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peter_n
05-11-2005, 17:29
Sean Reid posted a couple of hours ago that his massive new piece of work is now up on the Luminous Landscape site but the post (at the end of his earlier very lengthy thread) seems to have gotten lost in RFF's traffic. His efforts really deserve some attention and the review is extremely interesting. Thanks Sean for all the hard work you've done for all rangfinder fans! :) Link to the review is below:

Fast Lenses for the Epson R-D1 (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/fastlensreview.shtml)

Sean Reid
05-11-2005, 17:38
Thank you Peter!

Best,

Sean

back alley
05-11-2005, 18:06
wow, that is some read! (no pun intended)

i'll need to read it again to digest all that info more fully.
great job sean, lots of work represented there.

joe

sychan
05-11-2005, 22:51
It was an excellent article, and kind of a cool "how to evaluate lenses" lesson too.

Jim Watts
05-12-2005, 02:11
Sean,
This is a really excellent in depth review. I particularly like how you guide the reader not to look for winners, but to use it as a reference for their own needs. I think it may turn out to be a reference classic for working photographers seeking how to judge lenses in real world use.. I for one will be returning to it.

Sean Reid
05-12-2005, 05:50
Great review, sean.
One thing is that current Noctilux do not have any aspherical element.
Rare 50/1,2 Noctilux has one, but not for 50/1.0

Sang

Sang,

Thank you and thanks for the correction. I'm sending it to my editor right now. Much obliged.

Sean

Sean Reid
05-12-2005, 05:53
Sychan and Jim,

Thank you. I hope it does end up being useful as one kind of reference source.

Best,

Sean

HenningW
05-12-2005, 15:27
Nice writeup, Sean. I've shot with all those lenses except the 35/1.7 Cosina and 35/1.5 Canon on film cameras, and my impressions are quite in line with yours. I can certainly understand that the higher contrast of the latest Leica lenses can cause problems with the dynamic range, even though I missed that in the time I had the R-D1 to use. On film with a decent shoulder that's not an issue, of course but it certainly has its own look.

Have you tried reducing the contrast of any of these lenses by use of a filter? I know it's not the same as using a low contrast lens, but it might be a workaround under some circumstances. Some of my UV filters that haven't been used in years have developed a bit of 'scum' that might do the trick. ;)

Henning

HenningW
05-12-2005, 15:30
I forgot to mention, Sean, that your daughter deserves a special commendation for helping you with the material. I could never get my daughter to do that for me.

Henning

Sean Reid
05-12-2005, 17:10
Hi Henning,

My daughter is herself a young photographer and she was willing to serve as model in exchange for a blueberry pancake breakfast at a diner (pre-shoot). I told her there was no need to fake a smile for the pictures (which she doesn't normally do anyway, having grown up around me) and so what we see in the pictures is a patient and somewhat bored nine-year old. The great thing about Cheyenne is that she'd do it again in a heartbeat, no problem. She knows it takes a long time but that its for a good cause. She also helped me to choose and arrange the various objects shown in the pictures.

The way I'm dealing with matching lenses and contrast is to use my CV lenses in various kinds of light and my Canon lenses in bright sunlight. I'd own the Summilux 35 and 50 in a heartbeat but I don't want to spend that kind of money now when other obligations have to take priority. The Leica Asph lens I'd buy first would be the 35/1.4.

Cheers,

Sean

Peter Klein
05-12-2005, 20:44
Sean:

Well done!

I want to add my kudos to the comments about your article. We all owe you a vote of thanks for such a massive and thorough piece of work. What a concept-- a "lens test" that is really about the pictorial effect of how lenses draw their images. Lines per millimeter and MTF graphs have their place, but your article really gets to the heart of the matter in the way that photographers can relate to instantly.

I've long had a feeling that a DRF is in my future. Maybe not the RD-1, but perhaps a successor or a sibling. After I read your article, that premonition is stronger.

I notice that you also shoot an Olympus E-1. So we have similar tastes--I shoot Leica M and an E-1, too. Could you maybe give a few words about how the images from the RD-1 and the E-1 compare? I've looked over your wedding pictures, but they are not big enough to see the fine points, and the Flash show prevents me from looking at EXIF data.

