to these monsters.

If I want large lens, I would use a Hasselblad... oh wait, I do ~_o

I haven't been here for a while. You all bring a lot to the game.

Pentax fa 50 1.4 vs Pentax dfa 50 1.4.
The first was designed with compactness in mind. Apart from extrem bokeh, and focus speed, The y are not that different.

(Mike, would be lovely if you can insert a fa 50 image, The one of the 80,s, and the current one). As The iPad is driving me mad, mad, mad... missing muy surface a Lot.

This is The 55 compared to The 50. The 55 is smaller tan The current dfa 50.

You may well be right but I am happy that I got used to small lenses. I started with a rangefinder and my first SLR was OM-1. I eventually got one zoom for that, but it was so bad that I quickly sold it and didn’t get another izoom lens for twenty years. Now I mostly use m4/3 with it’s small primes, though I have some small zooms as well. I am a bit sad that Olympus has recently departed from it’s past with many very large primes. Luckily there are other lens makers who keep them small.

One simple explanation for the popularity of these lenses: video.

I really would love a EF 40mm with the image quality of the 24-70 ii."

As has been noted in this space before, Canon's $200 40mm pancake is an exceptional lens; it's the only lens I use when shooting film with Canon EF. Mouse over this chart to compare the 40mm to the 24-70 II: note especially the edges and corners.

I have sold on my XPro-1 and XRF 18-55/2.8 OIS (a not-too-big but not exactly compact kit) and am applying the funds towards an X100F. Smalll, compact, light and F2 are fine with me. F1.4 might be desirable but only for shallower DoF when needed.

I know we are busy making fun of the Tokina (and potential "suckers" who might buy it) but I thought we could take a break to make fun of the new Sigma 40mm 1.4, which looks at least as big, at a focal length I always associate with compact lenses...

I bought one of those huge primes, the Sigma 50 f/1.4 for my A7R3. I knew about the weight, compared it on paper with much smaller Zony 55 f/1.8 and it looked a tiny bit better optically. I convinced myself I could tolerate the weight. After three days it went back. Just too big. I didn’t buy the Zony either. I’m now awaiting the Batis 40 f/2. We’ll see if that works.

Two quotes from Tom Sigel ASC on how he shot Bohemian Rhapsody with the ALEXA 65 https://bit.ly/2Aa9QZt

The Alexa 65 is a brilliant camera. It has the feel of a medium format camera in still photography. All this amazing picture detail without being overly sharp. It creates all these beautifully subtle half-tones and nuances that I luxuriate in. Emphasis added.

Overly sharp is beloved by Ad-Ams and rejected by a lot of highly paid cinematographers. Many DPs have been using silk stockings and glass filters to remove the edge from clincally sharp lenses. This is nothing new. They started doing this before World War Two.

I learn something every time I step on a set. Whether it’s a low-budget music video or a giant effects movie, if you aren’t learning something, you aren’t paying attention. It is the only way you grow as an artist. If you aren’t growing, you’re moving backwards. Emphasis added.

I have a low boredom tolerance so I do pay attention. I learn something new, and sometimes useful, almost everyday.

I definitely go for the small and light. My first lens was a Pentax A mount 50mm f1.7, which I still have but don't use much now that it's become a 75mm (on my Pentax DSLR). I bought my Olympus OMD-EM10 specifically because it had a pancake kit lens which is tiny.

Holy CR_P, I hadn't seen this, but 5 minutes later I am still slack jawed:

"And then there is this, soon to be released by the Nikon Mothership:


Looks amazing, I think I will stick with Fuji. I just got a great deal on a Leica M5 (apparently nobody wants this model). I got a Voigtlander 35mm F1.4 until I figure out what I really want for it, which undoubtedly will be 35 MM... I bet that Nikon Lens is bigger than this camera and the lens combined. I wonder how many of them they will sell?

All this image quality and I am still not seeing photos as good as Diane Arbus or Robert Frank or William Eggleston or Saul Leiter or Vivian Maier for that matter. Sometimes limitations are the most important part of creativity. I suppose carrying around this lens or that new Nikon does create it's own set of limitations.....

Do they come with free test charts?

For me this is even more true in m43.

My EM5 with two Olly 12/2. 17/1.7. 25/1.8 45/1.8 70/1.7 is an incredible package. Tiny .

For me the whole point and advantage of m43 disappears with the new even faster ENORMOUS PRO lenses totally lose the advantage of m43.

If I want really short dof then other systems make more sense.

I have recently changed the EM5 for a Panasonic G80 for a better hand grip but walking for a week with a collection of those tiny lenses is such a pleasure. Not so with the new lenses.

Again it seems that bigger is better even when it makes no sense at all!

By how much is the performance of these big, heavy primes better than, say, my old Pentax FA 50 f/1.4 or f/1.7, or their manual focus ('M') predecessors? There seems a be a huge penalty in terms of size, weight, and price. Can it be justified in real life?

I'm genuinely curious.

For my current aerial project, I started with a 70-300 zoom, but have now switched to a 50/1.4 for the most part, which I'd barely used since buying it almost 5 years ago (I much prefer Canon's lovely little 40/2.8 for a walking around lens). Much higher shutter speeds + 20MP of cropping resolution + no fiddling with a zoom ring equals more usable shots.

Nothing to do with lenses but to do with language, Ned's 問題ない (mondainai)...which loosely means 'no problem.' is so close to the Cantonese expression 無問題 mo-man-tai which also means no problem, but like the Japanese sort of directly translates as "no questions".

Bob Harshman may have a lemon in his Nikkor 1.8/50mm AIS Nikkor; I have had two and both were excellent, though I still liked my original 2/50mm more (sentiment). My current 1.8/50mm Nikkor is a G, and with its hood, seems huge, even if it weighs nothing at all.

