The First Annual Photogeek Geek Photo Contest

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I've been writing a lot of geeky testing stuff for the last couple of weeks, most of which can be summed up as 'take some pictures; if they look good everything is fine.' So last weekend, I went out and took some pictures. It was pretty fun. So much fun that I thought maybe I could have a photo contest just to entice some of my fellow geeky types to go out while there is still some sunshine to take a few pictures.

Don't worry, my pixel-peeping photogeek friends, I know that your usual images of ISO 12233 charts, backfocus targets, dog and cat fur don't lend themselves well to the various photo competitions out there. I know that a beautiful picture of a cloudy sunset doesn't give you the opportunity to evaluate corner resolution, and that it's impossible to assess for spherical aberration in an artfully shadowed nude. Yes, we could enter an superbly sharp brick wall in the architectural category of a normal photo contest, or a 100% crop of our cat's whiskers in the wildlife section, but we know those 'artsy' photo judges never have proper appreciation for that kind of work.

Seeing a need that needed to be filled, by the power vested in me as President and Treasurer of the Society of Overly Analytical Lens Assessors, I have organized the first photography contest for photogeeks.

Entering is simple: just send a jpg (100% non-resized, of course) to contests@lensrentals.com, along with a note telling me what category you're entering and any pertinent positives about the shot. You know - how many copies of the lens you tested and sent back before choosing this one, what type of laser-rangefinder focusing device you used, or how you hand-carved a wooden lens mount so you could use the 1945 Soyuz f/0.45 x-ray lens you got at a flea market on your NEX camera after you'd disassembled it to clean out the fungus.

I'll post the entries after making sure they meet the criteria. Don't worry, we aren't going to let your photos be evaluated by a bunch of artsy types that wouldn't know acutance from aberrations. We've assembled a world-class panel of completely geeky judges:

  • Andy Westlake, Technical Editor, DPReview.com
  • Bryan Carnathan, President, The-Digital-Picture.com
  • Rob Murray, Chief Optical Technician, Imaging-Resource.com and SLRGear.com
  • Aaron Closz, Repair and Testing Manager, Lensrentals.com (Note: Aaron has a degree in fine art, but feels comfortable he can set that knowledge aside to be an impartial judge for this contest.)
  • Roger Cicala, Geek-in-residence, Lensrentals.com & Lensauthority.com


Judges decisions are final and they reserve the right to download the images and run them through various testing programs, analyze the dynamic range, compare corner aberrations, and stuff like that.

So, on to the categories!!! (You can enter a photo in more than one category.)


Sharpest Corner

Corner is defined as the area bounded by the square made from perpendicular lines drawn at 25% of the length of horizontal and vertical sensor edges from the actual sensor corner. If you understood that, then you are geeky enough to enter this category. Before you start getting excited about how easy this category will be, we require that the image be a real-world object that is NOT a test chart of any type. Double bonus points if the image is of something outdoors (get your pasty skin outside while there's still some sunshine). Negative points if the image is a brick wall or wooden fence.

First Prize: A Lensbaby in your choice of mounts.


You know who you are; you're the guy who, when faced with a lens that's simply phenomenal in every respect, immediately states "well, but I don't like the out-of-focus highlights." Here's a contest just for you. Show off that fabulous bokeh. Additional bonus points given if you show the bokeh of a bouquet. Or a briquette. In a bucket.

If you can't manage to shoot the bokeh of a bouquet of briquettes in a bucket, we'll give you extra bonus points if absolutely nothing in the picture is in focus, but there are out-of-focus-highlights in every quadrant, with both foreground and background bokeh. Just because that sounds like such a geeky thing to do. Finally, we will, of course, give a separate prize (TBA) in this category for worst bokeh.

