Resolution for 35 mm lenses?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by olleorama, May 16, 2010.

  1. olleorama

    olleorama Member

    Messages:
    526
    Joined:
    May 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    What is the typical resolution of 35 mm lenses in lp/mm? Will the lenses ever be the limiting factor or is it 'just' the film? Is there any significant difference between modern lenses and older? Is there any differences between really expensive leica lenses and more modestly priced older SLR lenses (think m42, older FDs and AIs).

    This has nothing to do with my photography, just curious.
     
  2. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,214
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The thing of interest is not the resolution of the lens alone (very high values are quoted but never achieved in practice), but the resolution of the lens and the film as a unit. The attached graph may give you a rough idea. More detail can be obtained from the MTF graphs of individual lenses.
     

    Attached Files:

  3. olleorama

    olleorama Member

    Messages:
    526
    Joined:
    May 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks. So am I understanding this right that 6x6 and 4x5 almost always satisfy print requirements? And that 35 mm won't satisfy critical print requirements? From what I've read maximum resolution for Tmax is somewhere around 100-150 lp/mm, so then it's not the film that is limiting. What kind of resolution does modern color neg and color positives have?

    How have you defined the print requirements?

    The problem with MTF plots is that it's hard to find them for older lenses. Might have to dig thru the libraries camera magazine archives (notice the deliberate use of the word camera magazine and not photography magazine, since it is a huge difference).

    It would be fun to see a comparison between older fixed lens rangefinders versus modern slrm compact and rf lenses. Why? I just really like my fixed lens rfs.

    [OT]Jeezuz, I just drew a parallel between fixed gear cyclists and rangefinder users in my head. It isn't even that far fetched. Good one.[/OT]
     
  4. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

    Messages:
    1,118
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    Location:
    Hamburg
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    No easy, simple, comprehensive or "right" answer to all that...

    I'll skip the lines/mm question... Just that lenses can be (and often are) the limiting factor.

    Modern/older:
    "On average", lenses have gotten better, though a usual bugbear is just what is meant by "better"?
    I'll use "better" as meaning subjectively sharper, more flare resistant, less disortion and vignetting.
    That doesn't mean all newer lenses are better than older ones, often it is quite the opposite!
    In some brands, the newer lenses tend to be (or might always be) "better" than their older equivalents. Other brands have cut costs, so that often their newer lenses aren't as good as the older versions.
    A number of manufacturers have concentrated on zooms, letting the quality of their prime lenses decline.
    Anyway, I have some Soviet copies of 1930's Zeiss lenses which give first rate results. I've had (and quickly gotten rid of) some modern lenses which were simply awful.
    As I said, no easy answer... ;-)

    Leica lenses.
    More recent Leica lenses are really hard to beat. A few of other manufacturer's lenses might (and they'll probablly be just as expensive), but in general that is true.
    Older Leica lenses, contemporary with M42, Canon FD and Nikon AI lenses, you really have to look at on a case by case basis.
    On average, Leica will still be "better", but several Leica lenses can certainly be found which are no better or worse than their cheaper equivalents. A few will be absolutely stellar, even by current standards.

    Also, while my Leica lenses are generally and objectively technically "better", I often like the look of my Zeiss lenses more.

    Again, the trick is choosing wisely.
    And blanket statements don't work!!
     
  5. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,214
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes.

    standard observation: 7 lp/mm at near vision or a viewing angle of 60 arc-seconds
    critical observation : 20 lp/mm at near vision or a viewing angle of 20 arc-seconds
     
  6. Alan Johnson

    Alan Johnson Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,514
    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
  7. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,214
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    All films significantly limit lens resolution, but that's OK, because it's reality. It makes no practical sense to look at lens resolution alone. A practical test includes one's lenses in combination with one's favorite films.
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    20,589
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Therefore, using lens, film, enlarger lens and paper form what Kodak calls the image chain. As an example using the best lens one can afford will help but the MTF or total resolution will be somewhat worse than the weakest link in the chain. Improve any part of the chain other than the weakest link does not improve the result. Only improving the weakest link will show an improvement.

    Steve
     
  9. jpberger

    jpberger Member

    Messages:
    70
    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver Ca
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Ok I take it from the graph,and experience, that for real photography it takes the best lenses, perfect conditions, and perfect technique to get the kind of resolution with 35mm that one can get with pretty much any junk in a larger format.

    But just to be obtuse- aren't the best 35 mm lenses like the asph 90 summicron diffraction limited at f/4 or something insane?

