Originally Posted by Sirius Glass
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.
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.
That's good, because sharpness and contrast are far more important than resolution in my opinion.
Originally Posted by ic-racer
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.
Originally Posted by ic-racer
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
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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.
I'm not sure which lens/film combination would come out best, but probably some film like a high contrast microfilm would be best.
Originally Posted by kauffman v36
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.
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 phenix; 05-16-2010 at 10:56 PM. Click to view previous post history.
B&W is silver.
Originally Posted by olleorama
That may hold true for lenses of more or less "normal" length.
Originally Posted by ic-racer
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...
Last edited by Rol_Lei Nut; 05-17-2010 at 01:50 AM. Click to view previous post history.
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa