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Thread: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

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    Senior Member thrice's Avatar
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    Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    I use the term 'fast' even though it is subjective. I know a lot of medium format work has been studio and landscape, where large apertures don't really matter...

    But with the exception of the Mamiya 80/1.9, Zeiss Contax 85/2 and Zeiss 110/2 for Hasselblad there are no fast lenses for 645 and greater...

    I've seen a couple of rare optics that work with 2x3 graphics and what have you, but nothing for the more common formats.

    I understand the limitations especially with 500 series Hasselblads that require the shutter in the lens.

    However, Even Zeiss made the 135/3.5 Planar for 4x5, which equates to a 70mm f/1.8 on 6x6 (hasselblad) and includes a shutter... is the helicoid the inhibiting factor? The 135 Planar is SHARP (I own an early beater condition one that is amazing wide open).

    I'm a little frustrated because I love the 6x6 format but f/2.8 hurts me and I can't afford a 200 series 'blad to use the 110/2 FE

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    I have the 110/2 FE and have been trying it out with the new IQ back. F2.0 in medium format is like F1.0 in 35mm. The DOF is so shallow and it's not easy to focus handheld when wide open. The lens also add to the weight of the already heavy MF with back. So, I may sell it and stick with the AF lenses. The only thing stop me from selling it is warm tone in the Zeiss optic and the creamy bokeh. Decision, Decision, Decision.

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    you can use the 110 FE on a mamya 645 with adaptor !

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    Senior Member thrice's Avatar
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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Quote Originally Posted by archivue View Post
    you can use the 110 FE on a mamya 645 with adaptor !
    Yes, but even a mint condition copy of the 80/1.9 N is much cheaper/smaller and arguably sharper...

    I would prefer to find something fast in 6x6 that I can use on a 501CM

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    Senior Member mathomas's Avatar
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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    I feel your pain, but at least with MF (film) you can push your film a stop or two and still get nice results. I really haven't missed fast lenses with my Hassy, but I also don't treat it as a low-light rig.

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Understand the feeling, however, looking at my Schneider 180/2,8, what can be the final weight and volume with a 180/2 or even better a 200/2,0 :-) I take this lens to compare with the real fast lens on 35mm (Canon or Nikon).

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    I believe the answer is that it is simply very difficult and impractical. It is hard enough to make good fast lenses in 35mm, in medium format you are forcing the lens to be acceptably sharp across more than double the area, the film is not as flat as it is in 35mm (and often less precisely positioned, given the interchangeable backs), you still need to clear a large mirror box, and as mentioned, the practical aspects are limited because of how difficult they are to focus wide open. Most of the really fast 2x3 and 4x5 lenses you mention were either made for aerial use -- i.e. meant for use mostly at infinity, to make a brighter focusing screen, or were made as a compromise to the fact that film was so slow back then. Medium format in the recent years has not really had these problems, so most of the manufacturers have not found it practical to offer these kinds of lenses. People who had to shoot in the dark were using 35mm, because it had faster lenses, faster film, easier handholdability and more depth of field, while people who wanted very shallow depth of field were just shooting large format (and I don't think there were that many who wanted it...it is more of a modern fashion).
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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    FYI - there is a 110 f2 and an 80 f2 for the Rollei/Hy6 platform. That said, the 80 f 2.8 or 60 3.5 are just fine with MF and digital backs. Thin DOF is the issue.

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Quote Originally Posted by thrice View Post

    However, Even Zeiss made the 135/3.5 Planar for 4x5, which equates to a 70mm f/1.8 on 6x6 (hasselblad)
    I trust your math and assume you say "equates" in terms of "look" and DOF and not exposure.

    My understanding is glass is called "fast" because of low light exposure capability. Someone tell me if I'm wrong.

    So the reasons one want "faster glass" for medium format? If it is for exposure reasons, pushing MF film (a stop) isn't really an issue. If it is for DOF issues, well, DOF is pretty shallow at 2.8 or 2.5 or 2.0, common fast apertures for MF. Cameras with bellows extensions can give you even shallower DOF if you focus closer.

    I'm guessing it becomes an issue of cost and size to produce a medium format lens that a lens maker would be proud to have their name next to f1.4 or faster.
    Last edited by saxshooter; 30th September 2011 at 07:57.
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  10. #10
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    I'd be interested in the reasoning behind this question (fast?) as well... if it's for shallow DoF, then even F8 can be quite shallow on longer lenses at shorter focussing distances. On my aptus II-6, the mamiya 210/4 for headshots has such shallow DoF wide open that I have to stop down to at least 5.6 to get the eyeball and eyelashes both in focus... that bigger sensor/film surface makes a big difference.

