4. Sensitivity to bright light inside/outside the frame
I care about this one, because often you have the sun or a bright street light shining on your lens, or you have a situation in the studio where you cannot flag a light source properly or you have to hurry. I never really cared about this until I used the 50/1.4G for the first time, which produced very bad results. Meanwhile, I found out this is only with some samples of the 50/1.4G, others are pristine.
To test this, I did this setup with a studio flash with the modelling light on full power, pointed towards the camera, but just outside the frame. It had a 10° honeycomb on it so the light didn’t spill anywhere else. Another test was the same light within the frame. The beautiful motive of this shot was the black curtain on the studio wall, metered to just bring about some basic texture. It was illuminated by the modelling light of a large softbox on a boom above camera. The bright light source was metered to two f-stops above the camera setting, which would have produced the classic bright sided-highlight effect for an object, had it been in the frame.
In fact, all lenses perform mostly the same here, there’s no real difference, they all produce flare and/or haze, but not exceptionally strong. The problem for testing is finding a ‘representative’ setup, because the factors are too complicated in order to come to a conclusive rating: How bright is the light source compared to what you’re taking a picture of, is it a flash or a hot light, what’s the size of the light source, where exactly is it positioned etc. etc. E.g., my experience with the 50/1.4G to be quite prone to flare is not reproduced in this test – but was when shooting with it in more “real life” situations. It would need all kinds of different setups to actually arrive at conclusive results.
In other words, there’s no “safe” lens in this category. With each of those lenses, you will have to check out the individual lighting situation that you’re confronted with.
But I’ll give you three learnings from this test:
- The hoods help, but vary in their effect: The Sigma and the Nikkor 58/1.4G are clearly the most effective – most likely because their tulip design maxes out the possible limits. Consequently, the round designs of the Zeiss and the 50 Nikkors are not so effective for critical lighting situations. Which is why I actually never use them.
- Wide-open, all lenses produce less haze (and no flare) than at f/8. If you’re in a critical situation (concerning side light, I mean), open up (the aperture, I mean).
- Most importantly: If you get a 50/1.4G, do a quick test: See if you can take a picture of a bright lamp without the lens becoming all hazy. If it does, get a different sample.
Go to next page 5: Vignetting, Coma, Sunstars, Color Rendition