‘Who am I and what am I doing here?’ Introducing Roger Cicala


This post is by Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com) from Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)


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I like big optics.

A fair number of you probably know me as the Roger who started Lensrentals.com, and some may know I used to be a physician before that. A few know I sold most of my share in Lensrentals.com years ago and since then I’ve hung out as their director of Quality Assurance, Lovely and Talented Spokesmodel, and a major contributor to the blog. Other than QA, I haven’t actually managed anything for years.

When I started Lensrentals I had a lot of conversations with service centers that went like this. Me: “That lens you

still sucks”. Person at service center: “No, it’s within specs”. Me: “What are the specs?” Service center: “We can’t tell you”. One day, after I raised hell with a factory service manager, he patted me on the head and said, “testing lenses is complicated; you don’t have the background to understand.”

Any of you who has ever seen a physician after someone says something like ‘you wouldn’t understand; it’s complicated’ knows what happened next. I had no option but to spend a couple of years buying testing equipment, offering internships to really smart optical engineering students, and developing a lens testing center and methodology that was as good as anything in the industry.

Pictured: A lens testing center and methodology that was as good as anything in the industry. This machine doesn’t give us numbers, it’s used to optically adjust lenses in real time.

That probably sounds ridiculous, but the reality is that in 2010, everybody (manufacturers included) was still doing metrology (lens testing) the same way that they’d done it with film cameras in the 60s and 70s. In my previous life I’d done clinical research, and my first hobby was writing medical books for non-medical people; putting complex medical terms in plain words. When I started Lensrentals, I started writing again, blogging about the stuff we were doing.

I ended up doing testing and consulting for several major manufacturers, and a fair number of specialty manufacturers

So a few years later, when a service center told me “it’s within spec” I could send them their specs (because we’d tested enough lenses to know them) and the results from the lens in question and say, “NOPE, it’s not.” If you look back to my blog posts in those days, you’ll see I even posted some examples of what service centers claimed was ‘in spec’ versus what was really happening as well as posting actual MTF (as opposed to computer generated) data. As you might expect, this made me rather unpopular with manufacturers.

We then entered the traditional ‘exchange of threats and legal posturing’ period. I managed to convince most manufacturers that we were just reporting facts (emphasis on most). Eventually they started sending engineers to look at our testing methods. I ended up doing testing and consulting for several major manufacturers, and a fair number of specialty manufacturers. I don’t do that much anymore, since we gave our software and methodology to any that were interested, and most then started doing it themselves.

Test results for a lens that isn’t as sharp as it should be in the center, which actually is unusual. Usually the problems are away from center.

I still have a lab in one of Lensrentals’ buildings, but I just do whatever interests me at the moment. They let me put stuff up on their blog but much of what I write only gets widely seen when DPReview reposts it. I’ve worked behind the scenes with the DPReview staff for years, so when Barney offered me the chance to write directly for DPR we sat down and negotiated. I think the terms are fair; they aren’t going to pay me anything, but they won’t tell me what to write about or to STFU [Editor’s note: we offered to pay Roger but he said ‘I already have enough money’ and I didn’t push the matter in case I misheard].

I expect you might see a disclaimer about ‘the opinions expressed in this article don’t necessarily reflect those of DPReview, anybody who works here, or anybody we even know’ every so often. But otherwise I’ll be writing op-ed pieces here when the mood strikes me and when DPReview has a slow news day.

Roger


The opinions expressed in this article don’t necessarily reflect those of DPReview, its parent company, affiliates, anybody who works here, or anybody we even know.

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