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Roger Hicks
04-18-2008, 08:38
How often to you push your lenses to the limits? Resolution, speed, illumination, compactness... Which do you really need, and when?

Raw speed matters to me -- I quite often use fast lenses at maximum apertures of f/1.5, f/1.4, f/1.2, f/1 -- but I seldom make maximum use of resolution (optimum aperture, camera on tripod) and illumination rarely matters to me: I almost never use the centre-filter on my Alpa with the Apo-Grandagons, for example. But light weight and compactness mean a lot, hence my preference for the last-generation pre-aspheric 35/1.4 over either the ASPH or Voigtländer's 35/1.2.

Does 'specmanship' (maximum resolution, etc. that we never use) sometimes stand in the way of making pictures, by fixating us on lenses that are too big, too heavy, too expensive or too unergonomic to use?

Cheers,

R.

oftheherd
04-18-2008, 09:17
Mr. Hicks,

Probably the first thing I look at about a lens it its max aperture. I have always been something of an available light afficianado. I also pay attention to the smallest aperture for depth of field.

As to what's in between, I don't pay as much attention to that as I should, probably. But I do pay attention. I think I do that more with rangefinders than SLRs. At least non-fixed lens RFs. Mind you, I only have two non-fixed lens RFs, my Mamiya Super Press 23, and my newly acquired Kiev. I think being slowed down by using a hand held meter, and seeing the different combinations on the scale, help me with keeping DOF, shutter speed, and resolution in mind. My main SLRs, with their Fujica and Contax T* lenses, probably helped me worry less about resolution than I should have.

Thanks for the thread and the question. I will be paying a little more attention to resolution now.

Rayt
04-18-2008, 09:18
My preferred style of photography is of people in their environment, and I like to do that in the best light and that would be an hour or so just before total darkness. A lens that performs at max aperture would be preferable. Size and comfort are important too. The Summilux asph and Nokton are too big and they block too much and do not give me the edge. I very much prefer more in focus, not less so I wouldn't use it at f/1.4 anyway. I just got the new 35mm Summarit and it is going to be my new standard.

Roger Hicks
04-18-2008, 09:26
My preferred style of photography is of people in their environment, and I like to do that in the best light and that would be an hour or so just before total darkness. A lens that performs at max aperture would be preferable. Size and comfort are important too. The Summilux asph and Nokton are too big and they block too much and do not give me the edge. I very much prefer more in focus, not less so I wouldn't use it at f/1.4 anyway. I just got the new 35mm Summarit and it is going to be my new standard.

My priorities are increasingly like yours; more and more, I question the value of extreme speed, given the d-o-f penalty.

But yet, but yet... There are still enough times that I'd rather have shallow d-o-f than camera shake.

As with other threads in this sub-forum, I don't think I have the answers -- but I think I do have some quite useful questions, and responses like yours help answer them. Thanks.

Cheers,

Roger

Roger Hicks
04-18-2008, 09:30
But I do pay attention. I think I do that more with rangefinders than SLRs. At least non-fixed lens RFs. Mind you, I only have two non-fixed lens RFs, my Mamiya Super Press 23...
Yes, thinking does seem to be characteristic of RF users -- which may be why they use RFs...

With HP5 Plus (or even Delta 3200) in the big Mamiya, of course you're ahead when it comes to the resolution game. That's one reason I'm fond of my Graflex + 80/2.8, modified to take a 9-on-120 (Mamiya RB 6x8) back.

Cheers,

Roger

back alley
04-18-2008, 09:30
pushing a lens, to me, seems to involve a tripod...so no, i never push my lenses.

i always think it's kinda funny to hear folks talk about lens sharpness/resolution etc. and then shoot handheld at slow speeds.
to me, if you are worship at the mtf charts then maybe medium format would be a better choice.

joe

David Goldfarb
04-18-2008, 09:36
Trying to do things like handheld large format, I'm often at the maximum aperture or close to it, and one of the main reasons I even keep a 35mm anymore is for my 50/1.2 in light that's too low for a larger format. I also like short DOF, so it suits me as well.

I do use center filters fairly often with wide lenses for which I own them.

Optimum aperture?--sometimes. I'm usually more concerned with exposure and DOF, but if that's close to the optimal aperture, I'll try to use it. For some lenses the optimum aperture is so optimal, though, that I would try to stick to it more consciously. When I had my Voigtlander Vitessa-L with the 50/2 Ultron, I tried to keep it at f:8. With soft focus lenses, like the Verito, I usually adjust the aperture for effect and adjust the exposure with ND filters as needed, and without looking at the scale, I almost always end up around f:6.0.

Compactness sometimes matters. I have some compact lenses that are the same focal lengths as other lenses I have for when I need to travel light.

One area where I've really gone all out for performance is my tripod, because the biggest Gitzo CF tripods have gotten down to the weight of what used to be thought of as a medium-sized tripod, but they've gotten stronger and better at damping vibrations. Sometimes I need that, for bird photography with a long lens or with the 11x14" camera or verticals with the 7x17" camera or tabletop with the 8x10" Sinar P. In less demanding circumstances I figure the extra solidity can't hurt, and the weight isn't outrageous (7, 10, or 12 lbs, depending on which head I use, and whether I use a center column).

