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Mediocre, uninspiring, poor or characterful?


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If I understand your question correctly, the user makes the difference. What some people may describe to be mediocre and poor, I may think is characterful.

When deciding whether to buy a lens or not, I will look at its "flaws" and find out how to make them work for me. Super sharp, corner to corner, clinical, lifeless yadda yadda is of no interest to me, just like the MFT(?) charts, yet to others those are the deciding factors.

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Question is: What makes the difference?

I have quite some problems to answer that.

2 things:

1) You wrote that you had characterful lenses and others: What chriteria did you apply to put your lenses in either basket?

2) Whats the difference in lenses in practice (assuming same FL and same aperture)? I do not photograph a wall of bricks and do not look at the corners.

I would like to learn more about that theme. 

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25 minutes ago, M10 for me said:

I would like to learn more about that theme. 

Indeed. Some lenses simply aren't particularly good, resolution is adequate but not spectacular, contrast is ok but neither low nor high, micro detail isn't wondrous, etc. And there are no redeeming features. No glow, no real good detail anywhere but nor is it really soft anywhere. Such lenses are neither spectacular nor poor.

I have my suspicion that to have character a lens has to be good in some respect or have a specific aberration which is emphasised to the point or impinging effectively on the image.

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47 minutes ago, M10 for me said:

Question is: What makes the difference?

I have quite some problems to answer that.

2 things:

1) You wrote that you had characterful lenses and others: What chriteria did you apply to put your lenses in either basket?

2) Whats the difference in lenses in practice (assuming same FL and same aperture)? I do not photograph a wall of bricks and do not look at the corners.

I would like to learn more about that theme. 

You’re missing out on a whole genre. Brick walls and endless testing of bookshelves.

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Posted (edited)

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1 hour ago, jdlaing said:

You’re missing out on a whole genre. Brick walls and endless testing of bookshelves.

I'm casting my lot with images of brick walls, in 2x3 meter print size. 

They should easily sell for $1 million each, given the prices that some of these mediocre, uninspiring, poor or characterful prints have sold for:  https://www.all-about-photo.com/photo-articles/photo-article/608/most-expensive-photographs-ever-sold#top2

Edited by Herr Barnack
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Posted (edited)

I'm a big fan of "character" lenses. My favorite is the 50mm Summitar. I can count on it to be consistent and dependable, and used wide open has a very distinctive charm.

I chased down a 50mm f1.5 Summarit and a 50mm Summixlux V1 for their claimed "character." Unfortunately, I've found them to be just too soft with too many flaws when shot wide open to be worthwhile in terms of character. They were fine lenses in their day given the technology of the time. I've found the 50mm f1.5 Jupiter, a cheap Russian lens, to be more consistent and a better lens overall in terms of sharpness and contrast (gasp!). It does need to be slightly modified to focus accurately with the Leica M rangefinder. Modification is easily done, though.

Another character lens that I like a lot is the 35mm f3.5 Summaron. Mine is a later one in M mount. It's not technically perfect by modern standards, but it does have an old school charm not unlike the 50mm Summitar.

None of these lenses are clinically sharp by modern standards, but I'm okay with that and work within their limitations.

Edited by 84bravo
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Posted (edited)
vor 3 Stunden schrieb 84bravo:

I'm a big fan of "character" lenses. My favorite is the 50mm Summitar. I can count on it to be consistent and dependable, and used wide open has a very distinctive charm.

I chased down a 50mm f1.5 Summarit and a 50mm Summixlux V1 for their claimed "character." Unfortunately, I've found them to be just too soft with too many flaws when shot wide open to be worthwhile in terms of character. They were fine lenses in their day given the technology of the time. I've found the 50mm f1.5 Jupiter, a cheap Russian lens, to be more consistent and a better lens overall in terms of sharpness and contrast (gasp!). It does need to be slightly modified to focus accurately with the Leica M rangefinder. Modification is easily done, though.

Another character lens that I like a lot is the 35mm f3.5 Summaron. Mine is a later one in M mount. It's not technically perfect by modern standards, but it does have an old school charm not unlike the 50mm Summitar.

None of these lenses are clinically sharp by modern standards, but I'm okay with that and work within their limitations.

I understand 🤣🥁🎻

And then there are the lenses that render this formidable Leica look or 3 dimensional look. And some render even both: These must make the difference. No certainly not? Will you not agree with these statements? Is it unqualified? 

I just got an Email from Reid Reviews. He tests 35mm Sigma vs Leica SL. I will not read that (my subscription ended a while ago anyway). Probably Leica will end up as lens that makes the "undefined" difference. And the bricks are sharper in the corners.

Such a difficult theme.

