#617. Monday Post (10 July 2017) – Daft or clever, you decide

By philberphoto | Monday Post

Jul 10

At DearSusan, we can be diehard snobs. Sometimes, only überlenses get more than a passing mention, so well corrected that the word aberration is no longer known to our spellcheckers, and only cameras with a gazillion pixels are deemed worthy. Right?

WRONG! Here is a lens that, for sure, is not an überlens. In many ways it is the opposite: this is what I am talking about:


Yes, that is actually a 35mm full-frame lens that will be shipped, if the KickStarter is successful, with a number of bayonets, meaning you can get them for a number of different cameras. It is light, it is inexpensive. It is un-DearSusan. Or is it? Or have I taken leave of my senses? That is what Pascal snorted back when I said I might consider one for my own use.

What I find very interesting is what they are saying: this is a response to the smartphone. The smartphone is a one-button-one-click-only camera. A PhD camera, for Press here, Dummy! Simple, fast, always all-sharp, no knowledge of photography needed, no settings, nada!

Citograph say that their super-light-and-compact lens, needs no settings. At f:8.0 only, all will always be sharp away from the MFD. See, frame, shoot in one effortless, fast, fluid gesture. And, due to the sensor acreage of the cameras on which it will fit, much larger than on a smartphone, IQ will be much better in a number of ways.

Well, I buy their sales pitch. I find it refreshing that, finally, someone is doing something to meet the competition. Because, frankly, it isn’t rocket science to see that Canon’s competition is not Nikon or Sony. It is Apple and Samsung.

Now you can argue, as Pascal does, worried at the thought of the masses using the same gear as he, that he already does just that with his present 35mm lens, the magnificent Zeiss ZM 35 f:1.4. Pre-set at f:8.0, focus at hyperfocal, and it is ready whenever you want. He is right of course (Damn, admitting that does hurt!).

So, ultimately, you don’t need a CitoGraph if you already have a 35mm lens. You can adopt the same approach with a 50mm, or a 28mm, or whatever. I did the same with my 21mm Zeiss ZE Distagon. Set focus at infinity, stop down to f:5.6, dial back focus just a smidgeon, and everything would be sharp from pretty much 1.5m to infinity.

But the concept that unless manufacturers and we, the paying cognoscenti, begin to roll back complexity in favor of ease-of-use that will let us on-board a new generation of users, we are all toast, that concept is now not only timely, but downright urgent. And I salute Citograph for thinking outside-the-box and daring to try a fresh approach.

So, what say you?

PS: DearSusan will soon release a KickStarter of its own. Because the great weakness of the CitoGraph is that all is always sharp, it cannot appeal to bokeh sluts. For us (I am one of them!), we want blur, nay, we need blur! So DearSusan has found a secret recipe (50% animal fat from the underbelly of a Tibetan yak, 50% scented bath oils, 50% used engine oil – yes, I know, it adds up to 150%, that’s what makes it super good!- and smear the mixture on the Citograph lens. I guarantee you will have enough blur for even the sluttiest of bokeh sluts! Ooops, I may have given away the secret recipe…

PPS: the Kickstarter has already met almost twice its goal, so the CitoGraph is now a happening thing!


Pascal adds …

Oh dear, here’s one kickstarter I won’t be backing. Last year, a novel notebook idea got to my wallet and the whole thing went sour with many months of delivery setbacks (kickstarterat emptor). But that’s not what worries me here.



More recently, I backed the Arsenal project, which is said to bring many features to the Sony A7 camera, including GPS, time lapse, long exposures, and many more that should have been better implemented in the first place (for hints, look at Olympus, for instance). Apparently, those features will even incomporate their own tiny AI brain to provide the “best” settings, whatever best means in this contexte. We mentioned the Arsenal in a previous monday post and (unrelated to our mentioning it) it secured more than 40 times its initial goal of $50k. In all honesty, the Arsenal is my upgrade path and a new A7rII + Arsenal is my plan ahead for the years to come, unless the A7rIII proves me very very wrong (and you have no idea how much I would love to be wrong here 😉 )



I fell for the Arsenal in spite of the AI promise (a great promise in science and business but not one I wish to mix to my recreational pursuits) and because of the promise of simplicity. Much like the Citograph, which cures the ill of AF, the Arsenal promises to cure the unfathomable ergonomics that surround Sony apps.

Simplicity is king. We all crave simplicity.



But the Citograph doesn’t spell simplicity to me in the same way as an RX-1 or X100 does. It feels more pinhole than zone focusing or well implemented AF (apparently that’s a thing).

Then there’s the question of image quality. Which will probably be quite good. Goerz used to be a household name, that eventually fed into the Zeiss family. But the probably here troubles me.

