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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Unrealistic expectations and perceptions
Old 05-26-2008   #1
Roger Hicks
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Unrealistic expectations and perceptions

Collapsible Summicrons, according one one recent thread, are rarely much good any more (haze, cleaning marks). According to others, many FSU lenses (copies of pre-World War Two Zeiss designs) are just as good as their modern counterparts.

Does anyone else find this curious? Are people seeing what they want to see? Do they have unrealistically high expectations (of near perfection) for Leica, but lower the bar for FSU?

Different examples of lenses that are a few decades old are bound to show wide variation, depending on how they've been treated (and especially if they have been incompetently 'repaired'). But given the choice of a clean Summicron and a clean 50/2 Jupiter, I'd not find it hard to choose.

And from my experience, there's not much comparison between the FSU 50/1.5 and ANY modern 50/1.5 or 50/1.4 in decent condition.

Cheers,

R.

Last edited by Roger Hicks : 05-26-2008 at 03:03.
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Old 05-26-2008   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
But given the choice of a clean Summicron and a clean 50/2 Jupiter, I'd not find it hard to choose.
Me either, the one I can afford is going to give me far better photos by virtue of being able to use it.
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Old 05-26-2008   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Do they have unrealistically high expectations (of near perfection) for Leica, but lower the bar for FSU?
That's it exactly, people are surprised when thy can see imperfection in a Leitz product, but will consider a Jupiter or industar "Surprisingly good considering"... It's all to do with a range of perceptions about the product and where it comes from (German preceision vs Russian Communist functionality ?) as well as the prices paid to attain it (rather than the value)
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Old 05-26-2008   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
And from my experience, there's not much comparison between the FSU 50/1.5 and ANY modern 50/1.5 or 50/1.4 in decent condition.
I suppose it's sample variation, but the one FSU lens that knocked my socks off and that I have always regretted selling was a Jupiter 3. I've been less than impressed with older Nikkors and Canons with some cleaning marks etc but that J3 gave my brand new Noktons (both 40 and 50) a run for the money. I haven't used Summiluxes, though, only crons.
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Old 05-26-2008   #5
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One day I tried a simple experiment with an old FSU 50mm lens that looked very "uncoated". Before & after shots with just the addition of a Hoya HMC UV filter were so astonishingly different that since then I will only use older lenses for "effect" - certainly don't trust them for a serious photo.
Our forefathers were right to just take photos "with the sun behind your shoulder" but today's wonderful multicoatings mean that joe public unthinkingly takes shots against the light and without even a hood.

If you are going to use vintage equipment, use it as was originally intended. After all one wouldn't expect to drive 400 miles of motorway in a day with an Austin 7 but today's cars manage such a feat without murmour.

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Old 05-27-2008   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Collapsible Summicrons, according one one recent thread, are rarely much good any more (haze, cleaning marks). According to others, many FSU lenses (copies of pre-World War Two Zeiss designs) are just as good as their modern counterparts.

Does anyone else find this curious? Are people seeing what they want to see? Do they have unrealistically high expectations (of near perfection) for Leica, but lower the bar for FSU?

Different examples of lenses that are a few decades old are bound to show wide variation, depending on how they've been treated (and especially if they have been incompetently 'repaired'). But given the choice of a clean Summicron and a clean 50/2 Jupiter, I'd not find it hard to choose.

And from my experience, there's not much comparison between the FSU 50/1.5 and ANY modern 50/1.5 or 50/1.4 in decent condition.

Cheers,

R.
I've been up and down the "Lens Quality" ladder and in middle age am finding that for black and white photography most of what we call "improvements" are just increases in contrast. My 1930's Summar has become one of my most used lenses because it is small, very sharp and renders contrast in a way that is easy to manage in a hybrid film/digital work flow. This image was made at full aperture on FP4.
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Old 05-27-2008   #7
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Given a choice between a clean Summicron and a clean Jupiter-8, I'd take the Summicron. Then I'd take $70 and buy the Jupiter as well. Part of the enthusiasm for FSU lenses is caused, IMHO, because people want to feel like they got a world-beater for under $100.

