Mamiya TLR Sharpness

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by andrew_kaiser|2, Aug 16, 2006.

  1. Hello All

    Let me preface this question by saying I am a long time digital shooter who has
    recently made the leap into medium format film. I'm discovering I have a lot to
    learn but I really welcome the challenge.

    Currently my only medium format camera is a Mamiya C330 TLR I acquired from an
    Uncle who no longer wanted it. I'm in the process of setting up a home darkroom
    but while I do that I've been having a local lab process the film for me and
    provide a printed contact sheet.

    Now granted, I am basing this purely on the contact sheet, but my images seem
    much softer then I expected, especially when focused closer to infinity. I know
    the Mamiya is no Rollei in terms of lens sharpness but I was really expecting
    better then what I've gotten so far. Shooting outdoors most of my expsosures
    have been in the f/11 range at about 125 for shutter speed.

    I have two lenses for the camera - a black 80mm and what appears to be an older
    chrome 65mm. Right now I've only used the 80mm as the chrome lens seems to be
    sticking a bit at slower speeds.

    So my question is this...are Mamiya TLR lenses typically a tad soft? Is there
    something I should be checking? Is there one generation of Mamiya lenses
    notably sharper then another?

    Anyway, help and suggestions would be very much appreciated.
  2. The Mamiya C330 lenses were very good lenses,you would have a hard time telling one photo from another, between the Mamiya and the Rollie especially at F11. Your lenses might have problems , or your camera might not be aligned properly. I suggest you do a set of test, with the camera on a tripod, shooting at different distances and f-stops to see how good these lenses really are.
  3. Look at your negatives with a loupe. If you don't have a loupe, use a camera lens as a magnifying glass.
    ANY decent camera will give you a LOT more detail than a contact sheet is capable of resolving. A Mamiya C330 is a professional level medium format camera with lenses that are fully capable of professional results, if they're clean, well focused, and if the film, exposure, lighting and processing are up to the task.
    There are small differences from one lens to another, and small differences between Mamiya lenses and those legandary magical Zeiss lenses. But in photos taken at f/11 and examined only as contact sheets, you're not going to see those differences.
  4. Did your lab make the contact print from negative strips while they
    were in a Print File sleeve? When my lab contact prints negatives for
    me they put three strips of four frames each in a Print File "transparent" sleeve to keep them together and make handling easier. The resulting contact print is ok to see your subject matter and judge exposure, but to evaluate sharpness, an enlargement made from the bare negative should be used. Why not select a favorite image and have the lab do a 5X5 or 8X8 inch enlargement?
  5. Hello, here is what I remember about my C330. Much of apparent sharpness is due to good contrast and accutance (edge definition) and ZERO camera shake. I think the C330 lenses are probably fairly sharp by todays standards, but not great in contrast/flare as they wern't built with todays exotic glasses or coatings.

    Shooting Tri-X in a studio with hot lights or strobe, the sharpness was good enough for 11x14. Not grainless, but not too crunchy and sharp enough to POP at arms length. Outdoors with Plus-X and a tripod produced very sharp images up to 11x14.

    A wise man once said "ANY decent camera will give you a LOT more detail than a contact sheet is capable of resolving." I suspect shooting Reala 120 will produce some great portraits if processed correctly, high rez scanned, and post processed on the computer for color balance, contrast, and sharpness.

    By the way, I love your mashed potatoes photo. GREAT FUN.
  6. Boy, I feel like kind of an idiot all of a sudden. I took a look and indeed the lab is making the contact sheets with the negatives in the plastic sleeves. I can see the brand name of the sleeves on the edge of the contact sheet.

    This makes total sense as to why they would appear soft if there's a barrier of foggy plastic between the paper and the negative.

    It still concerns me a bit that they seeem softer at infinity focus then anything else but i can do some tests for that I suppose.

    Thanks guys - you're all the best!!
  7. First, by "soft" I assume you mean sharpness and not contrast.

    You can argue about relative sharpness of Mamiya TLR lenses (and many do) but if you can see it in a contact print then I would suspect a defective lens, a problem with the mirror or focus screen or bad technique (vibration).

