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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Old 02-08-2013   #26
Roger Hicks
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I similarly get pissed off with people who think they know everything there is to know about all aspects of photography and who treat other photographers opinions with contempt. I don't see why you should call other forum members "NERDS" just because they don't agree with you on every opinion you put forward. Forum members should be entitled to air their views and opinions,which is what a forum is for, without being belittled because they have opinions you don't agree with.Everybody is entitled to their own opinion without the great "I AM" blowing his top.
No, I was calling myself a nerd. Only a nerd would know that a '40mm' Biotar is probably a 42.5mm. You've missed the point again.

Yes, I do know a bit more about photography than some people -- and, it must be said, less than some others. You are the same. You know more than some people, and less than others.

Knowledge and opinion are not the same thing.

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Old 02-08-2013   #27
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The point of course is that absolute quality of lens does not matter beyond a certain point for most applications. Although its true to say also that its a matter of "horses for courses" in that a lens which is great for one purpose is mediocre or poor for another or simply cannot do it. (Micro lenses compared with normal range lenses spring to mind). But in general there is a range of lenses with differing qualities which as Roger says can all make great images.

I have never been a pixel peeper and never have worried about absolute lens quality very much. I am much more impressed by the feel an image has than its absolute technical qualities. It follows that the absolute high technical qualities in the lens may not be required.

But when one looks at what has been achieved in lenses over the past couple of decades or more it has been startling. Let's catalog them (although I am sure I will leave some out).
New and better coatings which allow much more complex lens designs with more elements.
Computer aided design which ditto allows more complex lens designs and also allows much flexible lenses - who would have contemplated two decades ago the huge proliferation of lenses in the 16mm or shorter range -And often in zooms! And for full frame lenses!
New materials technology such as low dispersion glass and even non glass elements making sure these "wonderlenses" are available to the masses.
And of course lets not forget new manufacturing techniques that combined with new materials lenses now to be made almost exclusively from poly carbonates and have in them aspherical elements that only a few decades ago needed hugely expensive manual grinding.
And finally I should not forget in SLR lenses AF is now "old hat" but there is the new tendency for them to have computer chip controlled vibration reduction.

All in all a pretty impressive list that in some cases does not bring the lens to absolute new technical heights in image quality but does make them more flexible - such as zooms that have huge ranges or can be shot hand held at ridiculously low light. (In the latter regard I am thinking of my Nikkor 16-35mm f4 which I have shot hand held in nearly dark conditions at about 1/8th second and produced pin sharp images)
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Regarding Lenses . . . .
Old 02-08-2013   #28
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Regarding Lenses . . . .

IMO, "Better" is in the eye of the holder.

(the camera holder ).
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Old 02-08-2013   #29
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Originally Posted by daveleo View Post
IMO, "Better" is in the eye of the holder.

(the camera holder ).
Only 'sort of'. Sharpness, vignetting, coma, astigmatism, contrast, distortion... It's not hard to agree about what is technically better. What is artistically better is a very different question.

If someone asks for advice on 'a good lens' it's quite difficult to give advice other than on a technical basis. If someone asks for advice on a good 9cm lens, I can point out that a Thambar at f/6.3 to f/9, for certain kinds of portraits and still lifes and landscapes, in my experience, is stunning. I can also point out that it's heavy, slow focusing, far too soft at full aperture for most people's tastes (including mine), and ridiculously expensive.

As peterm1 points out, technically, many modern lenses are pretty incredible --- and very versatile and flexible. Given the choice of (for example) of various 9cm lenses, an Elmar, a Thambar, a first-generation pre-aspheric Summicron and second-generation pre-aspheric Summicron, the last is incomparably the most versatile lens that will suit the biggest number of photographers. This does not negate the undeniable truth that some people will prefer one of the others -- or indeed a Canon, Zeiss, Apo-Lanthar or whatever. But if someone is asking, "What's a good lens", do they REALLY want to hear (as if it were a conclusive argument) that so-and-so was the best available in the 1940s and that nobody complained 65 years ago?

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R.
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Old 02-08-2013   #30
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Only 'sort of'. Sharpness, vignetting, coma, astigmatism, contrast, distortion... It's not hard to agree about what is technically better. What is artistically better is a very different question. . . . .
Absolutely. That was (my little punning aside) my point. It's the photographer who will decide what lens is "better" for the photo. Maybe on graph paper its technical specs are horrid, but at the moment that may be of no concern.
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Old 02-08-2013   #31
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If you define "better" in the meaning of "commute immediately" than I would agree that a photographer whose photos in general have a higher impact onto a larger percentage of viewer is a better photographer.

