Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/08/05

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Subject: Re: [Leica] "notoriously crappy" lens
Date: Sat, 5 Aug 2000 19:17:37 EDT

In a message dated 8/5/00 5:25:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

<< They all perform differently and wonderfully.
 They have their own character. Ed >>

    This is exactly the point, in my own roundabout way, I have been trying 
to get across.  For a particular situation, any one of these lenses may prove 
to be the ultimate instrument.  It is unimportant, from that perspective, 
that the rigid lenses generally offer superior measurable performance, or 
that a given technician, no matter how well respected, prefers one over the 
other.  From a photographic standpoint,  of the highest order of priority is 
the need to use the right tool for the particular job in order to obtain the 
desired result.  
    Photography lends itself to endless debates over both ends and means 
precisely because it involves a combination of art and science.  In any given 
situation, it is rarely, if ever, an equal blend.  Nor is it necessarily a 
harmonious marriage of the two disciplines.    
    On the practical level, just the feeling of knowing that we are using 
some of the highest quality optics available can give Leica photographers a 
psychological edge.  Technical quality has its own excitement, its own quite 
valid reason to exist. 
    The other side of the equation has more to do with the sense of trust and 
affection we feel for older lenses that give us just the rendition and 
atmosphere we are trying to create in a particular photograph.  Moreover,  
use of older bodies involves an ordered, disciplined and absorbing process to 
which newer equipment doesn't readily lend itself, at least not with the same 
degree of personal satisfaction.  There is something to be said for doing 
everything the traditional way.
    When I stated that I would prefer a 90 Elmar over an Elmarit for most 
portraiture, someone asked whether I had ever heard of diffusion filters.  
That begs the question.  We have all heard of diffusion filters.  
    I prefer not to use them, or any other image altering, correcting or 
distorting filters, with the sole exception of conventional filters for black 
& white, for the most obvious of reasons.  I don't like the results.  To me, 
use of a diffusion filter in a photograph is, with rare exceptions, readily 
apparent, rendering the work flat and uninteresting.
      I am striving for something completely different.  I pursue instead 
that elusive impression of plasticity that can momentarily trick the eye into 
seeing three dimensions in an obviously two-dimensional photograph, to give 
just one example.  I have yet to find the filter that can do that, but there 
are lenses that do, when used optimally.  You won't find the secret in any 
equipment instruction book, but I suspect that Ed has learned it, most likely 
over the course of years of trial and error. 
    If it is deemed necessary that there be two camps, artists versus 
technicians, then I respectfully submit that each of us needs to have a foot 
in each camp in order to be an effective photographer.  Ed's wisdom applies 
equally as well to the practitioner as to his tools.  "They all perform 
differently and wonderfully.  They 
have their own character..."  
    Well said, Ed.

Joe Sobel

Replies: Reply from Mark Rabiner <> (Re: [Leica] "notoriously crappy" lens)