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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Exclamation The "great glass" decision

    Where should you be dropping coin on your hobby? A heck of a question ... with some reasonable expectations of an answer.

    Over the past few years, I have dropped some serious coin on this hobby, because as you progress through your needs and criticisms ... you begin to see the important points of improvement. More often than not, it is with the glass you use, not necessarily the camera body you shoot from. Cheap lenses simply do not have the necessary contrast or color response across the spectrum. Sure, they work in a reasonable way under "optimum" lighting, but we rarely have that. Usually, we are with an abundance of imperfect light ... so, you need a little help, and that is usually found in wide-aperture (fast) glass and lenses of overall better quality.

    In my own way, I still realize I am easily looking at another $5,000-$10,000 in common base lenses to have "cream of the crop" response from my Full Frame camera. In the meantime, I cruise along with the medium-cost glass (usually TAMRON) and have been, on average, delighted with what I can produce with it. I have to remind myself, it is JUST A HOBBY ... and until I have serious need for optimum glass, it can wait. I still get very reasonable light response from the current selections of lenses I have. Even the high-end lenses cannot go much wider. I have to admit, I have added one or two important lens choices, as solid fall backs, along the way to a FULL bag of top-drawer glass.

    If you look in your bag and total the cost, of average-to-great DSLR glass (APS-C or FF) ... it will usually be around $6,000-$10,000. Anything less and you are either finding excellent bargains somewhere ... or you really are not using solid choices for your hobby. This is an exercise that I have been doing for the past 4-years ... and the weird thing is ... it always seems to be around the same cost. The price points of lenses really do not change that often or by that much, unlike camera bodies and technological advances.

    If every photographer were only allowed the following six lenses
    1. 20mm f/1.8
    2. 28mm f/1.8
    3. 50mm f/1.4
    4. 85mm f/1.4
    5. 135mm f/1.8
    6. 200mm f/2.8


    high-order lenses in their bags (no zooms), chances are most of your photographic needs would be covered completely, indoors and outdoors (minus super-telephoto). (Yes, you will have to walk to and fro for framing)

    Pricing those lenses out:
    • SIGMA 20mm f/1.8 DG RF EX($569) - Sony-mount
    • SIGMA 28mm f/1.8 DG EX ($379) - Sony-mount
    • SIGMA 50mm f/1.4 DG EX ($499) - Sony-mount
    • SONY CZ 85mm f/1.4 ($1369)
    • SONY CZ 135mm f/1.8 ($1479)
    • Minolta AF 200mm f/2.8 APO G HS (~$1000)


    for a total bag o' glass, tipping the scale at 8.11 lbs and the wallet at $5295

    A great selection of lenses is hard to beat. May we all be so blessed -> Let there be LIGHT!.

    The thing is, you could cap these lenses off with a pair of darker zooming ones to cover UWA (for APS-C) with the SIGMA AF 10-20mm f/3.5 DC EX ($649) and super-telephoto outdoor shots with the TAMRON SP AF 200-500mm f/5-6.3 Di LD ($869) ... and have a real power bag. But, that's almost another $1500!

    Okay, let's face it ... if you were a new photographer and blessed with this $6500 bag of glass and the "bang for the buck" bargain you get with buying a new a700.

    I have to say, "Anything else would just be sauce for the goose ... because, it is done, my friends!"

    On the other hand ...

    suppose you were in the mood to compromise a bit ... and could live with an f/2.8 BASE aperture in all your glass. You want it top-drawer ...

    If you are kind of bent out of shape with all of the lens changing of the "PRIME" solution, consider this one:

    If you are willing to spend only about $5 more than the selection of the aforementioned PRIMES will have cost you ...
    1. you can keep the "one-size-fits-all" solution for your lens filters (all three lenses below are 77mm)
    2. lose about 2 stops of light (widest zoom base aperture is f/2.8)
    3. and actually shave a full pound of actual bag weight, overall,


    and go with SONY's high-end zoom selections.