I won't say that a good Jupiter or Industar is better than a modern Leica lens. They probably aren't. I don't own any modern Leica lenses, so I can't speak from experience. I do feel that Jupiters and Industars (when good, clean or whatever) are pretty good lenses. When Raid Amin or Brian Sweeny, or some other noble soul, posts an objective lens comparison, the Jupiters usually hold their own -- at least against their contemporaries. I shot a few rolls at a parade awhile back with a Leica 2.8 LTM Elmar and a Jupiter-8. When I got images back, my wife, a professional photographer for 15 years, asked, "Which camera was that? That's a really nice lens." It was the Jupiter-8 roll. She liked the Leica images, but the lens didn't cause her to say, "wow, what was that!" in a blind lens comparison.
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Old 05-27-2008   #8
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Old lenses give an old signature to the photos they produce, no matter who made them.
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Old 05-27-2008   #9
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I agree w/ Sirius, and trust me, the old lenses are as sharp as anything made today (assuming you get a good one). Most every lens manufacturer makes very good to great 50 mm lenses, and Photoshop can bring up contrast and sharpness so even an average lens looks fine. But if you want that classic lens signature, you have to use a classic lens. There is a reason the old Leica glass is more expensive than the newest lenses of other manufacturers. That particular look is valued and unique.
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Old 05-27-2008   #10
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Psychology, one lens is rarely better then another, its more a factor of who’s operating it. If you need an enlarged picture and a loupe to tell one from another then for all in tense and purposes they are the same. What Leica lives off of is psychology; there are just as many old cameras from other companies that are reliable. People want to believe that their $3000 black paint M3 is special, and that they are special. I’m not exempt from this; I got my M2 because it looks cool, and more than likely I’ll look cool using it…at least to my wife…I hope…maybe… Lenses fall into 2 categories good and bad, buy the cheapest good one you can, only spend more on the neat bad lenses with “character” IMO
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Old 05-27-2008   #11
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I agree with the psychology comment. There's a lot of balderdash written about lenses where the starting point is who made it, how much it costs and how rare it is. Modern day lenses appear to be, in general, so close in performance that it would be difficult to tell them apart in a blind test. Paying more for a lens (new) may get you higher QC, but that is not guaranteed (see threads by Xray on his Leica experiences). In actual fact I would expect machines to be better at producing consistent quality than humans. However, regardless of whether the lens is hand built or machine produced, QC is ultimately in the hands of humans.

I think a lot of expectations are driven by cost - some people know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.
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Old 05-27-2008   #12
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Dear Dan, Bill and Digitalintrigue,

Well, yes. No arguments with any of you. Sorry: can't remember the anti-Summicron thread (or I'd have posted it before).

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 05-27-2008   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myoptic3 View Post
I agree w/ Sirius, and trust me, the old lenses are as sharp as anything made today (assuming you get a good one). Most every lens manufacturer makes very good to great 50 mm lenses, and Photoshop can bring up contrast and sharpness so even an average lens looks fine. But if you want that classic lens signature, you have to use a classic lens. There is a reason the old Leica glass is more expensive than the newest lenses of other manufacturers. That particular look is valued and unique.
Well, no, they have got better in objective terms. Otherwise why would anyone ever make new lenses?

Sonnars were designed to give more contrast (at the expense of less ultimate resolution) in the days before coating. Choosing a Sonnar today (as I have) is, therefore, a question of 'look' rather than technical quality (MTF, distortion). That's fine, but it's unrealistic to pretend that Adobe or anyone else can turn a 1936 Elmar into a 2007 Summicron -- or even an early 90/2 into a late 90/2 (and I've tried both side by side).

Also, it's not realistic to pretend that a modern 1,5/50 Sonnar is equivalent to one from the 50s.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-27-2008   #14
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Roger,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
But given the choice of a clean Summicron and a clean 50/2 Jupiter, I'd not find it hard to choose.
Quote:
And from my experience, there's not much comparison between the FSU 50/1.5 and ANY modern 50/1.5 or 50/1.4 in decent condition.
Well, up to late 1950s Leica was still playing catch up in optics to pre-war Zeiss. The little R&D resources it had after WW2 probably were all allocated towards M3 project.

Summar, Summitar, Summarit, original Elmar are all markedly inferior to 1.5/50 Sonnar, at any aperture. The only 1st. version Summilux 50 sample I tried was about on par with my Jupiter 1.5/50. Best f/2 pictures from Summicron coll. I've seen here (Brian's and some other folks) are OK, but again nothing to write home about after f/1.5 Sonnar. A friend of mine also has a nice collapsible Summicron and a 1.5/50 Jupiter, he finds the latter a better lens.

Newer (1960s and on) generations of Leitz lenses are improvement over Sonnars in about every aspect. Well maybe except the look

Of course above is only concerning the optics; mechanically FSU lenses (and wartime Zeiss production) are no match to Leitz.

I actually remember reading your piece on equipment in late Fotomagazin, where you mentioned J3 is not something worth bothering. Since I generally value your advice, and since I always had bad luck with Jupiter-8s, it sounded plausible that faster version is only worse. Hence I didn't bother for a long time but, got a Jupiter-3 later just to have a complete Jupiter line-up.

