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Tuesday, 25 August 2020


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I'm with you, brother. I drive a 2014 Mazda 6 in Soul Red. I have loved the car, it is fun to drive, does what I need a car to do, and hasn't needed a single non routine maintenance repair since I bought it. But, boy boy am I starting to feel lonely out here on the Michigan roads! SUV's everywhere!

And the thing about lenses is that lens cost and lens quality have not in any way tracked together for me. My favorite rangefinder lens of all time is still the Minolta M-Rokkor 40mm f/2 which was introduced with the CLE. I just checked eBay and they are selling for around $380. Byootiful rendering lens. And the dinky little Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens for $179 is an amazingly sharp little number. For these and other reasons, I have never been tempted to spend the mega-bucks for a lens. Let's hear it for choice!

I have the same attitude when it comes to film and digital. I don't want to do film anymore. I'm done with film. I think it's impractical for me; it's just the wrong medium. But I'm absolutely delighted that film still exists and that photographers who love film can find it and use it. Yeah choice!

As a Leica M user I just wish the 3rd party manufacturers would provide the coding cut-outs on the M-mount flanges of the lenses they sell. Allow the user to code as they wish. Simple, yet none do it!

Nicely put. I'm going through a period of unexpected satisfaction with my kit so a five grand lens wouldn't be on my list if by chance I hit the Powerball.
However if I did win my Sorento would magically turn into a perfect Lotus Cortina. Would walk right past all the Ferraris out there for one of those little sedans. Can't tell you why but it just rings my bell.

I always wonder who buys this stuff. How many photographers with Leicas are dying for a cheap Chinese lens to put on their cameras? Seems like a really weird market.

But the Chinese marketplace is so weird. I was interested in owning a 7 string guitar. It's something of a rare bird. I took a risk and bought a Chinese 7 string semi hollow arch top with the really awful brand name "Grote" which apparently is Dutch. It's actually a really decent instrument. And it was ~$200 including shipping from China.

I just don't understand how it's worth tooling all this stuff and marketing these weird nitch things that don't seem to have a large market and sell them at super cheap prices.

But I have more of a head for losing money than making it so what do I know?

The other thing that makes me sad is the amount of energy people expend on justifying their preference at the expense of someone else's, as if artistic tools have a fix, objective definition of "best".

One of the reasons I adore TOP is that it's one of the internet's few comment sections where people actually say outrageous things like "That's really interesting, I hadn't thought of it that way."

The only SUVs I see in Newport Beach, CA are used by Uber and Lyft drivers.

The most common car, the Tesla, has no transmission. The Tesla is the Toyota Corolla of coastal Orange County. I seldom see a Chevy or a Ford in my neck-of-the-woods. When the Tesla Pick-up is announced, I'll probably put in an order—it looks like a dreamcar for a photographer/film-maker.

Do the paddle shifted Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren count as manual-shift small two-seaters? BTW I saw ten McLarens, in one day of driving to-and-from Doctor appointments.

I know more Hindu and Sikh than I do Mennonite. I also know a Buddhist. In this case choice is very good—the eastern religions are not puritanical. BTW I'm Presbyterian, another Calvinist denomination.

If I had a Leica digital I'd have Leica, Artisan and Voigtländer lenses. All different tools for different jobs. But I don't use Leica digital. I have boring Canon cameras and lenses 8-)

It's not just what the photographer wants, it is also what economic world the photographer wants to contribute to. A Leica lens purchase enables a world where the workers are making fair wages with 6 weeks of vacation per year as well as healthcare. In addition, the EU has strict laws protecting the environment from industrial pollution.

The cheap version made in China contributes to a race to the bottom of both worker welfare as well as environmental protection. You get what you pay for, and I'm not talking about micro-contrast.

That being said, I'll gladly admit that I bought a 7Artisans 50mm f1.1. I had no intentions of ever buying a 50mm Noctilux, so it was 7Artisans or nothing. One thing I'm happy to support is the engineering passion that includes an at-home adjustment to the rangefinder coupler. Yes: You can adjust your own rangefinder alignment to the lens. Genious. It's a shame Leica never implemented this feature.

Anyway, overall it's a mixed bag. I own many Leica lenses. I also own several from the Japanese Cosina factory, both ZM and Voigtlander. We just need to remember that even if the lens seems like the ultimate deal, we're paying in one way or another: There's no free lunch.

