Go Back   Rangefinderforum.com > Cameras / Gear / Photography > Rangefinder Forum > Rangefinder Photography Discussion

Rangefinder Photography Discussion General discussions about Rangefinder Photography. This is a great place for questions and answers that are not addressed in a specific category. Take note there is also a General Photography forum.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes

Online Lens Reviews -- Why They're Usually Useless: Use Case and Weighting
Old 06-06-2019   #1
NickTrop
Registered User
 
NickTrop's Avatar
 
NickTrop is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,036
Online Lens Reviews -- Why They're Usually Useless: Use Case and Weighting

Like most folks into photography I obsess on gear. I agonize over each purchase, even relatively small ones. I pour over all the review sites -- Rockwell, OpticalLimits!, DxO etc. and several YouTube channels comparing and contrasting. This is especially true with lenses since I more frequently purchase lenses than camera bodies. And here's what I've concluded:

-- They're mostly useless. And they're flawed in two areas:

1. Use Case
They don't take into consideration HOW a lens is to be used and by whom? So, for example, I own a Tokina 17-35/4. It gets mediocre reviews in the "online press". The main knock, pairing it down, is "softness in the corners wide open especially at 35mm..." On MTF charts it achieves well into "excellent" resolution range by F8, corners and edges not far behind. By F11 there is excellent sharpness across the image plane with a slight drop-off in the center (but still excellent resolution).

This lens is a wide-angle zoom. I have used it exclusively outdoors. I shoot this lens almost always at its widest or near widest angle of view. I amost never shoot below f5.6. This "use case" for such a lens for architecture, landscape, and interiors on a tripod and/or using an external flash. That is, this lens is used when there is ample light to shoot at proper working apertures for its intended use.

Its "use case" is different, say, from a 35mm prime, or a fast "nifty fifty". Undervalued in this lens is that it has the lowest amount of barrel distortion of any ultrawide zoom I'm aware of. For such a lens, an ultrawide, this is important to users -- especially a 3rd-party lens where the camera's processing engine may not correct for it.

Finally, this lens is significantly less expensive than many/most/all other options. Yet, it does not skimp on build quality.

So, while the online press rates this as "mediocre" due to performance "in the extremes" for a lens in this category, the specs for its intended use/use case are not properly "weighted" and the metrics that diminish this lens in their view are less important than lenses designed for other types of shooting. Yet, online review sites completely ignore this (for the most part) and rate/review lenses "one size fits all" comparing each on the same criteria, equally weighted, as if a "lens is a lens" and there is no difference in use case -- they're all used for taking pictures. (Another issue is they tend to ignore price and value. Is it really worth it to pay $1,000 more for a lens to achieve marginal performance gains that are too often invisible? But that's a topic for another post.)


This is just one example -- I could go on with many.

2. Weighted (Not Straight) Averages Based on Use Case

Since I have limited time and have already written a (par for the course) tome, tied into use case is "weighting". We all know of weighted averages, right?

So, corner and edge sharpness might be very highly rated if you're shooting art, text, or other technical types of photography. However, for a 50mm aren't corners and edges blurred when shooting candids in natural light and subject is invariably at/near the center of the frame? Isn't the size and weight (not average) of a lens more important if the use case for this lens in natural light candids so as to be able to carry the lens easily and not intimidate subjects?

Thus, from my perspective, many/most/all online reviews whether text or video are largely useless because they seem to weight all categories equally and disregard use case.

FIN
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #2
Dogman
Registered User
 
Dogman is online now
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,423
When I read a camera or lens review online, I usually just go to the "Pros" and "Cons" section at the end of the review. I consider whether the bad points and good points have any relevance to my uses. For instance, if it has great video features I just think "So what" and ignore it since I don't do video. If it's ISO at 100,000 is not so good that's another "So what" to me.

