Lenses quality

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by godefroy, Aug 10, 2004.

  1. Hi!

    I am planning to buy a MF camera and I am wondering which of Contax
    or Hasselblad has the best lenses. Contax with 645 and Zeiss and
    Hasseblad H1 and the HC series.

    Does anyone of you has any experience of these two systems? or any

    Thanks a lot for your help,
  2. Rollei has the best lenses - mostly made by Schneider.

    BTW, the relative differences in optical quality between any of these camera-lens lines is miniscule at most. It might be measurable on a test bench, but in real life, it's indistinguishable. I'd also throw Pentax and Mamiya and Bronica and Fuji into the mix as well, as also being typically indistinguishable in quality from these other brands of MF camera optics. All of them are consistently excellent. The differences in color balance are probably more observable than the differences in resolution and contrast across the lines. Personal preference and ergonomics will outweigh any objective differences in optical performance across the brands.
  3. The sharpest lens you'll ever own is a tripod.

    If someone can show me the difference between two images taken by two systems at the same time and then enlarged to 16x20, I'll buy them a beer.

    All this aside, go with the system that you, your hands, your mind, and your heart all fall in love with.
  4. I agree with Chris 100%. I just came back from a trip to Scotland
    using a Rollei 6008Af, and the "lowly" Zeiss lenses, the ordinary
    80 Planar, 150, and 50. And the resolution of the images, when
    scanned on a 8000 dpi scanner at 4000dpi, was nothing short of
    amazing. I am sure the same is true with the other brands
  5. I agree with previous posts. The argument for the best lenses is very subjective. I have the Contax 645 system, and I do love the Zeiss lense. Other MF brands like Mamiya, Pentax, Bronica all make pretty good lenses, with one brand may be better with one particular focal length. Color balance, contrast, distortion may be bigger factors than pure resolution, and use of mirror lock up, cable release, good focusing, and tripod even play bigger role in the final sharpness of the film than the lense itself.

    Other factors to think about when choosing a system is the features you need, like flash sync speed, data imprint on film, changable backs, auto focus, etc. My conclusion after my one year research on this subject is no single system is perfect, and you have to make trade off.
  6. >>"The sharpest lens you'll ever own is a tripod."<<

    Well stated! I'm going to steal this line and use it repeatedly ;)

    Assuming you've decided on an AF 645 SLR by your aforementioned choices, the only other choices are Pentax and Mamiya. I've owned MF versions of both of those and would have to give the edge to Pentax in terms of image quality and Mamiya in terms of versatility. If a digital back is in your future, then the Pentax is not a viable option.

    I own a C645 and have shot with an H1. In an H1/C645 contest the H1 is going to AF *slightly* faster (no, it is not 2x faster regardless of what anybody tells you) and have a bit better integration with digital backs (ie live histogram). Plus you get a nifty pop-up flash -- that looks as though the slightest bump will pop it off the finder! But you pay more for these bennefits too... Optically, you'll be hard-pressed to note any differences.

  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    What I've observed about lenses is that the look of a print is determined far more by the printing than by any difference in lenses.

    Great printing shines, overshadowing any particular look of lenses, particularly if it is done in a way that is sympathetic to the content of the image.

    Bad printing ruins an image regardless of the lens.

    Only mediocre printing might make the quality of the lens evident, but then, who really cares if the printing is mediocre?
  8. The quality of the final print is the result of a long chain of equipment,
    materials and techniques, failure of any one can causes serious degradation
    of the image in the final print. The entire chain consists of elements that can
    more readily degrade quailty than improve it.

    Jeff is wrong when he wrote,"Only mediocre printing might make the quality of
    the lens evident, but then, who really cares if the printing is mediocre?"
    Mediocre printing might hide lens flaws more than anything else. If you have
    improperly focused or had negative pop while printing you won't know if it was
    in the printing or in the camera. If the print, or neg, is made too low contrast,
    or developed insufficiently you might think you have a lens of low contrast. it
    is only when you remove the possible flaws from printing, and produce a
    good print that you can properly evaluate a lens. Although to be really fair if
    you want to evaluate a lens, shoot transparencies.

    Good lenses are critical though, they are the first gate that the image passes
    through, and it is a gate that you want to be able to pass all of the detail along
    to the film. You can't add detail back to an image that has been lost due to a
    poor lens.
  9. To say that they are all the same is ridiculous.

