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05-15-2014, 08:22 PM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by y0chang Quote
Part of the reason is that modern optical designs have aspherical lens elements and other things that while improving the numbers, create sterile image rendering.
QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
Very true, as far as I can see. The Zeiss OTUS 55/1.4 is a great example here. You can get older lenses that produce more beautiful images, but this $4000 wonder does an amazing job of balancing good measurements with beautiful images. The competing Sigma 50/1.4 Art is more biased towards the measurements (even though the OTUS beats it in measurements too). In contrast, a third new lens - the badly maligned Nikon 58/1.4G - is biased toward beautiful images. While it may be disappointing in some respects, it appears incapable of producing the busy backgrounds that can come out of the Sigma.
This may be the other factor that I'm seeing. The balance of sharpness....sharp yes but not at the expense of a rich depth of the image. But is there an optical quality that "is" that attribute?

05-15-2014, 09:00 PM   #17
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I think we should put this thread into perspective.


The OP stated that he was impressed by the Voigtlander Nokton but could not express what had impressed him.


The discussion has peered into glass ageing and coating colour for want of a clear direction. I think I can supply that now.


The Voigtlander Nokton is clearly in my view producing neutral images so we can discount colour as the major factor here in making the images pleasing.


The characteristics that im seeing are shallow depth of field soft focus and low contrast. As the aperture closes a couple of stops the contrast goes up.


Low contrast is a characteristic of older lens designs and is im sure part of the charm of this lens.


The resolution of this lens is generally good, however when wide open edge sharpness suffers and centre sharpness is lower than when stopped down a couple of stops.


This lower resolution wide open is also a characteristic of older lens designs.


I believe that these are the 2 characteristics that give this lens its appeal to the OP and I also love the images it produces.


What is the cause of these characteristics? My research has revealed that the Voigtlander Nokton is in fact a Zeiss Planar derivative, a double gauss design similar to a Planar or Biotar, both of which designs share the characteristics of low contrast wide open and slightly soft in centre and softer at edges until stopped down.


The 7 element Noktar differs from the 6 element Planar design in having the front element split into two and cemented back together allowing extra surfaces for control of aberrations. It is this change which allows the Noktar to outperform the Planar in image sharpness, Its characteristics are nonetheless unmistakeable and similar enough to the Planar to reveal its family heritage stretching back to 1892.


I would suggest therefore that what were talking about is indeed an old lens design but updated for the 21st century and its beautiful images are the result of this ancient lens design and not due to coatings or glass ageing.
05-15-2014, 11:29 PM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by Imageman Quote
The Voigtlander Nokton is clearly in my view producing neutral images so we can discount colour as the major factor
There's no such thing as neutral images or neutral color from a lens. If there were, both photography and lens design would be simpler. And since this thread is about pleasing skin tones, it's very relevant and shouldn't be discounted.



Nevertheless, your other observations about this lens are interesting and useful. It says a lot about the overall character of images from this lens, and why someone might like it.

The OPs responses show he's interested in a variety of insights and statements that don't have to strictly adhere to a narrow topic, so I'm sure your insights are welcomed by him. But please don't discount what everybody else has said in the process - especially by writing it off with a simplistic statement and not even providing any evidence to back it up.

Last edited by DSims; 05-15-2014 at 11:38 PM.
05-16-2014, 01:27 AM   #19
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Im a little surprised that I taken to task for being too strident and forceful, I said "in my view" the images are neutral, I didn't say they are neutral, am I not allowed a view.


I went on to so "suggest" that we are talking about the lens design, I didn't say this was what was going on, am I not allowed to make a suggestion.


I have looked at many images from this lens and all seem to me to be neutral in colour balance, I said "seem to me". I have also looked at a detailed review of this lens which made no mention of any colour characteristics as being noteworthy, a great deal was however said about the resolution depth of field and behaviour of this lens as it is stopped down. This makes me think that the reviewer saw more of note in these areas than in any characteristic colour balance the lens exhibits.


You seem to be suggesting that im discounting all opinions other than mine. I don't recall discounting anyones opinion I did however table my own. It seems it was unwelcome.


The discussion is about picking up a portrait lens and then asking why I might be producing more pleasing images. And I suspect "skin tone" is a red herring and what the OP was really trying to express was the way the lens renders skin not its colour. I said "I suspect"


Ive seen many portrait lenses advertised and reviewed in the past, and always they were described as a soft focus low contrast design, I cannot recall one portrait lens sold on its ability to render colour differently. Portrait lenses are about soft focus. So I make no excuses for "suggesting" that we are seeing soft focus at work here, particularly as this lens has known soft focus characteristics. Its a portrait lens. There ive been forceful.