    (I know -> wow) ... but yeah, same range ... even a bit wider

    Sony SAL-1635Z 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* (1.9 lb) ....... $1,899.99
    Sony SAL-2470Z 24-70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* (2.2 lb) ................... $1,599.99
    Sony SAL-70200G Zoom AF 70-200mm f/2.8 APO G(D) SSM (3 lb) ...................... $1,799.99

    Total .................................................. ............................................. (7.1 lb) ...$5,299.97

    I guess what I am trying to say, is that if you are really concerned about quality and overall performance ... going PRIME or ZOOM, with top-drawer glass ... is about the same overall cost. You can make your decisions anyway you want, but these are just a couple of facts to consider BEFORE you really start buying into your glass. Let the cash register ring with joy!

    Good luck ... and as the most interesting man in the world says, "Stay thirsty, my friends."
    Last edited by DonSchap; 11-12-2009 at 07:19 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  2. #2
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    5g isn't what it used to be

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    This was a nice read Don.
    Nikon D90, D40 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 | Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 | Nikkor 35mm f/1.8
    Vertical Grip, SB-600, SB-24, Sunpak 433D, Metz 40AF-4N, Alienbees CyberSync Triggers

    R3G Media | Flickr

    "You're pulling some awesome action shots with a cam and lens that are supposed to be rubbish ! " - Rooz

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    God's Country - Australia
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonSchap View Post
    Cheap lenses simply do not have the necessary contrast or color response across the spectrum. Sure, they work in a reasonable way under "optimum" lighting, but we rarely have that. Usually, we are with an abundance of imperfect light ... so, you need a little help, and that is usually found in wide-aperture (fast) glass and lenses of overall better quality.
    sometimes i wonder...are you a genuine split personality or does someone else access your account and post completely contradictory views.
    D800e l V1 l AW1 l 16-35 l 35 l 50 l 85 l 105 l EM1 l EP5 l 7.5 l 12-40 l 14 l 17 l 25 l 45 l 60 l 75
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  5. #5
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    Feb 2006
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    @'r3g' - glad you appreciated it.

    @'Rooz' ... I have to cover a lot of ground ... takes twice as much opinion. HA!
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Des Plaines, IL
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    Thumbs up Having loftier aspirations and respect for my artform

    Aside from the usual political rhetoric concerning conspicuous consumption, "if I had more, I could do more" comes to mind. In a way, it is the underlying sentiment, here in the United States, and perhaps the driving force in just about everything the capitalism ideal represents.

    Another one, "if you build it, they will come" presents the marketing opportunity that people tend to adore.

    Arguably, you can get a picture from a hollowed-out brick, a little hole drilled in one side of it and a film-back on the other ... and you could call it "photography." Somehow, I think that argument is just evading the discussion, because when you reach in your pocket for funds, for better glass, you kind of pull up short ... but, for the moment, let's say that was not the issue. That you actually had the funding for whatever your heart desired. My question would be: "Would you deny yourself the opportunity to 'improve' your art, for the sake of saying, "I'm a purist and believe I am doing just fine with what I have?" Is your art that altruistic that you would forbid it the chance to 'see' what it could be with a better optic? What if Galileo, Copernicus or even Carl Zeiss had stopped their pursuit ... satisfied they could not improve?

    Personally, if I had to make the 'better' optic myself, I contend that it is THAT level of interest in a hobby that is truly the "driving force." Going beyond the 'norm' and loving the art for what YOU can do with it ... at all costs (within reason, of course).

    The art, today, is at a much higher standard than most of us can appreciate, in our limited place ... and we rely on outside agencies to provide compatible and adequate quantities of these devices to satisfy our ... desire. We are the market. If we demand higher and higher levels of quality and capability, we strive to achieve the motivation for the providers of such technology to "step up" and ... provide!

    By sitting back, seemingly satisfied, and finding ourselves content with mulling around in current technology and left overs from the past ... we do our hobby a disservice ... and if anything, dwell in a world of mediocrity and not worthy of the visionaries who proceeded us.