Some rave about the old 2.8/24-70mm Nikkor zoom, my copy being so bad - even on a D200 - that I gave it back, vowing never to buy a zoom again.

I had an excellent 2.8/35mm AIS Nikkor that was eventually replaced by its f2 brother; the f2 one seems to have a lot of barrel distortion...

Figuring why anyone wants to carry around a zoom that makes one both target for a mugging as well as a bit of a Christmas tree, is subject for a study in mental circuitry. Preparedness for every eventuality is not the life condition of most photographers -certainly not of any I know.

And so it goes: lenses are all compromises as, indeed, are people.


Maybe big front elements are just macho-sexy, like thick speaker cables?
The zooms are fighting back though: the pentax 70-200/2.8 weighs in at over 1800g.

The dpr commentariat do seem to be, in part, to blame for this trend towards über-sharp, massive lenses and yet slate ‘Canikon’ for the heft of their mirrorless camera bodies and lenses!

I’m also sure that however sharp these Otus style lenses are the proportion of scenarios, away from test charts, where they will make for significantly better images than the little Zeiss Contax 50/1.4 (or the sharper 50/1.7, for that matter) will mostly where AF matters.

Personally, I’d like to see a modern, utilitarian and relatively compact, 50/1.4 IS along the lines of Canon’s 35/2. I’d bet they’d sell a ton.

Diminishing returns in a shrinking industry, similar to what happened in stereo 30+ years ago, where things got out of hand with ridiculous golden ears insanity and concomitant prices (e.g., blue-liquid-filled firehouse-sized speaker cables). Huge megapixel counts and ultra-high resolution, coffee-can-sized "status" lenses just don't add to my photographic image making.

As a continuation of my earlier comment (I had to do some digging): for some time, 70-200/2.8 zooms have been stable in the 1400g zone. I have an early generation Sigma, which I insist on using on a Pentax K3 APC body where it is already superbly sharp (actually a tougher test than FF because of the higher pixel density). A little while ago I found a later model by Tamron which turned out to be not-at-all sharp, and it now sits in the cupboard of bad ideas.
Then a year or so back, I found an excuse to buy the current pentax... better AF, closer minimum focus, a very good price. And it really is very nice, although with a gun to my head I doubt I could pick it from the old Sigma looking at the prints. I could pick it by the noise it doesn't make while focusing... the old lens was a bit of an embarrassment while shooting classical music concerts (by invitation). Still at over 1800g it is a pain to carry, and it is quite a bit heavier than the supposed close relative Tamron G2.
Then I read about the newest Sigma, announced at Photokina and not yet available. Over 1800g, 375g heavier than its predecessor. It remains to be seen if the OEM lenses will also up the weight, but the Pentax is no longer an anomaly.

You might be on to something Mike. Nobody ever comments about my E-M1 with the 25mm f/1.8 on it (or any other lens for that matter). People do ooh and ah about my 7D Mark II with a 24-105mm or 70-200mm on it. "That camera must take great pictures!"

I prefer smaller, but purchased the Canon for action photos of my son running track. I really love the Olympus. The jury is still out for me on the 7D Mark II for anything other than action. And even then, it is nothing more than a tool that I tolerate.

In my dSLR days, I was very much of the mind that the size and weight was a necessary part of the equation to getting better results. I didn't mind it as it was really the "only" choice and that size and weight was the sacrifice necessary for the results.

But, holy crap, once mirrorless came along and I could all the same results with half the weight and size... I couldn't ditch that clunky stuff fast enough. I am way more than glad to sit back on the sidelines with my wonderful, small, light and still very high quality Fuji gear and let the rest of them fight over the next bigger, larger, faster, image-quality-er thing. Have fun with your 50-100% more weight, volume, and dollars for 3% "better" pictures. I'll be out snapping like a maniac... a maniac without shoulder pain.

I certainly appreciate the choice of smaller lighter cameras with excellent image quality but haven't yet taken the plunge (unless my 1" sensor G7x or iPhone X count)
While I'm mostly retired , my wife & daughter still regularly shoot events. My daughter uses D3s's my wife Canon 7D's
They both regularly use the 2.8 zooms with 85 & 50 1.4's thrown in.
My daughter who traded a D810 for another D3s is having issues with her 70-200. I suggested she look into the f/4 version which is less than half the price and weight. Her well thought out answer was I traded the D810 for the D3s because I couldn't see the difference on my display or in prints (rarely over 11x14) but some of the places we shoot are SO dark that I need the fastest lenses because while I couldn't see the resolution difference at a practical level, I COULD see the color shift and changes in skin tone, when pushing high ISOs so I use the 2.8 to keep iso as low as possible and still get a decent shutter speed.

So for personal work , none of what she said really matters much, but in professional situations where you never know how dark they will make the Church or venue, you are basically buying insurance with big fast lenses. You can't tell a client it was darker than I expected........

I couldn’t see the link to Ken Tanaka’s video.

I like sharp lenses, I like fast lenses. Ans I understand when they can’t be both at the same time.

Day(s) late and at least a dollar short, but I recall back in the day when I too thought a 1.4 lens was most useful with then wicked fast Tri-X 400 for low light photos. Back then I was not aware that a shallow depth of field was of much practical use for any photography I did. I was so silly that I generally wanted a deeper depth of field.

I am embarrassed to admit this, but at over 35 years later, I haven't changed my opinion all that much, especially when I can shoot ISO 1 billion with a f2 or slower lens and get better low light results than in my wildest fantasies of the old days. And boke. Eeew! I still prefer the first meaning of the word, the most commonly used among the non-pixel-head types meaning "touched in the head," or growing senile.

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