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Roger Hicks
03-21-2011, 00:43
Why do you choose/use 'character' lenses over those that are technically 'better'? For example, the main reasons I use a pre-aspheric 35 Summilux (bought new 25-30 years ago) are (a) the price of the current lens and (b) the fact that the new lens is a lot bigger and heavier. The 'character' of the old Summilux doesn't matter to me as much as those two considerations.

On the other hand, the 1,5/50 C-Sonnar has been my favourite 50 since it came out -- and I never cared for 50 Sonnars before that. But then, it's small and light...

It's true that some photographers build a style around a particular lens, but I wonder how many RFF users feel that a particular lens is essential for a large part of their photography.

The phrase 'a large part' is designed to exclude specialist lenses used for a limited range of applications, such as the Thambar. The Summilux is my standard lens, used for over half my pictures, but if I had to swap it for a new ASPH tomorrow, I don't think it would affect the sort of pictures I shoot at all.

Cheers,

R.

Brian Sweeney
03-21-2011, 01:45
I'll have to try the new C-Sonnar.

I had the M8 and M9 out yesterday with a pair of uncoated 5cm F1.5 Sonnars, both converted to LTM. I like the look that they render. Perhaps some of the appeal is out of respect for the designers, working without computers. Respect for the choice of optimizations made, when working with uncoated optics. I am amazed that a 75-year old lens can be used wide-open and has enough resolution to induce aliasing in a modern digital camera. Of course, part of the draw is that I converted them to LTM myself.

Roger Hicks
03-21-2011, 08:09
I'll have to try the new C-Sonnar.

I had the M8 and M9 out yesterday with a pair of uncoated 5cm F1.5 Sonnars, both converted to LTM. I like the look that they render. Perhaps some of the appeal is out of respect for the designers, working without computers. Respect for the choice of optimizations made, when working with uncoated optics. I am amazed that a 75-year old lens can be used wide-open and has enough resolution to induce aliasing in a modern digital camera. Of course, part of the draw is that I converted them to LTM myself.

Dear Brian,

I'm told that when Zeiss tried to computer-optiomize the 38/4.5 Biogon, they couldn't. There was just no room left for realistic improvement without changing the design very significantly, and even then, they didn't reckon it would add much.

I greatly admire your dedication in making conversions. I'd love my Exakta-fit 58 Biotar in Leica mount: another lens that wins on price! I guess I just like 58mm lenses (like my old f/1.4 Nikkor) because they seem ideal for environmental portraits.

Cheers,

R.

thegman
03-21-2011, 08:12
I don't choose character lenses, not at the moment anyway. I'm looking for a 28mm or a 35mm right now, and I'm after contrast, colour, sharpness, but not character. However, I'm also after an 85mm for portrait style shots, and for that, it can have all the character in the world.

Charlie Lemay
03-21-2011, 08:35
My Dual Range Summicrom, because it allows me to focus the closest with the cameras I love to use most, two Leica M2s.

sepiareverb
03-21-2011, 08:42
I'm with you on the 35/1.4 pre-ASPH Roger. And I find it delivers the goods better than ever on the M9.

I keep the lenses that work best for me- either in the print or in the hand, and hopefully both. Price certainly drives what I try.

ferider
03-21-2011, 08:44
Character, price, size and built quality for me.

My DR 50/2 and v3 35/2 are not the sharpest in the pack, but often get picked because they feel in-destructible. And it's just a pleasure to use them.

Roger Hicks
03-21-2011, 08:46
I don't choose character lenses, not at the moment anyway. I'm looking for a 28mm or a 35mm right now, and I'm after contrast, colour, sharpness, but not character. However, I'm also after an 85mm for portrait style shots, and for that, it can have all the character in the world.

Good point. There are times when you want character (the Russian 85/2 springs to mind for portraits), and times when you put up with it.

Cheers,

R.

sanmich
03-21-2011, 08:55
last year or so I have officially given up on "character" lenses, and I am now imune to the siren call of magic-bullets lense.
I appreciate a good picture mostly because of its structure, geometry, dynamics, and because it hasn't been ruined by lens flaws.
So I primarly look for a lens with high resolution, decent contrast, restance to flare, and immediately after that comes the ergonomics: size, short throw focus ring, easy to reach aperture ring, etc.

I do keep a DR that I intend to use for "other" kind of photography (landscape), and other lenses that I just don't want to sell because they are kind of collectibles (yeah yeah I confess). a xenon and a mountain Elmar (go figure...)

