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TomLiles

Zeiss 120/4 Makro Planar: repro ratio and user experiences

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Hi guys,

Could I ask for your experience for a moment? I'm thinking about an equipment acquisition (not an S3 unfortunately!) to help me solve a problem and do some better work.

I've been getting a few jobs photographing small accessories recently -- pin badges / lapel badges, shiny little things like that -- and am finding the otherwise excellent APO MACRO SUMMARIT 120/2.5 often won't get me as close as I'd like. My customer was happy with my work, regardless, and more is coming down the pipeline. I can deliver what I need to do with the native 120 and cropping, or setting up different shots to begin with; but I'd really like to get 1:1, or past the 1:2 the S-120 stops at, for the smaller trinkets (what I'm really talking about is I'd like the perspective, the look, the close camera-subject distance would give me). A portion of the work is plain-vanilla product stills for catalog/online stores and the 120 and a longer working distance is fine for that, but I also got, and will get, creative work from them which is used for posters / ads: that's where I want to be getting up very close and making the more dramatic photographs of their product that I'd like to.

Has anyone out there been in my shoes: tried the C645 system Zeiss 120 Makro and got a result; or tried it and found it wasn't the right solution?

All stories welcome---even if you didn't use the Zeiss 120 for 1:1 stuff, how did you find it for what you did use it for?

Cheers guys

Tom

Postscript:
Just as a pre-emptive strike, I'd like to keep advice limited to the S-system (inc. S-to-Contax645 obviously). Using other formats and systems to solve my problem is of course an option---one I don't need to talk about here on the S-system forum. I really like the S-system for my work and my preference is to find an S-system based solution, I appreciate that that may be like trying to ice-skate uphill in some cases but I'd hope you can appreciate my freedom of choice to do so. Also! I know the Zeiss 120 is a manual focus only lens; I only focus manually on the S, so that works itself out OK :)

Edited by TomLiles

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So as many of you guys here on the forum know, I use mostly the Zeiss lenses on my S system! The 120mm Apo-Makro-Planar is one of my favourites!

It's an amazing lens, and even at 1:1 it's great when stopped down 1 stop. Wide open it's a tad bit 'milky' at 1:1. 

See some examples attached below all with S006 and Zeiss APO 120mm.

Click for full resolution version, and pixel peeping.

Edited by jip

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Thank you Jip. Yea, your site is about the only hit I can find when I search on this specific topic for info->experience->intel. There’s also a thread on this forum, from 2014 or so, speaking generally about C645 lenses on the S, with a bit of info about the 120 Makro specifically...

I am shooting product stills in the studio; so I’m f/8 at the very least, and optics not being awesome straight from wide open is not an issue for me. But stuff like how the lenses are with flare, focus breathing (the severity), practical “in use” case information helps me come to a decision. Very specifically in this case, the Zeiss 120 is only of value to me in the 1:1 to 1:2, very close focusing region; after 1:2, there is nothing about the native 120 Apo Macro Summarit that I don’t like, and that lens is the default.

My experience with gear has always been that you never know if something works for you until you buy it and try it for real... but the flip side, of course, is that money doesn’t grow on trees. So borrowing from knowledge of the group helps parse out which gambles are worth making.

I’ll scratch my chin a bit more on this one I think. Thanks again.

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I cannot say anything about the Makro Planar on digital, but when I use the Contax 645 as my mainstay system professionally I regarded it as an extremely versatile and superb lens. It was a great macro lens but I also used it for landscapes and never had any reasons for doubting its abilities throughout its focus range. To this day my agencies still sell images taken on the 645, some of which were taken on this lens. Its difficult to translate imagery from film to digital, which is somewhat more demanding, but I found the Makro Planar to be a pleasure to use and a lens which always delivered. Like anything you are right to say that you need to try such equipment to see if it works for you. I would be surprised if it did not though.

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If you do not need movements I would look at the Hasselblad V bellows and 135mm.  I have Mamiya 645 bellows which allow movements, but the 135mm Componon-S I have currently fitted flares too much...

john

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I have the Contax 120, and it is optically excellent on the S. I seldom need the magnification, so use the S 120 most of the time (AF, laziness), but I wouldn't hesitate to use the Contax at any distance.

