On Fri, 10 Nov 2000, William Sommerwerck wrote:
> It is impossible for a lens to have "excessive" contrast -- that is, to render
> a wider range of tones than exist in the original image. All a lens can do is
> degrade the original tonal range, by scattering light into the darker areas.
> I, for one, do not like "muddy" shadow areas. All other things being equal, I
> would use the lens that rendered the scene more accurately. There are better
> ways to rationally adjust the tonal range of the final image than by letting
> the lens degrade it in an unpredictable and uncontrollable fashion.
* WARNING * The following post contains a Doris-rant.
In my humble opinion...
William, if what one is looking for is theoretical perfection in a
lens, then you're exactly right. But...like so many other things in
this medium, choices are s-u-b-j-e-c-t-i-v-e and should be made in the
service of our own vision. But you are wrong in that the lens
"degradation" is unpredictable and uncontrolled. Practitioners become
keenly aware of the properties of their tools. You cannot adjust tonal
ranges when there's nothing on the negative. Look back at the images that
have made photographic history, and what you're looking at are "muddy
shadows" and degraded images. There's more to it than mere contrast, too.
The correction of spherical aberration has a marked effect on the quality
of the images it produces.
Ever look at Weston's prints ? The main portion of his work was
done with a decidedly 'inferior' lens for its day. If you read Ansel Adams
he was mortified that Edward Weston continued to use the lens and
even offered him a better one (EW refused). How are Weston's prints
lacking ? Where are the unpredictable, out of control effects you cite ?
Where are they in the images of Fox Talbot, Southworth & Hawes,
Stieglitz, Outerbridge, Capa and countless others ?
I am not saying that you or anyone else should shoot this way or that,
or that SC lenses are THE answer. Not at all. I AM saying that
we don't all march in the same straight line, and that the application
of rigid ideals to esthetics is as the glistening edge of the guillotine
was to Marie Antoinette's powdered neck.
Obviously, you have very specific requirements and would anyone
argue against the idea that lens design continues to press forward
towards William's ideal ? How many OM designs are post-1990 ?
If what you're using helps you create pictures that you like and /or
pay the bills, that's what you should use. But it doesn't mean that
everyone who hasn't followed your lead is producing inferior or deficient
What IS the "accuracy of the scene", anyway ? Our eyes and mind do not
function like glass and film. My eyes see muddy shadows. In fact, a whole
whopping lot more shadow detail than any camera/film combo.
Your argument hinges on the accuracy statement, but
this is a subjective thing. We
interpret a scene, not chain ourselves in slavish devotion to an ideal of
'accuracy', unless you're a scientific or forensic photographer.
Ansel Adams clearly states in his books that the Zone System is not
designed to merely enslave a photographer to a literal interpretation
of a scene, but to expand the range of possibilities of expression.
Besides, are we to think that Our Father Maitani made INFERIOR lenses ?
Wash your keyboard with soap ! The range of OM optics offers variety
for a reason. There is beauty in designs that offer something for
It's good to have you back...
*= Doris Fang =*
Ps. Funny, one thing you didn't correct that is glaringly wrong
is the equation of low-contrast with lack of sharpness. It is not true.
Most people mistake high contrast for sharpness.
Read Gary Reese's tests, and you come across the "high contrast at the
expense of sharpness" statement often.
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