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IQ vs. price

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by TonyTurley, Nov 21, 2014.

  1. TonyTurley

    TonyTurley TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Apr 24, 2013
    West Virginia, USA
    Yesterday I was trolling eBay (I know, bad idea), just looking at lens prices. Part of the reason I was doing that is because I had just read an article by Steve Huff concerning the perceived awesomeness of Leica Summilux lenses. Listings for Leica lenses that I saw ran from ~$150 for a 9cm f/4 in rough shape to $100,000 for some lens I'd never heard of, with many in the $10,000 - $30,000 range. There were many pages of Leica lenses listed between $1,000 and $10,000. For someone who has paid less than $100 USD for most of my lenses, those prices seem ridiculous. Even the $500 - 1,500 commanded for 50mm f/1.2 lenses from Canon, Tomioka, and Pentax seems like a lot. It got me thinking about the law of diminishing returns. Is there really that much of a difference in IQ between a $50 Minolta 28/2.8 and a $2,000 Leica 28/2.8? Or between a $250 Nikon or Rollei 35mm f/1.4 and a $5,000 Leica 35mm f/1.4? I have no clue, because I've never even seen such lenses in person.

    I know we each make our purchasing decisions based on budget, or how much we're willing to bear on our magic plastic cards. For me, the IQ on my Pen F 38/1.8 is pretty nice. I doubt the $800 Canon 38mm f1.8 micro 4/3 lens on eBay right now would be any better. I also have several Minolta MD lenses that cost me very little, and they are tack sharp. I ask myself why I've let myself experience lens lust at times. At least I've been able to sell off a large percentage of my previous collection of lenses I just "had to have".

    Just some musings for a Friday morning.

    Tony
     
  2. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    I think of IQ vs cost as being like a curve on a graph. It gets steep - very, very, very steep - towards the end.

    Now that I'm printing 19" and smaller, I realize just how little some of those pixel peeping nuances affect my usage.

    That said, I do miss my old Sony/Zeiss 24mm. That lens had a certain character that shines through, even on my cell phone screen. That's what I'm seeking out in any lens from now on.
     
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  3. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Dave
    Size is the key on these. If you are printing large prints, especially if you are expecting to make money, then yes the extra cost might be worth it.

    However for those of us who post online for friends, family and forums and occasionally a 8x10" the extra cost of these super lenses is kind of silly
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. DigitalD

    DigitalD TalkEmount Veteran

    352
    Mar 2, 2014
    Miami
    David K Fonseca
    Good question and some very good points. Dave and jeff said it right. If you are printing extra large prints and selling them then yes every pixel counts and IQ becomes a big deal.

    That being said there is all sorts of reasons why lenses cost what they do and its not always about IQ. Some of it is build quality and materials. Some if it is rarity. i.e. lenses that are not produced in super high quantities. Modern lenses complicate things with better AF motors and Image stabilizers and coatings. Ebay lens costs are always in flux because lenses will come in and out of favor. For instance since mirror less cameras and adaptors have come out I would say that most legacy lenses have doubled in price from just a few years ago.

    And even after all that, all lenses are not created equal! I had a Rokinon 35mm in my possession for a few days, some of you may have seen the photos. That lens cost under $400 and even pixel peepers have a hard time finding anything wrong with that lens when compared side by side with other very expensive lenses. Even leica's. So you can never just say one lens is better then the other simply by what it costs. In fact when a lens can produce high IQ results but cost less then others in a more expensive category, I feel the lower cost lens is the better buy every time.

    For me, I look for very specific things. Character is first and foremost. Ill take and use a soft lens if the character and price makes up for it. I also give a lot of credence to how the lens feels in my hand when I hold and focus with it. To me, the tool (camera and lens) makes for a big part of the experience and I want to enjoy what I am using. And lately size has now become a very important factor for me coming from a Canon system just over a year and a half ago. Of course, this is all subjective but its just what goes into my decision making when contemplating a lens choice and therefore what I am willing to pay for it.

