Using a MF lens on a DSLR: Rollei Planar 80mm on Canon - The Visual Experience
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r6k-eos-pro-01Is the camera or the lens the responsible of final image quality?

An old, never ending debate amongst photographers especially the ones somehow connected to “the Leica look”, the “zeiss tridimensionality” or the “nikon colors”. In our digital age with new “monster” sensors in relative small bodies (as the one of the Sony A7R), the old good glass continues to play surely its role in defining Image Quality (see here for a good attempt from Ctein to define image quality). But today we have ADAPTERS. Right in these days, filled up with a lot of tests of (vintage) lenses mounted on MILC, the debate is really actual. Lot of people are mounting all possible lenses thanks to a full range of adapters from Metabones  Novoflex  Fotodiox to name a few. Sure there are also counter indication in using adapters. Roger Cicala explains some of the potential issues you may with adapters have here. But, if the adapter market is so hot it means that you may have great results out of these sometimes impossible combos. When the story becomes more interesting, beside digital-to-digital len&body cross-mounting, is when you attempt to use film born lenses into digital cameras and, even better, MF film lenses. Of course MF lenses are wide, heavy and bulky and an 35mm equivalent DSLR would never be able to use all the available glass surface: the image circle is simply wider. So your DSLR would use only the center part of the lens, not the border, which, by chance, is normally the best. The question is weather an MF lens on a DSLR can give a similar “look” to what you may have on a native MF body. With all the limitation in terms of DOF we all know, of course.

I still use and love my Rollei 6003 Pro. Even for weddings (I know, I must be crazy). There is something magical in the outcomes, surely because MF has a swallower MF DOF but also because of the lens and of the film ( in my case Fuji PRO 160C, mostly).

And what about the look & feel? As a great lover of my old, trusty Rolleiflex-Zeiss 80 mm Planar I had the curiosity to see it on a Canon 5d MKII (with an EG-S focusing screen) and to check what outcomes it may provide.

Curious about the results? Well the first thing is of course is to be able to focus properly. My Fotodiox Adapter has de dedicated “dandelion” chip which makes the camera beep for focus checking. In any case you NEED a good focus screen. Over the last weeks I’m enjoying the EVF and focus peaking capabilities of a Sony A7R and I wish to have an EVF also on my DSLR. It can be a bit problematic nail focus, especially with an 80 mm lens without the modern aids. Once you solve the focus issue, however, you may have VERY good results. As usual, the shots have been processed with Iridient Developer and are available on full resolution if you click on them. No further processing or output sharpening, some slight cropping on few images.

You may notice that sharpness is generally good even if NOT perfect. This, actually, was something I was expecting. When you shoot with a combo like this, always wide-open, you’re after look and tridimensionality rather then sharpness. To be more explicit have a look to this photographs with my comments. I see at least 6 different “layers” whilst, on my Canon 85mm f1.2 I have a more cynical “on perfect focus” vs “out of focus” zone.

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Massimo Cristaldi



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