What makes a good lens good?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Scott S, Sep 8, 2003.

  1. Scott S

    Scott S TPF Noob!

    Sep 8, 2003
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    I very recently purchased a Rebel Ti kit and immediately started seeing posts claiming that the lens (28-90mm) was "mediocre" and "sub par." Why is that? What makes a good lens good? Or great? What will I see in my pictures? Will a good lens make me a great photographer? (Sorry - just had to throw that in for a chuckle.)

    I'm sure that one of my next purchases will be another lens. I have thoughts that I would like a zoom in the 100-200mm range. I'm never close to anything, it seems, and I like the framing (fill the picture with what I want) control of a zoom. I believe that most of my shots will be of my animals and local wildlife, with the occasional bug, flower, or distant mountain thrown in. Yeah, I know I'll really need 3 lenses by the time I'm done. Can I get something decent for $200? Something good for $300?

    Thanks for any tips, suggestions, or pointers.

  2. doxx

    doxx TPF Noob!

    Aug 4, 2003
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    behind the viewfinder
    tsck, the lens doesn 't make you a better photographer. :lol:
    Indeed you can see the image quality of different lenses in your prints. Depends on your standards...

    What makes a good lens? basically a combination of good glass, built quality and speed which is represented in f-stops (aperture). Rule of thumb: the faster the lens, the better it is overall...

    Canon's L glass is state of the art for their cameras, horribly expensive though. You can find good lenses with 3rd party manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron etc.

    I use three lenses for my 10D, a Sigma 15-30mm, a Canon 50mm f1.8, and a Sigma 28-135mm. The Canon is the fastest lens, has the best image quality... but the zooms are sooo much more flexible, most of the time I use the 28-135mm.
  3. enigma

    enigma TPF Noob!

    Jun 13, 2003
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    doxx is right, MOST of the time faster is better, there are times when I had to use a different lense cause my 50mm was too fast, but most often fast=great. Glass is important. I must say I am a big fan of Sigma. They make lenses for all big name camera, and are much cheaper than say canon or nikon glass. For my prints, sigma lenses are great, some may not think they are as good (they may not be) but for my money (the little I have to spend on photography:) ) Sigma is a great way to get a new lense for close to half of what canon would charge.
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

    Aug 25, 2003
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    Lawrence, KS
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    Don't worry what other folks say about your lens. What do you think of it? Does the quality meet your standards? Look at photos other photographers have taken with similar equipment. Do your pics look as sharp?

    Canon and Nikon (and probably a lot of other manufacturers) have thrown quality control out the window. I worked in a camera shop for 3.5 years and I was amazed at the range of quality differences between lenses that were all the same model. A buddy of mine had a Canon 50mm that was razor sharp. He sold it thinking he'd just get another if he needed to. He has since gone through 3 of the same model lenses; none are as sharp as that first one.

    When I worked at the store I often had people ask about the differences between the Vivitar fisheye, at around $200, and the Canon fisheye, at over $1000. They felt that since it's so much cheaper it must suck. I took both out and shot a roll of film each. The Canon lens rocked, but so did the Vivitar; both were very sharp. Were there differences? Sure, but $800 worth of difference?

    If you look at the lens tests in Pop Photog mag, etc..., you will usually see that almost all lenses, even the super-cheapies, get grade "A" and "B" at 8"x12" enlargements, at all apertures except wide open and all the way closed down.

    "In earlier years some lenses were definately superior to others. More recently, the computer has moved into the industry, and practically all lenses made within the last decade or two are excellent-often more precise than even the most exacting practical photographer requires. They are, in fact, usually better in their capacity for preserving fine detail than our standard contemporary films and papers can record." Ansel Adams from The Camera.
  5. photobug

    photobug TPF Noob!

    Apr 19, 2003
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    Pasco, WA

    All the things stated above, plus... how the lens captures what you're shooting. By that I mean are you looking for tack-sharp pics & getting softly focused images (or vice versa)? Is the color and contrast to your liking?

    Are the colors richly saturated, or washed out looking? Is it easy to focus and/or zoom? Is it heavy? Is the image sharp (or evenly) focused all the way to the edges? Is there light fall-off toward the corners of the frame? Is the viewfinder bright enough to see properly when using it?

    As you can see, what defines a "good" lens can be interpreted many ways. Pick what's important to you and go find lenses that fit your needs.

    Being crazy, I decided Zeiss T* lenses in Contax/Yashica mount (all manual) were the optics I wanted. They're ungodly expensive new, not much better used, but they do take a nice pic! :wink:


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