View Full Version : Looking for a starting point on learning about lenses...

8-Aug-2017, 03:35
I'm sorry if this is a vague question but I did a bit of googling and could not find a good, simple starting point to start learning about different types of lenses; apo, tessars, ronars, germinars etc etc. I feel pretty daft in having used a variety of lenses over the years and really not knowing the differences or advantages/differences between the different types. I feel now is probably as good a time as any to start getting to know them, so to speak.

Can anyone point me to some layman-friendly reading material to begin learning or at least discerning the differences and types of lenses, how to identify, what to look for/avoid etc?

I have very limited also non-existent knowledge of optics and I'd say it's surface knowledge at best and only knowing brands/makers.

Much appreciated!

Ken Lee
8-Aug-2017, 04:43
A History of the Photographic Lens (https://www.amazon.com/History-Photographic-Lens-Rudolf-Kingslake/dp/0124086403) by Rudolph Kingslake.

Dan Fromm
8-Aug-2017, 04:54

8-Aug-2017, 05:28
Two good books -- under 200 pages -- are

"The Focal Guide to Lenses", Leonard Gaunt, 1977

"Photographic Lenses", C.B. Neblette, 1973

Don't get caught up in the "names" of lenses. Different people and companies call the same lens by a different name -- because it has a different coating, a different maximum apreture, a different material in the glass, etc., etc. Most of the time it's just to make their lens(es) "seem superior". The proof is in the pudding.

Jim Jones
8-Aug-2017, 05:50
A History of the Photographic Lens (https://www.amazon.com/History-Photographic-Lens-Rudolf-Kingslake/dp/0124086403) by Rudolph Kingslake.

Simpler and rather dated is Rudolf Kingslake's Lenses in Photography of 1951. My tattered copy is the first go-to book on lenses. Next is the massive A Lens Collector's vade mecum http://www.antiquecameras.net/lensvademecum.html which is more suited to identifying obscure lenses than explaining them. The book cited by Ken Lee would be the best choice for a photographer's first lens book. As for C. B. Neblette, I haven't forgiven him for erroneous assumptions concerning pinhole optics in a 1930s edition of his book. Even respected authors sometimes don't check their "facts."

Nodda Duma
11-Aug-2017, 18:54
As a lens designer, I second the recommendations for Kingslake's books referenced above.

Neal Chaves
11-Aug-2017, 19:11
Wide (large image circle), fast, sharp. Pick any two.

12-Aug-2017, 08:33
I'd suggest:

Wide (large image circle), fast, sharp, affordable. Pick any two.

12-Aug-2017, 09:18

++1 then books

Dan Fromm
12-Aug-2017, 11:01
Alex, I've been thinking about y'r question. Basically, you're on a fool's errand. People here, and even more people on, for example, mflenses.com, go on at considerable length about lenses' rendition, bokum, etc.

I'm a birthright ignorant barbarian and proud of it. I've also tried out a lot of lenses. As far as I can see, given coverage there's one major divide between lenses. Those that are good enough to use and those that aren't. Most lenses that cover a format are good enough to use. Coverage matters most. But there's nothing much to learn here, just read the catalogs and there you'll be.

There's a smaller divide, speed. I have a couple of f/14 Perigraphes. They cover, perhaps, around 105 degrees. Modern lenses with that much coverage are faster and can be easier to focus. I likes me little Perigraphes in part because they were much less expensive than modern lenses with similar coverage. Speed can matter. But there's nothing much to learn here, just read the catalogs and there you'll be.

People here disagree about which lens to use for a purpose for several reasons. Some genuinely believe that there are differences that matter. Some have different requirements. And some have been burned by bad examples of supposed ok lenses. This can happen with used lenses. In the abstract without an application there's no way of deciding which is better. It all depends on what the lens has to accomplish.

If I were you I'd stop worrying about what's best and settle for what's ok. At even odds I'd bet heavily that the lenses you now have are all ok.

There are a few specialised areas in photography where knowing the standard rules of thumb -- not understanding the math behind them -- can make a difference. Close-up, for example. Otherwise just go, set up and shoot.

12-Aug-2017, 12:05
I'm a birthright ignorant barbarian and proud of it.

That's either superfluous or redundant -- or both -- but, in any case, it is well said!