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10-26-2017, 11:07 PM   #1
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Analog Film versus Digital Photography

Helllo

Last week I had a discussion with a Nikon Photograph who tried to tell us that we need to buy new glass when using the new highend fullformat cameras.

I complained. In analog time we had the kodachrome 25 slide film. Comparing with modern Cameras this film has a resolution of about 60Mpx. The D850 has 45Mpx, the K-1 has 36Mpx, so plenty possibilities to use old glass!

Off course, the new lenses has fast AF, better Coating, etc., but the old design of the glass should be able to still make great pictures with lenses from the 1970/1980/1990.

Are I am right? Sure Pentax/Nikon/Canon want to tell us to buy new glass but a large part is marketing and not based on facts! Lenses as SMC Pentax-M 50mm F1.4, SMC Pentax-M 85mm F2, SMC Pentax-A 15mm F3.5, SMC Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8 & SMC Pentax A* 85mm F1.4 are still superb lenses for using with the K-1

Gérard

10-26-2017, 11:24 PM   #2
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The guy is full of it. Old glass can make great pics on new cameras.

Naturally people who work in camera companies want you to buy everything new all the time. Hence they push this idea. It's to their advantage to do so.

For the rest of the people who push this idea the habit many people get into now is pixel peeping. Their photo might be completely devoid of anything interesting, but dang it, check out those pixels!
10-27-2017, 12:55 AM - 2 Likes   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gerard_Dirks Quote
I complained. In analog time we had the kodachrome 25 slide film. Comparing with modern Cameras this film has a resolution of about 60Mpx.
The film may have had a resolution of about 60Mpix* - but the lenses at the time struggled to produce anywhere near this kind of resolution. My personal exemplar of this is the SMCP-K 50mm f/1.2 - it is not the sharpest 50mm lens pentax has ever made, at f/1.2 its resolution characteristic is abysmal, stop it down a bit, circa f/3.5~4 and it gets this soft-sharpness that was considered the holy grail of portrait photography in the 1960s - the kind of sharpness you get when you stretch a black stocking over a Carl Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f/4 C** on a Hasselblad 501C. Stopped down f/5.6~f/11 the 50mm f/1.2 really hits its stride, and performs admirably.



Don't get me wrong old lenses can produce phenomenal images on whatever medium they are used on. But if you're expecting the level of performance offered by new computer designed fully apochromatic primes that are showing up these days, you will be disappointed. In the end, If the artist is happy with the results that is good enough for me.

*I take these kind of statements with a hefty grain of salt - these numbers are nowhere near accurate when taken outside of the lab from which they were derived. 60Mega pixels at 1000:1 contrast perhaps, However, at 50:1 contrast you would only see probably 1/5th of that resolution. I have said before and it bears repeating: Film resolution is heavily dependent upon the photographers technique and ability, camera support systems used,Lenses, film flatness at the rails, film batch, the chemistry used to develop the film, the incantation used while you pour in the fixer, phase of the moon.etc etc

**some photographers would also go so far as to slightly de-focus the lens because for such a simple optical design, it was outrageously sharp.

Last edited by Digitalis; 10-27-2017 at 01:52 AM.
10-27-2017, 03:23 AM   #4
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I am not into pixel peeping and I love old lenses. In fact, I only got my first modern ish AF lenses two months ago (fa 28mm and fa 43) and a first truly new lens about 6 months ago. Until then I was shooting lenses from the 60s and 70s. There is definitely a big difference between old and new lenses. Old lenses can produce beautiful images, there is no doubt about that, but it's also true that with the few modern lenses I have used you can see the difference without pixel peeping. I think they are just different instruments that I use for different things

10-27-2017, 03:37 AM   #5
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If you want insane wall to wall sharpness all the time, perhaps your place is in macro or technical photography. Get yourself an army-surplus machine gun tripod, bolt a KP or K3-ii to that, fit an HD 35/2.8 Limited or a D-FA 50/2.8, and get cracking.

QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
these numbers are nowhere near accurate when taken outside of the lab from which they were derived.
Perhaps, but I appreciate the fact that the lab gives us a reference standard under optimal conditions, to which all films can be subjected. I've just finished working my way through a ten-pack of Tmax 400/36, but I went with Kentmere 400 for my first experiment in bulk loading because (a) it was much, much cheaper and (b) I know the Kentmere is still better than my film-photography skills.
10-27-2017, 05:59 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
... the incantation used while you pour in the fixer...
I'm so relieved to read that! I secretly thought that I was the only one having done that. Although my incantation were usually for the developer.
10-27-2017, 06:47 AM   #7
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Blame pixel peeping for this. Viewing a 36 MPix FF frame on a typical computer monitor @ 100% is basically like viewing film through a 50X microscope. Or it's like enlarging a 35 mm frame to a 50"x75" print or like projecting a slide on the wall but then sitting only a couple feet from it. This kind of extreme magnification was almost never done back in the film days and it will reveal the aberrations and resolution limits of those old lenses.

Yet those old lenses produced beautiful pictures back in the day and they still do. Moreover, modern software can easily correct a lot of the aberrations & softness in any new or old lens especially in images taken at lower ISO.

It all depends on whether the goal is pictures or peeping.
10-27-2017, 07:03 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gerard_Dirks Quote
Are I am right? Sure Pentax/Nikon/Canon want to tell us to buy new glass but a large part is marketing and not based on facts! Lenses as SMC Pentax-M 50mm F1.4, SMC Pentax-M 85mm F2, SMC Pentax-A 15mm F3.5, SMC Pentax-A* 135mm F1.8 & SMC Pentax A* 85mm F1.4 are still superb lenses for using with the K-1
Yes and no...

Yes, because you can use old lenses on the latest camera and get great results.

No because if you want to get the best from the newest cameras, it's probably better to also use the newest glasses... Not only for optical reason, but other features as well, like a fast AF motor.

If you were talking with a Nikon rep, he's probably right telling that there isn't much point buying a D850 over an D810 or even a D750 if you're not planning to use it with modern high end glass. Or that he doesn't see the point in buying a D5 if you don't buy a modern, fast focusing lens to go with it.

10-27-2017, 08:01 AM   #9
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If I were buying my first macro lens for a dSLR right now, I would probably go with the newest and most modern. It's for technical work (one way or another) and you need the best.

If I were buying my first portrait lens for a dSLR right now, I would be very tempted to go Takumar hunting, maybe even Super-Tak as opposed to S-M-C.

It all comes down to what you are trying to do, but if for example you are a bokehphiliac there seems little point in going for the crispest, sharpest glass imaginable. Likewise, as good as the FA31/1.8 is, it wouldn't be my first choice to put a set of tubes behind for technical work at the bench. Pixel peeping to get an idea for what the lens can do at its best is fair enough, but when it becomes the focus of your judging glass you need to reconsider your priorities.
10-27-2017, 08:01 AM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
Blame pixel peeping for this. Viewing a 36 MPix FF frame on a typical computer monitor @ 100% is basically like viewing film through a 50X microscope. Or it's like enlarging a 35 mm frame to a 50"x75" print or like projecting a slide on the wall but then sitting only a couple feet from it. This kind of extreme magnification was almost never done back in the film days and it will reveal the aberrations and resolution limits of those old lenses.

Yet those old lenses produced beautiful pictures back in the day and they still do. Moreover, modern software can easily correct a lot of the aberrations & softness in any new or old lens especially in images taken at lower ISO.

It all depends on whether the goal is pictures or peeping.
It is amazing how reducing a huge digital image slightly makes it sharper .

QuoteOriginally posted by CarlJF Quote
Yes and no...

Yes, because you can use old lenses on the latest camera and get great results.

No because if you want to get the best from the newest cameras, it's probably better to also use the newest glasses... Not only for optical reason, but other features as well, like a fast AF motor.

If you were talking with a Nikon rep, he's probably right telling that there isn't much point buying a D850 over an D810 or even a D750 if you're not planning to use it with modern high end glass. Or that he doesn't see the point in buying a D5 if you don't buy a modern, fast focusing lens to go with it.
Autofocus aside, newer glass tends to be big, expensive, and, to some, renders the world too realistically.

Kind of like how the slower frame-rate of a movie seems more professional than the higher frame rate of a tv show.