Lenstip.com and Opticallimits.com do some pretty fair lens reviews in my opinion. But I ignore their final evaluations because a lot of the time they are based on how much the lens costs. Price is not as important as performance to me. I already know how much I can spend before I ever start thinking about a specific lens...I just wanna know how it sharp it is, how much distortion is has, etc.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #3
Austintatious
Registered User
 
Austintatious's Avatar
 
Austintatious is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Shadow of Pikes Peak, USA
Posts: 403
I too look at review sites until I have a dizzy head from it. I seem to have more trust in looking for user reviews on various forums like RFF and others. These reviews seem to be more real world type of information for making a decision.
__________________
My gallery

RF's : Bessa-R ,FED II, Olympus 35RC , Argus C-3
Other :Minolta XD-11, Minolta SRT102 Pentax Spotmatic Yashica-Mat 124G, Rolleicord Va
Digital :Nikon D7100, Sony NEX 6, Panasonic LX-5
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #4
raydm6
Registered User
 
raydm6's Avatar
 
raydm6 is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: North Central Massachusetts (USA)
Posts: 445
For me, I usually go by other folks' images on 'net and forums (but I'm usually buying an older/vintage lenses).
__________________
flickriver
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #5
NickTrop
Registered User
 
NickTrop's Avatar
 
NickTrop is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,036
Quote:
Originally Posted by raydm6 View Post
For me, I usually go by other folks' images on 'net and forums (but I'm usually buying an older/vintage lenses).
Yes. Me too.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #6
Bill Clark
Registered User
 
Bill Clark's Avatar
 
Bill Clark is offline
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Minnetonka, Minnesota
Age: 71
Posts: 2,501
I agree.

What I based my buying of lenses is what I wanted to accomplish. My favorite lens that I used was a Canon 24-70 f2.8. It worked for about 95% of photographs I made.
__________________
I make photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #7
Requin
Registered User
 
Requin is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 88
Lenstests aren't liable to a standardized test method. Lenstests are generally not scientific and replicable. So beware of lenstests - except some case-by-case exdeptions.

Just my 2 cents
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #8
CharlesDAMorgan
Registered User
 
CharlesDAMorgan is online now
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: South East UK
Posts: 535
Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
Yes. Me too.
X3

I watch the vids, and they mostly all miss the point.
__________________
Film amateur with a few rangefinders - Leica III, M2/M3, Werra 3 and Zeiss Super Ikonta 534/16 medium format.

Apart from that have a Rolleiflex 3.5F, the odd Minolta XD7, Hasselblad 500cm, a Topcon Super D and an Intrepid 5x4 large format (not the half of it but I am clearing them out, honest).

I do all my own black and white developing at home.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #9
Peter Wijninga
Registered User
 
Peter Wijninga's Avatar
 
Peter Wijninga is online now
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 4,971
To each his own. I've found Kenn Rockwell's M mount lens reviews solid/reliable. Bring it on.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #10
David Hughes
David Hughes
 
David Hughes's Avatar
 
David Hughes is offline
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 7,345
There's other oddities in lens tests; they don't seem to know that 12x8's are usually printed as 10x8's and that knocks off the edges. Secondly, someone who prints 4x6 and nothing else won't even notice the difference. The tests seem designed for the 24"x36" and bigger crowd...


Regards, David
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #11
Bill Clark
Registered User
 
Bill Clark's Avatar
 
Bill Clark is offline
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Minnetonka, Minnesota
Age: 71
Posts: 2,501
One ingredient I always considered, talking to others who were in the TCPPA, was reliability. When I was on the job, the tools had to work. No exceptions. Excuses don’t matter to a client.

And a very important event can never be replicated with the majority of people. Only Hollywood actors can do that. What I mean by that statement are the emotions, the spontaneity of them on display, showing in all parts of the human form, especially on the faces during an event such as a wedding, sporting event, to name two.
__________________
I make photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #12
presspass
filmshooter
 
presspass is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Posts: 1,199
For my film work, I've been using older lenses a lot recently. Some, like the 50mm Summar and 35mm Elmar, don't do well with reviewers unless they use them to shoot black and white and then make prints. Those who do like the older lenses. Those who obsess over the reviews lenses generate rather than the photographs they help produce probably won't get it. Lens reviews are fun to read as long as you understand most are there to get your attention rather than provide information about how they help a photographer in the real world.
Thus endeth the rant.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #13
NickTrop
Registered User
 
NickTrop's Avatar
 
NickTrop is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,036
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wijninga View Post
To each his own. I've found Kenn Rockwell's M mount lens reviews solid/reliable. Bring it on.
I too like Ken's site. He's an actual photographer and nary an MTF chart to be found. He's one of the better ones. Perhaps I shouldn't have included him.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #14
NickTrop
Registered User
 
