Interesting Lens Design Article from Kirk Tuck

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Troy, NY
An excellent article! He says stuff that I don't see articulated elsewhere.

And I mostly agree with him . . . not about what qualifies as my perfect lens, but about the approach that review sites are taking.

It strikes me that camera bodies are mostly excellent these days, as are the sensors they contain. Further, photo processing software is also pretty darn good, making it easy to improve a photo and get it close to where you want it to be. But the best camera body in the world won't deliver the goods if you put a deficient lens on it.

His key paragraph, I think, is this one:

Instead of comparing the Nikon Z7 to the Sony A7r4 camera bodies I'd love to see a side-by-side comparison and in-depth review of each maker's "holy trinity" of zoom lenses (14-24, 24-70, 70-200) to see where the whole system stands, not just the naked body. Perhaps a comparative overview of all the different macro lenses on the market. How about a toe-to-toe exploration of zooms in the 100-400mm focal length ranges? And with all the new and pricey 50mm lenses coming out maybe we could see a nice comparison there. (emphasis mine)

"to see where the whole system stands" -- that's the heart of it, isn't it? You're not just buying a camera body, you're buying a system, whether you realize it or not. And the lenses deliver the light to the sensor, so if they are not doing what you need them to do, or you can't get the lenses to meet your changing requirements in the future, there's a problem.

There's another problem as well, and that is that you probably need to know a fair amount about optical measurements to be able to write sensibly about lenses and what you're likely to see in photographs taken through them.

In all, I thought it was an excellent article, and it points out a serious flaw in the photo equipment review process.

Cheers, Jock


New Jersey, USA
Real Name
The Bassman
I would argue that all of the lenses from the major vendors are pretty good as well. So I’m not sure how a detailed comparison of all the 24-70/2.8 lenses would help me choose a system.

On the other hand, if you need a 600mm fast lens, or a tilt/shift, you know which systems to look at - no need to compare lenses.
On a humorous note- in the 90s, I had an optical engineer that worked for me. He did design the perfect lens. The question was: "Could anyone make it". It cost $40K to manufacture- almost 30 years ago- and required the metal in the barrel to be specially formulated to match the thermal expansion of the optics. It was used in an optical computer.

The perfect lens for me was designed in 1932. I found an early 1930s Zeiss publication that confirms that the designer purposely factored in spherical aberration into the design.
Interesting read, even though I have not completed it yet. But he is saying that the competing websites should deliberately start losing money and customers so that he can get the reviews he would like.
Perhaps we would all be better served by increasing the level of photo education and discussion so that reviews of glass were more sought after by more people. Then you needn't ask a website to ignore their customers and hope that the customers will realize the value of glass over megapickles and burst rates. But, how to make a lens review as sexy as 100 megapickles? Or as potent as 30fps with continously autofocusing eagle eyes? And the depth of the hand grip is universally measurable and yet individually comfortable, making for endless argument and articles - and thus money. Interesting conundrum, or "another fine mess".

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