It’s all about the lens isn’t it? Confessions of a dawn hunter.

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, Oct 26, 2014.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    FZ200_dawn_007_Medium_.JPG

    I’m no good at waiting. I have a Panasonic LX100 on order, and I am as twitchy as a kid in the weeks before Christmas about it. Every day, I check Amazon to see if they have announced ship date, and every day I check what’s new in reviewland concerning the LX100.

    An aside: this daily search for what’s new about the LX100 usually turns up some comments on the forums. It fascinates me that the folks who have absolutely zero experience with the camera – they have never handled it, never shot with it, never seen it in real life – are most often the ones who most vehemently hold their opinions: “Why, if you gave me one of these, I wouldn’t shovel (potential mulch) with it . . .” and so forth. Whereas the folks with actual experience with the camera tend to be much more circumspect with their remarks. This reminds me of a great quote I saw the other day: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They are not entitled to their own facts.”

    We’ve had about a week of rain here at El Rancho Elliott, which has meant no strolls with the better half and the two dachshunds, no jaunts with camera in hand. It came into my fevered brain that maybe a good camera that could shoot with impunity in the drizzle would be a good idea, and wouldn’t you know, Crutchfield had an Olympus OM-D E-M5 with 12-50 weather resistant lens at a brilliant price and a special deal on the 75-300 lens. I wave some plastic at them, and presently the camera and lenses arrive. Hold that thought for a moment.

    Most mornings, I arise before sunup, attend to some Necessary Stuff, and then read, check camera stuff on the Internet, and mess around with my cameras. This often involves attempting to take images in extremely iffy light – something that both my Canon G12 and Panasonic FZ200 are actually pretty good at, although noise can be a problem.

    So the OMD arrives, and I mess with it in the daylight hours, and it acquits itself pretty well. I am impressed with the build quality, its overall small size, the swift autofocus, and the colors that it produces. I knew that the lenses were not fast, but I had read on the Internet about the so-called “T” measurement. It stands for something like “total light throughput” I think, and the idea was that a slow lens on a bigger sensor camera would let in more total light than fast lens on a small sensor camera (like my Canon and Panasonic).

    The next morning I take a run at a very dark scene with the OMD. The display says something like “2 seconds at f/6.3 at ISO 1600.” I think: “f/6.3? You’re kidding, right?”

    The camera affirms that it is not kidding. f/6.3 is wide open with the 12-50 zoomed in all the way. I command: “Give me ISO 3200.” The camera says, “Okay, 1 second at f/6.3.” That’s still way too slow, even with the Olympus’ well-regarded image stabilization kicked in.

    Just then an epiphany hits me like a thunderclap: it’s all about the lens. Elliott, you moron, you should be thinking about the lens first! Figure out what lens you need, then all the other considerations can fall in behind that. A lot of my shooting is done at the margins of the day, hunting for images that float my boat in the dawn or the dusk. Whatever camera I buy and keep next should have a righteously fast lens.

    I am reminded of my father-in-law (now passed). He was fairly meticulous about maintaining his cars, but he would buy the cheapest tires he could find: recaps, used tires, I mean cheap. One day I said to him: you realize that your car only touches the ground in four places. Does it really make sense to economize there?

    Note to self: in the image making process, before anything else happens, the light has to pass through the lens; pay attention to that.

    Cheers, Jock
     
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  2. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    It's all about the weakest link in the chain. A great sensor with a bad lens will be as good as the bad lens. A great lens with a crummy sensor will be as good as the crummy sensor. That 12-50 isn't too bad optically but it's REAL slow and it pushes the m43 sensors into ISO's at which they're not all that comfortable in low light. If you check out the 12-40 f2.8, you'll be in a different world with that body. Of course your wallet will be in a different world too. But if you, say, tried to economize by getting that lens and a really cheap old used EP1, even that lens wouldn't be able to make up for the relative weakness of that sensor - a perfect exposure will look pretty good but if you try to raise a shadow even in bright light at base ISO and even a little bit, you get more noise than a kindergarten class full of cowbells...

    You're on a slippery slope Jock - be careful! :biggrin: I've slid pretty much all the way to the bottom and the view is nice from down here, but it's not the ONLY way to go...

    -Ray
     
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  3. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Yeah, Ray, but once I slide all the way to the bottom of that slippery slope, it will be so much easier to climb back up . . . because my wallet will be soooo much lighter.

    Cheers, Jock
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    I hate this argument because I know in my case it's not the sensor or the lens.:dash2:
     
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  5. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    I once bought off-brand, mildly-regarded, less expensive tires for my Miata. Promptly spun and made acquaintance with a guardrail while avoiding a young doe. Never again.