Other contributors have made much more strident statements about colour than I have in stating my opinions, yet im the bad guy and my suggestions are too forceful. I guess ill have to find less confrontational words than "I believe, I suggest, and in my view".

05-16-2014, 03:45 AM   #20
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QuoteOriginally posted by Imageman Quote
Im a little surprised that I taken to task for being too strident and forceful, I said "in my view" the images are neutral, I didn't say they are neutral, am I not allowed a view.


I went on to so "suggest" that we are talking about the lens design, I didn't say this was what was going on, am I not allowed to make a suggestion.
You're completely allowed your view. In fact I was very impressed by how much you know about the lens' characteristics. Perhaps I didn't make that clear enough.

I'm just not convinced that color isn't also one of the attributes the OP saw - especially since he mentioned it by name. So I felt you had slighted everyone who tried to figure out what accounts for the color differences each of us have seen in various lenses - particularly older ones. But now I can see that was not your intent.
05-16-2014, 05:18 AM   #21
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Thank you for your kind words, of course I agree colour may be a factor.
I have personally found this thread to be both revealing and rewarding.
05-16-2014, 05:51 AM - 1 Like   #22
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More I.Q.?

Hello Dice, this is a lively and informative subject you've got going!
If I'm understanding the drift of this thead, we can agree that the lens used makes a major difference in how skin tones are rendered. Some lenses appear to be much better at this than others, older glass (generally) being preferred. I'm sure there will be many more recommendations for fine portrait lenses.
And I believe we can also agree that PP can and does effect the final look greatly.
So, if we assume the same lens is used and processing skills are equal, what else would have a major effect on skin tones?
The sensor.
For about the price of a good 'old' portrait lens, you could try a CCD sensor in an older body, my recommendation would be the K10D.
This last-gasp of the CCD in DSLR use (although they're still around otherwise) has been long admired for exactly the qualities you (and others) have described.
Soft color palette, wonderfully warm and subtle tonal range, sharp in the details but much smoother edge resolution, no CMOS tendency towards harshness and brittle sterility.
Oh, and the bokeh rendering with fast glass, opened up? You'll see.
JMO,
Ron
05-16-2014, 05:58 AM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by Imageman Quote
Im a little surprised that I taken to task for being too strident and forceful, I said "in my view" the images are neutral, I didn't say they are neutral, am I not allowed a view.


I went on to so "suggest" that we are talking about the lens design, I didn't say this was what was going on, am I not allowed to make a suggestion.


I have looked at many images from this lens and all seem to me to be neutral in colour balance, I said "seem to me". I have also looked at a detailed review of this lens which made no mention of any colour characteristics as being noteworthy, a great deal was however said about the resolution depth of field and behaviour of this lens as it is stopped down. This makes me think that the reviewer saw more of note in these areas than in any characteristic colour balance the lens exhibits.


You seem to be suggesting that im discounting all opinions other than mine. I don't recall discounting anyones opinion I did however table my own. It seems it was unwelcome.


The discussion is about picking up a portrait lens and then asking why I might be producing more pleasing images. And I suspect "skin tone" is a red herring and what the OP was really trying to express was the way the lens renders skin not its colour. I said "I suspect"


Ive seen many portrait lenses advertised and reviewed in the past, and always they were described as a soft focus low contrast design, I cannot recall one portrait lens sold on its ability to render colour differently. Portrait lenses are about soft focus. So I make no excuses for "suggesting" that we are seeing soft focus at work here, particularly as this lens has known soft focus characteristics. Its a portrait lens. There ive been forceful.


Other contributors have made much more strident statements about colour than I have in stating my opinions, yet im the bad guy and my suggestions are too forceful. I guess ill have to find less confrontational words than "I believe, I suggest, and in my view".
QuoteOriginally posted by DSims Quote
You're completely allowed your view. In fact I was very impressed by how much you know about the lens' characteristics. Perhaps I didn't make that clear enough.