    To say that you can take great photos on all of them is True.

    I don't care if I can tell the difference between them on someone ELSE'S Photos....I can tell
    the diffrence on mine though.

    It comes down to sublety...you usually have to burn a lot of film to see it. I own tons of
    cameras/lenses and they all look different. Problem is...I like them ALL :)

  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I'm not wrong on this.

    I've seen beautiful prints made with cheap pinhole cameras, cheap cameras, lousy lenses. Nobody comments on the lens or the camera. They comment on the print, or more likely, the image itself. Some of them are mine. Nobody has ever said about prints of mine from a really cheap camera I used for a number of years (with a terrible lens) that I should have used a better camera. They sold regardless.

    I've also seen terrible prints from just about every camera and lens. They speak of carelessness, usually.
  11. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I will add that what people do seem to pick up on in prints is format differences. The difference between 35mm and medium format and 4x5 are immediately evident in prints of the same size. But that's a different thing.
  12. Jeff, you are talking about 2 different things at the same time, the quality of the
    lens does not mean that you'll have an ugly print, it just means you might have
    a print of low optical quality, which may well serve the image, as someone
    who uses an Imagon I understand this quite clearly. However when you
    say,"Only mediocre printing might make the quality of the lens evident" you
    are quite wrong as bad printing habits and flaws can hide both the virtues and
    flaws of the original lens. Improper focus, poor enlarger alignment, negative
    pop, too low a contrast paper/filter, inadequate developer time, etc can yield a
    blurry low contrast print from even the sharpest contrastiest negative. So
    clearly "mediocre printing" is not the way to determine lens quality.

    As for,". The difference between 35mm and medium format and 4x5 are
    immediately evident in prints of the same size" that's true to a certain degree.
    If you compare a 4x6" print taken with a 35mm, 6x8cm, and 4x5" camera, you
    will not see much difference at that small a size, however if you make 16x20s
    the qualitative differences are stark.
  13. I, too, am thinking of getting back into medium format (prior experience was with a Mamiya C330F TLR). But I'm looking at manual focus Mamiya 645 systems because the prices on used equipment are really low now. I also believe, after a lot of expereince with 35mm AF SLR's, that I can focus as accurately than most AF systems. Plus, the Contax 645 AF is not known as speedy - too much glass to move! And the cost of lenses is really high.

    I own Zeiss 35mm lenses - I have a Contax N1 and a Contax IIIa from about 1960, and prefer the old rangefinder lenses to the newer SLR lenses. But part of that may just be the accuracy of rangefinder focusing.

    Mamiya lenses are very nice, too. But I know the older TLR gear best. Anyway, you can get nice images from many systems. And it's a great time to buy as most folks "go digital."
  14. Godefroy,

    I can't comment on your Contax 645 vs Hassie H1 question. However, I'd agree with the comment above that a tripod would prove to be a more significant catalyst towards improving sharpness, even at regular hand-held speeds (in my view). I personally find the black-out from the largish mirror of my Hasselblad 501cm to be a distraction as well as a factor that adds to the vibration of the camera at the crucial moment -- these factors diminish image quality/sharpness for me. Better to bolt the thing down and use mirror lock-up on SLRs, in my view!

    But I admit, I don't always use tripods. And so I looked for a medium-format camera that would give me better HAND-HELD sharpness. I believe I get consistently and noticeably sharper images with my Mamiya 7 when taking handheld shots (no mirror slap, very light shutter release, and easier to hold very steady with its large aesthetic grip) than with my Hasselblad.

    That's only when hand-holding the cameras. But if using a tripod, I basically find it impossible to see any difference in the remarkable sharpness in 20"+ prints made by the Zeiss and Mamiya lenses, assuming I use mirror lock-up on the Hasselblad so that the mechanics of the SLR and rangefinder are on a more even playing field.
  15. "however if you make 16x20s the qualitative differences are stark."

    As with all sweeping statements, this is only true up to a certain point. I have seen large prints (20x30 or even bigger) made from 35mm equipment which have compared very favourably with similar stuff from rollfilm cameras. There are a whole series of factors which impact on the final 'quality' of the print and the statement that a 'good big one will beat a good little one' is only true when everything except size is identical. Move the goal posts by varying, say, the film speed and the designed circle of confusion of the lens and all the bets are off.

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