This is a part two to my “why are some lenses so expensive?” article that I wrote yesterday. I already explained the difference between consumer and professional-level lenses in the first post, so now it is time to talk about exotic lenses. With so many exotic lenses on the market today, some of which seem to be in relatively high demand (at least judging by their lack of availability), one might wonder about what makes them so special when compared to everything else. This post is not meant to be technical or basic – I think you can get most of that from the first article. Instead, I want to focus on craftsmanship, price, perceived value and niche marketing – the main drivers behind exotic lenses.
I once had a conversation with a photography veteran, who was trying to convince me that the new Nikkor and Canon lenses lack “soul”, with their plastic barrels, rubber focus/zoom rings and industrial “mainstream” designs. I disagreed, because I was blown away by the performance of new generation lenses and I just did not care about everything else. Plus, the notion of a lens having a soul just disturbed me and I remember thinking how ridiculous it was even to think about such things. But as time passed by and I got a chance to experience some of the rare and older optics, I started to understand what the photographer was trying to tell me. Most modern lenses do feel as if they are just taken from a conveyor line, where thousands of other lenses are made exactly the same way with little intervention. Older lenses were hand-crafted, one by one, and each lens was unique in its own way. And that was the beauty of it, because you never knew what you got – it was a game of random cards.