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Martin Trabalik

Voigtlander MFT vs Contax Zeiss FF

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Hello guys,
I am in the process of building my kit and I would like to ask for your advice.
I want to reach the most cinematic look while maintaining maximal portability and reasonable budget.
So far I was using GH5 with 25mm Voigtlander lens and right now I am thinking of either getting also 10,5mm and 42,5mm to complete my set or going full frame and getting old Contax Zeiss supers.

I like how Voigtlanders work with light, but sometimes I feel I could get more filmic results with vintage lenses (for example with my old Hellios that I am sometimes using). I would like to hear your opinion about Contax Zeiss that are highly praised.

As far as body goes. I like that GH5 can record 442 10bit internal and don't know about any full frame in the same size and price range that could do same. With modern fast and wide mft lenses, full frame kinda looses it's point, what do you think?

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I have just put a bunch of money into MFT and I think apart from choosing the lenses that give you the right look, the elephant in the room is about investing into the MFT system at a time when everyone seems to be going to FF.

For me, I don't see my GH5 as an investment - it's something I will pay to use for the next few years and at some point I'll sell and take a large loss, or would keep as a B-camera.  I suspect that my MFT lenses may also suffer the same drop in value, and I'm ok with that.  If you're ok with that too then that's great, but if you're not then I'd suggest you consider what the MFT lens system is likely to be worth when you're up for your next camera upgrade that isn't MFT.  Maybe the system will live on and if it does then that's great, but if it doesn't then be prepared for that outcome.

In terms of the 'look', you can always buy sharper lenses and soften them in post (which works to some degree) or buy filters that will do the job in-camera.  The added advantage of filters is that the look is adjustable, eg with Tiffen they supply various 'strengths' so you can choose which you like, or even buy multiples and swap depending on the project.  With lens softness (eg, the Helios) you get one look (including the Bokeh, which at MFT crop isn't that strong, but is still there) so you better be happy with it.

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You can't really go wrong either way. The Voigtlanders are great lenses. Vintage full frame lenses are also great and have the added bonus of being adaptable to pretty much anything.

I personally would probably go the vintage route. While I'm invested in MFT and have no intentions of leaving it any time soon, nice vintage lenses are going to retain their value more and be usable no matter what happens to MFT. And like you said you can get some really great and unique footage with them. 

Ultimately though it's up to you and your preference. I've looked into buying used Voigtlanders glass and they seemed to be holding their value pretty well when I looked over the summer. 

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I now use Voightlander primes on my MFT cameras.

Before I bought 'em I often used vintage Canon FD glass on a cheap speedboster. 

Also used vintage Pentax and Nikkor speedbosted primes.  The whole collection of my vintage glass was a weird hodgepodge of stuff.

I kind of like the vintage look, tbh, but it's a different look for sure.  You either like it or not. 

The Voits are great in that I could buy a set of 3 primes --and be good to go with visual consistency. 

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On 11/24/2018 at 11:46 AM, Martin Trabalik said:

but sometimes I feel I could get more filmic results with vintage lenses (for example with my old Hellios that I am sometimes using). I would like to hear your opinion about Contax Zeiss that are highly praised.

 

I have quite a few Zeiss Contax lenses but I don't see anything 'filmic' about them. They are well made, have good resolution, high contrast (quite poor Bokeh BTW) and stand up well alongside modern glass. If you think FF = 'filmic' then be aware that most feature films in the history of cinema were shot on the equivalent of an APS-C size sensor which you can achieve with a speedbooster on your GH5.

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Contax zeiss or leica summicron-R's, summilux-r might be a better investment though. As they are full frame, and you can use them on any camera. As the MFT lenses well you are stuck with the m43 sensor camera's. This is my reasoning though. I owned the contax zeiss but sold of them off, as I tested the summicrons (and the sigma ART lenses) as well. And I liked the summicrons just a tad more, allthough they are a bit softer and a stop less light effective, but thats just a personal feeling, so best test them out for yourself. I did own the voightlanders aswell, which is in my list of favorite glass, but could not have glass lying around here that I could only use on certain camera's, as I swap camera's faster then I swap my toothbrush. 

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I think you can just go out and buy some of the cheaper Pentax, Minolta, Canon FD  manual focus lenses and be done with it. The difference between a Pentax SMC lens and a Contax Zeiss for video is a pretty small gain. In a sense the Zeiss are too good to be honest. Hardly Filmic being sharp. But they do have a special look.

