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Thread: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

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    Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    I've seen this criticism(?) in many posts and in many forums regarding lens IQ.

    What does this mean? Can anyone explain it? If a lens isn't sharp, doesn't render well, has soft corners or ugly bokeh... THAT I can understand. When someone says "clinical"... does this mean it's TOO perfect? It doesn't have the tiny, unquanitfiable flaws that lesser (better) lenses have?

    What's a lens designer/manufacturers to do? Purposely muck up something in the lens so it isn't judged perfect? If I was a designer, this sort of comment would drive me bonkers.

    My take - Nobody knows, so they keep repeating the term because they've heard it elsewhere. Perhaps it's a subconscious thing, the images aren't quite as attention grabbing as we'd anticipated. Maybe better PP would help, perhaps some selective blurring or saturation? Too flat? Add some vibrance.

    Maybe longtime photographers are used to tiny flaws that (they assume) gives a lens "character". When presented with a sharp lens with great micro-contrast, it looks objectionable. Me, I'd much rather start with "perfect" and then have the latitude to later spice it up as the image warrants.

    When I hear that about a lens I am using, I want to say "Ok, I'll spray a tiny bit of WD40 on the front element. Will that help?"
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Sony FE 55/1.8 (new sample, no grease on it!) on Sony A7s, f/2.2, earlier today.

    Untitled by Vivek Iyer, on Flickr

    The performance is strikingly similar to that of Leica M Apo Summicron 75/2 (incidentally it was widely criticized by old Leica reviewers during the film era for having "harsh" boket).

    I like it.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    I think it's a term Canikon fanboys made up after they found E-mount lenses were better than theirs, and they have no other evidence to criticize them.

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by dandrewk View Post
    I've seen this criticism(?) in many posts and in many forums regarding lens IQ.

    What does this mean? Can anyone explain it? If a lens isn't sharp, doesn't render well, has soft corners or ugly bokeh... THAT I can understand. When someone says "clinical"... does this mean it's TOO perfect? It doesn't have the tiny, unquanitfiable flaws that lesser (better) lenses have?

    What's a lens designer/manufacturers to do? Purposely muck up something in the lens so it isn't judged perfect? If I was a designer, this sort of comment would drive me bonkers.

    My take - Nobody knows, so they keep repeating the term because they've heard it elsewhere. Perhaps it's a subconscious thing, the images aren't quite as attention grabbing as we'd anticipated. Maybe better PP would help, perhaps some selective blurring or saturation? Too flat? Add some vibrance.

    Maybe longtime photographers are used to tiny flaws that (they assume) gives a lens "character". When presented with a sharp lens with great micro-contrast, it looks objectionable. Me, I'd much rather start with "perfect" and then have the latitude to later spice it up as the image warrants.

    When I hear that about a lens I am using, I want to say "Ok, I'll spray a tiny bit of WD40 on the front element. Will that help?"
    Andrew:
    I guess the good thing about the A7 cameras is that the short registration distance allows you to compare all different old and new lenses on the same sensor. If someone really wants to show the difference between clinical and "full of character" he can simply take identical photos with both and post them as an example. That would be the best way for someone to explain clinicality. At least that's how it seems to me.
    Last edited by jfirneno; 17th October 2015 at 18:58. Reason: orthography
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    "Maybe longtime photographers are used to tiny flaws that (they assume) gives a lens "character". When presented with a sharp lens with great micro-contrast, it looks objectionable."

    That's it, you hit the nail on the head and no further explanation is really necessary. Not every painter thinks the brush that can paint the most exacting details is the best brush to use.

    Besides bad bokeh, which you mentioned – high resolution and high contrast at the expense of smoothness in OOF transitions – two other lens features might call down a Clinical Curse:

    -- Pore and nose-hair micro-contrast and resolution: Max resolution that reveals every pore may be appropriate to cosmetic ads, but it tends to attract attention to the 2D surface of the subject/object. Some older lenses, for example the Leica M and R lenses designed by Walter Mandler of Leitz Canada, were designed to trade off some resolution for more continuity between in-focus and OOF areas, creating a more rounded or more 3D effect. Mandler thought his 75mm Summilux did this best of all. Classic Zeiss lenses are (or were) also deeply respected for this.

    --Macro-contrast: In his lens reviews, Sean Reid has pointed out (and illustrated with histograms) that some lenses are so perfectly contrasty that it's harder to record the richest highlight and shadow detail with them. He occasionally mentions that a lens is 'not a good sunny-day lens' on this account. One of his examples, if I remember correctly, is the current 28mm Elmarit, which lots of folks love for its resolution and contrast; but others prefer the Summilux because it seems 'gentler' with regard to highlight and shadow detail.

    One might alternately think of preferring lower contrast as 'preferring flare,' just as one might think of preferring gentler bokeh as 'preferring spherical aberration.' These are, I believe, matters of taste; the effects have to blend in with the whole style of the photographer, the project, or the image.

    I have some nice modern aspherical lenses that I enjoy using. But you'll have to pry my Mandler lenses, my Sonnars, my Bokeh King, and my classic Distagons from dying hands.

    Kirk

    PS, for an example that some will love and others might even laugh at, consider the paper slipcover of HC-B's Modern Century. This was presumably taken before he married his Summicron. It might be either a Summarit, or the Zeiss equivalent that many photographers preferred in those years. Many images in The Americans illustrate the same point about lenses. Most people would say lenses are a lot better now. (For some things?)
    Last edited by thompsonkirk; 17th October 2015 at 16:20.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhern213 View Post
    I think it's a term Canikon fanboys made up after they found E-mount lenses were better than theirs, and they have no other evidence to criticize them.
    While I've seen plenty of Canikon users making up reasons to blast Sony, the "clinical" term is used by many, including confirmed Sonyi^&s (). It usually is applied to the FE55 and/or FE90.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by jfirneno View Post
    Andrew:
    I guess the good thing about the A7 cameras is that the short registration distance allows you to compare all different old and new lenses on the same sensor. If someone really wants to show the difference between clinical and "full of character" he can simply take identical photos with both and post them as a example. That would be the best way for someone to explain clinicality. At least that's how it seems to me.
    I'd love to see such comparisons. Haven't come across any.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by dandrewk View Post
    I've seen this criticism(?) in many posts and in many forums regarding lens IQ.

    What does this mean? Can anyone explain it? If a lens isn't sharp, doesn't render well, has soft corners or ugly bokeh... THAT I can understand. When someone says "clinical"... does this mean it's TOO perfect? It doesn't have the tiny, unquanitfiable flaws that lesser (better) lenses have?

    What's a lens designer/manufacturers to do? Purposely muck up something in the lens so it isn't judged perfect? If I was a designer, this sort of comment would drive me bonkers.

    My take - Nobody knows, so they keep repeating the term because they've heard it elsewhere. Perhaps it's a subconscious thing, the images aren't quite as attention grabbing as we'd anticipated. Maybe better PP would help, perhaps some selective blurring or saturation? Too flat? Add some vibrance.