    Some thoughts:

    Inspect the 80mm to make sure the lens elements (front and rear) are properly and fully screwed into the mount

    Use the distance scale for focusing

    Try using a sturdy tripod to eliminate shaking from handholding

    Exercise the shutter on the 65mm and, if it's reasonably usable, see if the results from that lens matches the 80

    Make sure the back is set to the film you are using (120 or 220)
  8. (i) I'll pile on and second the recommendation for a secure tripod. If you're shooting handheld at 1/125, critical sharpness isn't an option.

    (ii) The Mamiya TLR lenses really need to be shaded, possibly even more so than other lenses. Try a hood, if your test shots were taken without one.

    (iii) Somewhere on the Monaghan MF site is a quote that the very earliest Mamiya TLR lenses were engineered to a 'commercial formula', which I take to mean high contrast. At the time this caused complaints from high street photogs, who wanted a softer rendition for portraits and weddings. Mamiya ostensibly responded by tweaking the lens designs to accomodate this request.

    Interesting tale, and I don't know whether it's true or not. It originated with one Bob Shell (remember him?), who may have had access to proprietary information.
  9. Around here it's actually cheaper to get prints than a fuzzy "contact" sheet.
  10. Alright guys, I went over to the neighbors house and did some scans of the images in question. Keep in mind these are scanned right off a contact sheet so mind the scratches and dust marks :)

    No photoshop sharpening was applied to either image.

    The image above was focused at about four feet, f/11 I believe at about 125. I happy with this sharpness wise. It's about what I expected for a contact sheet.

    Now this is what concerns me. Focused to infinity (which appeared crisp in the viewfinder) shot at f/22 and 250th of a second. I did have a tripid (not the sturdiest on earth) but this was 100 speed film.

    The wood in that scene was very dry, contrasty, with tons of texture and it all seems to be lost due to a lack of sharpness (not contrast). This was taken on Ilford FP4.

    Now two days later I'm back in the studio, focused at about 3 to 4 feet and there seems to be plenty of sharpness in that fan she's holding.
  11. Andrew , I would do some tests. The shot outside should be sharp all the way though and it does appear to be front focused.Just a thought, I shot some film though a C330 but it was 25 yrs ago. Is it possable that the lens was not seated in the camera flush?This would not let the camera focus on infinity. You might have bumped it as well.I would do some more testing.Nice photos by the way.
  12. You used the distance scale on the body for the infinity focus? These scales can sometimes be off (an alignment problem), and they aren't dead accurate anyway. Also, there can be sharpness problems caused by an upside down viewing screen, the front standard having jumped a "tooth" on the rail, a bent lens board and missing shims under the viewing screen. I've experienced all but the first and last. But I don't think any of that is your problem. It is probably one of the first two things I mentioned, and probably the "aren't dead accurate". The distance scale for my 55mm f4.5 was way, way off. Ended up making my own on the rubber focus accessory.
  13. By the way, I have every lens except the 250mm. All of them are very sharp.
  14. alrighty, I just scheduled the same outdoor shoot this friday with the same model at the same location at the same time.

    I'm going to shoot one role with the 80mm and one with the 65mm and do a comparison.

    I'll be sure to post the results!
  15. In my experience with the system my black 80 is pretty sharp, but not the performer of the line in that department. My 65 and 105 lenses seem to be the real performers (both happen to be chrome if that matters), and i'll bet you notice that too when you shoot with your 65. Also consider getting the chimney finder with the 3.5 and 6x mag for focusing. Great accessory!
  16. hey Everyone

    First of all, thank you to everyone who has contriubuted advice. I'm very grateful such a great group of photographers exist out there :)

    I went outside this evening and decided to do some testing on my camera with both lenses. Paying close attention I noticed something right away. With either lens, when aiming at a very bright building extremely far off in the distance I have to extend the lens just a little bit for it to appear in crisp focus. Shouldn't the lens be flushed up against the body for infinity?

    I'm getting the sinking feeling that my camera is front focusing just slightly. Looking at the second image I posted earlier this makes complete sense. When taking the image, the model appeared nice and sharp, but in the final results the folliage just in front of her is sharp. Of course I still need to do an appropriate field test but right now it seems like this is the case with both lenses.

