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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Lens testing
Old 08-22-2018   #1
Bill Pierce
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Lens testing

Many years ago I was having lunch in the Leitz cafeteria in Wetzlar with one of the gentleman who tested lenses, both theirs and the competitions. The test lab facilities were impressive. On the wall of the cafeteria was a board of printed pictures and fellow lunchers inspected the images and expressed their opinions. I said that If this evaluation was also a test of the lenses, it was much less impressive than the lab tests.

It was then that the Leitz employee, as politely as possible, reminded me that I was an idiot. While lab tests provide information on the overall performance of a lens, more important to a maker of lenses, they show very specific optical problems to be corrected within a design. The designer needs to know the lens has a problem with spherical aberration. We photographers have to know that the lens has problems with landscapes and architecture, but has a certain charming glow when used to take pictures of lovely women.

So my lens tests now consist of taking a lot of pictures - landscapes, portraits, distant shots, medium shots close up shots, wide-open shots and stopped down shots. Of course I’m not just testing the lens. I’m testing the lens/camera/my usage along with the print making process. It wouldn’t be a very good test if I was designing lenses, but I’m taking pictures. Admittedly, in the test period I’m taking a lot of pictures that are not very inspiring and then spending a lot of time looking at pictures I wouldn’t normally print. But, it’s worthwhile. I have actually gotten to know which of my lenses work for me. A few have been banished; some have been raised to stellar status. Lens testing - incredibly boring and very worthwhile…

Your thoughts?
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Old 08-22-2018   #2
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It's one of those things where a star rating system has little value... the old adage about knowing your equipment. I find that I learn to love or come to appreciate this or that over time, whereas if I judge a lens (kit / process) that combination may end up on the back burner... sometimes to reemerge sometimes to languish, almost never sold as some juxta of events may be align. But I do admit to having favorites... and need to re-visit the back of the cabinet.
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Old 08-23-2018   #3
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My way of testing is to go out and use the lens. Lens designers have done the heavy work for us. Everything is good these days but not everything is appropriate for everyone.
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Old 08-23-2018   #4
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If I want to know about lens I do this - lens name flickr - in Google search line.
It brings me group for this lens. Usually it has thousands of photos.
This is how I learn about the lens optics in general and broad view.
I also read photozone and many other reviews. To find out how lens is build, size, weight and so on.
I also google it - lens name rangefinderforum.com - and it brings even more. I credit this source highly.

And then lens comes I do test shots to see if focus is within accurate range (focus chart) and take brick wall picture to test if lens is not de-centered.
Maybe one shot in the sky with leafs to see purple fringing and one into the sun for flaring.

Then Bill's route.
With one thing to mention. I like to get lens on film body and have negatives to print from. This tells me if I want to keep lens or just keep it for awhile. Ideally I like to have lens for digital and bw film. So far I have one which does it great on both media.
Summarit 35 2.5. Others will do digital and fail on film. Or fine on film, but kind of special on digital.
For example. My Cron 50 v4 is way to neutral, just sharp lens on bw prints, but sweet on digital. It is OK in handling. My Planar 50 ZM was flat and green on digital. Difficult to work with aperture ring. Ultron 50 1.5 ZM was great on BW prints and OK on digital. Strange focus ring and keep unscrewing hood.

By now I'm little bit tired. I tested many less expensive than Summarit-M lenses the way I described... I just want lens I could work with. And to find lens which will be adequate to Summarit-M 35 2.5 is mission impossible it seem. To have manageable size, pleasing rendering on film, no funky goo on digital and to be smooth and pleasing in handling.
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Old 08-23-2018   #5
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I do not test lenses, I use them! I'm not a pixel peeper and if the results I get from a lens satisfies my "vision" the lens is ok...

I recently bought the Summaron 28/5.6 because very curious about it and also desiring to change my photo style. The lens stayed on the M10 three months, during which I used it in many different situation. I even like to use it in interior with available light (Yes, I know it's 5.6...). Now that lens is on my M7 to see how it works with film.

