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kye

Screw buying new cameras, after salivating over cine lens tests I'm spending real money on lenses

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This thread is mostly for me, but I figured that I'd post it instead of just making my own notes as it might be of casual interest to someone.  Read at your own peril - this will likely fall down every rabbit-hole available.

Still with me? Ok, to catch up to where I am, watch and study these videos....

If you're not lusting after the $40,000 Zeiss Master Anamorphic after watching the first one then go watch them all again before proceeding.

I've just sold my car (wasn't using it) so more money for lenses!  I use a GH5 and own the Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 which I really like, and I've settled on having a super-wide ~8mm and probably ~40mm lengths.  The Voigt is pretty rubbish wide-open, but when compared to F2 lenses the Voigt is already stopped-down two stops when they're wide open, so if you're stopping it down a bit then there's real advantages, plus if I ever need the extra exposure (I shoot in available light so that happens sometimes) or want to have the shallow DoF (which also happens) then I can do that.

I own the SLR Magic 8mm F4 which is an ok lens, isn't that great optically but isn't terrible either, but it's a drone lens so the ergonomics are completely rubbish.  I also own both the Konica Hexanon 40mm f1.8 and Helios 58mm F2 plus an m42 SB.  I am not a fan of the swirly bokeh of the Helios (although using it on MFT gets rid of the majority of it on the edges of the frame), and I used the 40mm wide-open on a recent trip and it did not perform well, to put it mildly.  Soft as hell as well as all sorts of nasty aberrations.  The Voigtlander 42.5mm f0.95 would be stopped down two stops when rendering the same image, so that's something to consider.

I've previously identified that I wanted the Laowa 7.5mm F2 lens and was happy with the Konica, but after the Konica had its minor meltdown I'm now wondering if I should replace it with the Voigtlander, or what I should do.

Speaking with some pros on other forums about lenses, and especially the guys that know what they're doing in post, the advice was to capture the highest resolution image you can and degrade it in post, or use something like a Black Pro Mist filter.

Before I spend any real money on some lenses I figured doing some real research and working out what I really want might be in order, thus this line of thinking and this thread.

Next step is to study cine lenses and see what they are actually doing, even just as a reference point.

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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

Let's look at resolution.  Here's a bunch of resolution tests of the Zeiss CP.2, Zeiss CP.2 SuperSpeeds, Zeiss CP.3, and Zeiss Supreme Prime series.  

https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2019/06/just-the-cinema-mtf-charts-zeiss-cine-lenses/

If you don't know how to read and MTF chart then go read some thorough tutorials and come back - warning: hanging with the brick-wall-photographers that think MTF charts are the scoreboard of their egos will rot your brain, consider yourself warned.

My notes from the above article on the Zeiss lenses are that:

  • With the exception of a few lenses (which are mostly wide or long) their centre resolution is typically between ~0.93 and ~0.5 when wide open
  • Edge resolution typically drops off quite significantly and also may go through complex curves on the way (likely due to field curvature, but that wasn't covered in the article)
  • The CP.3 series is typically much better than the CP.2 series, and the Super Speeds, which are a classic, are worse, although they're also at a wider aperture, which is a nice segue to.....

This article looks at what happens when you stop down, and includes some other cine lenses too (Canon CN-E, Sigma Cine, Rokinon Xeen) 

https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2017/11/testing-lenses-stop-downed-mtf-curves/

From this we learn that:

  • Lenses sharpen up when stopped down...  I mean, who knew!
  • Edge resolution is still pretty poor and the Sigma looked completely rubbish (once again, it looks like field curvature)
  • Lots of astigmatisms happening off-axis

This article talks about best-MTF curves: https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2017/11/testing-lenses-best-individual-focus-mtf-curves/

This points out that these lenses are capable of very good performance across most of their image circle, so the issues in previous articles are to do with field curvature.

So, let's talk about field curvature and taking the average best performance: https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2017/11/testing-lenses-finding-the-best-average-focus-point/

That basically says that if you focus so that the most of the subject is in the best focus then it'll be better than making the centre point completely in focus and not caring about the rest of the image.

For a change of pace, let's look at the Fujinon MK 18-55 T2.9 lens: https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2017/02/first-impressions-of-the-new-fujinon-mk-18-55mm-t2-9-cine-lens/

It's only a first impression and the MTF charts only show it wide open, but it looks like the other cine lenses with edge performance dropping off.

