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Thread: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

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    A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    As my previous posts have hinted, I love hand-held ambient-light photography for its nimbleness and broad applicability. Indeed, one of the reasons why I made the jump from Nikon/Sony/Leica 35 mm systems (all excellent in their own ways) to medium format was to take advantage of the *theoretical* low-light, high ISO advantage of the larger sensor and, especially, of the current-generation of back-side illuminated (BSI) medium format sensors that Sony has manufactured. Among medium format cameras, currently these sensors are in the Phase One IQ4 (53.4 x 40 mm sensor, 151 MP), and the soon-to-be released Fuji GFX-100 (44 x 33 mm, 102 MP). As I previously documented (https://photorumors.com/2019/01/20/m...ne-comparison/), the BSI sensor architecture in the IQ4 offers substantial (~1 full stop) of high-iso signal:noise advantage over the IQ3, consistent with what Bill Claff measured (Photographic Dynamic Range versus ISO Setting). In addition, the BSI sensor minimizes the need for color correction when shifting or tilting, a major benefit for technical camera use.

    Taking full advantage of the world-class potential of the IQ4 sensor to support ambient light photography, however, requires several key components beyond a world-class sensor—of which the IQ4 is currently the best available to photographers in my opinion. It also requires lenses capable of bringing the right amount and quality of photons to these sensors, and camera hardware and firmware that enable reliable and nimble captures.

    With respect to camera hardware, even a manual focus-only Alpa camera paired with the IQ4 is capable of delivering excellent low-light performance in a very compact package. I used an Alpa 12 TC + the IQ4 + a 50 mm Rodenstock HR lens at f/4 to capture low-light stage photography with decent results: https://www.alpa.ch/en/portfolios/li...nd-in-sin-city

    Of course a capable camera and lens for low-light 53x40 mm photography with autofocus is the Phase One XF system + SK 80 mm f/2.8 "blue ring" lens. This lens is quite sharp, autofocuses reasonably well, and is very compact, but
    1) It renders fairly clinically, which is very useful for some types of photography but less ideal for certain types of portraits and street photography;
    2) It has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, which is impressive for medium format but leaves room for improvement for low-light photography, for focusing the viewer's attention on a very fine slice of the subject, and for generating creamy smooth bokeh.
    3) Its field of view at the 35-mm equivalent of 50 mm isn't really long enough for an ideal portrait lens, even with its decent 0.7 m minimum focusing distance.

    Adapting my Leica M lenses such as the superb 75/1.25 Noctilux or the 90/2 Summicron to the IQ4 results in lovely images, but of course you lose about 70 of the 151 MP once you crop the image to the 35-mm image circle.

    As some of you probably know, Schneider-Kreuznach around 30 years ago made IMAX projector lenses that project light through 70 mm IMAX film (which has the dimensions of approximately 70 mm x 48.5 mm) onto a theater screen far away. Many of these SK projector lenses are excellent, with large (f/2 or even f/1.6 in some cases) apertures. Importantly, since the optics of capturing an image plane onto an digital sensor are (nearly) identical to the optics of projecting an image from a film onto a theater screen, these old-school projector lenses have the potential to make for excellent medium-format lenses that fully cover the 53.4 x 40 mm IQ4 sensor, corner to corner.

    Doug Peterson has tested one such projector lens as part of his "big buttery bokeh" article (highly recommended!): https://www.dtcommercialphoto.com/fa...ens-phase-one/

    The Boutique Lens, a company in Kentucky that specializes in converting old lenses into ones that can be mounted to modern MF systems, has written a highly informative treatise on these lenses: https://www.theboutiquelens.com/blog...endary-cinelux. They also sell converted old lenses, and when I saw an SK 100 mm "Cinelux Xenon" (their higher quality line) lens appear in their inventory, I was excited to purchase one converted to a Mamiya 645 mount. This mount is identical to the Phase One mount, and also compatible with Alpa cameras via the Alpa Mamiya lens mount adapter and 28 mm of total spacers. The Boutique Lens will also install a focusing helicoid and variable aperture, giving these lenses much greater flexibility than their always-wide-open original forms.