That is a good one: I like walls. I like them too, for the same reason. Bookshelves and images (and nice walls too).
With choices troubles only begin, when people start to judge the others based on their own reasons and envy. Guess it always will stay that way with us, we are men after all ;-)

Dear Sir,

Let me get this right ... you want everyone to be able to decide for themselves what they want and be happy provided that their choice doesn't hurt anyone including themselves?

I am compelled to inform you that you are hereby and without further notice permanently banned from the internet for your heinous breaches of online etiquette, which has only two rules; namely, (1) that you must never express a point of view which does not insist that your opinion must be wholly accepted to the exclusion of the views of anyone and everyone else and (2) that you must always assert that your opinion is better without explanation (unless irrational) whenever challenged, because of your self-evident right to hold an unchallengeable opinion, whether informed or not.

Decide for themselves- Bah!

And stay out.


Your sincerely,
The self-appointed online-etiquette police

Lens choices is why I love the Sony FE mount. Sony itself makes some great lens options, from it's non-designated (just Sony), to Sony Zeiss, to "G" quality to the top of the line, "Sony GM." The GM prime lenses are special, and not too big or heavy for what they offer. There are a lot of autofocus non-Sony choices - Zeiss Batis, Sigma (mostly big and heavy), Tamron, Samyang. And then the manual focus lenses made for the FE mount - Voigtlander, Zeiss Loxia, Laowa, 7Artisans. And then the adapted lenses - virtually all Canon E mount lenses work very well with good autofocus, all Nikon F mount lenses work I'm told with autofocus, and almost any "vintage" manual focus lens works from any mount (including Leica M mount). Pretty amazing. In just two years with a Sony FE mount camera, I've owned or rented - Sony, Sony Zeiss, Sony G, Sony GM, Zeiss Batis, Canon E, Sigma, Voigtlander, Zeis Loxia, and Samyang lenses.

Regarding your comment about lenses, I'm reminded of the Bob Dylan lyric:

...she says, “Your debutante just knows what you need/But I know what you want.”

Personally, I have no lust for exotic or super-expensive lenses. For my purposes a good lens does all I need it to do. Who are you fooling, besides yourself? You can spend thousands of dollars on exotic glass, yet the results will likely vanish when you die.

I agree with everything but the car analogy. SUVs and pickup trucks* are atrocious from an environmental perspective, which is excusable if you need one (offroading, carrying heavy loads, i.e. what they're designed for) but not if you just want one. Hence I do think your proviso, 'as long as it doesn't hurt anybody...or you', is untrue in the car case. If an entire population has limited access to small, efficient cars, that's got to have notable negative environmental impact.

Expensive lenses on the other hand... It even makes me happy when I see someone out in the streets with a £10k Leica kit!

*In the UK we term them "Chelsea Tractors"

The looks, yes plural, of a lens are important factors in my selection process. The look of lens, the way it renders, is very important. But how the lens itself looks (and indeed _feels_ in my hands) is also important.

The Batis 85mm checks both boxes for me.

Mike wrote, "The problem is that people who want small, light, rear-wheel-drive sedans with stick shifts are no longer well served at all."

The problem is that the number of people who want small, light, rear-wheel-drive sedans with stick shifts is small and the job of the market is to efficiently match supply with demand. There are such cars but suppliers are reacting to shrinking demand -- buyers (in general) and regulators are more interested in price and fuel economy than sporty handling. RWD has become a niche market served by the likes of Porsche and BMW and Corvette.

Interesting: Wikipedia has a category "Rear-wheel-drive vehicles" which contains 1,679 pages.


After chasing the holy grail of camera equipment for decades, flip-flopping brands as often as some people change their bed sheets, I’ve come to realize there is no substitute for an artistic eye and talent, which I sorely lack. Many, many can outshine me all day every day while I’m shouting with a $5k lens and they with their mobile phone. Ah, such is life.

Who manufactures Zeiss ZM in Japan? If Cosina ... then better to buy Voigtänder.

I tend to like lenses that "punch above their weight class". Even if I had the funds (which I rarely do), I would rather buy a "bargain" lens that has very good optical quality than an "expensive" one that is supposed to be the best there is. Nikon's "kit" lenses fall into that category. The Sigma 100-400mm I bought last year does as well, producing images equal to or better than lenses that cost two or three times as much.