This article shows that the Veydra Cine Mini Prime lenses are very good lenses with great resolution and very little field curvature, and they absolutely kill the CP.2 for resolution.

https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2018/03/veydra-cine-mini-prime-mtf-optical-bench-tests/

Here's one showing the Rokinon / Samyang stills and cine lenses: https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2019/04/just-mtf-charts-rokinon-samyang-lenses/

....and finally here's an article about testing cine lenses, why they didn't do it in the past and why they started.  It's interesting because it speaks to the concerns of cinematographers vs photographers but also brings in the topic of resolution and how when you've got a bunch of lenses that all looked sharp before and you increase the resolution some of them will still look sharp and others won't.  Fun stuff. https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2017/07/why-were-going-to-start-testing-cinema-lenses-and-why-we-havent-before/

Something that's worth pointing out is that not all lenses do get significantly worse towards the edges of the frame.  While rare, lenses like the Nikkor 85mm f1.4 and f1.9 lenses are almost flat between their centre and their edge: https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2019/04/just-mtf-charts-nikon-prime-lenses/

After all this talk of resolution, I haven't yet talked about if this actually matters.  I'll get there, I promise.

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This is the Zeiss CP2 wide-open at T2.1:

273532133_4Zeisscp23KT2.1.thumb.png.9057c61124840556b573318cc9d60b27.png

This is the Xeen wide-open at T1.5:

921620217_XeenT1.5.thumb.png.789c6a3fb7fc81d8a933dc3332d4bc8e.png

This is the Zeiss CP2 at T4:

1082280230_6ZeissCP2T4.thumb.png.2b05acccd6202ec6d9f739595a5c716c.png

This is the Xeen at T4:

441797727_XeenT4.thumb.png.12eab683233aa3fbaec4d846d1903596.png

To my eye, both look soft wide open and both look great at T4.

Here's their MTF charts:

Zeiss-CP.2-50mm-T21.-MTFsml.jpg

Xeen-50-MTFsml.jpg

The Xeen is quite obviously far worse than the CP.2 when wide open, yet the test shots appear similar to me.  Or, at least, the difference in focal distance between them could account for the entire difference.  Relating this back to myself, I find focus to be a hit-and-miss affair so there's not much point nit-picking at something I will almost never completely nail.

Stopped down they both improve vastly, both in the charts as well as in the images.  In theory the CP.2 has way worse performance due to much greater field curvature, but there's nothing in frame in the test shots, so who knows.

I think the Xeen was the worst performing lens wide-open that I saw in the above articles, so not being able to see it in the test images is interesting.

To illustrate a point, here's the $40,000 Zeiss Master Anamorphic wide open at T1.9:

1989794068_1master40kt1.9.thumb.png.46367242f7fba1699ef6490c8b125c83.png

Not so high resolution either, although I couldn't find an MTF for this lens, the resolution of the others (at least in the centre where we actually have something in focus) is better at T4 than this lens is at T1.9, so this is simply a fact of life.  What it does mean, however, is that wide-open resolution isn't the focus, it's resolution at apertures that you will shoot.

Just for fun, here's a modified and re-branded Helios 58mm F2 at T4:

708532776_7DogSchidtT4.thumb.png.34a1f330b937100982b7e765d7db2ea6.png

It obviously has less contrast (the mod removed all the coatings to deliberately make it flare - which it does spectacularly) but the resolution is also there.

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Let's look at what's on the table for ~40mm then.

This article compares a number of ~40mm MFT lenses:  https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2018/03/finally-some-more-m43-mtf-testing-are-the-40s-fabulous/

The Voigtlander performed very well, and despite being the worst performer wide-open (which is essentially an un-fair test), was comparable when stopped down to 1.4 which was wide-open for the rest of the pack, it was close to the top of the pack at F2.8, and drew for first place in how flat the field curvature was.

voigt-f1.4.png

voigt-stopdown-sml.png

voigt-42.5-f0.95-field-small.png

I think this bears out the idea that this lens is around the performance of the other high-performance lenses at any given aperture, but can simply open up further than the other lenses.  From the commentary in the article I think this isn't something that can be assumed however, so isn't a general rule.

