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Author Topic: Zeissness? A comparison of Zeiss and other lenses  (Read 8657 times)
ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #20 on: December 02, 2012, 12:31:46 AM »
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Hi,

There are a couple of reasons. To begin with the two Zeiss lenses I have are standard zooms for two different formats. In some cases I could use either the ZA lens or a tele zoom. Which one to prefer? The test I made indicates that it may matter little. All alternatives are about the same.

Another question is that Zeiss lenses are supposed to have very different color rendition, but I would say that my test contradicts that statement. All lenses with T* coating are said to have this property.

A third reason is that I may consider buying a Zeiss lens for Nikon and adapt with Leitax. That is a lot of expense. Zeiss 18/3.5, 21/2.8 may come into question.

Best regards
Erik



So why not just be satisfied and leave it at that ?

I can understand the curiosity but I think there are many factors, that when combined correctly, by intention or chance, create a unique look, sometime referred to as a 'Zeiss' look.

I have a couple of the lenses you tested. In fact I bought a SONY A850 just to be able to shoot with the 24-70 zoom. It DOES have a look that is a product of the Zeiss design and perhaps the coatings. I bought it because I longed for the look I had when I shot with Leica R cameras and some of the best R lenses. The 24-70 has almost exactly the same look to the images. Call it micro-contrast, 3D, whatever you like, it's there.

I have the best large format lenses from Schneider, Rodenstock and Nikon. The APOs from each brand create a very special look, in particular the Nikkor AM ED lenses. I tried many of the Zeiss large format lenses and never found that same look that I do find in their 35mm / FF DSLR lenses. Large format Zeiss lenses were sharp as all get out, but did not have the same look.


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Fine_Art
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« Reply #21 on: December 02, 2012, 01:55:33 PM »
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The impression of color would have 2 components, the coatings and the glass.
It used to be, decades ago that Zeiss had an advantage on both. T* had 98% transmittance when everyone else was at 96%. That adds up over many elements yielding deeper looking color (contrast). They used to use special Schott glass when nobody else knew how to make it. That would absorb/transmit different wavelengths different from other primitive glass.

These days everyone knows how to make advanced multi-coatings. Everyone has access to a variety of advanced glass types. Everyone has lens modeling software to make good APO lenses. Patents for advanced lens designs by Zeiss or Leica that made their old reputation would have run out. Anyone can make a design based on those. The field is leveled.
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K.C.
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« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2012, 01:03:11 AM »
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Erik those are all very legitimate reasons. In a forum where we often see pixel peeping and obsession over the technical aspects it seems you've more rational reasons that I'd have expected.

Anyone can make a design based on those. The field is leveled.

I don't doubt there is some truth to your contentions but the reality is the market is so competitive that achieving a profit supersedes quality. Yes most have access to the best designs and coatings but that doesn't mean they're cost effective. The market is anything but level.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #23 on: December 03, 2012, 03:48:45 AM »
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Hi,

One thing to keep in mind is that there is only a single plane (or surface) that is in focus. In many cases a large part of the image will be more or less out of focus. So, out of focus rendition is very important.

Best regards
Erik


Erik those are all very legitimate reasons. In a forum where we often see pixel peeping and obsession over the technical aspects it seems you've more rational reasons that I'd have expected.

I don't doubt there is some truth to your contentions but the reality is the market is so competitive that achieving a profit supersedes quality. Yes most have access to the best designs and coatings but that doesn't mean they're cost effective. The market is anything but level.
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TMARK
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« Reply #24 on: December 03, 2012, 01:46:31 PM »
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I don't doubt there is some truth to your contentions but the reality is the market is so competitive that achieving a profit supersedes quality. Yes most have access to the best designs and coatings but that doesn't mean they're cost effective. The market is anything but level.

Exactly.  Many lens makers can but they don't.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #25 on: December 03, 2012, 02:02:43 PM »
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Hi,

Lenses address different markets. Also some lenses are excellent and some are less so. Some lenses excel in one area and some in another.

It seems that the Canon TS-E 17/4 is truly excellent even with MF backs. Nikon's 14-24/2.8 seems to be a truly remarkable lens, serving the Zeiss 15/2.8 a real match. Canon has built some of the best large aperture telephoto lenses ever.