Ideally, optical and build qualities, as well as operational characteristics, are what we should base our lens choices on - not prices.

The Chinese optical industrial parks produce lenses that are very good. Have you ever heard of Risespray? Neither have I, but I own their 35mm .95 lens for m43 and I can tell you the results are stellar. Kamlan 50mm 1.1 ver 1? I never heard of a Kamlan before... guess what, its a perfect portrait lens and length on m43 with great subject separation and wide open usability. Neewer, Mitakon, Zhongyi, 7 artisans... they may not be autofocus but these lenses are freaking amazing, especially for the price. The 7 artisans 35mm 1.2 on m43 is just superb at capturing people, with rendering an image that is a cross between a 75 summilux and a petzval. Hard to describe, but lovely.

One photography related category that unhappily, for me and likely at least some others, where there is little choice is digital monochrome cameras. Obviously there is Leica and that includes both the tradeoffs of prohibitive cost and perhaps issues of rangefinder limitations including focus issues in conjunction with high resolution sensors. There are also third parties who modify existing Bayer array cameras made by Fuji, Sony, Nikon and perhaps others by mechanically and chemically stripping away the sensor cover, leaving what is represented to be a monochrome camera that responds solely to luminance. While in most instances these cost somewhat less than a Leica, they are for most of us not an insignificant expense. I'm curious if indeed these modified cameras produce images that are equivalent to a dedicated monochrome? Beyond the sensor the "downstream" electronics and image processing firmware remains the same, with the camera "thinking" it is processing a color file. Does anyone have anecdotal and theoretical knowledge of these converted cameras?

A great post! I'm with you completely on this, and definitely with you in a preference for small, nimble manual shift cars. Unfortunately, I'm not so small nor nimble, but aside from our 'large' 4 seat hauler, a VW Golf, we only have small two seaters.

And to Rick in CO, I have a lens by one manufacturer that makes lenses for Leica M's with the mounts pre-pitted. Unfortunately they don't make many M lenses. The company is Venus Optics that make Laowa branded lenses.

Cars, lenses or walls? So many choices. Let's talk about walls, and why I like 'em. As a real estate photog, I've seen thousands of open plan homes large and small. They all seem intended for a party, a party hosted by the cook, cheerfully serving treats over a kitchen island.

In the real world, those parties are few and getting fewer. The room seems empty. The dishes sit out, piled in the sink, in view of everybody in the living room. Somebody wants to do homework there. Someone else wants to watch TV. Nobody wants to hole up in the bedroom all day and night. Even if they do, they're only one door away from everybody else and their noise.

I'm seeing real estate writers predicting a shift away towards more defined spaces in new homes. Home office spaces near the front door are already the preferred amenity, after a third bedroom. My own 100-year-old home has 11 rooms in 1600 sq ft. Suddenly that makes sense.

I don't understand the love for rear-drive sedans specifically. My last few cars have been small, economical front-wheel-drive hatchbacks. They are a pleasure to drive (for me, anyway, I'm not a rally driver) and useful for carrying bulky loads. I think my favourite was a Honda Jazz (Honda Fit in the US).

[They handle better when you push 'em. A FWD car will raise up off its front axle under hard acceleration, torque steer in the same circumstances (pull to one side), and tend to understeer. RWD will nose down, not torque steer, and tend to oversteer. (Understeer is when you turn the wheel and the car doesn't turn as much as it should; oversteer is when the back wheels come loose and swing out of the path, thus aiming the car more in the direction you're turning.) Oversteer can be dangerous but it's much more fun.

Generally, anyone who drives their car at less than 80% of its performance potential will be fine with FWD (which is also very good in snow), and anyone who drives their car at over 80% occasionally will prefer RWD. I actually drive 99% percent of the time at less than 80% potential, so I'm okay with my car's FWD. But the Miata I had was a hoot with RWD--I'm sure I got more that a few looks letting the tail swing out and then recovering around sweeping left turns! The Miata makes you feel like a hero driver (and sometimes look like it) even though you're not. --Mike]

Until digital came along, working studio pros used 3 formats according to the assignment. If you couldn't afford new, you bought used. The trio of Nikon, Hasselblad,and Sinar were the most common. The systems were stable and could be easily repaired. Today the price between low and high end has widened to the point that very few can justify the purchase of a Leica with 3 lenses or a Medium Format Outfit. Twenty years ago I worked with the best. Now I creatively use what I have, mixing in today's budget Rokinons with 30 year old Leica Lenses. However I'm not too old to dream about using a MF Leica S3 with a 100mm Summicron on the next job.