This article looks at the Konica Hexanon: https://erphotoreview.com/wordpress/?p=1902

Konica40f18_NEX3_MTF50.jpg

The MTF50 shows that there is an absolutely huge difference when you stop down a couple of stops.  This bears out in my experience.

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So, let's summarise.

Lenses (*that I found the data for) tend to lose resolution away from the centre and have varying degrees of field curvature.  They get better when you stop down, and even the best lenses wide-open aren't as good as cheap-as-chips lenses stopped down by even a single stop.

(* although I couldn't find MTF charts for the Zeiss Master Anamorphic I found comments that the measurements are very impressive and they're sharp from edge-to-edge)

Some of the classic lenses measure poorly (eg, Xeen and Zeiss SuperSpeeds) but visually they are not radically different to the best lenses.

I'm not going to say that resolution doesn't matter, but what I am going to say is this..  I think the absolute levels of resolution probably don't matter much, but the overall character of it may, for example how the lens goes from centre-to-edge and what kind of issues (like astigmatism) it has along the way.

Besides, even if it did matter, there are options around that do a very passable job.  Many of the MFT ~40mm lenses were amongst the cine lenses in performance and characteristics, and the Veydras (when on MFT) out-resolve the CP.3s (on any sensor) and slaughter the CP.2s.

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1 hour ago, kye said:

The Veydras (when on MFT) out-resolve the CP.3s (on any sensor) and slaughter the CP.2s.

Which is why all roads should lead to Meike for you and your GH5 ;)

When the additional focal lengths are released shortly the entire 6 lens set will be available for less than £2500, which is a seriously good deal based on their "similarity" to Veydras.

The bigger investment for you though if you went that route would be in adapting to the practicalities of using them, predominantly in terms of using some sort of follow focus.

On the upside, with a matched cine set having commonality in terms of focus gear placement, filter thread size means swapping lenses is simpler than when using a disparate bunch of stills lenses.

I'd actually say that in terms of adding bulk and conspicuousness to your shooting rig, the Tilta Nucleus Nano wireless follow focus is neither here nor there compared to a small shotgun mic with a furry on it and the difference it will make to your focusing control is well worth it.

Of course investing in the Meike's would tie you in to sticking with MFT mount cameras but with BM and Z Cam offering more pure cinema paths should you want a different alternative to your GH5 then its not a particularly bad cul de sac.

Well, I say it keeps you tied in to MFT mount cameras but I'll put up a thread later on that actually disproves that ;)

 

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39 minutes ago, BTM_Pix said:

Which is why all roads should lead to Meike for you and your GH5 ;)

Or set of Voigtlanders, which was my choice although I already had Veydras - two stops more of usability and some bi-nature rendering characteristics was crucial for decision. Being aware of high accuracy and deep rethinking of Kye,  I mentioned it just for the sake of adding note about follow focus usage with excellent manufacturers of gear rings

https://followfocusgears.com/collections/voigtlandera

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5 hours ago, kye said:

 

If you don't know how to read and MTF chart then go read some thorough tutorials and come back - warning: hanging with the brick-wall-photographers that think MTF charts are the scoreboard of their egos will rot your brain, consider yourself warned.

Honestly i been meaning to ask the question about brick walls, been giving it a little thought. I feel your a little too condescending towards the unambiguous brick wall. I'm not sure they deserve being slighted by you. Personally i like em, their strong, upright in character, come in a range of colours, they usually built square and level, they don't move around much, which is handy when you want to go back for another lens test shot. They do give you a cheap way to test for three specific aberrations in a lens: rectilinear distortion, edge sharpness, and vignetting. They may not give you the mtf of a lens or how many lines of resolution a lens will resolve. I do think there's room in everyone's digital darkroom for brick wall test chart.?

edit : there is veydra mini cimema primes on ebay at the moment whether any of them are good prices i dont know

 

 

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In my opinion, you’re looking at this too analytically. Test charts and head turning videos on boring sets can only tell you so much.

One of the most important factors in any image is rendering and an MTF chart will not show you that... only your eyes will. For instance, the Veydra vs Zeiss CP.2 numbers you referenced... 