Graham Line
04-18-2008, 09:36
Even now as a hobbyist, and previously shooting for work, I routinely bought lenses by their reputation -- less by comparing spec sheets -- and routinely used the extremes of their performance. Some photos, maybe the most-striking ones, cannot be made any other way.

Resolution was always an issue because the finished product was going to be strained through a 90-line screen and printed on newsprint -- in order to pop off a page we needed a great deal of clarity and excellent differentiation of tones and contrast.

The only reason to buy a fast lens was to shoot it wide open -- indoor meeting coverage was always at f1.4, generally with film pushed a stop, so again lens speed and definition were critical. People don't respond to muddy pictures. They don't have to be razor sharp to convey the emotion but they definitely have to be clear.

If I were shooting stationary subjects, always in adequate light, I'd be happy with less speed but not with less resolution.

Now, shooting for myself, I still use maximum apertures and want the longest, cleanest tonal scale I can get. It's essential that the tool isn't an impediment to creating the photo.

Wide-open 180/2.8 with a 2x teleconverter, tripod, 400 iso film:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/1877415943/

Soft morning light, 28/3.5, wide open again, slow speed hand-held, soft toned-slow film:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/168411473/in/set-821318/

Rayt
04-18-2008, 09:38
The way I shoot I really need the dof because getting the shot is the priority and I can't be turning the lens back and forth for fine tune focus. When I see something interesting I raise the camera to my eyes, do my best focusing and shoot. Using a 35mm at f/4 or f/2.8 helps a lot with my sloppy focus. Also if the subject matter is for example two people side by side and if one is in focus and the other is not then the picture is ruined. People don't use the Noctilux wide open for group photos!

ernstk
04-18-2008, 09:41
What's a centre (or center, if you must...) filter? I've never heard this term until now?

Regards
Ernst

Roger Hicks
04-18-2008, 09:44
...One area where I've really gone all out for performance is my tripod....
Dear David,

YES!

I wondered about extending the original question to include cameras and other kit, but adding tripods as well is something very important I had initially neglected to think about.

All I'd add is that as well as some seriously big tripods I also use some seriously light ones: better the light tripod you carry with you than the one you leave at home (or in the car) because it's too heavy.

But with tripods, it's two out of three at best: light, solid, affordable...

Cheers,

R.

Roger Hicks
04-18-2008, 09:47
What's a centre (or center, if you must...) filter? I've never heard this term until now?

Regards
Ernst

Dear Ernst,

Centre darker than edges: evens out the illumination of extreme wide-angles. Absurdly expensive, but essential if illumination is to be even corner-to-corner.

Cheers,

R.

ernstk
04-18-2008, 09:55
Thank you Roger.

Ernst

David Goldfarb
04-18-2008, 10:00
But with tripods, it's two out of three at best: light, solid, affordable...

Indeed, "affordable" went out the window with the Gitzo GT5540LS and Arca Swiss B2, but I was able to sell off a few other tripods and heads to offset the cost.

I'm down to three now--the Gitzo, a little Linhof Report that folds flat and weighs about 2-3 lbs, and a Linhof pedestal-style studio stand. The Linhof Report is a great little tripod. The legs snap into place for very quick setup (top section has short throw locking collars for leveling as well), and if I use it without a head (which is fine for landscapes and architecturals), it will hold my 8x10" Gowland PocketView with a lightweight wide-to-normal lens.

Graham Line
04-18-2008, 10:04
pushing a lens, to me, seems to involve a tripod...so no, i never push my lenses.

i always think it's kinda funny to hear folks talk about lens sharpness/resolution etc. and then shoot handheld at slow speeds.
to me, if you are worship at the mtf charts then maybe medium format would be a better choice.

joe

Ah, but when you're juggling slow speeds in poor light, it's nice to have resolution and definition working for you.
Yep. If you're going to the trouble of hauling a big heavy tripod, you might as well put a big camera on top of it.

oscroft
04-18-2008, 10:17
My photography is usually travel-related, and I shoot a lot of Tri-X too. Resolution isn't really very important to me - whenever I look at my photos it's to recapture the moods and memories of people, places, ideas etc, never to look at the edges with a magnifier to check how sharp it is. I also shoot almost exclusively outdoors in good light, so fast apertures aren't important to me. So it's mostly compactness, robustness, and the general "look" of a lens that matters to me.

Bruin
04-18-2008, 11:36
The only thing I push to the limit regularly is speed. I only have moderately fast lenses and I use them wide open without hesitation. I agree with Roger about the rest - resolution and illumination rarely matter, but light weight and compactness mean a lot to me. In fact, I use my Yashica GX about twice as much as my ZI kit. I love the feel, experience, and versatility of the Ikon, but the GX is still my everyday, grab-and-go camera.