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"character" out, "performance" in.
Old 11-30-2009   #1
sanmich
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"character" out, "performance" in.

I reached what I think is an important decision for me:

After having looked carefully to lots of pictures, I realized that the pictures I like are so because of the photographer, and not because of the lens.
I do care about bokeh. A lot, in fact. But I want it NOT to be predominent in the picture. I don't like so much "character lens" pictures. Maybe because their users tend to try and demontrate their character. I don't know...
I realized I want a lens which is GOOD, sharp, non-obstrusive bokeh, non flaring, no distortion etc.
So I did the following:

Sold a canon 35mm 1.5. Very nice lens overall. very sharp. but with some serious quirks: Loooong throw, 1m close focus, unable to use it on barnacks with a hood, etc.

And by also selling a skopar that was soon not to be required anymore, I bought a M-Hexanon 35mm f/2.

So what's your take on the subject?
Classic or modern?
Character or neutral/ performance?
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Old 11-30-2009   #2
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I have a classic (LTM Nikkor based) and a modern kit, Michael. Where classic for me means pre-60s. Once I decide which kit to take I forget about "character", but enjoy it when I get the negatives back.

As I said in the Classifieds, the KM 35/2 is an excellent choice. One of the best corrected 35s.

Cheers,

Roland.
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Old 11-30-2009   #3
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I started this hobby of mine with very little $ and so ended up trying to get a satisfactory price/performance ratio. Which means I now have lenses that most folks seem to like for character that I picked for performance.
I know there are better--by several objective measures--lenses available but by now I know the ones I have so am dsinclined to change.
One example: I wanted a 85/90 lens. At the time I couldn't afford any modern 90 so I got a 9cm/f4 Leitz form about 1937. Which means it is uncoated and just chock full of character. I could now replace it with something newer, faster and fairly affordable but really am not looking to anytime soon; the Elmar works for me and so it's performance is fine.
That said, the J-12 lens is a favorite of mine but when I realized that it wouldn't work on my Bessas I sold it, bought a CV35/f2.5 and haven't looked back.
I tend to not worry about--and in some cases can't see--"character" of my lenses but rather try to figure out--if I have a choice--which lens for a particular focal length will fit my budget (and my cameras).
Rob
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Old 11-30-2009   #4
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I love 'character' as much as the next guy, but recently, I've been editing and proofing negs for the purpose of producing some larger (12x18) prints from 35mm negs and I've found that the 'character' offered by older lenses, often, but not always comes at the expense of sharpness and inadequate sharpness has interfered with my ability to create larger prints.

It's been a tough lesson to learn, but I've come to realize that although I LOVE my Canon 50/1.5 LTM, it's not sharp enough a f1.5 to make the quality of prints I want at 12x18 enlargements, stopped down to f4-f8 it's fine. Thankfully, my 35/2'cron v3 is sharp enough at f2 when using higher shutter speeds.

I'm not suggesting that a print must be sharp in order to a good print, just that for the types of prints I'm trying to make (from a series of negs taken in Paris) sharpness is more important than character. I suspect this would be quite different if I were making prints of portraits.

The most important take away for me is that when the end product is a high quality print, you can only draw conclusions about the adequacy of the tools when actually producing such prints. Judging lens quality/character on a screen is fine, if that is your end product.
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Old 11-30-2009   #5
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Some of my pictures work better on 'performance' (24 Summilux, 75 Summicron).

Some work better on 'character' (50 C-Sonnar, 90 Thambar).

More is down to me than to the lens I choose. One might be better than another, but it wouldn't make up for the time I wasted agonizing. Better to stick a lens on the camera -- ANY lens -- and take pictures, rather than agonize too much.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 11-30-2009   #6
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I'm with you Roger- I'd rather be out there working than home deciding any day.
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Old 11-30-2009   #7
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I prefer an Industar61 on my Zorki. Is the only lens I have for that camera and seems to work fine.
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Old 11-30-2009   #8
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I have lenses for both, a vintage 35, 50 & 85 for character, and 24, 35, 50 & 75 ASPH lenses for performance. I actually like the look of the vintage lenses better, but seem to get better results from the modern lenses. Probably the extra sharpness makes up a bit for my lousy technique...


