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APO and ASPH for film?


dennersten
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I am back in Leica after a few years with only Hasselblad. Trying to decide my 2 - 3 lens setup I was wondering if APO and/or ASPH makes any sense, just shooting film as I am planning. Can the film render enough small details to take advantage of the APO/ASPH (or just ASPH) ??

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Posted (edited)

Hakan,

I think that there is no right answer.

Using lenses are more subtle than "having recorded" the max of details.

Not really the case when Leitz offered the first  asph. Noctilux 1.2/50 in 1966 so long before the digital period.

 

Depending on film type (slow fine grain, or more grainy films for example, color or b&w).

As usual, only you (your criterias, your taste) can decide if asph. or apo lenses can do for you.

While waiting, I'd just take the first lens (asph. apo or NOT), use it then decide.

 

Edited by a.noctilux
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This is a common error everyone is making, thinking that asph means sharpness.

No, the term “asph” is not a synonym for the word “sharpness”. 

An aspherical surface just means that the slope of the curvature of any given lens surface is varying. An asph lens can indeed be softer than a spherical lens, or as Leica would be calling it (food for future marketing?), spher. Lens. One day, we shall maybe start seeing “asph.” and “spher.” lenses for the sake of marketing. Which will be sharper? 50/50 chance for the “spher”.

”Apo” too, is mostly a marketing term more than anything. Many lenses are apo without being marketed as such, and many old non-apo lenses have a better apo performance than “apo” lenses. This is true not only for Leica but for any lens out there in the world. And just by the way, apo lenses are totally useless for BW photography.  Most apo lenses are useful as enlarging lenses.

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As a film-only Leica shooter, and IMHO...

For 35mm and 50mm, the version 4 for Summicrons produce great looking images for ISO 100 and faster film.  If you are going with finer grain film and aiming for critical sharpness, then the ASPH version of the 35mm is probably worth getting.  The APO 50 seems like overkill to me (have not shot it personally, however).

For fast 50mm, any of the pre-ASPH Summilux lenses are gorgeous.

Wider than 35mm, I think the ASPH lenses are the way to go, as the pre-ASPH wide angle Leicas aren't that great (ducking for cover, LOL), with the exception of the Schneider built Super Angulons.

For longer than 50mm, it's a mixed bag.  I'm fine with pre-ASPH lenses, but it comes down to bokeh and personal preference.

Money is no object?  Get a bad full of the latest Summilux/Noctilux, even if the performance far exceeds the capability of film.

My 2¢

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Posted (edited)

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Short answer: Yes. Film can benefit from high edge clarity (MTF (modulation transfer function), "acutance," tight "edge spread function") at least as much as digital.

https://www.edmundoptics.com/knowledge-center/application-notes/optics/introduction-to-modulation-transfer-function/

Longer answer: It is true that film is basically "laboratory-grade Jello™ " impregnated with silver-compound crystals. Which tend to diffuse or blur an image as the light bounces its way through the coating and crystals. But the "better" the clarity to begin with, the better the lens image can burn through that diffusion and retain its crisp edges (or at least crisper edges than a fuzzier lens).

It is the old total system MTF formula: Total optical MTF = lens MTF times detector MTF (sensor or film).

I first noticed this - on film - when I first tried Kyocera/Contax/Zeiss lenses back in the 1990s. They produced a "carved in granite" edge definition even on medium-speed films, that I'd not seen before with other brands (not including Leica at that point).

Taken with Contax G2, 90mm f/2.8 Sonnar-G at f/2.8, year 2000. Note that this is scanned film (scanner MTF unknown), and jpegged, so not necessarily as good as the original. But still quite crisp "definition." Click image, and then click it again, to get to highest resolution (it will fill your screen)

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It is also true, as others have mentioned, that there is not always a direct correlation between the "APO" and "ASPH" labels and actual MTF. Nor between MTF and actual resolution (MTF charts usually quit at about 40 line pairs/mm; I consider serious resolution for "small film" to start at 70-80 lpmm).

