Why I’m Over Aspherical Elements and Clean, Sterile Image Quality

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The current state of photography and camera gear is in an incredibly odd place. It’s dictated by folks who spent the last 20 years or so achieving clinical perfection. But they’re trying to find a way to target and understand the younger photography market. So those new photographers are being brainwashed into learning that photography has to be clean, clinical, and devoid of perceived imperfections. At the same time, younger photographers are picking up cameras and lenses with character. I’ve noticed lots of those lenses don’t really have aspherical elements in them. But they’re still able to create wonderful photos with those lenses. Indeed, it’s easier to get rid of flaws than it is to digitally re-introduce them.

There was a time when I thought all lenses needed aspherical elements. But as I started to look more into what’s inside a vintage lens and some of Leica’s more affordable M-glass, I noticed this wasn’t the case. A lens that recently blew me away was the Leica 50mm f2 Summicron-M (the Non-APO and Non-Aspherical version). Yes, there are no aspherical elements. And the image quality it delivers is wonderful. I’m working on a review of the lens, but it has proved that we truly don’t need to make lenses incredibly complicated at all. Brands can reintroduce their classic lenses in some way or another.

Here’s are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Nikon is most likely going to lean fully into the Nikon ZFc and the inevitable Nikon ZF camera. A really cool addition for this would be Nikkor Z Classic lenses. My idea for the Nikkor Z Classic lenses would take older Nikon lenses and reformulate them for Z mount. They can be manual focus or autofocus, made of metal, and have an aperture ring, classic styling, and the same elements from the older lenses. There’s no need to put on new coatings or anything like that. They could do this with Rangefinder or AI-S lenses.
  • Canon abandoned their FD lineup of cameras years ago. But why can’t the Canon RFD lineup of lenses exist? Why can’t I get the optics of a Canon 50mm f1.2 FD lens in a modern lens body with weather sealing and all? Otherwise, other lenses that don’t have aspherical elements could be all I need.
  • Sony would probably never adapt old Minolta lenses to a modern lens body, so I’m giving up on that idea.
  • Leica has started reissuing lenses for the M mount. Those are really beautiful.
  • Olympus had stunning old OM lenses. Considering how good Olympus’ ergonomics are, why would I not want to use their cameras and these classic looking lenses? More importantly, why would you not want to? Do you remember when the Pen EP1 came out and everyone adapted those lenses?

These lenses will give us the look we want. The clinical look doesn’t seem very natural or flattering. Photographers have to grind for that look in front of a computer screen for a while. That’s why I’m so over clinical image quality.

This is bringing me to a point I’ve made several times. Why can’t camera companies offer to convert their old optics to modern cameras? The service fee would be something that everyone would be interested in. How many folks have old cameras and lenses in their closet gathering dust and not being used? Why not recycle those products and give them new life?

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.