    Also it doesn't say anything about tonality etc but according to Kodak's propaganda using the metric of "visual grain" -- shooting with ekar100 in 35mm at 16x20 would be about the same at as portra400 in 120 printed the same size (in theory of course :smile: )
     
  10. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,214
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think the equation, shown in the attachment to my post above, proves this statement wrong. Improving on any part of the chain will improve the overall performance. No link of the chain is an absolute limiter.
     
  11. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,214
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If I'm not mistaken, f/4 has a diffraction limit of 369 lp/mm at 555 nm. Measured on an optical bench, the Summicron may reach that performance in air with a high-contrast target, but combined with a film limited to 100 lp/mm, with normal-contrast scenes, this performance drops to a more realistic and still ambitious 97 lp/mm.
     
  12. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    20,589
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    However, to get the maximum bang for the buck, one should work on the weakest link. If one part is limited to 60 lp/mm moving from a 120 lp/mm lens to a 150 lp/mm lenses will not show the improvement one would expect [If they did not understand the physics of the image chain.]

    Steve
     
  13. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,214
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Correct.

    Here is the scary reality of image chains:

    camera lens............185.0 lp/mm (diffraction limited at f/8)
    film.......................150.0 lp/mm (only possible with high-contrast scenes)
    enlarger lens.......... 185.0 lp/mm (diffraction limited at f/8)
    aerial image.............98.6 lp/mm (as a result of the above)

    print magnification......8.5 (35mm negative on 8x10, no cropping)
    paper....................100.0 lp/mm (paper resolution is fairly high)
    total system............ 11.5 lp/mm (total system resolution)

    11.5 lp/mm is not bad, but standard and critical near-vision resolution of the human eye is considered to be 7 and 20 lp/mm, respectively. In other words, the best taking lens, combined with the best enlarging lens, combined with fine-grain film and a high-contrast target, is just about good enough to make a good 8x10 print from a 35mm negative.

    This is why moving to medium format gives such a jump in print performance. The equipment is not of higher quality, but the reduced necessity for enlarging gives a significant boost in print resolution.

    Unfortunately, expecting another such jump in quality by moving to large-format equipment results in a disappointment. Not that it's not there, but our eyes cannot appreciate it, unless large prints are made and viewed close up.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,473
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    All theoretical thinking aside, actual tests of popular 35mm lenses were conducted by Modern Photography magazine in the 70s. I have many of the magazines and there is a lot of data there. One of these days I should compile it all into a nice table like the one that is out there for large format lenses.

    I can summarize my years of reading the test reports in that most all the 'name brand' 35mm SLR lenses performed about the same at f8.

    When wide open, the results were all over the place, though, now days, a 'bad' wide open performance may actually be sought for its aesthetic qualities.

    Also, from what I remember, all the Leica M lenses had way more contrast, and usually better sharpness when compared to the others.
     
  16. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

    Messages:
    20,589
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Southern California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thank you, that was well stated. The last paragraph hit home because I keep thinking about going into LF.

    Steve
     
  17. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,214
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    That's good, because sharpness and contrast are far more important than resolution in my opinion.
     
  18. alanrockwood

    alanrockwood Member

    Messages:
    809
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2006
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In the 1970s either Modern Photography or Popular photography published an article on reaching the magic 100 lines/mm figure on Panatomic X film. There were a number of lenses which, in combination with the film, either reached or came very close to the 100 lines/mm figure.
     
  19. kauffman v36

    kauffman v36 Member

    Messages:
    279
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Location:
    Miami
    Shooter:
    35mm
    alan, you bring up something i was going to ask. thoeretically, what would be the combination to give the highest resolution using a 35mm system.

    im wondering if technical pan + some crazy leica or zeiss lens and a schneider APO enlarging lens would give noticably higher ln/mm
     
  20. dynachrome

    dynachrome Member

    Messages:
    1,001
    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2006
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Resolution for 35mm lenses

    Older lenses have in fact been tested with document films. I experimented with 5069 for continuous tone work in High School and also used the H&W film (Agfa) and developer combinations. There is no question that these films, with the right lenses, allowed a great deal of enlargement and gave very fine grain. What they could not do is replace general purpose films for general purpose uses. What's interesting about document films for 35mm use is that they allow all of the flexibility of the 35mm format. If I just wanted an 8X10 of a static subject I could use ACROS or Pan F+ in a 6X7 camera and get more consistent results. When Modern Photograpy used Panatomic-X for tests, the negatives were examined under an Olympus Vanox microscope. If you wanted to get actual prints you still had to deal with whatever losses in sharpness would come from enlarging.
     