NickTrop's Avatar
 
NickTrop is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,036
Quote:
Originally Posted by presspass View Post
For my film work, I've been using older lenses a lot recently. Some, like the 50mm Summar
I did an entire thread on ther Summar here many moons ago ("Summar of Love"). That lens would get ravaged if judged by today's standards. But my it will render an image like no other under the right conditions and settings. You can't Photoshop it, you can't get it with any other lens.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #15
NickTrop
Registered User
 
NickTrop's Avatar
 
NickTrop is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,036
Quote:
Originally Posted by Requin View Post
Lenstests aren't liable to a standardized test method. Lenstests are generally not scientific and replicable. So beware of lenstests - except some case-by-case exdeptions.

Just my 2 cents
I don't know if I agree with this. What are the critria for testing a lens in a particular focal length given the use case for that focal length? You can list them. Most do. Then how important is each criteria given the use for that particular type of lens? Weight them. Come up with a score.

For example. To -me- in a fast 50, portability is important. Widest aperture is not that important. I don't buy a 1.4 to shoot at 1.4 all the time. The DoF is too narrow. I buy a 1.4 to shoot decent at 2.0, 2.8. So performance at those apertures is important. I'm not overly concerned with edge and corner sharpness. Or even vignetting or purple fringing, which is easily removed.

Currently, the Sigma Art 50/1.4 is the toast of the photographic town mainly due to sharpness at 1.4. Things even out as you stop down. But the thing is big and heavy by 50mm standards. I, given the "use case" for a standard prime in this range would weight size and weight over performance wide open because I'm always going to "feel the weight" and the lens might be too obtrusive for candids. I'm hardly ever going to shoot at 1.4 because if issues keeping things in focus -- especially moving subjects.

Also, I rate t-stop value very high on the list. No sense springing for a 1.4 if only 1.8 is coming out the rear. This is something that is completely ignored by every site except DxO (because it's hard to test).

But the point is, that although the criteria for evaluating a lens will be largely the same from lens to lens, how each criteria is weighted should vary based on use case for each focal length. The Tokina I cited might be judged on the same criteria as the 50/1.4 but each criteria might be weighted differently when averaged (so long at the end it adds to 100).
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #16
shimokita
白黒
 
shimokita's Avatar
 
shimokita is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Japan, Tokyo
Posts: 746
One thing I look for in a lens review (or from a lens reviewer) is consistency. Not so much how they rate the lens, but how they evaluate it based on previous lens reviews. Very rarely do I look at example photos, but take note of the type of camera used (e.g. film vs digital).

Two of my favorite Nikon MF lenses for film are the Nikkor-H 2.8cm f/3.5 and the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-s. Both used on a F3P... if I had followed the review conclusions I might not have purchased these lenses.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #17
ptpdprinter
Registered User
 
ptpdprinter is online now
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 1,644
If you are regularly shooting at f8 almost any lens will do You don’t need a lens review.
__________________
ambientlightcollection.com
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #18
dourbalistar
Registered User
 
dourbalistar's Avatar
 
dourbalistar is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posts: 1,829
I read reviews and look at image samples to get an idea of what a lens is capable of. Just more data when considering a purchase. Whether or not I keep (or keep using, for those of us who tend to accumulate gear) a lens is borne out through my own actual shooting and testing. So, not useless, but not the be all end all.
__________________
I like my lenses sharp as a tank and built like a tack.

flickr
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #19
PunkFunkDunk
Registered User
 
PunkFunkDunk's Avatar
 
PunkFunkDunk is offline
Join Date: Feb 2017
Posts: 157
Of all online reviewers, I prefer KJ Vogelius. This guy has a nice way of discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a lens (M mount) with considerations of purpose front and centre. Helps too that his site is smartly designed and a pleasure on the eyes. He just posted a review of the Elmar 50/3.5. http://gear.vogelius.se/-reviews/lei...ltm/index.html
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #20
NickTrop
Registered User
 
