DISCLOSURE: I helped Dante do some of this testing. I have always understood that Dante's rationale for publishing the results was enthusiasm; just as there is a marked opinion in his writing, there is also a cheerful take-or-leave-it ambience. You don't PAY for D's work, and he isn't selling T SHIRTS. If it is entertaining, good. If it is helpful, good. If it is irritating and makes you lose sleep over it... well, fine.
Originally Posted by luvcameras
Besides being a fine researcher, Dante is a fine photographer, and has an appropriate approach to careful testing. Without going into pages of detail, it was correct. When you get to the finish line, this era's LTM Nikkors consistently gave slightly higher definition at 1 meter ranges than did Canon, higher contrast. Wide open.
Different camera bodies, focussed through, etc., etc. It was a fun project for a cold, ugly winter.
You're welcome, of course, you accumulate a bushel of clean and well functioning samples and do your own tests and compare the results. The motive for the testing was, however, pure: sheer curiosity. No claims were made for this project, we followed the simplistic approach that if his results agreed with mine once, it was an accident. Twice, a coincidence, and a third time, we probably had it right.
Reading about it is one thing, finding out for yourself is another.
Nearly all of published photo 'wisdom' is cut-and-pasted-and-republished stuff spanning decades. Since the internet has brought reams of the most commonly recycled lore to 'the masses', it is pretty important to be able to verify what IS, and what is just... well, stories.
This LTM project was no more than a rational and controlled project to see what differences, if any, there were between the various lenses of the early '50s. The summary is concise, and describes the signature of various lenses under a very specific condition: wide open, 1 meter.
We looked at Zeiss Sonnars (Contax and LTM), some Leitz lenses, and some Ukraine lenses. Dante's curiousity focussed on the Canon / Nikon lenses. The Sonnar signature was consistent throughout all this, and the small differences were consistent.
My observation on all of this ? With today's film, on a well set up rfdr body, and with a Focomat or Valoy, the early '50s lenses are wonderful picture takers.
PLease note, the lenses were only compared to each other. There was no interest in comparing them to the latest glass from Leica. I make a living with my pictures, and have for a long time. I have old lenses in my bag, and I have new ones. It suits me, and may suit nobody else. Your mileage may, or may not, vary.
Last edited by df cardwell; 07-15-2008 at 08:44 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Don, I knew something good would come of my starting this thread.
Originally Posted by df cardwell
Of course I have read Dante's discussion of the 50/1.4 Nikkor -- it
is about the only detailed discussion of the lens on the web, so far
as I can see. I appreciate your background on the article -- it lends
reliability to the article, especially in a world, as you rightly note, in
which the web provides a medium for endless repetition of lore.
Your concluding paragraph above focused (pardon the pun) on what
I was hoping to elicit discussion: The Nikkor's "Sonnar signature" and
its differences (if any) from the way a Summicron draws an image.
I shoot Planars and Sonnars in my 2.8 and Tele Rolleiflexes, and I
imagine I see some differences but I am at a loss to voice them.
You earlier mentioned the "hot Sonnar look," and again I am not
sure what it is you are seeing that you are trying to voice with "hot."
You praised the Summicron for its resolution across the field, so I
am thinking you see the Sonnar as falling off at the extremes. Yet
I usually put my subjects near the edge of the frame, as in the
example I posted at the top of this thread, and the Sonnar seemed
there to render my offcenter subject with clarity.
So, I guess I am trying to wrap my head (and eyes) around the "hot
Sonnar look" and the "Sonnar signature" and how it differs from the
Summicron. And Dan, if you're still reading, about those Leica lens
reviews on your site: What distinguishes a "warm" (Summar) from
a "cold" (Summitar) lens?
The more I read, the less I understand.
I almost only use 50 mm and have 4 of them. I have a 35 that stays in the bag or the shelve.
- Summicron Black Classic from the 80's : It's good...! Uniform, can't say anything against it :-)
- Elmar 2.8 Chrome : Soft wide open, at 5,6 it is a killer.
- Summitar : Creamy effect beautiful for portrait wide open and very prone to flare.