    Maybe longtime photographers are used to tiny flaws that (they assume) gives a lens "character". When presented with a sharp lens with great micro-contrast, it looks objectionable. Me, I'd much rather start with "perfect" and then have the latitude to later spice it up as the image warrants.

    When I hear that about a lens I am using, I want to say "Ok, I'll spray a tiny bit of WD40 on the front element. Will that help?"
    I think many refer to clinical lens the same way people refer to sensors that produce flat tonal response with regard to increased DR. In short I think many use this term to describe a "neutral" initial result where there is extreme sharpness and detail even to the point where it's undesired in many applications like portraits of an elderly woman where every wrinkle is present. People tend to have to soften these aspects of the lens' character.

    I often have many lenses in my favorite focal lengths for multiple purposes such as multiple 35's or 50's. No lens is perfect for everything but many come close.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    I think the 55 is a fantastic lens.

    I also think it's clinical. For me it's the combination of bokeh and the focal length. While the bokeh is the main reason i feel that way about the lens I don't have the same thoughts when it's used on an apsc camera as a 85 equivalent. On a crop camera the distance of the subject creates better bokeh for me. I have to point out though I am a big fan of the planar bokeh and sometimes don't like what my 50 Summicron produces either for the same reasons.

    To me it's not a criticism of the lens but an explanation of its bokeh.

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    The term I often run across is not "Clinical" but "Too Clinical", particularly in Leica forums.
    Typically in the same sentence is expressed a preference for Mandler designed lenses.
    It seems to me to be a matter of taste. No problem, I like both kinds, but for different purposes.
    Why not!
    With best regards, K-H.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    A topic well worth discussing. I'll start with the observation by Zeiss that they aim for perfection and provide advice to cinematographers (their principal arena of development) to use 'flare kits' etc to obtain certain imperfections they may want to convey. - Especially on their amazing ARRI/ZEISS Master Anamorphics, which you see in action almost every time you see a Hollywood blockbuster.

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    If you have a lens that gives "character" for some uses and then another that is more "clinical" than the first, I can understand. I have and do own such doubles. However, IMHO, with the advent of sophisticated software one can easily soften a "clinical" lens image, but not, when needed, easily sharpen a "character" lens image.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhern213 View Post
    I think it's a term Canikon fanboys made up after they found E-mount lenses were better than theirs, and they have no other evidence to criticize them.
    I don't think so. I hear it mostly from Leica users. May be they use it to justify why they paid 2-3 times more for their lenses ?

    Back in film times, I could easily see the difference between the Contax G 45mm F2 and the Leica 50mm Summilux : the first is incredibly sharp with lots of microcontrast and global contrast, while the second has a wonderful soft bokey. The Zeiss lens was criticized at the time for its busy bokey. But the 55mm FE clinical ? It has both an incredible sharpness and microcontrast plus a soft bokey : the best of both world. Why people pretends it is clinical, I just can't understand.
    On the A7r it beats the Zeiss 45mm F2.0 for sharpness and it easily beats the Summilux which was a great deception for its very bad corners, even when closed down to 5.6 and more. But it has a much better bokey than the Zeiss 45mm F2. At the time, I got the Summilux rather than a Sumarit or Sumicron because I already had a sharp lens. With the 55mm FE, I don't need two lenses to get both sharpness and smooth bokey.

    I wonder how the 50mm Summilux would perform on the BSI sensor of the A7r2 ? (I have put both it and the 90mm F2.0 on sale in order to get the Batis 25mm)
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by dandrewk View Post
    I've seen this criticism(?) in many posts and in many forums regarding lens IQ.

    does this mean it's TOO perfect? It doesn't have the tiny, unquanitfiable flaws that lesser (better) lenses have?
    Yes, all it means that the lens is too good for person using it. Putting a bit of vaseline on the front element can bring character back to a clinical lens.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Think of the Contax 45/2

    Incredible landscape lens but you have to be very careful with faces and backgrounds.

    I'd have to study more portraits using the 55/1.8 to put the "clinical" badge on it, but that's nearly always the context.

    The 28 cron is magic on the M9, but goes seriously clinical on the 240, I think Ron would agree.

    When you start to be distracted by pores, you are getting into clinical territory. LOL

    Quote Originally Posted by rhern213 View Post
    I think it's a term Canikon fanboys made up after they found E-mount lenses were better than theirs, and they have no other evidence to criticize them.
    Oh, meow.

    I tell you, something like the 50/1 would be a pleasure in E mount. And when it comes to zooms, though the 1635 is good, overall they are far ahead, still.

    No fast constant aperture zooms after two years, for a camera which costs more than the Canikons? To put up with that without a peep: that's a fan Sony has learned you cram enough MP in the sensor, or get the ISO performance really up there, many people are willing to ignore just about anything LOL

    Uhoh, now I'm in trouble
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Annna T View Post
    I don't think so. I hear it mostly from Leica users. May be they use it to justify why they paid 2-3 times more for their lenses ?

    Back in film times, I could easily see the difference between the Contax G 45mm F2 and the Leica 50mm Summilux : the first is incredibly sharp with lots of microcontrast and global contrast, while the second has a wonderful soft bokey. The Zeiss lens was criticized at the time for its busy bokey. But the 55mm FE clinical ? It has both an incredible sharpness and microcontrast plus a soft bokey : the best of both world. Why people pretends it is clinical, I just can't understand.
    On the A7r it beats the Zeiss 45mm F2.0 for sharpness and it easily beats the Summilux which was a great deception for its very bad corners, even when closed down to 5.6 and more. But it has a much better bokey than the Zeiss 45mm F2. At the time, I got the Summilux rather than a Sumarit or Sumicron because I already had a sharp lens. With the 55mm FE, I don't need two lenses to get both sharpness and smooth bokey.

    I wonder how the 50mm Summilux would perform on the BSI sensor of the A7r2 ? (I have put both it and the 90mm F2.0 on sale in order to get the Batis 25mm)

    Thanks Annna, have a look here: http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1392833
    Both those lenses certainly were tested on the A7II.mod IIRC.
    With best regards, K-H.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    'Clinical' does mean something and can be ascribed to some lenses. It simply means 'well corrected'. I am no optics expert, but in such a lens there is unlikely to be much by way of uncorrected spherical aberrations, which are responsible for 'glowy' lenses and I also understand can be associated with very pleasing out of focus areas. It may also mean vignetting is well corrected, limited CA and that resolution is very high across the field, with uniformly high contrast.

    If you think though the above, it explains why a Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 produces a look that is very different to a pre-asph leica 50mm Summilux.... or a Canon 50mm f1.2L.