Take the Zeiss 28mm f/2 lens for example... the Contax version was known as “The Hollywood” due to the way it renders the OOF edges of the frame due to the extreme field curvature. The ZF Classic version is a very similar design as the C/Y version and uses the same glass as the CP.2. Check our this, real world, review of that lens...

https://www.google.com/amp/s/blog.mingthein.com/2012/07/19/zf28distagon/amp/

Also look at Cookes or Baltars... they aren’t perfect lenses by any means, but they have character and some of the best films of all time have been shot with them.

Anamorphic lenses are revered due to their flaws.

Color separation, tonality, 3D Pop, OOF highlights and even flaws... these characteristic can add charm and dimension to your images. They can help you tell the visual story you’re trying to tell.

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Voigtlander 42.5mm f0.95 vs Veydra 50mm T2.2......

The Veydra has excellent performance:

50mm-T2.2-Mini-Prime_MTF_sml.png

However, the right comparison to that is the Voigtlander at T2.2, which is part-way between these two curves:

voigt-stopdown-sml.png

So, what we have is:

  • The Veydra is the clear winner in the edges but the closer you go to the centre the lower its lead gets
  • The Voigtlander can open up two extra stops (with declining performance of course) should you want/need that
  • Assuming the Meike performs the same as the Veydra, it's significantly cheaper, but the Veydras are roughly similar

Now, the question is .....does resolution matter?

My observations about the Xeen seem to suggest that it doesn't.  The Xeen is terrible wide open, but stops down fine:

Xeen-50-MTFsml.jpg

Of course, the Voigtlander at T1.4 kills the Xeen at T1.5 everywhere except the last little bit at the edge of the frame (remember that the Xeen is plotted across a wider scale), and the Xeen looked fine in the test above when stopped down.  I don't have an equivalent MTF of the Voigt at T4 so can't compare, but here's one that shows that it keeps improving from T2.8 to T4:

highres-Voigtlander425_MTF_1383035056.jp

In fact it's gone past 'Excellent' and way off the scale! lol.

There are other factors to consider as well, of course.  Like colour rendering - No idea about the 42.5mm Voigt but my 17.5mm goes quite magenta when opening up the last two stops.

3 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

Of course investing in the Meike's would tie you in to sticking with MFT mount cameras but with BM and Z Cam offering more pure cinema paths should you want a different alternative to your GH5 then its not a particularly bad cul de sac.

Well, I say it keeps you tied in to MFT mount cameras but I'll put up a thread later on that actually disproves that ;)

Yes, these all lock me into MFT, although FF is just a fad, so I'm not concerned!

I am intrigued to hear why it doesn't though - unless it involves using a TC to expand the image circle back to cover FF ???

2 hours ago, anonim said:

Or set of Voigtlanders, which was my choice although I already had Veydras - two stops more of usability and some bi-nature rendering characteristics was crucial for decision.

What are "bi-nature rendering characteristics"???

1 hour ago, leslie said:

Honestly i been meaning to ask the question about brick walls, been giving it a little thought. I feel your a little too condescending towards the unambiguous brick wall. I'm not sure they deserve being slighted by you. Personally i like em, their strong, upright in character, come in a range of colours, they usually built square and level, they don't move around much, which is handy when you want to go back for another lens test shot. They do give you a cheap way to test for three specific aberrations in a lens: rectilinear distortion, edge sharpness, and vignetting. They may not give you the mtf of a lens or how many lines of resolution a lens will resolve. I do think there's room in everyone's digital darkroom for brick wall test chart.?

edit : there is veydra mini cimema primes on ebay at the moment whether any of them are good prices i dont know

There's nothing wrong with filming brick walls in preparation for shooting a film that will feature brick walls that for some reason must have them without any distortion, but in preparing for any other type of film, they're of almost no use whatsoever.  Of course, for many of those shooting footage of brick walls, they get confused when you get to the part about "preparing to shoot" as typically the only thing they do shoot are lens tests.

The Veydras on ebay I saw weren't that well priced, assuming that Duclos have stock (https://www.ducloslenses.com/collections/veydra-primes) and if the Meike really are the same as Veydras then they're really overpriced!

16 minutes ago, mercer said:

In my opinion, you’re looking at this too analytically. Test charts and head turning videos on boring sets can only tell you so much.

One of the most important factors in any image is rendering and an MTF chart will not show you that... only your eyes will. For instance, the Veydra vs Zeiss CP.2 numbers you referenced... 