This are the ten best lenses ever tested by "Foto" in Sweden:
Canon TS-E 24/3,5 L II
Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 18/3,5 ZF
Nikkor AF-S 14-24/2,8 G ED
Canon EF 100/2,8 L IS USM Macro
Nikkor Micro AF 200/4 D ED
Sigma 70/2,8 EX DG Macro
Voigtländer APO Lanthar 90/2,8
Nikkor AF-S VR 400/2,8 G ED
Canon EF 200/2,0 L IS USM
Nikkor AF-S VR 200-400/4 G ED

These tests are made in cooperation with Hasselblad, using Hasselblad's equipment, and they have made those tests for about 30 years, so they have a large amount of MTF data. The evaluation criteria they use can be discussed. Anyway interesting to see that there is such a variance of lenses at the top.

http://tidningenfoto.se/de-skarpaste-objektiven-fotos-tio-i-topp-lista/

There were some objections about no Leica lens making the list and a Sigma lens listed. The author of the list says that Sigma macros 70/2.8, 150/2.8 and 180/2.8 are as good as any Leica lens, and says this abundantly clear.



Best regards
Erik




Exactly.  Many lens makers can but they don't.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2012, 11:41:14 PM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

Wayne Fox
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« Reply #26 on: December 04, 2012, 12:06:42 PM »
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It would be possible to adapt most Zeiss lenses for Nikon using Leitax adapters, but that would turn the lenses in purely manual ones.


Manually focusing a Zeiss lens on a nikon is interesting, and easier than I thought.  The camera's focusing mechanism still provides feedback, and you can use it to "focus".  The only thing missing is the motor in the lens.  So you can "focus" without having to visually determine sharpness with just your eyes.  I think you could even focus calibrate a manual zeiss lens on the camera to fine tune it.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #27 on: December 04, 2012, 01:15:17 PM »
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Wayne,

Thanks for input. I would probably use any adapted lens on tripod, using live view. I ordered a Samyang 14/2.8 and also have a Samyang 24/3.5 TS on order. I expect to use these lenses for deliberate work.

Best regards
Erik


Manually focusing a Zeiss lens on a nikon is interesting, and easier than I thought.  The camera's focusing mechanism still provides feedback, and you can use it to "focus".  The only thing missing is the motor in the lens.  So you can "focus" without having to visually determine sharpness with just your eyes.  I think you could even focus calibrate a manual zeiss lens on the camera to fine tune it.
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tho_mas
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« Reply #28 on: December 04, 2012, 05:49:22 PM »
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I read a lot about Zeiss and special characteristics. Wanted to see for myself and compared my five zoom lenses in a table top setup and started writing an article about what I have found.

http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/72-zeissness
as a former Minolta/Sony user I occasionally follow some contributions (in German forums) about Sony and Zeiss lenses and as far as user reports go you've picked exactly the 2 weakest Zeiss lenses available. Especially with regard to corner performance and CAs. Please note: I didn't use these lenses personally so I can only refer to these user reports.

However, amongst other lenses I owned the ZA 1.8/135 and the ZA 1.4/85 and also Minotla G lenses (1.4/35G, 1.3/85G and 2.8/70-200 G) for my Minolta/Sony system back then (used on an APS-C camera, though).
Today I use Contax 645 (digital) with the following lenses: 3.5/35, 2.8/45 (sold), 3.5/55, 2.0/80, 4.0/120 Macro, 2.8/140, 4.5/45-90 Vario.

My observations: as to the Minolta/Sony lenses the Minolta G lenses showed a wonderfull Bokeh, but they did not look as sharp as the Zeiss lenses. The Zeiss lenses have been very sharp in the focus plane and there is a kind of "sudden" falloff to the OOF areas. It's a nice falloff, however the sharp image areas somehow popped out. The Minolta/Sony G lenses have a very smooth falloff from sharp (in focus) areas to OOF areas. Maybe the Minolta/Sony G-lenses resolve as good as the Zeiss ZA lenses... but you won't perceive the same "pop" and therefore you may think they are less sharp. To be honest, back then, I somehow preferred the Minolta G look (especially that of the 35G) - I've rarley seen such a smooth falloff and I assume it is a unique character of the G lenses.