So, long story short, give me a good lens over a character lens any day...

maddoc
03-21-2011, 08:57
I choose what I can afford - and most likely replace - over the latest and greatest. A 21/1.4 would be nice to try but it is large, heavy and I could not easy replace / repair it if necessary, my Super-Angulon is the better choice for me.

retnull
03-21-2011, 09:02
For shooting film -- character lenses rule. If you're going to bother with the hassle of film, why would you want shots that could be mistaken for digital? (Please feel free to disagree!)

Steve M.
03-21-2011, 09:12
I shoot B&W film, so don't need or want a "technically" better lens, nor do I believe there are any such things. Lots of people do though!

I use lenses that give me the type of photos that I like. Others seem to like them too, not that it matters. Clean, sharp, boring photos are a dime a dozen, but most people respond to a shot from a great classic lens like a Heliar, Summar, or Summicron. All are essential to my photography. What modern lens can compete w/ great classic glass? I'd say, w/ the debatable exception of the new Bessa/Fuji MF folder, there aren't any.

tbarker13
03-21-2011, 11:39
Most of my RF lenses fit in the older/character world. 35 Summicron v.3, 50Summicron Rigid are my only two Leica lenses.I have Nikkor and J-3 sonnars. Just ordered a Canon 50/1.2. For telephoto, I have the CV 75/1.8.Price certainly plays a role here, but much more than that is my desire to use my RF kit (shot on M8 or M6) for more classic/not perfect images.When I want modern rendering, I use a D700 with 24-70/2.8 and 70-200.2.8. For me, that set up offers huge bang for the buck - with the camera and two lenses costing around the same price as an M9.

haempe
03-21-2011, 11:48
Why shoot TX? Clearly, as a tribute to the golden age of photo-reportages.
To catch this look, no need for a modern, overcorrected 3000 lens.
Character? Sometimes I think, character means the lack of optical error correction.
This is easy to find in 50/60s lenses.
Not easy to find are good examples of these.
But for 3000 you get a bag of this lenses, a bag of toys to play.
What need a man more...?

Ok, all this fit only for hobbyists. For work I also need reliable tools.

MikeL
03-21-2011, 11:54
but if I had to swap it for a new ASPH tomorrow, I don't think it would affect the sort of pictures I shoot at all.


My experience when I had both- I used the pre-asph 90% of the time, and rarely below f2.8. When around a camp fire or really dark environment, I grabbed the ASPH. Would have liked to keep both, but it's just a hobby for me, and there were other tools I wanted to use (medium and large format).

Yeah, at f1.4 the foreground stuff gets a little glowy on the pre-asph, and resolution drops off as you move towards the frame sides. But I typically use it at f1.4 for indoor family and friend shots (small prints), and they aren't into sharpness anyways. If I use it at f2 and smaller apertures there's little 'character' difference from the ASPH.

LeicaFoReVer
03-21-2011, 12:02
I sold my 50mm summicron-m (700$) over Canon 50mm f1.2 (350$) because of its character. Canon just glows wide open and gives 3D pop-up stepped down. Only problem is vignetting but it is not a problem if you know how to use it. I shoot film-B&W.

On the other hand I may give a try to a zm-planar soon. I like its character and it is technically better too.

Roger Hicks
03-21-2011, 12:14
For shooting film -- character lenses rule. If you're going to bother with the hassle of film, why would you want shots that could be mistaken for digital? (Please feel free to disagree!)

Well, if you're shooting B+W, it would be really hard to mistake a half-competent shot for digi.

Of course, an assumption I made in the original post is that 'character' always means 'inferior'. But what about the 38/4.5 Biogon, where 'character' means 'better' (by any technical criterion)?

@Steve: Clean, sharp, boring photos are a dime a dozen. Yes, so are really awful 'character' shots. How about the argument that if you have to rely on 'character', they can equally well be muddy, unsharp, boring photos? NOT a personal attack, by a million miles (as they said to Gadaffi), but a statement of possibility.

Cheers,

R.

damien.murphy
03-21-2011, 12:15
Small, light and a decently large aperture are the price of admission for any lenses vying for my attention. This given, for professional/ paying applications I want reliability and quality (build-wise and optically) over all other factors. For personal usage/ personal projects, the look or character of a lens is important. After all, if I did not value look or character, I doubt it would be photography that held my interest :)

I like lenses with character, and like to see what a lens/ piece of kit throws at me. If I like it, I like it. If not, I will find another piece of kit. I'm not a photographer who wants infinite flexibility, and neutrality in a piece of kit like a lens. If I did, I would be delighted with the highly corrected designs produced today, where I could take a digital image shot with such a lens, and use software to derive the look I wished.

