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Thread: Cameras over Lenses

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    Cameras over Lenses

    Something which has long both puzzled and amused me is the importance so many people attribute to cameras as apposed to lenses. Not that lenses aren't considered crucial but how often do you hear "Well I've got this incredible 200mm 6,8 Grandagon attached to some kind of Swiss 8x10". which really would make more sense to me.

    To my way of thinking a sophisticatd lens is technically far more interesting than any camera. The complication and precision are often breathtaking and certainly contribute more than a little to the success of the final photograph / image. Camera design really hasn't gone anywhere for well over a hundred years and frankly the sight of a modern high-tech lens on say an Ebony looks ubsurd to me.

    So shouldn't a Hasselblad SWC/M really be called a Zeiss Biogon instead? Seems logical to me. But for some reason it's always the camera name that's dominant. And please don't bore me with comments about how car tires are at least as important as the car they support. It's not quite the same. Or is it ?

  2. #2

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    Cameras over Lenses

    You have a couple of good points. Yes, the lens is far more imnportant than the body. I would say that car tires are more like film holders though as they do contribute to performance of the overall system.

    To a casual observer, camera designs may not look like they've come very far, but I'd suggest that you give a serious look at the Canham metal field cameras and compare it to something like an R.O.C. Empire State before making the statement "Camera design really hasn't gone anywhere for well over a hundred years".

  3. #3

    Cameras over Lenses

    I wonder if this issue isn't a some sort of vestige from 35mm and MF. With LF camera choice does not determine which brand or type of lens is used, while, with a few exceptions, if you buy a Hasselblad or a Leica you will use a Zeiss or Leitz lens. Popular discourse also adds to this; if you walk out on the street with your LF camera and lens, nobody is going to ask "what kind of lens is that?".

    In any case, I for one am far more intersted in glass than wood (or metal), and I suspect that the majority of readers and writers on this site are also. If you compare posts on this site, you will see that there are more posts on the five lenses topics (1629 posts as of now) than on the camera AND lenses topics (1553).

  4. #4

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    Cameras over Lenses

    It could simply be a practical convention; the camera, or body, is the constant in a modular system. All components; backs/holders, viewfinders, compendium shades, and lenses all attach to the camera. While a high-dollar, modern lens might contribute a lot to the image, it only takes one simple comparison between a wobbly old Korona and a precision Arca Swiss to understand the central role of the camera.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
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    10,314

    Cameras over Lenses

    "Yes, the lens is far more imnportant than the body"

    That is until the body design does not hold film flat, or parallel (when required), or when the focusing mechanism is imprecise or the shutter and aperatures are not properly calibrated, etc., etc., etc.

    The process is a chain and every element in that chain contributes to the final outcome. So one weak link can prevent the finest lens or the finest body from producing the optimal result.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    10

    Cameras over Lenses

    Thanks for the responses. But lets consider something. As I have used Sinar cameras for the last thirty years, I'm fairly familiar with them. I should also mention I've spent more than a little time with precision measuring equipment to get them "close" to accurate as far as parallelism is concerned. The adhesive film holders were a nice addition to the Sinar line some years ago and I use them regularly, particularly for 8x10 for obvious reasons. But the point is in my (very limited) experience these cameras all needed adjustment and tuning just to get "close" in they're roll of holding a piece of film in a certain position, which compared to calculating lens design strikes me as rather simple. I should also mention I've also "tuned" the five Hasselblad bodies I use and again was a little surprised at the tolerance levels. Should mention I do not own a MK 70 (yet) which I would imagine sets the standards somewhat higher. The point is that if lens designers were as sloppy as the folks at some (LF) camera manufacturers we'd be in more serious trouble. Additionally I know I could build a view camera that would give me "acceptable" results. Lenses I wouldn't dream about, even if I had the knowledge and equipment. Please understand I'm not looking for an argument; I'm just trying to see where the truth lies.

  7. #7
    Octogenarian
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    Cameras over Lenses

    Which came first, "the chicken, or the egg"? Does it really matter?

    The classic example of the synnergy between camera and lens is the fixed-lens Rolleiflex twin lens reflex line of cameras. After WWII, they all but replaced the Speed Graphics that were used by photojournalists. The design of the Rollei is far from perfect. However, the combination of the camera, and the great lenses used on those cameras, more than made up for the shortcommings.

    I get frustrated when I see someone on this forum attempting to adapt an improper lens in order to make it fit on a camera that is not designed for that size shutter, that focal length, etc. Then, they wonder why that combination of lens and camera won't do what they want it to do.

  8. #8

    Cameras over Lenses

    "I should also mention I've spent more than a little time with precision measuring equipment to get them "close" to accurate as far as parallelism is concerned. The adhesive film holders were a nice addition to the Sinar line some years ago and I use them regularly, particularly for 8x10 for obvious reasons. But the point is in my (very limited) experience these cameras all needed adjustment and tuning just to get "close" in they're roll of holding a piece of film in a certain position...etc"

    But you know, unless you were engaged in some form of scientific photogorpahy (in which case the Sinar would be the wrong instrument), then I bet no one apart from yourself could ever see any significant difference in the final photograph? It is, after all is said and done, the resulting image that counts. In the final analysis, the question is - was it a good photograph - not how close to technical tolerances was it.

  9. #9

    Cameras over Lenses

    "I get frustrated when I see someone on this forum attempting to adapt an improper lens in order to make it fit on a camera that is not designed for that size shutter, that focal length, etc. Then, they wonder why that combination of lens and camera won't do what they want it to do."

    Improper lenses! how terrible - in this day and age as well. How do you know they're "improper" ;-)

    Maybe they doe just what the photographer wants it to? I dare say many of the lenses Sally Mann used on her recent project could be considered "improper" (especially after she's baked them in the oven) - and she has the impudence to attach those cracked, fungussy uncoated old lenses - lenses that vignette as well gosh darn it - on a nice "proper (and suitably modest) modern camera like a Toyo 810.

    Funny though - they seem to do the job.

    :-)

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Nov 1999
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    740

    Cameras over Lenses

    I have to disagree with the comment that a modern lens looks absurd on (say) an Ebony camera! IMHO lens "look" has changed very little either in the last 100 years! Ok so gone are the chrome barrels but the general design is similar visually. I think the juxtaposition between a modern lens and a "traditional" looking wooden camera looks fine - certainly better than matching wooden lenses! I have recently added the Schneider 90mm 6.8 Super Angulon "Classic" to my equipment - it is supposed to hark back to the days of "proper-looking" lenses by having a (matt) chrome barrel. To me it looks far more hi-tech than any other lens I have seen! But still looks fine on my Ebony!!

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