Interesting Lens Wonkery

I find this fascinating. I assumed the opposite when having to chose which was which. It goes to show that much of what we associate with a given optical signature can be replicated in post-processing.

Is there really any need to buy a $4000 Summicron when, with a few sliders in Lightroom, you can duplicate its look with a $200 Chinese made TTArtisan? Is the whole ‘optical quality’ issue, after a certain point, now a non-issue? If so, why buy the Summicron?

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10 thoughts on “Interesting Lens Wonkery

  1. Lee Rust

    Just yesterday, I was asking myself this very same question as I compared a newly acquired Leicaflex SL with my Pentax ME Super, both with their respective 35-70 zoom lenses. For the 30-50 year old Leicaflex combo I paid $1139.67 (including “DG” CLA on the camera) while the mid ’80’s vintage Pentax and lens (very clean original condition) set me back just $40.40.

    The Leicaflex setup is big and very heavy and only focuses to 3 feet, while the Pentax is small and light and focuses to about 5 inches. My aging eyes struggle to focus the Leicaflex, while the Pentax viewfinder image snaps into focus. They both make a nice sound when the shutter button is pressed, though.

    So what’s the point? I guess I’ll have to do a 1:1 image comparison like the guy in this video, but as he notes, it could be that many of the traditional defining factors of lens quality have been made moot by the advent of digital image processing.

    As for the mechanicals, the Leica definitely outweighs the Pentax.

  2. Rob Campbell

    Perhaps the critical point is the one where/if you go into print.

    Print can be studied; motion passes you by so quickly that imperfections go unnoticed – mostly. Also, tests such as this mean you are looking at less than best reproduction due to the effects of the Internet, and how stuff is transmitted – and received, too. I guess that’s why the cellphone is so popular: not a critical judgement if viewed so small.

    I sometimes wonder about the eventual fate of the desktop printing players: will demand continue strongly enough to keep production viable? It’s an electronic world out there… branded ink is so expensive, as it is to do the required testing.

  3. Robert Coscia

    I only wet print so I dont have a few sliders in light room to use, I only have a dark room.

    So “optics matters” to me, sounds like it should be on a T shirt.

    I vote every day with my dollar, so I am also, as best as I can be, dont knowingly buy things from China unless Im ordering Chinese take out.

    I have struggled through all of my Nikon equipment as they made some of the best optics that were used to killed our US soldier’s.

    You know whats next… Leica . Im not even going to go there. But I have a boatload there as well and totally enjoy the craftsmanship.

    This is very conflicting for me.

  4. Rob Campbell

    Robert, it’s normally been a generational thing: if you had a relative who died in one of the wars such as WW2, then okay, I understand the lingering mental conflict. However, life always goes on. I was born just before that war, and coming from a Scottish/Italian mix, having, also, a German aunt, her husband fighting in Germany in a British regiment during that war, I know life throws funny situations that you just have to accept. Importantly, you come to realise that it isn’t about a nation’s people, it’s about politicians. The soldiers on all sides, usually, would rather be at home making babies.

    Hell, if wars memories were to linger, there would never be peace, no international trade at all and travel abroad impossible. I don’t know, so I ask: does the American Civil War still create problems today for the younger generations of Americans? I’m pretty sure your politicians will mine it for all they are worth if it does! I’d tend to worry more about people like Trump and Musk, as well as those others owning the social media platforms. They can mobilise armies of their own, recruited from the uneducated masses always only too pleased to find their own failures the fault of others.

    The exact same thing is going down today in Scotland. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) has its own little make-believe, devolved parliament in Edinburgh, where it rules the roost by virtue of winning more seats than the two standard, alternatives, the Conservatives and Labour. So few people bother to vote there, and those who bother go SNP because it is clever: it utilises the grievance card on every issue, blaming its disasters on the British government, each and every day. Not once has the SNP been willing to state how it would finance Scotland, already subsidised by the rest of the UK to the tune of about two thousand pounds per head, were it to break away from Britain and become independent. Meanwhile, those cats running that party laugh all the way to the bank, dreaming of the fat pension they have lined up on the backs of the mugs who believe them today. Scottish education has never been in a worse state: the SNP went as far as withdrawing the publishing of Scottish school results from a wider group that listed the relative standings of schools… it also boasts the highest per capita drug deaths in Europe. Some success – at last! It’s also trying to push through legislation to allow tiny kids to claim they are of the opposite sex! A political party of perverts: check out the sexual records of those in power today and suddenly, confusing kids makes sense.

    I’d say: just enjoy your gear and be thankful you have it and don’t need to depend on a Brownie or an Argus. 😉

    1. Dan Newell

      “I don’t know, so I ask: does the American Civil War still create problems today for the younger generations of Americans? I’m pretty sure your politicians will mine it for all they are worth if it does!”

      It’s bone deep for some and easy to trigger.

      1. Rob Campbell

        Oh, much the same as the case with Scotland’s history, then. When will we ever learn to put history behind us and try to do the best with where we are today? It’s all so frustratingly negative and counterproductive. It also leaves us easily open to foreign interference and foreign, unnatural distortions.

        Britain has a nuclear submarine base not so far from Glasgow; if it should end up as an independent country, the remaining bits of Britain can’t take that base with them. What then? Do the SNP lease it to any foreign party showing an interest? (It has no navy of its own, can’t even construct two ferries which are now represented by an over three hundred million pound black hole in a nationalised shipyard.) The money from such a lease would ensure those politicians’ pensions. I can imagine Russia and China would be very interested, as would bits of the Middle East. It’s most unlikely that either Britain or NATO could tolerate that happening. The Cuban Missile Crisis comes to mind…

        1. Dan Newell

          Nationalism is a curse but good for photographers as Robert Frank showed. Of course now everybody and his uncle has one flag or another…kind of adds drama to the shot don’t ya know.

          I think I know how it will go in Glasgow as it happened in San Francisco. Military leaves, developers move in and build scads of apartments only to find out that they hadn’t cleaned up all the radioactive waste and now those people get to live on top of a nuclear dump.

          1. Rob Campbell

            Prestwick Airport, on the western Scottish coast, was once home to the USAAF. THE PX store there probably sold more Zippo lighters than there were smokers on the entire base! Very cool compared to the civilian Ronson that mere Brits could access. 😉

            Anyway, rumour has it that the Prestwick politicians decided to up the greed quotient, raise rent, and so Uncle Sam gave them the finger. It lingers on, today, as a loss-making part of the airline servicing industry; the SNP has invested millions in an attempt to keep it open, and the suspicion is that the SNP leader is doing this because she was born in the area… oh, the main trunk road used to run right across the runway; there were lights to halt cars and trucks. Things may have changed, but as it would have involved digging a tunnel, probably not.

            Incidentally, Uncle Sam’s lifted finger cost the folks of Prestwick a helluva lot in lost business; maybe Scottish political guilt is also a reason why the airport hasn’t been closed: skeletons must still rattle inside some olde cupboards there!


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