Good lenses v "character."

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Alan
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I've recently bought a Sony 40mm f2.5 and it seems to be a very good lens. After the lens profile has been applied it seems to be pretty much devoid of any and all issues but I suppose the f2.5 aperture may help here and also the fairly neutral focal length as any issues or "character" which may be present at wider apertures like f1.4 or wider focal lengths which may give pictures taken with the lens a more unique or identifiable look aren't present. I suppose this lens does have its own look to some extent when compared to other lenses I have in that it seems to be very neutral but with punchy colour and contrast and those are I suppose identifiable traits in themselves.

Looking at the pictures I've taken so far there really doesn't seem to be any obvious weaknesses but this got me thinking about lenses which do have their issues which are visible in the final picture. I have been using new modern AF lenses and both new and old film era manual lenses and just about all of them have their own look if only in specific instances such as at their widest apertures or when flare or vignetting or other optical things may be present.

From a technical point of view I suppose good lenses which leave little or even no trace in pictures by which they can be identified provide a neutrality and transparency and of course not applying the lens profile may with some lenses provide much more of a trace. I do like to look at a picture and see an identifiable trace of the kit which took it and using this new lens has brought that forward in my mind.

Just wondered if others like to see the fingerprint of the kit in the final picture or if a technically more anonymous look is preferred.
 
Nope, to me the photograph is about the subject and I don’t want the kit affecting the look of it as far as is possible. I want the image out of the camera as neutral as possible in that regard, hence why I only use modern lenses optimised for higher resolution sensors.

Other opinions are available!
 
I'm interested in a picture's substance, not its 'look'. I couldn't give a toss about sharpness or rendering.
 
I nearly added to the above that I can see how some professionals would want a neutral look and I can see the appeal. I'm just a happy snapper who likes taking and looking at pictures and I suppose recording moments and things and scenes and people that mean something to me but I also do have an interest in the kit, not necessarily cameras as they are I suppose arguably much the same these days but I am interested in lenses and the different looks they can bring.

I suppose the most characterful lenses I've had are the Takumar and Olympus Zuiko 50mm f1.4's and less so but still along those lines the Nippon Kogaku 50mm f1.4 and f2. Another lens but much more modern is the optimized for Sony Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 which is possibly my most used lens, ever. Other characterful new lenses I own are the TTArtisan 50mm f2 and Pergear 35mm f1.4. They all have their own look if only at the extremes of aperture or composition or conditions.

This new Sony 40mm f2.5 seems to be a particularly neutral lens at least with the lens profile applied apart from a bit of a punchy look. In some ways it reminds me of the Sony mount Voigtlander 50mm f2 apo I have. That lens is probably the best lens I've ever had and it too seems to be just about perfect but with punchy contrast and colour.

I might well get use to this 40mm f2.5 but in the first few days of using it my first thought is that it seems to be very... modern, technically good and transparent. Transparent in that it doesn't seem to impose itself much on the picture and I can see the attraction in lenses like this but even if this lens becomes my most used lens I think I will always want something that leaves more trace in the picture for those times when that's what I want.
 
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Some modern lenses are just too sharp and render colours inappropriate to certain subjects, e.g. portraits - it's not just about recording exactly what you see, or is that even possible and indeed do modern sensors/cameras or even film record exactly what you see ...... I think not, can you even remember what you saw, the combination of the photographic medium and the lens used produces an image with certain characteristics produced by that combination.

so why not experiment with any combination that you wish as good older MF glass is relatively inexpensive these days and can be used to produce very attractive images
 
Some modern lenses are just too sharp and render colours inappropriate to certain subjects, e.g. portraits - it's not just about recording exactly what you see, or is that even possible and indeed do modern sensors/cameras or even film record exactly what you see ...... I think not, can you even remember what you saw, the combination of the photographic medium and the lens used produces an image with certain characteristics produced by that combination.

so why not experiment with any combination that you wish as good older MF glass is relatively inexpensive these days and can be used to produce very attractive images

It's an interesting debate. In my younger days I wanted a carbon copy of what was in front of me. As I've grown older I want a certain rendering of images that few modern lenses deliver. I also prefer to shoot everything manually as it makes me think more about what I'm doing and exactly what I want from the image.
 
so why not experiment with any combination that you wish as good older MF glass is relatively inexpensive these days and can be used to produce very attractive images

I have quite a few film era lenses and I used to use them more or less in rotation but I do also have favorites which took more turns. These days more modern manual lenses have pushed the film era ones out a bit mostly because I don't need the extra bulk of an adapter with the modern lenses. I do also use modern AF lenses.

