The Photographic Gear > Picture Taking equation


A short trip with the Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 Nokton proved that it is possible to work with manual focus lenses wearing gloves! Though its certainly not easy. 


The Voigtlander lens certainly performed very well and it was nice to use it outside my house and garden for the first time. It does seem from this brief use that it may well be the sharpest m4/3 lens I have, though I would like more use to confirm that. Its not always the case that a lens that performs well in tests indoors on a tripod does the same when hand held outdoors but the experiences I had with it on my GH1 would certainly lead me to believe that it will live up to expectations. 



From some other tests that I did it seems that this "Leica" sharpness is restricted to this camera / lens combination. Neither the 20mm f/1.7 or Olympus 9-18mm zoom produced the same results when compared with equivalent focal lengths on the M9. This didn't really surprise me. The Voigtlander 25mm is a special lens (at a "special" price!) and Panasonic or Olympus would never be looking to mass produce something like this. Its neither light or small nor has AF, which both of the m4/3 manufacturers would (rightly) assume to be what people who buy into m4/3 would want. Indeed it would be nice to say that the best lens I've used for m4/3 was a "native" brand lens. However this and the 4/3 Olympus 50mm f/2 macro produce the best results as far as I'm concerned. Add to this, that for me, the Panasonic Leica D series alternatives produce better results than any of the Olympus or Panasonic zooms and its a strange situation. 

The conclusion I seem to be heading inevitably towards is that as far as I'm concerned the best results are only possible with non "native" m4/3 lenses. While that may be true it does come at a price. All the "alternative" lenses that I mention as performing especially well are more expensive, heavier, bigger and harder to work with than the Panasonic/Olympus range and this should be borne in mind. I'm just as likely to use my Olympus 14-150mm zoom as my only lens for a photographic trip as take out some of the more "exotic" alternatives. If I'm planning to walk a long way then I want light and easy. Ultimately its the pictures that are important and the differences between lens performance are real but not necessarily critical. In some of the examples I posted yesterday, a little sharpening in Photoshop would eliminate the difference. 

While the sharpness of a lens is important, its not necessarily the most important thing to me. I use a Leica M9 for more than sharp results. The overall look of an M9 file, with its incredible colour contrast and "3-D" look is something that I cannot reproduce with other cameras and Photoshop. Sensors are like film, they seem to have their own unique way of rendering what's in front of them and to me that element in the picture making process has always been the most important. The best lenses in the world can't compensate for a sensor that produces dull, flat images in the same way that they couldn't do it for film. Anyone who has ever taken the same picture on Fuji Velvia 50 and Kodak Ektachrome 400 will know what I mean. 

The whole process is very much a package and its not just one element that makes the difference. Photoshop and the like can work wonders but not miracles. I believe that the initial capture is still the most important consideration. My never ending love/hate affair with Canon is down to this. While admiring what they put in their cameras and their skill in putting together really efficient picture making machines I have never liked the "look" of the files they produce. Its very much a personal thing and I do seem to be in the minority on this, since Canon is the leading camera manufacturer in terms of sales. A Leica or m4/3 image pops up on my screen and more often than not a smile comes on my face. A Canon image usually produces a frown. 

I sometimes think that I could live without this obsession to find the perfect tools for what I want to photograph and it would certainly lead to less chopping and changing camera and lenses. But it seems I can't. I would like the output from my Leica M9, but with 30MP and no noise up to ISO 12,800 in a package the size of a GF1 with a 14-400mm (35mm equivalent) f/1 lens. Should be easy right! 

The Photographic Gear > Picture Taking equation is a hard one to solve and in many ways I'm no nearer my own personal solution than I was some years ago. However despite occasional bouts of frustration its an enjoyable and fascinating process.