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Thread: Think of ditching the L glass

  1. #1

    Think of ditching the L glass

    Well, I have been toying with the idea for a year or so now but for some reason I have never done it. Now, more than ever, I feel like I am ready. Maybe it is because I have re-read things I read in the first place to even make me feel this way.

    I currently own one of the holy grails of canon's lenses, the 85L. It is a very nice lens but the problem is you have to nearly let the camera focus for you to have any keepers. I have changed out focusing screens and all but it just doesn't do it for me I guess.

    So that had me thinking, if that is supposedly one of canon's top tier lens, why the heck am I having such mixed feelings all the time? As I sit here and look at it while I type, it is truly a love hate thing. It allows me to do some wonderful things but then again it sucks.

    I guess this was my incentive to read up on medium format and then I said, "why medium and not large?

    I think I want to get in rather cheap to see if it fits me. I was thinking something along the lines of a crown 4x5 or such.

    To tell you the truth, I have been sick of digital for the past year or so. I dont know why. I guess I just don't really mesh well with it.

    The irony behind it all to me is that, while digital may be quicker, it still isn't as reliable or superior to the tride and true way of taking a picture.

    So, that is me and how I feel right about now. Before I do anything crazy, I will sleep on it.

  2. #2
    Sheldon N's Avatar
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    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    FWIW...

    I've owned both 85L's, version I and II. Neither is a lens that is suited for manual focus. Yes, you need to let the camera focus for you, there is no way that you are going to be fast or accurate enough to do it manually. This is even true with really nice bright full frame viewfinders (I shoot with a 1Ds Mark II). DOF wide open is SOOO shallow, on the order of a couple mm. You just can't see that through the viewfinder.

    I love people photography and I love shallow DOF. I thought that I could do both with a Hasselblad, and I got images that I really liked. However, it simply wasn't fast/reactive enough to shoot in fluid situation with lots of reaction and movement (think kids running around). I sold my 'blad to buy the 85L.

    If a 35mm autofocus camera (either film or digital) doesn't suit your way of working, then by all means consider LF. It's a great experience and has great image quality. However, I could never shoot people the way I see things with anything other than a fast autofocus 35mm camera.

  3. #3

    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    Go Nikon
    (superiour autofocus, better glass)
    I talked to an architectural photog the other day and he was also so pissed off about Canon, his new 5DII, especially the focusing accuracy of the Canon bodys and the glass which is a hit and miss, he needed to send in his camera or calibration 3 times and still its sort of improper. He went Nikon, for autofocus and the better wide-angle glass...

    But for your sort of thing, people with shallow DOF LF is also rather tricky.
    My well calibrated rangefinder on my Speed Graphic works, but working with the graphic is rather static. and also a hit and miss. LF Portraiture is much more formal. There are some who can go beyond that that, like Frank Petrionio here on the forum. but be prepared for a rather tricky path...

    I use the classic sytem for the occasional portraiture: Mamiya RG67 with the great 127 KL (too sharp for some portraits of women) or the 180mm. A nice hassy with some decent Zeiss glass, acute mate screen and maybe a prism can also do wonders...
    hourses for courses...

  4. #4

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    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    Are you using a 1D series camera? Anything else in Canon's camera catalogue is not precise enough for such a lens.
    Have you ever tried the 85/1.8? Lightweight and cheap, but top image quality.

    If you want to do LF portraits with very shallow DOF, your technique needs to be very accurate. My advice would be to keep trying harder with your DSLR. Without knowing your level of skills, I just want to say that generally speaking, new gear does not necessarily give you better pictures.

    Good luck.

  5. #5

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    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    APS DSLR w a 50/1.4 = FF DSLR or 35mm w a 85/1.4 = 6x6 120 w 110/2 = 4x5 w 172/2.5 Aero-Ektar = 8x10 w 14" Commercial Ektar

    Etc. We can argue about lenses but you get the point.

    They all give you the pretty much the same nice short depth of field portrait with nice out of focus rendering -- the differences, at least with online jpgs and portfolio-sized inkjets are subtle.

    The real difference is how you shoot with them. So far I've had my best results with the extremes -- a Nikon APS w a $100 50/1.8 has very good AF and also has a slightly larger depth of field which reduces errors. Some of my best were made with a D200 and a 50/1.8 -- a very inexpensive but rock solid combo that could be shot quickly and casually, great for squirming kids, being drunk, and low light.

    The 8x10 w the 14" (360mm) Ektar was also great, because people respect the big troublesome camera and they tend to rise to the occasion - you might only make a few exposures but somehow people do something extra for the big camera and your effort.