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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Look in any photo magazine, on any web-site, in any book. Some pictures are truly rotten shots, dull and tedious records of a dull and tedious scene, poorly composed, technically incompetent. Another picture might be equally blurry and soft, but still communicate immediately.

Which is the better photograph?

And, by extension, someone who produces a higher percentage of better photographs is, in my book, a better photographer.

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R.
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Old 02-08-2013   #32
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Oh look! A dead horse.
Let's beat it!!
Poor creature but since it dead already ...

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Those two are both better.
Unconditional +1.

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Originally Posted by Heru Anggono View Post
...

It's the same as in my kitchen, I have a sauce pan, pancake pan, sautee pan. Basically they're all very good pan but I need different pan for different job. I hope this pan analogy does make sense to you.
Let pan be pan and use PanF.

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... other use the money for a pair of Einstein Monoblocks and try a different light schemes...
GLF
Mmmh, would like to listen to a pair of those

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In other news, water is wet.
Or it might just be a slow day somewhere .
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Old 02-08-2013   #33
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I think what Roger might be saying is "Pick the right tool for the right job (or outcome)..."
I have many sharp lenses but sometimes that's not what I want for the final outcome...
Knowing a lenses' character is very important in choosing it...
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Old 02-08-2013   #34
Godfrey
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Dear Godfrey,

NERD ALERT! Now read on...

The '40mm' seems to be a 42.5mm according to some sources -- effectively, in pure theory, just about the perfect theoretical length for a full frame 35mm negative (about 1mm short). Except that -- oh, dear -- you'll be shooting 24x24...
LOL ... Yes, you're being nerdy to the max. Most lenses' actual focal lengths are slightly different from the nominal markings.

But what does it matter that this lens on 24x24 is more a "long normal" than the "perfect theoretical focal length" ...? I tend to shoot with a 40mm lens quite often, and I crop to square on 24x36mm format about 60-70% of the time anyway. So a Robot Star II with a 40mm lens is pretty much a 'perfect focal length' on the format for me.

I like square format photos a lot. I *am* really looking forward to shooting a roll with the Robot tomorrow. It's such a cool camera.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Theory rarely matters much. I just get pissed off with people who deny that there have been any (theoretical) advances in lens design. Whether you get great pics with your Biotar or not, you'll enjoy using it. But when someone says, "I want a good lens for a __________" and someone recommends a frankly lousy vintge lens, or says "You can still take great pics with a [select old mushy lens here]" I wonder how much they're doing to help the OP with his (rarely if ever her) question.
I don't know that many people answering that question deny that there have been advances in lens design, not seriously anyway. Most are simply speaking from their experience of what they hope will be a pleasing lens for the person asking the question. The great joy of interchangeable lens cameras is the ability to pick and choose from the variety of lenses that are available for whatever characteristics you like. For instance, I happen to like the modern Voigtländer Color Skopar lenses quite a lot ... not because I think they're technically superior to most of the Leica and Zeiss lenses, but because they way they render has the look of some of the Leica lenses I recall fondly from years past. In my experience, some work well on the M9, others work well on the GXR ... and I weight what I suggest for use based on my experience using the bits I recommend.

So I'll recommend a crubby old lens that I find produces a nice result - like my sweet and cheap old 1960 Hektor 135/4.5 - when someone asks that question even though I am quite sure that the latest 135mm lens will outperform it technically by a long mile.

And who's to say that the person getting that information is taking me literally or understands that I'm just recommending what I think they will enjoy? :-)


Leica M9 + Hektor 135mm f/4.5
ISO 1000 @ f/6.7 @ 1/500

I mean, what's not to like?

G
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Old 02-08-2013   #35
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In other news, water is wet.
This is so brill' ... :-)

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Old 02-08-2013   #36
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Re: Cartier-Bresson vs Capa. Capa used better lenses. C-B was a better photographer.

The more interesting question for me has long been, who's better, Henri Cartier-Bresson or Eugene Smith? they were so radically different within a narrow context of mid century b/w 35mm photo-journalism that the question has long intrigued me. I love both of them. Smith was considerably more insane, a mental condition that helped his work.
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Old 02-08-2013   #37
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I similarly get pissed off with people who think they know everything there is to know about all aspects of photography and who treat other photographers opinions with contempt. I don't see why you should call other forum members "NERDS" just because they don't agree with you on every opinion you put forward. Forum members should be entitled to air their views and opinions,which is what a forum is for, without being belittled because they have opinions you don't agree with.Everybody is entitled to their own opinion without the great "I AM" blowing his top.
I think, if you follow this forum much, it will become apparent which members think quite highly of themselves. Not worth the effort to worry too much about it. Just skip their self-serving posts and get onto the good stuff.
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Old 02-08-2013   #38
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I think this forum should institute a rule that each time a member makes an “authoritative” post, he must submit a good photo that he has taken. Many “gurus” would be considerably quieter.
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Old 02-08-2013   #39
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I think this forum should institute a rule that each time a member makes an “authoritative” post, he must submit a good photo that he has taken. Many “gurus” would be considerably quieter.
I often post examples to back up what I say. Roger has an extremely long history as an expert on photographic technique and equipment, and has published a number of books and thousands of magazine articles illustrated with his photos. I grew up reading his articles, and think its totally awesome that he's here, even when I disagree with what he says, as I occasionally do.
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Old 02-08-2013   #40
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Before going much further, could some kind person provide objective definitions for the terms "good lens", "good photograph", "bad lens", "bad photograph"?

