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Are lenses irrelevant?

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  • Cameras: Are lenses irrelevant?

    So, with all the retouching that goes into the image, unless the image is really soft and lacks detail, or it's distorted due to the wrong focal length for the purpose, are lens choices more or less irrelevant these days?

    I get all sorts of lens/camera brand and model combos and I got to tell you, there is not much difference there, especially after the retouching is done, and even less so when viewed in small size like in a magazine,catalogue or on the net.

    What do you guys/gals think?

  • #2
    Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

    Assuming you're dismissing focal length, I've pretty much always maintained they were irrelevant. Anti-shake and such is nice, but again I don't think that's what you mean.
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    • #3
      Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

      I mean things like "sharpness" or "brand" or "color accuracy" or "distortion". Pass the certain threshold (and all the pro lenses have reached this level decades ago) it's all the same in the final file. It's like on-off more than levels. It's either sharp enough or it isn't, it's either in focus, or it isn't, it's either good or it isn't, and any further distinction will disappear after retouching. Heck, we even make images have the same look, and they were shot on different locations, different days, different models, and different equipment.

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      • #4
        Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

        Final image size is a factor to be considered but most images are never much bigger than your monitor screen. So I agree with your hypothesis. Not so true before the emergence of digital cameras and retouching.

        As a photographer I have seen this subject come up before and if your the one bringing it up in the middle of a herd of photographers you should make sure you have your flack jacket and helmet on!

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        • #5
          Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

          Hahaha, I'm aware of that, but today things really are different. Not so much if you don't have your images retouched. Then you might notice the difference.

          Yes, leaf shutter is really important for stoping action, larger sensor is great for shallow DOF, focal length is important for the subject appearance and a lot of other things, aperture is important for DOF and low light shooting... not to mention tilt shifts, macros etc.

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          • #6
            Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

            If you're purchasing glass of reasonable quality, then it shouldn't make much of a difference. There are some large format lenses that have seen real improvements in the past decade, but other than that I wouldn't bother worrying about Canon vs Nikon types of debates unless a specific model is known for poor quality control.

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            • #7
              Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

              You're narrowing it down too much. Photography is not limited to fashion and beauty where it does not matter what you shoot with because the retouch process goes to a great extent.

              Yes, the lens quality actually matters in certain fields. I've tested the current Canon and Zeiss Planar primes side by side and you can pull more detail (i.e. the model's face) from the latter. Yes you can sharpen the image but the sharper lens gave it a more natural, not overly-sharpened look.

              Also, there is fine art. Medium format lenses (I do own a few) have their respectable quality and a very particular characteristics which differ from one another. If you retouch less, the differencies become more obvious.

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              • #8
                Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

                I bought my first camera three years ago and became obsessed with image sharpness! I was convinced my kit lens was holding me back and I just HAD to buy some Canon L glass. Now, many shoots later, I'd quite happily shoot with a "budget" lens as my goals have changed (I'm now obsessing about light!).

                I would agree that the obvious differences between manufacturers lenses are less noticeable (this has changed in the short time I've been taking photos). I firmly believe that third party lenses are a great choice and offer fantastic image quality. However... I own a Canon 85mm 1.2L. No other lens comes close to the image quality (shooting wide open) or the low light flexibility that this lens provides!!

                Sorry guys, I'm not sure where I'm going with this but figured I'd like to chip in.

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                • #9
                  Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

                  Originally posted by insmac View Post
                  You're narrowing it down too much. Photography is not limited to fashion and beauty where it does not matter what you shoot with because the retouch process goes to a great extent.

                  Yes, the lens quality actually matters in certain fields. I've tested the current Canon and Zeiss Planar primes side by side and you can pull more detail (i.e. the model's face) from the latter. Yes you can sharpen the image but the sharper lens gave it a more natural, not overly-sharpened look.

                  Also, there is fine art. Medium format lenses (I do own a few) have their respectable quality and a very particular characteristics which differ from one another. If you retouch less, the differencies become more obvious.
                  Hm... yes, but I am not referring to things like OMG the DOF you can achieve on MF vs 35mm... I'm thinking more like Zeiss vs. Leaf or Leica. You really won't know it if they were processed the similar way... even just after the RAW conversions.

