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Would somebody please explain once and for all...
Old 09-24-2018   #1
NickTrop
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Would somebody please explain once and for all...

... what makes a lens "classic", "special" etc? I'm specifically referring to primes and I'm also specifically referring to optics. Obviously, there is variance in build quality as it pertains to the mechanics and exterior and quality control. But all things being equal, assuming a good sample, this doesn't affect image quality. Just being honest, I see many a fine picture posted here over they years. Often the lens make/focal length/widest ap is posted along with the picture. I almost never see one where a particular lens, say a Leica "whatever" (ain't bashing -- just a point of reference) is obviously better than a picture taken with a prime that's bolted on some late-60's fixed lens rangefinder (or whatever...)

Since primes seem to use basically the same optical formulations -- what is it? Is it the glass? If so, what is it about that particular glass that makes it special? Is it the coating? Is it some other special secret sauce?

I have have heard raves about Rokkors, Zuikos, Summi---s etc., etc., etc... But in all the pics I've ever seen, the standouts have more to do with lighting and composition. Hell, I can't even see differences between Sonnars and Planars.

So. With primes that typically share the same optical formula, what distinguishes them? No wishy-washy answers here. Please be as technical and nerdy as you can be.
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Old 09-24-2018   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
... what makes a lens "classic", "special" etc? I'm specifically referring to primes and I'm also specifically referring to optics. ...
It's like this -

Soft lenses are "Classic" (or have that "Leica glow");
Lenses sharp to the edge wide-open are "Modern";
Lenses with pleasant bukeh are "Special";
High-contrast lenses are "Bold" or "Dynamic";
Low-contrast lenses are "Cheap" (or old and full of fungus).

And that about sums it up. ...

Also keep in mind that most of this is highly subjective and will very likely change depending on who you're talking to or about.
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Old 09-24-2018   #3
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I have always understood that the primary factor are the residual aberrations present in many older lenses. Modern lenses are corrected up the wazoo using computers to design them and the most modern technologies and materials to make them. As a result they are sharp across the frame, contrasty, produce highly colored images, flare less due to modern coatings etc. But that makes them in the eyes of many people who are looking for an artistic rather than a technical rendering, a little boring and less able to produce those artistic images - they do not "interpret" the image. They just reproduce it. Great for use in a studio for making images of products to go on a brochure for example. But not so good at the other stuff.

Sometimes we overstate this stuff but the way I think of it is that different lenses produce a different "look" from the same basic scene. So I think of my lenses as being like an artist's brushes. Which one I pick up on the day, depends on what I am trying to achieve. I sometimes read reviews of lenses and in the "against" or "con" column they will list comments like "Sharp in the centre but edges tend to be soft" or "Slight flare when image is backlit" or "Lowered contrast when shot wide open". And I will think - but that is both natural and not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it's what I want most times. Except when I am making those pesky images to go on sales brochures of products. (Which I never do).
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Old 09-24-2018   #4
RichC
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For me, "classic" means high resolution but low contrast, typical of many 1960s and 1970s lenses, designed by crafts people and experience rather than by computers. And also before Japanese cameras wholly took over from European ones: the Japanese chased optical perfection far harder than Europeans of that time, so their lenses tended towards high resolution and high contrast.

The Japanese aesthetic became the norm once they dominated the camera industry, and chasing technical perfection in optics has become an obsession - witness the completely over the top lenses currently being released. Next year they'll be the size of buckets and be down to f/0.1!

I'm well aware that the low contrast I mention is a fault - an optical aberration - but making lens aberrations a positive rather than a negative was the skill of those old designers with slide rules! Rather than making a photograph ugly, these designers used aberrations to create emotion and character through subtle interplay between sharpness, tonality and contrast; today's lenses are slaves to technology and numbers, and are coldly clinical with harsh, dark shadows and bright highlights, and a flatter, compressed appearance so subjects can seem less three dimensional than older lenses.

An example of the kind of lens I prefer is the 55mm Micro-nikkor AI or the 1960s 35mm Summilux stopped down (it's a bit pants wide open unless you want a very glowy flarey image with lots of coma!)
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Old 09-24-2018   #5
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The latest sale description I've seen is "heritage", usually attached to a lens for a 1970s SLR.
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Old 09-24-2018   #6
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Design excellence, production length/history (Nikon 35 f1.4 & 55, micro, and Leica 35 Summicron come to mind) are big factors. The number of "famous/classic images" made with the lens and variants that have a long or exceptional publishing history. Today, with all the web BS, it's difficult to know about new lenses without using them for a time.