I'm just not convinced that color isn't also one of the attributes the OP saw - especially since he mentioned it by name. So I felt you had slighted everyone who tried to figure out what accounts for the color differences each of us have seen in various lenses - particularly older ones. But now I can see that was not your intent.
Thank you both for shedding quite a bit of light on this for me. Imageman is correct that I was talking about rendering skin and other aspects that make a portrait work. And one of those aspects is skin color. Imageman are you an optical engineer. I am still curious about this notion you suggest older design and whether that means older manufacturing methods (i.e., different sources to make glass, etc.). or whether you referring to the optical design. Thanks again to you both for your contributions.

---------- Post added 05-16-14 at 06:05 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by rbefly Quote
Hello Dice, this is a lively and informative subject you've got going!
If I'm understanding the drift of this thead, we can agree that the lens used makes a major difference in how skin tones are rendered. Some lenses appear to be much better at this than others, older glass (generally) being preferred. I'm sure there will be many more recommendations for fine portrait lenses.
And I believe we can also agree that PP can and does effect the final look greatly.
So, if we assume the same lens is used and processing skills are equal, what else would have a major effect on skin tones?
The sensor.
For about the price of a good 'old' portrait lens, you could try a CCD sensor in an older body, my recommendation would be the K10D.
This last-gasp of the CCD in DSLR use (although they're still around otherwise) has been long admired for exactly the qualities you (and others) have described.
Soft color palette, wonderfully warm and subtle tonal range, sharp in the details but much smoother edge resolution, no CMOS tendency towards harshness and brittle sterility.
Oh, and the bokeh rendering with fast glass, opened up? You'll see.
JMO,
Ron
Hmm that is also very interesting. In fact I am going to take some portraits of my daughter this weekend (for college graduation) and I gave her my K10d. I will try some side by side with my k-5 and see whether I notice even more difference with sensors. Thanks for this suggestion.

05-16-2014, 06:12 AM - 1 Like   #24
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As much as people say, oh I'll correct the skin tone in post. Each company has a special formula to get their idea of neutral color. Lens coatings emphasize certain colors because they filter the other colors slightly. This means its not just an easy white balance change in post. Even if you can get one color to show the way you want, another color may be off. Personally, I love pentax's colors even on their modern lenses, but takumars have this special warm color that is just wonderful for portraits.
05-16-2014, 07:59 AM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by rbefly Quote
For about the price of a good 'old' portrait lens, you could try a CCD sensor in an older body, my recommendation would be the K10D. This last-gasp of the CCD in DSLR use (although they're still around otherwise) has been long admired for exactly the qualities you (and others) have described.
Good that you brought this up also, I believe, though not a lens issue. I have a 6 MP CCD in my K100d Super and, for some applications at low ISO, I like the colors and images better than those from my K5. I know the K5 is a LOT more camera than the K100d Super, but still, I believe it is the CCD sensor that is at least partly responsible for the pleasing results in some applications. I'm not sure exactly how this translates into good skin tones, however.
05-16-2014, 08:12 AM - 1 Like   #26
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QuoteOriginally posted by y0chang Quote
Lens coatings emphasize certain colors because they filter the other colors slightly. This means its not just an easy white balance change in post. Even if you can get one color to show the way you want, another color may be off.
I agree with that. But I think the issue goes beyond that. There's not just one type of blue or green or yellow, but hundreds of varieties of these colors. Nor are all types of blue, green, yellow, etc. aesthetically equal. Some tones of green, some tones of blue, some tones of yellow just look better, are more visually stimulating, than others. Moreover, if you can't get those pleasing tones through the color rendering of the lens, you'll never attain them through PP trickery. PP allows one to make dramatic changes in color. You can turn, say aqua blue into the navy blue or even purple. But you can't make those subtle changes that transform a bland tone of blue into an aesthetically striking tone of blue. My DA 15 nearly always produces striking, aesthetically pleasing colors, even when the AWB is a bit off. Sometimes the blues in images from the DA 15 are a bit on the purple side. But with WB adjustments, I can fix that and still retain striking, aesthetically pleasing colors. I was not able to do that, however, with the DA 18-55. That lens consistently rendered the colors of the leaves of redwood forests with an uninspiring yellow cast. I could change that yellow into a more greenish hue; but I could not change it into a greenish hue that was aesthetically pleasing. The images from the lens often were afflicted with mediocre color; and nothing done in post could remedy that. So it would seem that lenses produce sort of color profiles that determine the types of tones, the overall color palette, that you can achieve in post; and that lenses with superior color rendition allow one to attain a more striking series of colors.
05-16-2014, 08:50 AM   #27
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QuoteOriginally posted by northcoastgreg Quote
I agree with that. But I think the issue goes beyond that. There's not just one type of blue or green or yellow, but hundreds of varieties of these colors. Nor are all types of blue, green, yellow, etc. aesthetically equal. Some tones of green, some tones of blue, some tones of yellow just look better, are more visually stimulating, than others. Moreover, if you can't get those pleasing tones through the color rendering of the lens, you'll never attain them through PP trickery. PP allows one to make dramatic changes in color. You can turn, say aqua blue into the navy blue or even purple. But you can't make those subtle changes that transform a bland tone of blue into an aesthetically striking tone of blue...