I never gave a look at MTF charts or similar test for this lens. And now I can say I'm satisfied, I'll keep and use it for a long time...

robert

PS: but I have to say that for me photography is more emotion than technology :-)
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Old 08-23-2018   #6
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In the early 2000's I worked as a camera tech in the motion picture industry. One rental company I worked for had a really nice projecting collimator that we used to test all the rental lenses. It was really impressive and fun to use, and was good at telling us when a lens came back with a problem. But it told us little about how a lens renders.

I think lens rendering is a very 'personal taste' thing. I've had lenses that others have sworn by that just don't work for me. And I've had lenses that others consider garbage whose rendering I really like. So I keep the ones I like and sell the others.

Currently working on a project that I'm shooting with lenses from the 1940's-1950's. After doing a CLA on each I've been testing them extensively with a digital body (because it's quick and easy), and the ones that don't have 'problems' on the digital, then get tested with a film body (the project is being shot on film). And again, then it's down to personal taste, if they render in a way I like, I keep them. If not, they get sold.

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Old 08-23-2018   #7
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I have actually gotten to know which of my lenses work for me. I do what you do, I learn which situation to avoid with certain lenses.
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Old 08-23-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
If I want to know about lens I do this - lens name flickr - in Google search line.
It brings me group for this lens. Usually it has thousands of photos.
This is how I learn about the lens optics in general and broad view.
Small compressed jpgs with a resolution of 72ppi for lens tests? What could you possibly learn?
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Old 08-23-2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
Small compressed jpgs with a resolution of 72ppi for lens tests? What could you possibly learn?
You must have been using different Flickr then. Where are many full resolution scans and full sized digital files for every lens I have explored. Scans are irrelevant to me, but full sized digital files are interesting to look at.


Also, it is not lens tests files, it is replacement for Bill's test to see how lens regularly works in non-test real life environment.
Small size images still shows you lens bokeh, flaring and so on. Personally, I'm able to see it on regular Flickr screen.

I'm with Robert and Bill on lens test. I keep lens for couple of months at least and use it as much and as often as possible to see if lens passes in use test (after on charts and bricks test ).
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Old 08-23-2018   #10
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I'm with Robert and Bill on lens test. I keep lens for couple of months at least and use it as much and as often as possible to see if lens passes in use test (after on charts and bricks test ).
I'm not a lens hopper. I have had most of my lenses for decades.
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Old 08-23-2018   #11
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As said above numerous times - if it gives me the results I want, it's a good lens for me. It may not suit everybody, but I don't buy for them. I use, and enjoy, a number of 'bad' lenses including one that's regularly trashed on the Leica forums - the 135 2.8. Heavy and a bit cumbersome, but it produces results that even the newer 135 lenses can't.
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Old 08-23-2018   #12
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Quote:
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As said above numerous times - if it gives me the results I want, it's a good lens for me. It may not suit everybody, but I don't buy for them. I use, and enjoy, a number of 'bad' lenses including one that's regularly trashed on the Leica forums - the 135 2.8. Heavy and a bit cumbersome, but it produces results that even the newer 135 lenses can't.
These days I use longer lenses on cameras that focus through the lens. Just wanted to add that in my all rangefinder, pre TTL days I used that lens for news and studio portraiture - and it delivered.
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Old 08-23-2018   #13
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Hi Bill;

I test my lenses.

Years ago, when picking up all my Nikon gear from it's annual cleaning, a Nikon Factory Tech came out of the repair area holding my 24mm f 2.8 AIS. He was accompanied by a translator. He wanted to know where I got the lens. I didn't specifically remember, but told him it came from one of a couple of camera stores where I shopped. I asked why he wanted to know. He said, it was the sharpest 24 2.8 he had ever tested. It was a lens I used often indoors in tight spaces and felt very lucky to have gotten a good one, by accident.

I'm not big on owning a lot of camera gear. But, paying the bills with the stuff, I've had a bunch. My most used FLs are 35 & 50, actually, a 55micro 2.8 in the past and now a 60 2.8 Nikkor AF. In shopping for (and buying) a number of 55mm Micros, I found a great variance in quality between, extremely good and visibly outstanding. It took 5 tested lenses to isolate the winner. I found it early in the testing and subsequent lenses failed to best it.
Working with small film (Kodachrome) was often looked down on by Ad agencies even in the 80s and 90s, depending on the subject matter. My stuff had to be sharp.

