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High end glass - worth it for ISO 400 film?
Old 04-26-2018   #1
retinax
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High end glass - worth it for ISO 400 film?

This question occurred to me when I replied to Dogman's thread about lens characteristics and I decided to start a new thread about it. So here it is, to people who have high-end glass and have done comparisons:
Do you notice a lot of differences in sharpness and resolution when using ISO 400 films or do they eliminate the differences between good and excellent lenses?
The quality of almost all pictures found on the internet certainly does obscure most differences between lenses anyway, so I'm asking for opinions based on your own comparisons printing in the darkroom, projecting or with excellent scanners.
Less interested in other characteristics such as speed, field flatness, bokeh or color here, as these are not obscured by film with lower resolution or bigger grain.
I'm thinking about 35mm lenses, medium format is certainly different in this regard.
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Old 04-26-2018   #2
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High end glass is always worth it, no matter what film you use. Buying really good lenses is a far better investment for you than either the film or the camera.

That and a good tripod.
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Old 04-26-2018   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
Do you notice a lot of differences in sharpness and resolution when using ISO 400 films or do they eliminate the differences between good and excellent lenses? I'm thinking about 35mm lenses, medium format is certainly different in this regard.
I believe there is a difference, yes, or so my eyes tell me.

I am referring to the difference between, say, a 50 summilux asph (excellent) and a canon 50 f/1.4 ltm (good). Not the difference between, say, a 35 summilux and a 35 VC.
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Old 04-26-2018   #4
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Define the end of high for you first. Is it some f1 Noxtlust? Then yea, you could shut it at f1 @400.
This fear of 400 comes from MF scanners. I'm @3200 135 format dr printer. I see if lens is good on prints. It is not about grain, but tones where.
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Old 04-26-2018   #5
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Yep, I agree with the previous posters. Better (high end) optics may not always slap you in the face but there is often a subtle, hard to describe quality about how they render images.

I've been shooting digitally for the past 10+ years so how I shoot may not exactly translate to your question concerning 400 speed film. But I have all my cameras to default to ISO 400. Since I shot Tri-X and HP5 for decades, 400 is the norm to me. Better lenses that perform beautifully still perform beautifully at higher ISOs. Of course bad lighting conditions are still bad lighting conditions and you can't expect a great lens to compensate for crappy lighting (even though it sometimes can at least get you a usable picture).
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Old 04-26-2018   #6
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I think there's some confusion here:

I think the implication is that ISO 400 film may obscure the sharpness/acutance possible by some lenses (ostensbily high-end and expensive). That's conflating potential sharpness with "high end". I would expect a "high end" lens to be more than just sharp....and oddly those other qualities were sort of discounted in the OP. A high-end lens will hopefully be well corrected for a variety of abberations and errors as well as optimizing acutance. So for me, the argument falls apart.

I have a cheap lens that is amazing tack sharp in the center, and very much not sharp as you move away from the center. I also have a high-end lens that is quite sharp across the entire field, but probably not quite as sharp as that central spot of the cheap lens.

But for the "masking effect" of film. Yea, I occasionally read about certain lenses that were sharper than "the emulsions available at the time of their production". Still, simple sharpness helps when using grainy film. Getting all your wavelengths to focus with similar sharpness is really helpful.
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Old 04-26-2018   #7
Bill Clark
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Does “high end glass” mean it’s gotta come with a high price?

I wonder.

I own a 50mm f1.4 Canon lens I use with my digital stuff that I’ve had made pretty large photographs. It cost me less than $400.00 new and It’s always on one of my Canon cameras.

Here is info on it from B&H:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...Autofocus.html

For film:
Doesn’t make much of a difference what ASA film I use. Quite a few components are necessary for my photography with camera, lens and film just a few parts I consider.
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Old 04-26-2018   #8
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Thank you for the responses so far, if I'm not directly replying to your post, please interpolate from the replies to those who made similar points.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
High end glass is always worth it, no matter what film you use. Buying really good lenses is a far better investment for you than either the film or the camera.