Matt

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Can I just add that by far my most used lens on the 645 was the 210 which I found to be very good indeed. These Contax lenses went through something of a low but a quick search suggests that their qualities are being appreciated as prices seem up a bit to me. Great camera and system - pity Contax were dropped because as a digital platform it could have been a very interesting machine.

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Hi John,

Thanks for your response. Having movements would be great, but not a checklist item for this particular acquisition. I have the TS 120 (S-K OEM one) and use it heavily for work, though the minimum focus distance of that lens is quite hard to deal with for anything smaller than say a baseball cap (most of my product stills work is for apparel businesses). It actually works out OK for the more creative work as AD's love files with a lot of negative space that copy and logos and so on can go into, so it all comes out in the wash most times... but for the very small products, the amount of negative space starts to become oceanic. Even with the closer focusing S120 macro summarit, for the small things discussed here the frames are pretty sparse straight out of camera.

I didn't know about the Hassleblad v-bellows, so I'll look into that, thank you. I didn't understand the "135mm" reference, though. My apologies. Is it a system lens or some kind of repurposed enalarger lens, etc (like I think is in the Novoflex bellows). I guess it'll come up when I look into the v-bellows, so I'll look out for that. For a lot of the creative work (where I get a more of a free hand in lighting and camera angle and perspective), I use backlight quite a bit in my product stills (usually a diffused light / big source is the background). Of course I take care to flag off the front element to mitigate unintentional flare... but over a few years of doing it, I have definitely seen how some lenses deal with this scenario much better than others. 

-----

My dream, John, is to use a Sinar P-system camera for studio based product still work. The S-body can go on as a digital back, or there is the dedicated digital back with the S typ007 sensor... I am a rookie and not big enough to get the work or justify the investment yet -- I can't even afford my own studio space, and that should come first -- but that is the kind of thing I am aiming for. I don't have any mentors or older, more experienced commercial photographer friends / acquaintances here in Tokyo to school me, but I've heard that digital backs on technical cameras can be tough: a lot of color casts and stuff to deal with. But yea, still, OK. You just figure it out, work the problem, and find the equipment that solves the problem. I think the stuff that really makes you work for the image, usually gives back in some way that you don't get elsewhere. Further, that "faff-factor" is also a kind of filter to sort out who was really into photography and who just wanted to point and shoot. Not that there is any single correct answer... but I am definitely a photo catholic in that way. 

Thanks again John. Cheers.

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Hi Matt,

Thanks for your words. In my case the magnification is all I'd need it for. I'm definitely interested to give it a go. The outlay isn't easy, but I'm confident it could recoup for itself within a couple of jobs, not to mention equipment can be put against my tax bill... As a small businessman, it's really the cashflow, the temporary loss of liquidity, that I have to consider; and on a personal aesthetic note, as mentioned to John above, I have a vision of where I'd like to get to and the kind of photo work I'd like to do, and it's worth being sure that this optic is a part of that story (a tool that helps push me on and get me there). Anything not contributing to that is wasted money. Of course, who knows either way until you do it... but I still think it's smart to check in with you guys. I can get caught in my own anti-reality field sometimes, thinking about these things.

I'm sure you agree, but I think the S120 macro summarit is a special lens. As an interesting aside, it's a spherical lens [no "ASPH." in there] which maybe is part of what makes it stand out against all the amazing lenses, stuffed with high performance APSHs, out there across many formats. I know lens design and that slightly preening word "render" have become concepts turned into something like a religious cult in the age of the internet, but the S120 never disappoints and if any lens deserved cult status... It's the right amount of eccentric, without needing to be exotic, but still plain-laced and normal enough to stay under the radar of most people. Like the s-system itself perhaps.

Thinking about the Zeiss 120/4. Thanks again Matt. Cheers.

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Paul,

If I'm right, the Contax 645 system enjoyed a boom with wedding photographers, which may still be in full swing, and certainly the newer Phase One IQ-series backs are made in "c-mount" for the Contax 645. I think those wedding guys were mostly into the 80/2 lens; I'm going off the top of my head, but I think it was a California guy called Jose Padilla who was the prime mover in this trend. I suppose that look / that play has passed over into cliche a long while back, but if customers want to pay for cliche I couldn't blame photographers for wanting to service it (or the customers for wanting it).