One would need to study Leica's MTF charts - available online in Leica's own tech-data documents, per lens. e.g: http://www.summilux.net/m_system/images/Summicron50.pdf

and for some previous Leica lenses in this 2002 compilation: http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-wiki.en/images/3/3a/Puts-2002-M-lenses.pdf

It should be noted that Leitz/Leica have always put a premium on the edge-spread function, virtually ever since they began using computers for lens design (1950s). At their "best" apertures, many 1970s or earlier lenses often have excellent clarity.

But on average, newer lenses (APO/ASPH or not) do have even stronger clarity - higher overall contrast through improved coatings, and better control of aberrations with each generation. Especially at larger apertures.

And it does also depend on which film/exposure/development is used: Adox ISO 20, TMax/Delta 100, Delta 3200, color negs, color slides, etc. etc.

Edited by adan
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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, dennersten said:

I am back in Leica after a few years with only Hasselblad. Trying to decide my 2 - 3 lens setup I was wondering if APO and/or ASPH makes any sense, just shooting film as I am planning. Can the film render enough small details to take advantage of the APO/ASPH (or just ASPH) ??

Best to decide on a lens-by-lens basis and not on the lens designation of APO or ASPH generally. I recommend looking through the film image thread here and seeing what lens was used for each shot. Get comfortable and take an hour or two and look at all of the posts. I found some standout lenses that would deliver the look I want on film: 50 Lux ASPH, 50 APO, 35 Lux pre-ASPH, and 50 Noct 1.2. Those four had the most unique and attractive looks to my eye. The 50 APO stood out as the singular example that made the images remind me of images I'd taken with the Pentax 67 + Pentax 105mm back in the day.

Edited by hdmesa
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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, dennersten said:

I am back in Leica after a few years with only Hasselblad. Trying to decide my 2 - 3 lens setup I was wondering if APO and/or ASPH makes any sense, just shooting film as I am planning. Can the film render enough small details to take advantage of the APO/ASPH (or just ASPH) ??

Your website gave me a pleasant and exquisite impression at all.

I'd say either APO 50mm or Summilux 50 shall fitting your taste simultaneously if my observation is correct.

As a gentle reminder, low ISO slide films might be a good fit if you can find suitable match.

Edited by Erato
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I shot bw film exclusively with 50apo, and noctilux 1.2 with colour films 

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Posted (edited)
On 8/5/2022 at 4:41 AM, dennersten said:

I am back in Leica after a few years with only Hasselblad. Trying to decide my 2 - 3 lens setup I was wondering if APO and/or ASPH makes any sense, just shooting film as I am planning. Can the film render enough small details to take advantage of the APO/ASPH (or just ASPH) ??

Yes, it is possible to see a difference in technical image quality between the newest generation of Leica designs and older designs of the same focal length and aperture, even with film.

As another poster pointed out, image MTF is the combination of lens MTF, film resolution, and everything else in the process such as enlarger lens, scanner, etc.. It isn’t a matter of the weakest link controlling things. Each piece of the imaging train contributes its own aberrations, aliasing artifacts, what have you.

However, that doesn’t mean the pictures will be “better” from the newest glass. For example, many Leica aspherical elements are molded aspheres. While it’s not a “rule” per se, molded aspheres tend to result in more “busy” bokeh than ground aspheres or spherical designs. So, if you are looking at a portrait lens where sharpness and edge of field performance generally aren’t as critical as how the lens renders out of focus areas, you might not find aspheres to be advantageous at all, regardless of film vs digital.

As to Leica apochromatic designs… That just means the lens does a good job focusing all colors of light to the same, or nearly the same, point. There is no published standard, though, for what Leica does or doesn’t consider apochromatic, and the original definition set out by Ernst Abbe of Zeiss many years ago for microscope objectives is not generally used for photographic lenses. Suffice it to say, lenses with APO designations will generally show less color fringing in high contrast areas than lenses without the APO designation. I don’t agree with the poster who said APO is irrelevant to black and white photography. Chromatic aberration results in loss of sharpness in the luminance channel just like any other aberration. It matters, it just isn’t as obvious for black and white photography.