I was impressed immediately, it turned out to be the best lens in said line-up. Very much usable wide open, and at f/2 it is better than my CV Ultron 35mm.

Perhaps I should send it to you for a quick test: the best way to sort it out. If you find it unusable then it would be my low standards, but if it's good it's good, and not just my handwaving
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Old 05-27-2008   #15
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Speaking of tests ... The link is to Raid's 50mm lens test. I think it's one of the best RFF threads ever. At least one of the best that wasn't about camera bags. :-)

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...ight=50mm+test
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Old 05-27-2008   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Sonnars were designed to give more contrast (at the expense of less ultimate resolution) in the days before coating. Choosing a Sonnar today (as I have) is, therefore, a question of 'look' rather than technical quality (MTF, distortion).
: : :
Also, it's not realistic to pretend that a modern 1,5/50 Sonnar is equivalent to one from the 50s.
1) Sonnars & Ernostars were designed and used for "look" AND SIZE.

2) Lenses have gradually developed. The Zeiss Sonnar/Opton versions as well as the Jupiters (different coatings over time), or the Canon/Nikkors. IMO, one has to be quite specific when using terms like WWII area vs. the 50s, vs "modern", etc. A real Opton or Nikkor from the late 50s is different but quite comparable to the new C-Sonnar. What means modern ? Is the M-Hexanon 90/2.8 (as Ernostar) modern and compares to the new ZM Sonnar 85/2 ?

3) WRT to expectations, it's mostly emotional anyways, depending on monetary value, and how easily a buyer can afford it, etc. Otherwise Leica would not be able to ask for their modern lenses as much as they do.

Cheers,

Roland.
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Old 05-27-2008   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by varjag View Post
I actually remember reading your piece on equipment in late Fotomagazin, where you mentioned J3 is not something worth bothering. Since I generally value your advice, and since I always had bad luck with Jupiter-8s, it sounded plausible that faster version is only worse. Hence I didn't bother for a long time but, got a Jupiter-3 later just to have a complete Jupiter line-up.

I was impressed immediately, it turned out to be the best lens in said line-up. Very much usable wide open, and at f/2 it is better than my CV Ultron 35mm.

Perhaps I should send it to you for a quick test: the best way to sort it out. If you find it unusable then it would be my low standards, but if it's good it's good, and not just my handwaving
Dear Yevgeni,

[if I may; my wife is Yevgenia]

Well, there's luck. I'm surprised the Jupiter-3 is any good, but maybe I've had very bad ones and you've had very good ones. Even at that, have you compared it with a current C-Sonnar?

I'm not calling you a liar; I'm just wondering how far any of us is mis-remembering. (I do not deny that I can do this).

Incidentally. Foto Magazin ceased trading owing me seversal hundred bucks!

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-27-2008   #18
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I suppose I was lucky enough, in my life, to almost exclusively deal in lenses made past 1970. From my Yashica 5000E Lynx (my first-ever 35mm camera), through a string of up-to-date SLR systems, to my current Hexars and M-Hex lenses. They've all had single- or multi-coated optics, and, for the most part, they've all been at least Pretty Darn Good, my M-Hex glass, IMO, being the best, but that opinion might be at least slightly clouded by the fact that they're the lenses I currently have at hand. But I love what I see from this stuff, save for when I've blown a shot; timing, focus, whatever.

When I went to Leica Gallery in SoHo a few years back for an exhibit of the last photo project of Inge Morath before her death, I was so swept away by the work, and the quality of the prints. But what I was seeing before me was a joint effort: Morath's warm and discerning eye, her printer's deft hand in the darkoom, and all the film-handling in between. She worked with the Leica because she knew the Leica well. Knowing a camera and system, in this case, goes a bit beyond sniffing MTF charts and the like, and comes from not changing cameras and systems like you change socks or underwear (or brooding over whether the computer you're uploading your files to this week has all its necessary updates...yeah, ask me how I know this).

If anything, I think it's about knowing your gear will hit minimum expectations, no matter what. If you, after having a little too much fun the night before, can fumble for your camera(s) from its bag the following morning, load a roll of film in it (or, if you insist, manage to eject the stuffed memory card from it) without F'ing things up, reload, and set yourself up for photographing without even looking at your gear, you might have a somewhat-sane relationship with your gear.

Then again, I might just be full of it, and am just looking for an argument.

It took a long time to reach the point where I don't think much at all about the gear I don't have, nor let it get in the way of getting the pictures I wanted. I didn't have a Zen moment (at least I don't think I did): I just realized I couldn't afford every damn toy, new or otherwise, I thought might improve my photographic outcomes. I gambled on what I thought would be the best bang for the photographic buck for me, and, IMO, was lucky enough to have chosen well. Most of my issues now revolve around having enough film in the house, chemistry for the film I soup myself, and ink and paper for my printer. And time...yep, that's the big one.