I don't think photographers make a lens a "classic". Equipment reviewers and marketing people drop the title on them. But, there are some, that are far better than others. I own, and have owned a few.
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Old 09-24-2018   #7
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You could also look at it as a type/design of lens that made many famous pictures. So Henri Cartier-Bresson's "look" or Garry Winnogrand's "look" that came from using what they used. In truth, I never cared that much. I have a Sonnar-type Jupiter lens that is optically a steaming pile of horse-hockey. Classic? Yeah, it might be that too, but I can't see it.

[Edit: I am just waiting for my old Hexanons to be declared "classic" so I can cash in . . . . any day now. Any day."]
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Old 09-24-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnf04 View Post
The latest sale description I've seen is "heritage", usually attached to a lens for a 1970s SLR.
Marketing BS like, "pre-owned".
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Old 09-24-2018   #9
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OK, you asked for straight talk, so here it is.

If I'm selling, it's classic, special, mint minus, and possibly rare. I expect a premium price because people are hot to buy it.

If I'm buying, it's just an old, beat up camera/lens/part, and I want a discount to take that clunker off your hands.
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Old 09-24-2018   #10
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The first post-war advance in lens capability was the application of lens coatings that were top secret during World War II to every lens produced. Contrast jumped an order of magnitude, particularly for high speed lenses with multiple elements. This impact is noticeable in ordinary photographs.

Then even as early as the 1950s new glasses with high refractive index made a difference in optical performance even though the lens diagrams look the same. The Leica 50mm Summicron was revolutionary in sharpness. It's all about the effects of practical design (chromatic aberration, coma, etc) and the computational rigor to remove these with new glass formulas. The Japanese did indeed catch the Germans quickly and then surpassed them.

Then it all changed again with aspherical elements. Leica was the leader in introducing aspherics.

These advances are certainly observable in controlled tests. Whether a photographer can creatively use the changes is up to the photographer. But today's Leica 50mm Summicron M Asp is a standard that is hard to match.

If you looked at two pictures, one from a Canon 0.95 and one from a Leica 0.95, the difference would be obvious.

One are of noticeable / undeniable difference is in telephotos. Look at the progression from Sonnar or Telyt telephotos to today. The performance of today's super-telephotos is simply amazing, with zero chromatic aberration. The sharpness and contrast differences between a 300mm f2.8 Canikon and a Carl Zeiss 300mm f4.0 Sonnar from the classic period is phenomenal.

No one has talked about zoom lenses and their amazing performance improvement. Some only trail because of max aperture.
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Old 09-24-2018   #11
Robert Lai
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The older lenses were simpler. They had a characteristic rendition depending on their optical design.


I've tried meniscus lenses, doublets, and triplets. The first two are usually on some Kodak.


From my viewpoint, the Zeiss Tessar (Leica Elmar) with 4 elements became the first generally usable lens with great center sharpness, and just some of the outer zones fading into unsharpness. This of course, corrects as you close down. The other benefit of this design is that with few air/glass interfaces, contrast was good even in the uncoated glass days.


The Sonnar design gives an image that many of us love for portraits. Again, center sharpness, dissolving into less sharp fields when wide open. The Sonnar is a fancy triplet derivative, using multiple glued elements.


Then comes the Voigtlander Heliar with 5 elements.
Finally, the almost universal Zeiss Planar design.


Beyond this, lens designers have tried to increase contrast and resolution, decrease chromatic aberrations, increase flatness of field, and to make the corner beams of wide angles come from a less oblique angle. This is all to the benefit of digital sensors. Although their results measure spectacularly, when you approach perfection, all lenses seem pretty much the same. They have lost their particular set of aberrations which gave the simpler lenses much of their character.


I have modern and older lenses. I tend to prefer the oldies, as they give an image with a definite vintage feel to it.
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Old 09-24-2018   #12
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...what makes a lens "classic", "special" etc?

My rule of thumb is any lens that can result in creamy bokeh in a photo can be said to be the above two statements.

