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Author Topic: A long time lens investment  (Read 5103 times)
piksi
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« on: March 11, 2006, 12:17:28 PM »
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Hi,

This'll be my first post on this forum ;-)

I'm a fairly young (22) finnish photographer running my own company for  the last 2 years or so. I do studio, product and outdoor shoots on 2 10D:s and 16-35 2.8, 70-200 IS 2.8 and 50 1.4 glass. In addition, I have some manual optics (Peleng fisheye, Rodenstock TV and XR heligons etc, Rubinar teles).

There has been lots of discussion over when the optics surpass the sensor resolution and vice versa. I've been happy with the L quality glass except for those occasions where the 10D af sensor hasn't been sensitive enough (I've done the calibration of the bodies with the L glasses), the focus is sometimes a little off to either side. I've tried out various 3rd party optics with adapters and noticed that the Rodenstock glasses (especially 64mm XR-heligon f0,95 and 50mm f0,75) have superb quality although it's sometimes hard to see because of the incredibly shallow dof and the reason they can only be used as macros without mirror lockup.

EOS dslrs are not the only cameras I use and not the only ones i'm going to stick with (although they are great as workhorses), and although L glass have 10 year service, I'm willing to invest in the future and to 100% manual glasses. I'm hoping to find some that would fit with adapters to the EOS cameras, my MF (rz67) and possibly a linhof which i have acces to (practicing lf photogrpahy with it).

At the moment my main priority would be finding quality primes to use with the eos dslrs (I'll soon be updating to 5D because 10D buffer has got me into trouble in some shoots requiring speed and 5D features seem like THE 10D i've been waiting for ever since i got into the dslr world - mainly because of getting back to good viewfinders).

Can anyone list primes with good max aperture (preferably 1.4-2.Cool that would suit dslr use? My main requirement is surpassing the sensor resolution on 5D (Afaik the L series lens aren't doing good enough on ff sensors). I've been thinking of zeiss/voigtländer/rodenstock/scneider lenses, most likely rodenstocks because I've already seen their absolutely stunning quality. What 14-180mm 1.4-2.8 primes would you suggest in terms of resolution and flare resistance (I'll be shooting a lot outdoors)?

Forgive me if my request seems naive but the longer I've been shooting (3 years as a hobby and the next 3 as a profession+hobby) the more I've noticed that the mechanical simple designs often surpass digital competitors. I've had some electrical problems with the ef series glass and had the 10D shutter release microchips replaced etc.... Though i'll be living with the EF mount for a long time, I want to invest for photographic equipment which would last for my own kids - and I know that a piece of metal and quality glass doesn't lose its value the same way as metal+glass+electronics does. I hate the fact that EF lenses don't have manual aperture ring....

I'll be posting more (stupid) questions later on... This feels like a perfect place to ask from the more talented :-)

Thanks!
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Sheldon N
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« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2006, 11:37:06 PM »
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For anything above 35mm in focal length, you don't need to look outside of the Canon lineup. The 35mm f/1.4 L, 85mm f/1.2 L, 135mm f/2.0 L are all phenomenal and would match well with the 5D or 1Ds Mark II. If you need a world class 200mm lens, the 200mm f/1.8 L is one of the sharpest lenses ever made. They sell used for around $3-4k USD.  

If you need sharper wide angles, that's a whole different ball of wax. I'm of the mindset that a good quality 17-40mm f/4 L or 16-35mm f/2.8 L will give you most of what you need on a 5D. If you are absolutely nuts about super fine detail, i.e. you are printing in the 11x14 and larger from a 5D, there are a few options which might eke out a little performance increase.

The Contax Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon is the gold standard, but they sell used near $2-3k. Olympus wides have gotten a little bit of good reviews, but a lot of it boils down to trying and testing until you find something that provides the performance you need.

I'd say buy the 5D first, then see how well your 16-35mm does at meeting your needs. Try it at f/11, stopped down on a tripod. It should be giving you more than you need for 90% of applications.

Hope this helps!