--Peter

Beniliam
05-12-2005, 23:12
Sean congrath for your website, your photos, and your excellent review of the RD1.

pfogle
05-13-2005, 02:57
Sean... just another vote of thanks and, well, amazement at the amount of energy you've put into your tests, and into encouraging us here in the forum.

I feel as though we're on the cutting edge here in the move away from over-concern with technical gizmos, to assessing the gear from the practical and aethetic perspectives.

I hope your tests become a benchmark for other reviewers to pay more attention to the real needs of photographers - lenses are often 'sharp enough' for our purposes, but the way an image looks is what really counts.

Now, if considering a new lens, I don't think about whether it's a bit sharper than others I have, but rather, is it different enough to give me a new tool for the toolbox.

thanks again
Phil

Sean Reid
05-13-2005, 06:51
Beniliam,

What's the translation of the Baudelaire quote? I'm afraid I don't have any Spanish.

All,

I appreciate the comments about the article. I am consciously trying to move the discussion of cameras and lenses in a different direction from where I've seen it headed for a long time. It's been the case in all my reviews since 2003, but I went furthest out on a limb with this latest article. It's likely that the vast majority of photographers will never read this fast lens review because they have no interest in rangefinders in general or the R-D1 in particular. That's too bad, I think, because much of the discussion in the review concerns ideas that are worth considering for all serious photographers. We're in a very small world here at RFF.

We're also in a unique position because we have so many different kinds of lenses to choose from for L and M mount cameras. In a sense, we've got access to many of the lenses that shaped much of the history of 20th century photography. And while there are, of course, differences between the look of digital and film captures, much of the look created by a specific lens on film is still there on digital. I have a real affection for the Canon 28/2.8, possibly in part because its drawing has been etched in my mind by years of looking long and hard at the work of Garry Winogrand. It's an iconic lens, even though (in objective terms) it's "flawed" in many respects. At this exact moment in time, I see the R-D1 as the most versatile small format digital camera one could work with (in terms of drawing). My close friend, photographer and critic Ben Lifson, began with digital capture using a Canon DSLR but he never warmed to it after 40 years of using Leicas. After using my R-D1 for a few minutes, he put all his Canon DSLR stuff up for sale and never looked back. Our mutual friend, Jim Rubino, sent Ben some early color work made with the R-D1 and a CV 35/2.5. Ben told me he just stared at those pictures on his monitor. "The color", he said, "it just keeps coming at you".

Regarding the E-1, my review is here: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/e1-2nd.shtml I had to send my review E-1 back to Olympus this week, but it is my favorite DSLR. I would very much like to use it as my only DSLR for weddings and other small-format commercial work (carry 2-3 R-D1 bodies and 1 E-1 body). The 1Ds would then be used almost exclusively for architecture since, in my mind, it is really more of a medium format tripod camera. The E-1's big limitation for me, unfortunately, is the same now as when I bought (and then sold) one in late 2003. For my standards, it is not a good camera in low light. I'm not real happy with even the (nominal) ISO 800 files. I wrote the E-1 noise profiles that are on the Neat Image site but when I filter noise I'm really only willing to filter the chrominance noise. I don't like the waxy softness that comes from, even the best, filtering of luminance noise. Moreover, compared to the Canon DSLRs, the E-1 is actually a 1/2 stop less sensitive at higher ISOs. It's ISO 800 is really providing the same sensitivity as the Canon would be at about ISO 640. Add in the fact that the 14-54 is only as fast as F/2.8/F3.5 and the E-1 is really down 2 - 3 stops under a 10D or 20D. As much as I've tried to rationalize around that problem (because I love the E-1) there's no getting around the Canon's superiority in low light. The R-D1 can deliver a good ISO 1600 and use fast lenses, so it does great in that respect. If I had three R-D1 bodies, I could then use the E-1 only for ISO 100 - 400 photography (with or without flash) and it does beautifully for that kind of work. Oly has $$ probs. right now but I hope they get past it and deliver a successor to the E-1 with 8-10 MP and a Panasonic sensor that does beautifully at a true ISO 1600. The new F/2 Oly zooms will be an asset as well. If that ends up being the case, I'm going to sell off some Canon gear and switch to Oly for most DSLR work.