That can be any lens, from a 58mm Primoplan to a Helios 44-2 or a common SLR Rokkor 50mm f 1.7 lens or a Chinon 55mm f 1.7 or a crappy Yashinon 50mm f2 lens that is magical at f5.6 for some reason, to a dusty 90mm f4 Elmar lens.
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Old 09-24-2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
For me, "classic" means high resolution but low contrast, typical of many 1960s and 1970s lenses, designed by crafts people and experience rather than by computers. And also before Japanese cameras wholly took over from European ones: the Japanese chased optical perfection far harder than Europeans of that time, so their lenses tended towards high resolution and high contrast.
I'd say the period started earlier, nevertheless *"classic" means high resolution but low contrast* is exactly my understandig, too
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Old 09-24-2018   #14
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Any lens within film era with low contrast and soft edges is classic. It could be called as special also.
I could clearly see why Leica and Canon L series lenses are standing above others (for me).
Canon L is with special ingredients in the glass formula. Don't know how Leica does it, but it is more than corrected and aspherical.
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Old 09-24-2018   #15
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Triplets...but what is the question again?
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Old 09-24-2018   #16
RichC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumarongi View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
For me, "classic" means high resolution but low contrast, typical of many 1960s and 1970s lenses, designed by crafts people and experience rather than by computers. And also before Japanese cameras wholly took over from European ones: the Japanese chased optical perfection far harder than Europeans of that time, so their lenses tended towards high resolution and high contrast.
I'd say the period started earlier, nevertheless *"classic" means high resolution but low contrast* is exactly my understanding, too
Quite possibly! It depends on what you want from a lens, such as the level of resolution and control of aberrations such as the amount of flare.

I tend to photograph in my studio where flare needs to be well controlled (i.e. effective lens coatings) and sometimes print as big as 1 m (3 ft) (i.e. high resolution). To meet my requirements, optics technology had to develop to a certain point, which for me was the mid to late 1960s.
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Old 09-25-2018   #17
David Hughes
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Hi,

When we/you look at photos here on RFF you are seeing a third or forth hand version of the picture and it will be somewhat reduced in size.

So the 36 and 24 megapixel cameras will be resized to (say) 1024 x 78 pixels or even smaller. Doing that hides or removes many of the imperfections as any printer or paste up artist will tell you.

I'd guess that you might think differently if looking at prints or slides done by the same person and process and with the prints at (say) 8" x 12" and bigger still you'd see how crude a lot are.

Regards, David

PS And no two monitors are balanced exactly the same when we are talking about the internet...

PPS And the subject matter distracts people's attention from the lens quality. A good example is the samples on eBay when people are selling cameras. To avoid this look at the photo upside down ...
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Old 09-25-2018   #18
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Personal taste.

Luck.

Nostalgia.

Rarity (if it's rare it must be better).

Sample variation.

Genuinely unusual rendering (above all, the Thambar).

An unusually desirable combination of characteristics, especially high speed and small size.

And finally, lack of anything better to do.
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Old 09-25-2018   #19
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A classic lens is like listening to Antônio Carlos Jobim perform Dindi
You know it when you hear it
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Old 09-25-2018   #20
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If I like it, it's "special". If others like it, it's "classic".
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Old 09-25-2018   #21
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Answers mostly what I expected and not what I'm looking for. Perhaps I wasn't clear, so let me give an example:

Classic Leica 50/2 Summicron. It's a 7 element 5 group design. Nothing fancy optically. (Ain't talking about new lenses that are imo overcorrected, high element count). Classic Summicron. Very average specs for a 50mm prime. Not super fast, to the best of my knowledge nothing exotic...

The above is a world renouned lens. A "classic". "Special". "Legendary". Going rate? I dunno. Guessing $1,000 for a pre ASPH?

So, here's a list of some lenses in this focal length range:

Zeiss Planar (C/Y) 50mm f/1.7
Pentax (FA) 43mm f/1.9
Pentax (A) 50mm f/1.2
Canon (EF) 50mm f/1.4
Yashica 50mm f/1.4 and 55mm f/1.2
Porst 55mm f/1.2
Zenitar 50mm f/1.4
Voigtlander 50mm f/2.5 Color Skopar
Voigtlander VM 50mm f/1.1
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.4
Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.4
Pentax-M SMC 50mm f/1.4

So. My question is. For "basic" primes that fall into "basic" widest aperture range, with same or similar optical formula... Apart from build quality and Q/A what is it that distinguishes these lenses optically -- especially considering the cost differential? Everyone has heard of the legendary "cron". Famous photographers swear by it. Old ones command $1,000 price tags. Nobody cares about the Yashica 50mm 1.4. Same optical formula.

