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sgy1962
06-09-2005, 16:35
Film guy here. Does the quality of the lens matter on digital cameras, such as the R-D1? In other words, will an inexpensive 50mm take as good pictures on a digital camera as a very expensive, top the line one? Do lenses retain any type of signature as they do with film?

Chuck A
06-09-2005, 17:18
I am not an expert here but this is certainly true in the DSLR world. Better lenses make a huge difference in the quality of the final image and the characteristics of the lens is very similar to what it is on film. Notice I said better, not necessarily the most expensive.

I don't have an R-D1 but what I have read here confirms this for it as well. I am sure that others will confirm this. Buy the best lenses that you can afford.

David Kieltyka
06-09-2005, 17:21
Certainly the quality matters. The way a lens gathers and projects light is the same regardless of the recording medium. When it comes to 50mm lenses I've used a Leitz Summar, Leitz Elmar, Leitz Dual-range Summicron, Zeiss f/1.5 Sonnar, new Zeiss f/2 Planar and Cosina Voigtländer Heliar on the R-D1. Each one has a different look--sometimes very obvious, other times quite subtle--and this comes through fine on the R-D1. The sharper lenses look sharper, the contrasier ones more contrasty, etc.

-Dave-

ray_g
06-09-2005, 17:40
Very interesting question. Most modern lenses have pretty good corner performance. It is usually in the corners where the difference in quality shows. At least that is what I am led to believe. If so, then wouldn't the cropping factor in non-full frame digital cameras make the performance of a so-so lens on film better on a digital body?

Another thing is all the processing that goes on in-camera after the light passes through the lens and hits the sensor: in-camera sharpening, color accuracy (differs by camera maker), among others. Won't the same lens give you a lower quality 8x10 mounted on a 2mp DSLR vs that on a 12mp slr?

While I agree that the way a lens gathers light and projects light regardless of medium is the same, there seem to be more variables involved in making the final image on a digital, IMHO.

MCTuomey
06-09-2005, 18:08
All my lenses are better than the photographer who owns and uses them.

My slight experience with digital cameras (borrowed higher end DSLRs) is that the glass seems to matter slightly more than with my film equipment. The Canon 1 series of DSLRs seem less forgiving when used with modest quality lenses. But YMMV - I'm a babe in the woods when it comes digital.

Chuck A
06-09-2005, 18:12
Ray,

You are correct that corner performance will be better on a crop camera such as the R-D1 than on a full frame sensor or film camera. I see this on DSLR cameras all the time.

Most JPG in-camera processing is pretty adjustable. You can change sharpening, saturation and contrast to your liking. Much the way different films give different renditions of a similar scene. Kodachrome gives you a different contrast and saturation than Ektachrome. You can also just shoot in RAW which will allow you more adjustability over the photo. This method does away with the in-camera processing and allows you to do it later on a computer.

When you hit about 6 MP you have enough resolution to really see most of the good and bad points of a lens. 2mp is too low to take advantage of good lenses. I am not sure where the upper limit is but people who own 11-16mp cameras have said that they must have great lenses to take advantage of these sensors.

One other variable comes into play here and that is dynamic range. Dynamic range is just the range of brightness that a medium can record without losing detail ineither the shadows or the highlights. Print film has more range than slide film, and digital sensors as they are now come close to the range of slide film. They are nowhere near B&W or print film. That is why you still see many of us shooting film, especially B&W. You just get more subtle tones with film than digital in my opinion. So in a sense you will probably see more of what a lens can do with B&W film than digital, but digital has come far enough to give a good representation.

I am sure that others will have something to say here. Maybe Sean Reid can step in. He is very knowledgeable on these subjects.

ray_g
06-09-2005, 18:57
Thanks for helping clarify some nagging questions, Chuck. :)

jlw
06-09-2005, 19:15
One other issue re comparability of lens performance on film vs. digital cameras is that a small-sensor digital camera such as the R-D 1 (or any consumer DSLR) has two optical systems: the lens you mount on it, and the array of "microlenses" mounted over the sensor (they're needed to concentrate the light on the tiny sensitive area at each photosite on the sensor.)

The microlenses interact with the taking lens in a way that's somewhat unpredictable, leading to occasional surprises in how a lens' character on the digital camera differs from a film camera. My personal experience has been that this is especially true when it comes to such traits as color fringing and the look of out-of-focus areas.

In general, if Lens A is sharper, contrastier, etc. than Lens B when used on a film camera, the same will hold true when it's used on a digital camera -- but as I said, some surprises are still possible in terms of other imaging qualities.

Gabriel M.A.
06-09-2005, 19:41
Yes. But I can't enter a message less than 10 words long. There.

ray_g
06-09-2005, 19:48
In general, if Lens A is sharper, contrastier, etc. than Lens B when used on a film camera, the same will hold true when it's used on a digital camera -- but as I said, some surprises are still possible in terms of other imaging qualities.

Reminds me of howon SMP, Mike Johnston praised the Tamron 17-35 for use on DSLR's, but qualified that the same lens was somewhat of a dog used with film.

Jim Watts
06-10-2005, 02:18
Film guy here. Does the quality of the lens matter on digital cameras, such as the R-D1? In other words, will an inexpensive 50mm take as good pictures on a digital camera as a very expensive, top the line one? Do lenses retain any type of signature as they do with film?
If in doubt that the signature is retained by digital you only need to look at Sean's article on "Fast Lenses on the R-D1" on Luminous Landscape: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/fastlensreview.shtml which clearly show the signature difference between a number of different fast lenses on the R-D1 specifically and IMHO is one of the best lens reviews I have seen.

MIKIRO
06-10-2005, 04:53
Hi. R-D1 is, according to Epson people, designed to represent lens characters more visibly than other digital bodies do (most probabaly by minimising in-camera image retouches). As far as I use 50mm lenses (Elmar, Nocti, Planar ZM, and M-Hexanon), they are not wrong. That said, there are some phenomena not well explained. Faster lenses tend to perform better on R-D1 than on film cameras. I am a bit dissapointed that images taken with 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm Color Skopars are hard to fault on film but somewhat dull on R-D1. Film and digital sensors do not always behave in the same manner.

Cheers,

MIKIRO

LCT
06-10-2005, 08:58
...Faster lenses tend to perform better on R-D1 than on film cameras...

I don't know for CV lenses that i don't quite like personally but as far as Leica lenses are concerned i feel that they loose some sharpness through the R-D1 but their signature seems to be very well translated even slow lenses like old and new Elmars IMHO...
FWIW
Best,
LCT

titrisol
06-10-2005, 09:24
I think lenses matter!

Capturing images on film or digital follow the same optical rules so it should.

Sean Reid
06-13-2005, 16:10
This question began coming up very often beginning in the fall of 2000 when the Canon D30 was first released. Certain reviewers argued that the better Canon lenses were "wasted" on the D30 because of resolution limitations, etc.. We now know that to have been quite wrong even with a 3MP DSLR.

Not only does the R-D1 draw differently with different lenses but lens choice can often have more influence on the look of the final R-D1 file than any other factor (as is true with film). Being able to use some wonderful RF lenses is one of the best things about working with the R-D1.

Cheers,

Sean