Photographer and YouTuber Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography just released an interesting video in which he tries to make some sense out of the world of optics. His goal is to try to separate fact from opinion, and give photographers a framework that might help them select the right lens instead of throwing money away on the “best” lens.

The video is the first installment of a new series on optics that Forbes plans to continue on with, and it’s meant to set something of a baseline.

“A lot of times you’ll hear photographers say things about a specific lens like, ‘this lens sucks,’ or ‘this lens is awesome,’ or ‘this lens is amazing,’” says Forbes. “Well, last time I checked, ‘suck,’ ‘awesome,’ and ‘amazing’ are subjective terms not factual terms.”

The trick, says Forbes, is to refocus on two irrefutable (but too-often-ignored) facts about lenses:

  1. There is no such thing as the perfect lens
  2. Lenses are tools

These two things help to reframe the optics conversation around the actual photos you’re using those optics to shoot. As Forbes sees it, once you understand (1) the kind of photography you want to capture, (2) the tradeoffs that go into creating any given lens at a given price point, and (3) the specific quirks and characteristics of any given lens you’re considering, then you’ll be better equipped to ignore the hype and hyperbole and make the right decision for your photography goals and style.

Check out the full video up top for a great optics ‘Reality Check’ that helps put this gear discussion back into the context of actually taking great pictures. And if you enjoy this discussion, definitely check out the Art of Photography YouTube channel for more thoughtful, in-depth videos like it.

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