Yes, indeed. After using both modest and top quality equipment for 60 years, I still find technique, not lenses, usually limits the results.
Originally Posted by Dan Fromm
I probably have not used the 200/4 Q wide open and at its closest focusing distance of 2 meters at the same time very often. The reason is that I only started making use of Nikon equipment on any kind of regular basis about ten years ago. If I needed to get close with a 200 I might use a 200/4Canon New FD, which gets down to about five feet or a Vivitar 200/3 Series 1 which gets down to four feet. I have the 200/3 in Konica and M42 mounts. I have used it, along with the Vivitar 135/2.8 Close Focusing, to shoot pitcher plants and cactus plants which were behind glass at the NY Botanical Gardens. My 200mm Nikkors include an early CM lens (closest focusing of 3 meters), two Qs, a QC, a 'K' and an AI. The 'K' and AI are more compact but still only get down to 2 meters. My 180/2.8 P goes down to 1.8 meters and I have seen portraits shot with them but 135 is about as long as I like to go for that purpose. I noticed that the second version of the 135/2.8 Minolta MC Rokkor is not very good at its closest focusing distance and at or near wide open but at greater distances it's fine. Higher image quality at closer focusing distances is something technology has improved over time. Dan, did I miss you at last Sunday's show in NJ?
This man speaks the truth. Well, I haven't evaluated the effect of lens choice on *Dan's* final prints' quality, but mutatis mutandis for my experience instead of his.
Originally Posted by Dan Fromm
On the other hand, I have plenty of images where *characteristics* of the lens---things separate from the major measures of "performance"---become important ingredients. Vignetting that makes a central subject pop out is a typical example. So when I stumble across a lens that makes Good Things happen to final images, I'm going to try to bear in mind what it does and use it for its appropriate niche. Technical performance is often beside the point, but differences between lenses are real and long may they wave.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
No, we didn't miss each other. I wasn't aware of the show, I seem to have fallen off of the organizers' mailing list. And I probably wouldn't have gone up Hasbrouck Heights if I'd been aware of the show.
Originally Posted by dynachrome
I haven't asked my route-finding software how far Hasbrouck Heights is from Cherry Hill, but it looks somewhat farther than Wayne. Wayne was roughly at my limit.
Re limits, I'm not driving as far to go trout fishing as I used to either. I'm going out to Lopez Island next month and am flying, not driving as I used to do.
Re what's at camera shows, I'm having trouble justifying going to them 'cos there seems to be less and less at them that's of much interest. To me, anyway, I can't speak for others.
I envy your enthusiasm for accumulating. So far this year I've bought one lens that sort of fills a gap and that I've wanted for a while. I can think of only one other lens I'd like to have. Its uncommon and expensive and I don't really need it. I recently bought one camera part -- a recessed board for my 2x3 Cambo -- and can't think of more parts that I need. When I look at what's on offer on eBay I see things that might be nice to have but I can't justify getting them. All of the lenses I use are at least good enough so its hard to justify getting another that's functionally equivalent to one(s) I have. If I ever get over being an ignorant barbarian insensitive to the fine points ...
About your enthusiasm for accumulating, I started shooting 35 mm still with a Nikkormat and have stayed with Nikon. Other people -- you, for example -- find reasons to get into more than one 35 mm SLR system but I've never been able to justify it. Not that there's anything wrong with other makes, just that there's never been an alternative to Nikon that I found overwhelmingly superior. I had my "aha!" moment in '75 when I got a 135/2.8 Steinheil macro lens in Exakta mount and had to choose between getting an Exakta body or adapters that would let me use the lens closeup but not at distance on my Nikkormat. I got the adapters.
Getting a Nikon DSLR will move me to replace my AIS lenses if it can't meter with them. My wife has given me budget but I keep putting off the purchase. I want the digital equivalent of my old Nikkormat FTn or my FM2N, doubt that such a DSLR will ever come to market.
