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Supertelephoto MTF Curves

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Brandon has accomplished much during his summer with us, including several things I never thought we'd be able to do. One of those things was measuring the MTF of supertelephoto lenses on our optical bench. A vertical bench just isn't designed to handle the mass of those big lenses and technically isn't supposed to be able to test anything over 200mm focal length. Brandon found some workarounds that allowed us to get accurate MTF readings on a number of supertelephoto lenses.

 

 

Some of the workarounds are simple. For example, there's a lot more vibration with a big, long lens. So after the machine moves to each measurement point we had to program in a long delay before doing the measurements. There is also a bench limitation that lightly affects the results. Our largest collimator provides up to a 100mm diameter beam of light for tests, so the 300mm f/2.8 lenses are at about f/3 and the 400mm lenses are at about f/4. There's nothing we can do about that, Trioptics doesn't even make a bigger collimator and if they did it would cost $100,000 by itself.

We weren't able to do our full set of 10 copies of each lens there just weren't enough in stock. There are at least 5 copies (Nikon 400 f/2.8), though, and most have 7 to 9 copies tested. But because there are less than 10 we won't be putting out consistency numbers today.

Before we present these results to you, let me get one thing out of the way: we aren't going to be testing many more of these. Brandon's going back to school soon. Measuring these is too time-consuming, meticulous, and repetitious for me to want to do it. To put it in perspective, I could test 5 or 6 standard prime lenses in the time it takes to do one super telephoto run. So what I share today is likely to be all that's going to be shared when it comes to measuring MTF curves on super telephoto lenses.

One other thing I should mention, you'll notice some of these real MTF curves are fairly different from the manufacturer's released MTF curves. (This is true for other lenses, too, but readily apparent for these lenses because the manufacturer's MTF curves are so nearly perfect.) That's the difference between a computer generated ideal MTF curve of the design, and an actual measurement of the manufactured product. The reality of the manufactured lens accounts for some of the difference, but also the reality of actual measurement (versus computer simulation) accounts for some of it too. In this case particularly, I want to emphasize that we're using our MTF bench outside of its intended purpose, so I can't be certain, especially at 400mm, that we aren't introducing some other factors that might be affecting the measured MTF curves.

200mm Lenses

There is a lot of ways to get to 200mm. Most commonly, it's a 70-200mm zoom shot at 200mm (we'll release those MTF curves when we start releasing zoom lenses). Canon also has a relatively inexpensive 200mm f/2.8 prime lens. Both Canon and Nikon have very expensive 200mm f/2.0 primes. As always, when you look at these graphs, remember different apertures are comparing apples and oranges. A lens tested at f/2 would have higher MTF if tested at f/2.8, etc.

Just to give you a bit of orientation, I'm going to start with the MTF curves of two excellent lenses: the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II at 200mm and the Canon 200mm f/2.8 L lens. These are both really good, although slightly different. The older 200mm f/2.8 L prime isn't quite as good in the center at higher frequencies, but clearly does better off axis, which is what we would expect from a prime lens compared to a zoom.

 

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Those were very good lenses, but the f/2.0 prime lenses are just spectacularly good.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Even at f/2.0, their MTF is clearly better than either of the f/2.8 lenses. Any fanboys who want to claim one is better than the other are being pretty silly. They're different, sure, with the Canon 200mm f/2.0 IS L is a tiny bit better at higher frequencies, but having more off-axis astigmatism than the Nikon 200mm f/2.0 VR II. But both are totally amazing.

One other lens that I get asked about a lot is the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 HSM A1 zoom. I put its curve beside the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II lens just for comparison purposes.  I'll be the first to admit I'm surprised at just how good the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sport lens is.  I put the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II graph beside it to make the comparison easier and show just how excellent the Sigma is.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The overall the 200mm summary is pretty easy: they're all damn good. And yes, I'm aware that everyone wants to know more about the 70-200 f/2.8 zooms. That post will be out in a week or two; I just put this one example up for a comparison point today.

Longer Focal Lengths

I started off the 200mm section using some examples that a lot of people were likely to be familiar with, and I'll do the same thing here. Below is the MTF curve for the Canon 300mm f/4 IS lens. It's an older design, but one that's pretty popular. I'll put it beside the Canon 200mm f/2.8 we used above to give you a comparison point. The 300 f/4 IS is a pretty good lens, but the absolute resolution isn't quite as good as the 200mm f/2.8. While we aren't presenting consistency numbers with these lenses, we did do 10 copies of the 300 f/4 IS and it did show significant variation (Consistency 4.2 for the 300 f/4 IS, compared to 8.9 for the 200 f/2.8).

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The 300mm f/2.8 lenses are pretty expensive, and the MTF curves show some of the reason why; they are amazingly good. Like the 200mm primes, the Canon 300 f/2.8 IS II and Nikon 300 f/2.8 VR II they are slightly different, although the differences are minimal. The Canon, again, has a bit better center and sagittal resolution, the Nikon has less astigmatism away from center giving it better tangential resolution, but these are nit-picking, pixel-peeping differences. They're both incredible.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 Sport at 300mm surprised me again. I knew it was very good, but in the center it's every bit as good as the two name-brand prime lenses. It drops off away from center, obviously, but even there it's still very good. That's amazing performance for a zoom lens. Obviously, there is a lot more that goes into choosing a 300mm lens than just MTF curves, but the Sigma puts in an amazing performance.

400mm f/2.8

The 400m f/2.8 prime lenses are generally considered to be the absolute best lenses made. The MTF curves, which are at f/4, in my mind, suggest that they're maybe a teeny tiny bit better than the 300 f/2.8s, but I'd be hard pressed to say I think you'll see the difference in a picture. I do need to mention here that the aperture of the collimator in the MTF bench means these lenses aren't being actually tested at f/2.8; the effective aperture is close to f/4.

 

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

So What Did We Learn Today?

Not much, really. I learned the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 HSM OS is really good; better than I thought it was. A lot of you already knew that. You may have learned that manufacturer's MTF charts are sometimes better than any actual lens is (no copy of the supertelephoto lenses we tested approached the published MTF, period). Other than that, this post just documents what we already know. Super telephoto lenses set the high end of the MTF bar. They are as good as photo lenses get.