    After working with Jeff at Lens Boutique through multiple iterations and discussions, along with several months of patience, I recently received the 30-year-old SK 100 mm f/2 Cinelux Xenon lens adapted to the Mamiya mount with a variable aperture and focusing helicoid installed. The quality of the machined mount, variable aperture, and assembly was excellent and professional. While the finished product does not look like a modern manufactured lens, it has a nice hand-built quality, and is finished as well as one could hope for in a 30-year-old lens that's been extensively modified and adapted. Focusing action and aperture changing is very smooth, though I miss a clicked aperture ring.

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    How does this lens perform when paired with an IQ4? Remarkably well, in my opinion. Wide open it is acceptably sharp but, more importantly, renders with creamy bokeh and a pleasing look that complements very well most of the IQ4-compatible Phase One and technical camera lenses, none of which give quite the same look. The focal plane shutter of the XF body (as fast as 1/4000 s) and auto ISO are ideal matches for this lens—one just needs to turn on "manual lens mode" in the XF menu. While the lens also performs very well on a technical camera, the lack of a shutter in the lens means you'll either be limited to only electronic shutter when mounted on a technical camera, or you'll need to pair it with a focal plane shutter module, with appropriate spacer adjustment.

    Here are some portraits shot around my office, handheld, wide open (f/2) at ISO 800 on the XF using the focal plane shutter at 1/160 s or 1/200 s, with nothing but ambient office and window light. The raw files were converted in Capture One with my default settings and only white balance correction. The complete, uncrossed frames are shown below—you can see that there's no extreme vignetting, and the entire 53.4 x 40 mm sensor is covered by the lens. Soon I'll test this lens on an Alpa STC to measure how much shift it can support. Given than a 70 mm IMAX frame is quite a bit larger than the IQ4's sensor, I'm optimistic at least some shift and tilt will be possible.

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    Here is a 100% crop from the second portrait at f/2:
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    Stopped down, the lens gets scary sharp by f/4 and even f/2.8 is pretty sharp, though CA is more evident at f/2 and f/2.8. I'll point out, however, that CA is actually better with this lens wide open than my Leica 50/0.95 Noctilux or even the outstanding 75/1.25 Noctilux wide open, even though the field-of-view and depth-of-focus of the Xenon 100/2 is approximately equal to a 63 mm f/1.25 lens on a 35 mm camera. Here are 100% crops from the center of the frame (the pinwheel LensAlign target) and from 75% of the way to the right edge (the carved vessel) from f/2, f/2.8, f/4, and f/5.6 (all ISO 100).

    Center of frame, f/2:
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    Center of frame, f/2.8:
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    Center of frame, f/4:
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    Center of frame, f/5.6:
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    [See my next post for the rest of my review, as I've hit the attachment limit for this post.]
    Last edited by onasj; 5th June 2019 at 15:44.
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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    (See the first post in the thread for part 1 of this review. This is part 2 of 2).

    Here's an uncropped frame from the full test scene:
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    And here are 100% crops from the right side of the image frame:

    Right side, f/2:
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    Right side, f/2.8:
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    Right side, f/4:
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    Right side, f/5.6:
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    I'll end this review with a few final points. First, the bokeh of this lens wide open is truly awesome. Here's the bokeh from a full bar (with dozens of bottles, glasses, and lights) behind the subject of a portrait shot at f/2, ISO 1600, handheld:

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    An extremely busy background has melted into nothingness. And yet even at f/2 I'm surprised by the ability of this lens to capture details. Here's another 100% crop from the portrait I posted in the first part of the review (f/2, ISO 800, handheld):

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    Second, using this lens with its very thin depth-of-focus is made practical by the excellent focus peaking (focus masking) of the IQ4, adjusted to a low (275) focus peaking threshold, along with the highly responsive live view of the IQ4. In fact my hit rate of in-focus portraits with this 100/2 manual focus lens is *at least as good* as when I use the SK 80/2.8 BR lens's autofocus, though of course the XF's autofocus abilities are not quite state-of-the-art compared to those of current Sony, Fuji, Nikon, or Canon systems. But I was pleasantly surprised that more than 75% of my f/2 handheld shots had the subject's eyes in focus.