Sheldon
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samirkharusi
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2006, 05:15:32 AM »
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Blanket statements tend to be hazardous, but here's one anyway: All Canon EF primes of 100mm or longer focal length are excellent. Just buy the aperture and focal length you wish. Unfortunately all Canon primes of less than 100mm focal length seem to have significant shortfalls. I have yet to find one that gives me satisfactory starfields at f2.8. Study the MTF curves carefully and take your chances. Best source is the Canon book "EF Lens Work III" otherwise struggle through the Canon websites to find the curve for each lens of interest.
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Dinarius
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2006, 05:46:34 AM »
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If you need sharper wide angles, that's a whole different ball of wax. I'm of the mindset that a good quality 17-40mm f/4 L or 16-35mm f/2.8 L will give you most of what you need on a 5D. If you are absolutely nuts about super fine detail, i.e. you are printing in the 11x14 and larger from a 5D, there are a few options which might eke out a little performance increase.

Sheldon
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I may have bought a 'Monday morning' lens, but I have to say that based on my experience, the 17-40mm f/4 is not worthy of the 'L' name.

Secondly, as Samirkharusi writes, blanket statements are dangerous but if you really want top notch quality, avoid zooms and stick to primes. The only question then is, which primes! ;-)

D.
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piksi
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2006, 05:56:17 AM »
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For anything above 35mm in focal length, you don't need to look outside of the Canon lineup. The 35mm f/1.4 L, 85mm f/1.2 L, 135mm f/2.0 L are all phenomenal and would match well with the 5D or 1Ds Mark II. If you need a world class 200mm lens, the 200mm f/1.8 L is one of the sharpest lenses ever made. They sell used for around $3-4k USD.

I know those lenses are stunning in image quality and you're right that my biggest concern is wide angle (I'm very satisfied with the canon teles). The only thing keeping me back from investing in a nearly 2000€ portrait prime lens is that I'm worried of the lifespan of canon lenses.

As michael reichmann stated in his "quest for an ultimate camera" :

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Large format lenses are, well, just lenses. Other than a Copal shutter, they contain no moving parts. Compared to a current Canon EF lens with its motors, moving elements groups, circuit boards, image stabilizers, ROM chips and electronic contacts, such view camera lens are simplicity personified. I can swap a Copal shutter between lenses in the field in less than five minutes with a simple spanner. Anyone care to replace the shutter mechanism on their Canon or Nikon in the field with simple hand tools?

This is the thing that worries me. As everyone who needs to do shooting outside and carry the gear around knows, the wear is quite significant. I've had many parts in my canon bodies replaced (luckily free because of the guarantee). Haven't had any problems yet with my lenses but most of them are only one year old, and I've read several forum posts around the net telling all kind of typical failures on such lenses.

The only thing I was looking for was not resolution (as you said canon lenses are enough for even 5D sensor, that makes me happy about my investment :-), but also resistance to wear and time.

Simplified, my original question was: "are there lenses that would match canon lenses and be 100% mechanical so that they would last for decades (no electrical failures) and I could with stop down metering use them perhaps with other bodies too"

The only thing that has ever annoyed me in the EF lenses is the lack of manual aperture ring that exists on most nikon lenses except for the new g-series.....




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The Canon and Zeiss lenses on their respective cameras were not the equal of their sensors. In other words, the sensors were outperforming the lenses. Even using the best primes on the Canon proved to me that the 1Ds MKII was not being pushed to its limit, and using lesser lenses often disappointed.

This part of reichmanns article was the part that made me originally worry about the quality of my ef lenses :-) but perhaps the lenses hit the barrier only with 16mpix body like 1ds and not yet a body like the 5D?


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If you are absolutely nuts about super fine detail, i.e. you are printing in the 11x14 and larger from a 5D, there are a few options which might eke out a little performance increase.

