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Tuesday, 15 February 2022


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Mike, being a 'contrarian' is one of the things we love about you.
(Makes me wonder if TOPper and contrarian are interchangeable.)

Do you think that we have a different approach to lens results because we looked at older pics from prints in the past? (And still do)

This post really sums up my tastes in cars and other consumer items. Some people take in unwanted animals, and bless them for it. Others adopt unwanted kids. Instead, I've spent my own good money on these lesser-knowns and also-ran brands, in defiance of conventional wisdom, because I love variety and uniqueness.

- My first car, a 1965 Fiat Cabriolet. Body penned by a Ferrari designer, for $750 used. It had two essentials: a five-speed and a quick-working, well made top. I didn't mind the red paint, either. It was sexy, but not that sporty.

- My second and third cars. The 1970 NSU1000 TT was a rewrite of the VW Beetle with technology advanced by 25 years. It weighed just 1500 lbs, and an adult driver counterbalanced the one-liter engine. You wouldn't remember these; nobody remembers these dull-looking sedans now except for European hillclimb fans who watch these boxy buzz bombs storming up Alpine roads. During a decade scrounging parts for my daily driver, I spotted only about a half dozen fellow NSUs on the road. How much did I love that car? My mother offered to give me her Firebird 350 instead, but I wouldn't give up my NSU. The least sexy car ever, but the most agile and fun to drive.

- My current car, the Ford C-Max Energi. Actually the second-best selling hybrid of its time, but far behind the Prius. There's barely any online owner's community, and nobody mods them or praises them. They should, though, because it has the same combined horsepower and tire size as my last GTI. It's given me five years of quiet, smooth 65 mpg transportation, plus nightly recharges.

What cameras do I use? Pentax and Lumix MFT, naturally.

A streak of contrariness is obviously deep in my personality. I was an only child; I'm used to standing on my own, making up my own mind, and usually getting my way. That's kept me distant from cults and bandwagons, and I never mistake my car for another in the parking lot. Dare to drive different!

The biggest downside, though, is that you'll never know the fellowship of fans of the popular brands. When I drop names like "NSU" and "Cabriolet," I know that nothing registers. There's no owners clubs or meets (in English, anyhow). My early cars were truly rare, and I have good stories from them. But nobody else can really relate- until I add, "But I learned how to drive in an original Mustang."

I guess the Nikon lens would not let you be competitive in the cut-throat world of test chart photographers.

I'm a fan of the ~35mm focal length, and have owned probably a dozen or more such lenses over the years. Probably a lot more, given that I shot both Canon FD and EF, m4/3, Fuji X and GFX, and various medium and large format film cameras. Yikes. But I find myself at the moment without any prime in that range.

I had the Fuji 23mm f/1.4 and liked it, then I sold that when I got the 23mm f/2. Which is a terrific little lens, but then I decided I had too many lenses and sold all my Fujicrons. So now I await delivery of the new Fuji 23mm f/1.4 mark II (or whatever they are calling it), and hoping for the best.

Thom Hogan should chime in on this, he's talked about Nikon lenses not scoring well on tests, but making great pictures. I'm pretty sure you're on target about this.

And example is the Nikkor 58mm f/1.4. That lens is amazing, yet doesn't do well on the test scores and because of that is "controversial" in discussion online. I owned that lens for awhile, and I'm of a mind it's the best lens by far I ever used. Just amazing rendering. Not everything is sharpness, but once you get to f/5.6 it's plenty sharp if that's what you're after. But at f/1.4-f/2? It's just a special lens, at least in my opinion.

[I bought a Nikon (the Big Dragoon) just to use that lens. Ended up being too long for the way I see, but yeah, it's special. --Mike]

These sharpness/resolution tests and comparisons always make wonder what these figures amount to in the "real world"? I mean, if I printed a picture at the maximum size that my 17'' printer allows, would I be able to perceive a meaningful difference between 30"PMPix" and 36"PMPix" (or, say, 3000lp and 3500lp per picture height, for that matter)?