 

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube

Lensrentals.com

July 2015

Using ND Filters to Balance Ambient Light With Artificial Light

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A week or so ago, I posted an article about some of the features on the Profoto B1 that separate it from the competition. Among those features, was High-Speed Sync, allowing you to use off camera lighting at shutter speeds faster than 1/200th of a second. Today, I would like to tell you about how to achieve that same goal, but with the use of one of my favorite tools - The Neutral Density Filter.

What is a Neutral Density Filter?

Typically, I’ve found the best way to describe a Neutral Density filter to photographers, is calling it a pair of sunglasses for your camera. It doesn’t add any color gradients to your images (or a good one won’t at least), but simply, just stops the amount of light coming into your camera lens. This can be effective for a lot of reasons. Landscape photographers often use them to create interesting effects using a long exposure. An ND filter allows you to stop down your shutter speed, and get super smooth water and clouds in images when extending the time the shutter is open. But the opposite is also true, and ND filter can allow you to open your aperture more, allowing for a shallow depth of field in your portrait work when lighting on location. This is how I often use ND filters for my work, and then compliment the subject with flattering light coming from off-camera flash.

Mastering the ND Filter Technique

Many people often ask me why I use ND filters in my work, and the answer I always give them is balance. When I began shooting outdoor portraits, I was frustrated that my skies were always white in color, instead of showing the great depth of blue that I often see. In order to fix that, I needed to find a way to balance the ambient light with flash, and began using an Alien Bee B800 with my work, however, this brought a whole new realm of problems for me. For one, in order to get the colors out of the sky, I often had to shoot at f/11+, cause my shutter speed was limited to 1/200th of a second (The max sync speed for most traditional strobes & flashes). The result was an image with everything in focus, and with no draw to the subject in the photo. So I went back to the drawing board.

Image Taken Using a 4-Stop ND Filter to balance Ambient and Artificial Light

ND Filter Allows me to Balance Lights on Location, Giving me a Shallow DOF

 

I began using ND filters with my work. A 5 stop ND filter, would allow me to stop down my aperture 5 whole stops (f/11 to f/2), giving me a nice shallow depth of field, that brought focus to the subject in my image, while maintaining all the colors from the scene. 5 stops would turn an image at f/11, 1/200th of a second and at ISO 100 into an image shot at f/2, 1/200th of a second and ISO 100. The end result is a more flattering image, with focus brought to your subject.

Types of ND Filters

Generally speaking, there are two types of ND filters I've used in the field - the standard ND filter, and the Variable ND filter. The standard ND filter is a single piece of glass that has a specific number of stops of light. These are nothing more than a darkened piece of glass, that allows less light into the camera, so you can stop down your aperture or shutter speed as needed. The next type is much more interesting - the Variable ND filter. The Variable ND filter allows you turn the dial on the filter, giving you a broad range of stops, depending on how much you turn the dial. These Variable ND filters typical range from 2-stops to 9-stops of light, allowing you full adjustments in between that range.

Which is Best For You?

Traditionally, I recommend the Variable ND filter over the Standard ND filters. While variables cost much more (up to $500 in price), they allow for far more versatility in your work, and without the need to change filters while on location. In addition to that, stacking filters will often give you a loss in image quality exponentially, so I prefer to keep as few piece of glass in front of my lens as possible (and the highest quality of glass).

At LensRentals, we have a huge array of ND filters for people to rent. So if you’d like to give this technique a try on your own, be sure to look through our inventory of ND filters for your next shoot. When done correctly, you can add more interest to your images using depth of field, bringing the attention exactly where you’d like it.

A Quick Guide to Teleconverters

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Teleconverter use and compatibility can easily get confusing. I'd like to shed some light on the subject for those looking to get more length out of their lenses without the extra weight or cost.

Teleconverters can add versatility to your camera bag by giving you extra length and a variety of looks out of lenses you already own. It can also mean a much lighter load  to carry through a wildlife excursion or golf tournament.

 

Nikon 2x Teleconverter Mounted Between Lens and Camera

 

What is a teleconverter?

A teleconverter, sometimes referred to as an extender, is a magnifying lens that mounts between a camera and a standard lens to increase the effective focal length.

How does it work?

The teleconverter multiplies the focal length of the lens. For example if you have a 300mm lens and you use a 2x teleconverter you have an effective focal length of 600mm (2 x 300= 600).

It will also reduce the f stop of the lens by the same number, meaning a 2x teleconverter will reduce the aperture by 2 stops. A 300mm f/2.8 lens with the 2x TC becomes a 600mm f/5.6 (f/2.8- 2 f stops = f/5.6). If you were using a 1.4x teleconverter you would only lose 1 stop of light (f/2.8- 1 fstop= f/4).

Here is a visual representation of the effect a teleconverter has on focal length.

Nikon 300mm                                               Nikon 300mm + 1.4x TC III (420mm)

Nikon 300mm+ 1.7x TC II (510mm)                 Nikon 300mm+ 2x TC III (600mm)

Nikon 600mm                                         Nikon 600mm + 2x TCIII (1200mm)

Below (left) you can see a 100% crop of the Nikon 300mm + 2x TCIII = 600mm and (right) Nikon 600mm. It's apparent that there is not a big difference in quality; If you really strain your eye you can see a few more details without the use of the teleconverter. Results will vary of course as these images were taken with some of the best equipment available. In general when using any type of adapter between your camera and lens you can expect a level of image degradation.

Nikon 300mm + 2x TCIII                                                                    Nikon 600mm

Compatibility

Lets talk about compatibility. Not all cameras and lenses can use teleconverters. The first things to look at on lenses are the maximum aperture and the rear element. The maximum aperture is the f stop printed on your lens barrel indicating the widest your aperture blades will open. If it says f/2.8 you are in the clear. If the number is higher keep reading for compatibility options.

The rear element will also indicate if you can add a teleconverter. Your lens must have a recessed rear element as pictured on the right. If the glass is flush with the mount there is nowhere for the teleconverter glass to go and so you are physically out of luck.