Now. I could argue that, perhaps, in the case of the 7/5 configuration, Leica may have crimmped their widest aperture so you didn't get the crappy, flare-y, low constrast, veiled, CA'd output you get when you shoot such a lens at f1.2, 1.4 or at its widest aperture. Just because you "could" create a 1.4 lens at this range doesn't mean you "should".

But one could argue you can get the same results from a Yashica 50/1.4 shooting at f.2 as one could get from a 'Cron. And why is the 'Cron (as one example) regarded as "legendary" and so sought after? What is the technical distinction over a Pentax or Yashica (say) that can be had for $50-60 bucks with the same optical formula?

Is Leica glass "doped"? Is there a technical reason, optically, they're better? Again, I'm talking two "average" non-exotic primes in the same non-exotic focal lengths, with the same (or similar) common elements/groups (7/5, 6/5 etc.) configuration -- 50's say.

Is the glass itself special/different? If so, how? (Again, I'm not talking asph or high index... etc...)
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Old 09-25-2018   #22
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Them 50mm Summicron is a legendary lens because it was made by Leica and a lot of famous photographers used it. Nobody ever took a famous photograph with the Yashinon lens. Specs don't really enter the equation.
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Old 09-25-2018   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
Them 50mm Summicron is a legendary lens because it was made by Leica and a lot of famous photographers used it. Nobody ever took a famous photograph with the Yashinon lens. Specs don't really enter the equation.
You can always shoot with your Yashinon, and say it was shot with an expensive Leica to get your photo look more interesting.

If you make a photo with a standard 50mm lens on a standard Nikon SLR, and even edit a bit, post-process it... even shoot a digital photo and make it look like a vintage one....

Hypothetically, you put the photo online on a forum and mention the photo was taken with your Leica Summicron... and in another topic you mention it was taken with your Yashinon lens....
In which topic you will get the best critiques you guess? Only because it was because of a more expensive brand, or because the crowd exists of more fanboys from a specific brand?

I did something else like this before in another forum, years ago, as experiment and I remember that the results were somewhat "predictable".

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Last edited by bulevardi : 09-25-2018 at 10:23. Reason: forgot something
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Old 09-25-2018   #24
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To quote the late Dr. Hubert Nasse of Zeiss, "You can't tell what a lens is going to be like until you build it."

In other words, yes, there are differences, but you can't tell what they're going to be in advance.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 09-25-2018   #25
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You can always shoot with your Yashinon, and say it was shot with an expensive Leica to get your photo look more interesting.
That is one reason I never look at, and frankly don't understand, the "show me your [insert camera/lens] shots" threads. You really have no idea what the photos were taken with, and the quality of the images is all over the board, so you don't learn anything. "Look at me: I own a [insert camera/lens]." As if that has anything to do with the image itself. When is the last time you went to a gallery show and the photographer listed his equipment?
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Old 09-25-2018   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NickTrop View Post
Answers mostly what I expected and not what I'm looking for. Perhaps I wasn't clear, so let me give an example:

Classic Leica 50/2 Summicron. It's a 7 element 5 group design. Nothing fancy optically. (Ain't talking about new lenses that are imo overcorrected, high element count). Classic Summicron. Very average specs for a 50mm prime. Not super fast, to the best of my knowledge nothing exotic...

The above is a world renouned lens. A "classic". "Special". "Legendary". Going rate? I dunno. Guessing $1,000 for a pre ASPH?

So, here's a list of some lenses in this focal length range:

Zeiss Planar (C/Y) 50mm f/1.7
Pentax (FA) 43mm f/1.9
Pentax (A) 50mm f/1.2
Canon (EF) 50mm f/1.4
Yashica 50mm f/1.4 and 55mm f/1.2
Porst 55mm f/1.2
Zenitar 50mm f/1.4
Voigtlander 50mm f/2.5 Color Skopar
Voigtlander VM 50mm f/1.1
Minolta AF 50mm f/1.4
Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f/1.4
Pentax-M SMC 50mm f/1.4

So. My question is. For "basic" primes that fall into "basic" widest aperture range, with same or similar optical formula... Apart from build quality and Q/A what is it that distinguishes these lenses optically -- especially considering the cost differential? Everyone has heard of the legendary "cron". Famous photographers swear by it. Old ones command $1,000 price tags. Nobody cares about the Yashica 50mm 1.4. Same optical formula.

