The Lens That Draws

I was just reading a photography article on the web and in the comments section someone said: ‘I love the way my lens draws…’. I’ve also read similar with words like: ‘I love the way my lens renders…’. Both of these terms are used quite frequently by some photographers and appear to be interchangeable when describing the supposed special quality of the owner’s lens/lenses. It never ceases to amuse me when I hear these descriptions of lenses, as if some lenses have a miraculous additional feature that defies general optics.

This is drawing:

Autistic artist draws New York - (Copyright Barcroft Media)

Autistic artist draws New York – (Copyright Barcroft Media)

This is rendering:

Application of rendering - (Source: Avant Coatings UK)

Application of rendering – (Source: Avant Coatings UK)

Certainly lenses do have optical characteristics in terms of sharpness, aberration control, flare control, contrast, etc that vary from lens to lens and are dependent on the focal length of the lens, aperture, design, construction, materials and coatings used. Getting everything right takes skill and experience, and usually involves significant cost, which is generally reflected by the cost to the end consumer. That’s why some lenses cost mere hundreds of dollars and others many thousands.

Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.4G lens (approx $560) vs Leica Summilux M 50mm f1.4 (approx $4500):

Nikon vs Leica (source: Nikon and Leica)

Nikon vs Leica (source: Nikon and Leica)

Additionally, the more expensive lenses are likely to produce better results than cheaper (relatively speaking) lenses , but not always, as evidenced by the recently introduced Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens ($1000), which has been demonstrated to produce results as good as the far more expensive Zeiss 55mm f1.4 T* OTUS lens ($4700), with which it competes in the DSLR realm. And when you read lens reviews, you don’t see any mention of how the lens ‘draws’ or ‘renders’, even when it comes to lenses that are supposed to be providing that additional ‘artistic’ capability. So why the mention of draws and renders? It basically appears to be an affectation peculiar to some photographers, especially owners of one particular brand of camera, who fuss about this more than any other.

Leica M - (source: Leica)

Leica M – (source: Leica)

That particular brand of camera also draws (pun intended and proper application of the word) owners who appear to see the world in mostly black and white (B&W), all too often converting every colour image into B&W. Now there’s nothing wrong with B&W, I actually like it, but in moderation; however, far too many of these photographers never appear to see the colourful side of the world. Sometimes converting to B&W can be very helpful and positive, such as when colours and/or some of the lighting doesn’t quite work, but the subject is very interesting none the less, or you just want that ‘old world’ feel (anything before 1980).

Farrier having a rest - Melbourne Victoria

Farrier having a rest – Melbourne Victoria

Additionally, these particular camera users almost always focus (pun intended again) on one style of photography known as street photography. Street photography, in its purest form, involves photographing people who are unaware that they are being photographed. The purists generally require the use of a 50mm, or equivalent, lens and the conversion of the resultant shots to B&W and so, for the most part, everything they photograph becomes ‘street photography’. In the majority of cases, what these photographers are doing isn’t street photography, but is in fact documentary photography; however, street photography perhaps sounds much more impressive.

Mufti of Australia Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam - Melbourne Victoria

Mufti of Australia Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam – Melbourne Victoria

OK, by now I would have offended and infuriated any number of photographers, but this post was a bit of a gentle prod at those who tend to go about photography like wine connoisseurs (wine snobs), turning their noses up at anything that is beneath their taste buds and below their price range. Sometimes it just pays to be a little more down to earth, else someone may draw the wrong conclusions and render a rather harsh judgement on the things that you prize.