    There's lots of legacy glass out there that can render beautiful images for $100 and I love them all. However there are times when a lens is special enough to spend the money on because it can transform your photography. A lens that is special enough because it's in sync with your artistic sensibility and brings out the best in your craft. Match that with some great IQ and you may have a reason to spend a little more.
     
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  5. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    I'm just a retired guy who is thoroughly enjoying photography as a main hobby...and using my original Canon FDn lenses on the NEX-7 has already produced some excellent images for me in spite of me, LOL.
    I'm still so far from the top of the learning curve that I doubt I could recognize / appreciate the kind of IQ you're referring to from very expensive lenses...which is fine for me, because even if I could afford them I'd never even think about paying "thousands of dollars" for a "better" 50mm lens...just not who I am.

    This is an example of images I got from a $99 decades old Canon FDn 100mm Macro lens and I couldn’t be more pleased with them:



     
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  6. BJW

    BJW TalkEmount Regular

    105
    Sep 30, 2011
    USA
    Bruce
    I think there lenses that are lenses and then there are lenses that are LENSES. Is their value based on reality? In some cases not. It may actually be a good lens that was produced in small quantities and is in short supply or perhaps overrated driving the price or, sometimes it is simply that good.
    Bruce
     
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  7. TonyTurley

    TonyTurley TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Apr 24, 2013
    West Virginia, USA
    Thanks for the responses, guys. Roundball, nice pics. I doubt I'll ever own a "premium" lens. I couldn't bring myself to spend $400 on a Voigtlander I was considering a few months ago. I guess we all have our line in the sand.

    Tony
     
  8. SpaceManSpiff

    SpaceManSpiff TalkEmount Top Veteran

    547
    Dec 13, 2013
    Tucson, AZ
    Eric
    I think it really depends on what your needs and expectations are. I have several legacy lenses that were absolute bargains (Pentax M 50 1.4, OM 135 2.8, Vivitar Series1 70-205 2.8-4 (Ver. 3 Komine)...but I can't work with them terribly fast since no AF or OSS to keep myself in check...and sometimes maybe something is lost with other lenses in the transition from 35mm film to digital APS-C (different FOV, sensor stack thickness etc). In e-mount land my Sigma 30 is wicked sharp and can render lots of detail --great value for the money, IMHO. My SEL50f18 wasn't terribly expensive and is good at larger apertures; the AF and OSS make it a great lens to have in the bag...but it is cold and can have some wild CA at times.

    For me, it isn't about large sizes or prints. Some lenses generate a "look" that I am weak for --"slap in the face" recognizable even at small sizes. In E-mount, the Sony/Zeiss24 does it every time. The FE55 has 'it' also on the A7 series. I would love to have either of these two lenses, but feel like I need to be generating some monetary units from my photography to justify the expense.

    Some environmental portraiture type photographs have something about them that draws me in...and it will turn out that the overwhelming majority of them are taken with the Lecia M9 (or the monochrome) and a fancy lens. I can see what the Leica fuss is about (IQ-wise), but most of their stuff is so astronomically expensive that it isn't on my map.
     
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  9. mattia

    mattia TalkEmount Regular

    143
    Dec 13, 2013
    What the others have said - my favorite two lenses of all time are probably the FE 54-1.8 and the technically much less good Contax/Zeiss planar 50-1.4. Merely ok sharpness wide open anywhere but the center, but lots of character. I have a leica R 50/2.0 but it never quite grabbed me. Guess I'm a sucker for Zeiss...


    Sent from my iPhone using TalkEmount
     
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  10. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Jeff explained it great - money vs. performance is like a curve on a graph that gets steeper and steeper the further up you go. And that's not just applying to photography, but rather to every product on the market. Will a €200 pair of jeans be four times as good or last you four times as long as a €50 pair? No, it won't. But you still might want to pay up for that little bit of extra fit and finish you get with the more expensive pair.

    Will a €5.000 TV set be 10 times better than a €500 Xiaomi one? Both are 4k, both are LED backlit, both are smart. So no, it won't be 10 times better, but the little bit of additional effort that went into its design, build and probably panel fine tuning might still be worth the price to you. Is a €300 pair of headphones twice as good as a €150 one?

