By on April 24, 2011

Lenses at the Shanghai Auto Show definitely test both sides of the envelope. Some photographers came  with lenses long and wide enough to take close-ups of concept cars shown on the moon.

This photographer usually shoots big game in safari parks and only moonlights at the car show. Or maybe he#s the one who does all those spy shots.

Many members of the accredited media (the vetting process is hard and rigorous, nonetheless, press days are mobbed) must be in the live blogging business. One sees more and more cell phone cameras for a direct beam-up to high traffic websites. We hope.

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25 Comments on “Shanghai Auto Show, Fads And Trends: Lenses...”

  • avatar

    Ken Rockwell will tell you these lenses are useless.

  • avatar

    Maybe they’re not taking photos of the cars at all. Maybe they’re getting high-definition photos of the young ladies for posters and such. What’s the ratio of young men to young ladies in China?

  • avatar

    wtf @ the first pic – how can he even focus on anything in the same booth?

    • 0 avatar

      That lens will focus down to 2.5 meters ( just over 8 feet ).

      Based on the fact that he appears to be shooting at something above his eye level, I’d guess he’s getting head shots of the booth professionals.

      At minimum focus distance, the 5D’s full frame sensor will cover about 17 inches by about 11 inches.

      • 0 avatar

        Hmm, not bad. I guess light performance would be the main reason to use some whomping great dinner-plate glass, since equivalent telephoto performance could be had in a rather sane package otherwise…

        And yes, 5D, do want. Though what I really want is Canon internals with a Nikon user interface – I have a Canon 550d and a Nikon D80… the 550d is vastly superior in its ability to shoot on full auto, enough that I pretty much just use it in ‘green box’ mode. But another reason I use it in green box mode is because the user interface makes you want to stab yourself in the eye with a salad fork. Even if I wanted to use manual control, with the Canon, I’d lose the light before I got the damn settings right. OK, it doesn’t help that the 550d lacks wheels to do all the main exposure/aperture/etc functions without switching around, but there’s still no excuse for an interface that manages to get a 5-year DSLR and 14-year digicam veteran stuck in continuous focus mode with no apparent way out.

        Even die-hard Canon partisans who would sooner be seen on the cover of a NAMBLA newsletter than shooting with a Nikon have agreed with me on this point.

        When I want to do something serious, I use the Nikon. When I want to go bidad-bang bang bang bidang bang! and get 15 awesome shots of my son going down a slide, perfectly exposed and focused, without thinking about it, I use the Canon.

        PS: Yes, I am aware that the last sentence is a verbal atrocity, and implies that my son is perfectly exposed and focused while going down the slide. I am also aware that it is unclear whether my son is perfectly exposed and focused without thinking about being perfectly exposed and focused, whether I want to not think about boing bidabang to get 15 shots, or whether, if in that situation, I use the Canon without considering other options – or, possibly, ruminating on the qualities of the Canon itself.

        In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever written a sentence which is worse than that. Yikes. I blame it on the time of night.

  • avatar

    Shooting for, eh, pimples, I guess.

  • avatar

    It’s lens envy. As a trained photographer who no longer works in the industry, when it comes to journo-type photographers most of them know they don’t need the biggest, baddest multi-thousand dollar lenses – its just – well, it’s bigger and more expensive – so therefore they must have it. Wait until you see someone with 3 camera bodies and 3 variations of Canons big grey lenses on each body… then you know you’ve hit overkill.

    • 0 avatar

      Absolutely, bang-on, bingo. “I’m a much better photographer because I have much more expensive equipment”. Telephoto lenses compress distance…extreme telephoto lenses like these crush distance…2D becomes a flat 1D. Remember the photos taken down a street where the telephone poles look like they’re about 2 feet apart? That’s distance compression with a mild telephoto lens. If you’re taking spy shots, it’s one thing…if you’re taking shots at an auto show, your subject isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no need for lenses like these. Also, Jason, most can gain a wealth of photographic knowledge from Ken Rockwell.

    • 0 avatar

      It seems to happen even with non-photographers. A few years ago I was in NYC with my Nikon D80 – not some big hotsh*t piece of gear by any stretch. I was hanging out in Manhattan shooting random stuff, and then I picked up a vertical / battery grip I’d been wanting to get for a while – holding cameras vertically is just a PITA, and the extra battery is nice, too.

      Anyway, a whole morning going around with the camera and nobody paid any attention. But the moment I screwed that vertical grip on, the D80 looked like some $5000 pro SLR, since they almost all have that form factor… for the rest of the day, people kept complimenting my camera. Same lens, same everything – just a vertical grip.

