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TP: Digital vs. Film - the lenses tell a story.

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OldScotch View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote OldScotch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: TP: Digital vs. Film - the lenses tell a story.
    Posted: 21 January 2008 at 18:04
Bugger...how do you delete a post anyway

Edited by OldScotch - 21 January 2008 at 18:06
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote OldScotch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 January 2008 at 18:03
Originally posted by H_K_F H_K_F wrote:

In terms of dynamic range, B&W film can achieve 10 stops (ev) in tonal range, color film can achieve around 4 stops. For digital, the standard's still under debate, most would agree from 7-12 stops depending on manufacturer.


I think you're confusing colour slide film with colour negative film.

And can you point me at the dSLR that can do 12 stops? The best I know of is the S5 Pro which was 10-11 stops if I remember correctly.

To the OPs post, it doesn't take long for people to have more money invested in lenses than they do in bodies. Lens technology generally improves with ease of use, but not with quality. A 50mm 1.4 from 1975 will be pretty much the same optically as a 50mm 1.4 today. Zooms have made significant improvements, but really, a good lens is a good lens and will stay a good lens for quite a long time. Where with dSLRs especially, they're constantly improving with the years.

Edited by OldScotch - 21 January 2008 at 18:05
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Eclipse Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 January 2008 at 15:36
[QUOTE=DaveK]

If I compare my 200 mm f/2.8 G APO HS with the beercan, is it so much better optical? NO! Even though the 200 is a prime! Just a little (sharper, colours, bokeh) but the price is much higher! And the new lenses? Better? I don't think so. Not much.

/QUOTE]

I find that there is a very considerable difference, not only in colour rendition, where the 200 is more accurate (but perhaps to some less attractive), but also in both sharpness and the level of detail recorded, but perhaps this is, as per this topic, because I make large enlargements, and use film.

In my experience, even the fast films I use seem to pick up more shadow and highlight detail than the 5D sensor can at the same ISO (can't speak for later sensors). Cheap and nasty films will, of course, not deliver the same results.

You can't compare film with digital very easily, as there are a huge range of films with varying latitudes (in the case of negative films some very wide indeed compared to how they were in the past) and totally differing tone/colour rendition, whereas a digital camera doesn't have interchangeable sensors. Being able to choose the sensitivity characteristics you want for particular lighting conditions is one of the advantages of using film, and may also help to get the best out of some lenses. I suspect as sensors continue to improve, and become more subtle in their settings, lens variations may well become increasingly evident on DSLRs too.

You have to be VERY careful comparing digital images with scans of negatives or slides- scans can't be better than the scanner they are done on, and very few films are designed to be scanned. It is like judging prints direct from negs with prints from digital images without taking into account the quality of the laser/inkjet printer the digital ones were made on.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote MostlyHarmless Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 April 2007 at 06:32
Remember that photography is basically a simple forumla: light + lens + film

That's it. "Camera" used to just be "the thing that connects the lens and the film". Light was controlled by the photographer who figured out proper exposure.

Then along came cameras with integrated meters. Soon, cameras had integrated lenses. And with the digital age, the camera essentially has "integrated film".

The camera has, over time, increased its value and role in the image making process. The lens' role has, essentially, stayed the same. That's why we want to have the latest camera body but not necessarily the latest lens.

This has taken on a bit of a twist in the DSLR age because every new camera body also brings a new sensor that offers more resolution, more dynamic range, less noise, etc etc. If folks could upgrade the sensors in their DSLRs, it'd be a different story. Photogs demanding the latest DSLR bodies do so for the same reason why photogs shooting ASA 100 slide film switched over to Provia 400 when it was introduced.

Its important to note that this phenomenon of upgrading the camera body every few years isn't universal. You'd don't see this behavior to nearly the similar degree with, say, rangefinder users simply because rangefinder bodies have not become the do-it-all wunderkameras that 35mm SLRs and DLSRs are today.

