A lot has happened in 2023 and a few of those things I want to highlight and talk about here.
New author: Martin
As many of the remaining authors phased out over time, I had been looking for new ones for quite some time. Actually several times I talked to people that were interested at first, but not much came out of it. After all: writing lens reviews requires a lot of time and effort and you are rarely getting something in return.
Luckily, Martin from Stockholm joined me this year. He is doing reviews on Nikon Z cameras, which might actually extend the reader base a bit, and he has way more interest in macro photography than I do, so that is a field we will also still have covered in the future.
Martin definitely helped me with keeping up a steady (weekly) stream of articles coming this past year.
Have a look at some of his articles, in case you missed them.
In the beginning of 2023 I made a little survey asking you what social media platforms you are using and how you would like to be brought up to speed on the latest articles.
As result of that survey I set up a Discord server in the beginning of 2023, which has almost 400 members now. What I like about it (despite getting in direct contact to you) is that I can share information with you, without being victim of some annoying algorithm that ultimately decides what you get to see.
Martin also volunteered to take over our Instagram account, so also there you will be notified of new articles now.
For the future I am still debating options like Youtube videos or podcasts, but truth be told, I was already fully occupied working on reviews this year, which brings me to the next point.
One change I made this year is, that now at least once every week there will be a new article. In the past it sometimes happened, that one week there were three new articles, but then none for a month, which isn’t really that smart. As I generally see a small increase in visitor numbers (in a declining market) I take that as a successful change.
At the beginning of the year I updated and restructured many of the guides (also the website itself), as these are our most read articles. Keeping these up-to-date is a lot of work, so I try to do that on a yearly basis (mainly doing that in the winter months). I will not update the FE-List though and I may remove it from the header bar, as it becomes too outdated.
There have also been a lot of reviews this year. We published reviews of:
- 14 E-mount lenses
- 16 M-mount lenses
- 4 Z-mount lenses
- 9 lenses for other mounts
I also paid more attention to present you a healthy mix of modern high performance lenses, affordable modern lenses as well as some exotic vintage lenses.
Some of these reviews have only been possible thanks to some of you parting with their beloved lenses for a few weeks, so that I can review them. You know who you are, thanks a lot for that!
I am still trying to fill in the gaps, so you can always have a look at my list of lenses I would like to review. If I don’t get back to you it is most likely because I am already too busy with other lenses and I am always trying to prioritize the more exotic ones. I even had to let go of an opportunity to review the Canon 50mm 0.95 Dream lens, because I already had four lenses to review at that time. I still regret that a bit…
There have been a few review highlights this year that I want to point out:
Viltrox really made a stand with their 16mm 1.8 and 75mm 1.2 (APS-C) lenses. With these two lenses they went from a manufacturer mainly popular for affordable APS-C lenses to a force to be reckoned with. I will definitely pay close attention to their future lens releases and we also reviewed some of their more affordable lenses like the 20mm 2.8 AF, 28mm 1.8 AF and 85mm 1.8 AF Z.
In the past I haven’t been really happy with Samyang’s lenses, especially their build quality, handling as well as sample variation. I got word there have been notable improvements though, so I reviewed the Samyang AF 24mm 1.8 FE this year and it has been a very positive surprise. I therefore plan on reviewing more Samyang lenses in the near future (e.g. FE 135mm 1.8 AF, FE 85mm 1.4 AF MK II and FE 50mm 1.4 AF MK II).
The updated Tamron 70-180mm 2.8 MK II is also a lens that made me very happy, because it showed me, that Tamron is listening to its customers. I mentioned some things in my review of the first generation lens that got in the way and I think should be fixed and really all of those have been addressed in the updated MK II version. Well done, Tamron! Tamron is also pretty innovative when it comes to zoom lenses lately, as they offer several unique lenses I might also have a look at in the future (e.g. 35-150mm 2.0-2.8 and 17-50mm 4.0).
Sony generally seems to be one of the most capable lens manufacturers these days. I reviewed the Sony FE 20mm 1.8G, Sony FE 14mm 1.8 GM as well as Sony FE 12-24mm 2.8 GM (reviews coming soon) this year and they all have been stellar performers. They have come a very long way from their early FE/ZA and also their first generation of GM lenses.
Voigtländer seems to have abandoned the E-mount platform a bit, but from a business point of view it does make a lot of sense to port their existing designs to Nikon-Z and Canon-RF first, before releasing new E-mount lenses.
They did release a few new M-mount lenses though and also here we have been getting very well rounded, highly capable lenses at affordable prices. They have really mastered the art of designing compact high performance M-mount lenses by now.
TTArtisan released a Trioplan 100mm 2.8 replica that Martin reviewed. Now personally I have zero interest in that lens, but many of you guys do, as it has been one of the most successful and most read reviews this year. It also shows how crazily some companies overcharge you for replicas of very simple, decades old designs.
I also managed to review some exotic lenses this year (mainly thanks to readers), where you cannot really find useful information on, as those reviewers that are only in it for the money don’t review them, as the possible return of investment is close to zero. These lenses have been the Zeiss Hologon 16mm 8.0, Leica 50mm 0.95 Noctilux-M and also the Sony FE 12-24mm 2.8 GM (review coming soon) fits this category.
Comparisons with several lenses are a lot of work when done properly, so I don’t do them that often and only when I am convinced we can actually learn something from them. When I had the Leica 50mm 0.95 Noctilux-M I used that opportunity and gathered a total of six Super Fast 50mm M-mount Lenses and there were some interesting results, if you missed that article be sure to have a look.
The Photoshop update featuring the AI-based generative fill has also been a highlight for me this year, as it saves me so much time retouching photos.
Despite my mediocre experience with donation buttons in the past I decided to add this one to the articles:
I got a tremendously positive response this time. Some of you even added small notes to the donations and I read all of them with great joy.
By the way: Martin and I have our own donation buttons as well as affiliate links, so the money donated or generated through the links goes directly to the author of that article where you clicked on the button or link.
These donations now allow me to sometimes buy a lens with the sole purpose of reviewing it and selling it afterwards, which cannot always be done without a loss. For reviews I usually have to buy higher priced (used) lenses from a dealer, to be able to return them if they are faulty. These lenses are then being sold afterwards at a lower price on the blog. Examples of this approach are e.g. the Canon 50mm 1.4 LTM, Voigtländer VM 75mm 1.9 Ultron, MS-Optics/Minolta 40mm 1.7, Voigtländer 28mm 1.9 Ultron.
Make a wish
Talking about donations: you may have come across my Sale post where I list leftover review samples (alongside some stuff from my personal collection) where the manufacturers are not interested in paying the return shipping.
The number of lens manufacturers from China is increasing and so is the number of lenses that end up there. Long story short, after deducting customs and taxes I have to pay upfront to get those lenses, there is still a substantial amount left this year that I want to donate to a good cause as usual.
If there is something you would like to see money donated to (and if it is possible doing so via Paypal or EU bank transfer) please leave a comment and I will have a look at it and if I have the feeling it is a good idea I will consider it.
Otherwise I will split the money across local animal shelters.
What the Future brings
Obviously I don’t know. For the time being it doesn’t look like we will be running out of lenses to review though and lately new grinding technologies have further pushed the boundaries of what lenses can be created (e.g. Sony FE 12-24mm 2.8 GM, Sigma 14mm 1.4 Art DG DN, Voigtländer VM 50mm 1.0 Nokton).
That being said, with the latest Ai updates for editing software maybe we will be able to perfectly correct Coma and also longitudinal CA in post or pick our favorite bokeh rendering from a list of lenses, as we now pick our distortion correction profiles. These new digital optimization possibilites might also heavily influence the optical lens design criteria of the future, as the ability to correct distortion and lateral CA in post already did for our current lenses.
These more complicated editing processes might actually push more people towards the seemingly “simpler” analogue photography. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see some wedding photographers offering “the analogue package” as a contrast to the overoptimized, heavily edited digital pictures we see these days.
I also expect some consolidation when it comes to the Chinese lens manufacturers. There are a lot right now and I am pretty sure not all will survive this decade. I am also very surprised we haven’t seen any serious attempts at designing an interchangeable lens camera from a Chinese company yet. I am sure though: this is only a matter of time.
I definitely hope, many of you will keep following us on that journey to find out what the future in the world of photography and lens design brings.
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