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What I mean by character in a lens...

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by nianys, Aug 20, 2012.

  1. nianys

    nianys Mu-43 Regular

    Is a very tough thing to define.
    I've been debating with some of you enthusiasts lately about the lack of character of some native lenses (namely the 45 and 75 primes, which are fantastic optics but look very sterile and lifeless to me).
    So I got this picture tonight from an old Canon FD 135/2.5 S.C. prime tele lens, and I think it illustrates perfectly what "character" can look like in a lens.
    I have not applied any vignetting in post to convey the real rendering of the lens. Very minimal PP (levels/WB type) to jpeg file. Here it goes :

    8290980938990d9a433556750a3a7b1e_d92.

    Some may or see or not see it. I'm open to all opinions, let me know what u think.
     
  2. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    While I think that is a great shot I'd really need an A/B comparison to form an opinion regarding what differences are seen between two lenses.

    Some folks have a half dozen or more MF 50mm lenses and claim them all to have a different optical "signature". My tendency is to think that is an over-stated phenomenon, but I certainly don't dismiss it entirely.
     
  3. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    Tom
    OK, I'll bite.

    I'm not a big fan of vague terms like "character", "Leica-look", etc. because I'm not smart enough to know what they mean. Your image is lovely, but what I like about it seems easily described: natural (not oversaturated) colors; slightly defocused background; interesting composition; not 'overly sharp' (though this may be a function of the small image size). I'm pretty sure I could get something similar with the 45mm or even 14-45mm.

    Or do you mean something else by "character"?

    To me, character is often a euphemism for 'flawed'--e.g., my Cooke-Kinic has lots of character because it creates wild background swirls that I've been told are due to coma or some other defect. But I love it, not despite, but BECAUSE of those flaws. Do you mean 'character' in this same sense? Or, if not, what do you specifically mean by 'character'?
     
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  4. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    Nianys... more so than anything else, your daughter's character sure is evident! :wink: She's a cutie. :smile:
     
  5. Drdave944

    Drdave944 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    697
    Feb 2, 2012
    Very good. I have one of those lenses in the attic. Lucky me! What kind of camera and f stop did you use?
     
  6. nianys

    nianys Mu-43 Regular

    Hmm, see ? That's exactly what I meant. Character is a very difficult thing to describe. Some folks see it, others, not much so (the latter tending to want to prove it doesn't exist). Well, I've never seen God, and I'm not much of a believer. But to millions of Christians he's real and I respect that (and as far as I know, they may be right, and me, wrong).
    What I was trying to demonstrate here was the tonal range, color signature, and nature of background (a little rough, but in a good way). I also do find this shot pleasingly 3 dimensional, at least as much as m4/3 can produce anyway.
    It's from a Canon FD 135mm F/2.5 S.C., which I find a nice lens to use.
    I wrote a blog post about this and the FD 50/1.8 I got today, which you may see here :

    New (old) gear always makes want to shoot more | itsnotthecamera

    Camera is GX-1, obviously full manual on everything, as the lens and body won't even communicate enough to get proper exposure. Shot wide open, ISO 160.
     
  7. CUB

    CUB Mu-43 Veteran

    275
    Apr 19, 2012
    I think the term 'character' as applied to a lens is actually fairly easy to define. It means the distinctive way in which a lens renders an image.

    Most of what we would see as 'character' actually comes from the limitations of optics and the lens designer's battle to cope with those limitations. That's why we see older lenses as having 'character'; the manual design methods used could not eliminate more than a proportion of optical weaknesses. The remaining weakness are what gives a lens its 'character'.

    Modern lenses such as the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 (I have not tried the 75mm) perhaps lack 'character' because they are optically near-perfect. In fact I adore the rendering of my Oly 45mm precisely because it does lack 'character'. It is optically so good that its lack of significant optical weaknesses means that it cannot detract from an image in the way that less perfect lenses often do.

    I agree with the poster who dismissed the idea of a 'Leica look'. There has never been a single 'Leica look'. Individual Leica designs have certainly had their own 'character' in the past, but the modern Leica range is made up of lenses that have very few discernible optical weaknesses and therefore one could say that they are lacking in 'character'. But that is purely on account of their optical excellence.

    The image shown by the OP has 'character' because the lens used, when compared with modern computer optical design, manufacture, glass and coatings, has a number of flaws. The image is not completely sharp and it has relatively low contrast. But the result is a very pleasant rendering that is highly suited to portraiture. Sometimes, the last thing you want is optical perfection in a lens.

    A lovely shot with a lens that is full of 'character'.
     
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  8. nianys

    nianys Mu-43 Regular

    Thanks for noticing. And you're oh so right. HER character is not to be denied !
     
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  9. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    Nianys... rather than delve into the semantics and nuances of the topic at hand, I have the same lens... and your posts have prompted me to pull my lens out of the closet and mount it on the G5! Thank you.
     
  10. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    Tom
    Thanks for this reply. I now think I have a better idea of what Marla and others mean by 'character'. In some ways I had it right, in that character has to do with so-called flaws in the way a lens renders an image. And I do appreciate that some things--perhaps 'character'--defy easy explanation, which doesn't make them any less real.
     
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  11. nianys

    nianys Mu-43 Regular

    Now THAT's a compliment ! Thank YOU (and I'm sure it's gonna kick major butt on your G5...).
     
  12. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    Don
    MarLa... We shall see... Thanks for the inspiration. You're great to have around here! :wink: