Wide open?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by dugrant153, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. dugrant153

    dugrant153 Member

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    Hi all,

    I’m having contemplations as to which direction I want to go. I’m posting this on the SLR section because I’m still using (and loving) my SLRs but am trying to figure out where I want to go image-wise.

    Here’s the thing. I shoot a lot wide open because I shoot in the dark a lot (but I also use wide-open even during the day!). So I’m not usually shooting my lenses anything above F4 or 5.6 (usually).

    I have a Nikon 35mm F2 (AiS?), Nikon 50mm F1.4 (Ai), Nikon 85mm F2 (Ai) and I almost always shoot them wide open. I’ve been contemplating upgrading to a Nikon 35mm F1.4 and maybe the Ai-S version of the 50mm in hopes of getting better wide open performance (less “soft” images) but am also considering the rangefinder route as, according to my understanding, rangefinder lenses are better wide open in the 28-80mm range .

    I’m trying to keep the costs down but am wondering, for the way I shoot, is a rangefinder system the way to go? I would definitely be going CV Bessa stuff in that case as that’s all I could afford. Maybe just have it as a supplement to my SLR system.

    Would love to hear your thoughts. I know I've been posting here and there but I think this more or less summarizes what I'm thinking.

    PS: I have a Pentax 645 that does a lot of my color work so the 35mm would be mainly for B&W.
     
  2. cjbecker

    cjbecker Member

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    If you feel that a rangefinder fits your style more, then thats the reason to switch. If not sick with your setup and make great images with it.

    No matter what camera and lens you have, a good image is good, a great image is great, and a crappy image is crappy.

    I shoot mostly medium format because I like the tonality of it. Also the same reason I shoot large format some. It's not for the lens.
     
  3. CGW

    CGW Member

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    With respect, none of these lenses will give their best shot wide open. The expensive 35/1.4 will not give magically sharp corner-to-corner images at 1.4. Shoot faster film or get a tripod/monopod and stop down a stop or two or shoot wide open--camera shake could be an issue. Wide open, your DOF will be very shallow, but a 1.4 lens at f2 or f2.8 will be sharper without much increase in DOF. Have a look at the lens section at www.nikonlinks.com
     
  4. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    A rangefinder might be the way to go if they work for you. I wouldn't switch for the lenses unless you have a specific lens you were going for. It would be horrible move if you don't mesh with the rangefinder mindset. Especially if you shoot a lot with the 85 mm. You can certainly do that on a rangefinder, but some people find the experience suboptimal.

    Sure, something like the Leica 50/1.4 ASPH might be a better performer than the Nikon 50, but at $4k, it should be. And I bet you wouldn't notice that increase in performance in 95% of your pictures, particularly when hand holding your camera.

    As far as CV lenses which fit your requirements, you are looking at a decent amount of money for a fast 50 and 35. The 50/1.1 and the 35/1.4 seem to be nice lenses, but the 50/1.1 is ~$1k, while the 35/1.4 is $600. Factor in the camera too. If you could find a CV 50/1.5, you might be able to get that for cheaper, but it's been discontinued. There's also the 35/1.2, but that's over $1k. That's a lot of money when you seem reasonably happy with your current gear and can instead upgrade it. Unless you get a chance to borrow someone else's rig, I'd say stick with what you have. I'm not super familiar with Nikon lenses, but if you want a sharper 50, and Nikon makes a sharper 50, why not just go for that? Ditto on the 35/1.4. You can also look into the Zeiss lenses for your Nikon (not cheap, but good). Maybe the 50/1.4?
     
  5. kokoshawnuff

    kokoshawnuff Member

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    one of the main benefits of using a rangefinder over an slr is being able to see whats happening outside of your focal frame lines without panning the camera. So if you are shooting mainly wide open, you're probably taking a lot of photos knowing exactly what you want in your frame before even bringing the camera to your eye. Like Tim already mentioned you might not see much difference in a lot of your shots even if you did buy a $4k 50mm Summilux or a $5k 35mm Summilux. Rangefinders are typically smaller and lighter for the same set-up so it could help with the low-light conditions in which you shoot, but switching for lenses alone might not be the best choice.
     