- Nikkor 1,4 : Crazy close up quality with amazing vignetting :-)
This Nikkor is amazing if you center your subject and like vignetting. Shooting with Efke 25 I get impressive results.
The Elmar is a fantastic little gem and you don't feel it when folded.
The one I almost don't use anymore (except for color but the Nikkor is very interesting too) is the Cron. Too clean... :-)
Next caprice will be the DR... :-)
Oh no, Guillaume! You had to muddy
the waters, didn't you?
The 2.8 Elmar ....
How do you compare it to the Nikkor?
Here's the thing: I like the Nikkor a lot,
except for its size. I like more compact
collapsible lenses. I had not considered
the 2.8 Elmar. Should I?
I have a Summicron, late 50's it's superb, it's not just what we photographers think of the images that really counts. I shot informal images at wedding with it 18 years ago outdoors & indoors (at f2), the groom saw the images a few months later and asked if I'd bought a new camera. A year later when a wedding photographer screwed up it was the same lens that provided all the images of a cousins wedding.
Would a modern lens be better, I don't really care because the images always work. Would I like to use your f1.4 Nikkor - you bet !!! These lenses have real character. At one time these were state of the art lenses and they are the benchmarks for all our modern standard lenses.
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I agree with Dante's assessment that the Nikkor went all-out for close-up and wide-open performance. The lens is a Sonnar design, and the focus shift as the lens is stopped down is large compared with Planar formula lenses. The Nikkor is Shimmed for close-up and wide-open work. Compare with a Canon 50/1.5 Sonnar lens. The shim on the latter seems like it is set for F4. I re-shimmed mine. Same goes for the Zeiss Sonnars- great at F4. I reshimmed two of them for wide-open work.
Originally Posted by luvcameras
Now- put an LTM 5cm F1.4 or non-collapsible 5cm F2 on a Canon P for 2.5ft close-up; the 5cm F2 non-collapsible on a Zorki 3M for close to 2ft minimum focus. The Collapsible Nikkor only goes to 3ft.
Also- 1991 Pop Photo test of the Nikkor 5cm f1.4 from the 1950's, did quite well at F1.4, better than it did at F2. I personally believe the Sonnar focus shift was the reason.
BTW: I keep a perfect 5cm F2 on "that" particular SP. The Twelve Nikkor 5cm F1.4's are on the other cameras... The 5cm F2 renders a gentler look than the F1.4.
Last edited by lens_hacker; 07-15-2008 at 05:17 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Lens Hacker mentioned the Nikkor f;2. Don't dismiss this one. It has a very nice rendering, is more universal and compact.
Sanders, The old Elmar is cheap and of tremendous quality. When collapsed, you don't feel it on the camera. Perfect under a jacket. :-)
If you want a classic Cron, I would go for the DR, which on a M3... would fit like a glove. And you get close up. :-)
Welcome to 50's madness !
Welcome to 50's madness !
There was a gathering of classic T-Birds in my town over the weekend.
Heading out on a bike ride, a Coral '57 crossed my path, heading for a park, I sprinted home for the Contax IIa, 50/2 Sonnar, and some Plus X- the Kodachrome was in the freezer !
I caught up with the T-Bird, and hung out with the owners, and made some snaps... keeping an eye peeled for Della Street.
Thanks for the "inside info" on the Dante comments.... Has Rober Rotoloni any Nikon research on the matter ?
Has Robert Rotoloni any Nikon research on the matter ?
I recall - some time ago - the walk a Professor took with me one afternoon, softening the blow as best he could that I would only ever be a second-rate scholar.
He felt bad but I was flattered. Wow ! Second rate ! As good as that ? REALLY ?
Academics were like learning to fly from the barn roof, something I always hoped to do, but not something I was naturally equipped for.
So I'm NOT a collector, just a guy that takes pictures. And it is usually easier for me to try stuff to see what it does instead of reading about it... cheaper, faster, and gives me more confidence facing the client. Although in the case of flying from the barn roof, perhaps a little more research would have been helpful. But that was a long time ago,
and I'm feeling much better now.
While he doesn't address the 50/1.4 directly, OHSHITA talks about the 50/2.0 and furnishes a little context on both the Sonnar designs.