As to the 645 lenses I own they all show a similar look (more or less). In focus areas somehow pop out (in a pleasant way... if you like that look) ... even when the lens is stopped down. But there is one exception: the Vario Zoom. It has a completely different look. It's optimized to reduce flare and although it is a very, very sharp lens (also sharp corner to corner at 55mm, 70mm and 80mm ... at least on my crop 1.1 DB) it simply looks different to all my other Zeiss lenses: it doesn't show this kind of contrasty popping out in focus areas.

So - based on my personal experience - I think it's absolutely impossible to talk about "Zeissness" based on images made by 2 zoom lenses ... above all 2 zoom lenses, that obviously suffer from serious CAs and weak corner performance.
In addition I think your test shot isn't really sufficient to show the look of any lens. You should shoot something with much more room around the subject in focus and also in a less flat light. Or, even better, shoot something "nice" and worthwile to really dive into the image and explore the look of the lens.

Just to make this clear: I couldn't care less about certain myths of Zeiss (or Leica or whatever) glass. I only talk about lenses I've used in the past or that I am using today. I don't know if there is a typical "Zeiss" look. But I know that the primes I've listed above do have "a" certain look that the zoom doesn't show.

« Last Edit: December 04, 2012, 05:55:55 PM by tho_mas » Logged
joneil
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« Reply #29 on: December 05, 2012, 06:52:31 AM »
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  There is another issue that might affect the "3D" effect - if it even exists - about Zeiss lenses.

   First off, and I apologize I lost the link, but I read an article some time ago that claimed many people, especially children, are looking the abi8lity to see and think in 3D to begin with.  Basically it goes like this - at an early age, children sit in front of flat screens all day - TV, computers, Xbox, etc.  They are not outside, they are not playing all day with toys in hand like they used to, so the brain doesn't develop the "hardware" properly to allow seeing and thinking in proper 3D spatial terms.  In some ways, i wonder if that doesn't have an effect here when some people say "wow, that photograph has a #d look to it."  on the flip side, some people, like myself, have a real ahrd time watching some of these so called #d movies they ahve out thee.  so everybody has eyes and brain that works differently.

 
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #30 on: December 05, 2012, 10:05:20 AM »
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Hi,

Just to point out, the lenses were tested near the center where they have the highest performance. According to Photozone, the ZA 24-70/2.8 resolves 2333 LW/PH on axis and the 135/1.8 ZA resolves 2317. The 16-80/3.5-4.5 resolves 2260. So according to Photozone tests the 24-70/2.8 is better than the 135/1.8 at image center, where the test was made.

The idea with the test was in part to find out if there was any design traits of Zeiss designs giving distinctly different characteristics and in part to see if T* star coating gave some different color rendition.

You may have noticed that I gave much lower LW/PH figures? It depends on my figures being with no sharpening while I guess Photozone uses standard sharpening.

Can you see any significant difference between the three enclosed images?

Best regards
Erik




as a former Minolta/Sony user I occasionally follow some contributions (in German forums) about Sony and Zeiss lenses and as far as user reports go you've picked exactly the 2 weakest Zeiss lenses available. Especially with regard to corner performance and CAs. Please note: I didn't use these lenses personally so I can only refer to these user reports.

However, amongst other lenses I owned the ZA 1.8/135 and the ZA 1.4/85 and also Minotla G lenses (1.4/35G, 1.3/85G and 2.8/70-200 G) for my Minolta/Sony system back then (used on an APS-C camera, though).
Today I use Contax 645 (digital) with the following lenses: 3.5/35, 2.8/45 (sold), 3.5/55, 2.0/80, 4.0/120 Macro, 2.8/140, 4.5/45-90 Vario.

My observations: as to the Minolta/Sony lenses the Minolta G lenses showed a wonderfull Bokeh, but they did not look as sharp as the Zeiss lenses. The Zeiss lenses have been very sharp in the focus plane and there is a kind of "sudden" falloff to the OOF areas. It's a nice falloff, however the sharp image areas somehow popped out. The Minolta/Sony G lenses have a very smooth falloff from sharp (in focus) areas to OOF areas. Maybe the Minolta/Sony G-lenses resolve as good as the Zeiss ZA lenses... but you won't perceive the same "pop" and therefore you may think they are less sharp. To be honest, back then, I somehow preferred the Minolta G look (especially that of the 35G) - I've rarley seen such a smooth falloff and I assume it is a unique character of the G lenses.