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Old 11-30-2009   #9
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I buy what I can afford.
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Old 11-30-2009   #10
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Well, this thread should go on for a while...

As much as possible, I like whatever group of lenses I regularly use to share, as much as possible, the same performance characteristics. This is the main reason why, from my first interchangeable-lens camera onward, I never did the OEM mix-n-match thing: when I was shooting Canon, that's the brand of lenses I'd be snapping on, etc. There are practical benefits to this as well (consistency in operation, mechanics, etc.), but the big thing for me is getting more or less a similar optical "signature" (for lack of a better word), wheter I'm reaching for my 28, 50, or 90 lens, all M-Hexanons in this case. (The Leica 35 f/2 Summicron is the wild card here, but it came for the ride when I got the M2). I short, I don't reach for a specific lens on account of its "signature", only for its focal length. And, of course, I do like the performance of these lenses, lots.


- Barrett
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Old 11-30-2009   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock View Post
I buy what I can afford.
Thats a novelty! - these days most buy what they can't afford!
Dave.
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Old 11-30-2009   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Wilkinson View Post
Thats a novelty! - these days most buy what they can't afford!
Dave.
Dear Dave,

Well, Bill always was a bit of a contrarian.

Well phrased, though.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 11-30-2009   #13
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I never think about this until I'm actually shooting, but the most important thing to me seems to be handling. If it feels good to use and has a certain pretty OK performance level, I will get pictures that I like.

Next is probably speed. Then character (interesting rendering, bokeh, etc.), then sharpness.
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Old 11-30-2009   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Wilkinson View Post
Thats a novelty! - these days most buy what they can't afford!
Dave.
I have always been of the opinion that one can have 98% of the performance of the 'best' lenses for 10% of the price. Whilst there are certain nosebleed-priced lenses which cannot be bested by budget equivalents, or which have no equivalent at all (hence the price), I have seldom found myself in a situation where I needed a lens which I simply could not afford and no other would suffice.

As someone who is willing to spend money to get good equipment but who values each penny spent, I try to aim for that sweet spot of 'best bang for the buck' and generally achieve my goals inexpensively.

I have, at various times, attempted to share what I've learned with others. It has been an education for me to realize that this information is generally met with silence and indifference, but one I have come to accept.
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Old 11-30-2009   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Well, Bill always was a bit of a contrarian.
I beg your pardon. "A bit?" Please. I'm quite the contrarian. I only agree with people who are right. A vanishingly small minority these days.
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Old 11-30-2009   #16
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Funny to read I did what most here did without knowing that: I have a modern set and a classic set.

Portraits is my game these days, and with some models the old lenses work best, with some the modern stuff rules
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Old 11-30-2009   #17
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I beg your pardon. "A bit?" Please. I'm quite the contrarian. I only agree with people who are right. A vanishingly small minority these days.
Dear Bill,

The great British understatement.

If it makes you happier, a VERY LARGE bit of a contrarian, or possibly the complete contrarian.

(Find the flaw in that one..)

Cheers,

R.
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Last edited by Roger Hicks : 11-30-2009 at 14:42.
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Old 11-30-2009   #18
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I like portraits and don't print large, so lots of character is fine for me. The 1930s Summar and 1950s Summarit get a lot of use. A recent Summicron handles situations requiring sharpness.

There are some images I made that initially seemed to have toooo much character. But these are often the same ones that draw me back. Over time their "defects" (unsharpness, weird bokeh, etc) become more and more appealing to me. Perfect people are not interesting -- neither are perfect photographs.
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Old 11-30-2009   #19
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Much better. Thanks ever so.
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Old 11-30-2009   #20
Brian Sweeney
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>So what's your take on the subject?
>Classic or modern?
>Character or neutral/ performance?

