Luminous Lenses: Where is the Limit?

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It is common to talk about more or less bright goals. What does that mean: that some shine more than others? Of course not, the brightness of a lens depends on the transmitted light and acts on the sensor.

In today’s article, we’ll see what the greater or lesser luminosity depends on, and we’ll talk about some of the market’s brightest goals. We even talk about what so far “has the Guinness”, do you want to know what it is?

The truth is that I have been obsessed for a while with acquiring a sufficiently bright lens . And all because of having written the article Bokeh With Shapes: A Little DIY? and not having been able to obtain a better result for not having a sufficiently bright lens.

I thought you might also be interested in learning about what I’ve learned as a result of looking for that little “frustration.” And if you are in the same situation, you can learn more about how the market is today.

What Does the Luminosity of a Goal Depend on?

As I said, the brightness of a lens measures the amount of light it can pass. And what does it matter? Obviously of the diaphragm opening.

And this aperture stop, if you remember the metaphor of the water glass, is the section of the faucet, ie the parameter that indicates the amount of light that acts on the sensor per unit of time.

As you know, this brightness is measured over the known number f. The larger the number f, the smaller the aperture and vice versa.

Luminous Lenses: Where is the Limit?

When do we consider a target as luminous or not?

As you can imagine, viewing a lens depends on whether it shines bright or not on its maximum aperture. That is, the smallest number you can take for a focus determination. Or what is the same of its maximum opening.

And yes, we’re talking about maximum opening and not drying, because, just as zoom lenses can vary the focal length, most lenses can vary the aperture.

So, for purposes of cataloging an lens as luminous or not, we are only interested in knowing the maximum aperture it offers for a given focal length . Since, usually, the maximum aperture of a lens can also vary with the focal length (if it is a zoom lens).

In any case, it is often said that a target for a given focal length is bright if it offers a maximum aperture greater than or equal to f / 2, i. H. F / 2, f / 1.8, f / 1.4. f / 1. ..

However, the limit is not absolute and depends on other factors, such as the focal length we are talking about.

A telephoto lens with maximum aperture f / 2.8 can therefore also be considered as a very bright lens, since the achievement of such a large amount of light at long focal lengths is really difficult.

Luminous Lenses: Where is the Limit?

Some Examples of Luminous Lenses

You already know what they are and how to know whether to label a target as luminous or not. Now his thing is to give you some examples, right?

Well, I’ll talk about some affordable examples that, if you’re interested, can give you a good service.

As you can see, it is the fixed focal length lens we are talking about, since the optical complications to make a very bright lens multiply if we also want it to be zoomed.

Luminous Lenses: Where is the Limit?

And, in the end, these complications translate into an increase in price that most of us can not or do not want to assume.

So, I will only talk about fixed focal length lenses, since the bright zooms go, and much, of price. Here are some of the most interesting lighting lenses of the market . 

  • Nikon 35mm f / 1.8G AF-S DX
  • Nikon 50mm f / 1.8 D AF
  • Nikon 50mm f / 1.4 G AF-S G
  • Nikon 85mm f / 1.8 D AF
  • Canon EF 50mm f / 1.8 II
  • Canon EF 50mm f / 1.4 USM
  • Canon EF 85mm f / 1.8 USM
  • Sigma 30mm f / 1.4 EX-DC HSM SLD
  • Sigma 50mm f / 1.4 EX DG HSM
  • Olympus Zuiko OM 50mm f / 1.2 (or f / 1.4 or f / 1.8)

The “out of series”: Going down from f / 1

Obviously, in addition to lenses “for all pockets”, like the ones that I have shown you in the previous section, there are real “beasts” that even dare to go below the barrier of f / 1.Luminous Lenses: Where is the Limit?

This is the case, for example, of the Canon f / 0.95 that you can see in the image on the right . 

These lenses are authentic works of art that require spectacular diameters and a combination of lenses in their precise interior and high quality to avoid aberrations and achieve the necessary clarity and demanded by its price.

But do not think that this is the brightest goal ever built. This honor must be granted to a goal with honestly certain history.

It is the ZEISS PLANAR 50 mm 1: 0.7. Yes, yes, a lens with a maximum aperture of f / 0.7, which surpasses all records.

As I said, the story of this goal is really curious. Originally founded by NASA for the company Zeiss, it became famous through its acquisition and use by Stanley Kubrik in his film “Barry Lyndon” (1975). Film that won the Oscar for best photography in the same year.

And why do I want a Luminous Lens?

Yes, it’s very good. You already know what a luminous goal is, the current limits and the perfection that must be achieved in the construction process to approach those limits. But why can you want such an objective?

Below I show you some uses for which having a luminous goal can be very useful. Sometimes, even fundamental.

Luminous Lenses: Where is the Limit?

  • At a compositional level, working with a very bright objective offers you the possibility of manipulating the depth of field at your whim . Only with this type of objectives can you reduce it to the maximum and enhance the selective focus in your photos .
  • Of course, as well as as a compositional element, the possibility of opening the diaphragm more than with normal objectives allows to achieve correct exposures in poorly lit environments and without the need to increase the ISO sensitivity or increase the exposure time. They are the most suitable objectives for indoor photography, as, for example, in theaters or concerts and, of course, for night photography. Not only for its great opening, but also for its higher quality and sharpness.
  • Techniques such as the bokeh , or bokeh shapes are clearly shown not only the brightness of an object but also the quality and definition of the target of focused objects and softness and harmony in the area not focused image.

Luminous Lenses: Where is the Limit?

Surely you can think of more uses for luminous objectives that, surely, have already given you excellent results in your photos.

Tell us !, tell us about your experiences with this type of objectives !, if you have already decided and you have bought one, if you are still undecided, if you recommend us to opt for one or the other …


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