Testing, Testing

Loring Lens Test
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[If you’re not a photographer, you might want to skip the rest of this off-topic post and just enjoy the pics of a pretty bike. —Alan]

I shoot primes, mostly because I like sharp, fast lenses, and sharp, fast zooms are out of my price range. I’ve also come to really enjoy the fact that primes enforce a particular angle of view, and as I get to know them, I envision that angle of view before putting the viewfinder up to my eye. This encourages me to do more pre-visualization than I do when I shoot with zooms.

I’ve recently been buying and selling a few lenses, adjusting my coverage a bit, and strengthening my line-up in the focal lengths I use the most. One of my new lenses arrived today – a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM. Like any photographer would have to do, I immediately went out and fired off a few shots just to give the lens a run around the block. I still need to learn the ins-and-outs of this lens, but after a quick 10 minute session I’m already very pleased with the output. I’ve read only great things about this lens (sharp, clean, quiet, fast focusing), and it certainly lives up to its reputation. Going forward, this will be my go-to lens for bike close-ups.

Loring Lens Test
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Loring Lens Test
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Loring Lens Test
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Loring Lens Test
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Loring Lens Test
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28 Responses to “Testing, Testing”

  • Steve Fuller says:

    I’m still working with the kit 18-135 that came with my 60D. I had a chance to borrow a friends 50/1.4 and really enjoyed shooting with it. Seems reasonably priced as well. Might be my second lens if a giant pile of money doesn’t fall into my lap. Never thought I’d be making choices between bikes and camera equipment. :)

  • Cecily says:

    The bokeh is so smooth I want to eat it like custard. And it’s surprisingly crisp- were you shooting wide open?

  • Bob says:

    Thanks for teaching me a new term today. I spent much of junior high and high school with a camera in my hands (Yashica FR-1 and a crusty but trusty Nikkormat FT-2) and dreamed of saving enough cash for a good zoom lens. I didn’t know that what I was using was called a “prime.”

  • Abram says:

    Very nice close-ups. I am very much looking forward to the camera for which I’ve been saving up the last few months. What are primes, btw?

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Some extra creamy bokeh there. Nice choice.

  • David P. says:

    Nice tight depth of field with the focal length and wide aperture.

  • Alan says:

    @Steve

    I just picked up a 50/1.4 along with the 100 macro. It’s a sweet lens as well. Here’a snap from this afternoon shot indoors, wide open at f/1.4:

    Not bad, and it sharpens up nicely at around 2.8. I think it’s a super lens for the money.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Cecily

    “And it’s surprisingly crisp- were you shooting wide open?”

    Yes, those were shot at f/2.8.

  • Alan says:

    @Abram

    Which camera are you saving for?

    “What are primes, btw?”

    From Wikipedia:

    “The term prime has come to be used as the opposite of zoom; that is, a prime lens is a fixed-focal-length, or unifocal lens, while a zoom lens has a variable focal length.”

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Dolan

    “Some extra creamy bokeh there. Nice choice.”

    Thanks, Dolan. I’m pleased with the Bokeh; it almost looks painterly to my eye…

  • Brent says:

    I don’t know much about photography but I do know that your pictures give me major bike lust. Especially the shots of the Loring. I am planning on getting one in February with my tax refund when I can pay cash, but these pictures are making me glad that I put the credit cards down in the scary cellar to avoid using them unless it is an emergency.

    These photos make me want to pull everything out of the closet, throw open the trap door to the cellar, find the ziploc bag with the cards, and brave the cold and snow to-morrow to run off and buy one RIGHT NOW!!

    Keep ‘em coming – I need to learn restraint. :)

  • CHenry says:

    It seems you like fast lenses and smooth bokeh (who doesn’t?) I have found primes the best way to get there.

  • Bobby John says:

    Just bought myself a Canon 60mm macro lens for my Canon 550d. Great camera and can’t wait to test out the lens. Also just treated myself to a Brompton M6L bicycle in British racing green. Watch this space for some ‘up close and personal’ Brompton photos :-)

  • Alan says:

    @CHenry

    “It seems you like fast lenses and smooth bokeh (who doesn’t?)”

    Yup. It’s an intangible, but I’m also on the lookout for lenses that render images in a way that looks 3D (for lack of a better description). Some lenses seem better at this than others, even at similar focal lengths and maximum apertures. This 100 is very good, the 135 f/2 L seems exceptionally good, though it’s beyond my current budget.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Bobby John

    That 60 is a great lens. Many of the detail shots on EcoVelo were captured with that lens. (I recently sold mine; it was no fault of the lens, I’m just revamping my mix. This 100 was purchased to replace it.) You’ll love it – guaranteed!

    An M6L in BRG?!? You’re a man after my own heart. Can’t wait to see the pics. If you would, be sure to send a sampling for inclusion in our Gallery.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Brent

    Stay strong, Brent… :-)

  • Mel Hughes says:

    One of the first lenses I bought for my SLR was a 55mm macro. After many years of faithful service, I finally bought a 105mm macro. Since then, it has been one of my favorite focal lengths and lens designs. Although I shoot Nikon, the results are much the same. Their new 105mm f/2.8 macro lens follows in that great tradition.

    The fast primes in any brand are wonderful to shoot with. Most have excellent bokeh and allow you to separate your subject from the background very vividly. If anyone needs proof, all they have to do is to look at your work! But I am also very happy with the f/2.8 zooms like the older 28-70mm and 80-200 Nikkors I have. It simplifies my kit unless I need a specific prime.

