Monday, 15 August 2011

Lens thoughts

I think what I was driving at in my previous post was that a lot of photography is more concerned with technique than picture making. The advent of digital picture making and the ability to look at images on a screen far larger than they will ever be perceived if printed (given that a large print will be viewed from a greater distance) has made this quest for perfect focus more attainable. Reading forums it seems that lenses are likely to be discounted if they are not super sharp. Well, my favourite go-anywhere lens on a crop sensor is a 24mm. I like it because of its angle of view and its small size. It is capable of sharpness, but it's slow to autofocus so when I have to grab a shot it doesn't always quite make it. I could buy a faster focusing, sharper, lens, but it would be large, heavy and obtrusive. But the one I have does the job I want it to.

Look at the bokeh on that!
Quite in what context Henri Cartier-Bresson said that sharpness is a bourgeois concept I don't know, but the quote is out there on the web. Looking at photographs taken back in the days of slow grainy film it's quite apparent that critical sharpness wasn't always achieved, even by the masters of the photographic art.I can only assume that they were more concerned with making pictures that people would respond to rather than photographs that would impress people who carry magnifying glasses. Obviously in certain technical photography then sharpness is important, but in picture making it's not. And nor is the quality of the out of focus areas that some obsess over.

On the subject of lens obsession we now come to 'breathing'. usually a good thing, except when it refers to a zoom lens which changes it's focal length as it focuses closer. I have such a lens, one that one obsessive says he wouldn't buy because when he pays for 200mm he expects 200mm at all focussing distances. Well I know this lens 'breathes' but only because I've read that it does. Does this 'defect' affect my ability to make pictures using it? Does it hell! I don't even notice the change in focal length and manage to work within the 'limitations' of my equipment. Just the same as I don't find the 24mm lens limiting in terms of sharpness or compositional possibilities.

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