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Expounding The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-01-2005, 09:21 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I would greatly appreciate it if someone could please explain to me the utter fascination that photographers and especially pros have with ‘big glass’. This subject has just about taken on the status of a full-blown obsession and it approaches the magnitude of some sort of Holy Grail.

I consider myself to be a very committed semi-pro and I work extremely hard to produce high quality images and I seriously consider anything that can help me to become a better photographer but I just do not understand how my subscribing to the ‘big glass’ myth can make me a better photographer. I realize that the lenses a photographer uses are at times more important than even their choice of camera but I do not understand nor do I agree with what appears to be the prevailing thinking that a photographer must bankrupt him or herself buying ‘big glass’ just to be taken seriously as a pro especially when there is little tangible, solid evidence that ‘big glass’ will produce better images than ordinary, every day ‘consumer glass’.

Let’s look at the facts. By the admission of many pros lenses work at their optimum when they are stopped down and in some cases stopped down quite a bit to F8 or F11 and these settings are easily attained by consumer glass. I have heard many pros say that if a photographer is going to work in low light or existing light then they ‘especially’ need the ‘big glass’ and it becomes even more important and this is a fallacy and a failure of interpretation.

Every review I have ever read and every pro I have ever talk with admits that lenses and especially ‘big glass’ lose a lot of their quality when used wide open which negates the advantage of spending thousands of dollars on ‘big glass’. I think a much better approach is for photographers, and especially photographers like myself, who work in the modeling industry to use what provides the highest quality and if that means stopping down then so be it. If it means using a flash, so be it as well. If it means using a higher ISO factor then by all means let’s go with it. Let’s use our heads to get the shots and not just our wallets.

I have two lenses that I use every day. A Nikkor 80 – 200mm F2.8 and a Nikkor 28 – 80mm f3.5 – 4.5 and I will put my small Nikkor up against anything out there in terms of quality when the lens is stopped down to F8 or F11. My small Nikkor is a ‘consumer’ lens and my large Nikkor is a so-called ‘pro’ lens and for tight headshots when the light is adequate it is hard to beat but then again I have seen award winning photos taken by a standard 70 – 300mm F4.5 – 5.6 ‘consumer’ Nikkor and that lens costs a heck of a lot less money that the ‘big glass’. I would venture to say without fear of being wrong that my small Nikkor at F8 will simply blow the doors off of any big glass out there at F2.8 or F4 or even possibly at f5.6 so what is the justification for spending thousand of dollars needlessly for f-stops that can’t be used just so a person can say they have ‘pro’ glass?

If anyone has an explanation or some sort of justification for this myth I would like to hear it because I am really curious as to how simply throwing money at a problem (unless of course you are the Federal Government) will solve anything. Thanks.
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Re: Expounding The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-01-2005, 09:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Do you have a sample of one of your shots with the small Nikkor showing the model looking clear as a bell with the background way out of focus ? I shoot my long lens at f2.8 . That is why I have mine..

Mike

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The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-01-2005, 10:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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It's like many other aspects of life. A '93 Ford Focus will get you around town just fine. But wouldn't you really rather pull into McD's in a shiny new 350 SL?

The primary argument for the fast lenses is that they can throw the background out of focus when used wide open. I don't know of many glamour shooters who really want super sharp lenses, it's too tough to deal with complexion problems with them. A little softness helps a lot. So by using fast lenses wide open, they get the background suppressed and maybe a little softness, which they also like, at the same time.

Then there is the prestige thing... remember my comment about the Ford. If every other glam shooter is using a 2.8, whadda ya think the next guy is gonna buy?

Just my 2 cents, probably won't even buy a tablespoon of gas any more...




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Re: Expounding The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-01-2005, 11:47 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The fascination you're talking about occurs because most pros are guys. Guys like measuring stuff, quantifying stuff, calculating stuff, and categorizing stuff. Baseball stats, percentages, power-to-weight ratios, 0-60 times, etc. That's what we do because the ladies like the guys with better stuff. And the only way for us to figure out who has the better stuff is to measure it. The worst of us spend an inordinate amount of time measuring everything we can think of. I call these guys "measurbators". They'd rather show you a picture of their camera gear than the pictures they took with their camera gear.

