Cheap Glass

Photographers tend to be obsessed with sharpness. The first question most will ask about any optic is, "How sharp is it?"

The question I'm asking these days: "Is it sharp enough?"

There's a big difference between the two queries. And it really depends on your view of the world.

There are a million perfectly sharp images on Flickr that bore the hell out of me. Yes, everything is in perfect order: excellent exposure, spot-on color, and corner to corner sharpness. Excuse me while I check my email. If those are the only elements that you think make a good photograph, then I think you might be missing the boat.

The images that attract me are the ones that surprise me, make me feel something, show me a different view of the world. And those photographs can be created with practically any camera sporting just about any lens, even a cheap one.

I've gone through an interesting period with my DSLRs lately. My camera of choice is now mirrorless. I love them. But I still use DSLRs when appropriate. 

I sold off many of my expensive Canon lenses to upgrade my mirrorless kits. But I still have two "L" lenses: the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS and the 24-105 f/4 L IS. If I need superb image quality, I can mount either of those on the 5D Mark II and get it.

But the lenses I've been shooting with most often are the Yongnuo 35mm F/2.0 ($129) and the new Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM ($125) - cheap lenses. Why? Because each have characteristics that I can't get with other optics. It's their imperfections that I crave. 

They are definitely sharp enough where I focus. But at wide apertures, all sorts of interesting things start to happen everywhere else. Instead of living in a sterile edge-to-edge world where everything has the same weight, the images take on a magical quality.

Fortunately, I have a client that loves this look. And I'm having a blast with these shoots, and making good money while doing so.

Don't get me wrong... I'm all for sharpness.

Just not all the time.