Over here in Tokyo, a working C645 with the 80/2 on it will go for circa ¥270,000, getting on for 2K GBP in my homeland's money... Mint ones costing even more. Pretty steep, considering. The Zeiss 120/4 is about ¥90,000 here. Not cheap, but actually only a third of what the s-to-c adapter costs new. I wouldn't be getting a new s-to-c adapter, I've found a mint used one at ¥150,000,  so the outlay for me would be ~¥240,000. I can do that, but it's not an insignificant amount. Plenty of other things out there in the World that I'd like and could easily buy with ¥240,000. Or just keep it banked and work toward future things.

I think it's so cool that Leica made an adapter to let us use the Contax lenses on the S-system though. I wonder if they knew the C645 would experience a boom again, or it was just teutonic solidarity? (the C645 lenses made in Japan by Cosina, though)

Thanks again, Paul. Cheers.

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Tom,

As a landscape photographer I have a lot of experience with both lenses and a little experience with the Hasselblad version of the 120 Macro.  Generalizing landscape results to macro is normally not a good idea, so when evaluating lenses it's best to look at both.  While the Zeiss Contax is superb, the Leica 120 has greater resolution and the addition of a good close up filter might get you the result you desire.  The Hasselblad version of the 120 Makro  ( V system, not H) is different from both the Contax and Leica, it is optimized for macro  but horrible at infinity. It's worth a look and the adapter is available, one caveat is Hasselblad V is not easily shot on the S whereas the Contax lenses shoot like native S lenses.  All three lenses have mtf curves published for macro and that would be my starting point.  

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Thanks John 👍

I think it'd be such a privilege to get the work that would justify the Sinar. A couple years back, I saw a guy in Kyoto national museum doing repro work of artworks with a Sinar rePro and e-motion back. Blew me away. His color checker was also a different level to anything I'd seen before. I was too shy to go over and speak to him, but that started this off for me. Only wanted to specialize in product stills ever since (I have to do all sorts to keep afloat, however), and use the specialist equipment. Would be so nice...

Cheers John.

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Hi Daryl,

Thanks for your post. Wow such a great response here, I'd thought I'd be buried under all the S3 news and comment. Yea, I'd actually run into the spec sheet for the V system 120 makro first, when looking for the sheet on the C645 version. You give some great advice and I'll add it into the mix. All I need is the close range performance, so the V definitely sounds like an option. The C645 being an electric mount and the s-to-c adapter being able to take advantage of that is a definite plus, I agree; but I can also say from using the native TS 120 lens a lot, which has a dumb mount, it's also not so bad having to do manual stop down and having no EXIF information. The image is all that matters for me, so whatever works in that respect. I'll think it over some more. Thanks again Daryl.

Cheers. Tom

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CameraWest has a 120 HC Macro II which is very good for 1:1 and has the benefit of a leaf shutter.

Image quality on that is superlative but it is bulkier and heavier than the S120 Macro.

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I have the Contax and Leica S 120mm lenses but I use the Hasselblad H 120mm -II macro for close up and copping work more often than the other lenses. Just the perfect macro on my S2-p. when the f 8-16 is needed. 

Yevgeny. 

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Thanks Alan,

Can I ask a stupid question? I've not been in the S-sytem long (though wanted to be in it for so, so long) and never really read up on how the system deals with adapted lenses with leaf shutters... I'm guessing the HC lenses from Hasselblad have gold contacts and the s-adapter-h does too, so there is a route for the lens and body to talk => user puts the body in "CS" mode, and continues as normal; but what happens with Hasselblad v-system lenses with leaf shutters on the s-adpater-v? Can we use leaf shutters there too? Always wondered.

At any rate, thanks for the tip; I've noted the 120 HC Macro and will take a look.

Cheers Alan

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Hi Yevgeny,

Thanks for the user experience, very interesting 👍 I'm on an S2-P also, though it is now my backup body and I shoot an S typ006 as my main; I way prefer the less busy finder in the S2, though. Anyway. What is it about the H 120 that makes you choose it above the APO SUMMARIT or Zeiss 120? And what is it about the H 120 that makes you prefer it over the Zeiss at the repro ratios the native Leica macro can't reach?

Thanks again Yevgeny, real-deal user experience is gold to me.

Cheers

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