    In a couple weeks I'll shoot a wedding with both the SK 80/2.8 BR AF lens and this SK 100/2 MF lens on the XF. My hope is that the resulting shots will complement each other nicely, with the Cinelux Xenon lens ideally suited for more dreamy, artsy shots. We'll see.

    Finally, this lens with all the custom adaption, variable aperture, and focusing helicoid work from The Boutique Lens cost me about the same amount as my SK 80/2.8 BR lens (a few thousand dollars). Not inexpensive, but given that it fills a sparsely populated niche in my medium format photography, and also reminds me strongly of the ($11,000-$13,000) Leica Noctilux 50/0.95 and 75/1.25 lenses, I feel this lens represents a pretty good value.
    Last edited by onasj; 5th June 2019 at 10:48.
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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Very cool! That's the draw back of my Hy6 to some extent. Leaf shutters mean no adapting. I've seen people use these projector lenses even on Pentax 67s and the results are gorgeous. This is the first time I've seen one fitted with an aperture however, which does increase the value proposition quite a bit.

    I often one why there are so few fast lenses in medium format. Everyone made 1 or 2, but they were almost always rarified except in the case of Pentax and maybe Contax.
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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Very, very impressive. And cool. Thanks so much for posting this.
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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    interesting adaption, but F2 lenses are called summicron in the leica world, sorry for nitpicking

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Yes, but since the lens has a depth of focus of a 63/1.25 in 35-mm equivalent terms, and draws like a noctllux, it reminded me more of the 50/0.95 Noct or the 75/1.25 Noct. Iím waiting for Leica to release the 83/1.3999 Noctilux soon

    Quote Originally Posted by drevil View Post
    interesting adaption, but F2 lenses are called summicron in the leica world, sorry for nitpicking

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Love it. Long live the Big Buttery Bokeh.

    The male portrait, especially, highlights the utility of such a lens. Looks like a very busy background in the original scene, but is rendered in a beautiful way, with a lot of resulting dimensionality and character.

    I have my own new secret-weapon shallow DOF lens at home, but haven't had a chance to open it up yet, due to the relentless need for my newborn to be held in order to sleep. I've tried to teach her to hold an XF IQ4 kit, so that we could do both at the same time, but she refuses; she says she's more of a tech camera gal; I respect that.
    Doug Peterson , Digital Transitions | Email
    Dealer for: Phase One, Mamiya Leaf, Arca-Swiss, Cambo, Eizo, Profoto
    Office: 877.367.8537. Cell: 740.707.2183
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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Nice! Would be cool to see it compared to the Hasselblad F 110/2
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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Quote Originally Posted by anyone View Post
    Nice! Would be cool to see it compared to the Hasselblad F 110/2
    or to the Summicron-S 100 and Fuji G 110 f2 - both superb medium format portrait lenses

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Do any of these other lenses (Hassy 110/2, Leica S 100/2, or Fuji G 110/2) cover a 54x40 mm image circle? I assume the Leica doesnít since the S sensor is 45x30 mm, but Iím not as familiar with the other lenses.

    Quote Originally Posted by baudolino View Post
    or to the Summicron-S 100 and Fuji G 110 f2 - both superb medium format portrait lenses

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Quote Originally Posted by onasj View Post
    Do any of these other lenses (Hassy 110/2, Leica S 100/2, or Fuji G 110/2) cover a 54x40 mm image circle? I assume the Leica doesn’t since the S sensor is 45x30 mm, but I’m not as familiar with the other lenses.
    Hassy 110/2 is meant for 6x6, so covers 645.