Now. I could argue that, perhaps, in the case of the 7/5 configuration, Leica may have crimmped their widest aperture so you didn't get the crappy, flare-y, low constrast, veiled, CA'd output you get when you shoot such a lens at f1.2, 1.4 or at its widest aperture. Just because you "could" create a 1.4 lens at this range doesn't mean you "should".

But one could argue you can get the same results from a Yashica 50/1.4 shooting at f.2 as one could get from a 'Cron. And why is the 'Cron (as one example) regarded as "legendary" and so sought after? What is the technical distinction over a Pentax or Yashica (say) that can be had for $50-60 bucks with the same optical formula?

Is Leica glass "doped"? Is there a technical reason, optically, they're better? Again, I'm talking two "average" non-exotic primes in the same non-exotic focal lengths, with the same (or similar) common elements/groups (7/5, 6/5 etc.) configuration -- 50's say.

Is the glass itself special/different? If so, how? (Again, I'm not talking asph or high index... etc...)
I’ve got 4 of the lenses mentioned here, plus the Summicron, and, yes, they are more the same than different in terms of results most people are going to get from them day in and day out, especially for things viewed on the web, and, yes, composition and lighting will have a bigger effect than which one of these lenses you used.
But, if used identically, and looked at closely, the results are not “the same”.
I know that the optical reasons for that have not been presented so far, and I cannot help either, past this much: Coatings vary from company to company and these effect contrast and color. Lenses are made of glass which is the medium through which the light has to pass. Glass is not just melted sand. The composition of elements used to make the glass effects the results, notably saturation, and varies from company to company. The more exotic formulations cost more to produce. Glass formulations are mostly proprietary, and manufacturers are not giving that information away as AFAIK. So, it’s not all design and number of elements, it is execution as well, as is true for every manufactured item.
(Radioactive elements please come back, all is forgiven.)

Etc. But, you knew all that.

Some really nice performing lenses in the list of cheapos you provided, but they are not exactly Summicrons. Nor is a Summicron exactly a Porst, which is a very nice lens, if the Porst provides what is wanted in a given situation for a given photog.

As to whether any of these differences are worth the money depends mostly on how much money someone has and how tight they are with it. It isnt really a photographic question. If it is worth it to person “A”, it’s worth it. End of story.

But, I think you are asking for what is specifically chemically different about Leica glass formulations or coatings which yields slightly different results, and someone else probably needs to answer that. Maybe another Mueller investigation can turn something up given enough time and money.
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Old 09-25-2018   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bulevardi View Post
You can always shoot with your Yashinon, and say it was shot with an expensive Leica to get your photo look more interesting.

Hypothetically, you put the photo online on a forum and mention the photo was taken with your Leica Summicron... and in another topic you mention it was taken with your Yashinon lens....
In which topic you will get the best critiques you guess?
Greetings, bulevardi,

Would be interesting, I suppose, to post photos taken with the cheapest, bargain-basement plastic thrift-store cameras and claim they were done with a Leica, just to see if anyone can tell otherwise (I predict: No they cannot!). But I think most people here would not do such a switcheroo.

I like the "Show me your pics from a Xxxxx camera..." threads because I think it is interesting to see what people are doing with their vintage film gear, besides using it to weight down some shelves somewhere.

Cheers,
Robert
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Old 09-25-2018   #28
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Years ago when I still shot film, I processed a couple of rolls of HP5 (or maybe it was Tri-X, don't remember right now) that had been shot with both a Canon EOS camera (EOS 1n, IIRC) and a Leica M6. With the Leica, I had used a 50mm Summicron and with the Canon I used the $75 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. The Canon lens was noted to be an outstanding little lens for the price but it had poor build quality and substandard ergonomics, typical of "bargain" optics. The Summicron was, of course, a "classic".