    When mounting both lenses they appear tight and flushed with the body so I don't think that's the problem. Could the viewing glass be out of adjustment? Any other ideas on how to correct this?
  17. Each lens has its own infinity position. 55m, 65mm and 80mm are short draw lenses and they have the infinity position close to the back stop but not exactly there. The rest of lenses are long-draw lenses and they have infinity position pretty far forward.

    I also agree with other people, that Mamiya TLR lenses need good lens hoods as they are only singlecoated and suffer from flare. They also have less contrast than say Mamiya RB67 C-series lenses (multicoated) and it may look as a softer picture.
  18. You can go hyperfocal with those lenses by going by racking out the body against the stop. Don't be insulted here, but might want to check and make sure the pressure plate is on the right setting. I think you should you shoot a yardstick 4-5 ft away with a makeshift target at a location along it at with your longest lens wide open or close to it. I would think a focusing problem w/ the screen or lens pair maladjustment would be manifest at close range and exaggerated by the narrow DOF inherent when shooting closer up. I did this after 'cleaning' the screen on my C220. Took out the screws and the shims went bye-bye. It was a lot of work to get the screen shimmed right, but I used a makeshift yard stick rig with a tripod without tilting the camera and was able to establish the plane of focus relative to the target. I had trouble adjusting to focusing this system intially, (before I disassembled my screen!) and it all got better after I bought the chimney.
  19. I have a C220 with the black lenses and they are very sharp. As noted above when focussing on the far distance the lens plate is not back gainst the stop, it is slightly forward of it. Check that the lens seating is clean and undamaged so that the lenses are parallel to the film plane.
  20. I have the solution to your problem, one that does not involve messing with the lenses. So
    Don't Touch Them, very very seldom are these Ever the culprit for the C330, and you'll just
    go chasing your tail and making it worse and worse. Here it is....Its the foam surround
    between the focus screen sub frame and the focus screen frame. HUH?! you say! What
    Foam. Take off the focussing screen frame from the camera with the focus screen in place,
    then look up under it. If you take off the screen, (two screws per side holding the clips in
    place) you'll see the sub frame that the screen sits on. Two more screws per side releases
    that sub frame, and then you'll see the foam, or rather whats left of it. This foam acts as a
    spring to push the sub frame and screen down flush onto the three funny screws that sit
    in the body next to the mirror. (Don't touch those either, those too are so seldom moved
    most if not all are still in factroy set condition, leave them that way). Granted, the foam is
    not much of a spring, and it's actually not really doing much anyway, EXCEPT when the
    foam is old and sticky! Then it compresses a bit and sticks the sub frame With The Screen
    ever so slightly away from those three funny screws, causing the focus shift. Its such a
    small amount, and the pressure from the foam seems like too little, but that is it folks. I
    know what I am talking about here, both my 2 C-330's had it, and every other old, seldom
    used C-330 I've seen/ worked on (6-8 of them) had it. When I was shooting my first C
    -330 constantly I sent it in soon after getting it to an old guy who was a camera assembly
    tech in the Mamiya factory, and spent years building and working on them, and he tuned
    up mine perfectly. A few year later the focus shift started up again and I tracked him
    down, even though he had stopped repairing cameras, and he gave me that crucial fix. I
    got my 2nd C-330 for very cheap when the seller thought the camera was broken, but
    once again it was that foam issue. The sub frame can be removed and the old foam
    cleaned off and you can cut small
    strips of foam from the Micro-Tools foam kit, I like the thicker foam better. The tricky part
    is making the small holes for the screws that need to go thru the foam, just shoving them
    thru makes the foam uneven. Expect on replacing the foam every 2-4 years. Do this small
    small fix First and then test before doing anything else, there still could be a chance
    something else is off, like the mirror angle or (way Way out there) a loose lens cell, but 95
    out of 100 its the foam! Thanks and good night.
  21. I've recently aquired a C330s and it seems really sharp to me. Here's an example from a Fuji Frontier scan (80mm Black lens) - the print resolution is clearly higher than the scan resolution , but I think it still shows sharpness.
    Full image:
  22. "I know the Mamiya is no Rollei in terms of lens sharpness"

    I've owned a Mamiya TLR and a few Rollei's including the fabled 3.5F. I also shoot a Canon 17MP 1Ds MkII with Image Stabilised lenses and a Phase One P25 digital back on a Hasselblad. I can absolutely vouch that some of the sharpest hand-held photographs I've ever taken were achieved with the Mamiya TLR and Delta 100 film.

