The digital age has brought with it unprecedented accuracy in everything we do. If you look at lens construction, in order to get a lens with minimal distortion 30 years ago you had to go to the Germans and hand built lenses. This would cost a ton and the results we good.
In today's world, virtually any lens manufacturer can produce lenses with less distortion then the old German glass and the price is extraordinary low. And we have digital sensors that can appreciate the quality of the glass and create a more accurate photograph. Computers have now stepped up to the plate and can correct for distortion automatically.
But how is it that we survived for so long with such poor quality glass and images? Well our search for perfection in the modern world is a wasted effort. This is a marketing gimmick that has been propagated to get us to buy equipment.
I was recently asked why I felt that most camera manufacturers do not make film cameras, if this is indeed a growing medium. The problem with camera manufacturers is that a film camera, well built and cared for, will last a lifetime. How many digital cameras does the average user buy these days? Certainly more that one in a lifetime!
Digital has given birth to the ability to enhance and correct images in camera. What this means is that on top of our ability to build the most accurate lenses ever, we can further improve the image in camera. Do we really need lenses that go to f/0.95 if we can increase the ISO of a camera to 250,000? Do we need lenses with zero distortion if we can manipulate the image to correct for these things?
I like images that are imperfect. This is one attraction of film. I have called it the 'perfect imperfections' and truly believe this to be true. The imperfection of a lens gives it character. It leaves its mark on the final image. These are the kind of lenses and photography I like. In fact, some of my favorite images I have ever taken were taken with a lens that had a great deal of fungus. It softened the image, reduced the sharpness and gave every image a unique soft glow to them.
I am not suggesting you purchase crap glass, all I am recommending is that we abandon the quest for a perfect lens and a perfect image. Let lines bend, let detail be lost and let imperfections shine through. It is the only difference between a human taking an image and the cameras of the future where robots will indeed take a perfect picture! What a terrible day that will be...
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.