Can you imagine the following conversation with a modern photographer?

I was talking to several friends of mine who are film makers. Motion guys. All about the "look" guys.
Somehow we got off the subject of beautiful talent and stumbled into a conversation about the current cameras with which they are working. That lasted about thirty seconds but boy oh boy, these guys have opinions about lenses. And their opinions have nothing to do with how sharp a lens is and everything to do about the character of the lens. 

Here are some of their quotes from the conversation:

"I love the way that lens flares. It does these beautiful streaking flares that are just gorgeous." 

"We were shooting tight head shots for a beauty company and the modern lenses showed off every pore and wrinkle. Finally, we found an old lens that had the multicoating stripped off the front and rear elements. It was soft and gentle and perfect...We used that lens for everything."

"The thing I like about anamorphics (anamorphic lenses) is the way they flare and the way they smooth out colors and tones across the frame. It seems more natural. More cinematic."

"Oh sure, I have a set of Zeiss primes that are great when everything has to be crisp and saturated but I've also got an older, Angenieux 10x zoom that's so sweet. It came to me with an old 16mm Bolex. It makes people look human instead of making them look, well, cut out."

"I love a lens that just falls apart on the edges. It needs to have strong character in the center but by the time I get to the edges I want the image to go to hell. It's a nice contrast."

"I shot last week with a Cooke prime. The focal length was perfect but the what the lens rendered was too brutal; it would be mean to use that lens bare on a face. We ended up stretching a black silk stocking over the front to kill some of the sharpness. There is a point at which high sharpness is distracting. It's like someone constantly trying to prove they can jump higher than everyone else."

"I love a lens that's sharp and contrasty but knows how to flare like a mad bastard when I throw some light across the front." 

Today I was filming a project with Ben, over at Zach Theatre. Ben started out using an very well corrected, modern, 85mm and the coverage/framing was just what we needed. Everyone looked at the frame and said, "That's just right." Then we moved and shot another take at a different angle. We used the older, D series, cheap 28mm f2.8 on his camera with the lens nearly wide open --- with at least three light sources inside the frame of the shot. The light sources had "glowy" flare around them and parts of the frame were washed with a bit of veiling flare as well. When people checked that shot on the monitor what they said was, "That looks beautiful." The interplay of light and non-perfect optics brought more depth to the shot.

Perhaps we need to be less interested in how sharp and contrasty our lenses are and instead concentrate on how much character and reality they can deliver.

Thinking about stripping the coatings off one of my duplicate 85's. Just to see how it looks.