Measurbators aside, there are some real reasons why a photographer might choose to spend a fortune on a particular lens. You really need to look at the manufacturer's MTF charts to see the optical properties of a given lens. Sharpness from center to edge, various types of chromatic aberration, light falloff, etc. can all be seen in the charts. You're really talking "fast glass". Fast glass has to be big in order to let all that light in. And when glass gets big it becomes more difficult to correct it optically. It takes more elements, low-dispersion glass (in the case of telephoto's and telephoto zooms), more complex groupings, etc. All of this extra engineering is what makes the lens more expensive.

You can get wrapped around all kinds of technical details if you want to and spend your life photographing lens test charts. You will often find that the "slow glass" is sharper than the "fast glass". So why do people spend money on "fast glass"? One reason is because the fast glass may allow you to avoid camera shake or mirror slap. Either can easily negate the sharper properties of the slower lens. For sports and wildlife shooters it may be very important to keep shutter speeds above 1/1000 of a second or even higher. Every f-stop you can get makes a difference there, even if you're setting your ASA to 1600. The difference between "sharp-enough" and "not sharp-enough" can be simply 1 f-stop.

Selective focus is another reason. There are times when that large f-stop allows you to keep just certain parts of the image in focus. I guess the bottom line is that there are many reasons, none of which have anything to do with absolute sharpness, why someone would choose to purchase fast glass.

The only exception I take to your original statement is where you said
[ QUOTE ]
...so what is the justification for spending thousand of dollars needlessly for f-stops that can’t be used...

[/ QUOTE ]

All f-stops CAN be used. It's what you use them for that helps you create your image. Heck, several manufacturers make de-focus control lenses that allow you to control how soft you want the image to look. They are used primarily for portraiture and are definately a specialty lens, but some people buy them because the lens satisfies a need.

There are some people who buy expensive stuff just because they can buy expensive stuff. And then there are some people who buy expensive stuff because they need expensive stuff. I've made a ton of crappy images in my time with very expensive gear, and I've done some of my finest work with a camera you probably wouldn't pay $40 for at a garage sale (no it's not a Holga).

Buying better gear will not make you a better photographer, just a (financially) poorer one. I know a lot of doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs who make the most horendous photographs with some of the finest equipment you could ever lay your hands on. Sure the images are tack-sharp, but they're tack-sharp images that suck.

Learning to see, to visualize your shot before you ever trip the shutter, WILL make you a better photographer. If you can't see, you'll never get the shot anyway, except for the occasional happy accident. Anyone who measures you by the gear you have instead of the imagery you produce is a twit, so ignore them.

-Chip
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Re: Expounding The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-02-2005, 12:20 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I would greatly appreciate it if someone could please explain to me the utter fascination that photographers and especially pros have with ‘big glass’.



........Sure,.....I think I can help..



This subject has just about taken on the status of a full-blown obsession and it approaches the magnitude of some sort of Holy Grail.


.............I'll consider the source of where that comment came from.. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]



I consider myself to be a very committed semi-pro and I work extremely hard to produce high quality images...



........Really? Huh,....even with an attitude like that towards the tools of the professional photographer??



and I seriously consider anything that can help me to become a better photographer but I just do not understand how my subscribing to the ‘big glass’ myth can make me a better photographer.



.........You are kidding me...and everyone else reading this,...because if you were really considered anything,.....why after 20 years do you still resort to knocking the tools of the trade..?


.........Furthermore,....there is no myth about big glass....I own big glass because I need it. You don't because you don't need it for what you are doing with your photography. I'm having trouble understanding where this "myth" comes from.. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif[/img]


I realize that the lenses a photographer uses are at times more important than even their choice of camera but I do not understand nor do I agree with what appears to be the prevailing thinking that a photographer must bankrupt him or herself buying ‘big glass’ just to be taken seriously as a pro especially when there is little tangible, solid evidence that ‘big glass’ will produce better images than ordinary, every day ‘consumer glass’.