Today, with zooms and some primes, the QC isn't as good as it might be?? Maybe these fragile optics are injured in shipping or handling ? I don't know. But, i test everything. My gear is well cared for but, things happen. An assistant banging a lens by accident won't get him/her fired, but, not telling me about it will. I test after any mishap. I've dropped lenses. Only a few inches, but on to concrete (DR Summicron). It happens, and, i won't use the lens until it's well tested by me and my repairman, even if the lens shows no visible damage.

pkr
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Old 08-23-2018   #14
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what would a standard testing at home look like?
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Old 08-23-2018   #15
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what would a standard testing at home look like?
I start with sheets of newspaper taped to a wall. They are lit at 45 degrees by quarts light. The camera is tripod mounted and a cable release is used. I test at several camera to target distances at all aperture settings. The lenses that do well, are taken outdoors for testing at further distances and for their color personality. A lenses' color personality has to do with my taste. I'm not big on post production. I prefer good looking files out of the camera. I don't shoot RAW as often as I once did.

I test with both AF and Manual Focus settings. I often work in MF with wide lenses. I don't often use focal lengths longer than 105 (FX/FF). I prefer primes to zooms, but test and use both.

I once owned a 17-35 f 2.8 Nikkor. It was very sharp at 35mm. At other FLs it was horrible. It was a very heavy lens. I sold it months after testing it. Maybe I got a bad one? But, unless it had done well through the range, i wasn't willing to pack it around.
https://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/len...d_if/index.htm

Bill is right, it's really boring work. I usually do it in one hour bits, with a glass of wine and my note book. The results can be eye opening. I'm often surprised at the findings. Save your lens boxes and packaging, it makes selling the failures easier.
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Old 08-23-2018   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
I have had most of my lenses for decades.
If you want to measure it in decades...
I had only three cameras with single lens attached to them from late seventies to the end of 2009. I still have and using first camera, lens. Second camera has broken AF in build-in lens and it was replaced by third camera, which I used yesterday.
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Old 08-23-2018   #17
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As an amateur, I don't test anything until one of my images shows something strange...I just go out and photograph.
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Old 08-23-2018   #18
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Quote:
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As an amateur, I don't test anything until one of my images shows something strange...I just go out and photograph.
Same here, aren't we lucky to be amateurs?
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Old 08-23-2018   #19
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Same here, aren't we lucky to be amateurs?
robert
Yep, you are. But, if you print big, i believe testing is well worth the time.

By big, I mean 20 x 24" or larger.
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Old 08-23-2018   #20
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Quote:
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I just go out and photograph.
"I just go out and photograph." is also testing. It takes longer, but isn't as boring.
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Old 08-23-2018   #21
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"I just go out and photograph." is also testing. It takes longer, but isn't as boring.
Exactly... and believe me I notice when something is really wrong. However, I've printed as large as 24x36"... but I've never had to go that large before realizing something was wrong. However, PKR sounds like he needed razor sharpness. I just require ok sharpness.
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Old 08-23-2018   #22
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Exactly... and believe me I notice when something is really wrong. However, I've printed as large as 24x36"... but I've never had to go that large before realizing something was wrong. However, PKR sounds like he needed razor sharpness. I just require ok sharpness.
John, I often worked with ADs who were used to looking at 8x10 Ektachromes. They would look at my portfolio and then ask about the camera format. There was often a pause after I answered. One AD friend, who I worked with over many years, had an annual report job that was all b+w executive portraits. He had seen and commissioned lots of my B+W work over the years. I used plus x and delivered both target and press ready prints. Many of these jobs were two color black and white, often with a spot varnish, meaning three color. He got 8x10 or 11x14 prints.. His preference. For this job, he wanted me to work in 2 1/4 , even though there would be little difference in the finished product, as per print size and the final printed report. I'm convinced the format change was to satisfy his client. Previous reports were shot 35mm with questionable results from uncaring photographers, or maybe technically ignorant photographers?
With digital, 12-16 mp is fine for most things. Many of my lenses won't properly resolve a larger sensor density. The new Nikons are 40+, needing new lenses. The end product drives the gear for me. I rarely need more than 16, if i do i rent a Phase One.