    As always, excellent work, Alan!

  • Micheal Blue says:

    Congrats on your new toy(s) :-) Personally I think that modern computer-designed zoom kit lenses are as good as most primes when it comes to sharpness, clarity, and colour (and in some instances even better than some older design primes). Bokeh? Some better primes might have an advantage there, though there are zoom lenses that can give nice bokeh, as well. I agree that primes can help one be more creative with finding the right composition/perspective. Your photos are really nice and inspiring. Happy New Year.

  • Ryan says:

    I shoot with a Nikon D5000 and also prefer faster prime lenses, my favorite being the AFS 50 f1.4 G lens. Doesn’t get quite as close as a dedicated macro lens, but for people pictures it makes a great short telephoto. I have often thought of buying a dedicated macro lens; if I could stop buying bike stuff I may have to purchase one. One thing is for sure, digital capture sure has made it easier and quicker to see the results of a certain lens or shooting technique.

  • Alan says:

    @Mel

    Thanks, Mel!

    I’ve looked at the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L and the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS, both superb lenses, both beyond my price range for the time being. In the meantime I’ll continue to shoot my little primes and save my pennies… :-)

    Happy New Year!
    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Michael Blue

    Thanks very much! Have a Happy New Year and all the best for 2011!

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Ryan

    “One thing is for sure, digital capture sure has made it easier and quicker to see the results of a certain lens or shooting technique.”

    For sure! Being the impatient type, digital has been a revelation for me. I shot film for years, but was always slightly frustrated at the lag between taking the shot and seeing the results. It’s certainly easier to progress as a photographer with the instantaneous feedback resulting from digital capture.

    Happy New Year!
    Alan

  • Mel Hughes says:

    Alan,
    You will notice that the only “new” lens I mentioned is the 105mm. Neither of my “fast” zooms are of the current models. The 80-200mm is 3 generations back. The 28-70 has been superceeded by a 24-70. I managed to buy both used several years ago. Although I would love to have the newest versions (as well as a couple of D3’s,) neither my wallet nor output can justify them! Anyway, I need a new Rivendell frame!

    Happy New Year to you and your family, the Eco-Velo’s!

  • RI Swamp Yankee says:

    If you have a full-frame Canon DSLR, try one of the Carl Zeiss primes in the ZE mount – these are the old Contax manual focus primes, reworked in an EOS mount. (You’ll get aperture automation, but not AF).

    It will suck money out of your wallet forever, especially once you start chasing Grails like the 21mm and the 35mmf/1.4, but you won’t be able to go back to Canon glass.

    I’m not saying Canon glass is bad (it’s excellent) – Zeiss is just on the next level entirely.

  • Alan says:

    @RI Swamp Yankee

    I’m afraid to even look at those Zeiss ZE lenses for fear of bankrupting my kids’ college fund… ;-) Fortunately, for now, I’m on a crop body so I don’t need to resist temptation.

    Regards,
    Alan

    PS – I’ve seen some negative reviews regarding these lenses in terms of sharpness. Do you shoot these lenses, and if so, what has been your experience in comparison to Canon L series primes?

  • RI Swamp Yankee says:

    I have a Contax Aria that’s gathering dust since I got married – no time or money to go shoot chromes anymore. I’m kind of holding out hope that someone like Cosina decides to build a full-frame DSLR in obsolete lensmounts.

    Sharpness, as measured by MTF, may be better on newer primes, especially from Canon (who makes really good lenses), than on some of the really old Zeiss warhorses like the 85mm f/1.4. The problem is, sharpness is only one measure of how a lens is getting light to the focal plane…

    Zeiss images, on the light table (or on the monitor, these days) frequently look better than competitors with flashier specs. With a good loupe on a sharp film like Provia-F, it was like looking you were looking into a 3D image – and this is with one eye closed. Everything works together so harmoniously – color, bokeh, sharpness, contrast, edge-effects – Contax and Hassy owners called this the “Zeiss Effect”, and everyone else calls them nuts. (I used to be a ferociously loyal Nikon user, I did my fair share of sneering at Contax and Leica nerds before I shot with one.)

    In addition to sharpness, a lens designer has to pay attention to things like out-of-focus rendering (bokeh), contrast, color fidelity and how they combine to create other things that matter, like edge-effects (the separation of elements in an image using contrast and color). Here’s a bit of irony home-brew darkroom junkies knew well: you could have an image that was sharp, or an image that was contrasty (and had the appearance of sharpness due to edge-effects), but not both. It’s a lot different designing lenses than formulating developer, but the principle is the same – If you shoot for the sharpest lens design, you sometimes actually decrease image quality if you don’t juggle the other factors. (A great example are flat-field repro lenses – most of them are amazingly sharp, but take terrible photos if used as a general purpose lens.)

    This “Zeiss Effect” won’t make a mediocre photo into a good one, but it will make a good photo stand out, and a great photo “pop” so people will ask you what filter or photoshop trick you used to get it to look so vivid. You won’t be always be able to pick out a Zeiss photo in a blind taste-test, but you will find yourself with more “keepers” to chose from.

    Maybe when I retire in 30 years, I’ll get a full-frame DSLR with a full complement of Zeiss glass – provided we aren’t just levitating and recording images with our Apple iPsychic powers.

  • John Riley says:

    I never heard the term “primes.” I think we used to call them fixed, as in fixed focal length.

  • Dottie says:

    Nice!

 
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