Resolving red subjects
Lately I have been photographing red flowers (roses & cactus-flowers) using Fuji Superia 400 ISO and Kodak Ultramax 400 ISO, using several different cameras (including a digicam) as well as different lenses.
What I have noticed is that while all lenses appear to have difficulty in resolving (focusing) the details of the red (as opposed to other colours) petals and flowers, some lenses are better at it than others. Some render the centre of the flower as an undifferentiated red smear.
In particular, I have noticed that "venerable" German made (Color Skopar Voigtlander and Zeiss) lenses -even if "cell focusing" appear to be better at it than many of my Japanese made lenses (Minolta, Canon).
Is this just my imagination and lack of technique or does this have something to do with lens construction?
Is anyone else aware of it?
Red has always been a tough color, and if you are having your prints machine printed it can head south rapidly. I would suggest trying some Velvia, and seeing how you feel about transparency film, which is the de rigur for these kinds of subjects for precisely the reasons you are experiencing.
Maybe your "venerable lenses" have slightly lower contrast, so the film doesn't go into colour-saturation as easily?
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I agree with others here -- the saturation problem is primarily a factor of using films that are designed to provide saturated colors all on their own in a cheap P&S: give them good glass and a bright red rose and they go to the wall and stick there. You may also be seeing differences in saturation because of differences in exposure; how do the density of the negatives compare? And, of course, unless the film was all developed and printed at the same time on the same machine then the most likely culprit is processing variation.
That color saturation seems to correlate with the camera/lens used doesn't prove the relationship is causal.
To remove the film as the cause, try Kodak Portra 160NC of Fuji 160S for prints or Kodachrome for slides and bracket your exposures.
Now you mention reds.......I wanted to use the film (Supera 200) up, and thought a nice subject would be the red leaved potentilla on the window shelf with the sun illuminating it (which gave it a glow)...used 8 lenses from Meyer to Tamron to see how each lens handled it from Macro to 200mm, and all the reds were roughly similar but I didn't get the glow....so it must be the film.
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Thanks all for your input.
Thank you all for responding.
To add a bit of info to my original post, all the negatives appear to be more or less at about the same density (eyeball only) and the films have been processed/developed and printed by the same (commercial) processor and, most likely, scanned before being printed digitally so, I guess, the results are only as good as their scanner, at best.
Although red areas can be tricky to capture and print just right, especially with Ilfochromes, you can't really judge until you have tried printing the negs by hand, or at the very least had a quality scan and Lightjet made. I would not blame your lenses or anything else until you have at least tried to print one of the shots by hand. Plenty of "just fine" pix of red subjects have been made with every film under the sun without the shooters worrying about lens coatings or other technical minutiae. Take care of eliminating the easy and cheap problems before jumping to the conclusion that you have a difficult and expensive one.
Last edited by 2F/2F; 02-10-2009 at 05:29 PM. Click to view previous post history.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
There are several things that could be going on. All of the above are good points but you have to remember that Red/Green/Blue all focus at different planes due to the way they interact with glass. Coatings are applied to correct for this, and bad, missing or improper (old) coatings don't do a very good job.
In addition, the Red sensitive layer is on the bottom and forms cyan dye which is the basis for detail. Turbidity in the emulsion can spread light and decrease sharpness. In addition, a phenomenon called "cyan undercut" which causes the cyan layer to be overly restrained in order to purify the red color, can decrease detail in reds too much leading to what appears to be a red that is unsharp or lacking in detail.
Lots of possible things. You may have to pick the film/lens combination that is best for the subject at hand.
Try an apo lens. Wait, what format are we talking about? If it is 35mm format then is there a modern, multicoated macro ED/LD/ULD lens available, if a "true" apo isn't? You want a lens with as many low-dispersion elements as possible. I guess the non-apo/ED lenses are optimized for center green, what, 514 or 532 nm or so.
Have you had any drum scans done?
Several years ago my Ciba printer remarked the difficulty of bringing up detail in red from trannies coming off Velvia. He said Kodachrome was one of the better materials for doing this (resolving detail in red).
.::Gary Rowan Higgins
A comfort zone is a wonderful place. But nothing ever grows there.