Now as for the lens, there are a number of reasons why old lenses are sometimes preffered but the vast majority of the time, the reason is simple economics.

Leica fans will rave on and on about some particular generation of a Summicron that came out of some particular factory and bore some special range of serial numbers but the fact is that most of that is nostalgia and self-imposed sentimentality designed to mask the fact that what they really want is to spend 1/4 the money to get the lens they want.

Of course, economics is also what drove lens lineups to migrate from fast primes to slow zooms, from metal construction to plastic. Sometimes, you want the old lens because no new replacement is available or the new replacement makes compromises that you don't like. The Beercan is a lens with a near-legendary reputation that it simply would not have if there were a modern lens with similar specifications available to replace it. Lenses like the 28/2 and 35/2 were really not anything that special... until they were discontinued and now they're highly sought after. And these are only relatively new old lenses.

Sometimes, the old lenses really are still up to snuff with the latest glass. This isn't surprising either. It's not as if today's light is incompatible with yesterday's glass. The only real difference is characteristics of a digital sensor vs. film. Some lenses don't really handle the transition well and others do. Those that do are rightly seen as having value.

And sometimes, the old lenses do a better job. When Cosina introduced the 40/1.4 Nokton for the M mount, they released two versions: a regular multi-coated version and a supposedly infereier single-coated version. Why? Well, it turns out that some folks like the way single-coated optics draw an image onto black and white film. So even those old, first-gen manual focus lenses with crappy coatings can still find a fanbase.

So as for the question of why new camera bodies, the answer is:
* The camera body does so much, upgrading the camera body means upgrading every aspect of the image making process that the camera touches. It's a great value.

As for why old lenses, the answer is:
* Because the old lens does what I want and newer lenses don't. -Or-
* Because the old lens does what I want and newer lenses are too expensive.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote CTYankee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 April 2007 at 13:44
I'll reiterate a couple other folks' answer to:

Why is it that we demand a new camera body, film or digital, at least every couple of years, while we tolerate and actually revere lenses which are over 20 years old?

by saying I agree that we simply have more to gain from new camera bodies due to features they offer. Lenses don't go through "upgrade cycles" (much). Some Minolta lenses were upgraded to [RS] ... and some people would much prefer the RS versions. But still, you're looking at one upgrade in the time we went from the x000's to the xi's to the si's then the 7/9/5 then the 70/50 ... but what could a beercan owner do ?

People clamored for SSM and IS but never got them. We asked for a G-class 70-200/4. We asked for a faster closer-focussing 28-70/2.8 (24-70 ?).

I don't think that there ever could have been as many upgrades to lenses as there were to film bodies to cause people to want to upgrade as frequently (and certainly not now when digital allows manufacturers to incorporate all kinds of new features/functions). But part of the reason is simply because the upgrades aren't there.

Then, to be a little bit contrary, I'm not one who reveres old lenses, unless they happen to be 'G' caliber glass. I see newer lenses performing "best" (in my opinion) on digital sensors. I don't like wondering when CA is going to rear its ugly head; I don't like wondering if I'm ever going to see a "flare patch". I honestly don't even like the "film look" my 28-85 gives me over the "cleaner" look I think I get with my 28-75.

All that said, I agree that more people are 'attached' to old lenses than to old SLR bodies; sure, you can find the 9000 cult or the occasional happy 7xi shooter, but 5's & 7's & 9's are the cameras I hear people (who still shoot film) most often talking about ... while plenty of old lenses are still used & loved.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sanjuro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 April 2007 at 13:11
The optimal solution for me would be if you buy a body and then change things like the back part of the body to fit diff sensores.

Example, you buy your setup with an APS sensor after 2 years you feel like you would like ta have a FF then change it to it plus you get the firmware needed for it.
So changing "only" the sensor part will give you diff setups and the most of the body can be the same.
Of course that every body will have their specs for the max available upgrade, like a mother board with diff processors.

