Film era lenses vs the modern ones.

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by RaymondC, May 30, 2020.

  1. You were supplied with numbers, C. Where are your numbers to disprove those? Just asking for more, and then more, and then... is a tactic that never proves anything but the unwillingness to believe even numbers. Rather odd.

    Hasselblad held an online webinar a few months ago on the topic of lens design. And though it is now possible to produce very good lenses in a short time between specification and acceptance, due to computer power and such, many old ones still hold their own very well.
    In short: it is now much easier to produce excellent lenses, doesn't mean old ones aren't, or can't be excellent as well.
  2. I would like to be able to converse with c_watson when in time his digital machine is defunct and is an expensive paperweight while my LEICA M-3 film camera is still functional and using roll upon roll of film. Please c_watson reply to me when the inevitable occurs.
  3. Not really sure I want to become involved in what has become a very bitter discussion.

    Guess the lens - a bit of fun.

    Here is a thread I started comparing a selection of lenses, sixty odd years between them, a century of difference in the optical designs. See if you can identify the modern lens from the oldies.

    Personally, I think there is no such thing as a bad lens, just lenses that impart their characteristics to the final image.

    How you choose to use them is up to you.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  4. Hey, the band is getting back together again!

    Just like old times...:rolleyes:
  5. My Nikon lenses were purchased before 2005, and probably deserve the "legacy" designation. I used these lenses, along with several Leica lenses, on a Sony S7ii. With a couple of notable exceptions, I found them to be soft in the corners at all apertures, and soft in the center from the maximum aperture to 2 stops down. The exceptions were a 55/2.8 Macro lens, which I continue to use, and a 300/4 AF-S. The performance of lenses made for the Sony is much better, particularly wide open and in the corners, with the onset of diffraction limiting at about f/8 (due to the acuity of digital imaging).

    The long back focus of Nikon (and Hasselblsd) lenses make them nearly telecentric when used on the Sony, so the effect of the sensor's cover glass and filter is negligible. On the other hand, I found Leica lenses from the mid-60's on nearly unusable for focal lengths 50 mm or less, but quite good for 90 and 135 lenses.

    In summary, use legacy lenses if you have them, or use a camera that requires them, but don't buy them hoping for some imagined mythical quality in the digital world.
  6. "Film-era" lenses often don't perform well on digital sensors, even if they perform well on film. Most digital capture is much more sensitive than film is to chromatic aberration. This can cause lack of sharpness, especially in the corners, that wouldn't be particularly bothersome in a film capture.

    The reason? Film is sensitive to all three capture colours throughout its area. In other words, a given spot of film can capture all colours in a vertical stack. Most digital sensors have the three different colour-sensitive pixels adjacent to one another, not stacked. It works very well for most purposes, but it magnifies chromatic aberration. (I understand there are a few sensors that are designed differently and aren't sensitive to this, but they are relatively uncommon.)

    You can see the consequences of this in the rise of ED/LD glass in what were, in the film days, relatively simply designs. You can even find ED glass in 50mm full-frame lenses. And to be sure, this has some benefits for film photographers - the aberrations were there when shooting film, too; the effect was just smaller.

    There was an interesting thread on Photrio recently about the opposite effect. Digital is, in effect, much less subject to issues from distortion than film is. It can be corrected in post-production in digital photography, but in straight film photography (without a hybrid workflow), there is no way to remove distortion. Some systems are now seeing very sharp, low-chromatic-aberration lenses where distortion is sacrificed to keep prices, size and construction reasonable, because on digital, it's not a problem. These lenses may not perform terribly well on film, though.
  7. I worry that sooner or later all our precious film cameras (and yes, digital camera too) will become useless, either from the end of film production, a lack of competent repair or the impossibility of fixing electronics. Already I can no longer repair my superb Contax point and shoot, and I would like to buy one of the great Fuji film cameras but can't see to investing in one one that has no repair support.
  8. One strategy is to buy good condition used cameras or discounted trailing edge models recently replaced by newer gear. Shoot 'em till they break.

    Respectfully, cameras aren't investments since few if any appreciate in value or pay any sort of monetary return or supply a store of value. Just enjoy the image they produce.
  9. yes, and so it has to do with the "eye" not the lens itself. Film emulsions and electronic sensors work differently..
    I ditched all my DSLR gear but a Canon 5D like three years ago and decided to only shoot film, yet was unsure how well it would go. But in fact I no longer feel a need for digital. On 120 roll, the old Nikkor lenses and couple germans and russians are razor sharp wide open, to the point that the level of zoom required to get into contour blur makes no practical sense. This summer I played with couple wide-angle lenses on 35mm SLR and same result: I don't see the point for digital. Some low ISO BW emulsions like Adox 20 are insanely high definition.

    for sharpness optical elements qualities and designs can't be made better past certain point and this point was certainly reached quite some time ago in the industrial age long before digital.
    for colour, coating is important, some old lenses were designed with BW in mind. Otherwise current lenses are just about the micro-mechanics and electronics around the autofocus and camera software.
    Ricochetrider and photojim like this.

  10. Yes, cameras are not investments. Indeed, I'm starting to think they are disposable.
  11. Cameras are disposable.

    Lenses should last a lifetime or more.
  12. Vincent Peri

    Vincent Peri Metairie, LA

    My Nikon FILM cameras are as old as 42 years :)
  13. A few do appreciate for example my 1955 LEICA M-3 with 50 mm 2.8 ELMAR purchased in 1968 for $145.00.
  14. Not necessarily ones with leaf shutters or electronics such as VR.
  15. I said should...

    And I fully agree, modern, electronic lenses are unlikely to outlast their respective systems.

    But you'll almost certainly be able to use a 1930s screw mount lens on something a hundred years from now.
    anthonymarsh and Ricochetrider like this.
  16. Eventually fungus, air pollution, losses due to floods and fires and maybe neglect, will consume everything but a few museum pieces.
  17. You'll only know when a buyer bites!
  18. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Value is subjective, I have far more trivial items than my Dad's M3 kit that are beyond price.
  19. Further to this:
    I know to my cost that Sigma and some consumer grade Canon lenses used low-dispersion plastic elements in some of their designs. Unfortunately, the plastic they used has a tendency to develop surface micro-cracking over time - resulting in misty or clouded elements that ruin the contrast of the lens. Result? Disposable lenses.

    There are also a (thankfully) few lenses using Thorium glass that develop into gamma emitters. Not only becoming hazardous to use, but also self-destructing the lens through yellowing of the glass and peeling the AR coating away.

    So, if you're a cat or dog, then maybe one of those lenses would last you a lifetime.
  20. Thoriated glass is radioactive from the beginning. Hazardous if you keep it on or near your body permanently.
    The browning can be reversed by exposing the glass to light.

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