As to the question about how the two compare...If I were to answer with complete candor, I'd have to say that there's no comparison in my mind. The R-D1 has access to the finest (in my opinion) small-format lenses ever made (and so many variations of drawing to choose from). As such, in my mind, it's untouchable even with only 6MP. Clearly cameras like my 1Ds and the new 1Ds MkII provide higher resolution, etc. but I cannot make those cameras draw like an R-D1 no matter what lens is on them (including the Zeiss primes I use). That is also true of the Leica, of course, which, with its tiny 35mm negative, has always been somewhat of a sketching camera. After using the R-D1 with my favorite lenses, every other digital camera leaves me somewhat cold.

Cheers,

Sean

Beniliam
05-13-2005, 07:20
Dear Sean,

This is the translation of the quote: What matters what can be the reality that is outside me, if it has helped me to live, to feel that I am and what I am?

Huck Finn
05-13-2005, 07:34
Sean, I never felt that you were going out on a limb. I think that your approach is what photographers have been asking for. Your article was spectacularly successful. I didn't think a review could be any better than yours on wide angles for the R-D1, but you topped it with this one. Thank you for all the hard work that went into it!

Huck

dougyau
05-13-2005, 08:15
Dear Sean,

Thank you for a most useful review.

Douglas

Sean Reid
05-13-2005, 08:48
Hi Huck and Douglas,

Thank you very much indeed.

Beniliam,

Thank you for the translation. Beaudelaire, as you likely know, was important to Walker Evans and Walker Evans has been important to me. This suggests that I need to start reading Beaudelaire. Strange as it may sound, Kerouac has been the writer I've learned a lot from so far. Although the chain, strange as it may be, does exist, ie:

Beaudelaire > Evans < > Robert Frank < > Kerouac >

Of course a linear diagram doesn't do this justice at all. Kerouac (along with the conductor Furtwangler and an amazing performance of Beethoven's 9th) was partly responsible for a huge revelation I had while photographing in Florida in 2001. Also Ornette Coleman but that hasn't sunk in all the way yet.

Cheers,

Sean

Gordon Coale
05-13-2005, 11:11
Kind of makes me want to get an R-D1. Oh, wait...I've wanted one since Stephen Gandy saw in at PMA over a year ago. That probably won't happen since my budget is in the FED range. Oh, wait...FEDs use many of the same lenses! Probably the biggest thing I've learned hanging out here at RFF is that there is a lot more to a lens than sharpness. Thank you thank you thank you, Sean, for articulating that so well in your review. Now I want an R-D1 even more!

Sean Reid
05-13-2005, 12:16
Hi Gordon,

Thanks. The great thing about these lenses is that they're just as interesting, I'm sure, on film cameras. I can't say how my observations would translate when these specific lenses were used with film but it is great that one can get an inexpensive Bessa body, for example, and have access to all these wonderful lenses.

Cheers,

Sean

Beniliam
05-13-2005, 12:26
Sean,

I like Baudelaire, but concretely his figure of artist (dandy). Its very important for me the ´dandysm´ what represents, and the position in which it is located with respect to the art. The entailment of the modern art to the cities. And his function as art critic.
The dark side of his life also is attractive, the drugs, the brothels, the excesses, the night, Baudelaire is one of first that feels the torment of the modern man and the self-destruction.
I like more what he represents, that his Literature...

This is my linear diagram:

-Goya (engravings of the daily life:Los desastres de la Guerra, La Tauromaquia...)


- Baudelaire (The modern man, the great city, and the art)
-Kerstez (more of 70 years of photography in the street, influences direct to Cartier Bresson)
- Cartier Bresson (Composition and decisive moment)

- Elliot Erwitt (Daily humor, the paradoxical thing, visual language and dogs)

Sean Reid
05-13-2005, 14:46
Beniliam,

That's an interesting progression. I think starting with Goya makes a lot of sense. In your diagram, which of those artists (to your knowledge) acknowledged the influence and/or wrote about it? I would imagine Erwitt acknowledged Cartier-Bresson...the others I'm curious about.