Either way, I think you roll with the look a lens gives you, or else create the look you are seeking, at the image editing phase.

I choose lenses with character for personal usage, just as I chose film when shooting on my own time. When it comes to paying work, I choose what gets the job done, which is usually digital. That might be different for some people, but generally the sort of paying gigs I indulge in are where someone is paying me for commodity-type images, as opposed to someone paying me to be an artist on their time. If it was different, I would choose interesting lenses/ kit all the time.

I should add I'm also quite a nostalgic person, so am sure that is an element in my preferences. Although, like Brian, I also respect a designers product, and like to try see things their way way. I appreciate craft and imagination. I also like wood over metal :)

Mcary
03-21-2011, 12:38
So far I feel that I've been pretty dam lucky in my choice of lens as the one's I've choose so far seem to fit my style of shooting quite well. Example the Summarit 5cm F 1.5 works great as a 1/4-1/2 portrait lens whither shooting film or digital The 35mm lens I use each offering something slight different; the CV 35 2.5 provides a nice cleaning sharp almost polished feel to the images while the Canon 35mm 2.0 LTM provides more of a soft/raw feeling.

Roger Hicks
03-21-2011, 12:41
Small, light and a decently large aperture are the price of admission for any lenses vying for my attention. This given, for professional/ paying applications I want reliability and quality (build-wise and optically) over all other factors. For personal usage/ personal projects, the look or character of a lens is important. After all, if I did not value look or character, I doubt it would be photography that held my interest :)

I like lenses with character, and like to see what a lens/ piece of kit throws at me. If I like it, I like it. If not, I will find another piece of kit. I'm not a photographer who wants infinite flexibility, and neutrality in a piece of kit like a lens. If I did, I would be delighted with the highly corrected designs produced today, where I could take a digital image shot with such a lens, and use software to derive the look I wished.

Either way, I think you roll with the look a lens gives you, or else create the look you are seeking, at the image editing phase.

I choose lenses with character for personal usage, just as I chose film when shooting on my own time. When it comes to paying work, I choose what gets the job done, which is usually digital. That might be different for some people, but generally the sort of paying gigs I indulge in are where someone is paying me for commodity-type images, as opposed to someone paying me to be an artist on their time. If it was different, I would choose interesting lenses/ kit all the time.

I should add I'm also quite a nostalgic person, so am sure that is an element in my preferences. Although, like Brian, I also respect a designers product, and like to try see things their way way. I appreciate craft and imagination. I also like wood over metal :)

Dear Damien,

Yes. If you can't exploit it, then either

(a) It's REALLY the wrong lens for you or

(b) You're not a very good photographer.

Cheers,

R.

damien.murphy
03-21-2011, 13:07
True, Roger. Photography is full of imperfect variables, in my opinion, and the way through is to either work with them, or choose other tools.

Character lenses for me, are like a refreshing alternative opinion on how an image might be rendered, much like a different philosophy..

Turtle
03-21-2011, 19:19
I just don't care much either way. For me, the starting point is a lens that is 'sharp enough' and otherwise technically competent because this falls under the banner of 'reliable and predictable.' I don't want a lens that makes everything look like it was made by a surgeon, but I don't want something that puts its own stamp on everything I do either. I want people to notice what I have done first and foremost and to ensure that I am not limited by the equipments idiosyncracies (or heavy leaning).

So yes, I pick unremarkable lenses that perform technically well and have a pleasing character which means 'not much of one but not the glaring absence of one either.'

I find it an empty experience looking at shots where the lens character is the star of every photo. To me, this comes painfully close to the notion that simply possessing expensive kit makes you a good photographer, but where cost or technology is simply replaced by exclusivity or 'being in on a secret.' It does not matter whether it is the rookie with the $8K D3X, Leicaphile with a noctilux or long-term photographer obsessing over some rare and unique optic. All suggest a reliance on the equipment for their 'effects.' While effects can be very pleasing to the eye and a lens signature interesting, it tends not to last all that long compared to compelling subject matter or a brilliantly conceived shot. I just don't think character matters much and far less so now for digital workers.

Vics
03-21-2011, 19:59
I've been looking for just the right 35mm lens for my M3 and have tried a lot of them out and read lots on this forum, and I finally settled on the 'cron. But what vintage? Then someone posted this thread http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=97129 and I was convinced that the V4 had just the look I wanted. No more doubts. This is the "character" I want. Now I just need to sell a BUNCH of guitars or cameras or both, so I can buy one!

keepright
03-21-2011, 20:20
On the other hand, the 1,5/50 C-Sonnar has been my favourite 50 since it came out -- and I never cared for 50 Sonnars before that. But then, it's small and light...

