Posts Tagged ‘Lens’

Here are some traditional Japanese paintings found in a recent Google search.


Now look at some traditional European paintings, also found in a recent Google search.


A few of the most obvious categories where these traditions differ include flatness vs. depth and flat color vs. multi-tonal color.


I maintain that for their visual arts, these foundational differences have influenced the engineering designs of their photographic camera systems, as well.


Post WWII in both Japan and Germany, the camera and lens industries had to be rebuilt.


Because all lens design involves physical rules from nature, trade-offs must be made, sacrificing one quality to gain or improve another. It is the balance of these trade-offs that is the key to understanding lens designs.


Each group took pride in this work and each designed their lenses to more closely match their culture’s visual biases.


In europe, the German lens designers (Leica and Schneider) balanced their lens designs so that they’d produce subtle and smooth color tonal ramps throughout both the in focus and out of focus areas of the image. Also, barrel and pincushion distortions as well as chromatic aberrations in both the in-focus AND out of focus areas in the image were minimized. To accomplish all of this, the trade-off was some edge sharpness.


Even european films such as Agfa, mirrored their culture’s visual sensibilities with subtle, perhaps even a slightly muted color pallet.


In Japan, their top lens designers at Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, etc., concentrated on lens designs with the sharpest possible focus and bold colors. Out of focus distortion and aberrations were acceptable trade-offs as long as the in-focus plane was tack sharp and the color tonalities were vivid and bold.


And Japanese films such as Fuji, were similarly all about sharpness and bold colors!


Still today, this dichotomy of camera design persists! Even though Leica lenses are now manufactured in Japan, their designs are the same German designs that came out just after WWII.


As we have moved from analog film to digital cameras, these two very different visual/cultural sensibilities continue to influence the design of the cameras and lenses!


That so few photographers will ever notice this in our current visual society is unfortunate. Beyond techniques, the physical gear that they choose to capture their photos will have a tremendous impact on the look and feel of their images.


Those that do see and understand these two design philosophies will be able to select the one that best fits their own vision and color pallet.


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Build your own excellent (or better) lens that is engineered to work well in extreme close-up situations with greater than 1:1 … you will need to buy a body cap to mount the lens on; a quality enlarging lens (the one illustrated here is an 80 mm Componon-s which cost $25 used); and a set of close up extension tubes.

The lens can also be from an old film movie cameras (used reversed, they were designed to focus very closely). My D200 can be setup to use a non-linked lens (see your user’s manual) and (as in all extreme macro photography) you will focus by moving the camera and lens farther or nearer to the subject.

The focus indicator in your viewfinder will still work, aiding you at the best focus. With the 80 mm lens and 65 mm of extension tubes you’ll have a useful working distance so that you can use the camera’s flash.

Step one is to carefully cut the center of the body cap out using a sheet rock style knife. It takes about 15 minutes of patient, steady cutting.

Then, using a hot melt glue gun, attach the lens ring that normally accompanies the enlarging lens to the body cap.

Finally, mount the lens to this new adapter and mount that onto the extension tubes.

All of this took less than a half an hour and cost about $50.

The resulting lens was engineered for optimum quality at these high magnifications and outperforms other lenses that were optimized for infinity focus. 

For greater magnification, use a shorter focal length lens, ie 50 mm Componon-S.

Likewise, use a longer focal length lens for lower magnifications, ie 100 or 135 mm lens.

macro lens setup

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