I don't even dare to imagine how my ancient 35mm f/2.8 PC Nikkor ranked on this list. The edges of the frame are never really sharp regardless of aperture, and it seems to have lots of field curvature. Yet I find that the pictures it produces look pleasing. The color rendition is very nice, the contrast is to my liking and the prints often look somewhat 3D.

Best, Thomas

[I have one of those to sell, if anyone's interested. --Mike]

Considering how long you've been practicing photography and how much equipment you've used over the years, surely you've earned the prerogative to decide for yourself what you like and what you don't. Being overly concerned about what's popular is important only if your main goal in life is to be like everyone else.

Yes! More recognition for the notion that lenses are for making images rather than shooting test charts and brick walls. The obsession with high objective scores like dxo leaves us wit many photos that might be technically perfect, but that don’t look as good as they could. It fits with the gazillions of camera reviews focusing only on resolution and autofocus modes, rather than solid ergonomics. Technology and features, over good tools designed for the job.
The already mentioned Nikon 58mm is a perfect example… I love that lens. And no matter how fuzzy the Leica claims sound, the Mandler design lenses have something incredibly charming to my eyes.
Lab test aren’t useless, but sample images are what make me decide to spend money or not.

Hi Mike,
A few of my favorite lenses were/are the Nikkor 20mm f/4 and the Nikkor 24mm F/2.8 AIS lenses.
I always thought they rendered very beautiful images and these days they hardly make any kind of great lens lists.
I believe the late great Galen Rowel used pretty much inexpensive wide angle Nikkors to make many of his great iconic images.

Speaking of cars, probably the car at the bottom of any list for a Guy is the Fiat 500. Especially in bright red with the white and red leather seats, and the sunroof. My best friend drives it and I make good natured fun of him.
The cars looks good for Jaylo but my buddy is over 6ft tall and it just looks weird him driving it.

BTW I think your Acura is a great car especially 2.4 engine and especially if it's the manual 6 speed.
I think they were over 200 HP if I remember correctly.
Let me know if you ever decide to sell the car. Seriously.
96K is low mileage.....

I have been a fan of Honda products for over 30 years. Honda has a track record of being first to market but frequently failing to capitalize on their innovation. To wit: first Japanese company with a luxury car division (Acura), first with all wheel steering (NSX), first hybrid. In the case of Acura, they’ve pretty much failed to maintain product distinction from Honda branded products and thus the lion's share of sales go to Honda, rather than Acura. Of all the vehicles I’ve owned, my favorite was my 2003 Acura TL Type S, an Accord but with power and handling performance not available with the Honda badge at the time. Today, Acura dealers are few and far between. Hard to believe there is a path forward for the Acura brand.

As another fan of 35-40mm lenses (I've had/used about 50) I can empathize. About every two years I look at dxomark and shake my head. Their rankings only correspond to mine when the table is viewed at 30ft.

I just looked at them again, and see that the Leica Summicron APO f/2 is ranked about the same as the Nikon, and 'worse than the Canon EF f/2 and all the f/1.4 lenses. Faster lenses are automatically given a higher score.I see the same Sigma lens in different mounts scoring the lowest in resolution with one mount and the other one scoring one of the higher marks. I don't have any of those lenses, so I can't comment further, but the table looks absurd.

There are many better test sites, but still, testing as you pointed out has little to do with picture taking. I like the latter a lot better as well.

Speaking of unloved cars, when I bought my 2006 Acura TSX, I had not yet learned of the wonders of a station wagon. Acura offered the TSX in wagon form then, but I didn't learn until I got a 2015 Golf Sportwagon TDi 6 weeks before the diesel scandal was exposed.

The TSX was perfect for me, like a nice pair of dressy sensible shoes. It did everything well, and nothing flashy. It was like the Vandersteen 2Ci speakers I owned in the 1900s, when I was chasing audiophilia. I've since self-cured that affliction.


LPs sound better than digital files. Tubes (valves) sound better than sand. I said it.

And speaking of 40mm-ish lenses, this might prompt me to compare the ones I have. It’s no small feat, of course, given the various cameras/mounts involved. There is widely divergent Internet “wisdom” on the Hexanon-AR 40/1.8 but I have found it to be at or near the top of my 40mm heap.


