Welcome to this DearSusan course on lens testing in the field !
You have taken an important first step on a new path. One which will free you of biased opinions and make lens testing fun and super easy. All the team thanks you for your interest and wishes you a heap of fun running these tests through a collection of lenses, old and new, cheap and expensive. Trust us, you’ll be surprised by what you find on the way !
If you received the welcome email message in the gmail social, promotion or forum tabs, pleae make sure to move this message to the Primary tab before you continue.
We’re very fortunate, on DearSusan, to enjoy positive and constructive comments. It isn’t like that everywhere on the web and websites that deal with photographic gear often stage heinous flame wars between partisans of one brand and fanboys of another. It’s not a pretty sight and, amidst the anger, you also find a huge amount of misinformation.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
More than any other piece of photographic gear, lenses are open to personal investigation. These optical devices share two characteristics:
Even today, on my late 2015 mirrorless camera, I’m using lenses that were created when film was still the only medium for recording photographic images. Made by Leica (for R-mount), they benefited not only from some of the best technical capabilities of the time but also from a vision of what photographic aesthetics should be. These days, they are also really cheap. These lenses are not neutral and impart a distinct look on my images.
My more recent purchases from other manufacturers carry a very different signature, one that is common through the range, yet much less visible on first inspection. Those purchases were made on conscious choices made knowing what to expect from each lens after only a short time with it. This is the look these new lenses give my recent photographs :
These photos are very transparent and contrasty, very direct. It’s a look that appeals to me. But you’ll notice the pronounced purple fringing on the cables running along the top of the frame. This is not a perfect lens, not by a long shot. But I can live with it’s aberrations and it’s 60% cheaper than rival lenses from prestigious companies.
This course is not about brands or designs. It is about understanding how to evaluate lenses for yourself, by defining your own criteria and finding situations which allow you to check the lens for each of them.
Note that I haven’t mentioned the term performance up to here. Brand marketing and the media have brainwashed us into thinking that the first requirement for a lens is optical perfection.
That mental implant helps sell the newer, better, lenses that constantly leave the production chains but also leads to sterile productions and the ironic revival of vintage lenses, digital filters that reproduce the look of old gear or film and whole systems built on the very idea of imperfection-as-a-feature (Lomo anyone ?).
As much fun as these neo-retro initiatives can be, they rapidly become every bit as limiting as the laboratory number-cruncher game. If you want to create a style that’s yours, you need to understand lenses and their rendering and learn how to test them for yourself. Just as any painter gets to know its paints, learning to evaluate the signature of your lenses will not only free you of outside opinions but also get you well on the way of finding a personal style you love.
Imagine you’ve ordered a lens from B&H and have to decide whether to keep it, borrowed one from a friend for a short spell, are meeting with a seller over coffee or have illegally entered your dream photo store through the roof in the middle of the night and have only 30 minutes before you need to retrace your steps and return it (because, as a DS reader, you’re a good person 😉 ).
Magazine reviews are not readily available and may present a biased judgement if you do find one. Most websites run tests using equipment that is woefully inadequate for significant lab evaluation and provide few useful test shots in real life situations. Forums can be theatres for fanboy flame wars and how do you tell the informed voice from the incompetent braggard?
When you have completed this free DearSusan course, you will be able to grab an unknown lens, run tests with it for less than 30 minutes and decide for yourself whether it is the sort of lens that will serve your vision and your type of photography. See that motorbike picture above. That lens is almost perfect. Almost. Notice the purple fringe running the along the cables? Is that serious? Does it degrade image quality significantly? Can it be cured? These are the questions answered in this Master the Art of Lens Testing tutorial.
Now, we’re not saying this will instantly turn you into a new Lloyd Chambers and allow you to set up shop. What this course aims to achieve is to provide the basic understanding to allow you to see for yourself. To let your eyes weigh into purchase decisions rather than relying exclusively on what others (or machines) have to say.
It made up of 8 very simple lessons, each dedicated to a specific aberration, each containing the follwing information :
The course is richly illustrated with examples from my own evaluation process. From this day on, you will be receiving a new lesson every 3 days, leaving you plenty of time to try each lesson on your current lenses, compact camera or even on your smartphone!
Lesson one should be in your inbox now. Have fun!
This extensively researched and clearly presented course is totally free. It was lovingly created to help you on your way to self-expression. All that we ask in return is that you leave comments below or share with your friends on social media. Spread the love and let’s build a better photo world together.
To share, just click on the buttons below. It would mean a lot to us 🙂
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.