    In subjective terms, I tend to associate very well corrected lenses with 'clinical', because they produce results that are very clean looking... resolution is darned good everywhere, as is macro and microcontrast, there is unlikely to be much tendency towards flare, colour is rich... all from fairly wide open. The result is a look that suits some subjects but may not be desirable for others. I think most people would agree that most people (most of the time) probably want a 'clinical' lens for urban architectural work (tho by no means all the time), whereas for female portraits, a less agressive look is often desirable, with a fall off in resolution at the periphery, a tiny bit of glow wide open etc. Clinical lenses can look rather like a scientific scan of the subject and provide too much information in too perfect a manner.

    Personally, I feel some lenses are becoming too perfect and shots from the super high resolution 90mm Sony G for the FE mount is a good example. Detail and microcontrast are on steroids. There is no grace to the image. Yes, you can inject 'imperfection' during PP, but the more perfect a lens is the harder it can be to produce finished images that lack the inherent aggressiveness in the lens.

    So in summary, I don't think it is in people's heads at all and an optics wizard would be able to explain all of this much better than I can. Some people split hairs and fixate over nuances, for sure, but go shoot a 35mm Summaron on a Leica Monochrom and then a 35mm Biogon-C and try to argue that the word clinical does not fit one lens a lot better than the other.... or try a Canon 50mm f1.4 FD on a Sony A7 at f1.8 and compare it to the Sony 55mm f1.8.

    FWIW, I think the 55mm FE is 'somewhat' clinical for people shots, but not entirely so. Wide open, it may have remarkable resolution and contrast, but the bokeh is pretty good (so lets call that 66.667% clinical!). By f2.8 my copy far exceeds the performance of many lenses at f8. I like it for landscape work, but would not really appreciate it for street photography or people. For human beings, the Canon 50mm f1.2 is, IMHO a far superior lens for my purposes, even with both at f1.8. And yes, Sony/Zeiss are making some astonishing lenses, but Canon has produced some absolute crackers in the last 3-4 years. The most impressive Sony FE lens of late (for me) is the 85mm Batis, because it manages to strike a good balance between technical performance and a look that suits people at wide apertures. That's no easy feat, but Zeiss clearly recognised that their objectives were different with this lens than, say the 90mm Sony G.
    Last edited by turtle; 18th October 2015 at 01:06.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by turtle View Post
    'Clinical' does mean something and can be ascribed to some lenses. It simply means 'well corrected'. I am no optics expert, but in such a lens there is unlikely to be much by way of uncorrected spherical aberrations, which are responsible for 'glowy' lenses and I also understand can be associated with very pleasing out of focus areas. It may also mean vignetting is well corrected, limited CA and that resolution is very high across the field, with uniformly high contrast.

    If you think though the above, it explains why a Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 produces a look that is very different to a pre-asph leica 50mm Summilux.... or a Canon 50mm f1.2L.

    In subjective terms, I tend to associate very well corrected lenses with 'clinical', because they produce results that are very clean looking... resolution is darned good everywhere, as is macro and microcontrast, there is unlikely to be much tendency towards flare, colour is rich... all from fairly wide open. The result is a look that suits some subjects but may not be desirable for others. I think most people would agree that most people (most of the time) probably want a 'clinical' lens for urban architectural work (tho by no means all the time), whereas for female portraits, a less agressive look is often desirable, with a fall off in resolution at the periphery, a tiny bit of glow wide open etc. Clinical lenses can look rather like a scientific scan of the subject and provide too much information in too perfect a manner.

    Personally, I feel some lenses are becoming too perfect and shots from the super high resolution 90mm Sony G for the FE mount is a good example. Detail and microcontrast are on steroids. There is no grace to the image. Yes, you can inject 'imperfection' during PP, but the more perfect a lens is the harder it can be to produce finished images that lack the inherent aggressiveness in the lens.

    So in summary, I don't think it is in people's heads at all and an optics wizard would be able to explain all of this much better than I can. Some people split hairs and fixate over nuances, for sure, but go shoot a 35mm Summaron on a Leica Monochrom and then a 35mm Biogon-C and try to argue that the word clinical does not fit one lens a lot better than the other.... or try a Canon 50mm f1.4 FD on a Sony A7 at f1.8 and compare it to the Sony 55mm f1.8.

    FWIW, I think the 55mm FE is 'somewhat' clinical for people shots, but not entirely so. Wide open, it may have remarkable resolution and contrast, but the bokeh is pretty good (so lets call that 66.667% clinical!). By f2.8 my copy far exceeds the performance of many lenses at f8. I like it for landscape work, but would not really appreciate it for street photography or people. For human beings, the Canon 50mm f1.2 is, IMHO a far superior lens for my purposes, even with both at f1.8. And yes, Sony/Zeiss are making some astonishing lenses, but Canon has produced some absolute crackers in the last 3-4 years. The most impressive Sony FE lens of late (for me) is the 85mm Batis, because it manages to strike a good balance between technical performance and a look that suits people at wide apertures. That's no easy feat, but Zeiss clearly recognised that their objectives were different with this lens than, say the 90mm Sony G.
    I have no problem with your explanations, it is easy to agree about that : different horses for course. What I don't like is that the term "clinical" most of the time is used with quite a pejorative accent, next to "boring lens". And those who use this term are often looking down at other photographers and speak as if they were part of an exclusive photographers elite and those liking near perfect lens are just too stupid to get it.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Annna T View Post
    I have no problem with your explanations, it is easy to agree about that : different horses for course. What I don't like is that the term "clinical" most of the time is used with quite a pejorative accent, next to "boring lens". And those who use this term are often looking down at other photographers and speak as if they were part of an exclusive photographers elite and those liking near perfect lens are just too stupid to get it.
    Don't read too much into any of these. Most of the crap from old leica M lenses aren't even optical but the shiny RF coupling brass metal in them.

    The "c" worded lens that I covet which has the most pleasing boket is the Sony 135/2.8 STF lens.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by Annna T View Post
    I have no problem with your explanations, it is easy to agree about that : different horses for course. What I don't like is that the term "clinical" most of the time is used with quite a pejorative accent, next to "boring lens". And those who use this term are often looking down at other photographers and speak as if they were part of an exclusive photographers elite and those liking near perfect lens are just too stupid to get it.
    I never liked the output from my Biogon 35/2. Boring ? Don't know, perhaps just too much in the face effect.
    For a while I wondered why, till I learned it was just too clinical ...
    Some say the APO 75/2 is too clinical, but I never agreed. In fact I find it a little gem (ask Mr. Slack).
    Not being quite an elitist , I never thought of others as too stupid who have another opinion.

    All the best.

    PS I'm going out now with my absolutely not too clinical Zuiko 55/1.2 ...
    Bart ...