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 (not compatible)                                    Nikon 70-200mm f/4 (compatible)

Most cameras lose the ability to autofocus at a maximum aperture  of f/8 , so the f number of your lens plus the light subtracted by the teleconverter normally needs to equal f/5.6 or less to maintain autofocus. For Example,  a 70-200mm f/4 with a 1.4x teleconverter has a max aperture of f/5.6 and can maintain autofocus. If it were paired with a 2x TC the max aperture would be f/8 and there would be no autofocus functionality with most current DSLRs. There are a few exceptions to this rule at the cost of losing most of your autofocus points.

Here is a list of some DSLRs that can focus to f/8 (limited to center point AF):

Canon EOS 1D Mk IV, Canon EOS 1D X, Canon EOS 5D III, Canon EOS 5DS, Canon EOS 5DSR, Canon EOS 7D Mk II

Nikon D4S, Nikon D4, Nikon D810, Nikon D800 (E), Nikon D610, Nikon D600, Nikon D7100, Nikon D7200

And to save you a little bit of trouble, here is a list of some popular lenses that are teleconverter compatible:

*Please note: Nikon teleconverters can only be used with Nikon Lenses

Sigma compatibility is available here.

 

Teleconverters are great for adding more versatility to your camera bag, without adding much weight. While you may lose a bit of  image quality, the benefits can more than make up for it. For more information on teleconverters, you can check out a previous post Teleconverters 101, and of course feel free to look at what we have in stock for Canon, Nikon, and Sony.

 

Variation Measurements for Telephoto Lenses

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We're nearing the end of the Varation series for prime lenses. If you are joining in late, you may want to go back to the original article for an introduction into the methods used. Today will look at the short telephoto group, lenses ranging in focal length from 85mm to 150mm. We've also included a summary table of all the lenses we've tested to date at the end of the article.

 

 

Today's lenses are somewhat of older design, with several models released in the 1990s. The prices range from $400 to $4200. My own assumption (and we all know how well my assumptions usually turn out) was that these longer lenses would have less copy-to-copy variation than the wider focal lengths did.

MTF Curves of Telephoto Lenses

Ten copies of each lens were tested on our Trioptics Imagemaster Optical Bench using the standard protocol, which we described in the introductory blog post.  All lenses are tested at their widest apertures, so take that into consideration when comparing MTFs; stopping down a lens would improve its MTF, so consider that when you compare an f/1.8 lens to an f/2.8 lens or whatever. These are presented roughly in order of widest to longest.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

Before you all go crazy over the Canon 85mm curves, remember that f/1.2 is significantly wider aperture than f/1.4. Also remember the Canon 85mm f/1.8 and 100mm f/2 lenses are ancient (1991-92) designs. The Nikon 85mm lenses are much more recent, released in 2010 and 2012 respectively and it shows in their resolution. They are excellent from center to edge. The Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 is particularly good in the center, where it has significantly higher resolution than even the Nikons, but not as good off axis. The 85mm f/1.4 Otus, of course, is just amazing optically, with easily the best resolution in the center and excellent resolution to the edges, although it does have significant astigmatism in the outer 1/3. The Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 shows again that Rokinon makes some lenses that are nearly as good as the brand-name lenses at very low prices.

I separated the MTF curves for the Macro and 135mm lenses, since they are really quite different beasts than the 85mm lenses.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Looking at the 100 range Macro lenses, it's apparent that the Nikon 105  f/2.8 VR Micro and Canon 100 f/2.8 Macro are excellent, but don't resolve quite as well as the other two Macro lenses. This isn't too surprising; they are both older designs. The amazing thing to me is just how excellent the Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro Planar is; it compares very well with the new Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L, even though the Zeiss is being tested at f/2 and the Canon at f/2.8. That is really amazing.

I would point out, though, that this is testing at infinity focusing distance. As we know, Macro lens performance can be quite different at macro shooting distances.

The Canon 135 f/2 L is a superb lens, one of my favorites. But there's not much question if you don't mind lugging around the weight, paying the price, and manually focusing, the Zeiss 135 f/2 gives you higher resolution except at the edge of the image.

Copy-to-Copy Variation

The simplest way to look at variation is with our Consistency number (for a complete discussion of how we arrive at the Consistency number, see this post). In summary, a higher consistency number means there is less copy-to-copy variation; the lens you buy is more likely to closely resemble the MTF average we presented above. In general, a score over 7 is excellent, a score from 6-7 good, 5-6 okay, 4-5 is a going to have significant copy-to-copy variation, and under 4 is a total crapshoot.

Our expectation was that the telephoto lenses would have less sample variation than the wide-angle lenses. Here are the variation graphs in the same order as the MTF charts above.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The most consistent of the 85mm lenses are the two Nikons along with the Zeiss Otus. The Canon 85 f/1.2 is, of course, an f/1.2. Its optical assembly is basically a single unit; no adjustments are possible as far as we know. The other two Canon lenses are much, much older design and probably designed more towards film tolerances, which would be less critical than that needed for digital sensors. Still, my theory that longer focal lengths would have less copy-to-copy variation takes a pretty big hit here.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The longer focal lengths do seem to have less copy-to-copy variation. The older designs of the Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro and Nikon 105 VR Macro aren't quite as good as the others. The newer Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L Macro and the Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro are just excellent, with some of the highest Consistency numbers of any lenses. The 135mm lenses are also both very good, although the older Canon design isn't as good as the new, and much more expensive, Zeiss 135mm Apo-Sonnar.

Updated Table

I've updated the sortable table of consistency scores by brand, focal length, and aperture and reproduced it below. If you want to look at the variables differently, you can click on any of the headings and sort things by that category.

