There are a series of articles on the Web right now about lenses, new camera bodies and autofocus claims. Olympus and Canon for instance have made some pretty bold claims about their newer cameras and the fast AF that you can find on each.

I have tested these claims – not with special testing equipment – but with something that I value much more – an eye trained by 37 years as a serious photographer.

I believe that in the case of both the OMD and the 1DX, Olympus and Canon have respectively been truthful and accurate. Their new AF systems are better and faster than their older systems.

But there’s something else you have to think about…

For years I’ve been mentioning that unless you have the pro glass, most of the high-end cameras simply won’t perform as well as they may if you do. That’s a fact. Period. Can’t be refuted. For instance with the 5D series of cameras came out, their sensors were often able to outperform anything but the best “L” series glass. Why does this matter? Well if you are buying a camera because of new features that you can’t take advantage of because you have second-class glass, there’s no reason to buy the new camera.

This is where is where the rubber really meets the road and why I’ve decided to buy the new Canon 24-70 Series “L” zoom even though Canon didn’t add stabilization to the lens – it and the other new Canon lenses take advantage of new technologies in both the Canon 5D MK III and 1DX that older lenses do not.

I have confirmed this in particular using the new Canon 500 f/4 and the new Canon 40mm pancake lens. I spoke with Canon representatives who prefer to remain unnamed and they admitted that the new AF systems on the 5D MK III and 1DX are optimized to work with the newest, fastest glass.

So the thing to know is this. If you expect a remarkable improvement in AF just because you buy a new 5D MK III or 1DX you may be slightly disappointed. You need that fast, new glass too.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy and take advantage of other new features on these cameras, but the AF isn’t going to be as improved as you might hope. Which leads me to the question what other features might be less successful without new glass and accessories? I am investigating to find out.

And before you go off thinking I am slamming Canon here – nothing could be further from the truth. I am loving the 1DX. It’s the best camera I have ever owned period. But I also have the luxury of owning all the newest, fastest glass too so my experience may be different from yours.

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  1. [...] I want to feature a post by Scott Bourne about how important new glasses are for new DSLRs. The article takes AF performance as an example: [...]

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