As well as FF Sony I also have MFT and with that system I think that the cameras are possibly more visible in the final picture than the lenses as the lenses all seem to me to be modern and with their profiles applied pretty transparent and anonymous. I have one MFT lens which I bought partly because a reviewer said that it was awful and I have to say that I don't know what he was looking at as all I see is (again after a profile has been applied) a modern neutral lens.
 
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I think this will also depend what you shoot. If you're shooting from a journalistic point of view then you'd probably want as neutral as possible. If you're shooting just for your own enjoyment or from an artistic stance, you'll probably have a certain feel to the images that is to your taste and preference.
 
I have shot a lot of Bird images in the past and have been a Nikon DSLR shooter for years, but I was always envious of the colours produced by the Canon equivalent and was tempted a number of times to move to Canon............ were the images produced what we saw?

If you recall the film era, lots of different photographic film on the market - some produced very different photos for others and in the darkroom B & W images were produced to give the wanted effect

so the differences have always been there, only now we have a lot more choice, especially when LR and PS are added to help what we want to (try) to achieve
 
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I love a strong vignette. Of all the reasons to love the Viltrox 27mm - and there are many - the vignette is top of my list.
 
I wont post a lot of pictures here as once I start I wont stop :D but the following was taken with my TTArtisan 50mm f2 although it's not straight out of camera here, some processing and corrections have been applied. I bought this lens because it reminded me of some film era 50's but can be mounted direct to the camera without an adapter. At its widest apertures and depending upon how far away you're focusing you can get awful corners and just about off the scale vignetting and it's affected by flare. I've taken some pictures I really like with this lens and I think it does often give a very different look to something more neutral or more modern.

DSC01056.jpg

"You" may not like that picture and from a technical point of view it certainly has issues. I do have pictures with even more "issues" that I like too both from film era lenses and modern lenses. I think it's fair to say that I'd have to try really hard to get a picture from this new Sony 40mm f2.5 to look like this although I do know that some wont see why I'd want to :D
 
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I wont post a lot of pictures here as once I start I wont stop :D but the following was taken with my TTArtisan 50mm f2 although it's not straight out of camera here, some processing and corrections have been applied. I bought this lens because it reminded me of some film era 50's but can be mounted direct to the camera without an adapter. At its widest apertures and depending upon how far away you're focusing you can get awful corners and just about off the scale vignetting and it's affected by flare. I've taken some pictures I really like with this lens and I think it does often give a very different look to something more neutral or more modern.

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"You" may not like that picture and from a technical point of view it certainly has issues. I do have pictures with even more "issues" that I like too both from film era lenses and modern lenses. I think it's fair to say that I'd have to try really hard to get a picture from this new Sony 40mm f2.5 to look like this although I do know that some wont see why I'd want to :D

I think some lens lend themselves more to B & W than to colour, especially if PP is applied, in the past in the darkroom but now in LR/PS
 
I think some lens lend themselves more to B & W than to colour, especially if PP is applied, in the past in the darkroom but now in LR/PS

To convert to mono was another reason I bought that TTArtisan lens. I thought the look it gave would suit mono conversion.

I think this also depends on the look you want. For example there are those who like a very high contrast mono even with a much darker or contrasty look than reality with crushed blacks. I don't really like that look and it is perhaps a more modern look as I don't remember seeing many if any old mono pictures with that look.
 
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I appreciate technical perfection but I appreciate 'feel' more.

We're absolutely spoiled now though. I spent years wishing consumer cameras and lenses were of better quality and now here I am throwing a mist filter on my 85mm prime as it's too sharp.
 
the old expression - "Horses for Courses" - as said above we are now totally spoilt for choice ........... I've started scanning thousands of my old negatives and transparencies ......... and this really brings it home, the choices or yesterday versus those of today ......... although Kodachrome takes some beating ........ but none of my film images were "sharp" when compared with what you get from digital
 
I appreciate technical perfection but I appreciate 'feel' more.

We're absolutely spoiled now though. I spent years wishing consumer cameras and lenses were of better quality and now here I am throwing a mist filter on my 85mm prime as it's too sharp.

This reminds me of something a while back. I had a Canon 20D and I'd just bought a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 and at the time it was the sharpest lens I'd ever used. One day I took a picture of my then GF with it and when I looked at the picture something occurred to me and it was that a picture of your GF can be too sharp. That had quite an effect on me at the time and that thought has stayed with me.
 
A picture needs to tell a story, and that is affected by how we view both the subject and the things around that subject. Lens choice is a significant factor in how a picture appears, but rendering is sometimes overlooked in the process.
 