"because I/some critic/this book says so", is not classified as objective in this context...

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Old 02-08-2013   #41
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Before going much further, could some kind person provide objective definitions for the terms "good lens", "good photograph", "bad lens", "bad photograph"?

"because I/some critic/this book says so", is not classified as objective in this context...

...what opens the door to discussions about life, the universe and everything.

is it necessary to think of "good" or "bad" in the field of photography? why do so many people have this competitive attitude?
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Old 02-08-2013   #42
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why do so many people have this competitive attitude?
If you ever find out please tell me.

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Old 02-09-2013   #43
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. . . is it necessary to think of "good" or "bad" in the field of photography? why do so many people have this competitive attitude?
I spent my life with engineers. If you tell an engineer about an idea that you have in mind, no matter what it is, he is positively certain to have a better idea than yours.

I'm finding out that photographers can be like that too.
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Old 02-09-2013   #44
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...what opens the door to discussions about life, the universe and everything.

is it necessary to think of "good" or "bad" in the field of photography? why do so many people have this competitive attitude?
No its not necessary at all! If a person is happy with the pictures they're taking and has no desire to improve then they should keeping doing what they're doing.
On the other hand if a person want to become the best photographer they can be then competing/comparing their work with other people's work as well as their own past work is an important part of the process.
Personally I feel that rather then taking away from the experience working to improve adds to the whole experience.
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Old 02-09-2013   #45
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Very few lenses are going to be the quality bottle neck for me so I've decided to stop worrying about them and concentrate on taking more photos.
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Old 02-09-2013   #46
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Originally Posted by sparrow6224 View Post
Re: Cartier-Bresson vs Capa. Capa used better lenses. C-B was a better photographer.

The more interesting question for me has long been, who's better, Henri Cartier-Bresson or Eugene Smith? they were so radically different within a narrow context of mid century b/w 35mm photo-journalism that the question has long intrigued me. I love both of them. Smith was considerably more insane, a mental condition that helped his work.
"Helped" is not a word I would use. :O He did use a lot of different cameras over his career though, which may say something about it being the photographer and not the camera.

While I agree we can objectively judge which equipment is technically superior, it's really up to us an individuals to consider whether or not that is important at all. So if one holds that a person can still take "good photos" with something like a box camera, I don't think I could argue with them. If they're a good photographer, then of course they can. Even pullitzer winners have used box cameras, although that may be because any camera is better than no camera.
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Old 02-09-2013   #47
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If they're a good photographer, then of course they can.
But what is a good photographer? Someone who gets paid a lot? Someone who wins a popularity contest?
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Old 02-09-2013   #48
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But what is a good photographer? Someone who gets paid a lot? Someone who wins a popularity contest?
Simply somebody who makes interesting photographs. To whom they're interesting is a different issue.
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Old 02-09-2013   #49
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But what is a good photographer? Someone who gets paid a lot? Someone who wins a popularity contest?
What do you expect anyone to say to this, have you a definition? if you haven't does that mean all photographers are equal in your eyes, that no one can say with any authority that one image is better than another?
Where would you stop, is Predator Vs Alien part 3 equal to Lawrence of Arabia. Obviously not, so what criterion do you use to asses the quality of any non measurable work.
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Old 02-09-2013   #50
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What do you expect anyone to say to this, have you a definition? if you haven't does that mean all photographers are equal in your eyes, that no one can say with any authority that one image is better than another?
Where would you stop, is Predator Vs Alien part 3 equal to Lawrence of Arabia. Obviously not, so what criterion do you use to asses the quality of any non measurable work.
To your first question, my answer is that I have no expectations. To your second question, my answer is "no". To your third question, my answer is "yes". To your fourth question, my answer is "yes" (and I would add, I think I would prefer PVA3, which I haven't seen, to Lean and Spiegal's interminable offering, which I have). To your fifth question, that is exactly what I am asking everyone.
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