    You can make examples with any kind of product, the answer is the same. You pay much more just to get a little bit more in one area or another. If it's worth it to you is an entirely personal question. But that doesn't make more expensive products any less valuable choices.
     
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  11. jai

    jai TalkEmount Top Veteran

    589
    Feb 4, 2013
    I think that IQ is certainly not the only, and perhaps not even the main reason Leica lenses are so expensive.

    It becomes even more interesting when you try and define IQ! Are we talking about accurately representing the world? Legacy lenses especially are often appealing because of just how inaccurately they render the image.
     
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  12. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    I believe IQ vs. price was much more important for film than it is for digital. Assuming you were making large prints.
     
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  13. TonyTurley

    TonyTurley TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Apr 24, 2013
    West Virginia, USA
    Interesting points being raised. As Poki said, it's all personal. And please don't mistake my intentions for the thread; if someone has the resources and chooses to spring for an uber-expensive lens, good for them. That is their business. I wasn't intending to criticize such decisions.

    As for IQ, it is indeed subjective, and sometimes I myself look for different things. Last weekend, I wanted the sharpness and color rendering of the Pen F 38/1.8. Other times I prefer the Pen F 25/4. Totally different animals, and the 25 definitely renders images in an old-school, faded film sort of way. Sometimes I prefer that. Tomorrow I'll be walking with a trio of Minolta lenses. It's all a journey, and each of ours looks just a bit different.

    Tony
     
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  14. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Trying to understand your statement.
    These are a few examples taken with my legacy Canon FDn lenses…they all look exactly like the real scenes did when I took them.

    CANON FDn 70-150/4.5 on Monopod







    HANDHELD CANON FDn 300/4.0

     
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  15. Bugleone

    Bugleone TalkEmount Veteran

    210
    Aug 21, 2011
    I've been watching this topic with interest but feel i have to comment now.......

    For all practical meanings lens quality is largely irrelevant to the vast army of keen photographers that come to this and similar sites..... The order of meaning in quality is roughly thus;......first the photographers mind and eye,..then good technique,...then, size of print or reproduction,..then subject matter(different subjects resolve differently)...then, purpose of image,....and, much further down the list,, quality of lens.

    we all like nice things and lenses are seductive in their jewel like qualities and the aura or their making,.....but they don't really matter much, if at all, to people using NEX and similar equipement.

    The fact is that the majority of amateur photographers don't really understand image 'sharpness' let along image 'quality' unless they are shown some first class prints and allowed to really exmine them closely. When they do, their 'eyes are opened'..usually to their great surprise. Only then does lens quality really start to fall into place in their photography.

    'Roundball'.......I also use Canon FD lenses and have done for nealy 40 years. Your pics are NOT sharp....no criticism intended, just an observation. Look at the butterfly shot,...it's a nice pic but it's not sharp and it's not because the FD lens was not up to the job.......I have no wish to offend you and hope you will take this observation in the spirit it is intended with.
     
  16. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Right...my response was to a comment about legacy lenses not showing the world realistically or something...not pixel-peeping.
    I posted some examples using legacy lenses that looked pretty realistic to me, and in the case of the butterfly, mentioned it was handheld.
    Your intentions were clear to me.

    BTW, this is the same legacy lens on a tripod:

     
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  17. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    I believe the "unrealistic" comment refers to many 50s & 60s era lenses that were either uncoated or had relatively poor coating (by todays standards). These lenses create a "glow" on the entire frame giving the shot a "dreamy" quality that definitely didn't look like a faithful/realistic representation of the scene as viewed with the ol' Mark 1 Mod 0 naked eyeball. :)
     
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  18. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Dave
    The first few are about as clear as you could want.

    Butterfly, not so much, but still a nice shot.
     
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  19. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Correct...25 feet away on a woods walk, handheld, then cropped up...a little soft...but not unrealistic in color rendition, bokeh, etc, simply because it was taken with a legacy lens...which was the point I was making with my post.
     
  20. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Thanks...I didn't get that from the individuals statement referencing legacy lenses and is why I was trying to get clarification.