Lenses

You cannot take a good picture with a bad lens.  You can take some really amazing images with a poor quality lens, but if you want good contrast, sharp focus and attractive bokeh then you need a well designed and well made lens.  Modern computer technology means that designing a good lens is within the grasp of any lens company, but getting that lens onto the market at an affordable price is another job entirely.

I am constantly disappointed by the quality of the lenses offered with what are otherwise excellent cameras, and the ubiquity of the zoom lens, and the need for high dioptric powers dictated by small sensor digital cameras just makes things even worse.

I like a good quality “prime” i.e. fixed focal length lens, with a decently wide aperture, so will often be using a 135mm f2.8 Zeiss, or the excellent 50mm f1.4 Zeiss “standard” lens.

I did use zoom lenses, and have a passion for extreme wide angle, started by my sadly departed Zeiss 18mm f4, which was replaced by the surprisingly excellent Sigma 12-24mm zoom lens.  I also used a Canon 24-105mm f4 L zoom lens for “general” photography.
Using the fixed lens Fuji X100 introduced me to the concept of “crop not zoom”.  The X100 has a 23mm lens, which translates to what 35mm film users would call a 35mm lens, so moderately wide angle.  In situations where I may want to “zoom in” I just concentrate on the central part of the image, and crop the image in lightroom when I get back to base.  This obviously limits the ultimate size I can print, but this has rarely been a problem.

My current system is a Samyang 12mm f2.0,  a Fujinon XF 16mm f1.4, a Fujinon XF 27mm f2.8 and a Fujinon XF 35mm f1.4.   For telephoto duties I use a Yashica ML 200 f4, which is a Zeiss derived design.  I also use  a 50mm f1.4 by Carl Zeiss and a 135mm f2.8 by Carl Zeiss – useful for portraits.  When mounted on my Fuji X Cameras, these lenses translate to the 35mm film equivalent of a range from  18mm, to  300mm.  I have recently bought two Russian lenses – a Helios 44 which is a 58mm f2 lens, which I first used on my Zenit B over 40 years ago, and a Jupiter 9 85mm f2 which I will be using for portraits. It may be time for us to stop referring back to 35mm film, and express lenses by their angle of view, not by their so-called focal length.  I also use a pinhole, zone plate and zone sieve, when I want that misty, blurry look…