That and a good tripod.
How's film not better investment than all equipment?! I thought that was forum consensus, at least as long as we're not having GAS ourselves
Kidding, you mean the differences between lenses matter more than those between films? That might stir some controversy if we're talking good vs. excellent glass, not bad vs. good!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Clark View Post
Does “high end glass” mean it’s gotta come with a high price?
Not necessarily, I left that up for your own definition. Whether you read it to mean "differences between lenses I'd consider good and lenses I'd consider excellent" or "differences between <20 $ vs. >20 $" or "differences between <2000 $ vs. >2000 $", all interesting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Clark View Post
I own a 50mm f1.4 Canon lens I use with my digital stuff that I’ve had made pretty large photographs. It cost me less than $400.00 new and It’s always on one of my Canon cameras.

Here is info on it from B&H:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...Autofocus.html

For film:
Doesn’t make much of a difference what ASA film I use. Quite a few components are necessary for my photography with camera, lens and film just a few parts I consider.
Cool so you'd say better stick with film that allows fast shutter speeds because visually they're not that different?



Quote:
Originally Posted by rfaspen View Post
I think there's some confusion here:

I think the implication is that ISO 400 film may obscure the sharpness/acutance possible by some lenses (ostensbily high-end and expensive). That's conflating potential sharpness with "high end". I would expect a "high end" lens to be more than just sharp....and oddly those other qualities were sort of discounted in the OP. A high-end lens will hopefully be well corrected for a variety of abberations and errors as well as optimizing acutance. So for me, the argument falls apart.

I have a cheap lens that is amazing tack sharp in the center, and very much not sharp as you move away from the center. I also have a high-end lens that is quite sharp across the entire field, but probably not quite as sharp as that central spot of the cheap lens.

But for the "masking effect" of film. Yea, I occasionally read about certain lenses that were sharper than "the emulsions available at the time of their production". Still, simple sharpness helps when using grainy film. Getting all your wavelengths to focus with similar sharpness is really helpful.

I was indeed assuming high end lenses to be sharper on average. Of course there are exceptions and that should be most evident at wide apertures and at the edges of the frame, sure. Why you read my post to mean sharpness/resolution was the only criterion for high end I don't know.
I was postulating that sharpness and resolution would be the only qualities that might be obscured by grain. So doesn't it make sense to talk about these qualities exclusively in this context? That does in no way imply that other qualities are not important in a lens.
Please give my question a charitable reading. Perhaps I wasn't expressing myself very well, English is not my first language.
No question that sharpness helps even using a grainy film. It would be interesting to know if anyone has noticed a limit beyond which more sharpness, that a given lens is capable of delivering, does not help.
Edit: I see how the thread title lead to your reading of my question. Yes, without doubt there are qualities other than resolution and sharpness that make high end lenses worthwhile, so I didn't chose a good thread title.

Last edited by retinax : 04-26-2018 at 12:18. Reason: errors
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Old 04-26-2018   #9
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IMHO glass is always a GREAT place to invest. Keep in mind when you print you should have great glass on the enlarger too, same for projectors. Every piece in the chain that you use to deliver your final image is important. But if you start with mush, best you will ever get is mush. Not that mush is bad mind you.......

Rather like looking at an image on an old Mac II Apple monitor vs an iPad Pro.

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Old 04-26-2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
Less interested in other characteristics such as speed, field flatness, bokeh or color here, as these are not obscured by film with lower resolution or bigger grain.
Well, speed is purely a lens characteristic. But subtleties in any of the rest of those attributes are progressively obscured as the MTF goes down and the grain structure becomes more crude.

