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How good, exactly, can a medium price 35 be when stopped down?
Old 08-08-2014   #1
Juan Valdenebro
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How good, exactly, can a medium price 35 be when stopped down?

Well, the fact is I don't own a current line 35 by Leica to compare, and we often read all good lenses are more or less the same when stopped down, and it's commonly said the premium price is paid for the performance we get with lenses when used wide open...
I wonder how do medium price 35mm lenses (Zeiss, Konica, Canon, Voigtlander, pre-aspherical Leica ones) compare to an aspherical summicron or summilux when all of them are by f/5.6 and f/8...
I would imagine modern Leica lenses must be optically better even if we compare several brands and models stopped down... Aren't they by some margin?
This could be considered subjective, but with a good sensor for testing, it could be considered really objective too... From field flatness to center and corner sharpness and microcontrast, I wonder which lenses by which brands can be considered optically as good as aspherical Leica 35mm lenses... Would it be possible to have a list including the best 35s ever for shooting by f8?
Thanks everyone for sharing opinions and thoughts...
Cheers,
Juan
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Old 08-08-2014   #2
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To me CV 35 2.5 PII is the best. In terms of IQ for B/W and color, size, build and price. It delivers right at 2.5, I don't have to close it down.
But I'm talking strictly about film, no sensors for testing.
For digital you need as modern as possible, for best results. IMO.
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Old 08-08-2014   #3
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Dear Juan,

"Exactly"?

What are your criteria?

At f/8 I'd expect bugger all difference in (say) 12x16 inch/30x40 cm prints from any half-decent lens -- but I'd also expect pixel peepers to find differences.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-08-2014   #4
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Your question is quite subjective.

Presuming that you're considering "sharpness" (whatever that means) as you're discussing stopping down to f/8, I'd say that comparing "modern" lenses, there'd be precious few souls who could tell you what lens took what photo. However, "sharpness" (resolution, etc. etc.) while easy to measure and tout in advertising, is probably one of the least important attributes of a modern lens; most all modern glass, even in less expensive lenses, have amazing "sharpness" when compared with older designs.
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Old 08-08-2014   #5
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For what it's worth, I have recently been scanning my negatives from the early 60s. As a poor college student in Chicago (winter of '62-'63), I had walked into Altman's Camera, and Selwyn Schwartz suggested I buy their first Konica FP, saying I would not be sorry; it had a Hexanon / Hexar 52 mm / 1:1.4 lens. Based on my recent scans, comparing to my later Leica negatives, I wish I had that lens and a good camera to use it on today. All these years I would never have expected I would say this: from the new scan results, with the exception of the negatives produced twenty plus years later with a 50mm Noctilux, I will pit those Hexanon produced negatives against those made with any much more costly and highly rated lenses I've ever owned, especially at f4 and beyond.
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Old 08-08-2014   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Juan,

"Exactly"?

What are your criteria?

At f/8 I'd expect bugger all difference in (say) 12x16 inch/30x40 cm prints from any half-decent lens -- but I'd also expect pixel peepers to find differences.

Cheers,

R.
Hi Roger,

I guess when I wrote "exactly", I was thinking of a tangible proof...
I mean one with an acceptable truth... One that's capable of convincing at least some of us forum members...
What if the same prepared scene with details was (were?) done with an aspherical 35 Leica at f/8, and then with a pre-aspherical Leica, then an older Leica 35, then a Biogon-C, then a Voigtlander and a Canon...
Perhaps for Tri-X in Rodinal, all of them would be close at f/8, but maybe not for ISO100 film in a fine grain developer...
Not that the highest sharpness is necessary always, but if a lens is needed for f/8 most of the time, why spend more if there's no difference at all?
I can't know, by myself, if there's a difference or not at f8... But I think some forum members can... Or know already...
Cheers,
Juan
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Old 08-08-2014   #7
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Other than some flare if pointing near or at the sun, I think the 3 element MS Optical Super Triplet Perar is quite a performer. It starts at f/3.5 and I typically shoot it at that, 5.6 or 8. It's not perfect, but for a lens costing less than $800 that's light and compact, it's great. Center performance is great, corners could be better.

Some shots:
https://www.flickr.com/search/?q=tri...43%40N00&adv=1

And you might be interested in this comparison of 35s:
http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/0...y-brad-husick/
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Old 08-08-2014   #8
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About 15 years ago, in careful tripod tests with Velvia and Kodachrome, I found that the Nikkor 35/2 AIS is generally indistinguishable from the Summilux ASPH 35/1.4 from f/5.6 onward. Both test targets and real subjects were used.