Both rolls of film were shot under similar lighting conditions on the same day an hour or so apart. Both were processed at the same time in the same chemicals. Both rolls of film were virtually identical in observed image quality, enough so that I had to think about which camera I was using to tell them apart. The only true difference was one camera/lens combination was considered "classic" and the other was high quality consumer electronics with a bargain lens.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I have some lenses that I find more pleasing in rendition than others. But I'm still convinced that light quality is the most important factor.
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Old 09-25-2018   #29
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I'd say a 'Classic' lens could be:

Of a design that is so good for its price range that others have copied it because they can't do better. eg. which company has not done a Tessar copy?
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Old 09-25-2018   #30
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Originally Posted by seany65 View Post
I'd say a 'Classic' lens could be:

Of a design that is so good for its price range that others have copied it because they can't do better. eg. which company has not done a Tessar copy?
Yes, also this makes sense, IMHO.

I would add, if we're actually talking about the lens as a physical entity: a *classic* lens doesn't contain plastic. -- At least, if there's plastic in it, plastic is used *with discretion*, as Roger Hicks once said IIRC.
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Old 09-25-2018   #31
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So. My question is. For "basic" primes that fall into "basic" widest aperture range, with same or similar optical formula... Apart from build quality and Q/A what is it that distinguishes these lenses optically -- especially considering the cost differential? Everyone has heard of the legendary "cron". Famous photographers swear by it. Old ones command $1,000 price tags. Nobody cares about the Yashica 50mm 1.4. Same optical formula.
The word "formula" is often used inappropriately (or at least in a too general, vague way) when talking about lens designs. The Yashica and Cron may be built to the same "pattern" of groups of elements, air spaces, etc. but they are not the same "formula".

Let's dumb this way, way down.

Before computers, every lens company had their own computations, their own formulas, which were shared between many, if not all of their lens designs. Because doing these computations took so long before computers, good enough was often good enough, and it wasn't worth the time fixing minor errors. This meant that any flaw in the formulas was shared by all the products in their line up. This is how different companies got associated with different optical effects.*

Then consider, that these proprietary computations would effect every variable. Compare two triplets between two different companies. Each element is going to be radiused according its respective company's formulas. The glass thickness between the two will be different. The air spacing will be different, etc. This despite both lenses being the same "formula" (in the vaguer, misleading, popular usage of the word).

This is not even accounting for differences in coating technologies, or the actual construction of the lens barrels, diaphragms, etc. which vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Nor the manufacture of the glass itself.

*and this is before we even get into different companies optimizing their formulas in search of particular qualities, like valuing a perfect lack of distortion, over sharpness, or whatever else.
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Old 09-25-2018   #32
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Originally Posted by tunalegs View Post
Let's dumb this way, way down.

Before computers, every lens company had their own computations, their own formulas, which were shared between many, if not all of their lens designs. Because doing these computations took so long before computers, good enough was often good enough, and it wasn't worth the time fixing minor errors. This meant that any flaw in the formulas was shared by all the products in their line up. This is how different companies got associated with different optical effects.*

Then consider, that these proprietary computations would effect every variable. Compare two triplets between two different companies. Each element is going to be radiused according its respective company's formulas. The glass thickness between the two will be different. The air spacing will be different, etc. This despite both lenses being the same "formula" (in the vaguer, misleading, popular usage of the word).

This is not even accounting for differences in coating technologies, or the actual construction of the lens barrels, diaphragms, etc. which vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Nor the manufacture of the glass itself.

*and this is before we even get into different companies optimizing their formulas in search of particular qualities, like valuing a perfect lack of distortion, over sharpness, or whatever else.
It's kind of like if you took a pair of mainline Chinese made Levi's 501's and compared it to an American made, cone mills denim LVC (Levi's vintage clothing) 501.

Basically the same thing in a very similar cut, with all the details seemingly similar. In reality, the Denim, the stitching, the way it's built - hidden rivets in the back pockets instead of basic bar tacks on the cheaper 501s, the indigo dye used, the way the machine used to chainstitch around the hem on the USA ones is designed to 'pucker' the hemline after washing, the way the specifically woven 'white oak' denim fades on the LVC ones - The LVC models at 3-4x the price are on another planet of how they wear and how they last. With design, the devil is truly in the details.

The quantifying point is that some people are happy with their $40 Chinese made 501s that in some or even most circumstances look pretty similar to a pair of 78 LVC 60's, and for some people (like myself) the LVC's are worth the extra coin.
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Old 09-25-2018   #33
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Now I'll be the first to admit that I have some lenses that I find more pleasing in rendition than others. But I'm still convinced that light quality is the most important factor.
Indeed.
One of the first lenses I bought was a regular 50mm f1.8 for a regular Nikon electronic film camera. It's a lens made of plastic. And it's sold by local shops here in Belgium to many students going to photography school as they need to work with that 50mm angle in their courses.
It's sold as a 'classic' lens as the angle is that range, doesn't matter which brand.