NickTrop's Avatar
 
NickTrop is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 3,036
Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
If you are regularly shooting at f8 almost any lens will do You don’t need a lens review.
Right. However, not every lens, based on use case, should be evaluated on its performance at wide apertures or such metrics should not be weighted as heavily in the overall evaluation of a lens. An ultrawide zoom is not a lens you go sneaking around bars at night, typically. This kind of lens is used mainly for landscapes, architecture, and interiors on a tripod with a flash. where light is not an issue
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #21
Rob-F
Likes Leicas
 
Rob-F's Avatar
 
Rob-F is offline
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: The Show Me state
Age: 78
Posts: 5,895
Two reviewers I like are Bjorn Rorslett and Ken Rockwell. I like the way their websites are organized, and I like their comments. Some time ago, photo.net didn't allow the posting of links to the Rockwell site, saying that his remarks were not meant to be taken seriously. I don't see that at all. I find him to be a reliable source of advice. No one can be right all the time, but I'd say Ken has a pretty high batting average.

And I like Rorslett's writings, too. Very detailed reports based on actually using the lenses. I always check to see what Bjorn has to say when considering a Nikkor lens!

I find Optical Limits worth reading. Though I liked its previous name better!
__________________
May the light be with you.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #22
nickthetasmaniac
Registered User
 
nickthetasmaniac is offline
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 993
Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
Yet, online review sites completely ignore this (for the most part) and rate/review lenses "one size fits all" comparing each on the same criteria, equally weighted, as if a "lens is a lens" and there is no difference in use case ...

Of course they do, because online reviews are one size fits all (unless you're reading a review on, say, an astro-photographery site or a macro site). As much as we would like them to be, reviews are not written for *us*, and therefore always consider things that may not be of concern to particular photographers.


This isn't the reviewers 'fault', and doesn't make them useless. It just means that you, as a photographer with your own motivations and interests, need to be able to look beyond the final score and read through a review to find the aspects that matter to you.



*As an aside, I would prefer my reviews not to consider 'value'. As a consumer you can either afford something, or you can't. To some a Leica 50mm APO is small change, to others it's a year's salary. 'Value' is not really something a reviewer can meaningfully comment on.
__________________
Ricoh GRII | Pentax SV, SP-F, MX & LX | Leica M2 | Olympus Pen F + 35RD | Minolta Autocord | Hasselblad 500cm + SWC/m

Instagram @other_strange_creatures
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #23
Huss
Registered User
 
Huss is offline
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Venice, CA
Posts: 7,206
Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
I too like Ken's site. He's an actual photographer and nary an MTF chart to be found. He's one of the better ones. Perhaps I shouldn't have included him.
He does kinda like saturation cranked to 11.
Which makes my eyes bleed.

But I have found his site to be an invaluable resource for Leica and Nikon reviews.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #24
zuiko85
Registered User
 
zuiko85 is offline
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 1,861
I so know what you mean! Try comparing pinhole cameras for instance. Acid etched or mechanically drilled or laser drilled....what to choose....and on and on...

It makes my head hurt.
Excuse me, I have to take my medication now.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #25
richardHaw
junk scavenger
 
richardHaw's Avatar
 
richardHaw is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Tokyo
Posts: 411
the reviews on my blog are generally impressions. i will admit to being a bit biased since i am a Nikon supremacist but some of the lenses i review are so obscure that my opinions are better than nothing
__________________
Take me down to the Parallax City
Where the viewfinder's tiny
And the framing is tricky
http://www.richardhaw.com
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-06-2019   #26
pvdhaar
Zoom with your feet!
 
pvdhaar's Avatar
 
pvdhaar is offline
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 3,196
A lot of reviews are flawed because they're trying to beat each other in being first to showcase a new lens. That means there's no time to really learn how to get the best from a lens, no time to learn its weaknesses. At best, they're first impressions.

I look at the images in the reviews first.. If it's all uninspiring brick walls and resolution charts, then the rest for sure is worthless blabber. If it's the kind of stuff that you'd frame and hang on the wall, then you know the reviewer has something meaningful to say..
__________________
Kind regards,

Peter

My Hexländer Gallery
  Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:28.


vBulletin skin developed by: eXtremepixels
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

All content on this site is Copyright Protected and owned by its respective owner. You may link to content on this site but you may not reproduce any of it in whole or part without written consent from its owner.