Manufacturer Focal Length (mm) Aperture Consistency
Rokinon241.44.0
Nikon241.44.6
Sigma241.44.9
Canon Mk II241.46.3
Canon501.26.0
Canon501.45.5
Canon STM501.89.3
Nikon581.46.7
Nikon501.44.6
Nikon501.86.3
Zeiss501.46.1
Zeiss Makro5027.3
Zeiss Otus551.46.5
Sigma Art501.47.5
Rokinon501.44.0
Canon Mk II142.84.0
Rokinon142.84.0
Zeiss152.86.5
Zeiss183.56.1
Canon TS-E II243.55.3
Canon TS-E1744.9
Zeiss212.85.2
Zeiss2526.2
Canon IS242.85.9
Canon281.86.0
Canon IS282.89.3
Canon351.46.6
Canon IS3527.7
Nikon351.45.9
Nikon351.84.5
Zeiss351.45.7
Zeiss3526.4
Sigma Art351.45.1
Rokinon351.43.6
Canon851.25.9
Canon851.84.5
Rokinon851.44.2
Nikon851.47.4
Nikon851.88.1
Canon10023.6
Zeiss 851.45.3
Zeiss Otus851.47.8
Canon Macro1002.86.4
Canon Macro IS L1002.89.5
Nikon Micro VR1052.86.1
Zeiss Makro10029.3
Canon13527.0
Zeiss13528.8

Variation Sumary

I had planned another post showing good predictors of copy-to-copy variation with a bit more in-depth analysis. The truth is, the summary doesn't require another post. There are some trends, but nothing that serves as a nice, general, overall predictor of which lenses have little copy-to-copy variation. There are a few things worth noting though.

I hate to get into brands because it makes the fanboys go insane, but there are a couple of trends that are pretty obvious when you sort the table above. Zeiss lenses overall do better than the others; no Zeiss lens falls below "5" on our scale, and the vast majority are over "6". Canon's newer lenses are also superb, with very high consistency scores, and several of these are of the reasonably priced variety. Rokinon lenses are at the lower end of the consistency scores, which is entirely understandable. These are superb optics made at an amazingly low price. Achieving that low price means not having adjustable optics and taking some cost saving measures. They're still awesome bargains and I shoot several of them myself. Copy-to-copy variation is pretty understandable at that price.

Second, it seems we probably should put an 'aperture adjustment' constant in our formula, or at least emphasize more that wider aperture is going to have more variation. The trend isn't very strong, but there is some correlation that f/1.4 lenses have more variation than f/2 or f/2.8 lenses. Before we decide why that might be, though, we need to look at variation of a group of f/1.4 lenses as we stop them down. I don't know how much of the variation is from shooting at a wider aperture itself and how much is the more complex design required to get a lens to that wide aperture. I suspect it's a design thing, though, because some wide-aperture lenses have very little variation.

My theory that longer focal lengths have less variation than wide-angle lenses wasn't nearly as important as I thought.  There's a little trend that way (the trend line in the graph below is Excel's default linear trend), but it's not all that impressive.

 

The most favorite internet theory, that more expensive lenses have some magic 'quality control' that eliminates variation, is totally untrue. The trend line for that is just about flat. If you're surprised don't be. Money goes into multiple elements, more expensive glass, and complex designs. The lenses get made in the same factory, generally, and tested with the same equipment as that company's other lenses. Actually, the QA probably has to be a bit better just to keep the variation the same. More complex lenses, designed to tighter tolerances, will normally have more variation, not less. Tighter QC is probably needed just to keep variation the same.

 

Overall, year of design didn't have a lot of impact either. But we did see that new Canon lenses seem to be doing much better. When you sort the table above, it's clear that there are several new Canon designs at the top of the consistency scores. We've also been noting for several years the increased modularity in Canon's lens designs when we do lens teardowns. I suspect the two trends are related.

 

But at this time, there's not much that can be done to predict how consistent the copy-to-copy variation in a given lens will be. We'll just have to keep testing it.

 

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube

Lensrentals.com

July 2015

ADDENDUM

Our MTF and Consistency graphs are now available in a comparison tool at The Digital Picture. You can use their lens comparison tool to compare any two lenses that we've done, and will update their site as we do more. I think this is amazingly useful compared to searching through our blog posts to find what you are looking for. We appreciate Bryan and the staff at TDP for doing all the heavy lifting to make this possible.

Variation Measurements for Wide-Angle Lenses

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When we started this series, we introduced our methods using 24mm lenses, then followed up with looks at the 50mm and 35mm groups. Today we're going to go back to the wide-angle lenses; the ones we expect to have the most variation of all. We probably should call this post the Zeiss Invitational, since they have by far the most wide-angle options. We also left a couple of the 24mm 'ish' lenses out of our opening post, so this post will include some of those, too.

Most of the lenses we'll discuss today are of fairly recent development; released after 2007. The price range isn't too large, ranging from $350 to $2200. One thing that should be noted: ultra-wide angle lenses get very complex. A lot of people like to make the assumption that more expensive means some increased level of quality control and therefore less copy-to-copy variation. Truth is more expensive often means more complex and sometimes, even with better quality control, it means more variation.

We also are including some tilt-shifts (shot untitled and unshifted, of course) in the results today. Remember that tilt-shift lenses have other complexities that make them a bit more likely to have some sample variation, so they have a bit of disadvantage here.

MTF Curves of Wide Angle Lenses

Ten copies of each lens were tested on our Trioptics Imagemaster Optical Bench using the standard protocol, which we described in the introductory blog post. The Nikon 20mm f/1.8G is an exception - we don't have 10 copies available so we settled for 5.  All lenses are tested at their widest apertures, so take that into consideration when comparing MTFs; stopping down a lens would improve its MTF, so consider that when you compare and f/1.8 lens to an f/4 lens or whatever. These are presented roughly in order of widest to longest. I've included the Canon 24mm f/1.4 Mk II at the end to even out the number of graphs. We'd already presented it in our original article but I thought including it here would give some quick and easy comparison since it was the best of the 24mm f/1.4 lenses.

 

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals, 2015

 

There aren't a ton of surprises seen in the MTF curves of the wide-angle primes. As a general rule, the wider the lens, the more the MTF falls off away from center. Among the widest lenses, the Zeiss really do an amazing job. The Zeiss 15mm is clearly better off axis than the Canon 14mm f/2.8 L, and the Zeiss 18mm (from a pure MTF standpoint) is better than the 15mm.  The Rokinon 14mm doesn't resolve in the center nearly as well as the others, but does keep that sharpness across the entire field of view. Off axis it is better than most of the other ultra-wide lenses.