If you really want to groove on the utmost subtleties of bokeh, shoot large format and make contact prints. (Of course if you don't terribly care, that's OK too - to each his own.)
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Old 04-26-2018   #11
mich rassena
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I'd like to see some side-by-side comparisons to make a judgement, but my intuition is that the grain of ISO 400 black and white film would obscure most of the benefits of a better lens. As far as resolution is concerned, there's no question that grain limits resolution. Any lens performance test that didn't disclose the type of film shot, or which compared the lenses on different films would be suspect.

Various types of chromatic aberration, field flatness, distortion, vignetting, and edge resolution loss will all be apparent even on grainy film. But if we're comparing good lenses with great lenses, would these flaws be present? And if there are only subtle differences what's the amount you'd be willing to pay for something marginally better?
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Old 04-26-2018   #12
Dante_Stella
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The crappy imaging chain degrades with every crappy step in it, so yes, you will do better with 400-speed film and a good lens than 400-speed and a Holga.

By the way, modern 400-speed film is quite good these days.

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Old 04-26-2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mich rassena View Post
I'd like to see some side-by-side comparisons to make a judgement, but my intuition is that the grain of ISO 400 black and white film would obscure most of the benefits of a better lens. As far as resolution is concerned, there's no question that grain limits resolution. Any lens performance test that didn't disclose the type of film shot, or which compared the lenses on different films would be suspect.

Various types of chromatic aberration, field flatness, distortion, vignetting, and edge resolution loss will all be apparent even on grainy film. But if we're comparing good lenses with great lenses, would these flaws be present? And if there are only subtle differences what's the amount you'd be willing to pay for something marginally better?
These are my thoughts exactly, that's why I was wondering if anyone has made comparisons. And yes, some of these flaws will also be present in many good lenses I think, there are many aspects to choosing a lens and we have different priorities there, that's the other thread, I wanted to focus on the aspect of of resolution/sharpness and their relationship with grain here.
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Old 04-26-2018   #14
retinax
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
The crappy imaging chain degrades with every crappy step in it, so yes, you will do better with 400-speed film and a good lens than 400-speed and a Holga.

By the way, modern 400-speed film is quite good these days.

Dante
I thought I had made very clear that this thread was supposed to be about good vs. excellent rather than crap vs. good lenses .

You're right of course that there are some very, very good ISO 400 films, the answers will certainly be different for TMAX than for Kentmere.
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Old 04-26-2018   #15
Axel100
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I donīt see any reason why "high-end-glass" should not be worth for any ISO.
There is lens characteristic and film characteristic. No dependency.
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Old 04-26-2018   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Axel100 View Post
I donīt see any reason why "high-end-glass" should not be worth for any ISO.
There is lens characteristic and film characteristic. No dependency.
None? ISO 400 films don't resolve much more than 100 lp, some far less. If you said that in practice, film doesn't significantly limit the output, ok, but I won't take "none" for an answer.
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Old 04-26-2018   #17
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My Leica 35mm Summarit makes Fuji 400H look "digital" with very crisp details and high contrast edges. Compared to other decent lenses like my 40mm Sonnar, pictures are not as detailed and seem to result in more grain and less vivid colors.
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Old 04-26-2018   #18
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When was the last time the success or failure of a photograph turned on the resolution of the lens? I am not talking about depth of field or focus, but the actual resolution of the lens.
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Old 04-26-2018   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
None? ISO 400 films don't resolve much more than 100 lp, some far less. If you said that in practice, film doesn't significantly limit the output, ok, but I won't take "none" for an answer.
So your question is about resolution?
Donīt get your point yet.
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Old 04-26-2018   #20
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Aloha

I find that using good glass on any camera weather film or digital will always be very good.
With film though unless you are using good glass to scan or print will also make a difference if you are after crisp images.
Like all the previous post nothing is better than good glass.
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Old 04-26-2018   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
I thought I had made very clear that this thread was supposed to be about good vs. excellent rather than crap vs. good lenses.
Could you objectively define good vs. excellent lenses?
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Old 04-26-2018   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
When was the last time the success or failure of a photograph turned on the resolution of the lens? .............
Excellent point.

