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Thread: Lens brands and optical characteristics

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    Senior Subscriber Member Steen's Avatar
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    Lens brands and optical characteristics

    In another thread about some 135mm lenses S.P. asked about examples that could illustrate Peter "ptomsu"s remarks about the characteristics of Zeiss lenses compared to other brands like e.g. Nikon. I have the Zeiss ZF 1.4/50 and the new Nikon AF-S 1.4/50 G, so here's an identical shot with both 50mm lenses.

    I shot the Nikon first with Aperture priority, and then shot the Zeiss with identical speed.
    On tripod. Distance approximately 3 meter. D300. WB Direct Sunlight. ISO 200. 1/5000 sec at f/2.8. Spot metering. Single-point Autofocus (the Nikkor). Converted in Capture NX from RAW to JPEG. No post processing, i.e. no contrast, no sharpening, no nothing applied.
    (At f/2 or wider aperture I would have needed a shutter speed beyond the cameras max shutter speed of 1/8000 sec).

    Here's the full scenery, focused on the little box in the middle, first Nikon, then Zeiss.






    And here are the actual pixels crops, again Nikon first, and then Zeiss.






    This is in no way scientific and I'm not trying to prove anything, just trying to illustrate what I experience with some of my own lenses. And lets not forget that the world is full of sample variations.
    In my mind my Zeiss 50mm has a somewhat better contrast (and overall sharpness) adding to the three dimensional look. Today it is ~ 517 USD at B&H. (It's all metal).
    My Nikkor 50mm has Autofocus, still it is cheaper, today it is ~ 485 USD at B&H. (It's all plastic).
    Pick your poison. I chose to have both of them

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    Senior Subscriber Member Steen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens brands and optical characteristics

    It seems like the two lenses do not meter with quite the same end result. The Nikkor tends to let in more light with the same settings and gets easilier blown out a bit. I more often need to underexpose a bit with the Nikkor. It's no big deal, you just need to know your lens and its behaviour. But I now tried to add an Exposure Compensation of -0.4 to the same Nikkor shot in Capture NX to make the two shots more equally exposed. Then they look like this.




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    Re: Lens brands and optical characteristics

    It is hard to really gauge resolution etc from small Jpegs on the net so I will confine my remarks to color differences. To me the greens of the Zeiss are more towards the yellow end of the spectrum and on the Nikon more towards green. The yellows of the Zeiss are more natural to me (although I have obviously not seen the "real thing.")

    All in all they are both good performers but for me, owning both of them (sorry my Zeiss 50 is the 2.0) Makro I prefer the Zeiss for its color rendition and the superb micro contrast which at least gives the impression of more resolution. I now have the 18,28 35,50 Makro. and 100Makro and the color rendition is remarkably consistent lens to lens.

    I am now using these lenses on the D3X and could not be happier. This is a marriage made in heaven.

    Woody

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    Senior Subscriber Member Steen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens brands and optical characteristics

    Welcome back in the Nikon camp, Woody, that's an impressive lens collection you immediately start up with along with your ultimate high end camera body.
    Do you shoot it alongside your Medium Format rig, or have you made the serious jump towards the high res DSLR ?
    We have already seen some very impressive D3X images here on the Nikon board and I'm looking forward to see some shots from your hand as well. Congrats with the D3X. I'm green of envy, in the positive sense of the word

  5. #5
    S.P.
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    Re: Lens brands and optical characteristics

    I would like to see a comparison between the new Nikon AF-S 50/1.4 and the Sigma 50/1.4.

    I have the AF-D 50/1.4 and made some testings with the new Nikon AF-S but I didnīt see big differences.

    Is the Sigma better than the Nikon AF-S?

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    Senior Subscriber Member Steen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens brands and optical characteristics

    I'm a bit busy for the moment, so I was up quite early this morning. Before I started to work I went to our balcony and snapped a couple of frames of the early morning light hitting a building in the neighborhood. Once again I used both the Nikon AF-S 1.4/50 G and the Zeiss 1.4/50 ZF on a D300. This time a cityscape at f/8.

    Starting with the Nikon CPU lens I could just use Spot Metering to avoid the building getting blown out. Not so with the ZF (which I found out exactly a year ago when the same scenery got totally blown out in a ZF 85mm shot, and the main subject went screaming yellow).

    With the non-CPU AI-S type ZF lenses Spot Metering is always metering on the center focus point instead of the current focus point, which in my opinion is a very serious disadvantage to AI-S type lenses like e.g. these Zeiss ones.

    So if you peep into the exif informations of my ZF shot you will notice that I made an Exposure Compensation of minus 4.7 in order to achieve the identical exposure of 1/250 sec. at f/8. I was curious to see how much the metering was off, otherwise I would just have set the identical exposure in Manual Mode.

    The colors of the Nikon lens are a bit to the warm side, while the ZF colors are a bit more cool. Still I think the color difference in the following frame is partly due to the fact that there are four minutes between the captures, which is a lot in the sunrise where the colors change quickly.


    Here is the scenery in total, Nikon first, followed by Zeiss, just to give you an idea of the entire frame and the metering issue.







    And here are the actual pixels crops, converted in Capture NX, no postprocessing whatsoever except for cropping. Again Nikon first, then Zeiss.






    And here they are again, this time with a tad of Curve, and a tad of UnSharpMask applied, identically processed in a batch.





    No surprises here, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference between the two 50mm lenses at this aperture. I guess we should expect most primes of this focal length to perform just fine when stopped down to f/8.

    I agree with you, P.S., it would be interesting to see the AF-S 1.4/50 G side by side with the new Sigma EX 1.4/50. Lars in Stockholm has the Sigma and he has a D700 with FX sensor. Lars, if you have en errand in Copenhagen, you can borrow my AF-S 1.4/50 and compare it to your Sigma EX
    Last edited by Steen; 1st June 2009 at 02:37.

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