Thanks for the thought-provoking discussion,

Sean

Beniliam
05-13-2005, 16:01
I have recognized that the photographers whom but they have influenced to me are: Cartier Bresson. Elliot Erwitt, Robert Doisneau. But Andre Kerstez too, and many other...

I love Goya´s engravings (http://www.almendron.com/arte/pintura/goya/estampas/estampas.htm) (see this link) The Goya´s engravings are the begining of the photojournalism. Goya is witness of one century of changes. If in his first paintings he emphasizes by the vitality. With the years he disillusions of the life. Spain enters in monarchic crisis with the invasion of Napoleon, and the war is present in the daily life. Goya is a great observer, that with his charcoal and his brush it portrays the human barbarism. In addition Goya has obsessions that persecute him, that makes a mixture explosive, that overflows tenebrous and squalid humanity. But Goya, did not lose the faith absolutely, when it had to flee to France, deaf and old, discovers in Bordeaux, that still there are much to paint, as it exemplifies one of the titles of one of its last engravings: Aún aprendo (still I learn). :)



Baudelaire hated the photography, his friend Nadar made some unique pictures of Charles. Where their excesses and the premature oldness, have an enigmatic magnetism for the spectator. The figure of Baudelaire interests me because his putting in scene, his dandysm, his decay. His Literature, his conception of beauty, his attraction by the miserable things, are very interesting, but for me the personage, the figure, is what they make it only and creative of tendencies. ;)

Sean Reid
05-13-2005, 16:35
Yes, I agree about Goya and the kind of work that Walker Evan's eventually came to call "documentary style". Also, in the same vein, Daumier and his pictures of carriage passengers. Evans often acknowledged his fascination with Baudelaire in interviews and his own writing. Robert Frank was very clear in discussing the influence Evans had on his work (and also the commonality of their work even before one knew the other existed)...and I think the influence may have gone both ways. Kerouac and Frank were contemporaries, ran in some of the same circles and influenced each other for sure. We get a sense of their wild life-in-common in the film "Pull My Daisy". Alan Ginsberg was, of course, part of the same crew.

The photographers who have been most important to my work are: Winogrand, Frank, Strand, Evans and Helen Levitt (who also helped me with the subway pictures). Writers: Kerouac and Hugo. Painters: Breughel the Elder, Degas, Vermeer, Delacroix (although loosely...too loosely). Musicians: Beethoven (esp. via Furtwangler), Billie Holiday, Coleman, Armstrong, Ellington, Mingus

Does anyone care that we've gone off-topic? I'm happy to go back to talking about lenses again if folks want.

Sean

Jim Watts
05-14-2005, 02:23
......Although the chain, strange as it may be, does exist, ie

Beaudelaire > Evans < > Robert Frank < > Kerouac >

Of course a linear diagram doesn't do this justice at all. ....Also Ornette Coleman but that hasn't sunk in all the way yet.

Cheers,

Sean

Hi Sean & Beniliam,
While I would not argue with this chain and the addition of Goya, IMHO I think that the inclusion of Atget between Baudelaire & Evans makes it even more linear.

Ornette Coleman gave a concert at the Barbican here last week which I sadly couldn't get to. The reviews said he is still blowing up a storm. I still remember being knocked out by a concert in London by his quartet in the early 70's. Coleman (Alto & T.Sax's + Violin), , Dewey Redman (Alto & T.Sax's), Charlie Haden (Bass) & Ed Blackwell (Drums).

Taking diversions from the linear route can often get you back on course, although perhaps not always further down the road. I'm very fond of Samuel Barber's music & especially 'Knoxville: Summer of 1915' which is inspired by James Agee's lyric opening to 'A Death in the Family' and Agee of course worked with Evan's on 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men'.

I think that a case can be made for Garry Winogrand or Lee Friedlander (or maybe even Stephen Shore, another favourite of mine) to be the next step in the chain above, but its probably still to early to say.

It's good to be talking more about photography and influences rather than equipment even if it is off topic in this thread.

Jim

Sean Reid
05-14-2005, 08:51
Hi Jim,

I agree that Atget fits in just as you say. There's some logic to this progression, first a lens test that isn't exactly about equipment followed by a discussion that soon isn't about the lens test. Free form...we'll come back to lenses when and if it's time.