My favourite car is my current ride, a 2009 (Gen3) Honda CR-V EX. I didn’t even buy it new, and at first I didn’t think I’d like it as much as my 2004 CR-V, Gen2. But it is a much better vehicle, and from what I can discern, it might be superior (at least in the most important aspects) than subsequent CR-V models.

It has not been without its problems, but nothing devastating or ultimately off-putting. My mechanic has told me the engine is one of Honda’s best ever, and I believe him. It’s not a hot rod, not an “exciting” vehicle, but we get along very well indeed. I upgraded the radio to a unit with Apple Car Play built in and life is good. Even if the CR-V weren’t one of the most popular vehicles on the road (Rochester/Monroe County is full of them) I would still be happy with it. Maybe even more smug.

@ Patrick Perez: There is no cure for audiophilia. You are simply in remission.

Well Good luck getting a good copy, I've used Nikon's since 1976 and am moving to leica SL as every Z lens including three 35/1.8's and one 24/1.8 have been so badly decentered they would look appalling on a postcard print. Dreadful quality control.
It was not a camera problem, it worked fine with my adapted F lenses.
I find the whole Z system very plasticy and the lenses just dreadful despite all the PR.
All the best, Mark

Andre Y is right on the money, methinks.

Through bottom-up experimentation and lots of looking, the same set of recent Nikons have ended up with permanent spots in my palette: the 58/1.4G, the 85/1.8S, and the 105/1.4E.

They are lovely.

Besides, for the Nikon Z mount there are not many 35mm alternatives yet. Two toy lenses from Lensbaby and two cheap ones from 7artisans. There is an f/0.95 from Venus Laowa without autofocus.

If you have Nikon Z with an APS-C sensor you can’t even buy a 35mm equivalent prime at all.

The original 3-cam Leica Vario-Elmar-R F3.5/4.5 28-70 lens was made by Sigma.
I understand that Sigma is making some lenses for Leica today.

On the subject of lens rendering: yes, it was important in the film days. I had both the Summicron 35mm ASPH and its non ASPH predecessor at the same time but preferred the ASPH. I was careful not to mention that to dyed in the wool Leica fans. But I was more of a Ralph Gipson than a Cartier Bresson follower. Horses for courses.

But perhaps lens rendering is less important now with so many sliders to move in programs like Capture 1. So many possibilities to manipulate the look of an image.

I like sharp lenses but the $500 Sony 40mm f/2.5 is sharp enough for me even when cropping a lot.

I'm shocked, shocked to see that you and so many of your readers think that lenses are for making photographs. What sort of collective insanity have you all succumbed to?

I'm on my third Honda Hot Hatch -- two were Acuras --and they all were/are terrific. Fast, spirited, reliable (!), fun to drive and ... far less expensive to buy and maintain than the competition.

And they started every morning no matter how hot or cold.

Hey Mike, you should somehow check out the 299 dollar Nikon Z 28/2.8 on a Z50, that is if you like a 42mm lens dripping with "character."

I have never seen a good picture ruined by an inferior lens.

I am glad to hear the Nikon Z lenses are getting praise. I think I am going to keep on my Nikon Z track, and not buy any more Sony stuff or Nikon SLR lenses.

I have not really seen as much lens differences in digital as I did in film. I can spend time getting a look I like in digital as long as the lens and other technique was not really flawed. But I am a slow learner, it took me the longest time to really appreciated the look of my Leica M lenses on film, and then I really found it hard to use my Nikon stuff.

But putting those lenses in front of digital sensors has not impressed me in the same way.

I am probably missing something or just relying on photoshop tricks to get the look I think I am after. Digital is so different than film

Regarding DxOmark ratings….. I have, and love, the worst lens they ever tested. That 15mm f8 body cap lens made by Olympus for their micro 4:3 cameras.
Because it’s free (not monetarily, paid $40 for it.) But free, no auto focus, no talk to the camera, no nuttin, just point it and shoot. Like Ron Popeil was fond of saying ‘just set it, and forgot it’.

That and it makes my EM10 a jacket pocket camera.

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