As to the 645 lenses I own they all show a similar look (more or less). In focus areas somehow pop out (in a pleasant way... if you like that look) ... even when the lens is stopped down. But there is one exception: the Vario Zoom. It has a completely different look. It's optimized to reduce flare and although it is a very, very sharp lens (also sharp corner to corner at 55mm, 70mm and 80mm ... at least on my crop 1.1 DB) it simply looks different to all my other Zeiss lenses: it doesn't show this kind of contrasty popping out in focus areas.

So - based on my personal experience - I think it's absolutely impossible to talk about "Zeissness" based on images made by 2 zoom lenses ... above all 2 zoom lenses, that obviously suffer from serious CAs and weak corner performance.
In addition I think your test shot isn't really sufficient to show the look of any lens. You should shoot something with much more room around the subject in focus and also in a less flat light. Or, even better, shoot something "nice" and worthwile to really dive into the image and explore the look of the lens.

Just to make this clear: I couldn't care less about certain myths of Zeiss (or Leica or whatever) glass. I only talk about lenses I've used in the past or that I am using today. I don't know if there is a typical "Zeiss" look. But I know that the primes I've listed above do have "a" certain look that the zoom doesn't show.


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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #31 on: December 05, 2012, 10:34:34 AM »
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I agree with you, joneil. There have been studies that claim watching 3D improves stereoscopic vision. My experience concurs.
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tho_mas
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« Reply #32 on: December 05, 2012, 04:54:53 PM »
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Can you see any significant difference between the three enclosed images?
of course not. The lighting is super flat.
Just a guess ... but I assume you've applied highlight recovery as the blossoms/leaves do not show any texture or color differentiation.
It doesn't matter ... for whatever reason ... the motif is absolutley not sufficient to show lens drawing or lens "behaviour".
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #33 on: December 05, 2012, 11:10:35 PM »
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Hi,

Lighting is with a single strobe with an 80cm soft box something like 45 degrees left of and above.

No highlight recovery at all. Exposure was strictly to he right with absolutely no clipping in any channel.

Keep in mind that you are looking at an image that corresponds to 54MP on full frame, those pixels are small.

What I find interesting is that we have three lenses giving nearly identical results with essentially identical processing. Processing was essentially setting white balance on the second gray patch on the left and than adjusting the white patch on the CC to around 90 and than adjusting the black patch to about 13.

I also enclose a separate crop from the same images (ZA 24-70 and 70-400/4-5.6). That crop shows more of the lighting and also the color checker. The whole image is also included.

I also measured MTF on the slanted wedge that was include in the image. Those MTF values were very close, so MTF data is in agreement with visual impression.
MTF data are here: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/72-zeissness (on page 1).

By the way, the only way to find out things is well designed tests. Shooting nice images may leave you with false impression. Was it the lens, the light, good luck? If you would use a different lens what results would that give?

By the way, I have about 65000 shots on my computer and about a 1200 of them are here: http://echophoto.smugmug.com/ , just to illustrate that I also use my stuff for pictures ;-)

Best regards
Erik



of course not. The lighting is super flat.
Just a guess ... but I assume you've applied highlight recovery as the blossoms/leaves do not show any texture or color differentiation.
It doesn't matter ... for whatever reason ... the motif is absolutley not sufficient to show lens drawing or lens "behaviour".
« Last Edit: December 05, 2012, 11:53:27 PM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

EricWHiss
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« Reply #34 on: December 11, 2012, 11:29:21 PM »
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Erik,
I'm not going into a bunch of techno on this but yeah, the Zeiss lenses seem to share some family traits to me both in MF and 35mm formats.   You can see it in the bokeh typically but also where the contrast has been emphasized.  And if you can't see it, then does it matter?
Eric
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Fine_Art
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« Reply #35 on: December 12, 2012, 02:13:50 AM »
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as a former Minolta/Sony user I occasionally follow some contributions (in German forums) about Sony and Zeiss lenses and as far as user reports go you've picked exactly the 2 weakest Zeiss lenses available. Especially with regard to corner performance and CAs. Please note: I didn't use these lenses personally so I can only refer to these user reports.

