In response to a recent post about the sharpest lens I own, in which I talked about cheap or bad lenses being capable of good imaging in certain circumstances, Robert commented, “I’m wondering what would be an extreme example of ‘some of the world’s crappiest lenses are sharp in certain circumstances.’ ”
While I own some pretty amazing lenses, I also happen to have a handful of bad ones. A lot of things make or break a lens, with image quality at the top of the list. But that’s not all.
Consider the case of the AF Nikkor 35-135mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom, which, like many of the bad lenses I own, came with a camera I bought in 1998. Not only does this lens yield images littered with chromatic aberrations, spherochromatism, field curvature and soft corners, it a is also heavy, slow to focus, and has a genuinely awkward macro interface.
But like many bad lenses, I can get this one to make decent images, in certain circumstances. For example, on sunny days with the sun at my back and the lens stopped down to f/11, a scenario I only face very occasionally, this lens is perfectly sharp. Shooting backlit, late-day action or news at high ISOs or at nearly wide open f-stops, however, is another story.