As a Canon shooter (besides M10 and Q2) I have 11 Canon lenses. The recent ones (R lenses) are expensive and heavy and are built for high resolution of R5 etc and are able to show more tiny details than the older ones. Yes I see that indeed (when I zoom into Lightroom). And Leica has to adapt the new lenses to high res sensors as well.

I have probably mixed all up now. I like my M10 for its beauty and size. And with my wife we are out a lot and she uses the Q2. I work a lot in Lightroom on our Leica and Canon images. At the end I can not say anymore which picture is from which camera.

And the latest Adobe SuperResolution feature in Lightroom is fabulous: It increases your amout of pixels by factor 4 (double in hight and with). I tested this yesterday: Its impressing: It really works. Do we not forget the Software development in our equation?

IS THIS THE POST OF AN IGNORANT?

Edited by M10 for me
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10 hours ago, pippy said:

..."what is it that makes the difference?"...

One's expectations?

:-k

Philip.

If only it was that simple!

Perhaps I should add that everything appears to be subject dependent (and IMO brick walls are a very poor subject indeed, unless covered in graffiti or something similar). So straightforward 'testing' isn't particularly valid. Soft focus for example, has to be determined visually not by assigning technical references to it, and is very variable because the subject and lighting have to be taken into account. I suspect that the same is true for the optical flaws of lenses, in that their effect is accentuated or negated to varying extents, depending on subject and lighting. Hence why people describe '3D' or 'pop' effects which are rather more ephemeral and subject and lighting affected than simply being an inherent aspect of how a lens projects. Creating a 2 dimensional image from a 3 dimensional (ok 4 actually😉) is a complex process and the interaction of subject, light, composition, depth of field, and yes, even exposure duration, to say nothing of the characteristics of the lens being used (and sensor today I suppose) gives many degrees of freedom for the result.

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1 hour ago, pgk said:

If only it was that simple!

I think it is...sort-of......

Mediocre : I have had just a few lenses which could genuinely be described as being mediocre and their 'failings' were / are all when these lenses are being considered from a technical viewpoint. Interestingly they have all been Canon zoom lenses for my DSLR bodies. I would have expected them to be plagued by fewer optical aberrations.

Uninspiring : Lenses aren't uninspiring. I might lack inspiration but to blame this lack of inspiration on a lens? Nope. That would be unfair.

Poor; see 'Mediocre' with an additional problem encountered with (again) some Canon DSLR zoom lenses. There is a fundamental design flaw where the flex-ribbon which controls the lens' electronic functions can fail. So far I'm on my 3rd wide-to-portrait and (as it happens) my second portrait-to-tele failed at the start of this week. This situation is poor. I would have expected Canon to have resolved this issue some 20 years ago or so.

Characterful : Yes. I could write a book here so I won't but in brief? When one acquires a lens it is very useful to determine exactly how the lens will render. Once its character is fully understood disappointments - hopefully - can subsequently be avoided. 'Character' is an umberella-term under which 'optical-designs' comfortably sits with all the aberrations / quirks inherently associated within that enormously wide-ranging heading. To murder an Orwellian quote; "All Lenses are Equal, but Some Lenses are More Equal Than Others"...

Conclusion? Learn what to expect from your lenses. They will only ever be able to do what they can do.

Philip.

Edited by pippy
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10 hours ago, 84bravo said:

I'm a big fan of "character" lenses. My favorite is the 50mm Summitar. I can count on it to be consistent and dependable, and used wide open has a very distinctive charm.

I chased down a 50mm f1.5 Summarit and a 50mm Summixlux V1 for their claimed "character." Unfortunately, I've found them to be just too soft with too many flaws when shot wide open to be worthwhile in terms of character. They were fine lenses in their day given the technology of the time. I've found the 50mm f1.5 Jupiter, a cheap Russian lens, to be more consistent and a better lens overall in terms of sharpness and contrast (gasp!). It does need to be slightly modified to focus accurately with the Leica M rangefinder. Modification is easily done, though.

Another character lens that I like a lot is the 35mm f3.5 Summaron. Mine is a later one in M mount. It's not technically perfect by modern standards, but it does have an old school charm not unlike the 50mm Summitar.

None of these lenses are clinically sharp by modern standards, but I'm okay with that and work within their limitations.

Wholly agree about the Summitar.  At f2, it produce lovely images, with more character than any other lens I have experienced.  The challenge is finding an example that is in good optical condition, given their age and coating materials.  Fortunately, I have one VBG.

Cheers

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Posted (edited)

One lens that has solidly uninspired me is the 50mm summilux asph. I happen to own the LHSA Holy Grail version, and it’s not enough to make me use it.
 

When the time comes for me to make light hit my film, I choose not to use this Milquetoast lens.

Edited by Capuccino-Muffin
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