    The least success I've had is when I've tried too hard. Shooting a lens slightly stopped down and having 12mm of depth of field rather than just 4mm makes a big difference. And shooting the 4x5 fast, as I've done using Grafmatics that allow you to cycle the film in a few seconds, six shots per holder -- did not improve my "takes".

    Neither did SLR viewing (using a 4x5 Graflex Super D) or using Rangefinder (Crown Graphic or Technika) or using the Ground Glass (8x10, Sinars, etc.) -- none was better than the other in terms of results, even for close shallow DOF stuff.

    And I agree, you can't see shallow DOF in 35mm/digital/120 viewfinders and it can be hard even in 4x5. The nice thing about 8x10 is that the ground glass is so large and the DOF so short that it "pops" into focus very crispy and you can actually see it.

    That's my two cents. Go to the extremes of camera sizes and working methods and have both at your disposal. I did enjoy the journey of "trying it all" (almost) but I also wasted a lot of time and money on silly things like Veritos and exotic glass.

    As for myself? I'm sick of all this shallow DOF crap that everyone is doing, it is too damn common nowadays!!! Find something new -- just pick a camera that feels good and shoot a lot!

  6. #6

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    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Vadim View Post
    Go Nikon
    (superiour autofocus, better glass)
    I talked to an architectural photog the other day and he was also so pissed off about Canon, his new 5DII, especially the focusing accuracy of the Canon bodys and the glass which is a hit and miss, he needed to send in his camera or calibration 3 times and still its sort of improper. He went Nikon, for autofocus and the better wide-angle glass...

    But for your sort of thing, people with shallow DOF LF is also rather tricky.
    My well calibrated rangefinder on my Speed Graphic works, but working with the graphic is rather static. and also a hit and miss. LF Portraiture is much more formal. There are some who can go beyond that that, like Frank Petrionio here on the forum. but be prepared for a rather tricky path...

    I use the classic sytem for the occasional portraiture: Mamiya RG67 with the great 127 KL (too sharp for some portraits of women) or the 180mm. A nice hassy with some decent Zeiss glass, acute mate screen and maybe a prism can also do wonders...
    hourses for courses...
    Oh good, someone comes on the LF forum to tell us how much better Nikons are than Canons. What a refreshing change from the usual film vs digital arguments.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  7. #7
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    I talked to an architectural photog the other day and he was also so pissed off about Canon, his new 5DII, especially the focusing accuracy of the Canon bodys and the glass which is a hit and miss, he needed to send in his camera or calibration 3 times and still its sort of improper. He went Nikon, for autofocus and the better wide-angle glass...
    I can't resist this sorry........I have to say that any "architectural photographer" who uses autofocus really has their head up their a__. That is one of the dumbest comments I have ever heard. Up till the release of the new Canon T/S lenses, there is no doubt that Nikon held an edge based on their slightly better T/S lenses (Canon seems to have the edge now), but autofocus for architecture? Why? Is he handholding the camera? It is absolutely unnecessary and with interiors is guaranteed to focus at the wrong point aesthetically.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  8. #8

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    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    I can't resist this sorry........I have to say that any "architectural photographer" who uses autofocus really has their head up their a__. That is one of the dumbest comments I have ever heard. Up till the release of the new Canon T/S lenses, there is no doubt that Nikon held an edge based on their slightly better T/S lenses (Canon seems to have the edge now), but autofocus for architecture? Why? Is he handholding the camera? It is absolutely unnecessary and with interiors is guaranteed to focus at the wrong point aesthetically.
    Autofocus for architecture is invaluable during an earthquake.

  9. #9

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    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    I can't resist this sorry........I have to say that any "architectural photographer" who uses autofocus really has their head up their a__. That is one of the dumbest comments I have ever heard. Up till the release of the new Canon T/S lenses, there is no doubt that Nikon held an edge based on their slightly better T/S lenses (Canon seems to have the edge now), but autofocus for architecture? Why? Is he handholding the camera? It is absolutely unnecessary and with interiors is guaranteed to focus at the wrong point aesthetically.
    Unless, of course, a photographer suffers from some sort of eye/vision problem that would force him/her to rely on the camera for accurate focus. Using a single focus point and placing it on the exact spot of the desired focus should work fine, I think. The only difference would then be to press the button and let the camera move the actual focus ring instead of doing it manually all the way.

  10. #10
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Think of ditching the L glass

    Good Point Marko.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

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