At wider apertures the Summilux was much better than the Nikkor. At f/2 there was really no contest. The Summilux was much, much better. But from f/8-16, I couldn't pick the slides out on the light table or under inspection with a microscope. And I was hard-pressed to see a difference at 5.6.
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Old 08-08-2014   #9
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... I think this is a summaron, probably at f8-1/500 on xp2 ... looks OK to me


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Old 08-08-2014   #10
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Biogon

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Old 08-08-2014   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSiemens View Post
For what it's worth, I have recently been scanning my negatives from the early 60s. As a poor college student in Chicago (winter of '62-'63), I had walked into Altman's Camera, and Selwyn Schwartz suggested I buy their first Konica FP, saying I would not be sorry; it had a Hexanon / Hexar 52 mm / 1:1.4 lens. Based on my recent scans, comparing to my later Leica negatives, I wish I had that lens and a good camera to use it on today. All these years I would never have expected I would say this: from the new scan results, with the exception of the negatives produced twenty plus years later with a 50mm Noctilux, I will pit those Hexanon produced negatives against those made with any much more costly and highly rated lenses I've ever owned, especially at f4 and beyond.
That's interesting. And not unexpected. I have a lot of what are considered "best" lenses now. None are Leica products. I find I pick what is "best for a particular thing" instead. One is best for low light wide open (Nikkor 50/1.4 LTM) and closeups. One is best for high resolution but fast speed, in the smaller frame sized of the APS-C sensor (Olympus Pen-F 38/1.8) One is best for the color rendering and bokeh (Jupiter 3). Etc....etc...

To the OP, no one lens is best. For any Leica lens you pick, people can find a different maker's lens outdoes it in some category. Best to an engineer denotes no aberrations ("anastigmat"), a flat field, not prone to flare (coated), high contrast, etc. etc. That may not be best for an artist shooting a particular subject. I have 50 or 60 lenses (I shoot a lot of large format too), and use each one to give different things.
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Old 08-08-2014   #12
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Sharpness is only one criteria.

There is contrast, tone rendering, and a few other criteria.

I too bought from Selwyn at Altman`s and tried for decades to match the wonderful tones I could see in the paper sample books in the photo stores. Around 1980 a neighbor Loaned me his M3 an Leica lenses.
By golly, without changing film, developer or anything my prints would reproduce what I saw in the sample books.

I also belonged to a camera club and one event was to shoot specific subjects same time, same place, and club furnished film and processing to keep everything even. Your slide had your name on the back side.
Well the naysayers had them all on the light table and noticed certain ones looked far better. When flipping them over, the contrasty color saturated ones were from the Leica owners. He also traded in his Pentax gear.

Today I have Nikon pro digitals with all the new G lenses, and some older lenses, M8 & M9 and modern Leica glass. Leica is better than old and so is Nikon, but the gap is narrowing.

So buy what you want. Almost all lenses from major manufactures are acceptable.
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Old 08-08-2014   #13
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Mine is a 40mm and I use it at whatever aperture Is desired . If the point is that one does not need an expensive 35mm lens to make nice photographs I fully agree!

Cheers!
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Old 08-08-2014   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by semilog View Post
About 15 years ago, in careful tripod tests with Velvia and Kodachrome, I found that the Nikkor 35/2 AIS is generally indistinguishable from the Summilux ASPH 35/1.4 from f/5.6 onward. Both test targets and real subjects were used.

At wider apertures the Summilux was much better than the Nikkor. At f/2 there was really no contest. The Summilux was much, much better. But from f/8-16, I couldn't pick the slides out on the light table or under inspection with a microscope. And I was hard-pressed to see a difference at 5.6.
And that was comparing a retrofocus wide angle with a lens that could be designed without consideration for a swinging mirror. I'm thinking that would give Leica more freedom in design of the 35mm f1.4 Lux.
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Old 08-08-2014   #15
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Well the biogon 35/2 will be the best at f/8 or f/11 of the under 1k lenses, and maybe the best period, in terms of resolution and lack of distortion. I think the colors are good too.

It certainly spanks the CV 35/1.4 and 2.5 at f/8, though you have to look close.

The C-biogon is close and many prefer it's rendering.