  6. OldBodyOldSoul

    OldBodyOldSoul Member

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    Borrow, rent or buy a cheap RF camera and see how it feels. For an SLR shooter, RF can/will be a big step aside as it's quite different and not necessarily better or worse (though usually one of them applies in the end).

    My guess is that your shutter speed is in the double digits, or even slower, so the way you hold and balance the camera at slow speeds is very important. I predominantly shoot SLR and have never learned how to hold RF properly, at least not well enough to feel comfortable shooting at slow speeds. There just isn't enough room for both of my hands there, and I've learned to use the size and heft of SLR when steadying my hands. I am getting better at it, but apparently it doesn't always (or to everyone) come naturally, or quickly.

    Just something to keep in mind, in case you haven't shot with RF recently (or at all).
     
  7. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    When I was still using Nikon, the 35mm f/2.0 was my favorite 35mm.

    The f/1.4, while certainly sharp if stopped down a little, but generally produced images I didn't especially like. A matter of taste, really.
    Try before you buy if you can.

    I wouldn't label the f/2.0 wide open as "soft", though there are lenses which definitely do better.

    If you mostly stick to that FL range, then a rangefinder kit could certainly be a valid option. There too, it's a matter of taste & habit so try before you buy if possible.
     
  8. thegman

    thegman Member

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    I have shot both SLRs and range finders, and I think in the dark, with fast lenses, range finders are easier to focus. However, I'm not the the Bessas are the right choice for this, as their range finder effective base length is a little shorter than Leica or Zeiss Ikon. This means they are just a little less accurate. For most lenses, it makes no difference, but you may find a difference if you use very fast, longer lenses like a 50mm f/1.4, f/1.2 or faster. For a fast 35mm, it's probably going to be OK though.

    Don't get me wrong, I've owned a Bessa, they are great cameras.

    I would suggest however a used Zeiss Ikon or if you don't mind not having a meter, a Leica M2, M3, or M4. If you're shooting negative film, I think a meter is fairly optional.

    The Bessa R3A with the 40mm f/1.4 is considered a very nice range finder kit too.
     
  9. stavrosk

    stavrosk Member

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    How so?
     
  10. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    OP: I'd try this sage advise first. There is nothing "soft" about the current Nikon gear you have.
     
  11. Dr.Pain-MD

    Dr.Pain-MD Member

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    He is referring to the wide exposure latitude.
     
  12. stavrosk

    stavrosk Member

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    Yes but still, having the ability to overexpose and having no meter at all is not exactly the same thing.
    You need years an years of experience to start shooting without a meter and it is still "dangerous".

    I want to be sure of my exposures. Not guess and rely on the fact that film is forgiving.
     
  13. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Basically because the latitude of negative film is so great compared to slide film. Bear in mind that in the heyday of film, most photos were shot on disposables and cheap compacts, neither of which have meters, most photos come out fine.

    This article is quite interesting:

    http://www.twinlenslife.com/2010/12/its-our-favorite-time-of-light-new.html

    Shows ISO 400 film shot at ISO 25, still looks fine, you don't even lose the highlights too much. Slide film would look pretty awful though.
     
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  15. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Fair enough, if you're very exacting about your exposure, then meter away. I'm less exacting and fall into the "it looks fine to me" category.
     
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I guess I'm not understanding what you want.

    Part of the challenge/advantage of wide open shooting is the selective nature of focus; the subject is sharp, the rest is not, naturally.

    I have the 35mm f/2 Nikkor O and 50mm f/1.4 and find my subjects quite sharp when shot open, as long as I have focused well.

    So is the issue focus, depth of field, or .... ?
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I truly disagree.