I'm not saying hardware et al isn't important. It is, to a point. And that point is how well your really know that hardware...enough to have it get out of your way when you see something that you must get down on film (or whatever). If the gear gets in the way, it sucks. (Which can be a problem with lenses, BTW...it can resolve in a way that sets your heart a-quiver, but then there's the matter of the camera you have to bolt it to...)


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Old 05-27-2008   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Yevgeni,

[if I may; my wife is Yevgenia]

Well, there's luck. I'm surprised the Jupiter-3 is any good, but maybe I've had very bad ones and you've had very good ones. Even at that, have you compared it with a current C-Sonnar?

I'm not calling you a liar; I'm just wondering how far any of us is mis-remembering. (I do not deny that I can do this).

Incidentally. Foto Magazin ceased trading owing me seversal hundred bucks!

Cheers,

R.
Roger, Roger,
Here we go again. Before it was about Canon 50/1.2, now it's about J-3 and other russian lenses.
Once again, I have to disagree - I own 3 russian lenses - j-3, j-9 and I-22. All are far from great condition. Cleanning marks and even chips on glass of the J-3's front element. And yet - I manage to get a pretty good results. Well, let pics do the talking :
J-3 and j-9 are here: http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...ad.php?t=57599

and here is a photo from j-3:


and I-22 pics are here:
http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...ad.php?t=58172

So, I'm not sure what kind of results you got from yours, but I can tell you that these lenses are very capable of great results.
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Old 05-28-2008   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Sorry: can't remember the anti-Summicron thread (or I'd have posted it before).
Roger, you're probably referring to this one:

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...threadid=59430

I thought of jumping in and providing my opinion in that thread, but then thought better of it
(What's the use of driving prices up, right?)

I'd agree with psychological approach - we do not judge our lenses and their results impartially - there's always some bias - conscious or not.

It also depends on what you are looking for in a lens - absolute sharpness, contrast, color rendition, pleasing OOF areas, etc...

I think I won't be too far off the mark if I say that most of us here are also GAS-driven - so we have to justify our purchases somehow... at least to ourselves - there's the bias I mentioned above.

So, I'd say that personal preferences play an important role. Otherwise, we'd pay attention only to lab-measured LPM numbers in lens tests (and no one would EVER take photos with a Holga....)

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Old 05-28-2008   #21
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Dear Roger,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Well, there's luck. I'm surprised the Jupiter-3 is any good, but maybe I've had very bad ones and you've had very good ones. Even at that, have you compared it with a current C-Sonnar?
I didn't, but pretty sure C-Sonnar would be clearly ahead. That's why am planning to buy one It was however the Jupiter-3 which convinced me that the whole Sonnar lore is more than just hot air.

My take was on lenses of similar vintage; good modern lenses of course will have better MTF performance and flare control (albeit I still think old Sonnars are better than cheap modern 50/1.8 variations).

Quote:
I'm not calling you a liar; I'm just wondering how far any of us is mis-remembering. (I do not deny that I can do this).
I wasn't trying to corner you with that proposal - more like thinking along the lines of old proverb, "a glance is worth a thousand words". As someone with your background in equipment tests certainly knows, it is much easier just to try out a lens than read endless and often contrary opinions on it on the Web.

Quote:
Incidentally. Foto Magazin ceased trading owing me seversal hundred bucks!
Ouch. I was lucky enough to collect my share then - they ran my article in Nov. 2005 issue, and I just popped in at their office in person month later. It did feel like they are having problems at that point..
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Old 05-28-2008   #22
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Over the years I have used many RF lenses. I think they all have different characters. Generally, that is, very generally, Japanese older RF lenses are very sharp, for example, Minolta 7S, 7SII, Canon QL17, 19, Konica S2, Yashica Electro GS, GSN etc. and they are contrasty as well. But their sharpness come at the expense of shadow details. This is the area where older German lenses excel. Older Leica lenses are very good at shadow details. I have also found that the older East German and Russian lenses can be very good. But their problem is with quality control. In every 100 samples one will be lucky to find about 15 which are up to standard. The rest are as good as junk. I can remember my 6x6 50mm Flektogon giving a Zeiss Distagon a good run for its money. But I have also tested bad samples.

I have been fortunate that in the past 30 or so years I have been able to test many lenses. I bought some of them and many are borrowed from friends. I also have friends who like testing lenses (having shoot-outs!).

One cannot just look at a set of prints and say "this lens is good". Without comparisons it is pointless to make such comments. I don't have expensive MTF equipments. All my testing over the years have been done manually. We (my friends and I) would go out with say on average 5 cameras, load all of them with the same film, shoot the same objects using the same apertures and shutter speeds (always on tripods) and D&P in the same place and at the same time.