      And it’s not like Joe Average has a real understanding of, “OK, high end SLRs tend to be like this but low end ones don’t”. And real DSLRs, even now, are pretty rare. But, I guess just from the occasional glimpse – seeing photographers at events, on the news, sporting events, whatever – people have a subconscious idea of what a ‘nice, expensive, you-must-be-good-to-buy-this’ camera looks like.

      Funny ol’ world.

      I will admit, however, to feeling just a little bit more like a badass when using the vert grip. Just a little. And I definitely can’t stand to hold onto a camera without that extra surface now…

      • 0 avatar

        I still have my old 35mm Nikon F5 which to my eternal shame I love using more than my D80. Being the full size, big ass, bullet stopping, bad-boy of the 35mm world, I always get comments on that too.
        “Thats a nice camera.” People will say, until I tell them that its 35mm film and then I can see their face of admiration turn into a tiny little smiling sneer.
        At the end of the day it’s not the camera you hold – its whether you can take good pictures. Much like it’s not the car you drive – it’s how fast can you thrash it up a country road?

  • avatar
    Cerbera LM

    <homer simpson drool> Canon 200 f1.8 </homer simpson drool>

    • 0 avatar

      One of the all-time premier medium telephoto lenses for candid shots in low light. Discontinued, $4,500. Nowhere near as large as the lenses in the article photos, though.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, Merwich, Cerbera is correct in identifying the lens shown in the first picture.  It is exactly as large as the lens shown in the photograph because it is the lens shown in the photograph.

        Heck, you can read it for yourself in the large version of the picture:

  • avatar

    The Canon lens is the 200mm 1.8. He has a hood on the lens so it looks a bit larger than it really is.  

    If you’re looking to get extreme detail into a photo of an object like a car, one technique is to zoom in close with a telephoto and shoot multiple shots of it one small area at a time. Then stitch the resulting mosaic together into a single image in post processing. The problem with that theory is that it’s really tough to pull off using a monopod like this guy is using. You really need a tripod and a panoramic or robotic head for good results, but I’ve managed to shoot handheld a couple of times with decent results.  

    The resulting files are huge, but if you want a closer look at a small detail in a photo, you can zoom right in for a close look. I’m not sure if that’s what this guy is doing, but I suppose if he was, the resulting photos could be for competitive analysis purposes.

  • avatar

    Aren’t these lenses kind of like a big SUV – Few photographers actually need them, but many buy them to make up for their manhood?

  • avatar
    M 1

    If you’ve ever experienced the miserable light-gathering characteristics of a Chinese-made lens, you would understand.

  • avatar

    I take the opposite approach to most. Recently I bought a Sony a850, a full-frame, 24 MP workhorse that’s pro in every respect. Looks just like a normal DSLR, but slightly bigger. I’m happy to equip it with the smallest, oldest and cheapest lenses available –Minolta Maxxum lenses dating back to 1985, when Minolta pioneered practical autofocus in SLRs. My 35-70 is so small I often mistake it for my 50mm prime, but it’s a constant f4 and sharp as I’ve ever wanted any lens to be. I paid $40 for it at a pawn shop, throwing away the camera that came with it. Paired with my 100-200/4.5, three inches long, I have a $100 combo of high image quality and metal construction, and, oh, all stabilized, too. I have other lenses that cost a little more, but nothing that shouts “Pro” from across the room. That’s OK– I’m not hunting grizzlies in twilight. 

    Nikon and Canon owners will struggle to understand the logic of hanging $50 lenses on a $2000 camera, but we survivors of the clan of Minolta know what a powerful combination that can be. And I like the “sleeper” aspect of it, like having a small, plain car that packs a souped-up engine. Those massive lens-‘scopes have their place, but I struggle to find it at a car show. I suspect they’re just showing off.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking the same thing recently.  Picture quality-wise, are you seeing much difference between full frame and APS-C?  From samples I’ve seen online, unless you’re pixel-peeping, I don’t see much difference.  

      Any experience comparing FF or APS-C to m4/3?  I’m in the market… sort of.  Most of my photos are of my kids, and enjoy using my 30D, but have heard great things about more current bodies.  Really like the idea of taking video in a pinch, even without the continuous AF.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with you on the lens cost, too.  That’s the main reason m4/3 looks so appealing.  You can get a Nikon/Canon/Leica ($$) adaptor and use some great glass from the past.

  • avatar

    Reason for big lenses like those pictured are
    1) very shallow depth of field allows you to throw background into something blurry and non-distracting since you often have very little room to move around in order to get the shot
    2) since only pros have these lenses you get treated better by security
    3) people get out of your way since you obviously are a pro

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch

    I know this is all about the cars…
    But what is with the outfit in the chic in the last pic….

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