Take the Zeiss 28mm f/2 lens for example... the Contax version was known as “The Hollywood” due to the way it renders the OOF edges of the frame due to the extreme field curvature. The ZF Classic version is a very similar design as the C/Y version and uses the same glass as the CP.2. Check our this, real world, review of that lens...

https://www.google.com/amp/s/blog.mingthein.com/2012/07/19/zf28distagon/amp/

I started with the tech as it was the first question in my mind, but I'm already digesting this and working out where to go next.  The images in that review were just great!  I do wonder about the curvature though, and wether or not it would just simulated in post with a blur or softening filter around the edges of the frame, plus some vignetting.

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44 minutes ago, mercer said:

In my opinion, you’re looking at this too analytically. Test charts and head turning videos on boring sets can only tell you so much.

One of the most important factors in any image is rendering and an MTF chart will not show you that... only your eyes will. For instance, the Veydra vs Zeiss CP.2 numbers you referenced... 

Take the Zeiss 28mm f/2 lens for example... the Contax version was known as “The Hollywood” due to the way it renders the OOF edges of the frame due to the extreme field curvature. The ZF Classic version is a very similar design as the C/Y version and uses the same glass as the CP.2. Check our this, real world, review of that lens...

https://www.google.com/amp/s/blog.mingthein.com/2012/07/19/zf28distagon/amp/

Also look at Cookes or Baltars... they aren’t perfect lenses by any means, but they have character and some of the best films of all time have been shot with them.

Anamorphic lenses are revered due to their flaws.

Color separation, tonality, 3D Pop, OOF highlights and even flaws... these characteristic can add charm and dimension to your images. They can help you tell the visual story you’re trying to tell.

This is so true.

Several years ago I compared my Leica R’s to a Sigma 18-35. The difference in sharpness was striking. I figured that I would just sell my Leica R’s and keep the Sigma since it was faster and sharper and I had all my primes in one lens.

But I’ve since learned that it’s not all about sharpness and speed. Our camera resolution and dual iso has bridged that gap.

Leica R’s are like adding celluloid to your camera body.

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32 minutes ago, kye said:

I started with the tech as it was the first question in my mind, but I'm already digesting this and working out where to go next.  The images in that review were just great!  I do wonder about the curvature though, and wether or not it would just simulated in post with a blur or softening filter around the edges of the frame, plus some vignetting.

And I appreciate your level of commitment to decipher why one lens may be “better” than another.

Now if you are wondering if you can replicate the field curvature of the Zeiss Hollywood lens in post... I would say probably not because the curvature creates an optical separation that helps create the signature “Zeiss 3D Pop” but I know how you enjoy post work, so you may be better off getting the sharpest lenses you can find.

If I were you, I’d probably dump the Voigtländer... part of that lens’ charm is shooting wide open with it, so if you’re questioning its IQ, then dump it... with the money you make from the sale you can buy 2 of the 3 Sigma 1.4 M4/3 lenses which are probably better at 1.4 than the Voigtländer is. Plus you’ll have One Shot AF, instant IBIS without changing the setting manually.

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30 minutes ago, Jonesy Jones said:

This is so true.

Several years ago I compared my Leica R’s to a Sigma 18-35. The difference in sharpness was striking. I figured that I would just sell my Leica R’s and keep the Sigma since it was faster and sharper and I had all my primes in one lens.

But I’ve since learned that it’s not all about sharpness and speed. Our camera resolution and dual iso has bridged that gap.

Leica R’s are like adding celluloid to your camera body.

My experience is very similar between my Canon 28mm 1.8 and Canon 35mm f/2 IS. The 35mm is hands down a “better” lens, but the 28mm has way more character. 

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About bi-nature... Voigtlanders bellow f1.2 are not at all meant to be sharp across frame, nor it is possible without software intervention...At f0.95 they are way more usable in comparison with 10k Leica Noctilux... At f1.4 they are equally or 'sharper' than any of Zeiss Distagons 1.4... Under f1.4 Voigts (i.e. long experienced Cosina's engineers) are using magic of field curvature for stylistic usability, they offer playing with accentuated bluring-background and, proportionally, more pronounced foreground. It is also sort of great know-how  which is, say, trait that Mercer mentioned about Zeiss Hollywood.

