Monday, November 27, 2006

Old (some) glass on a modern digital camera

Lenses made for film cameras are not always optimal for digital cameras, or at least the theory goes. One contributor on Rangefinder Forum did an interesting comparison of four different 50mm lenses on the Epson R-D1, a digital rangefinder camera which takes lenses made for the Leica M mount.

The lenses were Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5, Canon 50mm f1.4, Canon 50mm f1.2 and Canon 50mm f0.95. In most cases, the Canon 0.95 was the best, in my eyes and given the conditions of the test. This is quite astonishing for a lens first marketed in 1961.

I'd be quite pleased to have the R-D1 as a digital camera. It makes nice images, it's b&w mode is remarkable, and it (mostly) meets my requirements for camera design. That said, it is not inexpensive, even if you can get a refurb directly from Epson at roughly 50% off. In addition, Epson QC and customer support for the R-D1 is problematic.

So this proves I'm not totally anti-digital. If money were no object, I'd have an R-D1 and some nice Canon ... or Leica ... or Zeiss glass.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Yet another "anti-digital" rant.

Over on Decrepit Old Fool, I posted this mini-rant (copied below) about digital cameras. This post was prompted by skimming and then posting in response to the Stupid Evil Bastard entry about choosing a digital camera. Here's my DOF comment:

I registered at SEB just so I could post a (fairly mild) “digital sux” rant. :D

Zuiko glass is great, but I’m now hankering for some Leica glass and a Is that just not the coolest looking rig you’ve ever seen? Hey NikCanon, why can’t you design cameras that look and feel so good that I am drawn to them, want to just pick ‘em up and GO.

Leica has done it with the M8. Despite some significant technical issues and Leica fumbling the launch of the camera, it could set a new standard for digital photography. Now we need a follow-on (Cosina Voigtlander? Zeiss?) that will make available a stellar but more “popularly priced” digital camera that will make Canon, Nikon, Fuji and even Olympus sweat.

If Maitani were still at work, it would be a done deal. That’s the sadness to me. There are no more real visionaries designing cameras. I know that’s a bit of hyperbole, but it’s how I feel.

DOF and some others will probably tell me to "give it a rest", but I don't care.

In a positive vein, both Fuji and Kodak have introduced some new films, OK, at least they're reformulated. Kodak re-did their Portra emulsions, and Fuji has re-introduced Velvia 50 Professional. Kodak offered free samples of the Portra on their website. They didn't publicize the promotion, but when word got out they had 33,000 people sign up. Limited to US distribution, their expected response was 22,000. Some folks got 35mm instead of 120, and vice versa, and are whining about it. I got two rolls of each, so I'm fine, but even if they had got it wrong, I wouldn't complain about getting free film from a company that is apparently abandoning film. Or at least, the CEO wants to, but somehow Mary Jane Hellyer sneaked in some R&D to improve the products. Judging by the response from real photographers, she knows something Antonio Perez doesn't.

OK, I'm not, deep down, anti-digital. The two technologies are just different, and analog/film photography has about a 100 year lead on digital. The people driving digital imaging seem to me to be non-photo marketing types. Say what you will about Kodak, but for years there were a lot of Kodakers who were committed to image quality and advancing photography as an important social endeavor. Yeah, yeah, they still had marketing types who got their 2 cents in, and were burdened by more layers of middle management than an onion.

And they certainly weren't the holy grail in all areas. I remember when they really screwed up black & white papers. Their initial move to resin coated papers and the cut in silver content during the mid-70s lost me. I went to Ilford for most of my b&w material and stayed there with the exception of Tri-X for film. And I discovered Agfa transparency films, along with Agfapan/APX 100 b&w film. Agfachrome was, for me, better than any Kodak colour slide film except for Kodachrome. But Agfa is gone, and Kodak, Ilford & Fuji remain.

So for now I applaud Kodak for paying at least some attention to film. I'd say Mary Jane has more balls than Antonio.