And personally I don't think shooting in 4K is ever going to look Cinematic. It is just too sharp especially on a GH5. They aren't known for being very Filmic to start with. The PK4, yeah that can have that look in spades. The Tiffen Pro Mist filters can take the edge off of too sharp of lenses. Cheaper way to go, at least to start with. And maybe using Sage's LuTs he has. He has done a good job with them.

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On 11/26/2018 at 1:25 PM, kye said:

I have just put a bunch of money into MFT and I think apart from choosing the lenses that give you the right look, the elephant in the room is about investing into the MFT system

Would be a hell of lot less risky if only Panasonic had shown support for MFT in their next tier up of cameras, such as a Panasonic EVA1 MFT (or even an AF200 or DVX200 with a MFT mount). 

Or at least if BMD had released an UMP with MFT mount!

Are only hope as MFT users now is a JVC LS200??

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On 12/26/2018 at 10:39 AM, IronFilm said:

Would be a hell of lot less risky if only Panasonic had shown support for MFT in their next tier up of cameras, such as a Panasonic EVA1 MFT (or even an AF200 or DVX200 with a MFT mount). 

Or at least if BMD had released an UMP with MFT mount!

Are only hope as MFT users now is a JVC LS200??

I think it depends on how long you consider and how much you're investing.

We all know that technology is a poor investment overall, but we seem to have the idea that lenses is the exception to this rule.  In a sense it's true, but everyone who invested in the systems we now refer to as "cheap vintage" lenses made poor investments (eg, m42, etc).  I've put under $2k into MFT system lenses, less even than the GH5 body cost me, so when I upgrade from the GH5 in a number of years I won't have a huge investment there.  For me the investment is so little, and the life expectancy of my GH5 is so long, that it doesn't matter much to me if their value approaches zero.

Had I put $25k into Canon L lenses it might be different...  People make those kinds of investment over the course of their career and expect that lenses will last a whole career, which I think is riskier.  In that sense, investing into a set of lenses that are already vintage might be the better way to go.  Having a mirrorless future also means that there will always be adapters available for SLR lenses and you can swap systems whenever you want.

The value of the Contax will be larger in 50 years than the MFT lenses for sure, but if you're talking which will give you the best overall return when you take into account the usability, results, and final sale price, then it really depends.  MFT lenses have AF and lower weight, and all sorts of stuff that manual FF primes with adapters don't, and those things play a part.

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If you don't need the auto focus using vintage primes is a great idea. Getting a variety of focal lengths from the same company, so the contrast and color doesn't change everytime you put on a new lens, is a good idea. I went with Minolta. 

Full frame always has the advantage of better high iso performance and usually dynamic range. However the GH5 is a very solid performer. You can do so much with the color being 10 bit and the rolling shutter and IQ is great. 

If you want auto focus and a sharper image the Voigtlander is the way to go. But otherwise vintage stuff can be had for a lot cheaper. 

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10 hours ago, thebrothersthre3 said:

If you want auto focus and a sharper image the Voigtlander is the way to go.

I thought the OP was referring to the 25 f0.95 lens which is manual focus?  (This one: https://www.voigtlaender.de/lenses/mft/25-mm-10-95-nokton-ii/?lang=en )

If AF is available on those lenses then I've been using my 17.5mm lens wrong!!

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30 minutes ago, kye said:

I thought the OP was referring to the 25 f0.95 lens which is manual focus?  (This one: https://www.voigtlaender.de/lenses/mft/25-mm-10-95-nokton-ii/?lang=en )

If AF is available on those lenses then I've been using my 17.5mm lens wrong!!

Set it to infinity @ f16 and shoot mountains very far away. Perfect AF every time. 😜

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haha I was always under the impression they were auto focus lenses. That is certainly a bummer. 

I definitely would not pay the premium for them then. 

Of course any .95 lens is going to be expensive. Though if you get 1.4 lenses and use a speedbooster you'll have the same amount of light coming in. Of course a speedbooster will limit your options of lenses. Most speedbooster introduce problems you might not want as well. The new metabones speedboosters do a great job but of course they are quite expensive. 

 

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Maybe I could provide some information if you are interested for something specific and comparison opinion?

