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| p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Do you use manual lenses; tired of it; and autofocus; limitations? |
I reject the idea that older manual lenses offer better image quality. Just as cameras have changed over the past 40 years, lenses have changed just as much. The newer lenses have more than precision AF. They also have far better coatings, elements, design, and internal baffling. I haven't even mentioned VR yet. Even my $100 Nikon 18-55mm VR kit lens outperforms the old lenses in terms of saturations, resistance to flare, and sharper edges.
To each is own. But as a 100% manual lens user here are some points to be aware of:
- Photography isn't always about image quality in terms of sharpness and resolution. Many times I find vintage lenses are not only sharp enough for 99.99% of my purposes, but have character that is largely absent from modern lenses that are built for technical merit rather than artistic merit. For example, there are times I would even shoot deliberately with single-coated or uncoated lenses because I want to achieve a particular artistic look. When not shooting landscapes, I also love shooting wide angle lenses with field curvature for added subject isolation. And when shooting portraits, softness is often a good thing.
- The image quality of modern lenses being better doesn't necessarily hold true if your budget is limited -- for certain price points you can get used, professional, well-constructed lenses of the vintage world instead of amateur lenses of the modern world and end up with better image quality.
- While some vintage glass is subpar, not all of it is. There are a number of astounding performers that easily match up to DSLR sensor resolution or at least more than enough resolution to make the largest prints you would ever want to. Several Zeiss and Nikkor lenses are capable of doing this, if not many others.
- Of course, newer lenses have precision AF but there are many reasons for preferring MF, and with LiveView or shooting landscapes in the dark, my manual precision easily beats the precision of precision AF, but only when I have good quality, smooth, dampened focus rings. AF lenses don't offer good hand feel, lack precision distance scales, and are terribly hard to use for people who actually prefer MF.
- Most MF lenses are made of solid metal. When I first used DSLRs I tried a couple of AF lenses and ended up breaking them (several times!) because of pressure and bumping around in my bag from hiking and cycling trips. I decided to abandon those lenses and shoot MF vintage glass only and never had a problem again. Stuff was just built better before the age of throw-away plastic consumerism.
- Some MF lenses are easy to take apart. These are the lenses I use in the rain and harsh weather, since if I get water in them I can just take it apart and clean them myself. No electronics to get spoiled, no plastic to break while disassembling. With AF lens I would be afraid to take it outside and end up missing the shot!
- MF lenses are fun for me and many people. I find AF lenses not fun. Fun is an often-underestimated component for what makes good photography. If it's fun to shoot, you'll actually get out and shoot more and you'll get better photos simply because you got out. (And if AF is what's fun for you, then by all means you should shoot AF so that you end up getting out.)
Of course I'm not making any "right or wrong" statements. Modern AF lenses have their merits and if it suits your shooting style you should absolutely go ahead and use them. Above are just some of the thoughts in a MF user.