Anyway, even though it's a cheap lens, I enjoyed it a lot, I'm in love with the angle, the way I had to look and compose the image,...
Until I bought a DSLR where this same lens fits, but with a crop factor it's looking like a 75mm now... too small view. So I bought a 30mm for my DSLR which gives me a 45mm view.
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Old 09-26-2018   #34
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Well, um, I think people say classic to mean something we all know about because someone famous (in the loosest possible sense) has been seen using one. As someone once said about classical music; something that we can all hum or whistle.

In the other sense there are some classic plastic lenses.

And the refractive index of the glass changes things and when plastics came along in optical qualities a lot of glass compound lenses were turned out as - or evolved into - single plastic ones, and then there's the plastic ASPH lenses and so on and so forth...

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Old 09-26-2018   #35
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At least two senses of the word here. Users & collectors and additional questions asked by the thread starter; how do seemingly similar designs have a different performance - if discernible.

Marco Cavina has an excellent website going into some detail about a number of "classics". Refraction and dispersion of each of the glasses chosen stand out as does the optimal subject distance desired from the finished product.

Other differences such as coating, multi-spectral coating and mechanical robustness has already been mentioned. Quality control and precision "sample variation" is another consideration. Mr. Cicalas measurements seem not to stumble upon series of mass produced optics which are diffraction limited.

As for the use of the term,one of Lewis Carolls fairytale figures indicated that a word means what you want it to mean.

For collectors I would imagine that a first of its kind like Voigtländers Petzval qualifies. From there onwards "first" can be debated. Glatzels concave front on the Zeiss 50mm for the Icarex? Angenieux´s zooms and DEMs? Maksutovs mirror lens?

Just as for classic and vintage cars, fame counts. (Rolls, Bugatti) but peculiar designs also qualify (2CV, Panhard). For past excellence, the optical factory equivalents (Leitz, Zeiss, Cooke and so on) springs to mind. A strange design prize might go to the Imagon.

And like for any other attachment to things, like art collection, demand and price can be totally dependent on personal taste and fashion.

p.
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Old 09-26-2018   #36
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. . . And like for any other attachment to things, like art collection, demand and price can be totally dependent on personal taste and fashion.
In other words, "Don't look for a simplistic answer to a complex question".

Exactly...

Cheers,

R.
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Old 09-26-2018   #37
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Originally Posted by tunalegs View Post
The word "formula" is often used inappropriately (or at least in a too general, vague way) when talking about lens designs. The Yashica and Cron may be built to the same "pattern" of groups of elements, air spaces, etc. but they are not the same "formula".

Let's dumb this way, way down.

Before computers, every lens company had their own computations, their own formulas, which were shared between many, if not all of their lens designs. Because doing these computations took so long before computers, good enough was often good enough, and it wasn't worth the time fixing minor errors. This meant that any flaw in the formulas was shared by all the products in their line up. This is how different companies got associated with different optical effects.*

Then consider, that these proprietary computations would effect every variable. Compare two triplets between two different companies. Each element is going to be radiused according its respective company's formulas. The glass thickness between the two will be different. The air spacing will be different, etc. This despite both lenses being the same "formula" (in the vaguer, misleading, popular usage of the word).

This is not even accounting for differences in coating technologies, or the actual construction of the lens barrels, diaphragms, etc. which vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Nor the manufacture of the glass itself.

*and this is before we even get into different companies optimizing their formulas in search of particular qualities, like valuing a perfect lack of distortion, over sharpness, or whatever else.
Exactly. See also post 24.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 09-26-2018   #38
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. . . Would be interesting, I suppose, to post photos taken with the cheapest, bargain-basement plastic thrift-store cameras and claim they were done with a Leica, . . .
Dear Robert,

Not really. By the time the image has been strained through a computer and put up on a low-resolution computer screen (and they're all low-resolution compared with all but the tiniest prints), you are unlikely to be able to tell much about the lens.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 09-26-2018   #39
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Consider the NIKKOR-H Auto 2.8cm F3.5... "it's a reversed telephoto type (now called retrofocus type) composed of a concave front lens group having a convexo (positive) lens and a concave lens and; a ordinary (convexo) rear lens group composed of four lenses having in order of a convexo lens, an aperture stop, a concave lens, a convexo lens and a convexo lens." (1000 & 1 №12). It's not the best Nikon 28mm manual focus lens based on current thinking, but when did that matter... and given its design and timing (March 1960) I would consider it a classic, and you have to love the results... I shoot it almost exclusively with Neopan 100 or the odd roll of KG200.

