I Don’t Care Much about Comparing Lenses
If you’ve frequented any camera forum for even the shortest period of time you will have undoubtedly come across many posts were members are comparing the benefits of one lens vs another. In most cases they do this hypothetically (or theoretically) because they’ve never actually used any of the lenses they’re comparing. Sometimes, a lucky member will happen to have two or more lenses of similar specs from different manufacturers and they will post photos of brick walls, resolution charts, and 100% crops at different apertures in an attempt to discern which lens is the best.
I admit I do enjoy reading these comparisons, if only to maliciously pick out flaws in the testing procedure or simply enjoy the ensuing rows between owners of either lens. Nonetheless, I admire the dedication of these users and I believe their efforts are not totally wasted and they do provide a service to other photographers who don’t have the opportunity to go to a store and test these lenses themselves. The only thing is, I can never bring myself to do it when I have similar lenses in my own hands.
I recently had in my possession 4 of the best macro lenses ever manufactured:
- Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2.5 (dubbed the Bokina, for its superlative bokeh and because it was manufactured by Tokina)
- Lester-A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 (manufactured by Kiron and the same optical formula as the fabled Vivitar Series 1 version)
- Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP LD Di
- Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG
I had the opportunity to make internet forum history by testing these lenses at the same time, pitting them against each other and against resolution charts, photographing the same leaf with each of them and showing 100% crops at different apertures. In the end I would, hopefully, select a winner and sales of that lens would soar while prices of the other 3 on eBay would plummet. Alas, I missed my one chance at fame. Do you know why? Because I just didn’t care.
It was clear I couldn’t keep all of them—three had to go. You might think I would have performed some stringent testing on each of them in order to decide which one to keep, but the selection process was much simpler than that. You see, macro lenses tend to be optimised for sharpness, because that’s their job, and these particular macro lenses have a brilliant reputation, so they must all be extremely good lenses, and more importantly, they are in all probability much better at being macro lenses than I am at being a macro photographer. How did I make my choice, then?
I wanted an AF lens for versatility; for macro I focus by body movement and don’t need AF, but I wanted to use the lens as a long portrait optic too, and for that I preferred AF. This requirement excluded the Vivitar and Lester-A.Dine and left only the Tamron and Sigma in the running.There you go, in one fell swoop I had halved my choices! Next thing I did was mount each of the two remaining lenses on the camera and went around the house and balcony taking random photos of stuff close up; while doing so I paid more attention to the handling of each lens than to the pictures I was taking. Once I got bored with photographing the patterns in my rug, I headed off to the computer to compare the pictures. I could see no appreciable difference between them. None whatsoever. OK, so sometimes I thought the Sigma looked a little cooler in tone, but I wouldn’t have bet on it, and that’s something that gets corrected in postprocessing anyway. As far as sharpness was concerned, they could have been the same lens.
Handling was similar for both, as was weight and size…hmmm…difficult decision… So how did I eventually decide? I kept the lens whose focal length better fit into my prime lens set up. I already had a 77mm AF prime, which was close to the Tamron’s 90mm focal length, so I kept the Sigma 105mm. It was that simple.
Choosing lenses is more often a matter of being practical rather than scientifically precise. Of course, the price I paid for being practical is giving up everlasting fame on the camera forums. Oh well…maybe some other time.
|If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, please consider buying us a beverage. Better still, support EtL by making your online purchases through our affiliate stores—it costs you nothing extra and we get a small commission from every item.|
Note: Links in this article might be to one of our affiliate stores. Purchases made from our affiliates through these links will benefit Enticing the Light at no extra cost to you.
- Nikon Instant Rebates on Cameras and Lenses
- Lenses Fogging up in Humid Florida
- Lenses Are like Sweets
Tags: Forums, Lenses, Macro, Photography, Tests