    Lots of fun and great work has been done in very "primitive" or "guessed at" exposure control situations. For example; Ansel's Moonrise, and with hand shuttered Petzvals, Brownies, Disposables...

    One of the true joys of shooting negatives is the ability to ignore the camera and just shoot.

    This is not to say that we can't or shouldn't try to manage the process/exposure, just that perfect exposure is in no way a guarantee of good photos.

    IMO good content trumps perfect exposure every time.

    Most times, alternate camera exposure settings simply mean alternate enlarger exposure settings for me.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 24, 2012
  18. stavrosk

    stavrosk Member

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    When people did not have the means it was a different story. When I can very easily have a device that nails my exposures I want to use it.
    Conent is obviosuly extremely important but it is called PHOtography (phos=light) for a reason.

    That is why people invented cameras that meter automatically.
     
  19. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Shooting wide open really pinpoints your skills as a photographer.

    Focus becomes critical, and it isn't so much that you are IN focus - the real concern becomes WHERE you're in focus. And that changes a lot based on how far you are from the object you are focusing on. It takes some trial and error to come to terms with where focus is appropriate, and how to get enough focus in that area to make a satisfying negative.

    I personally like a 25mm aperture for portraits, for example. That means f/4 for a 100mm lens, f/2 for a 50mm lens and f/1.4 for 35mm lenses. (100/4 = 50/2 = 35/1.4 = 25). That determines your depth of field. So shooting a 35mm f/2 lens wide open is going to give you an entirely different depth of field than a 50mm f/1.4 lens; your depth of field will be a different by a factor of 4. So if you want consistency in your work you should probably consider a 50mm f/2 and a 35mm f/1.4.

    Either way, all technical terms aside, shooting wide open is where most lenses show their anomalies the most. Vignetting, sharpness fall-off, etc become pronounced. That could yield interesting results if used appropriately, or it could look like crap. But I can guarantee you it will look interesting.

    With that said, you probably are better off exploring the full potential of the lens. You could, for example, set up a portrait session with a friend or something, and just do static portraits shooting at different apertures. Print all of the different versions and figure out what you like the best. Or shoot landscape at different apertures and print those negs. Just explore the lens and see how you like it best. No need to subscribe to a single way of shooting.

    My two cents.
     
  20. Aristophanes

    Aristophanes Member

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    The way I understand the OP, the problem is "soft" images, the opposite of sharp, not exposure latitude. I'm not sure where metering comes in to the query.

    "Wide open" and "soft" are just the physics of optics and functionally unavoidable.

    You can pay enormous amounts more $$$ for a lens to marginally improve the results, say for a 1.2 lens. RF lenses may be sharper wide open than an SLR lens, closer to the wider angles and losing the advantage at the tele ends.

    IMH experience a 1.2-1.4 lens gets acceptably sharp at 2.8. The speed advantage just buys more headroom especially at f/2.8-4. My Olympus 35RC is as sharp at its wide open f/2.8 as my Yashica Electro GSN at f/2.8, though the latter can shoot as fast as f1.7. It's just that f/1.7 is a touch less sharp.

    The advantage of the RF is no mirror slap, so one can usually shoot a full stop less shutter speed handheld.

    The known method to rectify is to use faster film or push the film, and shoot less wide open. You then have to battle grain at the process/print phase.
     
  21. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    Not all lenses are created equal and there are lenses that are very sharp at full aperture (even 1.4 and wider).
    Yes, they tend to be expensive, but not always. Choosing carefully is always a good thing....

    For example, while I wouldn't actually consider the Nikkor 35mm f/2.0 AIS "soft", but if shooting at full aperture is a priority, there are much better lenses out there (as someone else mentioned, I'd look at Zeiss ZF, if staying with Nikon bodies).
     
