In the former post I explained why I loved the “cheap” Voigtländer lenses: they perform well in contra light and harsh light, which is a situation (in my humble opinion) where you can sort averages lenses from good ones.
I used to rely on FTM charts when it came to decide wether a lens was good or not. This is a part of the problem, but some other parameters are important too:
– does it have a nice bokeh?
– how does it handle contra light?
Usually a well designed lens (Mamiya 6 and 7 system’s lenses, any post 70’s Zeiss lens I know of either Hasselblad, Zeiss-Sony, ZF mount or M mount, Leitz, some Nikon or Canon, Contax, I may forget some) with good lens coating has good FTM and low flare (this is linked but not as simply as I thought)
Bokeh is a combination of focal length, aperture, diaphragm shape, optical formula and coating too.
If I look at FTM only, I can say to myself: “Heck, stick to your good old Nikon 50mm f1.8, the hell with any other expensive toy”
While this can be true in controlled conditions (carefully thought studio shots), many shot will be stunning using a ZF Zeiss and average to bad using the Nikon (which is a pretty good lens, especially when it comes to costs!)
The following shot was taken using a Zeiss 21mm ZF on a D300, while I tested it just as I walked out B&H in NY (I’m not sponsored, don’t Ken Rockwell me!). I just wanted to be sure it was OK before I took the plane and brought it back to my friend who “ordered” it to me.
NY street shot in mid-day light (Zeiss 21mm + D300)
Here is a crop of the truck, to illustrate how “non-milky” this shot is: you can see the inside of the truck, which is in the shadows right beside a white zone.
Crop of the above picture
I bothered you with the reason why I shot this picture as a test, because I never would have shot anything in such a harsh mid day light, which is well knows to turn any picture into a disaster, opposed to the golden hours of the sunrise and sunset during which you can get stunning results when shooting landscapes. But that was before I tried the Zeiss!
I hope I’m not the only one to find this picture cristal clear in spite of the terrible light. This is not contra light but it is an example of the “Zeiss look” I’m now looking for when I try to find a lens that would suit my needs: limpid results, no matter how the lightning conditions mess with you (-:
Now for the contra light:
Contra light Nokton 35mm @f1.4 + NEX3
On the above shot you can notice a ghost of the neons right under the lantern’s red fringe (above the guy enjoying his meal in the background), but not a flare which would give a low contrast look to the picture. I would never even consider shooting this kind of picture with an “average” lens. I’m not snob, I use my “all-plastic bargain” Nikon 18-55 DX a lot, but not when light is complicated. In easy light I cant’ tell it from a Zeiss.
Contra light(s)Skopar 21mm @f11
I guess anybody who experienced urban night photography already ran into a huge problem: street lamp right in the middle (or worst, in a corner) of the otherwise perfect composition.
Well this time, while the picture may not be outstanding, I decided to try it just to benchmark the lense. You can notice the star shaped street lamps, showing the diaphragm was tightly closed (some geeks can even guess the number of blades from punctual light star shapes…)
Other than the two yellow “stars”, the picture remains clear, don’t you think?
Contra light (contra sky!) Skopar 21mm + NEX3
To be even worse, I tried this shot, as the famous asian white skies are a lense’s nightmare. I still remember Angkor and this extremely bright white sky which annoyed even my Schneider super angulon.
On this picture, still no loss of contrast due to flare, check out the building on the right, it’s border with the white sky is not bleached. By the way you can guess on this picture the purple vignetting mentionned in my former post, I didn’t remove it completely as I haven’t done a correct mask for Corner Fix yet (my ceiling wasn’t a good white uniform pattern enough)
I hope I didn’t bother anybody with these picky geek considerations about lenses, after all that’s what this blog is about…