Hmmmm......where do you get your info from....your head?
See how they compare



Let’s look at the facts. By the admission of many pros lenses work at their optimum when they are stopped down and in some cases stopped down quite a bit to F8 or F11 and these settings are easily attained by consumer glass.


.........And for what purpose is that for...? What type of photography are they doing..? Products..? Yes,...in the studio when shooting stuff, I am often stopped down to f16..because I need to maintain depth of field through out the mass of the product that I am photographing, unless the client wants intentional blur from a shallow depth of field... Groups such as in family portraits,...you are probably going to be shooting at f8-f11 to maintain depth of field and sharpness of all the people in the image. Much of the time in my studio I am shooting at f6.7 when photographing models..because I want to have the subject to appear very very sharp.. Does this mean that the lenses I use in my studio aren't any better than cheapo consumer lenses..? Nope! They are high performance L and or Prime Canon..(not Tamron, Tokena or Sigma) lenses.



I have heard many pros say that if a photographer is going to work in low light or existing light then they ‘especially’ need the ‘big glass’ and it becomes even more important and this is a fallacy and a failure of interpretation.



.............Oh sure,....us pros.....we don't know anything, do we,..LOL!! State your example of this!

Here,...I'll state one of my own that I took with a big fat lens... a 300mm f2.8 on a D30 body a few years back....the light was low... I could only get 1/500ths at iso 1600 in this light.. I couldn't raise the iso any higher because 3200 wasn't available on the D30.. I had to use fast glass....and BTW, the optical quality at f2.8 is stunning! You wouldn't know that though, because you'd rather knock it than try it!




Every review I have ever read and every pro I have ever talk with admits that lenses and especially ‘big glass’ lose a lot of their quality when used wide open..

..........Oh sure,.....just look at the low quality of my 300mm f2.8 L lens wide open! LOL!! Here is the link to the image where it shows the exif data...note the 10D was used, and the 1600 iso,...and the shutter speed,....and take notice of the background.....see, it isn't completely black either like you get with a lot of flash only shots in combination with slow lenses stopped down... You don't take action photos at f8 - f11!
http://www.pbase.com/greco/image/23492151

............When you take something out of it's context, and apply your own context, your argument falls apart.. True,...the 50mm f1.4, shot wide open isn't as sharp wide open as it is at f5.6... but do you really believe that your consumer lens is just as sharp and contrasty and apochromatic distortion free, and chromatic abrasion free as the 50mm f1.4 is at f5.6..? LOL!! In your twenty years of photography experience,....have you ever shot in available low light only..? I do all the time in my line of work....and there is a reason why I own fast glass.....there is a reason why I am upgrading my 85mm f1.8 to the 85mm f1.2,...there is a reason why I am looking at the 24mm f1.4,...and the 35mm f1.4...because I need the speed of these lenses...and they happen to be very high performers as well.


If it wasn't for my BIG FAT 400mm f2.8 MkII L lens, I never would have been able to get f5.6 wide open with a 2x telephoto converter = 800mm!
Hand held too!



..which negates the advantage of spending thousands of dollars on ‘big glass’.


.............You've got to be kidding......don't knock it 'till you've tried it! Again,...if you really were committed to excelence in photographic imagery,...you wouldn't be knocking this stuff.. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/tongue.gif[/img]


I think a much better approach is for photographers, and especially photographers like myself, who work in the modeling industry to use what provides the highest quality and if that means stopping down then so be it. If it means using a flash, so be it as well. If it means using a higher ISO factor then by all means let’s go with it. Let’s use our heads to get the shots and not just our wallets.


.......LMAO!! You are contradicting yourself here....can't you see it..?? Higher ISO = noisier and or grainier looking images...Stopped down can be nice if your background is a seamless paper,...or a muslin ....or a far away landscape,...but stopped down without the option of openining it up also means that the backgrounds of every day things can appear more distracting in your photos..