  22. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I agree that several of the ZFs appear to have the best "wide open" performance. Alas they are pricey, but you may find that with the introduction of the ZF2s, the slightly older ZFs may now be affordable. It's funny, people who think they need the very, very best performance will throw money at it, so if you just wait a while, you can get some good deals when something incrementally better hits the market :wink:

    For low light work, I do like RFs a lot, and there are some lenses that are quite legendary. If you find something with a nice big viewfinder, you can have all kinds of fun with that, e.g. the bessa T with a 21mm lens and aux VF is very hard to beat, even though the lens is only f/4. There are faster, longer lenses available though, of course. And it is true that many RF lenses deliver very good performance wide open.

    With SLRs, I find RF confirmation (in the viewfinder) very useful, and also scale focusing plus an auxiliary finder can be handy. Unmentionable objects with live view also are fun for this, but on the other hand, their glowing screens quickly make you the most noticeable object in the room. Anyway, I have a Nikon 50/1.2, and that thing is a weapon at wide apertures. And of course, just because it is f/1.2 doesn't mean you have to shoot it at 1.2, but you do get to focus it at 1.2, which of course is a treat.

    Indeed most lenses are not at their best wide open, but that is seldom useful to know. Right about now is when some lp/mm wanker pulls out some charts and shows that MTF isn't quite at its peak wide open... What!Ever! We shoot wide open because we like to and/or because we have to and/or we like to use shallow DOF... and all that is fine. No need to justify any of it to somebody who'd rather have an MTF chart in their bag than a 1.2 lens.

    Go with your gut. Have fun and don't let technicalism slow you down! Shoot lots of film, and post your shots to the gallery.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 24, 2012
  23. Aristophanes

    Aristophanes Member

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    It's also helpful to know that all optical design has tradeoffs. Sure, you can get a sharp 1.4, but to get that usually there is corner falloff. They have to make choices. It's just the way optical physics works. There is no optimum design. price and size also impact.

    Also, as the colour film (and TV) era dawned, many fast lenses of the 1970's to 1980's were actually designed to be less than sharp, and one way to do so was shallow DOF. Colour film was often too revealing of blemishes etc., so "soft" became an aesthetic.
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Many of us choose to use tools that do not have the means for a variety of very creative reasons.

    This is one of many examples available:

    Lenses and formats and film type and processing and aperture and coatings and paper choice and e
    Lighting and enlarger light source and many other factors each influence the final photo.

    Every choice we make effects the rest of our choices.
     
  25. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    While in principle I agree that that all optical design is a tradeoff, I disagree with your implication that that means that there are no fast lenses out there with great all-round performance.

    Using the same Nikkor 35mm f/2.0 AIS as an example, while a fine lens in its own right, I have 35mm lenses which:
    1) are sharper wide open
    2) vignette less
    3) distort less
    4) flare less
    5) have more or less the same size & weight
    Admittedly those "better" lenses were once much more expensive when new. But the tradeoffs can be much less than you seem to imply.

    That said, I'm a fan of very compact and corrected slow lenses as well...

    I've never ever heard of lenses expressly being designed to be less sharp, unless you're talking about portrait and/or "soft" lenses
     
  26. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    If you're thinking of Zeiss optics, and are looking at a rangefinder, seriously consider the Contax G2. Brilliant camera, brilliant optics. They're actually some of the very best optics ever made for 35mm. I have the 45 f2, 35 f2, 90 f2.8, 28 f2.8, and 21 f2.8 lenses. They are all super sharp even wide open, with the exception being the 35. It's still a great lens, but it falls short in comparison to the rest of them. I'll post a scan of a shot I took with the 21, hand-held, wide open at around 1 second. It is of Gaudi's plaster model workshop in the crypt level of the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. Most of the room is white from the plaster models. The image was shot through a sheet of plexiglass. I've had the print enlarged to a 12x18 and it still looks great. Film was Fuji Reala 100.

    The G2 has become my primary travel camera. I've taken it with me to Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Spain. All the Puerto Rico shots in my gallery here were taken with the G2, if you want to get a better idea. Oh, and the Puerto Rico shots were all done on Ektar 100.