Both of these things are subjective, no? Well, yes. So let me lay down the ground rules before we get into this. As photographers, we can lean towards whatever floats our boat in terms of lenses, but I will not be touching on focal lengths, but rather on the end product; the image. Now in terms of differentiating the two, here is an breakdown of what I mean by these two terms:
By saying best lenses: I mean the lenses you own or use that produce quality results every time. They are clinical, produce what you may consider reliable reproductions of the scene, the focusing and aperture ring both ‘FEEL’ right, and the components are all quality. Essentially, anyone that uses this lens would be impressed by the build and the performance.
By saying favourite lenses: I mean lenses that have a character you love. This is where the difference is, it might hit most of the points above, but have a quirky imperfections that you have fallen in love with. Something that is very marmite, and a lot of people may or may not like it because of this. Perhaps the Bokeh has an unusual flavour, perhaps the rings or materials aren’t as great, or perhaps it isn’t as sharp as a lot of other lenses.
A great example of my lenses that fall into these categories are my Yashinon ML 50mm F1.4, which hands down fits into the ‘best lens’ category. This lens has amazing micro contrast, beautiful bokeh when wide open, is very sharp, constructed well, and the focus and aperture rings feel Schweet. This would fall into ‘best’ category. In fact, the only reason I have kept this lens is literally because I feel it is the ‘best’ lens I own in terms of results and constructions.
The contrast here would be the Zuiko 50mm F1.4, which has a very particular flavour to the bokeh. After F5.6 it is sharp across the frame, but there is evidence of distortion in the image. This lens still produces top quality images, but produces less clinical images compared to the Yashica ML 50mm F1.4.
Got it? Great! So, how do we apply this to different situations? Well, how about you are meeting up with a friend for a shooting session, and you are lending them a camera and lens combo. You love your scuffed up, not 100% sharp 50mm lens, but it means a lot to you, and you naturally want others to appreciate this unique beast. You stick it on your X camera and give it to your friend. You describe the potential concerns to your friend and let them have at it.
When the results are looked at afterwards together, you friend comments on concerns they have with the lens. They aren’t happy with the results of the images, despite you pre-warning them. As a human being a small part of you is disappointed, but you expected this to happen.
We live in a camera world where a large part of the culture expect clinical results when it comes to lenses/ and image re-production. It is a sad fact that people will focus more on finding imperfections with an image, rather than talk about the creative or emotional impact of the image itself. Now of course, this is not everyone, and you will always get equipment that cross over both the ‘best’ and the ‘favourite’ groups, and that is great.
I just implore you to not get too distracted by things like pixel peeping, and over analysing the gear aspect of a photograph. Try to just enjoy using the gear, and have fun producing photographs you love.
With that aside, what gear experiences do you have that fall into these two categories?