And of course I am dreaming, but who knows. (I know there are already these kind of sulutions Pahse one, hasselblad? but too expensive)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote brettania Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 April 2007 at 04:35

I have a simple yardstick by which I categorise my good and my second tier lenses.

The good ones, provided everything else is OK like exposure, DON'T need PP. I use +1 in camera sharpening the the second largest jpgs that come out with my RAW files will require nothing done to them.

The second tier lenses usually require some sharpening for web use, but may not need it for printing.

My good ones include, the 70-200 SSM, the 85, the 100 macro, the 100-300 APO, the 50 macro and the 2 standard 50s. Aside from the SSM they are all "original" or RS lenses and therefore old.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote DavidB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 April 2007 at 03:45
nathan 68:

And a very good two cents worth it is!

David
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sanjuro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2007 at 22:06
Originally posted by vitor vitor wrote:

Originally posted by H_K_F H_K_F wrote:


Digital simply has a higher dynamic range than film.
Image from film looks more dynamic (punchy, contrasty) because it has a lower dynamic range. : )


I got a bit confused here ... Digital as a lower dynamic range then film, period. Can you explain what you meant ?


If you control the situation like in a studio a slide film will have arround 10EV dyn range and neg film has more than that.
I think film printed in the correct paper for it will give you more dynamic range than DSRL, at least in BW.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2007 at 20:53
I'm "lens-centric", so my answer to the question is:

1) Love/Hate: I have a lens, a Minolta 200/2.8 HS that I like very much and when Sony bought Minolta I dind't jump to Canon mostly because of it. I'm in the opinion that a lens can make the system.

2) Character: every lens has its own character, and you need time to understand it. We could say the same about DSLR now, but with SLR was different because you could use the same kind of film on different bodies.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nathan_68 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2007 at 20:05
Originally posted by DavidB DavidB wrote:


This one: Why is it that we demand a new camera body, film or digital, at least every couple of years, while we tolerate and actually revere lenses which are over 20 years old? Could it be that we actually value the vision we are trying to achieve more than the technology we use to achieve it? I think so.



This is a very good question. IMHO, there are two answers for it.

First: in this moment every manufacturer is most interested in designing, producing and SELLING a digital camera. Digital is the magic word, because digital equipment is already old in the moment you buy it.
A mechanical camera can last for 10 years (used professionally) or 50 years (if well looked at).
A digital camera can last for.. 2 years? 4 years? Do you use the same computer for 4 years in a row? Or are you forced in some way to change it after 18 months? Digital cameras are the same. We "need" to change our digital camera every two years, because new features are released and we "desperately" want the last technology (do we really need the latest face detection chip? or whatever the marketing dept thinks that we cannot live without? these are other good questions...).
The point is that manufacturers are making good money selling cameras that will be replaced every two years. It's straightforward to say that all their financial and technical resources are focused on cameras. If I owned a camera company, I'd say to my engineers: go on to develop new cameras until...

and here comes the second point:

Even a 20 old lens has a resolution that cannot be achieved by the most powerful sensor. When we will see many cameras with the capacity to outperform the existing lenses, then we will see new lenses with new technologies. There is no need to develop new lenses now, because probably we are not able to see any performance difference between an oldie (but good and cheap) lens and a new wonderful piece of glass that costs 100 bucks for each mm of focal length.

At the end, it's all about economy! Now we have a lot of new cameras and few (very few) new lenses (with the same old technology) because companies make money out of the cameras. When the market will be saturated (or mature) the companies will be forced to work on the other elements of the camera system (i.e. lenses!).

Just my two cents, of course.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote momech Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2007 at 18:47
I keep wanting to write something, but can't keep it very organized. Will give it a try anyway.

I feel lenses have improved quite a bit, but the basic design remains the same and I don't see how it can change. A lens is a "light pipe" that contains optical and mechanical elements to manipulate the light as it flows through the "pipe". Modern lenses also contain electronics. So what can you change/improve?

