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Quality, improvement and temptation. Especially te


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Quality, improvement and temptation. Especially te

15 Aug 2020 8:56AM   Views : 520 Unique : 323


A lot of people who are members of this site are worried by quality. That is, they are striving, all the time, to make their pictures better, and – in particular – sharper.

Now, I’ll divide them into several categories: the ones who take it seriously, and have the budget, have invested really serious money in camera bodies and glass. I suspect that they will have Fuji or Hasselblad bodies, possibly Pentax – but certainly they will own medium format cameras. They will be unconcerned by frame rates or focus speeds (who actually shoots 20 frames a second for any normal subject?) and will process carefully.

There are those who nearly take it seriously, but are happy to compromise on quality for the sake of a range of lenses, affordability, or the need to deal with specific unusual subjects – sport and wildlife come to mind, demanding very long lenses and making a high frame rate desirable. (Not actually necessary: old-school photographers used to work at timing a single frame perfectly: it’s probably the one between frames 5 and 6 of that 30-frame burst you just shot.)

There are the sensible ones, who recognise the standard that is good enough for their purpose, and are entirely willing to make the necessary compromise with cost. They may be using an old camera with a couple of well-chosen lenses (one spectacular star shooting through the Critique Gallery a few years ago had a 12mp EOD 5D and a couple of sensibly-chosen primes, but others exploit a consumer body and standard zoom to the maximum).

Still others are looking to get the very best out of a specific setup: whether it’s exploiting pre-digital, pre-autofocus lenses to the limit, or exploring the envelope of performance of a bridge camera or a mobile ‘phone.

I’ve been a fan of 85mm lenses for a long time, getting my first in 1977, and currently owning four. But I keep being tempted. Two of my 85mm optics are native Sony FE mount – a Sony f/1.8 and a Lensbaby Velvet 85. I miss the slightly more extreme differential focus that my f/1.4 Planars offers, and I have been tempted by both the Sigma and Sony GM lenses. Both, though, are big and heavy, and monstrously expensive.

I own and use a couple of Samyang lenses with very happy results: borrowing my daughter-in-law’s Samyang 85/1.4 AF lens just before lockdown, I found that it was slightly hesitant with focussing compared with my Sony. I can write it off my ‘desirables’ list happily enough. Beautifully creamy Bokeh isn’t enough on its own, especially as the sharpness doesn’t better the Sony.

Oh, yes. Improvement. Just as your basic Škoda Fabia effortlessly surpasses a Mark I Ford Escort in every way except being able to hang the back end out, so a competent modern lens betters anything from previous eras. You will not find any Sixties lens that is as sharp as a Sigma Art lens, though you may find the flaws interesting in some cases. And it continues: technology doesn’t stand still.

Which is where the new temptation lies, for me. Sigma have announced a new 85mm f/1.4 lens. The weight and bulk have halved, more or less, so that it’s a good match for the Sony bodies I use. It has more aperture blades (to match the Sony GM’s Bokeh) and promises even greater sharpness than the DSLR Art lens.

Will it make me a better photographer if I buy one? Of course not. Though it will let me do some things that I want to do a little better.

Where’s your cost/benefit/effort balance?


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
15 Aug 2020 8:58AM
Models are Arabella and Alicia K - Arabella's in front in the first image. Shot at The Boardroom in Derby, where the all-white environment may have contributed to the overall smoothness of the look.

Shot with a Samyang 85mm f/1.4 AF lens at full aperture. Not at all a bad standard for a 'cheap' lens...
nellacphoto Avatar
15 Aug 2020 9:19AM
Interesting John

I'm surprised, in your examples above, the you didn't mention Canon and Nikon

When the Nikon D800 came out a few years back, with its 36mp sensor, some reports compared it's capability to a medium format camera

I'm really no techie. I just know the gear I have.

And again, unless one wants a 10 foot by 8 foot mega print, I don't think there's much between any of them.

But as you rightly say, at the end of the day it's the skill of the photographer more than the weaponry he carries

Anyway, I plod on ...

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
15 Aug 2020 9:30AM
Nikon have upped their game to 45mp, still using Sony sensors... But a bigger sensor allows more quality.

Currently, full frame rests at 60mp, with the latest Alpha 7, but it won’t for long!

And by 36mp, most lenses can’t keep up.
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
15 Aug 2020 8:08PM
I top out @ 30.4mp with my EF 5D MKIV and 20mp with my EF 7D MKII.
Not a 20fps burst yet it and my 7D MKII do very well with action, sports, wildlife photography.
I find I shoot roughly 3 to 6 frames at a time unless there is a long sequence I want to capture such as birds in flight.

No need for over 30mp, although I may get a used EF 5DS R just to play with 45mp.
I have seen some amazing detail in images using the lenses I have, taken with that camera

I still have not mastered the cameras I have, so the new one will have to wait.
Robert51 Avatar
Robert51 14 12 147 United Kingdom
16 Aug 2020 8:18AM
A good 85mm lense was always a must have for portait photography back in the day. I don't think anything has changed...
Chrism8 Avatar
Chrism8 16 1.1k 34 England
16 Aug 2020 9:20AM
I certainly sit in the 2nd sentence John, a well put together and thoughtful article Smile
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
16 Aug 2020 10:38AM
I know you do, Chris! I know you do.

Your big Pentax makes it effortless to achieve results that others struggle towards, and never achieve. But at a certain cost...

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