Also, at 0.95 inevitable exists sacrificing of some quality - to achieve totally usable (especially for movie making) center sharpness (which is btw miracle - compare them again with completely bloomed Noctilux or with, say, Meike 25mm 0.95 ), Voigts have strong color shifting that can be corrected in post. Furthermore, Voigts are losing quality of bokeh circle, but keep effect of blooming under wonderful control and highly balanced and original degree at realistic-impressionistic continuum (at least for me). All of that precise calculations involve much higher, more subtle knowledge and years of experience than just to construct properly sharp lens at T2.2

Veydras are very polished, extremely 'honest', but more one-dimensional task accomplished lenses. Remembering, say, El Greco - all of us know that, actually, art and life in all are always matter of aberrations. So, if aberrations are fruit of clever deliberate decisions toward predictable control over achievement, they are closer to art. Voigts are lenses from the ground thought out as one with m43's comparative pluses (mostly for movie making) and minuses (mostly for photography). Also, for Voigts I know for sure, for Veydras it seems as well, that mechanic, used material, quality of glass and their durability are top notch.

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I grabbed a few more stills from the first cine lens test to analyse.  Let's start with contrast, the setup would have been meticulously controlled for lighting and exposure so we should just be able to analyse the file directly.

Blue is lowest luma values and red is highest, which conveniently also highlights the lens and aperture :) 

Untitled_1.1.1.jpeg.eb6e5a016fffe6bd90de9dbdf1bf67e4.jpeg

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Observations:

  • The Dog Schidt has much lower contrast than the others - this is by design as it's a Helios with all coatings removed in order to make it flare radically
  • The Takumar also has low contrast, which I think the Takumars are known for
  • The highlight from the practical just to our right of the model gets dimmer when lenses are wide open, but that's just blur distributing the luminance, not a real contrast difference
  • Contrast doesn't seem to increase when stopped down

Beyond that I'm not sure I learned anything here.

Next up is micro-detail.

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Fine detail.

The method to generate these images is as following:

  • I put each image on the timeline
  • I copied the whole track to a second track, so now every image has a second copy of itself on top
  • I changed the blend mode on the top ones to Difference so now it only shows what is different - black is no difference, white is maximum difference
  • I then blurred the top image with a very small radius blur
  • Then over the top of the whole lot I boosted the brightness hugely in order to make the differences visible

What this will do is if there is an image with very few fine details then a blur will do very little and will therefore show very little difference, whereas if there is fine detail that gets blurred that will show a large difference and will be highlighted.  You will note that the background is black in all shots (with the exception of the edges of the bokeh which is sharp on many lenses) and that's because the background is out of focus.

Conveniently, it also shows us the lens and aperture :) 

Images:

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Untitled_1_13.1.T.jpeg.032be7818cf9a249c1c0a23781226ab2.jpeg

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Observations:

  • Many of the lenses show very little fine detail when wide-open.  We should be careful comparing them as their maximum apertures are all different, but it's an interesting thing.
  • The Master Anamorphic is interesting because it shows some fine-detail when wide-open and not so much at T4, so it's a more consistent performer, unlike the CP.2 which has a significantly different level of detail when stopped down.  The Cooke Anamorphic is also on the more consistent end of the spectrum.
  • The Dog Schidt (Helios with coatings removed) remains at the lower end even when stopped down, although the focal plane appears to be slightly further back on the T4 so take that into account.
  • The Cooke S4 on the other hand is at the sharper end of the spectrum both at T2 and T4.

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15 minutes ago, Mako Sports said:

You need a blog bro ?

I've had a few, I get bored then move on and it either sits there dead or some technical aspect annoys me (like moderating comments) and so I take it down.  Here I figure I can do the same thing but it can remain available for the long-term.  Plus if Andrew gets a few hits to the site out of it then that's a side-benefit and helps me give a little back for his work in creating this thing in the first place.

Anyway, mid-level detail.

This is the same thing, only I'm comparing one copy of the image blurred at a fine-level of detail to another copy blurred to a larger level of detail, so the differences should only be medium-sized details.

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Observations:

  • Lots less difference between lenses when they're wide-open and stopped-down, which makes sense
  • Dog Schidt, CN-E, Zeiss SS, and Master Prime are all a bit less when wide-open, but the Dog Schidt is really the one with the lowest contrast (even when it's T2 wide open and the Master Prime and SS are T1.3).  I think this is an interesting thing because we might be measuring the contrast amount impacted by coatings.
  • Apart from the Dog Schidt and Cooke Anamorphic all lenses seem to be pretty equal at T4.