Namely, I had and thoroughly tested Leica R and Zeiss Contax line of 4-5 lenses as also compared them with Voigts for usage on GHx cameras. Results - gradually I sold of Leica R's and at the moment keep just Distagon 35 1.4 for the case of buying some FF camera. But, actually, I put in the market even that Distagon and have potential buyer for 850e :)

I keep Voigts 10.5, 17.5 and 42.5

(Simply, from my experience, m43 cameras are all in all - regarding equally all aspects - today best tools for indie and fast moving film making. I'm not at all bother about future - actually, I think there will be no "future" in sense of importancy of technical progression and better tools. Similar to, say, audio equipment. Now we are horribly lacking vision, imagination, deepness and - IMO - taste. To proceed with comparison - we lack Mahler and Shostakovich and their kind of experience, not capable instruments to play and to reproduce.)

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7 hours ago, webrunner5 said:

Set it to infinity @ f16 and shoot mountains very far away. Perfect AF every time. 😜

Considering that the infinity stop is past infinity and there is no focus lock, and f16 is the FF equivalent of f32 and quite soft due to diffraction, I'd say that's a terrible idea! 😝😝😝

6 hours ago, thebrothersthre3 said:

haha I was always under the impression they were auto focus lenses. That is certainly a bummer. 

I definitely would not pay the premium for them then. 

Of course any .95 lens is going to be expensive. Though if you get 1.4 lenses and use a speedbooster you'll have the same amount of light coming in. Of course a speedbooster will limit your options of lenses. Most speedbooster introduce problems you might not want as well. The new metabones speedboosters do a great job but of course they are quite expensive. 

If you compare them to photo lenses then they sound like they're not worth it, but if you set them to de-click the aperture and think of them as cine lenses then it's a whole different price bracket altogether where they're an absolute steal!

One thing you can't tell about these lenses until you get them is the build quality, which is through the roof.  They are completely solid, and the focus and aperture controls are silky smooth, and overall they're absolutely wonderful to use.  I'm a technically inclined dreamer, and I'm always noticing the shortcomings of things and dreaming about what improvements I might want to make, and after shooting with it as my default lens for about 20 days now, I have had exactly zero thoughts about what I could improve with the Voigt I have (17.5mm).  I never want it to be faster, or nicer to use, or whatever.

The only downside I'm aware of is that they're quite soft wide open, but they are a lot faster than the competition and I think are sharper than the cheaper MFT lenses at the apertures that they max out at.  For me, ultimate sharpness isn't something I care about, and lenses like the Helios that both I and the OP have are pretty soft too, so it's not a problem for me.

As everyone on the planet knows, AF isn't the reason you get a GH5, so manual focus fits with that system, and if you use the 4X digital zoom and focus peaking to help you set focus each shot then it's relatively fast and pretty accurate working with it.

2 hours ago, anonim said:

Maybe I could provide some information if you are interested for something specific and comparison opinion?

Namely, I had and thoroughly tested Leica R and Zeiss Contax line of 4-5 lenses as also compared them with Voigts for usage on GHx cameras. Results - gradually I sold of Leica R's and at the moment keep just Distagon 35 1.4 for the case of buying some FF camera. But, actually, I put in the market even that Distagon and have potential buyer for 850e :)

I keep Voigts 10.5, 17.5 and 42.5

(Simply, from my experience, m43 cameras are all in all - regarding equally all aspects - today best tools for indie and fast moving film making. I'm not at all bother about future - actually, I think there will be no "future" in sense of importancy of technical progression and better tools. Similar to, say, audio equipment. Now we are horribly lacking vision, imagination, deepness and - IMO - taste. To proceed with comparison - we lack Mahler and Shostakovich and their kind of experience, not capable instruments to play and to reproduce.)

Interesting to hear you prefer the Voits over the Leica / Contax lenses.  What is it about them that you prefer?

I completely agree with you about talent vs equipment.  Not only with the Hollywood crowd pumping out unimaginative and formulaic action movies with gorgeous equipment, but also my decidedly clumsy and amateurish film-making combined with the lovely equipment I am making it with!

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On 12/27/2018 at 5:12 AM, kye said:

We all know that technology is a poor investment overall, but we seem to have the idea that lenses is the exception to this rule.  

The value of the Contax will be larger in 50 years than the MFT lenses for sure, but if you're talking which will give you the best overall return when you take into account the usability, results, and final sale price, then it really depends.  MFT lenses have AF and lower weight, and all sorts of stuff that manual FF primes with adapters don't, and those things play a part.