Sometimes the best pictures are best because of the imperfect equipment, as the equipment adds to the image in a pleasant way.
10-27-2017, 08:38 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Gerard_Dirks Quote
Comparing with modern Cameras this film has a resolution of about 60Mpx
My slides have zero pixels, though they do have a lot of dye clouds. While Kodachrome has fine grain, its ability to capture detail is usually wildly overstated. The Wikipedia article claims 140 Mpx data equivalent! I suspect that means 3x the theoretical resolution of each of the film's three layers as compared to the theoretical resolution of a digital sensor based on interpixel distance.

Of course, that is all a bit of a red herring. The capabilities of a particular film say very little about how well lenses of the same vintage bend light. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and evidence is that excellent lenses from years past seem to be blissfully unaware that they are being stressed by having a digital sensor at their rears. Lenses that worked well on film tend to work well on digital. Similarly, lenses that worked well with a 10 Mpx sensor tend to work even better when given breathing room at 24 Mpx (a bit more than the practical limit for scanned 35mm film) or greater resolution.

Does one need an Otus to be happy at 36+ Mpx FF? It depends on what makes one happy.

To boil it down, here is a bullet list of considerations:
  • Optical engineering (specifically lens design) is not an expanding field. There has been little new knowledge in the last 75 years.
  • Advances in materials and computer-aided design have allowed designs to come to market that were impossible in past decades
  • The value of modern coatings cannot be overstated
  • Zoom lenses have been the primary beneficiary of modern technologies
  • Modern lenses have the benefit of much improved manufacturing technique
  • Modern lenses are often not very robust despite the benefits of improved manufacturing
  • With the possible exception of coatings, the advances in materials, design, and manufacturing do not translate into a universal "newer is better".
  • The "target resolution" of a lens designed for a 36 Mpx FF sensor is the same as for a 15 Mpx APS-C sensor
  • Corner resolution is highly overrated
That last point is my opinion. For example, what the new D FA* 50/1.4 claims is corner-to-corner sharpness with few, if any optical aberrations and better performance overall than legacy offerings. Cool! Does that mean that the legacy offerings will let one down? I guess that will have to wait until someone wanders into the field with a FA 50/1.4, FA 50/1.7, and the new lens for a head-to-head on the K-1. My guess will be that the FA 50/1.4 will fare poorly, but the FA 50/1.7 somewhat less so.


Steve
10-27-2017, 08:45 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Digitalis Quote
*I take these kind of statements with a hefty grain of salt - these numbers are nowhere near accurate when taken outside of the lab from which they were derived. 60Mega pixels at 1000:1 contrast perhaps, However, at 50:1 contrast you would only see probably 1/5th of that resolution. I have said before and it bears repeating: Film resolution is heavily dependent upon the photographers technique and ability, camera support systems used,Lenses, film flatness at the rails, film batch, the chemistry used to develop the film, the incantation used while you pour in the fixer, phase of the moon.etc etc
Thank you for including this last bit. MTF values for most films made in the last 20 years have been published by the manufacturers and real world maximum resolution may be estimated from those numbers, though it is highly unlikely that any photographer will approach those maximums in the field.


Steve
10-27-2017, 08:53 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by photoptimist Quote
Blame pixel peeping for this. Viewing a 36 MPix FF frame on a typical computer monitor @ 100% is basically like viewing film through a 50X microscope.
I agree, though the degree of magnification is closer to that of an 8x or 10x loup (depending on sensor resolution) when compared to 1:1 pixel mapping.


Steve
10-27-2017, 09:50 AM   #14
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For 40 years Kodak displayed 18 ft. X 60 ft. color transparencies in Grand Central Station in NYC. While the were originally taken on 8" x 20" negatives, eventually a number were shot on 35mm Kodachrome. So ultra enlargements existed in film days. Of course, these were positioned to view the entire mural at once, but it still shows what 35mm Kodachrome could do.
10-27-2017, 10:53 AM   #15
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Just yesterday there was an article on Petapixel about using old glass with modern cameras!

Why You Should Look Into Shooting with Vintage Lenses

(The guy doesn't go into a lot of detail about it, and I find his style a bit annoying, but he has some other cool videos of 8mm films of Canada from the 60's.)
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