  21. alanrockwood

    alanrockwood Member

    Messages:
    809
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2006
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm not sure which lens/film combination would come out best, but probably some film like a high contrast microfilm would be best.

    I don't recall which lenses came out with the best resolution. However, there were a number of them that were very close, and as I recall the elite brands were over represented. Don't hold me to that however.

    I have the magazine somewhere among a stack of old magazines. I re-read the article some time within the last three years, and I think it was within the last year that I read the article.
     
  22. phenix

    phenix Member

    Messages:
    218
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2008
    Location:
    penguin-cold
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use MTF charts or any resolution/contrast documentation to only understand why I like a lens and a film and a developer more or less, in a situation or another. Although, I make my decisions on what lens or film-developer I like most, only based on my tests in real situations (not photographing charts). And I also tried each of my lenses at different apertures too. One combo works in landscapes with contrasty light, another in low contrast outdoors and indoor portraiture, another (and here I add the camera to the lens-film-developer combo) in low light situations, one works for a reportage style, another for fine-art, not to remember color vs. B&W, and so one.

    The idea of “the best…” is a wrong questioning. The good one is “the best… for…” (or the most appropriate). I hate almost everything that is said to be “the best for all”, this makes my nightmare. I have old, cheap lenses in 135 format I wouldn’t dare to get outdoors because of their huuuuge flare, but indoors these lenses gave me the most sublime portraits (beyond my imagination). Since than, I don’t trust any chart or documentation until I try the material myself in real situations. Charts are only to understand what you already see. But if you start with charts, I doubt you’ll ever see something sublime.

    Sublime does not always comes from “the most…”, sometimes it also comes from “less…”, or better said for a specific balance between different characteristics of the object. I remember Leica worsted years ago the design of one of it’s sharpest lens, to make it appropriate for portraiture (found this in a Leica equipment book, but I don’t remember if it belonged to the M or the R lens line). They “worsted” it (larger chromatic aberration), but didn’t sold it cheaper… They cold it “specialized lens” and sold it even higher. And if you have a larger budget than I do, why not experimenting with limited series lenses, like the Pentax* (star) ones? I saw two or three B&W pictures taken with the Pentax* 43mm and was astonished.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 16, 2010
  23. telyt

    telyt Member

    Messages:
    33
    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2004
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Yes.
     
  24. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

    Messages:
    1,118
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    Location:
    Hamburg
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    That may hold true for lenses of more or less "normal" length.
    The trouble starts with wide angle, ultra-wide angle and longer telephoto lenses.
    Many wides, even the very best, still have less than ideally sharp corners at f/8.0 (and clearly visible even on high speed film - maximum resolution theory notwithstanding).
    Same for many longer teles, which will often show various aberrations, even at f/8.0 and again clearly visible even on less than ideal media...

    In any case, my favorite lenses do have a big advantage at f/8.0 compared to ones I like less: they are less suceptible to flare and have less distortion.

    So while it is true that most 50mm will look pretty similar at f/8.0 in tests, once conditions are less than ideal, real differences will emerge.

    I won't even get started on subjective aesthetic parameters such as bokeh and 3-d look... :D
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2010
  25. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,214
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think the question goes into the wrong direction. How would it help your photography to know that your lenses perform best with a high-contrast micro film? The answer is clear, they do, but these films are not ideal for practical photography, so why test with them. To evaluate lenses, and more importantly, how any difference impacts our photography, they should be tested with the films we use. Also, resolution measured in lp/mm (line pairs per mm, not ln/mm) is a poor measure of lens performance anyway. Contrast and sharpness being more important than resolution, only an MTF will tell.

    Fully agree with phenix, by the way.
     
  26. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,948
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    Location:
    Melbourne, V
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Arent most good films around the 60 lp/mm at 1.6:1 contrast ratio? That is what I call useful resolution, ie: across the texture of an object, the 1000:1 figure is for shooting sharp-edged silhouette backlit tree branches against a white sky :tongue:

    There are of course much higher resolution films... Rollei ATP, Adox CMS 20. etc


    Reasonably large prints from my 30D look critically good to me, 35mm film is capable of more than my 30D, so therefore would do better and satisfy critical print demands.


    CMS 20 + The Polar/Samyang 85/1.4 would be a great test if ultimate sharpness makes you happy.