First Prize: An early 1900s Baush and Lomb Tessar (made under license from Zeiss) lens made for 5 X 7" camera. The amazing 16-blade brass aperture gives bokeh you have to see to believe. (Of course, to see it you'll have to make a mount and some bellows to hook it up to your camera, which is half the fun. ) 


Yes, this is the actual lens


3-D Rendering of a 2-D Test Chart

We lens geeks love to take pictures of test charts. But we also love to talk about how a lens 'renders' a great 3-D effect, or that special Zeiss (or Leica, or anything else expensive) look. So here's a chance to combine two favorite things in one: demonstrate how uniquely your favorite lens renders, but your photo must contain some form of 2-D test chart. Since I know you're going to ask, yes, brick walls and fences will be considered 2-D test charts since everyone seems to consider them that anyway.

I've always wondered exactly what we mean when we say a lens 'renders', so I looked it up. According to Merriam Webster render means:

  1. To melt down
  2. To report or declare a legal judgement
  3. To give or transmit to another
  4. To cause to be
  5. To produce a copy
  6. To direct the execution of


So I guess any pictures of stuff being melted down, reported, transmitted, copied, or executed would be eligible for this category.

First Prize: A 24" x 36" Edmund Optics Resolving Power chart to expand your home testing laboratory and optical testing of one (1) prime lens of your choice using an optical bench and/or Imatest by Lensauthority.com (maximum 300mm focal length).


Largest Number of Accesories Between the Lens and the Camera

It never fails that after I've tested this lens or that, someone wants to know something like, "so, did you happen to test that Canon 16-35 with a 2x teleconverter and 25mm extension tube on an adapter to a Nikon V2?" So here's your chance. To enter this category you have to take a picture of something, and also a picture of the contraption you took the picture of something with. The picture of something doesn't really matter; it's the picture of the contraption that took the picture of something we're interested in.

Now I'll give you a warning. As a guy who is the proud inventor of the Manopod . . .

And shoots a 1905 Zeiss Protar on a Canon 5D Mk II


I'm expecting great entries in this category. I should further add, that since the Geeks here at Lensrentals have already started in about what counts as an adapter, I'm going to fine-tune the rules a bit. At one end is a camera. At the other end is a lens. In between can be as many things as you can attach to each other, but they must be attached (yes, duct tape is an attachment) with no light leaks.

First Prize: 2 pounds of  lens elements from Roger's bin so that you can make your own lens (elements may have a scratch here or there). 

Best Picture of Stuff Inside a Lens

This contest is especially for those people who spend more time looking into their lens than looking through it. Dust, screws, bugs, whatever you've got inside there is eligible in this category. Major, major bonus points if you can not only show a picture of the stuff in the lens, but also a picture taken with the lens that shows the stuff in there. (Note: Anyone who sends a picture of sensor dust claiming it's actually the dust inside the lens will immediately have their membership in the Society of Overly Analytical Lens Assessors revoked.)

I will mention that the stuff actually has to be inside of the lens. Not a picture of stuff appearing to be inside the lens. So if you send a picture like this and tell me there are little people in your lens, we're just going to contact the appropriate authorities in your city.

First Prize: Our repair team will get the stuff out of your lens. If it's something really cool, though, we reserve the right to keep after we get it out.  (Not fungus, though. We don't do fungus.) 

Most Distortion Corrected in Software

Yes, software distortion correction might affect the resolution a tiny bit. But try it; you might like it. To enter this category we'll need both before and after pictures. You get extra points for correcting more than one distortion, so if you take out pincushion, lateral chromatic aberration, and vignetting or coma and still have something recognizable left at the end, you'll be looking good!

 First Prize: A distortion-free Holga Pinhole lens in your choice of mount. (Pinhole means never having to correct in post. Well, I guess you could, but, really, if you're correcting distortion from pinhole images you may be too geeky to even enter this contest. Heck, you're probably so geeky you're offended by this contest and have already fired off an email to me complaining about it.)