    Acch, why bother, right? To each ... their own.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  7. #7
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    Dec 2007
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    I always try to buy the best of anything

  8. #8
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    Dec 2006
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    God's Country - Australia
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    Quote Originally Posted by SONYNUT View Post
    I always try to buy the best of anything
    absolutely. buy the BEST you can afford. where people fall over is they say...but i can buy 4 lens for the same price as one !!! (Don).

    buying cheap shit is just to satisfy the desire to want everything at once and its normally a false economy. so you have 28 lens' ? pffft so what, i wouldn't look twice at 95% of them.
    D800e l V1 l AW1 l 16-35 l 35 l 50 l 85 l 105 l EM1 l EP5 l 7.5 l 12-40 l 14 l 17 l 25 l 45 l 60 l 75
    flickr

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    San Diego, CA
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    Lightbulb Completely missing the point!!!

    For those of you who love bagging on Don for his lens collection, you completely missed the point of his post.

    Life is full of choices. I absolutely agree that if you can afford the best quality lens (camera or other tool) you will be better served in the long run of taking the hit in the wallet and getting it. (That's why I went from a fixed lens DSLR strait to the A900 - no sense buying one of the APS-C models when I ultimately would want FF.) But more often than not most of us have to work long and hard to marshal disposable income to afford the $1K plus for good quality glass.

    I suspect that the vast majority of the "lurkers" that view this site (and other DSLR forums) will probably only buy 1-3 lenses for their DSLR. I am constantly amazed at how many people I meet that have only one lens for their DSLR and it's usually the kit lens that came with the camera. In my book, those people are completely missing out on the beauty of DSLRs and interchangeable glass.

    It really comes down to what you want out of your DSLR and what can you afford (over what time span). As I read Don's original post, if you got the money to spend and you want high quality you can cover a good range with the Sony/Zeiss quality glass in a combination of 3 lenses for just under $6K. However, for those to whom photography is a hobby competing with the cost of life or other hobby's, they can try to cover a wide range with the dreaded kit lenses or cover the same range with reasonable quality glass from Tamron or Sigma for about 1/3 the cost. Or, there are those like myself who want to take their photography to a higher level but rarely have a large cash reserve to immediately invest in the high quality Sony/Zeiss lenses.

    So what do you do? What choices do you make when you're building a lens collection? If you only have about $1.5K to invest in glass and it will be a year or two before you can plunk down another $1.5K on glass, what do you do? Do you buy a single Sony/Zeiss lens and miss out on other ranges or macro capability for the time it's going to take you to afford the next choice? Do you spend that $1.5K on the lower cost glass to get you a decent range so you have photographic choices while you save up for the high priced glass?

    Here's an idea!!!! Rather than bagging on Don's lens collection, how about explaining why you think the average person who might be viewing this site and trying to decide which lenses to buy is better served splurging on the high quality/high priced glass. Are there situations you've experienced where a Zeiss lens has helped produce such a superior quality image that you're glad you didn't have to shoot it with a Tamron, Sigma or, god for bid, a kit lens?
    Darin Wessel
    α 900
    Zooms: Tamron SP AF70-200mm f2.8 Di LD Macro; Sigma 28-90mm D macro, Konica-Minolta 18-70 f3.5-5.6
    Primes: Minolta 28mm f2.8; Sony 50mm f1.4
    Minolta RC-1000 remote commander

    Film:
    Calumet Cambo CC400 4x5 View Camera
    YashikaMat 6x6 TLR (other accessories)
    Minolta Maxxum 7000 w/ Minolta 35-80mm f/4-5.6 & Minolta 2800 flash
    Minolta Maxxum 5000i & Vivitar 728 AFM flash
    What's next???

  10. #10
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    Unhappy Even I mis-keyed on this "Off Topic" assault

    Quote Originally Posted by DWessel View Post
    For those of you who love bagging on Don for his lens collection, you completely missed the point of his post.
    Doggone, Darin,

    Thanks for putting this back on track. These non-SONY members keep trying to make it a personal dig

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    ... and I fall for it.

    Okay ... thanks for getting this old train down the road. Name:  train2.gif
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    Last edited by DonSchap; 11-15-2009 at 06:52 AM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

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