And let us not forget that the technical results of using a larger negative even with a mediocre lens will knock the socks off anything shot in 35mm even with the very best lens. (whatever "the very best lens" means to you)
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Old 04-26-2018   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
Could you objectively define good vs. excellent lenses?
Whether or where to draw a line I consider secondary to whether or not such an effect exists and anyone has actually noticed it.
I'll quote myself from above, "Not necessarily, I left that up for your own definition. Whether you read it to mean "differences between lenses I'd consider good and lenses I'd consider excellent" or "differences between <20 $ vs. >20 $" or "differences between <2000 $ vs. >2000 $", all interesting."
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Old 04-26-2018   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
When was the last time the success or failure of a photograph turned on the resolution of the lens? I am not talking about depth of field or focus, but the actual resolution of the lens.
Are you talking to me or the people who said high-end glass is always worthwhile? Anyway I think no-one said resolution was a quality that makes or breaks images.
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Old 04-26-2018   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeonKnight View Post
My Leica 35mm Summarit makes Fuji 400H look "digital" with very crisp details and high contrast edges. Compared to other decent lenses like my 40mm Sonnar, pictures are not as detailed and seem to result in more grain and less vivid colors.
Do you mean the 40 Sonnar pictures are "not as detailed and seem to result in more grain and less vivid colors"or indeed the ones from the Summarit? It the latter, could sharpening in scanning be the cause of the high edge contrast? Because increased grain from the same film sounds a lot like that.
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Old 04-26-2018   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Axel100 View Post
So your question is about resolution?
Donīt get your point yet.
And sharpness. From the OP: "Do you notice a lot of differences in sharpness and resolution when using ISO 400 films or do they eliminate the differences between good and excellent lenses?"
Again, of course resolution and sharpness are not the only and often not the most important differences between lenses.
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Old 04-27-2018   #27
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Lots of vague talk of "good" vs. "excellent" lenses, yet the determination seems entirely subjective with different photographers arriving at different conclusions.
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Old 04-27-2018   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
Whether or where to draw a line I consider secondary to whether or not such an effect exists and anyone has actually noticed it.
If you can't define the difference objectively, perhaps you could give us some examples of "good" lenses and some examples of "excellent" lenses, and how the selection of ISO 400 film stock might or might not show differences. Maybe if you can only see the difference when shooting test charts on black and white microfilm, it's not really an issue.
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Old 04-27-2018   #29
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If you're looking for tonality and have harsh lighting, the older the lens, the better the print. I'm talking about ASPH Leica lenses vs, some pre-war uncoated ones. I can get a better print - more open shadows, no blocked highlights, from a 35mm 3.5 Elmar than from an ASPH Summilux. Is the Elmar as sharp as the Summilux? Probably not. But sharpness is only one quality in the final darkroom print. I don't think a sharper image with lousy contrast is better than a photo that's marginally less sharp but with good tonality.
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Old 04-27-2018   #30
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Tri-x outresolves many modern high end optics near 100 lp/mm apo summicron 75 lp/mm the best optic is still the Tripod microscopic camera shake has an effect on resolution.
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Old 04-27-2018   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
Do you mean the 40 Sonnar pictures are "not as detailed and seem to result in more grain and less vivid colors"or indeed the ones from the Summarit? It the latter, could sharpening in scanning be the cause of the high edge contrast? Because increased grain from the same film sounds a lot like that.

Sorry, I meant to say that the Summarit's images look more vivid and show less grain.