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    I would not read into folks comments on clinical either it's not a bad thing. It's just a way a lens draws. I like having a few lenses that are actually. To me it's about smoothness of tonal areas or less glowing, veiling kind of look which is caused really by a imperfect lens and aberrations. A clinical lens maybe a good description is a lens that's techinically correct that does not have that veiling or glowing look and sometimes the transition areas are more detailed than a none clinical lens. In Leica almost ever sumilux in R mount was a Mandler design and at 1.4 it has that glow and is not considered clinical at all but more with defects in the lens. I just bought the 55 1.8 comes Monday but I had this lens already. Now it's a brilliant lens and would be considered clinical because it's so well corrected but I use the description a little clinical because it does have a very nice look to it and the transition areas are smoother than let's say some other highly corrected lenses but for me on either side of the 55 I have the 35 1.4 and Batis 85 so having the 55 is actually a good thing being a little clinical over the other two. So if I need the highest detail I'll grap that 55.

    I agree though Annna some folks use the word clinical in not the best way. Just tossing that word around and viewing it as a bad thing. Quite the opposite it's a good thing and IMHO we should all have at least one in our bag that is.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Btw great topic.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by turtle View Post
    'Clinical' does mean something and can be ascribed to some lenses. It simply means 'well corrected'. I am no optics expert, but in such a lens there is unlikely to be much by way of uncorrected spherical aberrations, which are responsible for 'glowy' lenses and I also understand can be associated with very pleasing out of focus areas. It may also mean vignetting is well corrected, limited CA and that resolution is very high across the field, with uniformly high contrast.

    If you think though the above, it explains why a Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 produces a look that is very different to a pre-asph leica 50mm Summilux.... or a Canon 50mm f1.2L.

    In subjective terms, I tend to associate very well corrected lenses with 'clinical', because they produce results that are very clean looking... resolution is darned good everywhere, as is macro and microcontrast, there is unlikely to be much tendency towards flare, colour is rich... all from fairly wide open. The result is a look that suits some subjects but may not be desirable for others. I think most people would agree that most people (most of the time) probably want a 'clinical' lens for urban architectural work (tho by no means all the time), whereas for female portraits, a less agressive look is often desirable, with a fall off in resolution at the periphery, a tiny bit of glow wide open etc. Clinical lenses can look rather like a scientific scan of the subject and provide too much information in too perfect a manner.

    Personally, I feel some lenses are becoming too perfect and shots from the super high resolution 90mm Sony G for the FE mount is a good example. Detail and microncontrast are on steroids. There is no grace to the image. Yes, you can inject these things during PP, but the more perfect a lens is the harder it can be to produce finished images that lack the inherent aggressiveness in the lens.

    So in summary, I don't think it is in people's heads at all and an optics wizard would be able to explain all of this much better than I can. Some people split hairs and fixate over nuances, for sure, but go shoot a 35mm Summaron on a Leica Monochrom and then a 35mm Biogon-C and try to argue that the word clinical does not fit one lens a lot better than the other.... or try a Canon 50mm f1.4 FD on a Sony A7 at f1.8 and compare it to the Sony 55mm f1.8.
    Well said IMO.

    By no means am I an optical expert either ... but after decades of work and a zillion lenses later, you do come to favor certain looks over others for different subjects. After all, this is science in the service of art, not the opposite, (although there is photography in the service of science, but I do not think that is what we are talking about in this case).

    As an interesting parallel, I experienced something similar when scanning film. While working with darkroom enlargers and highly corrected Rodenstock/Schneider/Nikon/Leica/etc enlarging optics ... people often modified the enlarger heads to add a level of light diffusion that retained the acuity but softened the light distribution and mitigated the harshness, or whatever you may call it (contrast?). When I switched over to scanning films, I was hard pressed to get the look and feel of darkroom enlargements that I favored.

    When Minolta brought out their MF scanner, you could get a diffusion kit for it that helped tame the harshness a great deal. However, when I moved to working with an Imacon scanner for their Flextight technology and faster scanning, I tested a 848 and a 949 ... the 949 most importantly featured a diffusion light source that made it far more desirable over the other models. This was the closest to a darkroom enlarger look I was able achieve with digital reproduction.

    "Clinical", "Character", "Roll-Off", "Bokeh", "Micro-Contrast", "Edge-Sharpness", and so on, are imperfect attempts to put certain aesthetic qualities into words. In this case,"Clinical" literally means: "Analytical, or coolly dispassionate", which is probably why folks get defensive when it is applied to a lens they favor ... "dispassionate" could well be felt as something of an antithesis to artistic endeavors.

    Hopefully, there is still room for personal discriminators such as "Like" even "Love" when making photographic art ... whether referencing "Clinical" or "Character" ... (or a balance between each as seen in the eye of the beholder).

    So, while I have the 55/1.8 for my Sonys, I much prefer the Leica 50/1.4 ASPH for it's more balanced look and feel. Frankly, the AF of FE lens is why I have it at all. So far, the FE lenses I've tried leave me a wee bit cold ... where that aesthetic opinion may well be seen as a compliment by others.


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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    I have both fairly 'clinical' lenses and some older more characterful ones. Personally, I favour the middle ground (plus or minus a bit each way), tending to avoid anything with an overwhelmingly strong fingerprint. However, its clear that super modern and super old lenses can be used very creatively and it would be a mistake to think 'a lens is a lens', because those differences can have a profound impact on the image and how the viewer responds to it.

    As several people have stated earlier, 'clinical' can be wielded as a criticism, which is fair enough if you do not desire those qualities in your imagery; however, it's inappropriate to hurl it about as an absolute and apply it to others' needs. After all, Gursky or Burtynsky seem to get along OK with high resolution cameras and modern optical marvels.

    Horses for courses...

    Another area of opinion is the matching of lenses with sensor size. Personally, I think less stressed lenses and more sensor real estate tends to look better, even if the objective is high resolution. This is an area that is going to get really interesting, because the 5DS is probably going to seem pedestrian in terms of upper end resolution by 2025 standards!
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    Thumbs up Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Great Topic for discussion!!

    I don't relate to the word 'clinical' at all when it comes to describe how a lens works...

    that is not to say that I don't think there have been many posts made in this thread that have made for interesting and informative thinking - thanks folks!

    My favourite lenses for people or street are not the lenses I use for landscape or architecture. The subject matter and my style I guess - dictate what type of lens I love to use or have to use - according to situation/subject matter and purpose.
    I really believe that the a photographer develops, the more strong biases to certain focal lengths and certain looks dictate choice.

    g doesn't lie- my own stats tell me how few focal lengths I use these days and how often I shoot with any ...my most used lenses 20 years ago - was the 70-200 Canon - replaced later with a 70-200 2.8 Leica - much better look.
    Today ? I don't even own a 70-200 zoom.

    In 35mm format - I shoot every lens I own - predominantly wide open - so I care only for how a lens renders wide open.

    The total look I chase is a soft seperation from subject to non subject space...when it comes to people shots ..in landscape or architecture - I want wide and as low distortion as possible along with maximum corner to corner sharpness - man give me sharp and give me more sharp - I want sharp...sharp..at f11 - dude- yeah I want sharp at f11..all the way back to wide open..that has to be sharp too...I want sharp in my tech lenses..give me the impossible and give it to my now!