Most of the "New Photographers" don't print but, they need the latest 40+ MP sensor... for viewing on a monitor or, web publishing ? You have to hand it to the marketing folks.

When in the film dazze, i worked in 35 and 4x5. Nothing bigger and, nothing in between .. My rare 4x5 use was for camera movements and occasional table top still life shots.

In my assisting days, all NatGeo was 35, and my two years in the studio were all 8x10. Two very different worlds.
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Old 08-23-2018   #23
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I only test old RF lenses, since it is quite easy to tell if an SLR lens or lens for mirrorless digital cameras is good or not. 99% of my lenses are ok sharp, so I just don't bother to find out which ones are ultra-sharp.
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Old 08-23-2018   #24
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"Back alley" This is what home lens testing looks like to me. f5.6 @ 1/40th on Ilford FP4. Love the character of this '33 Elmar 3.5cm f3.5.. But then I like Dagors & Tessars & the M42 Pentax 50 1.4. Asph.....not so much. I take a chance on the odd lens and then photograph with it. I do like summicrons too...& if i had my Deardorff & Ries tripod the entire image right to the peaks would be sharp .... but at
times you can't have everything.
Bill... Thanks for bringing up this topic.
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Old 08-23-2018   #25
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Quote:
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John, I often worked with ADs who were used to looking at 8x10 Ektachromes. They would look at my portfolio and then ask about the camera format. There was often a pause after I answered. One AD friend, who I worked with over many years, had an annual report job that was all b+w executive portraits. He had seen and commissioned lots of my B+W work over the years. I used plus x and delivered both target and press ready prints. Many of these jobs were two color black and white, often with a spot varnish, meaning three color. He got 8x10 or 11x14 prints.. His preference. For this job, he wanted me to work in 2 1/4 , even though there would be little difference in the finished product, as per print size and the final printed report. I'm convinced the format change was to satisfy his client. Previous reports were shot 35mm with questionable results from uncaring photographers, or maybe technically ignorant photographers?
With digital, 12-16 mp is fine for most things. Many of my lenses won't properly resolve a larger sensor density. The new Nikons are 40+, needing new lenses. The end product drives the gear for me. I rarely need more than 16, if i do i rent a Phase One.

Most of the "New Photographers" don't print but, they need the latest 40+ MP sensor... for viewing on a monitor or, web publishing ? You have to hand it to the marketing folks.

When in the film dazze, i worked in 35 and 4x5. Nothing bigger and, nothing in between .. My rare 4x5 use was for camera movements and occasional table top still life shots.
Thank you for the added information. I appreciate it. I have only used 4x5" a little bit in my life... it was not for me at all. I wasn't ready for it. Though I could see how it would have been great table top still life... maybe even perfect. If the streets get too ridiculous or boring, I might have to try this. But, for me, even medium format wasn't my favorite...I've always liked small cameras. These days, I'm all APSC. I'd be a bad pro.
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Old 08-23-2018   #26
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Thank you for the added information. I appreciate it. I have only used 4x5" a little bit in my life... it was not for me at all. I wasn't ready for it. Though I could see how it would have been great table top still life... maybe even perfect. If the streets get too ridiculous or boring, I might have to try this. But, for me, even medium format wasn't my favorite...I've always liked small cameras. These days, I'm all APSC. I'd be a bad pro.
John; I do a lot of table top and other still life work with an old 60mm AFD Micro Nikkor. It's an amazing lens. I bought it from a friend who is a Nikon executive. It was old and rotated out of NPS stock and given to him. It's out tested all challengers. I use it in MF on film and digital bodies. It was in very clean shape when I got it, though I'll bet it was loaned out a lot. Maybe NPS got the best stuff?

I mostly favor APSC these days, especially for personal stuff. Clients don't know the difference. Those who might, want 60-100MP files. The 60 micro is a 90 on the smaller format. It's a great lens. My digital gear is all Nikon and Fuji.

