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10-07-2007, 03:53 AM   #1
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Looking for low contrast lenses

As a theatrical lighting designer I often use my camera to take pictures of stage lighting, perhaps one of the most difficult environments to photograph well: often with obscenely large dynamic ranges.

So here's my theory I often read descriptions of "good" lenses as both being sharp and having high contrast, is this just another way of saying that it is sharp (micro-contrast, edge contrast) or is it contrast across the entire frame. If this is the case could a lens with "poor" contrast be used to compress the dynamic range of a photograph?

However I don't want a crappy lens, can anyone out there suggest some sharp but low contrast lenses (the wider the better) which might make my life a little easier when dealing with those difficult theatre shots?

10-07-2007, 06:32 AM   #2
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Perhaps the issue is not the lens but the recording medium.

as a start, try shooting with different contrast settings in the camera.

Although I am not normally a proponent of RAW, this may be one time where shooting in RAW is a benefit, as it will give the best dynamic range.

I remember a very long time ago, (I think it was Ben) posted that he could see at least 9 stops of dynamic range when shooting RAW.
10-07-2007, 01:03 PM   #3
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Take lenses that are single coated. :P
10-07-2007, 05:20 PM   #4
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this should be easy.. just try out different numbers of layers of clear baggies stretched over the front of the lens..
this is just a stray thought so let me know if it works..

10-07-2007, 07:22 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by rdc Quote
So here's my theory I often read descriptions of "good" lenses as both being sharp and having high contrast, is this just another way of saying that it is sharp (micro-contrast, edge contrast) or is it contrast across the entire frame. If this is the case could a lens with "poor" contrast be used to compress the dynamic range of a photograph?
Yes you can use lower contrast lenses to compress the dynamic range of a photograph with very contrasty lighting, like for example for stage photography or night shots. Old single coated lenses or lenses with many glass-to-air surfaces and early, low performance multicoating are often good candidates. Have a look at these dance photographs taken with a Canon 50/0.95 lens (10 glass-to-air surfaces), you will notice the very good rendition of the whole range of tones, despite the rather harsh lighting:

Web Catalog

Cheers,
10-07-2007, 11:56 PM   #6
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How about shooting raw and merge to HDR with Photomatrix or Adobe's HDR, so this way, you won't need for a new lens, and you'll have a superior dynamic range.
10-08-2007, 01:34 AM   #7
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I do shot raw, but HDR won't work beacuse actors have this annoying habit of moving between exposures.
10-08-2007, 06:59 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by rdc Quote
I do shot raw, but HDR won't work beacuse actors have this annoying habit of moving between exposures.
I have a screw mount 55mm f1.8 Takumar that's a bit flat... Did you want to use manual focus?

10-08-2007, 08:42 AM   #9
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Why not trying one of the tiffen Ultra contrast 3 filters, they should do what you ask I think.

io have not tried them myself, but I have a friend who loves it.

check the before and after pics from this link:

52MM ULTRA CONTRAST 3 FILTER - Tiffen.Com

Might be cheaper and more effective than a new lens
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