Classic Lens with Character for me. I'll shoot with a $50 J-3 and get photo's that I am happy with, more so than shooting with a $1000 lens.

Performance for work. I bought one of every Micro-Nikkor lens in production, dropped $20K on a single camera order. I have a decent budget.
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Old 11-30-2009   #21
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A few thoughts in the light of what I read here:

Roland: Thanks, I didn't know about some specific characteristic of the lens. I'm even happier now. I'm a bit surprised by how little information about it is available about this lens around here...

Bill, I think that whatever is your budget, you can almost always choose between the two: character or performance, so...

Roger: I agree that I don't want to worry too much about what lens before grabbing it. You know what, it's exactly what was happening when I had to choose between the canon 1.5 and the skopar: will I have enough light for 2.5? will I need to go below 1m? should I fear from flare?
I'm really happy to have now one good 35 that will answer 99% of my needs, without the need to wonder what is going to be my type of photography today.
Of course, my own little dilemma is only for the example, and forced me to do some thinking on what I want from my gear. If I was shooting portraits, for example, I guess I would have a completely different set of priorities.

Barett: The RFFer that sold me the lens did so because he is building himself a set of zeiss glass, and you know what, I am starting to think that there is a certain kind of logic with it. Certain lines of lenses share a certain ergonomic and it could make sense to have a set like you do. wihtout any preliminary thinking, I ended up with the 28 and the 35 Hexanons, and it does feel "right" to switch from one to the other. Too bad they didn't expand to shorter FL or a faster 90...
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Last edited by sanmich : 12-01-2009 at 05:09.
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Old 11-30-2009   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sanmich View Post
Bill, I think that whatever is your budget, you can almost always choose between the two: character or performance, so...
But when a lens is not a 'cult classic' nor a brand-name wonderlens, one must perforce discover for oneself the nature of a given lens.

Personal favorite, and one which others have begun to discover: Isco-Gottingen Isconar 1:4.5/100 in M42. That one is 'character' and what character it has! I paid $5 for mine. Now they go for a trifle more. Still worth it.

Personal favorite, and one which remains obstinately undiscovered: Sears Auto 50mm f/1.7 in M42 or P/K mount. Devastatingly sharp, and ignored in favor of the lesser 1.4 lens.

So I like both, but being cheap, have to find them on my own.
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Old 11-30-2009   #23
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Personal cheap favorites, excluding the Jupiters...

$10 50/1.9 Schneider Xenon for the Retina IIIS and $25 90/4 Tele-Arton for the Reflex-S. Kodak Retina outfits offer some bargains.
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Old 11-30-2009   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmattock View Post
But when a lens is not a 'cult classic' nor a brand-name wonderlens, one must perforce discover for oneself the nature of a given lens.

Personal favorite, and one which others have begun to discover: Isco-Gottingen Isconar 1:4.5/100 in M42. That one is 'character' and what character it has! I paid $5 for mine. Now they go for a trifle more. Still worth it.

Personal favorite, and one which remains obstinately undiscovered: Sears Auto 50mm f/1.7 in M42 or P/K mount. Devastatingly sharp, and ignored in favor of the lesser 1.4 lens.

So I like both, but being cheap, have to find them on my own.
I don't know the lens you mention.
I am defenitely prefering now rangefinders.
From what I have tried, if I had to shoot on a very low budget, I would go the GSN/ Himatic route. I am lucky enough to be able to afford for some more expensive experimenting: a DR and now, after selling gear, the Hex.
I certainly can't afford, but would love to try, for example, the 50mm summilux ASPH or the 75mm 1.4, but, along the same lines of my reflection on the types of images that I like, I wouldn't have gone the Noctilux road, even if I had the cash.
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Old 11-30-2009   #25
Pickett Wilson
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I'll second that Sears Auto 50 1.7 in M42. I have one on a 1970's Sears Auto TLS EE (actually made by Ricoh) body and it's a great lens. I have the 50 1.4 as well. Both fine lenses. Produces modern looking photos.
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