                  Of course you buy the best when money is no object, and lenses do last "for ever", but there is such a huge dispute going on between people that are not quite pros, but know a lot(don't shoot for a living). One direction is that anything can be done on a budget(maybe, but it's not very efficient, and it'll cost you more in the long run, maybe even right away). Other direction being that there is such a massive difference between Zeiss and Canon, for example.

                  What I'm saying is that you get to see Zeiss vs. Canon printed in a mag side by side(or on an iPad, whatever, same resolution-300dpi, THANK YOU APPLE ) and you have no idea they were not shot with the same lens.

                  Originally posted by 3dG View Post
                  I bought my first camera three years ago and became obsessed with image sharpness! I was convinced my kit lens was holding me back and I just HAD to buy some Canon L glass. Now, many shoots later, I'd quite happily shoot with a "budget" lens as my goals have changed (I'm now obsessing about light!).

                  I would agree that the obvious differences between manufacturers lenses are less noticeable (this has changed in the short time I've been taking photos). I firmly believe that third party lenses are a great choice and offer fantastic image quality. However... I own a Canon 85mm 1.2L. No other lens comes close to the image quality (shooting wide open) or the low light flexibility that this lens provides!!

                  Sorry guys, I'm not sure where I'm going with this but figured I'd like to chip in.
                  Exactly! You like the open aperture and beautiful flare, but for example, that lens is not as sharp as Zeiss, yet zeiss is third of a stop slower. But at the end, if you shoot both at 1.4 you are not going to care.

                  My point being(and this is aretouching forum), that those discussions are pointless, and that people really need to shoot well with what they can afford, and get a grip on reality of how important the retouching is, as good retouching will make a massive difference, and minute sharpness or whatever benefits of a more expensive lens won't even be noticed if you compare retouched and unretouched images.
                  Last edited by skoobey; 05-16-2015, 03:26 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

                    I think lenses can make a difference, particularly when it comes to rendering. There are certain aspects of how a particular lens draws the subject that just can't be reproduced in software. Bokeh is probably the most obvious example. True, there is software that can sort of emulate a particular lens, but it's usually obvious and not convincing, at least to me. You still have to guess how much blurring to apply at any given focal distance and focal length to be realistic. I haven't seen anyone that has been able to recreate the bokeh from a Leica wide angle lens that produces the overlapping balls of light. Whether you love or hate that look is another discussion, the look is unique to the lens. Zeiss, Leica, Canon, Nikon - they all have a different feel to their rendering. I have 5 Nikon 50mm lenses from different eras, each has it's own subtle signature as to how it draws, and I choose one or the other to fit what I'm trying to achieve. I have certain lenses that produce a distinct glow to highlights that others don't have at all. Whenever I get a lens, I test the heck out of it in wide variety of situations to determine what are, to me, it's strengths and weaknesses and 'look' so I'll know what tools to bring to a shoot for what I'm trying to achieve.

                    The further you stop a lens down, the more subtle the differences between lenses become, so, in that respect- if you're always shooting at small apertures, the choice of lens brand wouldn't matter as much. I tend to shoot more with wide apertures where the differences between lenses are more apparent. I guess it all comes down to personal preference and just knowing how you want to approach the subject - what feeling you are looking for. From there you can use software to enhance or correct, or refine. To me, it just feels more organic and authentic to get it in the camera first (in all respects, not just lens choice) and just makes one's life in the software side of things that much easier.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Are lenses irrelevant?

                      Unless you get a shitty lens, they are pretty much the same. I mean, one or the other probably wont ruin the work, just will need to put some extra effort to bring it out later.

                      Just like insmac said, the differences are real. Nikon is usually sharper then Canon and I haven't seen anything that tops Zeiss on an FF body. But when it comes down to the final results, having an image from a top quality lens just makes it a bit quicker to get to there, like having no need to correct CA, vignetting and distortions.

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