It's good to hear you mention Stephen Shore. I studied closely under him for four years when I was at Bard College and he's remained a friend, although we only keep in touch every few years. I printed his B&W work from Andy Warhol's factory. Evans was absolutely an influence on Stephen who certainly has been a pioneer of color photography.

Cheers,

Sean

Jim Watts
05-15-2005, 01:53
Hi Jim,

It's good to hear you mention Stephen Shore. I studied closely under him for four years when I was at Bard College and he's remained a friend, although we only keep in touch every few years. I printed his B&W work from Andy Warhol's factory. Evans was absolutely an influence on Stephen who certainly has been a pioneer of color photography.

Cheers,

Sean
Hi Sean,
Isn't there something called "Six Degrees of Separation" that is supposed to link everyone on the planet? I think we can do it in three (twice) here. You studied with Stephen Shore. I studied with the critic Gerry Badger (who is now a close friend). Gerry Badger wrote "The In Praise of A Quite Photographer" piece that accompanies Steven Shore's 2nd version of Uncommon Places (50 Unpublished Photographs 1973 - 1978) which was the catalogue to his 2002 show at Galerie Conrads, Dusseldorf. Gerry has also written a number of other articles on Stephen for various magazines.

I also see from the Bio on your website that you worked with and know Wendy Ewald. I met Wendy, I think in about the mid 70's when she briefly ran a small gallery in Alie Street in London's East End, 'The Half Moon Gallery', it was in the foyer of a community theartre of the same name and went on to become Camera Work. I was a gallery regular and once curated a show there, although the photogapher Ron Mc Cormick was then running it. I had wondered what ever became of her until I obtained her 2002 book "Secret Games, Collaborative Works with Children 1969 - 1999. Good to see that she has stuck with the community based work that was always expounded at the Half Moon. To further complete the circle back to your earlier post Adam Weinberg in the introduction to her book notes how much an admirer of of Evans and Agee she was.

It perhaps all shows that the photographic world is smaller and stranger than we (or at least I ) think.

Jim

Sean Reid
05-15-2005, 04:39
Hi Jim,

It is a very small world... I haven't seen the second edition of "Uncommon Places" but I'll look for it and look for that Badger essay. Wendy has been prolific, she began working with children as photographers on a Native American Reservation and then in the Appalachia. The latter project lead to the book: "Portraits and Dreams", the essay for which was written by my close friend and former teacher, Ben Lifson. Ben introduced me to Wendy when I was still a student at Bard and I became her printer for the next couple of years. After I graduated, I went to Ireland and worked with children-as-photographers in the Connemara region of western Ireland. Wendy and I met a couple times in England while I was working on that project and then lost touch.

We should talk some more off-list. I imagine that some people reading this thread are wondering what the heck happened to the lens discussion. I've hijacked a thread about my own article <G>.

So, if anyone want to come back to a discussion of the lenses, feel free. Meanwhile, Jim and I likely have more to talk about via e-mail.

Cheers,

Sean

Jim Watts
05-15-2005, 07:36
Apologies to Sean and all for helping to hijack this thread. To help bring it back to the discussion of lenses (and to prove I have been paying attention :) ) can I ask Sean if there was any particular reason that there are no 'upper left corner crop' results for the flat field tests at f/2.0 for the 35mm f/1.7 Ultron & 35mm f/2 Canon. Both seem to perform pretty well in the centre crops.

Sean, I'm away for a few days now but I'll send you PM or e-mail about the other "Free Form" discussion.

Jim

Sean Reid
05-15-2005, 18:03
Gosh, no need to apologize to me...I was your partner in crime. Do you know, Jim, that you are the only person to have mentioned that omission to me? I thought lots of people were going to ask about that. In any case...it's just a layout mistake that we'll fix as soon as possible.

I tell y'all...this forum is such an oasis compared to most of what's out there.

Cheers,

Sean

peter_n
05-15-2005, 18:26
I'm pretty sure that nobody minded and everyone enjoyed the OT discussion. We are very lucky that we have a great moderator in Joe who tolerates such things.