    If the original post is about low-light and higher shutter speed, I'm afraid it's mostly just too cost prohibitive to do with any regularity. 35mm already does such a nice job in that arena anyway.

    The only thing that doesn't bode well for pushing MF film is the change in contrast that sometimes accompanies... but even that can be dealt with

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    When the term 'fast' and 'slow' were first applied to camera lenses, f/4.5 was considered very fast.

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    Senior Member Graham Mitchell's Avatar
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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    OK, a few good reasons why there are no f1.4 lenses for MF:

    1) size and weight would become a real issue
    2) DOF would become ridiculously thin and almost impossible to focus consistently

    f2 on medium format is plenty. Medium format doesn't need larger apertures than that - it desperately needs better high ISO performance so that shooting at f4 and f5.6 doesn't mean such slow shutter speeds.

    Btw, I originally got into the Rollei system because of the relatively fast (and sharp) lenses, including 50mm f2.8, 80mm f2, 110mm f2 and 180mm f2.8. Here's a shot from today with the 110mm at f2.8:

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Mitchell View Post
    OK, a few good reasons why there are no f1.4 lenses for MF:

    1) size and weight would become a real issue
    2) DOF would become ridiculously thin and almost impossible to focus consistently
    Yes... with the GH2 20mm f1.7 you get .3m dof @2m,,, and, with the same field of view (62mm) on an H4D-60 you need f11 for the same dof!

    ...but I am thinking of using my 900mm f6.3 and 610mm f6 WW2 aero lenses, if I can get a shutter.

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Leica S2 ... S35/2.5, S70/2.5, S180/3.5 and a S120/2.5 Macro which has an almost non-existent DOF when shot at minimum distance wide open ... and is the fastest 120 MFD macro made as far as I know.

    Hasselblad HC100/2.2.

    I won't even bother with these types of "fast" MF lenses anymore, unless they are AF. Too many "almost" shots as my eyes got worse.

    -Marc

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Thanks everyone for your insights.

    I shoot large format, my distinction of fast on that format is certainly f/4.5 and larger.

    I would not (can not) shoot my field camera handheld, so fast shutterspeeds aren't usually essential aside from compositional issues.

    Will try pushing some 400 film with my f/2.8 lens on my Hasselblad, would be nice to have the light sensitivity.

    My eyes are very good, so focusing fast lenses is not a problem.

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Quote Originally Posted by thrice View Post
    Will try pushing some 400 film with my f/2.8 lens on my Hasselblad, would be nice to have the light sensitivity.
    You will not really get much more out of pushing which is simply underexposing and overdeveloping. You will then need to deal with more film contrast. I find it easier to work in the darkroom to work with an underexposed negative then one that has been pushed. Personally, I have found 400 speed film shot normally the my limit to acceptable quality, and like you, I like to shoot in bad light handheld. I would simply work on holding the camera. For me, a 1/30 is easy, 1/15 is good, 1/8 starts getting dodgy--this is with my MF film cameras and MFD. I have not worked enough with Hasselblad to know how much of a factor that mirror is, but I know many folk overemphasize the effect of mirror vibration (or mirror "slap" as they like to say).

    Digital has really spoilt photographers working under low light. I feel like I have f/.05 lenses on all my cameras.

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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Mitchell View Post
    OK,
    f2 on medium format is plenty. Medium format doesn't need larger apertures than that - it desperately needs better high ISO performance so that shooting at f4 and f5.6 doesn't mean such slow shutter speeds.
    I'm guessing we're technically (or at least in a practical sense) pretty close to the maximum in design of fast lenses. Lenses have been made for a pretty long time and speeds haven't gone up greatly across the board. In the digital mf world, we're seeing some increases in ISO, if only by moving native ISO up and raising max ISO up with it, and some software improvements. But I seem to remember reading that the CCD chip will never get to the ISO's of the CMOS chip. I guess there would have to be a major shift to CMOS by mf makers to get to the high ISO range of dslr's, but then there would need to be a good way to get around the need for an AA filter.

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    Senior Member thrice's Avatar
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    Re: Why no *fast* lenses for medium format?

    Shashin - more contrast, but better exposed mid-tones, which is typically what I expose for. I rarely shoot negatives except for city scenes on the 4x5. Provia 400X pushes very nicely to 1600 EI.

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