    As they say-buy cheap, buy twice.
     
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  6. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    820
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    cameras come and go jock, a good lens stays with you. right now im shooting a6mp rd1 with some great leica glass. its now about bonding with the tool, not necessarily about THE best sensor, which will inevitably change next week. of course, from a purely technical point of view, ray is right. in any endeavor where reproduction of reality is your goal, your ability to reproduce reality is governed by the weakest link in the reproduction chain. however, if one considers photography primarily an art vs a reproduction science, and/or if you do photography for the pure joy of the activity, then things can change a bit.

    look, i love sharp sharp sharp, so i gravitate to high rez equipment. but im also a little tired of that being a never-fixed point, a constant grail search. and the truth is sensors are good enough now that your going to get good results. so for me its getting more about the timeless quality and individual character of great lenses, and WANTING to pick up a certain camera, enjoying the process.

    i'll tell ya, certainly the rez difference between my rd1/m lens combos and the rx1 with its stunning sensor /zeiss combo, is fully noticeable. but what is also noticeable is how lovely the rd1 results are in their own right, the unique look they have, and how freaking much i enjoy using it! just my 2¢.
     
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  7. I would agree. A high end camera with a crappy lens is not gonna work well, as well as a high end lens attached to a poor sensor is going to frustrate you.

    In my case it is neither, It is usually the user, (that's me), who is the weak point. :tongue:
     
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  8. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Tony, words of wisdom, particularly to my (potentially) lighter wallet.

    Cheers, Jock
     
  9. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    I'm not going to try to spend you into the poorhouse, but before you throw in the towel on OMD, try it in decent light and see how you like it. You could always add a low light lens to your line-up for Dawn Patrol. The excellent Olympus 45mm f1.8 is constantly in the classifieds or being blown out at sale prices in the Oly refub shop (and frankly, the brand new price most of the time is a steal for how it performs).
     
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  10. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    820
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    yup, the 45/1.8 is indeed a very good lens. and yup theyre often available--in fact mines for sale in our classifieds right now! ):
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. snkenai

    snkenai SC All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Stephen Noel
    The 45/1.8, is a great lens for people/portrait work, but for landscape/nature, it just did not suit me.
     
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  12. rbelyell

    rbelyell SC Top Veteran

    820
    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    hard to find a 90mm thats landscape-centric.
     
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  13. MiguelATF

    MiguelATF SC Top Veteran

    873
    Aug 27, 2013
    Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
    Miguel Tejada-Flores
    Maybe those frustrating low-light long exposure moments aren't about the lens - or the glass - or the sensor -

    But about the notion that sometimes it's really nice to have a portable tripod along.

    At least, that's what I tell myself all the time, though I always seem to forget.

    Recently though I've started carrying my tiny lightweight pocketable Ultrad-Pad II tripod along - which comes with a cool velcro strap that allows one to use the occasional fencepost, parking meter, tree branch or bicycle frame as a support - and does in fact theoretically give one the freedom to use those long non-hand-holdable exposures and/or stopping-the-lens-down-a-little-more-when-you-choose moments.

    The trick is remembering to put it in the other pocket before I leave.

    And though Ray's point about the weakest link in the chain dragging IQ down is valid - I still think I side with those who believe it's all about the lens. My late (and still occasionally lamented) Olympus C-8080 had a remarkably good lens, and a crappy sensor but was still capable of creating great RAW files....provided you didn't mind waiting the roughly 30 minute write times.
     
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  14. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I agree with this pretty completely. And it's the argument I use with people on DPR complaining about the lens-driven distortions (and resulting software corrections) in the G7X. That camera has a very good sensor and a very ambitious lens that is generally quite good but can't do EVERYTHING it does equally well. It'll never measure up to the IQ from my higher end gear, and yet I find it a thoroughly engaging and effective photographic tool. I'm just aware of the setup's technical limitations and work with them. And continue to attempt to get after the "art" part. Which is what I'm also after with my better gear, btw, but I just have more options for where to go artistically and how to get there with that gear.

    And yet, teying to shoot distant clouds in really low light with an f6.3 lens without a tripod is rather asking for trouble and I get Jock's frustration. But Miguel's suggestion of some kind of mini-tripod would do the trick quite nicely...

    -Ray
     
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  15. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    Jock I see a Hasselblad in your future.
     
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  16. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    In this case I'd say a tripod before a fast lens. A large aperture brings it's own set of compromises such as narrow depth-of-field and often issues such as softness, colour fringing and vignetting.
     
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