    I tried to get one but after two copies that showed fungus-enduced-fogging I gave up. It’s not fair to judge with such a compromised lens, but I also wasn’t seeing anything that made me want to hassle with a continued search. I don’t know how systemic this issue was with this lens; could have been awful luck on my part, or par for the course; eager to hear from others who have experience with this lens.
    Doug Peterson , Digital Transitions | Email
    Dealer for: Phase One, Mamiya Leaf, Arca-Swiss, Cambo, Eizo, Profoto
    Office: 877.367.8537. Cell: 740.707.2183

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Quote Originally Posted by dougpeterson View Post
    I have my own new secret-weapon shallow DOF lens at home, but haven't had a chance to open it up yet, due to the relentless need for my newborn to be held in order to sleep. I've tried to teach her to hold an XF IQ4 kit, so that we could do both at the same time, but she refuses; she says she's more of a tech camera gal; I respect that.
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    Uncropped IQ4 150mp file from an old remounted lens. Portrait length, f/1.6 aperture, covers full-frame-645. Roughly the equivalent of a 70mm f/1.1.

    Not sure what the left-side vignette-looking thing is on the left of this frame; isn't there in other frames that are closer or further in focus, so I don't think it's lens vignette. Could have been the edge of the cabinet.

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    Details and downloadable raws to come in next couple weeks via blog at dtcommercialphoto.com.
    Doug Peterson , Digital Transitions | Email
    Dealer for: Phase One, Mamiya Leaf, Arca-Swiss, Cambo, Eizo, Profoto
    Office: 877.367.8537. Cell: 740.707.2183
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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Quote Originally Posted by dougpeterson View Post
    I tried to get one but after two copies that showed fungus-enduced-fogging I gave up. Itís not fair to judge with such a compromised lens, but I also wasnít seeing anything that made me want to hassle with a continued search. I donít know how systemic this issue was with this lens; could have been awful luck on my part, or par for the course; eager to hear from others who have experience with this lens.
    The 110/2 is an incredible lens. Love it.



    http://richardman.photo
    XPan Film Scanning http://xpanscanning.com
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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Quote Originally Posted by richardman View Post
    The 110/2 is an incredible lens. Love it.
    Indeed a legendary lens and lovely on film. I found it doesn't work as well with digital though, sadly.

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    I have wanted a noctilux like lens for medium format digital for years. Alas, very frustratingly so, it never came.

    I'm not so keen on any of the solutions and the projection lenses aren't very practical, IMO. The film era lenses are OK but don't look great wide open, they are just not up to the standards that digital requires.

    We really need a 1.4 or 1.8 to match a Noctilux. Fuji is rumoured to have an 80mm f1.4in the works—who knows.

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Quote Originally Posted by DB5 View Post
    Indeed a legendary lens and lovely on film. I found it doesn't work as well with digital though, sadly.
    No medium format digital, so not a problem,... per se. Ha ha.

    Those Flextight scans are quite all right though.

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    I just checked the 100/2 Cine-Xenon adapted to Mamiya mount with variable aperture and focusing helicoid on an Alpa STC and it can shift +/- 9 mm without substantial (to me) vignetting on the IQ4--more than I thought given the size difference between the IMAX frame and the IQ4 sensor. I don't perceive any color shift, even at 9 mm of shift, likely due to the BSI nature of the IQ4 sensor.

    As I'm getting better at using live view focus peaking + the focal plane shutter of the XF with this lens, my hit rate and the general sharpness and quality of the images is also improving; I'll share more when I get a chance to transfer and PP them. It's also a decent short-telephoto landscape/cityscape lens at f/8-11.

    It really reminds me of using the Leica M's 50 or 75 Noct-- it shares features of both of them (less CA and a bit sharper than the 50 Noct wide open, not nearly as sharp as the masterful 75 Noct wide open though, draws much like the 50 Noct).

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    Re: A "medium format Noctilux" 100 mm f/2 lens that covers the 53x40 mm IQ4 sensor

    Thanks for sharing. Very interested in testing some different glass. I wonder what other companies are out there doing this. Anyone put a Mamiya bayonet on an anamorphic or other cine glass -- or does a PL mount exist for the XF? I've seen Alpa has a PL mount, but I'm not invested in Alpa.

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