I generally shoot 400 speed film and overall using super high quality lenses just makes the pictures seem more "clear". It's probably because the Summarit is so resistant to flare.
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Old 04-27-2018   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
And sharpness...
"Sharpness" is just a subjective impression and not measurable like resolution is.
No idea wich relation could exist between film sensitivity and sharpness.
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Old 04-27-2018   #33
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I don't like the look my 50 summilux asph gives on bw film. The images are so sharp so as to seem unreal. That's not the look I'm going for with bw film prints.
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Old 04-27-2018   #34
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As far as sharpness of "high end" glass with 400 speed film, the way to see the difference writ large would be to shoot the same scene with the same lens on a film camera at 400 IS, and on a full frame digital camera at the same ISO. I've done that. As the size of the print goes up, the difference becomes quite dramatic. Grain kills sharpness. And grain covers a lot of ills in lens designs.

But, as has been noted, "high end" glass has differences other than sharpness with consumer level lenses that result in a very different look, regardless of what ISO film you shoot with. Most Canon "L" glass, for example, is so much better than the consumer level equivalents that it's obvious just looking through the finder that you are using a lens at of a different caliber.

Investment in good glass in never a bad deal. There really is a difference, no matter what medium you are burning the light onto. While I might decide a high end lens is overpriced and refuse to buy it, but there is still clearly a difference.
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Old 04-27-2018   #35
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Having made many 16x20" prints from HP5+ negs shot at 800 and run in Microphen and Perceptol and shot with different lenses I can say absolutely. Between the Leica 50/1.4 ASPH vs a Nikon Ai'd 50/1.4 the Leica wins every time. Detail is delivered to the film, and when printed well, on an aligned enlarger so that grain is crisp across the print details are resolved in say fine tree branches vastly better with the Leica glass. The Contax G 45 as well.
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Old 04-27-2018   #36
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I understand and totally respect that each of us has our own objectives from our personal photography. Some say their photography is only for themselves. But it is informative to also know what the general public is looking for. I suggest you go to a photo exhibit and politely discuss with other visitors what they think, what they like / dislike about the photos being displayed in general terms.

See how long it takes to find a public viewer who likes / dislikes a photo because of the lens resolution or contrast. Because of the boken. Or, that the corners are sharp / unsharp. One who thinks about grain or a digital look. Try to find any viewer who cares about any of those technical issues. Try to figure out if everyone is impressed by the photos taken using a high dollar Ohmygoshigon lens or the ones where the photographer used the most pedestrian equipment but spent time understanding his subject.

Again, no problem is you are in that little group of camera people who are interested in technical details. I just think it is worthwhile to acknowledge that you are quite unique among the population of those who look at photos.
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Old 04-27-2018   #37
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I find that most people don’t notice when prints don’t have crisp details very much, true. But when they see prints that do have crisp details, above and beyond what one might consider normal, they do notice that. I have had many people comment on the level of detail in my larger prints, disbelieving that they could be from 35mm film. And some of these folks are people who I respect very highly as photographers/printers.
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Old 04-27-2018   #38
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.............. And some of these folks are people who I respect very highly as photographers/printers.
Bob, I get your point but wonder how important are photographers/printers in evaluating our photos. They are a minuscule part of the population.
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Old 04-27-2018   #39
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You know, I would have agreed 100% with the "you get what you pay for" thing with regard to lenses and how they work on film, until I started shooting with a $30.00 Jupiter-8. It's actually kind of amazing with ISO400 films.


Trendwood Park, October, 2011 by Maggie Osterberg, on Flickr


Empty Chair, August, 2012 by Maggie Osterberg, on Flickr


Plastic Patriot, March, 2011 by Maggie Osterberg, on Flickr


MCB iPhone Oven, October, 2010 by Maggie Osterberg, on Flickr


On The Move, September, 2010 by Maggie Osterberg, on Flickr

Maybe the Sonnar design is high-end, but affordable.
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Old 04-27-2018   #40
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Bob, I get your point but wonder how important are photographers/printers in evaluating our photos. They are a minuscule part of the population.
Agreed. But not everyone who remarks on the detail evident in the prints is a photographer. Regular folks notice it too, but the people who have difficulty believing it is 35mm film are geeks like us.
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