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

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CTYankee View Drop Down
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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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MostlyHarmless View Drop Down
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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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Eclipse View Drop Down
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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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OldScotch View Drop Down
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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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OldScotch View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote OldScotch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post 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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