Don't worry, i'm not a snob, I just want to make right decisions when investing into equipment. I'm willing to put some more money if it guarantees me a longer lifespan for the product and using manual gear is not a problem for me :-) I've learned the old saying "you can either just buy the best you can afford at a time or spend twice as much money upgrading gradually to better gear".... ;-)
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piksi
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2006, 06:04:11 AM »
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Secondly, as Samirkharusi writes, blanket statements are dangerous but if you really want top notch quality, avoid zooms and stick to primes. The only question then is, which primes! ;-)

I know... But since my company doesn't yet earn me tons of money (I've just earned enough to cover the costs of my lenses and elinchrom studio flashes) I have to make decisions on what to buy and zooms like 70-200 and 16-35 are vital for some fast work such as prom dance / confirmation / wedding photos where I haven't had the chance to run around much framing the shot and I've had to do the framing with zoom which of course isn't optimal but the most important thing: I've got the photos. but If i was rich i would have a whole line of primes ;-)
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Sheldon N
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2006, 02:30:35 PM »
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If you're looking for all manual primes with great optical quality, I guess I'd steer you towards either older Contax Zeiss glass or to the new Zeiss ZS or ZF lenses with an adapter.
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piksi
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2006, 02:56:33 PM »
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If you're looking for all manual primes with great optical quality, I guess I'd steer you towards either older Contax Zeiss glass or to the new Zeiss ZS or ZF lenses with an adapter.
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Are there any limitations in terms of focusing (Will their near and far focus points be limited in some way) and mirror lock up (i just simply can't live without vf image :-)?

With most of the 3rd party lenses i've found the biggest  problem seems to be inability to focus to infinity. Most of the lenses even tend to focus so close that the focus point is inside the lens barrel... Darn slr mirrors!!
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2006, 04:37:40 PM »
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This part of reichmanns article was the part that made me originally worry about the quality of my ef lenses :-) but perhaps the lenses hit the barrier only with 16mpix body like 1ds and not yet a body like the 5D?
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Based on various samples I have seen, the problem is not really the resolution, but the softness of the Canon wides near the edge of their image circle. The 5D and 1ds2 appear to be both running into that wall.

The resolution in the center part of the frame is still OK, even if a prime Schneider or Rodenstock for LF will probably be better (they are also primes with protruding real elements... and very expensive ones).

Regards,
Bernard
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Dinarius
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2006, 03:32:42 AM »
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What would people recommend for copying flat art using a 5D?

In short, what's the best 50/55mm piece of glass I can attach to it?

I'm not too familiar with the adaptor scene.

Thanks.

D.

ps........I've got some dynamite enlarging lenses. Anyway I could attach those? I suppose I'd need some sort of bellows focusing, wouldn't I?
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samirkharusi
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2006, 04:19:50 AM »
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What would people recommend for copying flat art using a 5D?

In short, what's the best 50/55mm piece of glass I can attach to it?

I'm not too familiar with the adaptor scene.

Thanks.

D.

ps........I've got some dynamite enlarging lenses. Anyway I could attach those? I suppose I'd need some sort of bellows focusing, wouldn't I?
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The Canon EF 100mm/2.8macro USM is excellent by any standards, all the way from 1:1 to infinity, and at any f-stop. It makes a good copy lens and also a good portrait lens on a 5D. It also makes an excellent lens for astrophotography (my current passion). Nevertheless a $60 A4 Canon scanner would beat the pants off any camera/lens combo when it comes to copying printed matter. No clue about the 50mm macro. The Canon 50mm/1.4 and the 50mm/1.8 are both IMHO quite lousy when opened wider than f4. Critical work needs f5.6. They are also not meant for copy work, so the field is not flat.

Enlarging lenses: There's always a way to attach any lens to any camera body. It just depends on how much surgery one wishes to undertake, and at what $ cost. When I was a teenager I attached an enlarging lens to a rangefinder camera via a home-built reflex housing... With my slightly deeper pockets I would not bother these days. I think Canon has stopped making EF bellows but Novoflex probably still make suitable ones. While bellows come to mind instantly, buying new does not come cheap. Could be cheaper to purchase a helical focuser meant for telescopes and fabricating adapters for the camera end and the lens end (if you are handy with a lathe). Where there is a need there is a way.
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Dinarius
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2006, 09:03:27 AM »
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Thanks for the advice.

I am currently using the 50mm EF macro. Fine lens, flat field. I always use it around f11/16.