I was attracted to and purchased the lens mainly because of its place in history (Nikon F, PJ, SE Asia, "Lost over Laos") and only later realized that I like the results... to me the lens has its own way of producing results. Recently I took the lens to Batad in the Philippines (along with my F3P & 50mm f/1.2) and only took a few photos with it... it gave me one of my favorite shots of the trip.
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Old 09-26-2018   #40
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Lightbulb

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Originally Posted by View Range View Post
The first post-war advance in lens capability was the application of lens coatings that were top secret during World War II to every lens produced.
Not really... As early as 1886 the phenomenon of oxide coatings was noted by Lord Rayleigh and 10 years later by Dennis Taylor. Fluoride deposition coatings were patented first by Zeiss in 1935 and first sold in 1939.
In the U.S, B&L sold the first coated projection lenses to Technicolor in the same year. In 1941 Kodak introduced the first completely single-coated line of consumer camera lenses.
I mean, I guess anti-reflection coatings could have been top-secret for all of about 3 months into the war... assuming the Nazi's hid that Zeiss patent from the world 4 years before.

Quote:
Originally Posted by View Range View Post
Then it all changed again with aspherical elements. Leica was the leader in introducing aspherics.
Popular belief seems to indicate that it was Navitar which first mass-produced lens with an aspheric in 1955, 11 years before the Noctilux 50/1.2?

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For me, "classic" means high resolution but low contrast, typical of many 1960s and 1970s lenses, designed by crafts people and experience rather than by computers.
Sorry to break the romance of history (although I find it just as charming an idea), but most large optical companies employed rooms full of 'human computers', mostly women, to ray-trace by mechanical calculators at the behest of the chief designer. Tracing a single ray through a single surface took about 10 minutes and around 20 rays were required at minimum for a lens with moderate aperture, before the aberrations could be understood and the design adjusted and the ray-tracing repeated again. One of the first electronic computers developed for the US Army, ENIAC (and subsequently EDVAC) was used for optical design. A single ray-trace through a single surface only took 1 second on average with it in 1946, so most of the time they were idle while the operator input the data.
Hence, the first generalised stored programs were created so that the computer could optimise the design after ray-tracing.
These programs became more available with highly reliable, mass-produced business computers like the IBM 650 in 1953, and the Zuse Z5 in Germany delivered to Leitz in the same year to assist optical design work, but due to the use of relays rather than vacuum tubes (for reliability of calculations - sometimes tubes made mistakes, though easily identifiable mistakes for an experienced ray-tracer), only managed to perform calculations about 125x slower on average, with lower address space, much, much smaller memory - but weighing about the same.

From 1957, optimisation programs were designed in FORTRAN.
It was not so common for businesses to own their own so-called 'automatic calculators' as it was for them to rent time on them elsewhere. I recall reading a while ago that Zeiss East (or was it Kodak in the 50's?) would have an employee hand-deliver punch-cards across the country every morning, so that results could be optimised in the afternoon or next morning.
Certainly by 1968, large computers were the new norm in Japan but by now they were (understandably) late adopters. Still, Minolta introduced many large-aperture high performance primes over the next few years, beginning with the 58/1.2 and 35/1.8. 10 years later they had so much spare time for clock cycles, they used them to creatively explore and optimise the out of focus areas too!

Undoubtedly too, Fujinon's 11-layer Super EBC coating, first applied in 1969 on TV zoom lenses and by 1972 - with limited supply of the raw materials - on the 55mm F3.5 Macro; and OCLI's 6-layer Multilayer Coating used in the early 60's in military applications before being fully commercialised in 1970 with their new Multilayer Automatic Coater (the original machine still in use today) and thus licensed to Pentax as SMC in 1971, would not have been possible without computer modelling, and electromechanical-integrated manufacturing.
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