Clinically Clean Lenses Are Destroying What Makes Cameras Special

Years ago when I started this website, the photo industry had a need for clinically clean lenses. Camera manufacturers leaned into it harder and harder. Sometimes, they’ve even made up their own problems. For example, when did anyone ever have an issue with onion bokeh? Since the beginning of image creation, no one ever hated how the bokeh looked. But then camera manufacturers had to go create a new way of polishing lenses to prevent it. And at the end of it all, I believe they’re going to drive themselves into the ground.

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Someone is going to read this and say the staff and I are crazy. But think about this:

  • If everyone makes clinically clean lenses, won’t they all look the same after a while? Can you tell the difference between a Canon, Sony, and Nikon lens if you’re not pixel peeping? They’re all trying to get to the same result. After a while, they’re all going to look the same.
  • If the lenses are the same, why do I need to buy your product?
  • If you’re going to tell me to do all the work in post-production, why do I have to buy your product? There are tons of Sony photographers who shoot with their cameras and do more post-production than a Bollywood movie house. And if that’s the case, then why shoot Sony when Canon does everything they can do and more?
  • If Nikon cares about clinically clean lenses, what’s the point of buying their lenses if Sigma and others do the same thing?
  • What other features are you adding to your lenses to make them stand out? How am I going to get a photo that’s completely different?
  • If I have to use clinically clean lenses and add a ton of filters, why do I need your lenses? 
  • Don’t think any of this makes sense? Look at what happened years ago to Zeiss! When Zeiss made the 55mm f1.4 Otus, they were untouchable. But then Sigma came around and made something just as clinically clean. Then no one cared about Zeiss and their higher prices anymore. Zeiss could’ve saved themselves by reissuing their older lenses that have nice character. But instead, they’ve more or less exited the photo industry.

These are some important questions I believe the photo industry needs to ask itself.

Whenever I’ve asked old-school photographers about this, they can’t provide good answers. I’ve asked the same of marketing reps and engineers. They’ll all tell me to add an uncoated UV filter with smears. But why do that if those smears and artifacts can be easily removed in post-production? Adding them back in is a bit harder to do. However, post-production has gotten to a point where it can make your image as much of a clean slate as possible. 

And if we’re doing three minutes of shooting and twenty-one minutes of editing, are we truly photographers anymore? Most of our magic will happen in the post-production phase. There’s far too much of that. There’s nothing wrong with creating a look, but why can’t we have that look in-camera?

Chris Gampat

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