100mm is too long for me. Wouldn't be room to stand back in front of some of the large paintings I have to shoot.

I was simply wondering if there is a drop dead alternative to the one I'm using.

D.
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John Camp
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2006, 10:09:29 AM »
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This is the thing that worries me. As everyone who needs to do shooting outside and carry the gear around knows, the wear is quite significant. I've had many parts in my canon bodies replaced (luckily free because of the guarantee). Haven't had any problems yet with my lenses but most of them are only one year old, and I've read several forum posts around the net telling all kind of typical failures on such lenses.[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=60116\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think Michael was making the point that LF cameras are reliable field cameras, not especially that Canon and Nikon lenses are unreliable. The thing is, if you're really going to be a pro photographer, you will beat up your equipment, and then you'll have to replace it. If you use your lenses a lot, you won't find any that will last forever, although they may last for many years. But Canon and Nikon cameras and lenses are the mainstays for newspaper journalists everywhere, and the equipment gets beat to death -- three or four assignments a day, getting tossed into and pulled out cars, banging around in jostling crowds; and it continues to work. If your business is photography, you must bill enough to cover the cost of eventual replacement, just like you would for a car that you use in your business. In other words, I think you probably need to examine your business practices more closely and worry less about lens quality.

JC
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macgyver
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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2006, 11:21:03 AM »
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John is right, lenses are an investment, but they are also a tool just like any other tool.
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BJL
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2006, 04:17:27 PM »
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Simplified, my original question was: "are there lenses that would match canon lenses and be 100% mechanical so that they would last for decades (no electrical failures) and I could with stop down metering use them perhaps with other bodies too"
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Given the desire for lenses offering purely mechanical operation and the idea that these lenses will outlive your current SLR bodies, why do you not consider lenses in Nikon's F mount, from Nikon, Zeiss etc., and changing to a Nikon body like the D200 to use them most effectively? Surely the 10D's will be replaced fairly soon anyway. Nikon F mount offers far more than Canon EF mount in the way of fully mechanical operation, including normal metering (no stop-down hassles) and the option of using AE, and AF when you want them. The D200 and D2X are fairly fully compatablwwith MF lenses, unike some earlier Nikon DSLR's.
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piksi
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« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2006, 01:55:14 PM »
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I think Michael was making the point that LF cameras are reliable field cameras, not especially that Canon and Nikon lenses are unreliable. The thing is, if you're really going to be a pro photographer, you will beat up your equipment, and then you'll have to replace it. If you use your lenses a lot, you won't find any that will last forever, although they may last for many years. But Canon and Nikon cameras and lenses are the mainstays for newspaper journalists everywhere, and the equipment gets beat to death -- three or four assignments a day, getting tossed into and pulled out cars, banging around in jostling crowds; and it continues to work. If your business is photography, you must bill enough to cover the cost of eventual replacement, just like you would for a car that you use in your business. In other words, I think you probably need to examine your business practices more closely and worry less about lens quality.

I understand your point, but this is not the case. I'm not shooting purely for money, I have lots of very varying camera junk on my shelfs and I just love fitting different lenses on different bodies and shoot with them in all kind of conditions. Usually I carry with me an FTb FD body with a normal 50mm 1.4 lens.

My quest for *quality* manual lenses is partially because I was hoping to find some lenses to use in the way I described above AND to benefit from the investment in studio/field work. And of course enjoy the decades of life time for such lens :-)

I know L's are meant to be tossed around, that's what they go through in my use too, though I try to be gentle on them. I realise that the electronic modern gear has limited lifespan and it's even designed to be replaced from time to time, but I always try to use the equipment to its max. It has paid off so far and repairing and taking good care of the older equipment has saved me some serious money and enabled me to invest in some other parts of studio.

And about the latter proposition of switching to Nikon gear.... I actually love nikon F-series bodies and know the reputation of lenses and love the body useability over the "canon menu hell", but when I years ago had to do the decision of Canon vs Nikon, the only reason I chose canon was because many familiar photographers have canon gear which I can easily loan for use. Now the amount of C-gear is so big that I'm not sure if I'm willing to go through the hassle of changing all of it...
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