There are good lenses which are quite cheap. And there are lenses which are quite dear but not coming up to standard. We can only make comments on the very lenses we have tested. We do not rule out the fact that we may have had bad samples. Our findings can be quite amazing at times once all the slides, negs and prints are put together side by side on top of a light box.

The most recent surprising good lens we found was an Agfa SIlette with Apotar. It came out very nicely in a test involving Rollei 35 Tessar and Sonnar, Minolta 7SII, Olympus RD ans SP and Werra 3. It was the cheapest camera in the whole group. The results led me to sell my Rollei Tessar within 2 days. I ended up buy another buying another Super Silette with Apotar 2.8 CRF and it gave the same characters as the Apotar we tested. Triplets can be great.

So when someone says 'This lens is good', I will always ask him what testing he has done before taking his word. We all hope that we can pay very little and have a very good lens. This is not impossible. But this is not a comment to be made just by taking a couple of rolls of films!
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Old 05-28-2008   #23
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Roger, Roger,
Here we go again. . . . So, I'm not sure what kind of results you got from yours, but I can tell you that these lenses are very capable of great results.
That wasn't really the point.

Pretty much ANY lens can give good results with the right subject, and in any case, I'm talking about performance: I'm talking about the perception of performance.

The point was simply that as far as I can see, some people seem overly willing to criticize Leica lenses (perhaps because they expect perfection) and overly willing to praise FSU lenses (perhaps because their expectations are low).

In other words, they are seldom talking about the absolute performance. Rather -- though they often refuse to admit it -- they are talking about the price/performance ratio.

It would be pretty strange, after all, if 1930s Zeiss designs were as good as the best lenses from two or three decades later, let alone as good as the best lenses made today. By 'as good' I mean, of course, objective criteria such as MTF, distortion and illumination.

The fact that I was underwhelmed by the two 50/1.5 Jupiters I tried is entirely separate from this. It doesn't matter whether they're inherently bad, or I was unlucky, or they just didn't suit my style of photography: there's no point in either of us pretending that he's right and the other is wrong.

Cheers,

Roger

Last edited by Roger Hicks : 05-28-2008 at 03:10.
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Old 05-28-2008   #24
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It would be pretty strange, after all, if 1930s Zeiss designs were as good as the best lenses from two or three decades later[..]
It is not so strange if you consider that at least a decade from that was lost to the war and post-war recovery. There wasn't much groundbreaking design in civilian optics going on, while folks were trading their cameras for food coupons.

Besides Leitz didn't have Ludwig Bertele. The C-Sonnar you use is very much exact design of 1930 test Sonnar prototype. The only difference is for production version an extra glass element was used instead of air pocket, to reduce flare in then uncoated optics.
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Old 05-28-2008   #25
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My impressions on the psychological background of FSU/older lens praise

a) "they don´t build them anymore like....." That statement always will be true. Strangely enough some who use it nevertheless will describe later made items with an old design as "outdated crap"
b) "Sour grapes" OK let`s admit it most of us can´t afford every lens they want. So why not make a cheap oral upgrade to the FSU equipment you have? If it works properly it does the same Job as a "Leitax". A surgeon in Minsk basically had to do the same job as a surgeon in Berlin. Well the results were different regardless of their qualification.
c)"We are old" and so are the lenses thos who ridicule old equipment could ridicule us in the next moments. The line of defence starts with your equipment! Don let the mindless technologyhugger get through!(Whcih of course was tzhe same argument when Film startet to replace plates in mass market...)
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Old 05-28-2008   #26
Roger Hicks
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It is not so strange if you consider that at least a decade from that was lost to the war and post-war recovery. There wasn't much groundbreaking design in civilian optics going on, while folks were trading their cameras for food coupons.

Besides Leitz didn't have Ludwig Bertele. The C-Sonnar you use is very much exact design of 1930 test Sonnar prototype. The only difference is for production version an extra glass element was used instead of air pocket, to reduce flare in then uncoated optics.
Well, that's why I said 'two or three decades', and besides, Zeiss themselves DID bring out at least one groundbreaking design in the early 50s, the f/4.5 series of Biogons. For that matter the 1953 50/2 Summicron was based on a rare-earth recomputation of the Summitar, the Summitar 'star' of 1950; the 50/1.5 Summarit (1949) was an improvement on the Xenon (1935); and the Summilux (1959) pretty neatly fits my observation about 'two or three decades'.