    I don't get 'to clinical' as a criticism..or a compliment really.

    anyway that's my 2cents!
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?



    Wow, I've always wanted to try out that message!

    If anyone has two equivalent lenses (same focal length) that can be used to illustrate this clinical characteristic that would be educational for me and the hopefully for the OP. I've seen photos that demonstrate the smoother transition but I don't think I've ever seen the comparison with a clinical lens that consisted of the same exact scene shot on the same exact camera. And it doesn't have to be a Sony lens. Just any two that illustrate the difference under controlled conditions.
    Regards,
    John
    Sony fanboy, shamelessly shilling for "the man" since 2010.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    A nice test would be the Sony 55 and the Loxia 50. Had them both and they do render slightly different. I would have to look on my hard drives to see if I had the same shot but they would be different times so that would be a variable. I just rebought the 55 simply because of the AF until I can get a decent 24-70 and if they do come out with a second version of it than I'll get the Loxia. I do like the character better. But again I need a decent 24-70 and I have been burned on the current one twice.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Somehow the term "Clinical" or "Too Clinical" doesn't seem to get applied to the Leica AA 50/2 by its users. Why? There the preference is for terms like "life like" or the image is "as if you look at it". I consider that a better, neutral way of characterization. I would rather use that description for the AA 75/2 or the FE 55/1.8 or the FE 90/2.8 G as well.

    Separate from the technical aspects of a lens it seems to me is a characterization of the esthetic aspects one tries to achieve in an image, especially for portrait shots of humans. I don't find different reactions from male or female, young or old folks. All of us would like to be portrait in a positive light without showing our imperfections. So a lens capable of "life like" images doesn't seem to be an optimal choice for that, especially when used on a high resolution camera like the A7r2 that records gory details. Here, lenses designed specifically for portrait shots seem more appropriate - unless one likes excessive retouching in post.

    I like to use the above mentioned lenses for nature or landscape photography in particular on my A7r/2 cameras. I have also noticed that my lens preferences seem to have changed accordingly. I would add the Leica WATE to that list or the Batis 25/2 if I could get one.
    With best regards, K-H.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Many lens defects lead directly to different or interesting visual effects in the final image.

    Not all of those defects are easy to copy in PP. Some are impossible, others time consuming. And, in any case, there is an argument to be made for getting as much of the final image in camera as possible.

    For example, I often read that it is always better to have more sharpness because you can take it away in post but cannot add it.

    But suppose I pre-visualize an image with less than complete, brilliant, far corner to far corner stunning sharpness. I may be lucky enough to have a great lens in my bag that gives me almost exactly the sharpness fall off or pattern of sharpness I want straight off.

    That may apply to other qualities, such as micro-contrast or color as well.

    Now, should I use this miracle lens that gets me 90% of the way to the final image I desire? Or should I use a technically, quantifiably superior lens that will require a ton of PP work and may never look the same anyway?

    Then, when my friends proudly offers to let me shoot with their perfect 55mm and I am sitting there with my old, defect filled Noctilux, Summicron or Nikkor and I say no thanks and they ask why, what to say?

    'Too clinical' is a quick and easy way to describe differences that I probably lack the common vocabulary to describe.

    Although I generally just say I prefer one lens to another and leave it at that.

    For instance, I prefer the 50 Loxia to the 55 Sony.

    I prefer the 90 Macro to the 85 Batis even though the latter is smaller and faster.

    I never really liked my 75/2 Summicron but I did like my 85/1.5 D Nikkor.

    I would sometimes get images from my M9 that were beautiful in a way I cannot duplicate with my more technically perfect cameras.

    I sometimes print on paper that gives a beautiful rendering which is technically less perfect instead of trying to get that effect in PP.

    Every tool in the chain is at my disposal to get the image I want. Often, a more perfect lens starts me off a long way from home.

    You can't have my Noctilux. You can't. So stop asking. Use your Otus.

    -Bill
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaree View Post
    Yes, all it means that the lens is too good for person using it. Putting a bit of vaseline on the front element can bring character back to a clinical lens.
    IMHO, I would put vaseline on a 010 filter, but not directly on an element
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    3 different magnifications (distances), uncropped frames. FE 55/1.8 on the clunker A7R, the Hague. No vaseline was used or needed.

    Untitled by Vivek Iyer, on Flickr

    Untitled by Vivek Iyer, on Flickr

    Untitled by Vivek Iyer, on Flickr
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by dandrewk View Post
    When I hear that about a lens I am using, I want to say "Ok, I'll spray a tiny bit of WD40 on the front element. Will that help?"
    +1

    Quote Originally Posted by turtle View Post
    Personally, I feel some lenses are becoming too perfect and shots from the super high resolution 90mm Sony G for the FE mount is a good example. Detail and microcontrast are on steroids. There is no grace to the image. Yes, you can inject 'imperfection' during PP, but the more perfect a lens is the harder it can be to produce finished images that lack the inherent aggressiveness in the lens.
    "Too perfect"? That's crazy talk. An oxymoron even. The FE 90mm macro was designed to capture every freakin' detail at super high resolution. I wish all my lenses were that perfect. "No grace"? I don't even know what that means. From this discussion, my takeaway is that it means a lens that is soft and has less microcontrast than some of the modern lenses that were designed for high MP sensors. I'm old enough to remember photographers using diffusion filters to get a soft effect or even smearing Vaseline on a filter to soften the image, especially portraits. Modern lenses, whether they're designed by Zeiss, Sony, Leica or SK, are designed to match modern high resolution sensors, extracting every pixel of detail and microcontrast possible with modern optics. The glass is different, the coatings are different, and the designs are different from those we used in the film days. Personally, I love it. If I want soft classic rendering, I can always buy a classic lens on eBay (and adapt it easily to my a7RII). But my preference is the "too perfect", "detail and microcontrast on steroids", "graceless" lenses that Sony-Zeiss and Zeiss are now producing. They capture more accurately what I see in front of me. I can add softness and blur in post-processing. Or use Vaseline.

    Joe
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    Something ...

    Personally the imperfect element exists between the viewfinder and the subject. I.e. Me.

    - - -
    Remember: adventure before dementia!

    As Oscar Wilde said, "my tastes are simple, I only like the best"
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    Re: Something ...

    Quote Originally Posted by GrahamWelland View Post
    Personally the imperfect element exists between the viewfinder and the subject. I.e. Me.

    - - -

    Shouldn't the viewfinder be between you and the subject?
    With best regards, K-H.

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    I do not have the 55 FE, nor I plan to buy it, but I feel some discomfort with some images I see. I would not use the term too clinical, I feel that these images are as artificial as most HDR images are.