All of the other lenses are pretty much excellent, with the exception, perhaps of the Canon 28mm f/1.8 lens. This isn't surprising since this is a much older design and an inexpensive lens. The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 looks just as good as one would expect (maybe better given it's classic design). The Canon 24mm f.2.8 IS surprised me a bit, it's actually a little better than the 28mm f/2.8 IS and I would have thought it might be a bit weaker.

Copy-to-Copy Variation

The simplest way to look at variation is with our Consistency number (for a complete discussion of how we arrive at the Consistency number, see this post). In summary, a higher consistency number means there is less copy-to-copy variation; the lens you buy is more likely to closely resemble the MTF average we presented above. In general, a score over 7 is excellent, a score from 6-7 good, 5-6 okay, 4-5 is a going to have significant copy-to-copy variation, and under 4 is a total crapshoot.

Our expectation was that the ultra-wide lenses, and to a lesser degree the tilt-shift lenses, would have more sample variation than the longer focal lengths. Here are the variation graphs in the same order as the MTF charts above.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The first comment I have shouldn't surprise many people. My experience with 14mm lenses meant I already knew they had a lot of copy-to-copy variation, and our tests certainly documented that. I was surprised that the Zeiss 15mm and 18mm lenses, despite being nearly as wide, had significantly higher consistency numbers (meaning less copy-to-copy variation).

If you've worked with tilt-shifts very much, you probably aren't surprised to see there's a bit of copy-to-copy variation with these lenses. There is a fair amount of mechanics involved in tilting and shifting that are going to add to variation. Not surprisingly, the variation curves show they are quite consistent in the center, but tend to have a bit of tilt as you go off axis.

The other lenses all did pretty well, and honestly much better than I expected. The one very pleasant surprise, with a Consistency score of 9.3, was the Canon 28mm f/2.8 IS. This lens isn't particularly expensive but is amazingly consistent, much like the inexpensive Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. Why it does so well (and better than the similar Canon 24mm f/2.8 IS lens) I can't say. We've never taken a look inside it, but we'll be correcting that shortly.

Another Big Picture Look

We've published results for 35 prime lenses so far, with another 15 or so on the way. I can't say the results have surprised me greatly, but then I repair and optically adjust lenses all day. Most of the surprises I've gotten from this data, though, have been positive surprises. There are some amazingly consistent prime lenses with little copy-to-copy variation and they are often relatively inexpensive and excellent lenses. To keep you caught up, here are the consistency numbers for all the lenses we've tested so far in a sortable form -- just click on the top row to sort by brand, aperture, or focal length.

 
Manufacturer Focal Length (mm) Aperture Consistency
Rokinon241.44.0
Nikon241.44.6
Sigma241.44.9
Canon Mk II241.46.3
Canon501.26.0
Canon501.45.5
Canon STM501.89.3
Nikon581.46.7
Nikon501.44.6
Nikon501.86.3
Zeiss501.46.1
Zeiss Makro5027.3
Zeiss Otus551.46.5
Sigma Art501.47.5
Rokinon501.44.0
Canon Mk II142.84.0
Rokinon142.84.0
Zeiss152.86.5
Zeiss183.56.1
Canon TS-E II243.55.3
Canon TS-E1744.9
Zeiss212.85.2
Zeiss2526.2
Canon IS242.85.9
Canon281.86.0
Canon IS282.89.3
Canon351.46.6
Canon IS3527.7
Nikon351.45.9
Nikon351.84.5
Zeiss351.45.7
Zeiss3526.4
Sigma Art351.45.1
Rokinon351.43.6

Please don't make a lot of generalizations yet. This is a big, ongoing project, and this is still less than half the data. I think speculations are interesting, and I do think the information is useful. We'll be publishing the data for longer focal length lenses soon. Then we'll follow up by looking at some of the wide-aperture lenses stopped down to see how much copy-to-copy variation decreases as the aperture stops down.

And remember, the consistency number is just a massive compression of other data -- you'll get a lot more information looking at the variation graphs than the consistency number. Philadelphia and Phoenix both have population numbers of about 1.5 million, but that doesn't make them the same.

We'll also continue to update this table of Consistency scores so there's a single, long-term reference for you to go to. And hopefully, within a couple of weeks we'll complete arrangements for there to be a comparison tool so you can look at MTF and Consistency graphs side-by-side when you're trying to make lens decisions.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube

Lensrentals.com

July, 2015

Second Shooting a Wedding: What I Use When Gear Is Unlimited

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I get asked quite often what gear I recommend for shooting weddings. Almost always, recommend the same old tried and true things: high end bodies with good low light performance, f/2.8 zooms, and if you’re feeling frisky, fast aperture primes. But no one ever asks me about their second shooters. I gave up primary shooting weddings a while back, mostly because I don’t like the extra work and the extra responsibility. I do like shooting weddings, and I like having extra money, though. I’ve been fortunate enough to hook up with a great local wedding photographer, Josh Malahy with wellworn.co, and I’ve been second shooting for him for about three wedding seasons now. When I interviewed with him I asked if he had any gear requirements or expectations from me, and he said, “I have two rules. One, wear a suit. And two, don't shoot too much.” He likes my shooting style and gives me carte blanche to shoot with whatever I want, however I want, and I run with it.

My current go to setup is a Nikon D750 with 35mm and 85mm f/1.8 primes. For the most part, this covers me for just about everything. Often I’ll bring along a 58mm f/1.4 because I just love the way it renders, and the amazing 200mm f/2, because nothing else looks like a 200mm f/2.

D750, 85mm f/1.8

 

D750, 200mm f/2

 

I used to love bringing the Leica Monochrom, but I've moved on to the Sony a7S with Leica adapter because I find it more versatile. My favorite lenses are the 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron, 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron, 21mm f/1.4 Summilux, and Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon. All of these work beautifully on the a7S, and thankfully I work here at LensRentals and don't have to get a second mortgage to buy these lenses.

