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Author Topic: Zoom lens performance  (Read 2399 times)
Mike Sellers
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« on: June 30, 2010, 10:58:55 AM »
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Are there any zoom lenses from any brand including medium format that equal the performance of primes?
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2010, 11:33:01 AM »
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Hi,

There are good lenses and less good lenses. A good prime is easier to make than a good zoom. Stopping down is a good equalizer. A good zoom will be better than a mediocre prime and the other way around.

Just my 2 cents...

Erik


Quote from: Mike Sellers
Are there any zoom lenses from any brand including medium format that equal the performance of primes?
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hcubell
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« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2010, 11:50:38 AM »
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Quote from: Mike Sellers
Are there any zoom lenses from any brand including medium format that equal the performance of primes?

The Hasselblad 50-110 zoom is a terrific lens that I found generally equalled the performance of the 50, 80 and 100 primes. The Hasselblad 35-90 is beyond exceptional. I think it actually outperforms  the 50mm and 100mm primes a bit and equals the 80mm. Too bad I can't use it on my H1. Please note that I did these tests at f/11 and f/16 only.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2010, 11:56:00 AM »
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I have read here recently a post that was pointing an interesting fact: when someone works with primes, is overall portfolio signature is more consistent, while the zoom tend to produce more chaos.

I have seen very few zooms that could equal primes, but there are indeed.

If your work is free of pressure and you are not yet tired of weight, I would simply avoid zooms. Not because they can not be good, but because of their philosophy.

For the post above: at F16, lens performance should start to decline. Mmm...I would do these tests again at 8 or less for example. (not saying that the zoom in question are bad)
« Last Edit: June 30, 2010, 12:00:27 PM by fredjeang » Logged
Mike Sellers
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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2010, 12:02:52 PM »
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Quote from: hcubell
The Hasselblad 50-110 zoom is a terrific lens that I found generally equalled the performance of the 50, 80 and 100 primes. The Hasselblad 35-90 is beyond exceptional. I think it actually outperforms  the 50mm and 100mm primes a bit and equals the 80mm. Too bad I can't use it on my H1. Please note that I did these tests at f/11 and f/16 only.
Howard,
Interesting-I have been leaning towards the Hasselblad H system for my landscape work.
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2010, 12:09:37 PM »
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Quote from: Mike Sellers
Are there any zoom lenses from any brand including medium format that equal the performance of primes?

Given the broadness of the question the answer is a broad "yes" :-)

The general caveats are:
- a zoom lens is generally more expensive than a prime lens of the same quality so if you want a good zoom lens it will cost you
- zoom lenses are usually not as fast (max aperture) as similar quality primes
- wide zoom lenses often show more distortion at their wide end than a similar quality prime
- zooms that cover an unusually long range are very rarely good quality (e.g. a 24-300)
- a zoom lens generally does not perform as well wide-open (aperture) as similar quality primes
- performance of a zoom lens can depend a LOT on where within it's range you are; in other words a wide to normal may perform very well at it's normal end but only moderately well at it's wide end

When used in their best aperture range many good zooms perform very similarly to good primes.
As an example:
 - Phase 75-150D: @80mm f/4.5 is so-so, @80mm f/11 is very good, @150mm/f5.6 is so-so, @150mm/f11 is excellent
 - Schneider 80mm D LS prime: f/2.8 is very good, f/5.6 is excellent, f/11 is excellent+
 - Phase 150mm D prime: f/2.8 is very good, f/5.6 is excellent, f/11 is excellent+

Meaning the 75-150 is nearly identical when stopped down to the 80/150 primes but both primes outperform it at the zoom's fastest aperture and in addition have another stop or two of faster usable apertures.

The 75-150mm is also physically heavier and larger than either of the primes. But then again it's pretty hard to put both the 80mm and 150mm on the body at the same time :-).

Doug Peterson
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Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2010, 09:04:55 PM »
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I don't own any zoom lenses, though I have in the past. My reasons for using primes are:

*smaller size and weight
*faster aperture
*better image quality
*the tendency to get lazy with my composition - letting the lens dictate the scene instead of my eye

It's funny because I often hear that people choose zooms because they don't want to carry all those lenses around. But usually the zoom will weigh as much or more than the multiple primes put together.

But I am not anti-zoom. If you don't mind the size and weight and can afford the very best zooms that will produce well wide open, they certainly offer convenience and bang for the buck. Recently we shot the 55-110 Mamiya zoom we have had on the shelf since I got here and to our surprise it was pretty darn good stopped down a couple. Which I guess means if you get a good copy - for $2,300 it's a bargain. Generally, I have found that many lenses of varying quality (not just zooms) perform similarly at say, f11. Wide open is typically where lenses make (and take) their money.