Still life work with a small camera is lots of fun. My only suggestion is, a side arm for your tripod and some counterbalance weight (small photo sand bag) if you don't have them.. I use a 10lb bag on the opposing tripod leg. Maybe two if the arm is all the way out.
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Old 08-24-2018   #27
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Another member of the just go out and shoot society and the its sharp enough for me society. JMO but I think that going out and shooting is the best way to find what uses a lens is good for a what it might not be so good for. Example for shots that I want a low contrast/soft look to I'll use my 5cm Summitar and for one I want more contrast sharper I'll use my Nikkor 5cm.
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Old 08-24-2018   #28
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Speaking of lenses may I suggest to get your eyes checked.

The M.D. I see for my annual asks me, “did you get your eyes checked?” I did, it will be two years in November. Just starting to get cataracts, easily taken care of now. Some info to help:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-...s/syc-20353790

Something I get checked for:

In my Moms family macular degeneration is sprinkled among some members. My mom had it. If you have it and it’s left unchecked you won’t need to care about photography lenses. At the time my Mom got diagnosed, I took my Mom to the U here in Minneapolis where they used a cold laser treatment to stop the bleeding. The damage already done was not able to be corrected.

Info on macular degeneration:

https://www.macular.org/what-macular-degeneration

Sorry, I don’t mean to hijack your thread Bill but I thought I would suggest folks have the most important lenses in the world, the ones in your eyes tested.
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Old 08-24-2018   #29
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All considered -unless you take pictures of cars, door handles, pizzas and steaks, what is in the frame will mostly outweigh the specific qualities of the lens you have used.
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Old 08-24-2018   #30
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LF lenses have often been tested in the past by using them for projection (in specially designed set-ups). Quick, easy and informative.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-24-2018   #31
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i don't have the patience to do 'formal' testing.
i either like the lens or i don't and the older i get the more i like my gear.
i'm loving fuji lenses and am amazed at what it can do, even in my hands.
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Old 08-24-2018   #32
Bill Pierce
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Originally Posted by Bill Clark View Post
Speaking of lenses may I suggest to get your eyes checked.

The M.D. I see for my annual asks me, “did you get your eyes checked?” I did, it will be two years in November. Just starting to get cataracts, easily taken care of now. Some info to help:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-...s/syc-20353790

Something I get checked for:

In my Moms family macular degeneration is sprinkled among some members. My mom had it. If you have it and it’s left unchecked you won’t need to care about photography lenses. At the time my Mom got diagnosed, I took my Mom to the U here in Minneapolis where they used a cold laser treatment to stop the bleeding. The damage already done was not able to be corrected.

Info on macular degeneration:

https://www.macular.org/what-macular-degeneration

Sorry, I don’t mean to hijack your thread Bill but I thought I would suggest folks have the most important lenses in the world, the ones in your eyes tested.
Thank you. That’s an important reminder for all of us. (At this end, glaucoma, blepharitis, pseudophakia and visual field defects. But, thanks to visits to one of the best eye institutes in the country which is nearby, manual focus is still a working option.) Still, I’m glad auto focus is around, and when I can’t see what I’m doing I plan to pass the results off as a unique artistic vision.
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Old 08-24-2018   #33
robert blu
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Originally Posted by Bill Clark View Post
Speaking of lenses may I suggest to get your eyes checked.
...
Since a few years my wife and I have a regular visit to check our eyes once a year. Yes German or Japanese lenses we use are important, but as you say our ones are the most important. So far only normal minor "defects"...ahh, the age...

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Old 08-24-2018   #34
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We're all looking for the perfect marriage, photographer + lens = I love you!