 

Sony a7S, Leica 21mm f/1.4

 

Sony a7S, Leica 21mm f/1.4

 

The built in wifi on both the D750 and a7S lets me transfer images instantly to my phone, so I can send them to friends or Instagram right after I shoot them. Posting instantly to Instagram has been a good form of advertisement, and the bride in that last one is a good friend of mine and was glad to have the instant keepsake.

Speaking of instant, I also like to bring along one of my instant film cameras. I regularly shoot with either a Mamiya Universal or a Graflex SLR. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, we don't rent these. But they're relatively cheap and easy to find on the used market. And the clients always love the results.

 

Mamiya Universal, 100mm f/2.8, Fuji FP-100C

 

Graflex Series D, Plaubel Anticomar 6" f/2.9, Fuji FP-100C

 

Josh himself is an avid film fan and often incorporates film work into the weddings we do. He'll bring along his Rolleiflex and Leica bodies alongside his Fuji X-T1 and X100S, switching between them seamlessly. The romance of film is still alive and well, and people love seeing those old cameras in use. And because Josh uses Fuji digital for most of the wedding coverage, wedding guests often think I’m the primary shooter with my bigger Nikons, allowing him to go unnoticed and get shots that might not be possible otherwise. We’ve developed a really great working relationship where he gets all the really important stuff like formal portraits, first looks, details, etc., and I back him up with extras of those things as well as candids and fun stuff he’s not always able to get. It’s the perfect setup for both of us, especially when I remember to pack a flask of good whiskey. The mother of the bride is usually appreciative of that flask, too.

Bottom line, if you're second shooting, take it as an opportunity to stretch your legs and try something new. Bring something you're comfortable with that will get the job done right, but don't be afraid to bring along something fun and interesting. That way when you're ready to start shooting your own weddings, you'll have a large repertoire to pick from. We have lots of toys to choose from, so try something new this season! Here's some fun suggestions for you:

Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-E or Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8

Lomography x Zenit Petzval for Nikon or Canon

Lensbaby Composer Pro with Edge 80 Optic for Nikon or Canon

 

Five Features On The Profoto B1 Not Seen On Other Strobes

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I’ve said it hundreds of times now, I really love the Profoto B1. Years ago, I would use my Alien Bees strobes at a fraction of the price, and scoff at those who chose to go with the more expensive strobe solutions. I’d often laugh, and say light is light, and that if you need a 2 thousand dollar strobe to produce your work, there was something wrong. I've found however, the something wrong, was my mindset.

Now I’m not saying that you do need this expensive piece of gear to produce work. It’s easy to get wrapped into the mentality that your gear is somehow to be blamed for you not producing magazine quality work. However, the Profoto B1 is what I believe to be the best strobe on the market right now, and the reason isn’t the price, but all the features that it has that many other strobes do not. So let’s go over a quick overview of what sets the Profoto B1 apart from the rest.

Battery Powered

The most obvious feature of the Profoto B1 is the battery attached to its side. No other (major) brand of strobes has been able to actually attach the power unit to the side of the flash, allowing for 100% cordless operation with around 220 full powered shots on a single battery.

But yes, there are alternatives. An Alien Bee and Vagabond Mini can be purchased and give you on location power for your strobes - as does the Elinchrom ELB 400. But each of those systems require cables to be ran from the battery pack to the unit. While small, these cables add an inconvenience while on location, and may make the whole lighting process a bit more cumbersome. No major manufacturer has been able to place a battery on the unit itself, with the exception of Profoto.

TTL Capability

Alongside the many features in the Profoto B1 is the TTL capabilities. Now I know what you’re thinking… “Who uses TTL?” and you’re right. Ultimately, we should learn how to balance light using the manual functions, just as we learned how to adjust ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speeds using the manual functions. But the TTL actually works well and has some practicality to it. For example, if I’m honest, more often than not, I’m shooting in Av mode for most events or high action types of photography. Sadly, adjusting settings takes time, which could make me miss the needed photograph from the day. The same applies for TTL on the Profoto B1. If I want to rimlight something, it’s easy to just set the light on a stand, power on, and shoot. Perhaps best of all, TTL and Manual mode is decided by the TTL-C/TTL-N remotes on your camera, so you’re able to switch back and forth, without ever having to touch the strobe.

High Speed Sync

Perhaps the most incredible feature within the Profoto B1 came in a firmware update for the unit and trigger, and that was High Speed Sync. For those who remember the Profoto B1 announcement back in November of 2013, little to no mention was made about the possibility of High Speed Sync in future updates. But just a few months later, they introduced High Speed Sync (HSS) to the units, allowing you to shoot up to 1/8000th of a second with the use of strobes.

This is an incredible feature for a lot of photographers. As you may know, the flash sync speed for traditional strobes is limited to 1/200th of a second (1/250th on crop bodies). This is because, the shutter is not able to open and close fully at faster speeds, resulting in a portion of the shutter actually being in frame (in the form of a black bar on the edge of the frame). High Speed Sync fires multiple microsecond bursts of light, allowing the light to cover the entire frame, in an incredible scientific manner. The result is, you lose a little bit of flash power, but allow for faster shutter speeds. Doing this, allows you to both balance ambient light, and shoot at a shallower depth of field.

Remote Functionality (The TTL-C Remote & TTL-N Remote)

Profoto TTL-C Remotes

One of the favorite features with the Profoto B1 isn’t the unit itself, but the remote that pairs with it. The Profoto TTL-C (For Canon) and the Profoto TTL-N (For Nikon) allows you to do a lot of things traditionally unavailable in a hot shoe trigger. For one, they allow you to group your lights into 3 groups (A, B, and C) and on 8 different channels (1-8). From there, you can adjust each light power output in one stop increments, or 1/10th stop increments. You’re also able to turn on TTL, High Speed Sync, Rear Curtain Shutter, Modeling Lights, and more. All of these features are adjustable, in a small trigger unit (smaller than a Pocketwizard in size). While this feature isn’t new to strobes (most notably the PCB Cyber Commander), it is the easiest to use system I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying (and I’ve tried virtually all of them).