I really like the clean rendering of better Sigma ART primes. There is just nothing to really complain about if you stop them down just half a click.

Purple fringing is usually one of the worse side effects left by some of the fast modern lenses and yes absolutely hate that one. It tends to go away after stopping down just a little or avoid these really bright highlights altogether.

I'm not too bothered by a reasonable amount of vignetting. Sometimes I will correct this sometimes not, or even add one in post if I feel it is necessary.

Distortion - plain hate it. Good lens projected image should be rectangular right off the bat.

Softness - again hate it unless some portrait really requires it. 85mm f/1.4 pretty soft focus wide open, or worse still there is that poorly designed Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 - not sure why I still waste bag space for it.
 
It all depends on the situation and goals. My most common demand is clean images from modern lenses. On the other hand, my anamorphic adapter, which has many defects but a distinctive look, is the least used.
 
Character can be added to a clean, sharp image. Rather harder to get a clean, sharp result from one full of character!
 
Character can be added to a clean, sharp image. Rather harder to get a clean, sharp result from one full of character!

This is true, to a point anyway. I do also draw a distinction between character and a lens that just sucks, like so many superzooms.
 
I wonder people who are into lenses with 'character' and the 'rendering' of lenses are also people who prefer to shoot at wide apertures?

Unless I have a reason to use wider apertures (such as my film days when I shot wide open just so I could keep the shutter speed above 1/30th of a second!) I try to stick at f5.6 or smaller.
 
I recently bought the 28mm Elmarit - one of the complaints I read about in the reviews was that it was too sharp and that's the reason some people sold it.. anyhow..

imo the pursuit of either sharpness or character is a distraction from photography :)
 
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I wonder people who are into lenses with 'character' and the 'rendering' of lenses are also people who prefer to shoot at wide apertures?
You may as well go all in or none at all. Usually it's all in the bokeh, because all the rest as discussed in my reply above would be either very negative or neutral traits
 
I wonder people who are into lenses with 'character' and the 'rendering' of lenses are also people who prefer to shoot at wide apertures?

Unless I have a reason to use wider apertures (such as my film days when I shot wide open just so I could keep the shutter speed above 1/30th of a second!) I try to stick at f5.6 or smaller.

For me, photos often contain far too much information, and using a large aperture (and mono) is a way of reducing the distraction.

But in the case of my favourite lenses, it's more than that. They have a way of making the image more pleasing and attractive to my eyes than the technically better lenses I've used. Modern lenses with high resolution often render very hard, and I prefer a softer rendering : my Sony 50 f1.2 GM gives very highly detailed images, but those from my Samyang and A mount Sony 50 f1.4s look more pleasing even though they hold less detail.

But by the time you get to f8 differences become small unless the lens you have chosen is junk. Like a Holga for example.
 
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I can't make up my mind whether it is character or flaw....depends on the situation and the point of the photo and what I am looking for I guess.
 
I'm still trying to get to grips with my new 40mm f2.5. It is a very good lens and although many people will have owned better it's definitely one of the very best lenses I've had and for me it's competing with the Voigtlander 50mm f2 apo in Sony mount and possibly the Sony 20mm f1.8 for the very top spot as the best lens I've ever had.

Back in my film days I used compacts, a Voigtlander with a 35mm f2.5 color skopar and a Nikon SLR with a 28-70mm kit lens. When I went digital I had Canon DSLR's and the best lenses I had were all Sigmas, 12-24mm, 50mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4. These days the Sony lenses I have are undeniably technically better and sharper across the frame than anything I've had before including those Sigma lenses which I thought were so good in my DSLR days. I have MFT too and the lenses benefit from in camera or post capture corrections and the lenses are very good but the results I'm getting from FF are better and that maybe colours my judgement of the lenses here.

This new 40mm has really made me think about what I want from my pictures. Do I want this very modern and very technically good end result with very good performance everywhere in the frame and high contrast and colour which needs little processing straight out of camera or do I want something which looks a little more.... analogue? characterful? Something with the fingerprint of the kit more obviously visible in the final picture?

I took some pictures with the 40mm yesterday and when I came to process them there was next to nothing to be done, a couple needed straightening and after that I was struggling to see anything to fiddle with. The was also nothing to think about when taking the pictures. No worry about detail in the corners, no worry about flare, no field curvature worries. Just compose and press the button.

Hmmm.
 
Fuji have replaced some of the older "characterful" lenses with "cleaner" lenses that are able to resolve the extra pixels on their latest camera bodies. Personally, I am happy with my old 35f1.4.
 
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