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Thread: Optics ... small vs. medium format

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    Optics ... small vs. medium format

    I'm posting here so as not to start a brouhaha in the MF forum ...

    There's been some talk lately about some of the new lenses for 35mm being better (in some ways) than equivalents in MF. Meanwhile, what's always attracted me to tech cams is the lenses*, which in most examples I've studied just spank the pants off of any small format lens I've used. This based on both images and MTF curves.

    I'm assuming the biggest advantage of MF is in wide angle, where they don't have to use retrofocus designs (or in the case of Rodenstock, use moderate RF designs and charge four times the equivalent FF lens).

    I used to assume that Schneider and Rodenstock were just better than Canon and Nikon; now I'm wondering if it's been more a question of these technical limitations, and limitations on what people have historically been willing to pay.

    This last hurdle seems to be going away, now that cameras like the d800 are bridging the gap between formats. $2000 seems like the new $500. When Schneider and Zeiss's new offerings hit the market this year, our sense of normal might get stretched even farther.

    Any thoughts on this trend? How do those of you with both formats see the quality of the glass evolving?


    *Not as strongly as the price has repelled me; I still don't have one.

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    Senior Member thrice's Avatar
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    Re: Optics ... small vs. medium format

    Modern 35mm glass is very good. Tech cams destroy DSLR's (including medium format DSLR's) at the wide angle end. This is because the lens design can be simpler and more symmetrical (aberrations cancel out) and is how we see all the APO wide angles on these systems. That's the same reason why rangefinder wides are typically far better than DSLR wides. At the tele end I've used the Leica 120 APO-Macro and nothing quites comes close to that lens, especially wide open.

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    Re: Optics ... small vs. medium format

    All modern wide angles are retrofocus designs, including LF and MF, and even Leica M with a few exceptions (like cron 35's). Better correction requires more glass-air surfaces, which makes for physically bigger lenses with more elements. When it gets bigger it needs to be moved out, and made retrofocus (i.e. the rear nodal point is behind the rearmost element).

    If they thought they could sell it I'm sure either Nikon or Canon could make a fantastic 50/0.95 with an $11k MSRP. They could probably even sell it for $7500. But the market is so infinitesimally small it couldn't sustain the volumes they need to run a factory line.

    Once you get in this kind of price range the question of what's actually needed to meet actual product requirements (as opposed to what's wanted) rears its head. People NEED superteles for work, which is why an $8300 500/4 lens finds a market. But there's very little image work that really needs a superexotic 50mm lens.

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    Re: Optics ... small vs. medium format

    Quote Originally Posted by thrice View Post
    Tech cams destroy DSLR's (including medium format DSLR's) at the wide angle end.
    Including the Leica S wide angles? If your answer is yes, do you consider it opinion or fact?

    Quote Originally Posted by thrice View Post
    This is because the lens design can be simpler and more symmetrical (aberrations cancel out) and is how we see all the APO wide angles on these systems.
    To be fair to the discussion the entire image chain needs to be taken into account. Technical camera lenses perform superbly but wide angle lenses used in conjunction with a digital back introduce a significant colour cast, with an increase in field of view returning a greater cast. Of course Rodenstock wide angle lenses can be adopted in place of Schneider, but then we are heading towards retrofocus designs.

    Is it a fact that colour cast can be removed simply and in its entirety via an LCC for the widest non-retrofocus technical camera lens? In addition, is an LCC required even if Rodenstock wide angle lenses are adopted?
    Rob
    www.robbuckle.co.uk
    Likes 1 Member(s) liked this post

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    Re: Optics ... small vs. medium format

    Quote Originally Posted by AreBee View Post
    Including the Leica S wide angles? If your answer is yes, do you consider it opinion or fact?
    I wouldn't use the word "destroyed," but in the examples I've seen, the Schneider and Rodenstock tech cam lenses looked better than the Leicas. And they allow movements.

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    Senior Member Swissblad's Avatar
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    Re: Optics ... small vs. medium format

    Quote Originally Posted by AreBee View Post
    Is it a fact that colour cast can be removed simply and in its entirety via an LCC for the widest non-retrofocus technical camera lens? In addition, is an LCC required even if Rodenstock wide angle lenses are adopted?
    That is an issue easily brushed aside... but a major PITA.

    Love your images on your website - inspiring.

    What system do you use?

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Optics ... small vs. medium format

    For some time I shot with an ARtec Sinar and HR35 and HR60mm lenses while also having a 40mm lens for my Hy6. While I enjoyed the process of using this gear and the IQ was excellent I never found the images from the 40mm Rollei on the Hy6 lacked any IQ.

    Also looking at images from the Leica S30mm and 35mm I not even once had an image where I thought:I should have taken it with a Tech Cam because the IQ could have been better.
    And the same is true (IMO) for good wide angle lenses for 35mm format.
    Even some zooms-for example the canon24-70/2.8II deliver very good results. Same is true for the Zeis 21mm/2.8.
    On the other side there are also many 35mm wide angle lenses which are not so great or even ugly specially when you look in the corners of images.
    For example even the Leica 21/1.4 (stopped down to f5.6) seemed not supergreat for landscape (I guess its not the goal of this lens though) ...while the 21/3.4 Leica M is stunningly sharp.
    I think the point is that with high MP cameras you really need the best lenses available to take advantage of the sensor potential.
    Something I find dissappointing is that people have cameras with sophisticated AF system but then (need to?) use manual focus Zeiss lenses to get the IQ they want.
    On the other side I dont see it as a problem for wide angle, more for longer focal lengths.

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    Re: Optics ... small vs. medium format

    Swissblad,

    Thank you for the compliment.

    What system do you use?
    Full Frame.

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