The glass elements can use higher quality glass and grinding. While these have been available for some time, CAD/CAM systems have made design and production more efficient. The very highest quality still requires more "hands on" attention and the human element involved means improvements on the high end are relatively small and slow to come. There's a lot more "B+" lenses on the market for relatively lower cost than there used to be; look at all the APO and LD glass avaliable today. But the "A+" of twenty years ago is still essentially the "A+" of today. How do you change that? a new material to replace all that heavy, fragile glass? maybe some type of bendable super-resin?

The mechanical/electronic elements have improved more; internal focus, nonrotating elements, IS, USM/SSM, etc, (motorized zoom was a flop) are all products of improved materials (a very underrated development), and miniaturization in electronics/motors; this will continue, probably more in zooms than primes. Who thought 20 years ago there'd be a relatively affordable good quality 50-500mm lens? And maybe some genius engineer will figure out how to cram enough servomotors and circuitry into a lens barrel to make a practical AF STF.

Coatings I don't know much about; maye adding a fungicide?

I'm still learning the lenses I've got; I can easily see why someone would keep a particular, well understood piece of gear even though there are newer and "better" ones on the market.




Edited by momech - 22 April 2007 at 19:06
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Raimios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2007 at 18:46
Originally posted by H_K_F H_K_F wrote:

Raimios, I thought you brought up some paper in the 60's about zone system in an earlier post. B&W film do have the potential of a maximum dynamic range of 10 stops (ev); between zone 3-8 are tones with details. Beyond that would be just white/black, data lost/clipped.


Zone sytem doesn't say anything about b&w film's dynamic range, this is most misunderstood thing wit zone system.
The system itself says:
Zone 0: Photo paper black; maximum black, representing emptines; nothing.
Zone 10: Photo paper white ....

You must realize; film might have more, but normal photographic paper can't handle more than ten zones....
also zone system manual says about normal contrast film (exposed and developed as system says): (this is exact copy) "C, When control are exercised, the result will be a standard, full scale print of 9, 10, or 11 zones (Called Normal)"
Most film has highlight details, but they're too dense for normal print, and most film has details in deep shadows, but they're too thin for normal paper (I now speak for direct prints...)

edit:
Just looked my old negatives (those I used for test); At seventies I used film called "Agfa Ortho 25" (graphic film but could be developed for tones too): I has glass clear base and thick orthocromatic emulsion with very fine grain. So the highest light area (e.g. direct sun) could be developed total thick black (no light comes through film) and deepest shadows (total darkness) could be glass clear (some 98% light goes through film) ...I haven't check it, but I guess it could handle 13-14 zones.....

edit 2:
however those zones are, or will be...if we're talking about them in this thread, then we're talkin' OT... this was about lenses, not dynamic ranges.....

Edited by Raimios - 22 April 2007 at 19:12
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Diddlbiker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2007 at 18:07
Comparing color film with paper prints is to digital is in many ways comparing apples to oranges. There are some significant differences, most importantly:

1) A monitor emits light, making the digital output much more vibrant and alive then a paper print. In that respect, you're better off comparing color slides to digital.

2) 99% of the photographers will have their film developed & printed by a lab. That means that you have no post-processing control. On the other hand, in PS (or PSP as I do) we routinely do a lot of work that, on film, you would only reserve for some pictures since it is so much work. The discrepancy gets worse when shooting raw and using rawshooter/lightroom/whatever in your workflow; now 'additional postprocessing' has become standard. How many of you push or pull film? Yet, histogram adjustment (on a per-photo basis, not on an entire roll!) is now a basic part of our workflow.

I think that film still has an edge over digital when it comes to dynamic range and detail (don't think 35mm, think medium format or 8x10). However, the ability to get everything out of a film/paper print that's in there is out of reach for the most of us (time, money), where we can get 80-95% out of a digital 'negative' without even thinking about it.

Just my two cents.
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