Are the newest lenses worth the price premium for someone shooting film? Depends completely on your uses and expectations. How good is your technique/discipline? Do your photographs heavily rely on image sharpness for impact? Is edge of field performance critical? Or almost irrelevant?  Will you be shooting slow, small grain film or doing night photography with TechPan?

For example, a portrait photographer probably doesn’t care much about edge of field performance while a landscape photographer would care a lot. What about resistance to flare and ghosting? Is that important to you, or would you actively want the “character” that can result from flaring and ghosting? Newer lens designs tend to have improved coatings that help resist flare.

Ultimately , we can tell you a little about how different lenses perform, but we can’t tell you what’s best for you. It isn’t a matter of film vs. digital.

Edited by Jared
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9 hours ago, Jared said:

 

As to Leica apochromatic designs… That just means the lens does a good job focusing all colors of light to the same, or nearly the same, point. There is no published standard, though, for what Leica does or doesn’t consider apochromatic, and the original definition set out by Ernst Abbe of Zeiss many years ago for microscope objectives is not generally used for photographic lenses. Suffice it to say, lenses with APO designations will generally show less color fringing in high contrast areas than lenses without the APO designation. I don’t agree with the poster who said APO is irrelevant to black and white photography. Chromatic aberration results in loss of sharpness in the luminance channel just like any other aberration. It matters, it just isn’t as obvious for black and white photography.

 

Many things here.

First, APO naming is bordering on bs. Many non-apo lenses perform better than so-called apo lenses. Therefore they become apo versus the less apo. There is a clear convention on the matter but no lens maker seem to care. As long as they are in the huge ballpark, they’ll stick the “apo” sticker and overcharge. 
A good example is the very nice (and highly CA producing) 90 APO Summicron. How can a lens produce so much CA and yet be called “apo” is beyond me.

As for BW, APO is unimportant. First of all because APO plays on colors, therefore it all ends there. Sure, the CA once converted can show as an aberration, but then again it might not. It will be impossible to tell. 
For flat work, Apo lenses are supposed to show their superiority, but then again, chances are that the lens in question is not apo. Or it is, but to the extent of only 24%. And even this is BS Because one lens is either FULLY apo or it isn’t. And so far, all we got are half-apo lenses, meaning not fully apo but not fully non-apo. This does not make sense and yet this is what we’re getting: Somewhat APO lenses.

Also, if one is half serious about shooting BW, one will use filters. Meaning one is filtering out a color (and a bunch of shades) from the spectrum). Is this to say that one is losing quality? The answer is no, simply because it’s BW. This making the APO thingy useless. And no, using BW filters for digital BW photography does not count. A digital sensor does not see as a BW film. The effects are not there, just better to use photoshop color filters. But then we are largely in fakeland, which is a topic for another day.

 

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I would add, if image sharpness is a key consideration, that older lenses can do quite an admirable job, and the final product can be "touched up" in post processing, if desired. I've found Topaz sharpening software (I have no affiliation with them) to do a great job. And the cost is a small fraction of the APO or ASPH lenses.

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A different take ... ? I think of my lenses as paint brushes. If I happen to like the way my "older" 35mm Summicron renders the kinds of images I make then "upgrading" to a "sharper" (or <you fill in the modifier here>)  brush may or may not make any sense--especially because I've been using these same lenses for thirty years or so.

If apparent sharpness/detail (these are different in some ways)  was essential to the kinds of images I was making (or likely to make in the near future), then I'd more likely change to a larger format and learn something new.

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I was interested in the 50 APO and rented one to compare to the 'basic' 50 cron.  I am a film shooter 99% of the time.  I could not tell a difference on film.

I was disappointed and elated at the same time.  Disappointed because I really did want to see a difference!  Elated because it just saved me a lot of money that I didn't see any difference.

Yes there are some lovely pics posted above shot with an APO lens.  But I'm pretty sure they'd be just as lovely shot on a 'regular' lens.

Anyway, I love the regular Cron v5 (? - the latest one) for its handling and focus throw.  Just perfect.  I also have the Summilux Asph (which I bought first) because when you shoot film, as fast lens can come in very handy as the light levels drop.

 

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