From an investment point of view, good manual lenses are a lot safer: there is only metal and glass, no electronic that suddenly becomes obsolete and if they perform perfectly now, they will also perform perfectly 30 years from now, there is a general opinion on them about their outcome and defects, you only have to check the flange distance and they can be adapted to almost any camera, any initial sale tax or seller’s margin has been already absorbed and so on.

You could also buy used and resell used. Actually I have done this quite a few times, sometimes even making a profit. Think of this as a free long term rental from yourself, even with a possible small return.

 

I would try to guess about your future needs and what would be of m43 system (since Panasonic went full frame with Leica and Sigma in the joint venture, will there be a gh6 in the future?). Personally I would go the vintage way and try to hunt for the best deals and models (Zeiss ZF, Leica M and R, some Nikon F). And, let’t be honest, how many lenses do you usually need? 3-4 maximum at a time. With old full frame lenses you have plenty of choices without committing yourself to a system. And if you make a mistake, you don’t pay it dearly.

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12 hours ago, kye said:

Interesting to hear you prefer the Voits over the Leica / Contax lenses.  What is it about them that you prefer?

 

Both lines are equally exceptional - just matter of taste and actual task which to prefer: milky and smoother Leica R's, or touch sharper and cotrastier Contax's. (And what is more interesting, their color characteristic are so deeply inner, that no matter how long I tried, for me it is impossible to achieve exactly the same character in grading process.) When I say "exceptional", I mean mostly mechanic quality and manual focusing precision. After 20 or so year, there's no rule which is better in that regard. When they were both young, I'd say that in general Leica's are tad better. But, contrary, I'd see more Contax's in well shape than Leica's. Also Contax has 60mm 1:1 macro, Leica R not, but Leica R has beautiful and not so expensive 28-70, while Contax has those exceptional and bulky push-pull zooms. Ah, indeed not to much lucky with zooms for m43 users!

But, Vogitlanders for m43 IMO have traits of both character at different f values. (Some sort of m43 Cooks I'd even say.) Voigts rendering is also bit or two cleaner than Leica R and Contax which I had (you always have to calculate and age). In fact, as FF Voigtlanders are competitive both to Leica M and modern Zeiss lenses, it seems that these m43 variants have extremely successful combination of both know-how origin of competitiveness - besides it that actually the same factory Cosina products them and modern Zeiss.

Of course, It's easy to understand question and worry about reselling value - but, once I understood that I'm working now, and that nothing better with tasks that I may encounter in near future doesn't need anything "better' or, to be truth, "more impressive to client" ... I choose to invest and keep those wonderful Voigts as best tools for me now.

You know, lenses are more as human with character - when you find real one friend, than it's not so nice to think how to resell them later :)

Their 0.95 for movies are better than Leicas and Zeiss 1.4 or 2 with speedbooster. People who point to 0.95 softness just don't use them correctly: there are always curvature to which have to pay attention. Their construction is well thought to achieve completely effective image at one zone of focusing. Better is impossible. Actually they are better than Leica Noctilux.

I also conceived that, actually, I didn't like more optics and more complication with adapters.

What people maybe often tend to forget is that - f0.95 is really T1.1 in the light gathering, but in depth of field it is not THAT uncontrolled shallow for video. So, having lenses that gather T1 and has depth of field of FF 1.8 value is fantastic and simple not existing in FF lenses world. Sigma Art's with speedbooster and some Milvus may be close - but I had also 18-35 twice and resell them because of sterile-and-oversharpening-undersmoothness in character (although unbeatable as run/gun tools), and Milvus have double price of Voigts.

Furthermore, Voigts with, say, GH5 (especially with Sage's lut),  mostly  diminished importance of GH5s for low light, still keeping stabilization.   

Shortly - maybe the main point is mine decision: living in afraid and permament recalculation of reselling and re-usage regarding money values, or learn inside-out best tools for my tasks. And I think there's no dilema: Voigts and Pocket and GHx series and probably Olympus or JVC etc. - at the moment produce image so competent that approach maximum level that human eyes can perceive, nothing to say about even more importancy of content, of inner beauty and aesthetic of respectable works.

The same goes with Fuji or Sony - but for reason that is needless to repeat, my choice is m43 and Voigtlanders as lenses that IMO squeeze every drop of know-how and a la cameleon exchangeable artistic qualities :)

 

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