Dangerous thoughts about glass, and a couple of questions

William Robb warobb at gmail.com
Sun Oct 11 19:02:54 EDT 2009

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Larry Colen"
Subject: Dangerous thoughts about glass, and a couple of questions

> Earlier tonight (actually last night, but I haven't been to bed yet) I
> was photographing a band at a dance, in challenging light conditions.
> I was alternating between my FA77/1.8 and my injured pfa50/1.4.
> I absolutely love my 77. While my 31 is more generally usefull, there
> is some quality about the pictures I get from the 77 (especially
> portraitish) that I like so much more than even the ones I get from
> the 31.
> I don't know what this quality is, and it could just be a factor of
> depth of field, but I don't think so.
> My PFA 50 is a perfectly competent lens, and amazing for the
> price. It's also often the length I need, and even more often a
> critical 2/3 stop faster than the other two. But, for some reason, it
> seems a lot harder to get pictures that I really love out of.
> Question 1: What is it that is different about the 77 that makes it
> such an amazing lens for shooting portraits? Particulary, what quality
> is different between it and the 31? Is it just a factor of the length?

I recall posting about this just after I got my first 77. I thought it was 
an amazing lens for general photography, but I absolutely hated it for 
After looking at many pictures that I shot with it, I decided that what I 
didn't like was, for lack of clearer terminology, it had too much 
microcontrast, and was just too damned sharp.

However, what I did really like about the 77 is it's bokeh rendering. I 
think it was Alan Chan who noticed (and immediately dismissed the lens as 
garbage for it) that it has a fair amount of spherical abberation at wide 
However, it does allow the lens a very nice bokeh, and a 3 dimensional look 
to images taken with it.
Just watch out for specular highlights, they can go a little odd.

With most lenses, to get that 3D look in portaiture I am having to use a 
skim light to seperate the subject from the background, with the 77, I get 
most of the same look without the extra head.

The 31 shares a lot of similarities with the 77, high sharpness, lots of 
contrast and excellent out of focus rendering.
> Question 2: What is the 55/1.4 like in comparison to these other
> lenses? My impression from what I've read is that in general terms
> such as sharpness, it is in the same league as the 31 and the 77, but
> what is its personality like compared to these other three lenses?

The DA*55 is the 77s ugly brother. It's big, it's plastic, it's kinda 
unwieldy, but damn, it's got some happening glass in it.
Think of it as a 77, but a little faster and 30% shorter.

William Robb 

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