The Sunday show did have a few interesting things. I got 8 issued of the Minolta Mirror and the followng books: Looking For The Light - The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott by Paul Hendrickson, a paperback of The History Of Photography by Beaumont Newhall, Life Photographers - What They Say by John Leongard and New York Then And Now by Annette Witheridge. I got only two camera items, a high voltahe battery pack for the Nikon SB-11 and a Mamiya M645 with the right hand motor/winder. They both seem to be functioning normally but the seals on the M645 need to be replaced. The winder had batteries with some corrosion and with expiration dates of 2008. I cleaned it up and it works. The winder was attached so there was no manual crank but I have those attached to other M645s. This is my second right hand winder. The battery trays in these are a little annoying to remove but I like the convenience of the right hand winder. The Speed Grips I have on my Bronica ETR series cameras are convenitnt but Mamiya didn't make something like that for the first series of M645 cameras. If I need a winder for a Bronica camera I use an SQ-AM.
I must have been collecting for about 26 years even though I have been taking pictures a lot longer. In that time I have accumulated a number of systems. Each has its good and bad points and each is enjoyable to use. I have a number of Nikon F2s but I actually prefer the original Canon F-1. The meter is built into the body so the finder is not so bulky and the L focusing screens add some finder brightness. My 105/2.5 Nikkor and 100/2.8 Canon lenses are both good but my favorte non-macro 100 must be the 100/2.5 MC Rokkor-X. Some independently made lenses are favorites so I will look for them in more than one mount. These include the 135/2.8 Vivitar Close Focusing, the 55/2.8 Vivitar Macro, the 50/2.8 Sigma macro, the 28/2.5Vivitar Fixed Mount, the 135/2.8 Sigma Pantel and others. I am at the point where I might start cataloging things and better organizing them. My DSLR is a Pentax K-x. I have made many nice images with it and I have been able to adapt many older lenses to it. I don't think I will ever have the same affection for digital cameras that I have for film cameras but they can be very handy.
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I'm a fan of 1960's Nikkors, too. Wrote a bit about them here.
Originally Posted by dynachrome
I don't know if I'm adding anything to this thread here or not, but my summary of how important a lens is can be summarized as: it depends.
I have a number of lenses currently, and some of them I'm not sure why I own, because I never use them. Usually it's because they are big and bulky or that they otherwise don't handle very well. To me, the most important thing about a lens is that it works as it should and that it's reliable. It really is up to the photographer to do something interesting with it, and that is borne out of creativity, imagination, knowledge, and a well harnessed intuition and experience.
For example, I own a Pentax K-mount 50mm f/1.4 lens, a Pentax K-mount 55mm f/2, a Voigtlander 50mm Nokton f/1.5, and a 50mm Leica Summitar f/2. They are used on various Pentax K-mount SLRs, and the Leica and Voigtlander on a lovingly restored M2. I also use a Super Takumar 50mm f/1.4 in M42 mount, with a Canon EOS adapter for an EOS-3. All five lenses produce amazing results, and I don't have a favorite. I like using all of them, they feel right to me. They work and are reliable. When I go into the darkroom to print negatives from either of them, it doesn't even enter my mind to check which lens or camera I used. I just don't care, because they are all so good! One of those 55mm lenses can be had for a couple of twenties in good condition.
I also own a 35mm f/2 Pentax K-mount, and a 35mm Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Leica M-mount. The Pentax is leaps and bounds better from a technical perspective, but again when I print from negatives made with 35mm lenses, I just don't care.
Either a photograph is interesting or it's not. A good printer will make amazing prints made from negatives taken with the worst of lenses. The knowledge and skill of using all kinds of equipment shines through as good craftsmanship, where talent and hard work trumps materials any day of the week. Some of my favorite prints are made with a Holga, for crying out loud. Talk about shitty lenses... Cracks me up.
But, here's the 'it depends' part - some people do this stuff for a living, and they have to meet other people's criteria and requirements. Sometimes only the very best will do, in applications where you really CAN tell a difference. Scientific photography, for example, medical photography, and so on.
The good news is that a Hasselblad with something like an 80mm Planar can be purchased for nickels on the dollar today, and you will not find anything substantially better today, if you must have the very best lenses, even as an enthusiast today it's entirely possible.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
Like many people, I look to digital image making if I want seamless, clean looking representation, and return to film for atmosphere. Those values comes from film stock, development and lenses. In such a context I'm more forgiving of technical imperfections, and better prepared to see their possibilities. One Nikkor is positively eaten with fungus, except for a small central portion. In pre-digital days it would have been landfill but now it provides a particular look that would be difficult to reconstruct. Ditto with medium and large format, where 3-element or ancient uncoated lenses I would have once ignorantly despised, I now use for their rendering, not in spite of it.