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Thread: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

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    How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    I want to expand my workflow to large format camera and lenses with my IQ160. At the moment I use Phase One DF body with 80mm LS and 120mm macro lenses - that is all I need for studio still life and product (rarely wide angle).
    I though that logical choice would be Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens or Rodenstock similar macro lens. And my experience with large format is none.
    Reading at this forums and lens specs I found out that this lens for digital backs is designed to be used wide open at f/5.6 (but you can stop down to f/8 at 1:1, and to f/11 at distances further than 1:2).
    So, how can I get usable DOF for product photography when everything needs to be sharp? Is focus stacking a must here, which I hate, that shallow DOF would need like 20 exposures? I know that camera movements solve this problem in some applications, but there are numerous objects that just don't benefit from camera movements (like rounded objects, square ones etc), and at 5.6 even these movements won't help.
    Is the difference in sharpness so obvious when stopped down to, at least, f16?
    So, what's the workflow for large formats digital lenses for extended DOF in studio applications?

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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    Hi!

    Currently I'm using this lens. There is a new ASPH version. It's been quite a while since I looked at the choices, but things don't change that fast so at least these will be pointers.

    Using a LF camera requires geared movements to get the best from a digital back. I'm using a Linhof Techno, but in a studio an m679cs is even better. There are other choices with Sinar p3/repro and Arca Swiss M Line & M Line two being the most obvious choices. Toyo also have an offering (if you don't need wide angle as it was somewhat limited). All these cameras have very fine tolerances and each may sacrifice some movement compared to each other and compared to a traditional 5x4 or larger format camera.

    The best thing you can do is arrange a demo of the above with a knowledgeable dealer and see what fits your needs.

    Don't get bogged down in the "What is Large Format" argument. All of the above are View Camera's, so stick with that!

    Regarding the DoF problem, depending ultimately on your desired output you can stop down a lot more (say to f16/f22) and sharpen. With diffraction it appears as a loss of micro contrast and responds well to sharpening. The best thing is to shoot your current setup and f22 and use smart sharpening in PS to see if the results are acceptable. There's a whole body of knowledge about diffraction and sharpening and it is something every digital photographer needs to know.

    But ... that defeats one of the main reasons to use movements is to control the plane of focus. If you were to say shoot a bracelet and wanted it flowing away from the camera, you can simply tilt the lens to bring the whole thing back into focus at f5.6 to f11. It's not a magic bullet as some subjects will require stacking.

    The creative possibilities of a view camera are limitless and great fun. This to me is the most fun about photography.

    I hate stacking with a passion, but invariably you'll end up having to do it for some subjects, the view camera gives more choices to avoid it.

    - Paul
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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    In many cases, when using 120 macro lens, I use f11 or f8 and stacking 3 or 4 shots unless of course it's a flat subject. Even with non macro lens, I sometimes combine 3 shots for still-life subject. For example, with 100 schneider at f16...Yes, it takes time. (I'm still using sinar p2 camera which was made for film. It's, in many cases, still a good camera with up to 80mm lens if you are very careful. You can get a cheaper_used one. With wider lenses, it might be very tough since the focus movement is not so precise for those lenses..) I think it depends on how much sharpness you want.
    With this view camera system, we have choices which I think is a good thing. If we want it and have time, patience and resource, we can stack more shots and we can get better_precise view cameras and lenses. But usually you don't necessarily want to go all the way for the sharpness after a certain point, I think. Still, it's a good thing to know that if I want and need, I can get better sharpness... with more stacking and better_expensive equipment.
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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    Thank you both for your replies! Very helpful. Still haven't decided on camera, but I think I'll go with an older one (and cheaper) for start. Like you said, since I won't use wide angle lenses, I can get away with less precision.

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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    You can try Alpa gear. I use an Alpa Max and Rodenstock lenses for my product photography. I do not focus stack and just use tilt to keep my products in focus. However, I do prefer that I have some dimension in my photos so some out of focus does not bother me. However, with proper use of tilt, you can do pretty good at keeping products in focus. The Alpa system could be a system in between your DF and a full out view camera. It is also possible to handhold the system if ever needed, unlike a view camera.

    Here is an example of a product that would normally be hard to keep in focus, shot wide open with 90HR Alpagon. Obviously stopped down a bit a lot more of the shoe would remain in focus. I am just trying to show the effect and usefulness of tilt.


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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    Alpa is great solution, thanks! I'll look into it, too.

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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    Quote Originally Posted by Pics2 View Post
    Thank you both for your replies! Very helpful. Still haven't decided on camera, but I think I'll go with an older one (and cheaper) for start. Like you said, since I won't use wide angle lenses, I can get away with less precision.
    It really comes down to convenience, so I don't think you'll be disappointed. The accuracy of newer cameras only provide convenience. Carefully focusing using live-view on a laptop, you can definitely achieve anything with a traditional view camera, but may take a little longer. If you were working at infinity in the field, I'd strongly recommend one of the newer cameras.

    I would recommend sticking with on-axis tilt, yaw free movements if possible as this reduces the number of adjustments and macro may require more movement. I miss being able to broadly focus from the back as this reduces the amount of magnification of the subject vs using the front standard, another potential benefit.

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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    There are two good news form me,two things that I didn't know and they were stopping me to enter LF system for digital.
    So, stopping down lens causes diffraction that can be easily repaired with Clarity or other micro contrast enhancement tools.
    And, older cheaper LF cameras are more forgiving with longer lenses, which is all I need. I can concentrate on one single quality lens investment.
    It looks like entering LF is not that expensive for studio product photographer, compared to a landscape photographer buying those expensive wide angle lenses costing more than a digital back.

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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    It's also worth remembering that the old film macro large format lens work very well with digital. So you may not even have to spend so much on a lens to get started. ( I have an old SCHNEIDER Super Symmar HM 120 F5.6 and was surprised it's very good. )

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    Re: How to use Schneider 120mm f/5.6 Apo Digitar M Lens

    Even that! That's good news, too. The same is with MF macro lenses. The older ones are not bad at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by neil View Post
    It's also worth remembering that the old film macro large format lens work very well with digital. So you may not even have to spend so much on a lens to get started. ( I have an old SCHNEIDER Super Symmar HM 120 F5.6 and was surprised it's very good. )

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