That lens was a huge part of the reason why I bought an M-mount camera, and I bought the 1,5/50 just so that it could be used for a few of my wedding photos. Worth every penny.

Otherwise I choose lenses for their technical merits, especially optical distortion, even before I consider details like focal length. The Zeiss 2/35 biogon is another huge part of the reason why I bought my M-mount camera. Even sharpness and illumination are also important to me, but that's why they invented f/5.6.

If I like a lenses' personality - even if that means that it's clinical and overly precise - I find that I can be happy with any focal length, even though I usually end up with short telephotos.

back alley
03-21-2011, 20:42
the one lens that i bought strickly based on it's character and the look of the images it made was the collapsable 50/2.8, leica, discontinued (somewhat) recently.
i really liked the warmth and character of the images it produced.

but i sold it because it turns out i don't like collapsable lenses.

as of today, all my lenses are the smallest ones that cv makes, good price/value, love the tiny size (though i liked the big 50/1.1 as well) and they are all better at making images than i am.

jsrockit
03-22-2011, 04:22
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I like sharp and clinical, sometimes soft and full of charecter, sometimes just sufficient for the cash. I think for me it comes down to price first, then charecter, then size... these days. Sometimes size trumps everything for me. Some days, I think that lens type doesn't matter and good photos can be made with anything.

oftheherd
03-22-2011, 05:51
The first two extra lenses I bought were Yashikors, a 28mm and a 135mm, for my SLR. They were available. Then I got a Spiratone 18mm and Sun 35mm: cost. Then I got my first Fujinon glass. That was good. There have been many since; Vivitar and Yashinon lenses, as well as a Contax 50mm, Sigma and whatnot. Mostly for focal length, but cost as well.

Character? I'm not even sure I can define it. Well, maybe with the Zeiss copies for FSU cameras. :D

Kent
03-22-2011, 07:18
There is more to a lens that "just" the image character that convinces me to use it.
I really like the "feel" of a lens. Some very good lenses I have sold again, because I did never use them. Others I always use, even though they might not be the best lenses available.
But, as I said, it's not only the image character, it's rather how it handles and how it feels in your hands...

MC JC86
03-22-2011, 08:15
I do like older lenses... uncoated Tessars and Elmars I have are great for a lot of things.. I will admit though recently I've been leaning towards newer optics, I don't like to have a camera bag that is so weighed down due to the fact that every time a flare-prone situation pops up I need to pop on a different lens. Of course, for me new is a 3,5CM F/1.8 w-Nikkor S ;) I've found the new C/V lenses are a good balance of all 3 (character, price and size) while still controlling flare well enough to make them useful in almost all situations.

taskoni
03-22-2011, 09:10
I definitely know which lens is "THE lens" for me even though I don't owe one. I am a 50mm shooter now and I carry one 35mm as well, but I'd love to have a 40mm lens.
I prefer not collapsible lenses - I find the more comfortable while handling the camera somehow but both my Summar and Elmar are collapsible :eek:
The price was essential when I bought my Elmar 50mm for my M2, I almost had money to get a new 40mm nokton but I went for leica glass.
I would love to get a 40mm f/2 Summicron for my M2 and I would be happy and possible would shoot only with that lens and the 50mm Summar on my Leia III.
Regards,
bobby

traveler_101
03-22-2011, 14:25
For shooting film -- character lenses rule. If you're going to bother with the hassle of film, why would you want shots that could be mistaken for digital? (Please feel free to disagree!)

Makes perfect sense to me. What lenses do you use? :D

mfunnell
03-22-2011, 15:26
I wonder how many RFF users feel that a particular lens is essential for a large part of their photography.
[snip]
The Summilux is my standard lens, used for over half my pictures, but if I had to swap it for a new ASPH tomorrow, I don't think it would affect the sort of pictures I shoot at all.The closest I have to what you're talking about is my Summilux 75/1.4 - which certainly wasn't chosen because I like its price or size! It is most assuredly not my "standard" lens. But for certain types of photo I like to take there is no substitute (at least none that I've found or, I'm guessing, could afford). I have to be in the right circumstances and the right mood to use it, though. It isn't a lens I drag out casually, though sometimes I drag it around with me just in case the fancy strikes me.

...Mike