I definitely don't _want_ a modern day Porsche or Leica SL lens. I'd want the 1980s summicron-r lens or an unobtrusive, dinky 1950s dark green Porsche 356 berlinetta. Much of the current German marketing is about selling supposed technical excellence to a public that does not need nor understand that technical excellence. "Good enough" is not in the books. Durability, reason for owning a Leica R lens, is also out of the marketing plan. Can't have that, need to sell something new three years down the road.

And who _wants_ a SUV when they can dream about a Pinzgauer. Surely nobody buys a SUV because they want one? People buy them because believe they need one. Just like consumers think they need to have "full frame" for that "once in a lifetime" trip.

Buying second-hand for M-mount lenses might be even more sensible than buying Artisans or Cosina Zeiss/Voigtlanders: Second-hand value for the Artisans will not be very high. Buying a 3000,- lens which you can sell for 3000,- might be the smarter deal than buying the 500,- write-off.

My guess is most TT Artisan sales are out of curiosity, however, and they end up on an adapter on a Sony A7 series camera. Not because you need or want one, but because you were bored. The ultimate expression of Veblen's leisure class.

The professional market, especially the advertising and commercial professional market for photographers has pretty specific needs for equipment, and one of them was that you wanted to pick a really high-end system that you wouldn't ever need to worry about, and then buy their lenses, which would basically all match for contrast, coloration, construction, etc.

It wasn't unusual for photographers to buy into the Hasselblad system because they felt they were getting premium lenses, both in rendering capabilities, and construction. There is such a thing as the Carl Zeiss "look", which I felt carried down right into their 35mm line as well. Additionally, it's why I knew people that bought all Nikon or all Schneider view camera lenses for their sheet film needs (in my case, it was Red Dot Artars in Compur shutters).

I had what I consider to be the fortune of growing up in the era where SLR's were replacing rangefinders, for most of the right reasons, and it was "moot" to me anyway, being a guy who wanted to shoot advertising. The only "pros" using ANY 35mm, were newspaper and magazine photographers, a very small, small, part of the professional market, and for some reason they controlled what people would "think" a "real" photographer was.

As such, I never drank the Leica cool-ade. There were people I knew that swore up and down of their quality and construction, but every time they would show me pictures, I could never figure what they were talking about in terms of "feel" or "beauty". Many looked far less sharp and contrasty than Nikon or Canon (or especially Pentax) offerings, and their construction philosophy would mean a person might end up needing 3 or 4 different filter sizes to cover their lenses, instead of getting the "value" of having the major part of their lenses having similar filter and accessory sizes.

Of course, all "moot", as I said. I think in my entire professional career I made less than $1000. photographing anything on 35mm. At any given moment, for where-ever you lived, with the amount of people making their living as photography "pros", the amount of people doing it with sheet film or 120, outweighed those doing it on 35mm by ten-fold!

I guess what I'm saying is that if you don't have professional needs, then the door is open for trying, and loving, almost any lens if it does what you want! I even know "artists" that use sheet film that will tack any old lens/shutter combo off a defunct camera to see what it will do, and even use a magnifying glass lens with a black derby!


Fred, I own a couple modified sensor cameras with a Deep IR cutoff filter etc and all I can tell you is I can print much larger than with the bayer version of the same camera. Its a real treat, but a pure BW camera it is not, although all images end up grayscale. I find it to be a real boon to my photography.

Fred Fowler's comment about the lack of monochrome cameras got me thinking about the use of dedicated mono cameras tailored for astronomy. Sure, they need a computer in the field, but for landscape and still shots they might be a consideration?
Agreed, it's nice to have choice.

Surely happiness isn't getting what you want, it's wanting what you have got?

"Does that mean I'm against pickup trucks and SUVs? Not at all—it's great that people who want those vehicle types are well served." I'm not as accepting as you. Too many SUVs and trucks are driven by incompetents who have no idea about the bulk they are piloting at too high speed, the environmental impact is atrocious compared to compact sedans, and the societal impact is major in respect to parking spaces, wide lanes, view blockage, and wear and tear on roads.

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