I have two lenses that I use every day. A Nikkor 80 – 200mm F2.8 and a Nikkor 28 – 80mm f3.5 – 4.5 and I will put my small Nikkor up against anything out there in terms of quality when the lens is stopped down to F8 or F11. My small Nikkor is a ‘consumer’ lens and my large Nikkor is a so-called ‘pro’ lens and for tight headshots when the light is adequate it is hard to beat but then again I have seen award winning photos taken by a standard 70 – 300mm F4.5 – 5.6 ‘consumer’ Nikkor and that lens costs a heck of a lot less money that the ‘big glass’. I would venture to say without fear of being wrong that my small Nikkor at F8 will simply blow the doors off of any big glass out there at F2.8 or F4 or even possibly at f5.6 so what is the justification for spending thousand of dollars needlessly for f-stops that can’t be used just so a person can say they have ‘pro’ glass?



........Have you ever tried to compare your consumer lens to these professinal lenses that you knock? Also,....before you compare lenses,....compare them on a likeness catagory.. Wide angle lenses act differently than do super telephoto lenses do.



If anyone has an explanation or some sort of justification for this myth I would like to hear it because I am really curious as to how simply throwing money at a problem (unless of course you are the Federal Government) will solve anything. Thanks.


.............Why do you keep refering your lack of examples shown when knocking these tools as "myth"..?

Here's a myth for you,.....try taking as good as a shot as this without a 600mm f4.0 L lens!


Let me guess....................by any chance,.....do you feel slightly "inferior" when taking pictures around a photographer who has a big fat lens..? I'll bet that's it...right?

Tell you what,.....go to www.sportsshooter.com and tell all those idiot pros what you know about their inferior equipment!

Good luck!

JP






 
 
Re: Expounding The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-02-2005, 12:22 AM   #6 (permalink)
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If you cant see the reason you need big glass then you dont.

Todays big glass is sharper wide open than most lenses of the day the rule of thumb about the middle f stops was created.

I wonder what kind of pros you talk to? Are they portrait photogs? Most of them definately want to stop down a few stops in order to get a family in.

Me I want to separate my subject and blow out the background.

You can compare lines per millimeter charts all day long but until you make a super large picture, you are not going to see the difference. Oh and btw say you shoot sharp as a tack with film, does your lab have a sharp as a tack enlarging lens? You will lose your difference right there. Can your desktop printer PRINT the difference?

None of the shots I posted below would be worth looking at if the background was in focus.

my 1.99994 cents worth.

Stu



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Myth?
Old 10-02-2005, 12:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Gee, I've been shooting for an awfully long time, and I don't see it as a myth. There are great advantages to having a lens that is tack sharp wide open at f2.8, and if I have to pay a premium to get it, so be it. (As a pro, why wouldn't you want the best basic tools available, even if you rarely use them, if they don't cost an arm & leg, or take up much room?). I've owned and used not only the Nikon zoom you have, but various fixed focal length lenses, and now have a pair of Tamron zooms (70-210 and 28-105), everyone of them capable of 2.8 or wider. I'm sure you understand the three aspects that affect depth of field - f-stop, focal length of the lens, and distance to subject. For many photographers, when shooting fashion or just a glamour portrait, the idea is to focus the viewer's eyes on the subject. One way to do that is with lighting, and another is with focus, or for our discussion, selective focus by way of shallowness of depth of field. In other words, using DOF to reduce the amount of the image that is in focus, to make the subject model stand out from the background. Even with a 200mm lens (in 35mm equiv) at f8, you'll have a certain amount of background in focus in the shot depending on how far behind the model the background is. If you shot at f2.8, you might get the DOF so shallow that only she is in focus, or maybe only her eyes. (I think Marc Grant had a great shot recently that illustrated that). For my style of swimwear shoots, I like my backgrounds to be less distracting, which is usually accomplished by making it out of focus, the more the better.

I also don't like to use fill-flash unless I'm doing it for a noticiable effect (like what you see in Maxim) or at sunset. It makes the shoot move faster, and the light look more natural (even with a reflector) but it does require the ability to go wide, if you want to hand-hold a decent shutter speed, and not raise the ISO (which I don't). In studio, under flash conditions, its less of an issue. On location, in open-shade for example you DO need the extra f-stops, and it better be sharp. I can't understand why you'd want to limit yourself to a smaller f-stop (when you say the "f-stops that can’t be used") Why can't you use them?

