Why have lenses gotten so much bigger?

Discussion in 'Nikon Lenses' started by gryffinwings, Dec 14, 2018.

  1. gryffinwings

    gryffinwings No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Just curious, but I have the following questions:

    Why have Lenses gotten so much larger than the older manual focus lenses?

    Why do Lenses have so many more glass elements compared to older lenses? I thought, in general, more glass is not so good for certain image quality aspects.

    Couldn't Nikon, etc... create a new lens with fewer elements and better coatings to create a superior lens?

    Take the Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AI-s is a lens with five elements in four groups. But everything I've heard it is an excellent lens.

    Now I get the idea for SWM makes things a little larger width wise, but newer lenses tend to be a bit heavier in regards to "Professional Grade". My Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 is a pretty heavy pig, not the most enjoyable lens to lug around.

    Thoughts?


     
  2. JTPhotography

    JTPhotography No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The extra elements are added to eleminate things like CA and fringing, at the cost of pure image quality (contrast and color saturation) IMO. I still use older smaller low element lenses. Then you have AF and VR. It’s all about your specific needs.
     
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  3. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Yes, this is a HUGE issue-no pun intended. The 85mm f/2 Ai-S is almost exactly the same size and outward appearance as the 35mm f/2 Ai-S, and those two look roughly, but not exactly, the same size as the 50mm f/1.4 Ai-S. If one were to be seen using the 35/2, 50/1.4,or 85/2 of the late, manual-focus era, it would be very difficult to tell which lens was mounted on the camera from a distance of more than 10 feet. Somewhere I have photos of the 85/2 Ai-S, and the 85/1.8 AF-S G, and the 85/1.4 AF-D, both without, and with, their respective lens hoods. The size differences are startling.

    I actually think that the lens designers are favoring larger designs to make people think that the lenses are worth "big money". A case in point, the 50/1.8 AF-S G Nikkor...wow...it's pretty chubby, and has a big lens hood. I see absolutely NO need for either...but it's what we have.

    Carried to the height of over-size: look at the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens. Good lord, the thing is huge. Looks like a compact mortar. But, as JTPhotography mentioned, lens designers are adding elements to correct aberrations to the nth degree.

    Speaking of fewer elements and better coatings, creating a better lens. The old Tessar design, from 1896, was re-done by Nikon in the early 2000's, with modern coatings when they released the 45/2.8 P. Being an old design, the Tessar, it has only four lens elements, and it's a fantastic lens. Nikon's 45mm f/2.8 P-Nikkor, has high contrast, nice bokeh, and is a VERY good lens. When I was a kid, I heard and read a LOT of fawning comments about the Tessar lenses of various old cameras, but by the 1980's, most of those old lenses were fungus-filled or decrepit...I never understood what the heck people were raving about...until I bought a used 45-P in the mid-2000's. A small lens with a dime-sized front and rear element can be a fantastic imager!

    It's true too, an 80-200 f/2.8 Nikon-designed Autofocusing zoom is MUCH bigger than, say, the 80-200mm f/4 Nikkor manual focusing zoom. Autofocusing DOES seem to add some size and weight to lenses! But: Keep this in mind. The FIRST 80-200 f/2.8 MANUAL FOCUS zoom from Nikon was positively HUGE...300mm f/2.8-type huge. A roommate of mine in '86 bought one. It had, as I recall, a 95mm front filter thread..He was crestfallen...bought it mail-order, sign-unseen...it was tremendously larger and heavier than ANY 80-200 AF zoom from any brand. Think "two-liter soda bottle" with an F-mount on the back end. Seriously.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2018
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  4. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Big Lens Syndrome ... Wow you got a big lens on that camera, you must be a Professional Photographer!!

    I actually would like my lenses to be smaller.
     
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  5. DarkShadow

    DarkShadow Birdographer Supporting Member

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    Some of the comments LOL. I agree on the size of some lenses.first time i seen the Nikon 500mm f/4 was shocked as it looks like something belongs on the front of a battle ship freaking massive bulk and heavy then there is the ginormous lens hood. I would think today's tech they be getting smaller not larger.Nikon did manage the 300mm f/4 phase fresnel to reduce the size and weight by a pretty large margin as well as the new 500mm 5.6 phase fresnel amazing what they did with these two primes.
     
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  6. compur

    compur Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    To a large degree, it's the demands of marketing. Manufacturer's have to keep coming out with new products or they will be "left in the dust" by their competitors.

    First they made lenses smaller and lighter. Then, when they went as far as they could in that direction, they had to go in a different direction so they started making them larger and adding features.

    With cameras they keep adding MPs because the public equates "more MPs" with higher quality images (even though most users crop and reduce the size of their pics and throw away most of those MPs in the process). So they have to keep coming out with new models having more MPs. Before long they will be featuring GIGApixels and then TERApixels, etc, etc.

    It's like the tail fins on cars in the 1950s. As the decade progressed the fins got larger and larger. Then, when they reached the limit with fin size, they went in a different direction in the 1960s and started making cars that were less and less flamboyant and more and more plain and rectangular because "fins weren't cool anymore."
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2018
  7. Vtec44

    Vtec44 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    It works. I impress people walking around with BIG lenses :D But seriously though, I've always thought that it's because so the lenses can gather more light and more elements for image quality improvement. I think at the pixel level then we can see the difference but beautiful images are more than just looking at the pixels. My humble opinion obviously. :)
     
  8. Jeff15

    Jeff15 TPF junkie!

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    Bin all your big lenses and change to the M43 system..........
     
  9. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Bin all your big lenses and change to the M mount :048:

    upload_2018-12-15_10-49-4.png
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2018
  10. Braineack

    Braineack Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    see 6:40 - 9:45


    The mirrorless market is moving the image stabilization out of the lens, so they are getting smaller again. But that's one of the biggest factors [no pun] for the size.
     
  11. DarkShadow

    DarkShadow Birdographer Supporting Member

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    Panasonic has dual IS in lens in body work together for amazing hand holding in low light but I went with two Olympus lenses with no IS, the 25mm 1.8 which is a brilliant piece of glass and the 40-150mm which is pretty good and the IBIS works great.for all lenses.Small but not tiny with excellent IQ. I still will never part with my DSLR or bigger lenses for birds for Mirrorless at this time no way so its nice to have both. I still might pony up for the Nikon 5oomm f/5.6 PF
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2018
  12. petrochemist

    petrochemist TPF junkie!

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    There are several reasons why modern lenses are bigger than older ones.
    More elements allows more correction of aberrations, the down side for this was the light loss at each air/glass interface - with good multicoating the reflection issue has almost completely disappeared. (Uncoated interfaces you get ~4% of the light reflected multicoated gets that below 0.5%) So more elements can now be used.

    Wider lenses allow more light to be captured (faster lenses)

    AF lenses often have to contain electronics, motors etc too.

    That's not a small lens unless it's a magnified image!
    My smallest lens is less than half that one in every dimension, a 24mm/2.8 that only weighs 12g :)
    It fully covers MFT (for which it's effectively a standard focal length) and is quite highly corrected. No AF or aperture control though...
    I pretty sure my 50mm/2.8, 18mm/2.8, 17mm/2.8 (AF), & 9mm fish eye are all smaller than your example too even if not so dramatically. (I've excluded the c-mount lenses as they generally aren't well corrected)
     

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