Posts Tagged ‘justification’

Quick Bargain

22 October 2008

Dear J-

Quick one tonight; a reminder, of sorts, that I’ll be traveling again tomorrow and a Thursday update is doubtful.  It occurs to me that I tend to perform all my judgments based on a narrow category or array of categories, often arbitrary and never consistent, merely in order to ensure that the conclusions I’ve already drawn are never wrong.  If you fit the criteria to the results you want, then ergo, you’ll never have to admit you’re wrong.  Spectacular.

It’s the same concept as lying with statistics, only extended to all kinds of pseudo-scientific research.  I need to watch out for it, as I can find any way to justify any thing, usually beginning with the phrase “Well, it’s a good bargain, and if I don’t get it …” … you get the drift.

Mike

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Adequate Adjective

12 August 2008

Dear J-

Our eleventh grade English teacher was a big one for talking about things with specifics; one of her favorite tirades had to do with vague adjectives.  Nice.  Good.  Bad.  It’s less that they aren’t necessarily valid, it’s more that they’re not precise.  So, believe in this:  saying a lens has nice bokeh, which is a Japanese term dealing with how a lens draws out-of-focus highlights, has little relevance.  A lens might be nice and sharp, but the out-of-focus portions might be not to your tastes, so you end up not using that lens.

Let me elaborate:  bokeh is a subjective quality.  What I find pleasing in out-of-focus may not be to your tastes.  That’s fine.  But you must understand where I’m coming from; twenty-five years of wearing glasses has taught me a certain way of seeing the out-of-focus world.  Thus good bokeh, to me, naturally replicates that without calling attention to itself.  You might hear what they’ve said is “restless” bokeh — to me, that’s characterized by falsely hard details in the out-of-focus regions; that’s most apparent to me in looking at pictures taken with my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8.  On the other hand, funny things like flare — internal reflections or not — will reduce those hard edges; some of the pictures I’ve seen taken with remounted Vest Pocket Kodak lenses have a magical quality to them; that’s definitely a rainy-day project I want to pursue at some point.

I could make all kinds of words and justifications about the purchases I make in the pursuit of the perfect lens, but I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, and I’ll probably keep repeating it periodically; for me, since photography is about sharing a moment, the tool used is irrelevant so long as it doesn’t interfere with faithfully duplicating the memory you saw.  That said, I find myself, after having spent weeks now with the same lens, seeing the world as that lens sees it, framing my attention at the same distance.  It’ll be interesting to see if I can successfully switch lenses now, and what the learning curve will involve.

I admit that the first time I put a 35mm focal length lens on a 135 film SLR was quite a revelation; the field of view matched my natural attention nearly perfectly.

Mike

German Glass

25 June 2008

Dear J-

Several electrons have been spilled here regarding the use of German lenses and whether or not the premium they demand is justified or not.  You have to realize, of course, that no nationality has a corner on optical design; certain lenses will perform better than others at different stops (apertures) and focus distances, and not every lens is a consistent performer.  But I’ll stand by my original assertion that for 90% of the world’s photographers, it’s technique and not equipment that hold back wonderful images.

Still, there are those (and I begin to count myself amongst those, even though I know the current equipment is perfectly adequate) who’ll willingly pay a premium when the lens bears that Zeiss or Leica name.  Part of the reason I bought into the 4/3rds system was the ability to play with German lenses — the original intent, after spending multiple luminous moments with the Zeiss gem that comes on the Sony DSC-V1 and -V3 (and, reputedly, on the Casio EX-P600 and -P700) was to get a Contax/Yashica mount adapter as a supplement to a Nikon adapter, but a good deal came up on a Leica R adapter.  I know, rationally, that my photographs aren’t incredibly better just because of the brand of lens I put in front of the camera — and the results seem to bear it out, there’s nothing extraordinary about the Nikon/E-1 combo in relation to the Leica/E-1, at least to my untrained eye.  But there is something else at play here, whether it’s the tactile rock-solid feel of the Leica R lenses, or the way they balance, or the fact that, since most of my photos all year were taken with the Panasonic DMC-LC1 prior to shifting over to the E-1, I’ve become accustomed to the Leica direction of operation.

Funny thing is that I was that same guy who sneered at folks overpaying for that red dot — why, if the Leica R lenses were so much more expensive and slower than the Nikon exotica, would anyone pay the difference?  I can’t say that I’ve found some magic justification, either.  All I really know is that I’ve been shooting a lot more frames lately; whether that’s the camera or the lens, it’s having a decided effect on the proportion of keepers, or rather, displayers.  You can’t approach photography as an investment hobby, which is unfortunately the direction that rangefinder photography has drifted into; that’s like telling an auto mechanic to take good care of their wrenches as they’ll have collector’s value in the future.  Undeniably, there will be historical value; unfortunately, they make such good tools that you’re compelled to use them, wrenches or lenses.

The two Leica R lenses I do own were cheap because of their cosmetic condition; they duplicate focal lengths and abilities I’ve already got in Nikon mount so truthfully, I have no business owning them.  It’s strange that they already feel far more natural — reproducing the scene as-I-saw-it and not interfering with the process — than anything I’ve used before.  I may be compelled to make it a trio or more, especially as several of those lovely Telyt 400 f/6.8’s have materialized at reasonable prices … I could always use a bit more hand-held reach.

Mike