One more thing on BIG glass, one of the favorites of the fashion/beauty world is the infamous 300mm f2.8 (again, in full-frame 35mm mode). There is something about this lens, with its combination of wide f-stop and compression, that does wonderful things to bodies, and still keeps them close enough to talk to the model (but just barely - sometimes I use a walkie-talkie!). I rent one when I need it (the current best version of this from Nikon is running $4500) and its always a joy to watch the AF snap that image into focus. You've seen the effect on magazine covers for years. Believe me, I am not an equipment freak, I really do work cheap, so I'm not telling you all this because I like to spend money. (My mainstay equipment package for years has been a Nikon F100 with the Tamron 70-210mm lens, total cost under $2500).

Here's a couple of examples of why 2.8 is so nice. The one on the left of Shann Johnson, was shot with a 300mm Nikkor lens (& refector & tripod), the one on the right (Mary Riley) with my Tamron 70-210mm (no fill, no reflector, hand-held), both wide open at 2.8. They're pretty close in the compression effect (and blurring the background) so that's another reason why I don't own a 300mm (I learned I could cheat with the Tamron, as long as the background was far enough away). (Note - the backgrond in Shann's shot, was much closer to her than the one in Mary's. Notice how much more blurred that one is with the 300mm). But basically this is the effect. Its all in what you want to see, and what you need to see it.




Regards,
Andy Pearlman
Andy Pearlman Studio
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Re: Expounding The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-02-2005, 01:07 AM   #8 (permalink)
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[ QUOTE ]
I realize that the lenses a photographer uses are at times more important than even their choice of camera but I do not understand nor do I agree with what appears to be the prevailing thinking that a photographer must bankrupt him or herself buying ‘big glass’ just to be taken seriously as a pro especially when there is little tangible, solid evidence that ‘big glass’ will produce better images than ordinary, every day ‘consumer glass’.


[/ QUOTE ]

Another thing...

Professional photographers such as myself....(Been self emplayed as a photographer since 1996) write off their capital invsetments right away, or depreciate it over the course of 5 years... If someone is "bankrupting themselves when buying equipment, whether it be a lens, a camera, or some other gadget,....they are not making proper business decisions.

I buy equipment based upon what I NEED. That's all. I take that investment..(not expence)...and use it to make money, and or to provide a high level of service with.....because this is what I do for a living.

Like someone else stated, they can drive around in a Ford Escort,...but you don't find cement truck companies delivering a load of cement in a Ford Escort,....nope,..they use big, expensive, powerful, fuel guzzeling trucks that can bring a batch of fresh product to where it is needed.

JP
 
 
Re: Expounding The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-02-2005, 02:10 AM   #9 (permalink)
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BTW, your Nikkor 28-80mm f3.5 - f4.5 consumer zoom that you bet can blow away any super telephoto lens got a super average score of "3".

http://www.photodo.com/prod/lens/det...-56D-430.shtml


Just thought I'd show ytou another example since you seem to be in lack of one..

JP [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]

 
 
Re: Expounding The Big Glass Myth
Old 10-02-2005, 08:42 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I've been shooting Volleyball photos in a very dark gym for the last month.

No flash is allowed.

I need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action (at least 200 to 250th), I'm still getting some motion blur the ball and a servers arm at that shutter speed. I'm already shooting at ISO 1600, and at 3200 I find unacceptable noise.

I've been shooting using an 85 1.8 and a 50 1.4 because my fast 2.8 80-200, won't get me where I need to go.

Why do I own and shoot fast glass.....?

Because under the above scenario its the difference in getting the shot and not getting it at all.

Maybe in a studio, on a tripod, under controlled light, you can formulate an argument as to why a cheap zoom will provide a similiar result to a high dollar lens.

In fact, I have made the same argument, that my less expensive Sigma zoom performs quite well compared to my expensive Nikon zoom under studio conditions.

But I can rattle of a list of events I have shot where fast glass made the difference between getting the shot and going home with nothing.

I shoot some music scene stuff with a 1.4 that would register black at 3.5.

Mark
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