However, amongst other lenses I owned the ZA 1.8/135 and the ZA 1.4/85 and also Minotla G lenses (1.4/35G, 1.3/85G and 2.8/70-200 G) for my Minolta/Sony system back then (used on an APS-C camera, though).
Today I use Contax 645 (digital) with the following lenses: 3.5/35, 2.8/45 (sold), 3.5/55, 2.0/80, 4.0/120 Macro, 2.8/140, 4.5/45-90 Vario.

My observations: as to the Minolta/Sony lenses the Minolta G lenses showed a wonderfull Bokeh, but they did not look as sharp as the Zeiss lenses. The Zeiss lenses have been very sharp in the focus plane and there is a kind of "sudden" falloff to the OOF areas. It's a nice falloff, however the sharp image areas somehow popped out. The Minolta/Sony G lenses have a very smooth falloff from sharp (in focus) areas to OOF areas. Maybe the Minolta/Sony G-lenses resolve as good as the Zeiss ZA lenses... but you won't perceive the same "pop" and therefore you may think they are less sharp. To be honest, back then, I somehow preferred the Minolta G look (especially that of the 35G) - I've rarley seen such a smooth falloff and I assume it is a unique character of the G lenses.

As to the 645 lenses I own they all show a similar look (more or less). In focus areas somehow pop out (in a pleasant way... if you like that look) ... even when the lens is stopped down. But there is one exception: the Vario Zoom. It has a completely different look. It's optimized to reduce flare and although it is a very, very sharp lens (also sharp corner to corner at 55mm, 70mm and 80mm ... at least on my crop 1.1 DB) it simply looks different to all my other Zeiss lenses: it doesn't show this kind of contrasty popping out in focus areas.

So - based on my personal experience - I think it's absolutely impossible to talk about "Zeissness" based on images made by 2 zoom lenses ... above all 2 zoom lenses, that obviously suffer from serious CAs and weak corner performance.
In addition I think your test shot isn't really sufficient to show the look of any lens. You should shoot something with much more room around the subject in focus and also in a less flat light. Or, even better, shoot something "nice" and worthwile to really dive into the image and explore the look of the lens.

Just to make this clear: I couldn't care less about certain myths of Zeiss (or Leica or whatever) glass. I only talk about lenses I've used in the past or that I am using today. I don't know if there is a typical "Zeiss" look. But I know that the primes I've listed above do have "a" certain look that the zoom doesn't show.



That's a pretty good description of the Minolta lens look. The smoothness of the OOF is something I really like about the lenses. Some people would think that a Gaussian in post would work as well if not better. It might be a smoother function but you will never get it to look right in a complex scene.

Back OT I think the 3D look is a property of the shot as much as the lens. The photographer with lots of experience using a given lens knows how to use that lens for effect. It is a function of composition maybe more-so than the lens. You know when you are in the zone with a shot vs just wasting time.

Sometimes when you watch a movie you are knocked out of immersion, if you will, by really outstanding camera work. You forget about the movie and start thinking about the camera settings. For me I really liked some of the lens look in Cleopatra, an old classic. Another is the BBC series planet earth. Some shots from that are taken on a gimbal mounted camera kms away riding the nose of a chopper. Amazingly the pilot and the camera man seem to be doing the Vulcan mind meld. The camera is at a great angle for the shot. What kind of lens is that? Basically a telescope lens.

What I think I am saying is some of the old Masters, who happened to use Zeiss lenses, were... no surprise... masters of their craft. I'm not taking anything away from Zeiss, I also love some of their lenses. I use Badder (Zeiss) eyepieces on my telescopes. Their equipment is very good. So is Canon, Mamiya, Nikon, Sony, Zuiko, etc.
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LKaven
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« Reply #36 on: December 12, 2012, 08:29:19 AM »
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I think the 3D effect is a bit of a myth. Different people mean different things.

I agree that there are many cues to dimensionality and spatial extent, some of which get conflated.

One thing I think is interesting is that there is a kind of 3-D quality that I see in some of the old Nikkor AI primes.  I call it a kind of "roundedness" which is just a word to capture my impressions.  But I wonder if this doesn't consist in a characteristic transmission property around the low-middle spatial frequencies.  The 28/2 AI isn't clinically as sharp as my 28/1.8G, but it has a certain look that is more beautiful.  Obviously the 28/2 isn't doing as well in the highest spatial frequencies, but what of the rest?
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