    Let me take a different angle. When the first CD player came out, I rushed to buy a few discs to replace the classical music releases I had. Well, I was less than overwhelmed. And I was not alone: lifeless, too analytical, etc. were the keywords. Sounds familiar? Bullshit, engineers said, this is a faithful reproduction and sampling is more than adequate, given that that nobody can hear frequencies higher than 20 kH. It turned out that engineers were wrong (as they often are; I know, I am a member of IEEE). Though very few can hear a pure tone at that frequency, sampling clips harmonics that we perceive even if they are way above 20KH. A few decades later, digital converters use oversampling to smooth the signal. Nice, but I found out many years ago that the way to go was to use Conrad Johnson tube amplifiers rather than solid state. Tubes smooth the signal.

    So, in short, the perceptual aspects of listening to the music were ignored and the outcome was bad.
    My question is: is the same thing happening to digital photography? Are we ignoring important perceptual aspects? B&W on film is way different from digital. Overdetailed color images are not as satisfactory as 4x5 transparencies. Or, at least this is my feeling. Personally I resorted to the analog of a tube amplifier, and I use old lenses (sometimes really old) and I often add grain.

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    I was struck by Marc's remarks about enlargers and scanners as part of the optical system. Seems to me it's a matter of style, and we really try to develop an integrated system that expresses what we want the viewing outcome to be. The lens is one element, but the whole system including the film or sensor is full of elements that can augment or clash.

    Also we 'grew up' with different standards that are still lodged in the back of our minds. If I were 30, a Sony and a 55mm Zeiss might seem 100% 'natural' to me. But also, lodged in memory, is the integrated combination of Summicron, TX, D76 1:1 (or Rodinal), Focomat, Focotar, and Portriga or Brovira. Or in color, Vericolor S or L (certainly not Kodachrome, not my style).

    So two factors in play are the style we have in mind for any given project, and our subconscious notion of what looks most 'photographic.' In this context, the notion of what's clinical or not, and whether it's good or not, is bound to be variable.

    Part of the fun is viewing and enjoying differences in styles. And picking up the residue when other folks' preferences change. I'm so glad I acquired Sharpness Czar Joe Colson's WATE when it wasn't sharp enough (clinical enough?) for him.

    Kirk

    Attachment 113314

    (Just joking – that's what a bit of NIK Structure can do to a file!)
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quick and dirty comparison on a rainy day (for a change in Spain).

    One lens bought 1982, Canon FDn 1.4/50 (with Novoflex adaptor)
    One lens bought 2015, Sony FE 1.8/55

    Shot on A7R.


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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    I'm not sure this is quite accurate, because the Leica S 100mm Summicron was supposedly designed to be a little gentler on skin than it might otherwise have been. Other lenses have been designed to 'back off a little' (Zeiss claimed the 85mm f1.4 ZE/ZF planar was designed to retain some spherical aberration at wider apertures so it was kinder on portraits), but there was a problem: this meant that when tested by reviewers, it showed more 'deficiencies' than more perfect lenses and it was rejected by many photographers who therefore thought it inferior. Manufacturers will make what sells and resolution and numbers sell, however, while there are many photographers exploiting super high resolution and micro contrast with great effect, there are just as many photographers scratching their heads wondering why they can't get their D810 and Otus to produce images that look like Garry Winogrand's

    I guess the point I am try to convey is that its great to have options. Most colour landscape shooters want as much perfection as possible, but fewer B&W street and documentary shooters do, because the way the image is rendered has a fundamental impact on how it engages the viewer and how the viewer accesses the 'data'. In my view, it is not about 'looking back' or nostalgia - this is the simplistic response one often hears about why some people make their digital images look like film - but about accessing that data (and its volume). Ultra-clear imagery could be described as 'direct', whereas there is a lot of (particularly B&W) imagery that relies upon a greater degree of indirectness. Ultimately, we choose tools that achieve the desired 'data-viewer' relationship (and if we make this connection with the literal difficult, you can take the viewer somewhere other than the obvious). As cameras and optics spiral further into a numbers arms race, it is harder for photographers to find equipment that inherently offers 'less directness'.

    On the subject of lenses showing more of what people see in front of them, I think we are at a point in technology where we are able to extract far more than can be seen or perceived with the naked eye. HDR is a classic example of this taken to an extreme (hence the polarised opinion). A great deal of colour landscape photography is also far more saturated and rich than the real scene ever was, so using 'reality' as an explanation for why super sharp super high contrast lenses is desirable may not resonate with everyone. A question: which is more 'accurate' to how we see (or even perceive) things: a shot on 100 speed 35mm colour print film using a point and shoot, or a perfectly processed, saturated and carefully manipulated 36MP colour digital shot, as turned out by most advanced amateurs today? This may seem absurd, but I'd be really interested to hear what other people think. For me its the Boots developed colour shot with the P&S. This is not to say one is 'better' only that more data does not necessarily mean 'more real' to the viewer. How many colour landscape photographers today produce work that is not more saturated and contrasty than reality?

    As for working files in PP to reduce imperfection, I think its very much harder than it sounds. I suspect this is why some people still prefer film (or are returning to it), because to achieve that sort of look, its easier to start out with it in the DNA of your materials.

    Regarding B&W and colour, I think they are mostly quite different and this is reflected in the materials/technology people desire. If you were to survey colour and B&W shooters, I suspect the latter would be (on average) less inclined towards massive resolution and perfect lenses. That's possibly because B&W is inherently 'indirect' and that is often exploited in many different ways by B&W photographers to create the relationship they want between viewer and image. The same improvements in optics that cause many super-colourful photographers to swing from the rafters are making some B&W digital shooters struggle.... and return to old glass and lower resolution cameras that allow them to create the indirectness they seek.


    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Colson View Post
    +1

    "Too perfect"? That's crazy talk. An oxymoron even. ... Modern lenses, whether they're designed by Zeiss, Sony, Leica or SK, are designed to match modern high resolution sensors, extracting every pixel of detail and microcontrast possible with modern optics..... They capture more accurately what I see in front of me. I can add softness and blur in post-processing. Or use Vaseline.

    Joe
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by turtle View Post
    I'm not sure this is quite accurate, because the Leica S 100mm Summicron was supposedly designed to be a little gentler on skin than it might otherwise have been. Other lenses have been designed to 'back off a little' (Zeiss claimed the 85mm f1.4 ZE/ZF planar was designed to retain some spherical aberration at wider apertures so it was kinder on portraits), but there was a problem: this meant that when tested by reviewers, it showed more 'deficiencies' than more perfect lenses and it was rejected by many photographers who therefore thought it inferior. Manufacturers will make what sells and resolution and numbers sell, however, while there are many photographers exploiting super high resolution and micro contrast with great effect, there are just as many photographers scratching their heads wondering why they can't get their D810 and Otus to produce images that look like Garry Winogrand's

    I guess the point I am try to convey is that its great to have options. Most colour landscape shooters want as much perfection as possible, but fewer B&W street and documentary shooters do, because the way the image is rendered has a fundamental impact on how it engages the viewer and how the viewer accesses the 'data'. In my view, it is not about 'looking back' or nostalgia - this is the simplistic response one often hears about why some people make their digital images look like film - but about accessing that data (and its volume). Ultra-clear imagery could be described as 'direct', whereas there is a lot of (particularly B&W) imagery that relies upon a greater degree of indirectness. Ultimately, we choose tools that achieve the desired 'data-viewer' relationship (and if we make this connection with the literal difficult, you can take the viewer somewhere other than the obvious). As cameras and optics spiral further into a numbers arms race, it is harder for photographers to find equipment that inherently offers 'less directness'.