Robust Build

The most practical feature really needs to come last, and that is the overall build quality of the Profoto B1 - and all of the Profoto Strobe line. To put it simply, the Profoto B1s are robust. While you can feel the quality of these units by simply holding them, my discovery came in the form of a disaster during one of my photography workshops last summer. I had rented Profoto B1s from LensRentals, for students to use in an outdoor lighting workshop. During that workshop, we had a gust of wind, and one of the Profoto B1 strobes came crashing down from a 12ft stand, directly onto concrete. The result was a cracked housing unit, but an otherwise perfectly good unit. In fact, despite the damage, the flash unit went on to be heavily used for another 2-3 hours. The unit still fired, the unit still held softboxes, and the unit still performed at 100%, despite the damage done.

And this is important for a lot of reasons. Had that happened, and the strobe broke entirely, I’d be out 50% of my lights during a very important day. Perhaps you’ve used Alien Bee strobes in the past. They’re often regarded as having the best customer service in the industry, but that’s only because you’ve likely had to send the unit in for repair on at least one occasion. The mounting arms will break, the unit will start smoking, and the circuit boards will eventually cut out. While they’re always happy to repair the units, often for either free or for incredibly cheap, you still need to send them in, and the shoot that they broke down on, may already be ruined. Having gear you can rely on is a huge asset, and an absolute requirement when working on commercial photo shoots - which is why Profoto is the industry standard.

 

Sadly, the luxury of the Profoto B1 doesn’t come cheap. At $2000 for a unit, it’s out of the price range for many, especially when decent strobes can be found for less. But if you haven’t had the opportunity to use the Profoto B1s before, I recommend you give them a try, and see for yourself what really separates them from the rest of the competition.

First Impressions of the Canon XC10

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Over the July 4th weekend, I had the chance to mess around with the new 4k capable Canon XC10.  The feature heavy system packed into a smaller form factor had many videographers intrigued, Here are the first few shots along with some quick first impressions.  (All shots were captured hand-held in c-log with a cloudy white balance.  I tried to keep the color and contrast work to a minimum.  Also, just to note, Canon’s XF-AVC codec is not yet supported by Final Cut X, which I originally tried. I tried converting the footage first using Handbrake but the results looked like crap.  I ended up doing everything in Adobe Premier.)

First off, the good. The form factor is very nice, it actually looks like a miniature Canon C100. The handgrip fit comfortably in my hands and rotates to accommodate various shooting situations. The dynamic range was also very impressive. The ISO performance was nice until I reached 10,000, as you will see above in the video, once it hits 10,000 it is almost completely unusable. The Image Stabilization did an excellent job as well, the entire video did not have any stabilization done in post, and all of the shots are handheld utilizing the internal IS and digital stabilization in conjunction. The battery life was also excellent, easily shooting throughout the day with any disruptions or problems.  I’m guessing I could have got 2hrs worth of mixed use shooting out of one LP-E6n battery.  Not bad at all.

Sadly, however, this is not the perfect camera and comes with its own set of problems. The glaringly obvious is the fixed lens. With a 27-270mm f/2.8-f/5.6, the Canon XC10 lacks a lot of common features (such as fixed aperture) that videographers have come to expect with video cameras. That immediately disqualifies it from most professional applications in my opinion. There is also many menu and customization options that are lacking from this camera. It would be very nice to have the ability to adjust the sensitivity of the peaking. Also, changing the ISO is incredibly difficult, which is a shame because I kept having to change the ISO because of the variable aperture. I wish there was a designated ISO button. Like I mentioned earlier, ISO 10,000 and above is unusable unlike the C100 which I don’t mind pushing that far at all.

One last note regarding the focus abilities.  I don’t feel like the focusing speed matches the shooting style that this camera would work best for.  With its small form factor, fixed lens, decent dynamic range, and ISO performance, it would work really well as a “run ’n gun” style camera.    Some people need to travel light, get in, get the shot, and get out.  Everything about the focusing system in the XC10 seemed slow. Not inaccurate, just slow. The continuous autofocus is pleasant and smooth but if you’re in a rush, it might annoy you.  Same thing with manual focus, the throw just seems too long to be functional in a fast paced environment.

As a reminder, this is just one man’s first impressions, but if you’re looking for an all in one system and are coming from maybe a Canon XF100 or similar, this is certainly an upgrade and a lot of fun.  But if you are looking for a small, complementary camera for your Canon C300, look elsewhere, as the Canon XC10 has some shortfalls for the professional videographer.

Variance Measurement for 35mm SLR Lenses

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Last week we posted optical bench MTF and copy-to-copy variation measurements for 50mm SLR lenses. We're going to continue that series this week with the same measurements for the 35mm lenses. This set should fill out the wide-to-standard range lenses and gives us a lot of interesting data as we continue to look at what factors affect copy-to-copy variation. These lenses range in price from $200 to $2300 USD, includes a couple of lenses first released in the 1990s and several released in the last couple of years, complexity ranging from 4 to 10 groups with and without aspheric elements.

MTF Curves of the 35mm Lenses

Ten copies of each lens were tested on our Trioptics Imagemaster Optical Bench using the standard protocol, which we described in the introductory blog post. All lenses are tested at their widest apertures, so take that into consideration when comparing MTFs; stopping an f/1.4 lens down to f/1.8 or f/2.0 would improve its MTF. (And yes, I realize how nice it would be to have done the f/1.4 lenses at f/1.8 and f/2.0. I might get to it someday. Maybe.)

Let's take a look at the MTF curves for the 35mm lenses. Below are the average curves for each lens. They are in no particular order of anything other than kind of trying to keep lenses of the same brand together.

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015
Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The MTF curves for the f/1.4 lenses don't show us much that we didn't already know. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens has the best resolution of the bunch. The Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 isn't quite as sharp, but clearly is the second best. The Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 is very comparable to the name-brand glass and interesting in that it maintains excellent resolution all the way to the edges. The Rokinon 35mm has a tangential 'bump' at 2mm, like the Rokinon 50mm lens did. Again, this is an artifact of local distortion from the aspheric element that affects our testing, but would not affect your shooting.