The extra air-glass surfaces in the current model (and the prototype) allow the designer quite a bit more freedom to gain resolution, which is why historically the choice was between higher-contrast, lower-resolution Zeiss lenses and lower-contrast, higher-resolution Leitz lenses. With the adoption of coating, the 3-group Sonnars improved slightly, but the multi-group Leitz designs improved quite dramatically.

Finally, are you sure that the current C-Sonnar uses the same glass and curves as the 1930 prototype? I had the impression that the design had been computer-optimized and changed somewhat, even though the layout is the same. I'm not saying you're wrong; just that I had that impression.

Cheers,

Roger

Last edited by Roger Hicks : 05-28-2008 at 08:53.
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Old 05-28-2008   #27
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Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
The extra air-glass surfaces in the current model (and the prototype) allow the designer quite a bit more freedom to gain resolution
I thought the current Sonnar has one more element and two air-glass surfaces less than the original design.

And again, there were many Sonnar/Ernostar lens (re)designs, by Japanese manufacturers and by Zeiss between the current C-Sonnar and the Bertele lens.

What did Capa and Ansel Adams shoot with (35mm) ?

How about comparing a Jupiter from the 60s with an Opton from the 60s ?

With your strong opinion on the current C-Sonnar, I have often wondered why you never tried an LTM Canon 50/1.5 or Nikkor 50/1.4, Roger.

Roland.

Last edited by ferider : 05-28-2008 at 09:35.
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Old 05-28-2008   #28
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I might be wrong, but I thought the current Sonnar has one more element and two air-glass surfaces less than the original design.

And again, there were many Sonnar/Ernostar lens (re)designs, by Japanese manufacturers and by Zeiss between the current C-Sonnar and the Bertele lens.

What did Capa and Ansel Adams shoot with (35mm) ?

How about comparing a Jupiter from the 60s with an Opton from the 60s ?

Roland.
Dear Roland,

I think the key lies in your paragraph:

And again, there were many Sonnar/Ernostar lens (re)designs, by Japanese manufacturers and by Zeiss between the current C-Sonnar and the Bertele lens.

Start with a Cooke triplet: three separate glasses.

Split the back group into a cemented doublet and you have the layout of a Tessar or Elmar.

Split the middle group of a Tessar into a cemented triplet and it's the layout of an original 50mm Sonnar f/2.

Split the back group of a 50mm Sonnar f/2 into a cemented triplet and you have the layout of an original 50mm Sonnar f/1.5

Split the middle group of an original 50mm Sonnar f/2 into two air-spaced glasses and you have the layout of the current 50mm C-Sonnar f/1.5 -- so it's actually one less glass and one more group (6-4 instead of 7-3, hence two more air-glass surfaces) as compared with the old f/1.5, or as compared with the olf f/2, it's the same number of glasses but one more group (6-4 instead of 6-3).

I'd be fairly surprised if the current C-Sonnar used the same glasses and curves as even a prototype 4-group Sonnar from the 1930s, and it's certainly quite some way from the production 3-group Sonnars.

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 05-28-2008   #29
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I'd be fairly surprised if the current C-Sonnar used the same glasses and curves as even a prototype 4-group Sonnar from the 1930s, and it's certainly quite some way from the production 3-group Sonnars.
Dear Roger,

they sure are different. Here is a reference to Frank's web site showing a comparison of post-war Opton West to C-Sonnar:



I was just opposing the general comparsion of "original" Sonnar to modern redesign. The evolved, just like Summicrons, Summiluxes, etc. We probably agree on that.

Thanks,

Roland.
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Old 05-28-2008   #30
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With your strong opinion on the current C-Sonnar, I have often wondered why you never tried an LTM Canon 50/1.5 or Nikkor 50/1.4, Roger.

Roland.
Dear Roland,

We certainly agree about evolution, but I've quoted an older post of yours to make another point.

It's been a very long time since I've bought lenses to try just for the hell of it. I'll try them if they're lent to me, or of course if I'm being paid to try them, but generally, I find that even playing with review lenses gets in the way of 'real' photography, so I go out of my way less and less to try 'collector' lenses unless I suspect they are really unusual -- such as the Thambar.

'Variations on a theme' , such as different manufacturers' Sonnars, pretty much leave me cold: they wouldn't make me a better photographer (unless I got some real surprises) so I don't bother.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-28-2008   #31
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'Variations on a theme' , such as different manufacturers' Sonnars, pretty much leave me cold: they wouldn't make me a better photographer (unless I got some real surprises) so I don't bother.
Meaning you select lenses/brands following your own expectations ?

Cheers,

Roland.
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Old 05-28-2008   #32
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Interesting. So do you take many more photos with the Silette than you did with the Rollei? How do prints look compared to the Rollei?
leicasniper,

I already stated that my view was based on the very samples we had for the shoot-out. The Silette Apotar 3.5 was tested straight after CLA. The Rollei Tessar was CLAed some 4 months before that. The Rollei Sonnar have not had a CLA for about 3 years. But all 3 cameras had clean lenses and shutter fully working (proper exposures achieved by all 3 on examination of the negs). Exposures during the shoot-out were as indicated by my Sekonic L308 handheld meter. The film on that occasion was ordinary Fuji ASA100. The day was overcast with patches of sunshine. Many prints were blown up to 8x10 size.

The shoot-out included, inter alia, the following areas.

Infinity: all 3 lenses found to be properly calibrated for this.
DoF: Shots were taken at shortest focusing of each lens, 5ft (1.5M), 10ft (3M), 30ft (10M) and infinity from F3.5-11. Generally the Rollei Tessar had to longest DoF, most notably at F5.6. The Rollei Sonnar had the shortest. Therfore, as an all purpose P&S camera set to F8 at 10 ft, the Tessar is very usable. The Silette is also very close. Finer focusing may be better for the Sonnar for this purpose.
Contrast: The Sonnar did better (but colours not as saturated as some Japanese lenses in the same test. The Silette did better than the Tessar.
3-D Effect: This was the area excelled by the Apotar, beating all cameras in the test. Buildings seemed further apart and shadow details came out much better. The higher contrast the lens, the worse the shadow details. This may be due to the simple design of the triplet and simple coating. A modern MC UV filter was put in each camera for testing and the results remained generally the same. But all cameras did benefit from the use of a lens hood (even not on sunny days). In fact all older cameras need lens hoods. Even then, shooting into the sun can still be fatal due to lack modern day MC. But the 3-D feel will more than make up for this.

Back to leicasniper's question. The answer is positive. I sold my Rollei Tessar after the test. I also sold my Werra 3 last week. I was a bit sorry to let it go but I am really to old to keep too many cameras so I have always looked for a lighter one for EDC. The Werra had a very sharp Tessar lens with good colour saturation and the shortest possible focusing distance and the best CRF of all the cameras in the test. But it is slightly too heavy for me. The other cameras in the test did not belong to me. I understand, however, the owner of the SP sold it soon after the test and kept his RD. Now that I have got the CRF Super Silette, I do go out with it to takes pictures very frequently. The CRF is a joy to use. No need to guess distances anymore. I have still kept the Minolta 7SII. But I think it is going to be sold soon. I kept it because it is light and small. But the 'yellow spot rangefinder' was quite difficult to see clearly. This is a problem with many Japs rangefinders I have used. Why can't they make rangefinders as good as those in M3s! or at least as good as the Werra's!

I think I won't need anymore 35mm cameras from now on.

On another note. I was not surprised that the Rollei Tessar performed generally better than the Sonnar. Rollei had done it again. On our other tests the Rolleiflex 75 f3.5 were generally better than their 80 f2.8 counterparts (both planar and Xenotar).
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Old 05-28-2008   #33
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Meaning you select lenses/brands following your own expectations ?

Cheers,

Roland.
Dear Roland,

Well, yes, of course I do. Don't you?

The expectations are based on 40+ years' experience and study. Sometimes a lens surprises me (38/4.5 Biogon, 50/1.5 C-Sonnar, 75/2 Summicron). Much more often, it doesn't.

Why would I bother to hunt down obscure, obsolete and generally little-regarded lenses, when I already have good ones? And when I already try more than enough new lenses in the course of what I do for a living?

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 05-28-2008   #34
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Why would I bother to hunt down obscure, obsolete and generally little-regarded lenses, when I already have good ones? And when I already try more than enough new lenses in the course of what I do for a living?
Dear Roger,

I respect your work. But unbiased it is not. Which is OK.

If a well known lens reviewer calls, for example, the Nikkor 50/1.4 RF lens or its LTM twin "obscure and generally little regarded" (the lens at its peak was very popular and used by many well known professional photographers), but at the same time praises Summicrons from the same time period (see post #1) you should not be surprised that users have unrealistically high expectations of classic Leica lenses.

They might have followed your lead.

Cheers,

Roland.
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Old 05-28-2008   #35
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Um... This is all very educational (I guess) but is it getting us anywhere?

Regards to all

Andy
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Old 05-29-2008   #36
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Dear Roger,

I respect your work. But unbiased it is not. Which is OK.

If a well known lens reviewer calls, for example, the Nikkor 50/1.4 RF lens or its LTM twin "obscure and generally little regarded" (the lens at its peak was very popular and used by many well known professional photographers), but at the same time praises Summicrons from the same time period (see post #1) you should not be surprised that users have unrealistically high expectations of classic Leica lenses.