Dynamic Range Demonstration

Any camera tester worth his sensor has mentioned on more than one occasion that Camera A has a dynamic range of 13.45 eV or something like that. (I'm not sure; I'm just not all that into testing dynamic range.) So here's the chance to show off your dynamicism. Natural light, artificial light, we don't care. Just demonstrate why you bought this $2,000 more expensive camera so you wouldn't have to buy a $200 fill-flash. Bonus points, of course, if you write something we don't understand about light meter readings taken at the time of the exposure. (I'm a lens guy. The only time I use a light meter is to check the lighting on a test chart.)

First Prize: A pair of no-longer-available-to-the-public, totally geeked out T-shirts: "Let Biogons Be Biogons" and "Obey Snell - It's the Law". You know you want these. 

Best Picture from a Camera without a Movie Mode

You've posted it on a forum somewhere. "I wish they wouldn't waste the money and research putting video in an SLR camera, I just want it to photograph."  You've managed to demonstrate that despite being a complete geeky technophile, you can still technophobe (I think I just promoted an noun to a verb, but you get the idea) with the best of them. And just to show them, you've bought a camera that has no video function at all. So here's a contest just for you: enter any picture you want, as long as the EXIF data shows it was made with a camera, old or new, that has no video mode.

First Prize: A Lomography Kunstructor Build-it-yourself film SLR Kit

JUST SO YOU KNOW:  Yes, the contest is in fun, but the prizes are real. So if you're the only one who enters a category (which seems pretty likely) you win the prize. If no one enters a category, I win the prize (it's my stuff anyway, so that's fair.) Although I suspect some of my fellow judges will have a catfight over the T-shirts, at least.

Entries must be received by November 15th, we'll announce the winners over Thanksgiving weekend after the sales are over. Non U. S. entries are accepted but we'll only be able to ship to U. S. addresses so you'll need a friend in the U. S. to forward it to you.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE ENTRIES  I used a pbase gallery because it lets us have lots of large files and is easy to view at whatever size you want. I have to admit, my fellow geeks caught me -- I thought maybe we'd get a few entries in a week or so and planned on taking my time setting up a site. So, of course, we had 8 entries in the first 4 hours. This should be fun!



Ok, maybe not popular demand, but Andre suggested it and I love the idea. We now have an added “Hors catégorie” where you can make up your own category of geekiness and enter your picture in it. It can be an equipment picture, a picture taken with equipment, or anything else you can dream up.

BUT, I will not accept any, you know, 'I want to be artsy but I don't really know how' pictures. So if there's a newborn on a daddy's forearm, a dressed-up but barefoot family on the lawn, or anything that even hints of high-dynamic range, the entry is disqualified and will be posted only for purposes of geekily mocking it. Unless your picture mocks those things. Then we'll be OK with it.

Since it's a 'whatever you want to enter' category, I'm going to make it a 'whatever you want to win' prize. So, if you win this one we'll let you choose any of the prizes above. Except I don't have another Protar lens, but I've got a few dozen other nice antiques and I'm sure we can figure out one you'd like.

And a Best in Show Prize

PLUS, since the number of people actually entering has far exceeded my expectations, I'm adding a "Best in Show" prize which will, I think be so appealing that even some non-geeks may channel their inner-geek to come up with an entry. It's a cutaway Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens I used in some old blog posts on Lens Geneology. (You get the actual cutaway lens, not the picture of it - man, some of you guys are really paranoid.)


Yep, this, the ultimate photogeek paperweight, can be yours.


Plus, now we have Trophies!!!!



Roger Cicala


October, 2013

  • CarVac

    Hey Roger. Why isn't this categorized under "Special Offers/Contests" on the blog? The only things in that category right now are special offers, and this is the only contest...

  • Roger Cicala

    Alan, we will have results by Thanksgiving weekend. With over 400 submissions, and geeky OCD judges, it's going to take some time.

  • Alan

    Any timetable for the judging to be complete? I eagerly await the verdict. You had some awesome submissions.

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