I looked into the issue because I shoot alot of long landscapes. At first I thought the CVs were fine. Then I started looking close.
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Old 08-08-2014   #16
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If you want, you can find differences between any lenses.
Are these relevant for using the lens is a different question.
Splitting hairs over these differences will just lead to arguments over personal preferences.
Any lens (even older, pre asph.) properly adjusted to a camera body with the RF mechanism in specs will produce pretty decent results.
Usually it's the user limiting the achievement of perfection and not the equipment
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Old 08-08-2014   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uhoh7 View Post
Well the biogon 35/2 will be the best at f/8 or f/11 of the under 1k lenses, and maybe the best period, in terms of resolution and lack of distortion. I think the colors are good too.

It certainly spanks the CV 35/1.4 and 2.5 at f/8, though you have to look close.
If "you have to look close" then it is not a "spanking." Pretty much by definitition.

My guess is that -- in a blinded test of prints from images shot at f/8 -- you could not reliably guess which was which, unless the subject matter made geometric distortion really obvious.

At wider apertures there are real differences that may or may not matter.

Interactions of lenses with digital sensors may make for larger differences, but these differences will vary from one sensor to another, and will not be intrinsic to the lens.
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Old 08-08-2014   #18
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Personally, I didn't find my Summicron any better than my CV lens wide open, let alone stopped down. I think you can find people to find a difference in anything, particularly if they're emotionally attached to finding something.
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Old 08-08-2014   #19
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My CV Ultron is *good enough* for me.
Stopped down or not.
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Old 08-09-2014   #20
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Hi,

In the last year or so I've seen just one photographer carrying a tripod, so I doubt if people really pay much attention to such things as lens quality since no tripod means a good chance of spoiling a decent lenses' performance.

I've also noticed a lot of people like 400ASA film and I reckon that means f/16 is used a lot of the time and that, in my opinion, spoils the performance of most decent lenses.

There's other things coming into it, take the funny 16 rule of thumb; I think the sun at 10 in the morning in January, March and June or July varies a lot both in intensity and colour. I've not seen it mentioned by anyone when discussing exposure. So there's another variable coming into what ought to be a serious test of lenses.

As I see it there are so many variables coming into things for "normal" photography that you might just as well use a P&S and handle it carefully, after choosing it and the film carefully. I was starting to do a list of the variables but gave up as it spiralled out of control...

FWIW, the club organising the tests had the right idea but where are we to get a decent 25ASA slide film and lab. these days?

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Old 08-09-2014   #21
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Agreed.

Leica MTFs and Putz's own tests show the cheaper 35mm Summarit-M is slightly sharper at f5.6 and f8 than the 35mm Summicron-M asp. A good copy of the 35mm CV Pancake II gives both a run for their money, but finding a good copy is not as simple as with Zeiss and Leica.

Very expensive lenses tend to be expensive for one or more of following reasons:

They are fast.
They are very sharp at wider apertures.
They are very compact.

Just looking at resolution for a moment.... the 35mm FE Sonnar and the 55 f 1.8 for the Sony A7/R contain aspherical elements largely because of wide aperture performance, where both are spectacular. In the case of the 35mm Sonnar, however, my 30 year old $50 Canon FDn 35mm f 2.8 performs a tiny weeny bit better at the edges at f8 and f11.... but at f2.8 and f4 the Sonnar is dramatically better than the old Canon. For travel, take the Sonnar, but shoot landscapes and it becomes a gigantic waste of money.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Juan,

"Exactly"?

What are your criteria?

At f/8 I'd expect bugger all difference in (say) 12x16 inch/30x40 cm prints from any half-decent lens -- but I'd also expect pixel peepers to find differences.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-09-2014   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juan Valdenebro View Post
Hi Roger,

I guess when I wrote "exactly", I was thinking of a tangible proof...
I mean one with an acceptable truth... One that's capable of convincing at least some of us forum members...
What if the same prepared scene with details was (were?) done with an aspherical 35 Leica at f/8, and then with a pre-aspherical Leica, then an older Leica 35, then a Biogon-C, then a Voigtlander and a Canon...
Perhaps for Tri-X in Rodinal, all of them would be close at f/8, but maybe not for ISO100 film in a fine grain developer...
Not that the highest sharpness is necessary always, but if a lens is needed for f/8 most of the time, why spend more if there's no difference at all?
I can't know, by myself, if there's a difference or not at f8... But I think some forum members can... Or know already...
Cheers,
Juan
Dear Juan,

Many decent lenses would probably be diffraction limited at f/8, so there's your objective answer. But they'd differ in contrast, distortion and overall look. These differences might or might not be perceptible, depending on the print (printing medium, size, skill of printer...)