Steve Hendrix
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Steve Hendrix
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JeffKohn
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« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2010, 10:54:23 PM »
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Quote
*smaller size and weight
*faster aperture
*better image quality
These I can agree with, although on the last point I think zooms have improved to the point where you can't really make a blanket statement; some zooms hold up pretty well against primes (stopped down, at least), others not so much.

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*the tendency to get lazy with my composition - letting the lens dictate the scene instead of my eye
This one strikes me as backwards, though; if anything it's primes that can end up dictating the scene. Consider the example where you walk around your chosen shooting area, to select exactly the right camera position to bring all the elements of scene into just the right spatial relationships. Then you set up your camera, only to realize that the composition you want is "in-between" two of your primes. At this point you have a few choices:

- Use your longer lens and back up a bit (but there goes your carefully chosen perspective)

- Use your shorter lens and move forward to get your desired framing (perspective again)

- Use your shorter lens and crop after the fact (so much for primes having a sharpness advantage if you crop away 20% of your resolution).

On the other hand, a zoom would allow you to precisely frame your composition, maintaining the originally chosen perspective and utilizing the full resolution of the sensor.
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Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2010, 11:26:04 PM »
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Quote from: JeffKohn
These I can agree with, although on the last point I think zooms have improved to the point where you can't really make a blanket statement; some zooms hold up pretty well against primes (stopped down, at least), others not so much.


This one strikes me as backwards, though; if anything it's primes that can end up dictating the scene. Consider the example where you walk around your chosen shooting area, to select exactly the right camera position to bring all the elements of scene into just the right spatial relationships. Then you set up your camera, only to realize that the composition you want is "in-between" two of your primes. At this point you have a few choices:

- Use your longer lens and back up a bit (but there goes your carefully chosen perspective)

- Use your shorter lens and move forward to get your desired framing (perspective again)

- Use your shorter lens and crop after the fact (so much for primes having a sharpness advantage if you crop away 20% of your resolution).

On the other hand, a zoom would allow you to precisely frame your composition, maintaining the originally chosen perspective and utilizing the full resolution of the sensor.


Good points Jeff. Although noting that zooms hold up well against primes stopped down is kind of what I was pointing out when I said the very best zooms compare well (though the cost is at a premium). It's easier to pick up an excellent prime for a low cost versus a quality zoom. Examples might be the Canon 85mm/1.8 or the 100mm/2. For composition - I agree - my comment was mostly a subjective one, for me I am not particularly precise (I'm usually moving and so is my subject). And I often find I'm framing the shot in the viewfinder on the fly. But for others you make an excellent argument for using a zoom.


Steve Hendrix
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Steve Hendrix
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EricWHiss
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« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2010, 01:55:36 AM »
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Quote from: Mike Sellers
Are there any zoom lenses from any brand including medium format that equal the performance of primes?

The best zoom I have is the leica 35-70mm f/2.8 elmarit - that lens equaled my 100mm apo macro, 60mm elmarit and 50mm summicron, so I know it such a zoom lens can be built for any of the MF systems.     I had briefly the rollei 60-140mm PQS and it seemed fantastic in terms of image quality - will have another mid July to test.   But that lens is really heavy and bulky.
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Mike Sellers
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« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2010, 05:52:56 AM »
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Quote from: EricWHiss
The best zoom I have is the leica 35-70mm f/2.8 elmarit - that lens equaled my 100mm apo macro, 60mm elmarit and 50mm summicron, so I know it such a zoom lens can be built for any of the MF systems.     I had briefly the rollei 60-140mm PQS and it seemed fantastic in terms of image quality - will have another mid July to test.   But that lens is really heavy and bulky.
Eric,
I wonder if the Rollei lenses can be adapted for use on the Hasselblad H system? I think the older Hasselblad lenses can be used with an adapter  so does anyone know about the image qualities with the 60-120?
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EricWHiss
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2010, 02:11:19 PM »
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Quote from: Mike Sellers
Eric,
I wonder if the Rollei lenses can be adapted for use on the Hasselblad H system? I think the older Hasselblad lenses can be used with an adapter  so does anyone know about the image qualities with the 60-120?

That might take a lot of work to adapt to the H system!  I don't have any experience with the newer hasselblad zooms but think you'd probably be better off going that direction than trying to convert. I do believe that the older schneider 75-150 zoom was also made in the older hasselblad mount.
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