    On the subject of lenses showing more of what people see in front of them, I think we are at a point in technology where we are able to extract far more than can be seen or perceived with the naked eye. HDR is a classic example of this taken to an extreme (hence the polarised opinion). A great deal of colour landscape photography is also far more saturated and rich than the real scene ever was, so using 'reality' as an explanation for why super sharp super high contrast lenses is desirable may not resonate with everyone. A question: which is more 'accurate' to how we see (or even perceive) things: a shot on 100 speed 35mm colour print film using a point and shoot, or a perfectly processed, saturated and carefully manipulated 36MP colour digital shot, as turned out by most advanced amateurs today? This may seem absurd, but I'd be really interested to hear what other people think. For me its the Boots developed colour shot with the P&S. This is not to say one is 'better' only that more data does not necessarily mean 'more real' to the viewer. How many colour landscape photographers today produce work that is not more saturated and contrasty than reality?

    As for working files in PP to reduce imperfection, I think its very much harder than it sounds. I suspect this is why some people still prefer film (or are returning to it), because to achieve that sort of look, its easier to start out with it in the DNA of your materials.

    Regarding B&W and colour, I think they are mostly quite different and this is reflected in the materials/technology people desire. If you were to survey colour and B&W shooters, I suspect the latter would be (on average) less inclined towards massive resolution and perfect lenses. That's possibly because B&W is inherently 'indirect' and that is often exploited in many different ways by B&W photographers to create the relationship they want between viewer and image. The same improvements in optics that cause many super-colourful photographers to swing from the rafters are making some B&W digital shooters struggle.... and return to old glass and lower resolution cameras that allow them to create the indirectness they seek.
    I don't think any accomplished photographer would process a picture as close as what they were seeing in reality: neither landscape or street/documentary. Even film has its own contrast curve, color profile, etc. And so is this whole B&W thing. Photography is not about reality. We are all dramatizing/romanticizing reality to convey our emotion/mood/view of the scene to the audiences. Garry Winogrand had his own style of shooting and "processing" his pictures. I think many photographers do not place much priority in post-processing his/her shots, citing that such endeavor is a waste of the photographic time. I think they just don't want to learn the craft or do not actually know how to do it properly.

    With that, I don't see any lens as "boring" or "clinical" or "transparent" (like some Leica togs describe the 50 AA). It's just whether the way the lens rendering the scene complements your vision or not (shooting and "processing" style). I bet if Ansel Adams or HCB is still alive today, they would know how to post-process in Photoshop (and many other plug-in out there) very well and they might very well choose those very "clinical" lenses as their tools if they think it works for their style.

    At the same time, I feel that some would use those "character" lenses as a crutch to create something cool for the mass. It's not unlike the dreaded bokeh shots (very fast lens), garish HDR shots (too much texturized and saturation), or meaningless light-painting. I know it's much more time-consuming to get rid of the purple fringing in my shots or have to remember to compensate for that focus shift in my imperfect lens. Seeing less pores/textures is not always a plus.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Just a note: Old fondler lenses don't do well on modern Leica digitals. Even Leica have moved away from those and have been designing better lenses. The latest even have black painted (no shiny brass metal shows) RF coupling! Revolutionary.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    "Old fondler lenses don't do well on modern Leica digitals. Even Leica have moved away from those and have been designing better lenses."

    Rarely do I want to reply 'that's just wrong,' but I guess I'll try it.

    IMO if you made the point correctly it would be that Leica is now making lenses that optimize for higher resolution and contrast, period. But this doesn't for a moment imply that older fondler/Mandler lenses "don't do well on modern Leica digitals."

    It only means that modern sensors and older fondler/Mandler lenses, when combined, offer the advantages/disadvantages of lower resolution, lower contrast, and other things you don't happen to value.

    Kirk

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    Homage to August Sander; MM with Mandler lens – not quite as old as these two guys
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by algrove View Post
    If you have a lens that gives "character" for some uses and then another that is more "clinical" than the first, I can understand. I have and do own such doubles. However, IMHO, with the advent of sophisticated software one can easily soften a "clinical" lens image, but not, when needed, easily sharpen a "character" lens image.
    This is more or less what I was getting at with the original post. If a lens is clinically perfect... what's wrong with that?

    It all comes down to the extent of post processing one wishes to do. Personally, I PP EVERY shot, no matter what. Obviously some shots require more effort than others, and I have several tools at my disposal. Clicking the shutter is the most critical part, but (for me) that's just step one.

    So, I can "correct" a flat/clinical image to flesh it out, give it more character, "pop" and color. Like algrove said, that becomes difficult and unwieldy if the underlying images has character flaws. This is not a knock on these lenses, and each has an important place in a photographer's arsenal.

    Another consideration is how the image is to be viewed. I have a 27" 5k monitor, so I view images much closer to 1:1 resolution without zooming. Shots of a broad landscape taken with FE55 or FE90, when processed to bring out full tonality, vibrance and micro-contrast, look positively three dimensional on my screen.

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by danlindberg View Post
    Quick and dirty comparison on a rainy day (for a change in Spain).

    One lens bought 1982, Canon FDn 1.4/50 (with Novoflex adaptor)
    One lens bought 2015, Sony FE 1.8/55

    Shot on A7R.


    You should have done a blind test on this one . Would be fun to see the analysis.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by thompsonkirk View Post
    "Old fondler lenses don't do well on modern Leica digitals. Even Leica have moved away from those and have been designing better lenses."

    Rarely do I want to reply 'that's just wrong,' but I guess I'll try it.

    IMO if you made the point correctly it would be that Leica is now making lenses that optimize for higher resolution and contrast, period. But this doesn't for a moment imply that older fondler/Mandler lenses "don't do well on modern Leica digitals."

    It only means that modern sensors and older fondler/Mandler lenses, when combined, offer the advantages/disadvantages of lower resolution, lower contrast, and other things you don't happen to value.

    Kirk

    Attachment 113325

    Homage to August Sander; MM with Mandler lens – not quite as old as these two guys
    I welcome pics instead of mere words.

    Don't get carried away with presumptions, Kirk.