In a world where lab tests are all the rage, it is refreshing and unusual to see a lens the main promise of which is lack of focusing complexity.



But that promise is already available in more conventional lenses such as the best-in-class 35/1.4 ZM mentioned above and, for the same sort of money that will get you a Citograph, you could grab a very lovely Color-Skopar 35, a lens which I used and loved for many years on the NEX 5n and which also boasts the same form factor. So I really wish the Citograph well and, hopefully, Philippe will soon have one to review, but I’ll sit this one out 😉


Thoughts ?

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  • John Wilson says:

    Remember the Holga? I have a Fine Art Photog. friend who uses a FILM Holga as her main camera and produces some extremely beautiful images with it. I always wanted to try some of the stuff she did but couldn’t get my head around going back to the darkroom, so I sprung for a Digital Holga when the Kickstart program arrived and did get a camera. Took three pictures with it and have never used it since. Case closed.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Thoughts? Philippe, I am shocked! I thought you were a Zeiss addict, like me! Surely you aren’t thinking of ditching those lenses in favour of something like the lens in the second hand Kodak Box Brownie that was given to me on my 10th birthday? That had much the same qualities as this “new” lens! You’ve even rattled Pascal, his comments are noticeably nervous!

    Thankfully I am too old to change, and too impenitent to consider the possibility of changing. I am working through hundreds of shots from my beloved Otuses, seeing pictures within pictures, and detail beyond my wildest imaginings. I am deliriously happy with what I have – although a couple of Nik’s tilt shifts have fallen off the back of a truck (metaphorically) and landed in my lap at a ridiculously low price, as a result of an ex-pro disposing of all his gear. (All three were available, but I don’t have any reason to scoop up the 45mm – the 24mm is useful for me, for architectural interiors, and the 85mm is useful for macro work and food photography).

    Pascal is aware of an even cheaper substitute for a “real” lens – because I recently sent him an article on the results achieved on a shoot carried out as a promotional stunt, for one of these bottled water companies. Throughout, they used a drop of water as the lens. And you can’t get a lens costing much less than the price of a drop of water! If economy is the name of the game, perhaps you should try the same! 🙂

  • Steffen says:

    I also saw the Kickstarter for the 35mm fixed focus lens. And as much as I embrace the idea of having a lens at a aperture you shoot anyways in a smaller package, I fail to see the advantage over regular, vintage, manual focus lenses. My biggest point is: How can F/8 on 35mm be hyperfocal in all/most cases? In my book, F/8 on 35mm will give you a focus range of 2,5m to infinity at 5m focus. That probably works for landscape but for street (which is the main intend), something like 3m would be better. But then the focus range would only be 2-4m. You way want F/11.

    So just using a normal lens would be better, like the mentioned Voigtländer 35/2.4 – not looking at the price and size. You’re more flexible, get closer and also can create out-of-focus if necessary.

  • PaulB says:

    The concept and the simulated images are worthy.

    And your math makes perfect sense. Anyone that has been involved in R&D and project management knows that it takes 80% percent of your resources to achieve the 85% performance level and the other 85% of your resources to get that last 15% in performance.

    Small, easy, and thought free are what the masses need.

  • Adrian says:

    The raison d’etre seems flawed. It’s competing with smartphones for one-click simplicity, yet fits cameras costing up to several thousand dollars. One might *hope* that someone spending that amount of money might have some understanding of how to use a camera; and if not, then most cameras have one click simplicity, it’s called “P” mode.

    I’m sure Olympus already made something similar for the m43rds system.

    The simplicity of camera phones is not just the one-click ability, it’s also that they fit in the owners pocket / handbag, come with lots of apps and filters to make the pictures look “better”, and can upload the owners latest self-aggrandising fake lifestyle photo for endless social media applause.

    This lens fitted to almost any camera won’t do that.

  • philberphoto says:

    Well, your responses show that I did not achieve my goal in this post. I am not defending the CitoGraph (nor attacking it, either). What I like is the pitch. Simple, effortless, light one-click photography, because that is the überadvantage that smartphones offer. The day we can get camera-IQ with one-click simplicity is the day the camera industry will revive. Now this could happen in many ways, including the improvement of smartphone IQ. But small, light, easy-to-use, smart, they are all attributes that are here to stay IMHO. Guess what? This is exactly what iterations on DSLRs aren’t…

    • NMc says:

      I guess the simple response to the quest for simple photography requires a change of camera not the lens.
      My limited understanding of optics and resolution is that this concept may work for a six megapixle cam with strong A A filter, or if it is a soft lense that never quite gets anything in focus so the depth of field apears relatively deep. Why would a camera or phone company make something new that is both simple and lower quality when an optional image processing preset can do it cheaper?
      Regards Noel

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