And this type of marriage is probably, actually achievable, although you may have to divorce a few until the right one comes along.
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Old 08-24-2018   #35
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And this type of marriage is probably, actually achievable, although you may have to divorce a few until the right one comes along.
Let's say you own a Nikon film camera and want a 28mm focal length lens. How many different ones would you "test" before you can be sure you have found the one that is best? It seems like there could easily be dozens. And if you want to be sure, do you shift to Leica, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, Olympus... and try dozens more. And then there is lens to lens variation to consider. Or do you just punt, and say of the four I tried, I liked this one the best? Actual experiences, anyone?
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Old 08-24-2018   #36
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I have never done any scientific testing of lenses, but I have taken photos with many lenses, one after the other, and then I inspected the resulting images. It always has been about how a lens renders some scene and never about resolution or MTF curves.
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Old 08-24-2018   #37
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I have never done any scientific testing of lenses, but I have taken photos with many lenses, one after the other, and then I inspected the resulting images. It always has been about how a lens renders some scene and never about resolution or MTF curves.
How many is many on a focal length basis? Did you buy all of them you tested and then sell the ones that didn't make the grade? I am trying to determine how people go about this as a practical matter.
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Old 08-24-2018   #38
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No, it was done via RFF discussion. I would receive by mail 20-40 lenses from RFF members, and I used the lenses and then mailed them back to their owners. Some lenses sent to me were quite valuable, such as the Nikkor 50/1.1 or the Noctilux 50/1.0 or the Canon 50/0.95. All lenses were appreciated. I did several such lens comparisons over the years. It was all done with film cameras. Roland "Ferider" would then take my results and enhance the presentation greatly with his organization of the images on his smugmug website.

For example: https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...ad.php?t=41084
Raid's 35/40mm flare test: Analysis
https://ferider.smugmug.com/Technica...40mm-Lens-Test

Example: https://ferider.smugmug.com/Technical/Raids-50mm-Tests
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Old 08-24-2018   #39
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How many is many on a focal length basis? Did you buy all of them you tested and then sell the ones that didn't make the grade? I am trying to determine how people go about this as a practical matter.
I pay more attention to the lenses (focal length,etc) I use the most.

First, you have do decide that within a set of lenses, all 28mm f2.8 AIS for example, that some will be better than others.. for whatever reason. If you don't believe there is a difference, then you're wasting your time.

Then, given that there is a difference; how important is this to you? If it's of little importance, then again, it's wasting time. If it ranges in importance from, fairly to real important, time and money might be spent accordingly.

I'll spend time testing my most used focal length prime lenses and zooms (at their most used focal lengths). Little used focal lengths don't get as much attention.

I think, many think this is complete bs, and have no interest in testing the tools they use. I have no problem with any of that. Many on here would prefer a lens that looks like new to one that is rough in appearance, but is a stellar performer. I understand that too. It comes down to how important your images are to you.

I come from a place where, some who employed me felt that working with a small, camera was a disadvantage .. And, maybe they would get more for the buck, if i used a larger format.

Today, with digital hardware, the format is less critical. But, a lenses' ability to resolve a sensor is a serious thing. I just think that, some lenses do it better than others, and i look for them. It's time well spent for me. This was the case with film and i don't think things have changed.

If it's a used lens, i buy them and sell them. I went through 8-10 looking for a 50mm enlarging lens.
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Old 08-24-2018   #40
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Many years ago I was having lunch in the Leitz cafeteria in Wetzlar with one of the gentleman who tested lenses, both theirs and the competitions. The test lab facilities were impressive. On the wall of the cafeteria was a board of printed pictures and fellow lunchers inspected the images and expressed their opinions. I said that If this evaluation was also a test of the lenses, it was much less impressive than the lab tests.

It was then that the Leitz employee, as politely as possible, reminded me that I was an idiot. While lab tests provide information on the overall performance of a lens, more important to a maker of lenses, they show very specific optical problems to be corrected within a design. The designer needs to know the lens has a problem with spherical aberration. We photographers have to know that the lens has problems with landscapes and architecture, but has a certain charming glow when used to take pictures of lovely women.

So my lens tests now consist of taking a lot of pictures - landscapes, portraits, distant shots, medium shots close up shots, wide-open shots and stopped down shots. Of course I’m not just testing the lens. I’m testing the lens/camera/my usage along with the print making process. It wouldn’t be a very good test if I was designing lenses, but I’m taking pictures. Admittedly, in the test period I’m taking a lot of pictures that are not very inspiring and then spending a lot of time looking at pictures I wouldn’t normally print. But, it’s worthwhile. I have actually gotten to know which of my lenses work for me. A few have been banished; some have been raised to stellar status. Lens testing - incredibly boring and very worthwhile…

Your thoughts?
How about your overall visit to Wetzler? What impressed you the most and how much did you get to see? Thanks in advance for your reply.
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