    I like all lenses. Just don't like empty lyrics waxed on old stuff. Good to know they work for you.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    No presumptions – just difference of opinion about words like "don't do well" and "better"!

    Kirk

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Hi,

    Much of the myths are related to lens designs in the fifties. It was possible to design lenses with high resolution, but it needed many lens surfaces leading high internal flare levels. So designs focused on having few air to glass surfaces, designs with few elements and the elements often cemented into groups.

    So, there were complex designs having high level of flare and simple designs with low levels of flare, that is high contrast. Modern antireflex coating was invented at Zeiss and it allowed for more complex designs with higher overall contrast.

    Modern lenses use many air to glass surfaces. Each surface can be used to address a given aberration. There are now a couple of sorts of glass enabling moulded aspherics, which are easy to produce.

    A major issue confronting optical engineers is spherical aberration it can be overcorrected or undercorrected. Overcorrection is causing double contours in the background, yielding bad background bokeh while undercorrection gives bad foreground bokeh.

    Aspherical lenses are a magic wand fixing many issues, but it has been said that they are not so good at producing a great bokeh.

    It is often said that Zeiss puts emphasis on contrast and Leica is more focused on resolution, but the opposite is also common folklore.

    Erwin Puts, the author of the Leica Compendium, says that Zeiss has a focus on designs that can be built with reasonable tolerances while Leica focuses on achieving maximum sharpness in compact designs.

    So, what is resolution and what is sharpnes?. Resolution is the ability to separate two objects at a minimum of contrast. We can observe detail but it is not very clear. If we look at larger detail we may see it better separated from the surrounding, that may be what we would call high contrast.

    Let's think about a classic 50/1.4 lens. Those lenses are reasonably well corrected but not very sharp. Most decent 50/1.4 lenses probably resolve around 200 lp/mm on the optical axis when stopped down. When the lens is fully open it will still have a high definition from the central section of the lens bit it will be surrounded by blur from the outer region of the lens that may even have a different plane of focus.

    So, a classical 50/1.4 lens is typically a lens having high resolution at low contrast when fully open. Stopping down removes the parts of the lens causing most of the aberrations so the stopped down lens typically high contrast and high resolution.

    A typical 50/1.4 lens used to be a seven element design, two by and large symmetrical triplets and a seventh element acting as field flattener. This is the basic "double Gauss" or "Planar" design. Modern lenses like Sigma Art 55/1.4 or Otus 55/1.4 are much more complex designs often achieving significant contrast at the pixel level. These lenses uses all available optical tricks, including aspherics and lenses with anomalous dispersion characteristics and they also use many air to glass surfaces.

    Best regards
    Erik
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by dandrewk View Post
    This is more or less what I was getting at with the original post. If a lens is clinically perfect... what's wrong with that?

    It all comes down to the extent of post processing one wishes to do. Personally, I PP EVERY shot, no matter what. Obviously some shots require more effort than others, and I have several tools at my disposal. Clicking the shutter is the most critical part, but (for me) that's just step one.
    Plenty of lenses produce various effects that are difficult, time consuming or impossible to reproduce with PP.

    Not to mention the serendipity which often occurs when using such lenses.

    Clinically perfect lenses limit you to a subset of possible artistic outcomes.

    Not to mention, PP is allowed no matter what lens is used. When I use my Noctilux, pushing the shutter is generally a prelude to PP as well even though I am starting from a vastly different place than if I use my 50/2 Summicron.

    Step away from my 50 DR, I refuse to acknowledge superiority of your Uber Zeiss.

    -Bill

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by thompsonkirk View Post
    No presumptions – just difference of opinion about words like "don't do well" and "better"!

    Kirk
    I know from my experience that the fandler afficianados "like" an image when it is labelled as Mandler lens, even if it is a current Ka Xinda from China with better qualities at a fraction of price. The power of suggsetion plays a big part.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by hiepphotog View Post
    You should have done a blind test on this one . Would be fun to see the analysis.
    Didn't think about that, but I'm sure there would be mixed results

    The FD has a tiny wee bit harsher bokeh, but it is close, real close. Furthermore the 30+ years Canon lens is sharp too and no CA to talk about. It is surprisingly good on the 36mp cam. I bought a 1.2 many years ago, but my 1.4 was a much better lens at all apertures, so the faster lens went out the door again. Could be that I have stellar 1.4 but it really shines on the Sony....
    Alpa FPS • MAX • TC | Alpagon 32Hr | Helvetar 75 | Schneider 120N | Leaf Aptus II 5 • Leaf Credo 60 | www.danlindberg.com

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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by ohnri View Post
    ...
    Clinically perfect lenses limit you to a subset of possible artistic outcomes.
    ...
    -Bill
    And your Noctilux does not? I guess that's why labeling a lens as "clinical" gives such a bad connotation. Somehow the less perfect seems to give you endless possibility. The truth is, they all can only work for certain vision/idea/artistic values. If all you want is a lens with shallow DOF, dreamy look, aberrations-laden, etc., certainly the 50 APO would not fill that role.

    Now if you say you have more creativity options with the Noctilux because it can open up to 0.95, I would agree.
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    Re: Mild Rant - What the $%&^ Does "Lens is Too Clinical" Mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by dandrewk View Post
    This is more or less what I was getting at with the original post. If a lens is clinically perfect... what's wrong with that?

    It all comes down to the extent of post processing one wishes to do. Personally, I PP EVERY shot, no matter what. Obviously some shots require more effort than others, and I have several tools at my disposal. Clicking the shutter is the most critical part, but (for me) that's just step one.

    So, I can "correct" a flat/clinical image to flesh it out, give it more character, "pop" and color. Like algrove said, that becomes difficult and unwieldy if the underlying images has character flaws. This is not a knock on these lenses, and each has an important place in a photographer's arsenal.

    Another consideration is how the image is to be viewed. I have a 27" 5k monitor, so I view images much closer to 1:1 resolution without zooming. Shots of a broad landscape taken with FE55 or FE90, when processed to bring out full tonality, vibrance and micro-contrast, look positively three dimensional on my screen.
    I fully agree. For me, the capture is the starting point, not the end product. If I start with a file that isn't sharp, or has a color cast, or has less than optimal contrast, then that's what I'm stuck with. Believe me, I understand the desire by some photographers to get that classic film look straight out of a modern high rez digital camera. I'm just not one of those. And to a large measure, I can duplicate that look using various Photoshop plugins if I start with a file that has been produced using a high MP digital camera and a "clinically sharp" lens.

    This is an interesting discussion and resembles discussions I've had with fellow woodworkers, some of whom use power tools while others use hand tools. The power tool devotees argue "precision" and the hand tool disciples preach "character" and "uniqueness" (i.e., no two hand produced wood products are identical). The former are called "Norm-ites" (after Norm Abrams and his PBS TV show) and the latter group are referred to as Luddites. You can guess which group I belong to.

    Joe
    Czar of Sharpness
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