They might have followed your lead.

Cheers,

Roland.
Dear Roland,

I'm NOT praising Summicrons. That's precisely the point. Sure, they're good lenses. So they damn' well ought to be, at that price and coming from Leitz. But I can't see any 'magic' in either the 50mm or 35mm Summicrons, and indeed sold mine because I used them so little. (The 75 is another matter).

Read what I say, not what you want me to say, and you'll see that I referred in post 37 to 'obscure, obsolete and generally little regarded' lenses as a category. There wasn't any mention of your 50/1.4 Nikkor or indeed any other lens as being in that category.

Better still, go back to the beginning of the thread and you'll see that I was talking about expectations. Predictably, there have been complaints from people who think I am dissing their lenses, and now we've gone off at a complete tangent about Sonnar derivatives.

My sole point was that some people seem to over-praise cheap lenses, and to be overly critical of expensive ones, and that this struck me as interesting. Many of the responses can be divided into two groups: those who agree explicitly, and those who demonstrate the truth of what I say.

Cheers,

Roger

Last edited by Roger Hicks : 05-29-2008 at 00:45.
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Old 05-29-2008   #37
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Early lenses are a lot like your BMW Roger ... comparing older uncoated lenses to modern equivalents is like comparing the performance of your old Buvarian war horse to the latest generation Boxer.

Your bike pleases you and reaches your expectations (obviously) but in an ultimate test it would be revealed as poor handling and underbraked in comparison to it's modern day replacement, as early lenses to me appear to be quite capable until taken beyond a certain point! Past that point they just don't cut it IMHO!
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Old 05-29-2008   #38
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Early lenses are a lot like your BMW Roger ... comparing older uncoated lenses to modern equivalents is like comparing the performance of your old Buvarian war horse to the latest generation Boxer.

Your bike pleases you and reaches your expectations (obviously) but in an ultimate test it would be revealed as poor handling and underbraked in comparison to it's modern day replacement, as early lenses to me appear to be quite capable until taken beyond a certain point! Past that point they just don't cut it IMHO!
Dear Keith,

That was my point, really. There's nothing wrong with praising the subjective qualities of old lenses (or motorcycles or anything else) but to pretend that they are comparable in many objective ways with the best of later kit is flatly unrealistic. The BMW is indeed slow and under-braked by modern standards: not so sure about the handling, because I frighten myself well before I go outside the handling envelope.

The thing is, I'm not going to denigrate it (or expect perfection) just because it's a BMW. And by the same standard, my wife is outside at the moment polishing her latest acquisition, a 1967 Motoconfort Moblylette (the classic 'Blue Moby') which we picked up from the garage yesterday.

But just because it cost us 240 euros including a full service, overhaul and replacement of lights, I'm not going to pretend it's the greatest bike ever. It is what it is: well built, reeking of nostalgia (and currently of T-Cut and Solvol Autosol) and probably a lot longer-lasting than any moped currently on the market. It's also gutless; needs pedal assistance on all but the most modest hills; and has marginal brakes.

I have no problem at all with anyone who says that they love their FSU lenses, Canon f/1.2, etc. But I can't take them seriously if they tell me that these same lenses are in the same league for contrast and sharpness as the best modern lenses.

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 05-29-2008   #39
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I'd agree with this if you took out the words "over" and "overly".

But this is true of any consumer goods or services. One expects "more" for a high price, while finding a bargain that will "suffice" is always appreciated.
Dear Richard,

Your second point is indisputable. It just seems to me that some people have unrealistically high expectations if something has 'Leica' or 'BMW' written on it, and will therefore find faults that they would all but deny existed in a lens that had 'Jupiter' written on it.

To rephrase it another way, cheaper and less sought-after lenses are normally cheaper or less sought-after for good reasons, and more expensive or more sought-after ones are normally more expensive or more sought-after for good reasons; and those reasons are seldom just snob appeal. To denigrate the one, or to praise the other above its station, seems curious.

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 05-29-2008   #40
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I have no problem at all with anyone who says that they love their FSU lenses, Canon f/1.2, etc. But I can't take them seriously if they tell me that these same lenses are in the same league for contrast and sharpness as the best modern lenses.

I think the lens that brought your point home to me is my Canon 1.2 ... I truly love the lens and use it whenever I can. It took a while but I now know it's limitations and don't feel disappointed when I go beyond them and get less than satisfactory results. For what I want it for it's teriffic ... that said I would have a Noctilux in a heartbeat because I see that it can do what the Canon does easily and do it without reacting the way the Canon does in certain unfavourable conditions.

Sadly I'm not about to spend five to six grand on a lens but if ever I do ... I'm sure I won't be disappointed!
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