Monday, September 3, 2012

They're Probably Right

Takumar 35 f5.6

Canon Rebel EF28-80 f5.6

People who say that the quality of your photo gear makes little difference to the pictures you take are "probably right". Generally they speak along the lines that having better gear won't make you a better photographer, and when you say it that way, I totally agree - this is not "probably right" , but "most definitely right". Photo gear has different attributes, and once as a photographer you hone your skills to a good level, then you can research these attributes, try things out, and settle in on the gear you want to use. It is supposed that more expensive gear is better, which is to say that Canon's "L Series" Lenses are superior to the standard series, and all lab testing certainly shows this to be true. Although I have no experience with L Series Glass, I trust what I read about it, that it is far superior to not only Canons' other lenses, but some reports say it's better, especially in lab testing, to anything else out there, period.

This doesn't apply to me however. I will never be able to afford L glass, and even if I could, my preference is so much toward small and light, if I ever had the money to afford Canon L lenses, I would   find a way to switch brands, so I could either use Leitz or Zeiss on a Micro Four Thirds, or (dream, dream..) a Leica M setup. Canon L lenses are simply too big and heavy for my liking.

I have adopted the way to get the best bang for buck when it comes to lenses, and also remain small and lightweight. I buy nothing but film era lenses (with one exception - a Sigma 17-70 f2.8-4.0, which I find myself using less and less frequently). I especially like using manual focus prime lenses (as opposed to zooms). 

This morning, I took a walk around my usual route, and had my camera equipped with a really old Canon EF 28-80 - a cheap kit Zoom that I procured at a yard sale, complete with a Rebel film camera, for $15.00! This gave me the opportunity to snap a similar picture I had taken a few weeks ago with my Pentax Takumar 35mm f3.5, so I thought this would be a great "vintage film era" lens comparison. Given that Takumar lenses are very highly regarded, and the Canon Kit Zoom is often seen as a cheap plastic throw-away, I must say I was somewhat surprised at the results. Both of these shots got similar RAW processing - simple one click correction to one of the RawTherapee default settings. Also, to be fair, the picture taken with the Takumar was closer to noon, with the sun brighter and higher in the sky. The closest thing I did to make for a fair comparison was to set the cheap Canon Zoom at 35mm, and f5.6, similar to the Takumar's native focal length. And obviously, my vantage point was a bit different - this was just a spur of the moment thing during my morning walk, not an intent for scientific comparison.

At first glance, I like the results from the cheap Canon- old-Rebel-film-camera-throwaway-kit-zoom  better. It certainly displays more texture and contrast, but given the variables in composition and time of day, I would score the two photos as dead equal. The look of the Takumar has some good attributes too. But my main point is that I am heavily invested in old glass, and (aside from my Sigma 17-70) I have never spent more than $150 on a lens, and on average, probably more like $30 per lens. Would I have done better with a Canon L Series? I have no idea - somebody that uses L Glass please write and tell me. What about if I had used my Sigma Zoom? Experience using this lens tells me that it probably wouldn't have done any better.

I think I'll stay the course, and enjoy my vintage lens collection - which will be the subject of my next post.

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