It is a widely held notion that photography is all about having an eye to spot spectacular frames and that capturing the perfect image has little to do with the gear or the camera lens — they are merely tools. In this process, we fail to acknowledge the labour and artistry that goes into designing and manually building precise camera lenses. Time and again, top brands such as Sony, Nikon and Canon have outdone themselves by being aware of the ever-changing technology, adding newer offerings, and nurturing the urge to deliver the best to their customers.
Every Aditya, Darshil and Hari can now be found roaming the streets with an expensive camera around their neck or strapped to their palms, boasting of a Facebook page or an Instagram handle, and tagging themselves as professional photographers. While this is a big market for the camera brands, they have not been distracted by amateurs when it comes to high-precision lenses and continue to cater to their niche target audience — sports, action and wildlife expert photographers.
Launched in 2013, the full-frame G Master series by Sony — a rather futuristic offering — is the ultimate dream of photographers. “G Master is our range of premium lenses that boost the brand power of Alpha lenses. Our XA lens technology helps to achieve unprecedented bokeh beauty along with ensuring high resolution at spatial frequencies of 50 line pairs per millimetre,” says Hiroyuki Tokuno, head of digital imaging business, Sony India. Their most impressive precision lens till date is the FE 400 mm f/2.8, which is priced at 1.03 million.
Marching ahead with its EOS success, Canon continues to demonstrate its legacy and has sold around 90 million EOS cameras and 130 million EF lenses so far. However, it is its latest lens, EF 600 mm f/4L IS III USM, that poses a threat to the other two camera giants. “It is one of our popular super telephoto lenses. It had a breakthrough in weight reduction while improving image stabilisation from 3.5 stops to 5 stops. The lens, now weighing at 3,050g claimed the title of the world’s lightest 600mm f/4 lens. Its light weight alone is its biggest selling point,” says Kazutada Kobayashi, CEO and president, Canon India. The lens costs around 1.05 million.
Nikon’s trump card is the AF-S Nikkor 600 mm f/4E FL ED VR, which is a super-telephoto FX-format compatible lens that is designed to provide the highest level of optical precision with its Nikkor technology. Priced at 799,950, AF-S Nikkor lenses feature Nikon’s silent wave motor (SWM). This technology enables extremely quiet and accurate high-speed autofocusing. It has a stable AE control even during continuous shooting thanks to an electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism.
Elaborating on the technology, Nikon India’s managing director, Sajjan Kumar, explains, “We have improved the vibration reduction mode, thus, providing a more stable viewfinder image and enhanced blur-reduction effect on the resulting images. The lens also incorporates two fluorite lens and extra-low dispersion (ED) glass elements, together with a nanocrystal coat that reduces flare and ghosting. It also features an electromagnetic aperture mechanism that allows for stable exposure control.”
Apart from using a single block of glass, the processes behind making these perfect lenses involve optimised lens design in terms of size, weight and configuration to finally meet the purpose it was created for. Flourite or UD glass lenses with low dispersion and improved diffractive optic technology are incorporated with a coat of fluorine (repels dust, water, grease and dirt for easy cleaning), air sphere and super spectra (for anti-reflection), and sub-wavelength (to reduce internal reflection) to provide near precise results as desired by the professionals.