I kind of adjusted this to try and see differences between the lenses with less contrast / vintage look and the more modern ones, but it's fairly subtle.

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This leads me to wonder what happens if we look at a Tiffen Black Pro Mist.

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Observations:

  • No real loss of fine detail (even though I played with it trying to show up the differences), even with the BPM2
  • It only seems to act on the sharp edges with very high contrast like the edges of the light globe, and edges of the text on the slate.  It's also slightly visible on the edges of the colour chart squares.

I guess this confirms that it spreads light but doesn't blur, so you'll get less micro-contrast but not zero micro-contrast (which is what blurring is).  In theory they're the same, but the similarity is so slight I couldn't really highlight it.

I think this, combined with the last post about the lenses, confirms (or at least supports) the idea that the perceived softness of filters like BPM and the famous Zeiss T* are almost independent of resolution, so you can have a lens that looks soft but is also high resolution.

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and-now-for-something-completely-differe

What people say about the aesthetics of lenses.

Starting with the lenses that had more character and less sharpness.

Super Speeds:

  • The super speeds are crisp at a 2/2.8 split without being clinical, allowing us to forgo any diffusion in front of the lens.
  • We tested several sets of modern and vintage lenses that all opened up to at least a T1.4. Ultimately, we landed on the Zeiss Super Speeds because they had a cooler, less saturated color rendition and a softer contrast when shooting wide open.
  • I remember when Super Speeds were the cheap lenses, I’d use the Panavision zooms and add a set of Super Speeds because back then they were cheap. Now everybody wants them because they are a little flawed and we want to make this digital cinema look more human. It’s all about the glass today.
  • (talking about Zeiss Masterprimes) BUT: They have no personality, an ugly flare and are ridiculous large. All these things can my Super Speeds much better. Especially the flare is second to none.
  • They are softer wide open (t1.3) but get just as sharp as Ultra Primes at 2.8 and up. They are still decently sharp wide open, just give a smoother appearance rather than crisp. Skin looks many times better on Super Speeds.
  • On a 5K chip, the SSpeeds even wide open deliver an awesome look, almost like all the "defects" are perfectly rendered, thus making them sem alive.
  • The wide-open look that Matt describes is particularly charming, since it combines a slight softening with lower contrast and highlight blooming. Best of all, the effect is somewhat variable between wide open and 2.8, so you have a bit of control if you can light to a certain stop.

Cooke S4:

  • We chose Cooke S4s because of their softer attributes and warmer skin tone
  • Well, it's not so much the image being softer, it's the way things go smoothly out with S4 lenses.
  • The play of light and the roundness of its quality, bokeh, the way a lens renders the human face, are all more important from my own personal point of view. The S4s are plenty sharp when they stand on their own, and render a very rich and complex image.
  • I just like the Cooke lenses because they're very sharp, but feel very natural.
  • I like the way they work on faces.
  • they have a softness to them and I think it’s very important with digital cameras not to let the image get too sharp. The other thing is that the Cookes don’t flare very much and we had a lot of practical lights in shot, so they worked very well with our sets
  • chose the Cooke S4s because they are "gentler" than other lenses.
  • I decided on the Cooke S4s because of our multi-racial cast, and the warmth I knew the lenses would bring to their rich skin tones.

I couldn't find anyone saying good things about the Xeens.

Master Anamorphics:

  • However, once we were on set I could only use the Master Anamorphics because they were so pin-sharp, perfectly straight and square – all the way to the corners – that it was impossible to match them with the other brand.
  • I'm a huge fan of the Master Anamorphics because they don't really look like anamorphics but they have that anamorphic aspect ratio.  And they also are one of the fastest anamorphics, you can actually shoot them wide open and still be reasonably sharp.
  • I’m leaving out the Master Anamorphics because those are so clean and crisp it almost defeats the point of shooting anamorphic imo

Other comments of note:

  • Yes, in many ways, what's nice about the modern primes is not their sharpness or flare-prevention, it's the fact that they MATCH each other in a set so well, compared to older lens sets which are a lot more quirky in terms of matching in color, contrast, and performance. Hence why I'd be happy to shoot either Primos, Cooke S4's, or Zeiss UltraPrimes.

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