If there's a takeaway message from the MTF curves, it's that if you don't absolutely need to shoot at f/1.4, you can save quite a bit of money by grabbing the Canon 35mm f/2, Zeiss 35mm f/2, or Nikon 35mm f/1.8 G AF-S lenses. They're all excellent. If you do need to shoot at f/1.4 and want the highest resolution possible, then you want the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. Note that I didn't say the best lens, I said best resolution. There is more to the choice of a 35mm lens than simply resolution, but it's always good to know what kind of resolution you are going to get.

Speaking of what you're going to get, let's take a look at how much copy-to-copy variation we can expect from these lenses.

Copy-to-Copy Variation

The simplest way to look at variation is with our Consistency number (for a complete discussion of how we arrive at the Consistency number, see this post). In summary, a higher consistency number means there is less copy-to-copy variation; the lens you buy is more likely to closely resemble the MTF average we presented above. In general, a score over 7 is excellent, a score from 6-7 good, 5-6 okay, 4-5 is a going to have significant copy-to-copy variation, and under 4 is a total crapshoot.

Here are the variation graphs for the 35mm lenses in the same order as we presented the MTFs above. The consistency number is in bold at the lower left of each graph.

 

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube, Lensrentals.com, 2015

 

The Consistency numbers for the 35mm lenses were generally poor, generally no better than the 24mm lenses. The two Canon lenses and the Zeiss 35mm f/2 all were above 6, and the Nikon and Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lenses weren't far behind. For the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 and Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lenses particularly, the Consistency number doesn't give as much information as the actual variation graph. If you look at the graph you'll notice they are quite consistent in the center. Their variance comes in the outer 1/3 if the lens. This suggests thy will be quite consistent as far as center sharpness, but copies tend to suffer from a soft corner or soft side.

The other lenses had lower consistency. I was quite surprised at the Nikon 35mm f/1.8; the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 showed a lot less variation and I had expected similar performance with the 35mm f/1.8. Also, if you look at the actual graphs you'll note that the Rokinon and Nikon 35mmf /1.8 tended to vary a lot at the center of the lens, meaning the variation here is affecting center sharpness, not just creating soft corners.

There's not a lot of trending with the 35mm lenses. The Canon 35mm f/1.4 and Zeiss 35mm f/2 are two of the oldest designs, yet they also have good consistency scores, but the very best consistency score comes from the newer Canon 35mm f/2. The more expensive lenses (Canon 35mm f/1.4, Zeiss 35mm f/1.4, and Nikon 35mm f/1.4 G have good Consistency scores but it's not something that seems significant. However, the inexpensive Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 AF-S G do have the lowest Consistency scores.

I won't repeat the trendspotting graphs we placed in the last post. You can look back at it and see the 35mm lenses were already mapped out on the variation-by-focal-length graph, just not labeled. We'll put up the ultra-wide angle and short telephoto lens results in the next week and then follow with a summary 'trendspotting' article when we have all of our prime lens data to look at.

 

Roger Cicala and Brandon Dube

Lensrentals.com

July, 2015

The Venus 60mm Macro - A Hidden Gem for Macro Photography

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Including macro shots in a portfolio or wedding album is a great way to add variation and make the work stand out. This is the time of year when we get a lot of questions not only about macro lenses but about which lenses are best for shooting weddings. These questions are often asked in the same conversation, as many photographers want to capture every detail of an event, especially the all important ring shot, but don’t want to switch lenses constantly. Recently I have been recommending a lens to customers that offers something new and fresh for their macro photography needs.

The Venus 60mm f/2.8 Macro made by an up and coming Chinese optics company is the first lens to offer 2:1 magnification with infinity focus. This basically means its possible to go from taking an ultra close detail shot to taking a portrait without switching lenses.

To show the real difference between this lens and the one already in your bag, here is a side by side comparison of the Venus 60mm f/2.8 (at 2:1) and the Canon 60mm f/2.8 (1:1). Each is at minimum focusing distance, mounted on a Canon 7D Mk II.

High Res Canon 60mm- f/2.8-1/2000-ISO 640---High Res Venus 60mm- f/5.6- 1/250-ISO 640

 

A magnification of 2:1 refers to the ratio of subject size to image size. Most common macro lenses have  a 1:1 ratio creating an image on the sensor that is equivalent in size to the actual subject. A 2:1 ratio makes the image of the subject twice as large.

The vignetting and bokeh of this lens gives it a romantic feel that often comes from bargain priced manual lenses (I happen to enjoy it). The manufacturers website advises against using this lens on a full frame sensor for anything other than macro work. I tested it out and it works just fine aside from the dark corners, which are noticeable...you've been warned.

Here are some images to show the variation of looks that can be achieved in succession. These are shot on a full frame camera, the Canon 5D MkIII, and show vignetting.

There is one detail that some may consider a drawback. The Venus lens is strictly a manual focus lens! The manual focus allows for very deliberate focusing, but it is not the quickest option for those without experience. When focusing very close the Venus lens tends to cut out some of the available light. The proximity also narrows the field of focus which is why in the example I stopped down to f/5.6 to give a similar look to the Canon lens. So keep in mind that the Venus will have slower shutter speeds when taking 2:1 macro photos.

I found that it's fairly easy to focus in well-lit situations, but as it gets darker you will have a harder time. If planning to shoot stopped down you will need to open your aperture, focus, and then close it down to the desired f-stop.

 These images were all taken either handheld or on a tripod to show the type of results typical of events or on the go shooting.

For those interested in a more dedicated  approach to macro shooting I recommend renting a  Novoflex Castel Q Focusing Rail for focus tweaking. Or the Cognisys StackShot 3X Macro Rail Package for times when you need to capture every detail.

 

There are many great macro lenses to choose from; the Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS comes to mind.  The big advantages of a lens like that are  autofocus and image stabilization. The Venus, however, is a different animal with the ability to get much closer and capture shots with unexpected intimacy and detail. The flexibility gained by getting as close as possible has convinced me to actually take a macro lens to my next  event rather than just using the wide end of the 24-70mm. You can try it for yourself here.

 

Sarah McAlexander