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Old vs new LF lenses for digital imaging?

lowep

Member
Pardon for asking such a dumb question but would like to know more about the viability or otherwise of using legacy large format lenses designed for film compared to modern lenses, for digital imaging?

Resolution? Lens curvature? Chromatic abberation... is the difference like night and day or more like overcast vs sunny sky?
 

lookbook

Well-known member
.. it's never like day and night - more like cloudy and sunny ..
and the clouds are disappearing more and more if you avoid precisely diffused light with older lenses.
 

lowep

Member
:cool:(y)

Please note these are designer sunglasses.

Is the difference between an apo digitar and standard lens somewhat like that between a regular 35mm for example Leica R lens and an apo version of the same lens? Or are there other variables such as revolutionary new developments in coatings and shape of digitar lenses that justify the higher price tags?
 
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anyone

Well-known member
In my opinion it’s difficult to make an overall judgement. Some analogue lenses do really well, others do not. And again others need to be somewhat tweaked for best performance - some members here are specialized in that field:)
 

lowep

Member
Thank you for these encouraging replies that give me the confidence to explore what can be done with the lenses I already have rather than make a bigger investment than I would want to do in a completely new system.
 

med

Active member
I haven’t done extensive testing or anything, but when I did do some testing, I did see a fairly substantial increase in sharpness and reduced CA with my Rodenstock Sironar-S 135/5.6 over my Grandagon 90/4.5, Sironar-N 210/5.6, and APO-Ronar 300.

I did the testing on my 22 megapixel back and have only ever used the Sironar-S 135 on my newer backs. I’ve been curious about testing them out again, especially the Sironar-S 210 I picked up. If I do I will post some results here!
 

anyone

Well-known member
I haven’t done extensive testing or anything, but when I did do some testing, I did see a fairly substantial increase in sharpness and reduced CA with my Rodenstock Sironar-S 135/5.6 over my Grandagon 90/4.5, Sironar-N 210/5.6, and APO-Ronar 300.

I did the testing on my 22 megapixel back and have only ever used the Sironar-S 135 on my newer backs. I’ve been curious about testing them out again, especially the Sironar-S 210 I picked up. If I do I will post some results here!
I'm quite happy with my Sironar-S lenses (150, 180, 210) on the Linhof Techno. Glad to hear the 135 also does well!
 

RodK

Member
In my experience the following analog designs do Quite well on Digital. Rodenstock Apo-Sironar S from 100mm to 210mm. 55mm Apo-Grandagon-N up to 80mp and possibly 100mp, backs is also not bad. I have not tested on a 150mp back. The Schneider Apo-Symmar L series, which are quite similar to the Rodenstock S design are also good from 100MM to 210mm. In Schneider wides the 80mm and 110mm Super Symmar's are good. But with these 2 you have to be worried about hazing. Apparently Schneider got a bad batch of the Balsam used to cement elements together and some lenses have had a sort of yellowish haze slowly appear.

This is basically not really repairable and tends to drop contrast and therefore the appearance of sharpness. But if you get a good one I am told quite good.
Be aware for best quality the higher the MP of your capture device, the less you can stop down with wide to normal focal length lenses. for 90mm and above you gain 1 stop. So if you have a wide angle lens, and a 60mp digital back You can go to F 11-F11.5. But at 100mp F 8 is the limit for those same lenses.

But when you get to 90mm and longer you can stop down at least one more stop and perhaps 1.5 stops further.

Hope this helps.

Rod Klukas
US Representative
Arca-Swiss Inc.
 

lowep

Member
It is very helpful to know which analog lenses go well with digital and which don't

- seems like the only way to figure this out is to test each lens or learn from the experience of a knowledgeable expert who has already done so.
 
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KC_2020

Member
It is very helpful to know which analog lenses go well with digital and which don't
I think it's still a good idea to test and determine for yourself.

For example I have the APO-Grandagon 55mm. I've used it with a 100MP back and the images were great. Completely useable for my client. However I didn't enlarge or crop and my images were shot in the studio. Mr. Klulas states above that the lens is 'not bad.' Perhaps under some circumstances, i.e. lighting, more extreme camera movements that take you out of the center of the lens, there are shortcomings that appear.
 

dougpeterson

Workshop Member
Your own testing is always better than someone else's; someone else's reasonably relevant testing/experience with a specific lens are better than rules of thumb; rules of thumb are better than nothing. With that in mind...

Some general rules of thumb when it comes to whether an analog lens will perform acceptably with a digital back:
  1. Macro lenses generally perform better than non-macro lenses
  2. Longer lenses generally perform better than wider lenses (lens design has progressed more for wide lenses in recent decades)
  3. Lower-res backs (e.g. 22mp) are far more forgiving than higher-res backs (e.g. 150mp)*
  4. Everything is relative so your point of comparison matters a lot
*Assuming you evaluate at 100% pixel on screen or at maximum good-looking print size
 

lowep

Member
Everything is relative so your point of comparison matters a lot
Thanks Doug, I I hadn't thought about this in that way before. I thought there must be a few specific technical variables that effect the way that lenses direct light to either a forgiving piece of film or a demanding sensor, but it starts to sound more like lens design is more of a black art than a factory assebly line, with many variables that influence this and many ways to interpret the outcome, so appreciate the input from you and others who have shared their knowledge and experience.
 
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