    In fact when it comes to delivering critical sharpness with a hand-held camera the only consistent rivals to a TLR have been a Mamiya 7 with slow film and a Hasselblad 903 SWC with a Phase One digital back, and they all share the common characteristic of great optics and no reflex mirror.
  23. You can attempt to correct the placement of the viewing screen yourself...I usually just have the whole thing adjusted by my favorite repair person. You can compare the actual focus to the viewfinder focus by taking a piece of wax paper or make a "screen" with Scotch frosty tape and placing it over the film gate of the taking lens (back open). Using the viewfinder, focus on a target. Then, using a loupe held gently against the wax paper or screen, compare the actual focus (what the film will "see"). You can use shims under the viewing screen. You might try the previous foam replacement first, though. I've actually made a "roll of transluscent film" from two spools and tracing vellum, which works well in place of the wax paper, and it remains fairly taut, which helps when trying to use the loupe.
  24. Also, you may need to use a cloth drape over your head to see anything on the wax paper screen, or do it in a darkened room.
  25. I wish I'd thought of that Nadine when I botched mine up! That would definately settle the matter. I wouldn't touch your screen yet though. I still think if you had a screen, lens, or camera body problem the error would be grossly exaggerated at closer distances and fast aperatures, and your images demonstrate the opposite which makes me think you must have had the focus a tad off or miscalculated DOF when composing the tree nude image (which is great, BTW) or changed the focus inadvertently.
  26. I'd still do the foam thing first. There also exists the chance that the foam is sticking
    uneven, and depending on where on the screen you focus, could enhance the error. Or,
    even more likely, the previous owner tried to unknowingly 'correct' the foam issue by
    either fussing with the mirror (that would fully do the front focus) or those three funny
    screws. Nadine is right, after doing the foam (its so easy) you have to check it by putting a
    ground glass on the film rails and check Inf, 30ft, 15 ft 5ft and 3ft. Then you can deduce
    whether or not its the mirror next. Mirror issues are where you see a flat vertical wall have
    two different focus. But you'll just be making more work down the line if you don't do the
    foam first. Can I say it again? SHeesh, Good Night!
  27. Using a longer lens there is less DOF. On average MF lenses are quite a bit longer than digital
    35 mm lenses. In MF focusing is more critical and choosing the right aperture too. Looking
    at some of your pictures I feel there is not much DOF. Have you thought of this?
  28. I've got a C330 and a black 80 mm lens that I used to shoot a lot with Fuji transparency film. It was damned sharp. In fact, the first black and white pic you posted looks good to me, as does the third. I think that if you make some high quality scans of those negs, or some good prints, you'll get a better idea of what your lens is capable of.

    Good luck.
  29. I've noticed a fairly wide range of experiences with the Mamiya TLRs, so YMMV. I've had a few of 'em over the years and my experience with the old chrome lenses was that they did ok on resolution, but lacked contrast. It was near impossible to do crisp b&w work with the thing. Great for portraits, but I sold the whole system off, very disappointed with my first foray into a "professional" system. Much later I bought a C330 with the black 80mm. This was a whole 'nuther beast. The lens is excellent at most any aperture, and I'd put it up against any Rolli. I also have the black 55mm, and that too is very good. A couple cautions- listen to CP about the foam and fix it. I've found many lenses have been messed with, elements swapped, spacers missing or swapped, shutters repaired by people who didn't know what they were doing, and the big one- fungus. These lenses seem more prone to fungus than any others I've seen, and that's a fair number. IMO, one of the internal elements is made of something that looks like candy to the bugs, and they just etch the heck out of it. Do the penlight test. If you have any slight internal haze at all, clean it or get it cleaned ASAP. IMO, what you really need is a checkout by someone who knows these systems. A focus check on an autocollimator is the only way to be sure you're getting all the lenses are capable of. Ground glass and such is better than nothing, but doesn't account for the actual position of the film in the gate.
  30. almost all the lenses focus past infinty for me. YMMV

    I have a 55 65 80 (all black) and a 180 chrome.

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