So it would seem that lenses produce sort of color profiles that determine the types of tones, the overall color palette, that you can achieve in post; and that lenses with superior color rendition allow one to attain a more striking series of colors.
I found out for myself something similar to Northcoastgreg's observation. And it's interesting, how even though the age of film is long gone, with the unfiltered world of digital sensors using lenses with different color profiles now replace using film with different color profiles. Let's take the case of my landscape kit. I now have 3 lenses, a Sigma 20-40, a Pentax 20-35 and a Tamron 17-50. Essentially three lenses to cover the 20-35mm focal length that I shoot at 80% of the time.

Why three lenses? Well for sunsets/sunrises the sigma is useless, it is overly contrasted and flares horribly. The Pentax doesn't flare as much, but it hates gradient ND filters. Colors seem oversaturated and at times too "brown" to my eyes. So that leaves the Tamron. Some may hate the yellow, but for sunsets and sunrises it seems to really bring out the brilliance in both the water and sky while handling flare really darn well.

So why do I keep the Sigma around? Because in shade, when capturing waterfalls, it is just amazing. I have no other lens that loves water and the muted colors a grotto provides. It seems the lenses "hyper contrast", if that's even a word, brings out the edges in an otherwise dark scene, and it handles ND filters very very well.

So that leaves the Pentax 20-35. It's strength? Blue and green contrasts. Blue sky and green foliage seem to make the lens come alive. If there are wispy white clouds, even better. The 20-35 is my not quite perfect light lens, that works better than either the Tamron or Sigma in fog and mist and mid day light. It's high saturation brings out subtleties that the other lenses can't. It loves flowers and foliage and trees, especially trees.

I couldn't tell you how many elements are in each lens or how many blades in their apertures. And I don't really care. What I want to see on my computer when I open up Bridge for the first time are images that jump out and me and say hang me on a wall. Maybe I should know more about why each lens does things better than another for each scene, but I've found myself overthinking my photography too much lately. For almost a year I got so caught up in pixel peeping and technical perfection, I forgot to enjoy the art or creating photographs and my images really suffered.

I think I'm starting to finally realize it's not a matter of why a lens does something better than another lens, but rather which lens performs in what situation the best. It's really a matter of just getting a bigger bag and making sure I have the right lens for the right scene. As if my bag wasn't heavy enough already. Ugh.
05-16-2014, 09:11 AM   #28
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My contribution:
I remember reading on this forum that a member asked a Pentax representative what was the dfiference between DA40/2.8 and FA43 and the reply was that the former was more suited to architecture and performance at infinity and the latter to skin tones and performance at close focous.

Also, The color differences could be mitigated with the use of a Macbeth color chart and a profile editor (Such as X-rite colorchecker or much cheaper CameraTrax and the Adobe profile editor). There one can modify Saturation, hue and lightness for each color and this can be done for each combination of sensor + lens so that any contribution of the lens is neutralized. I think this would be an interesting test for a CCD vs CMOS using the same lens. Also, for two lenses of the same focal length by different manufacturer, compare two unprofiled pictures and two profiled pictures using the same sensor. Both this tests would make sense using lenses with distinctive quaities. DA15 comes to mind, IŽll see if I can do the first test
05-16-2014, 11:33 AM   #29
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A very valuable discussion--I've been obsessively looking at photos on the Flickriver in hopes of finding the lens that would best render my deep, dark "hollers" here in the Southern Appalachias.


A question for the landscape guys: do warming polarizers like, say, the Singh-Ray gold/blue CPL mitigate whatever problems a lens has with a particular environment, or does it at best just make the already good just a little better?
05-16-2014, 12:50 PM   #30
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QuoteOriginally posted by CreationBear Quote
in hopes of finding the lens that would best render my deep, dark "hollers"
Practice post processing; infinitely more control, less time consuming (compared to interviewing and auditioning lenses), drastically less expensive and you aren't locked into your favourite look on every picture, for all eternity.
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