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-09-2014   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Turtle View Post
Agreed.

Leica MTFs and Putz's own tests show the cheaper 35mm Summarit-M is slightly sharper at f5.6 and f8 than the 35mm Summicron-M asp. A good copy of the 35mm CV Pancake II gives both a run for their money, but finding a good copy is not as simple as with Zeiss and Leica.

Very expensive lenses tend to be expensive for one or more of following reasons:

They are fast.
They are very sharp at wider apertures.
They are very compact.
And I'll add a fourth reason: (and you touched on this) that very expensive lenses tend to be more consistent across the production run... which means more testing, much tighter quality control, and more are removed from the assembly line for QC failure... all of which drive up the price of the lenses that go out the door. Even the FSU lenses have some really excellent copies out there at bargain basement prices. You may just have to go through a dozen or more of them before you find that "one." Not so with the Leitz/Leica offerings. And I have to say that the CV quality control is quite good now as well.
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Old 08-09-2014   #24
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Well, thanks everyone for the comments... It seems by f/8 things are more equalized than what I was thinking...
Thank you semilog for the precise information...
Cheers,
Juan
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Old 08-09-2014   #25
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Originally Posted by hepcat View Post
And I'll add a fourth reason: (and you touched on this) that very expensive lenses tend to be more consistent across the production run... which means more testing, much tighter quality control, and more are removed from the assembly line for QC failure... all of which drive up the price of the lenses that go out the door. Even the FSU lenses have some really excellent copies out there at bargain basement prices. You may just have to go through a dozen or more of them before you find that "one." Not so with the Leitz/Leica offerings. And I have to say that the CV quality control is quite good now as well.
Hi,

This has not been my experience.

I have scrapped Leica Lenses and have yet to do so with an ex USSR one. One day I'll count them all to show how many good ones I have.

However, I can't see the point of it as not one of them was bought new: I expect that applies to most ex USSR lenses mentioned by people in these posts. Perhaps the previous owners care and the age of the lens has more to do with it than QC of 60 or so years ago.

Also, I can't help noticing in the Leica threads that people have problems with Leica lenses and bodies. But they are also old and second hand in most cases.

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Old 08-09-2014   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juan Valdenebro View Post
Well, thanks everyone for the comments... It seems by f/8 things are more equalized than what I was thinking...
Thank you semilog for the precise information...
Cheers,
Juan
Hi,

FWIW, I'd say that by f/11 things are equally as bad for them all...

Regards, David
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Old 08-09-2014   #27
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FWIW already by f 2.8 the 35/2 Biogon is sharper than any Leica 35mm lens, old or new, and this continues through f 8.0, but I would say this mainly does not matter in practical film photography.
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Old 08-09-2014   #28
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Some manufacturers have QC that is in keeping with their prices and others not so much. While mechanical issues may exist with new Leica lenses, obvious decentering or other glaring optical issues are pretty well unheard of. Mechanical issues are usually repairable and rarely stop you shooting completely, but the irritation of having a second or third severely decentered lens in a row is infuriating. Such has been my experience with Sony Zeiss lenses (built by Sony), in contrast to the Cosina manufactured Zeiss lenses we associate with most of the ZM line, which have been optically (reliably) spot on. Mechanical design issues resulting in 'the wobbles' are a different matter.

Canon QC has been very good indeed for a major manufactuer, and Sony beyond terrible (with lenses). Others end up somewhere in between. Sony Zeiss lenses are perhaps the best example I can think of where you combine some of the worst QC known to humankind with high prices. While the designs are optically superb when assembled correctly, it doesn't count for much when they aren't (and most aren't)!

FWIW, Canon QC seems to show up in their bodies too. I think it was Lens Rentals in the US that had the 5D III as their least repaired body and the D800 as the most. I've had a couple of bad Canon lenses, but its a amongst many lenses (new and old). I'd had more dudds on my first Sony two Sony lenses model than in fifteen years with Canon! I also agree about CV. I think they have learnt a lot from working with Zeiss and their most recent new designs that have appeared only M mount lenses are much more consistent than the old screwmounts, where the probability of obtaining a spot on 21mm or 25mm Leica screw mount lens was fairly slim. Even the 21mm and 25mm P lenses are pretty inconsistent, but that was an old design in a new mount.
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