I laugh at the modern “technical talks” among photographers…
It is an insane show: the industry invents more bells and whistles to keep the money coming, and the photo enthusiasts feel their duty to keep up and have the “latest and greatest” in their disposal…
What drives this choice? What drives this behavior? – You won’t like the answer.
That driver is FEAR. The fear of being out-competed by those that do have the “latest and greatest.”
This fear is based on the lack of confidence in one’s creative power. If you subconsciously suspect that your creative power is not sufficient or not unique, you become largely dependent on your equipment, desperately betting on the cold advantage of the technology that will (or is illusionary supposed to) make your photography work more competitive regardless.
Okay, if all those megapixels and frames per second are bogus, what is important then, according to Oleg Moskvin?
– You absolutely need to meditate on the right composition, the right (not textbook-ish “correct” but Right for your particular situation and the particular feeling you need to transmit to the viewer) relationships between your subject, background, and frame. To envision this, you need to slow down, and this is the exact opposite to the “frames per second.”
– You absolutely need to establish a “minimal signature of tone and lines,” the one that is evident even at screen resolution on a tiny monitor, the one that will make the emotions of the viewer sitting in front of that tiny monitor move. And this is the exact opposite to “megapixels”.
– You need to marry the optical signature of your lenses. Yes, your internal vision and the particular image rendition of your lens should become so coherent that “they are no more twain, but one flesh.”
And I am talking not about easily measurable parameters of the lenses, such as resolution, vignetting or chromatic aberration, but that intangible “optical signature” that will make one lens alive and another – lifeless.
Meditating on “optical signatures” has made me slowly but steadily switch to German glass (Zeiss, Leica), adapting them from older systems and sacrificing along the way all the modern features like autofocus or even automatic aperture control. Yes, this is inconvenient, and I am not a masochist to enjoy, welcome or rationalize those inconveniences. However, the joy of the final result overwhelms and essentially cancels those inconveniences.
Now, we are ready for a particular story I am going to tell.
I was looking for “my” all-around prime lens, and I perceive 40mm as an ideal focal distance for that. Right, 35 mm is too wide, 45mm is already “too much of a telephoto.” And please forget the widely accepted statement of “50mm being normal” like a nightmare…
So, 40mm. What do we have? In medium format, I’ve adapted Hasselblad Distagon 50mm to my Pentax 645D, and considering the sensor size, the resulting angle of view corresponds to almost exactly 40mm, with the magic Zeiss image rendition attached. Am I happy? You bet!
Still, one day, if Sony does listen and introduce 3:4 aspect ratio option to their next mirrorless model, I may be tempted to jump to that. And what I am going to have as my 40mm there?
Sony makes a 55mm prime which performs exceptionally, but – you know – it is that “telephoto” 55mm…
People do adapt the Nikon-mount 40mm Voigtlander to Sony mirrorless. I paid attention to that lens, and, despite being sharp, it has quite “dirty” image rendition; so bye, Voigtlander, see you later!
While looking for 40mm image examples on the web, I was quite amazed by one 40mm lens that had all the “Zeiss-like” properties I was looking for, and it – oh, a miracle! – came from a manufacturer I never expected anything from. While about one-half of my readers are going to be offended now, I still have to say that – the manufacturer was Canon!!! I have to admit that my perception of photography-related products from Canon was always highly biased and arrogant (“this company manufactures excellent office printers… Why don’t they continue to focus on those office printers?!”) However, I do believe my eyes. This tiny Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens produced something mesmerizing to my eye. The more I look at those files, the more I enjoyed every bit of them, every tiny trait of the rendering of those images. For me, that was sufficient. Even if this lens were too expensive, too bulky, not sharp or whatever, I’d pay earnest attention to get it, to enjoy that non-describable optical signature. And the reality happened to be even more incredible…
Bonus 1) that lens is sharp, even sharper than the renown Voigtlander;
bonus 2) it is cheap as hell;
bonus 3) it is compact like crazy.
So – you may start laughing now – the fabulous idea of getting a $6,000 Canon body as a “digital back” for dedicated use with this $170 tiny lens does not look insane to me.
It is all about perception and believing your eyes. I may see the desirable optical signature in a modern $5,000 Zeiss lens and buy it (the crowd will be silenced in respect. However this does not matter). I may see the needed optical signature in a $170 lens and instantly fall in love with it. The crowd will laugh, and this won’t matter either.
All we need is to believe our eyes.