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Thread: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

  1. #1

    Default Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    This has been debated for many many years.. I'm sure Nikon and Canon has pretty much closed the gap between their lenses and lenses from these legendary German lens makers.

    So far only Canon EOS bodies allows other lenses like Leica, Nikon and Carl Zeiss to be mounted using adapters apart from Canon and made for Canon lenses and Carl Zeiss is making ZF lenses for Nikon mount.

    Does anyone have any experience that lenses from Leica and Carl Zeiss gives a different feel to the same scene when compared with that shot with a Canon or Nikon lens using the same body (we want to eliminate the differences contributed by the body).

    Are Leica and CZ lenses that legendary still or have they lost their edge because the Japanese has caught up?
    Last edited by lsisaxon; 4th March 2008 at 11:33 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Feel is subjective. You'll have opinions all over.

    Quantitative data is available from all the manufacturers in the form of MTF graphs, which are independent of body (and even sensor/film). Properly interpreted, comparisons can be made, provided you can get an apples to apples lens (ie same zoom range, aperature range, etc) charts.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by lsisaxon View Post
    Are Leica and CZ lenses that legendary still or have they lost their edge because the Japanese has caught up?
    I don't think the japanese have caught up at all, actually. In the example of canon, lenses are not their only focus. The L lenses are not as sharp as a Zeiss or Leica.

    Plus, different lens manufactures use different techniques to make their lenses stand out; each lens has it's own attributes, special coating technology, quality of glass used, etc.

    In case of Sony, I have used Minolta G, CZ and Leica. The Leica/Leitz 70-210 f/4 was developed for Leica by Minolta and is the same lens as the minolta "beercan".

    This is what I can tell you:

    1. CZ goes for very very sharp images with a higher contrast, but slightly cooler tones. Flare reduction is fantastic.

    2. Minolta G is sharp, but the strength is bokeh and the skintones are fantastic! Nice warm colors, smoother skin.

    3. Leica: A balance between sharpness and bokeh, though the contrast and colors are lower. It's a cooler, more neutral image.


    This is what I can tell you from taking pictures with all 3 lenses at 85mm f/4 and on the same body, same settings, same subject, etc.
    Alpha

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by waileong View Post
    Feel is subjective. You'll have opinions all over.

    Quantitative data is available from all the manufacturers in the form of MTF graphs, which are independent of body (and even sensor/film). Properly interpreted, comparisons can be made, provided you can get an apples to apples lens (ie same zoom range, aperature range, etc) charts.
    MTF is only one metric which reflects only a certain aspect of lens performance. Some others would be vignetting (image circle/uniformioty of illumination), distortion, bokeh (which can be quantified, though not in a single number), spectral transmission, reflection coefficients, dependence of all of the above on distance/magnification ratio, etc.

    To claim any difference of certain brand lenses over others, there would have to be a statistically significant difference in this multidimensional parameter space. The analysis would be pretty straightforward, but few people have the instrumentation available (and are qualified) to measure all of this. Manufacturers usually give you only the information that makes them look good.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rashkae View Post
    The Leica/Leitz 70-210 f/4 was developed for Leica by Minolta and is the same lens as the minolta "beercan".
    Which makes the comparison between "Leica" and "Japanese" as meaningful as the comparison between "Toyotas" and "blue cars", no?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    Which makes the comparison between "Leica" and "Japanese" as meaningful as the comparison between "Toyotas" and "blue cars", no?
    Not really, since there's still CZ and Minolta.
    Alpha

  7. #7

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by waileong View Post
    Feel is subjective. You'll have opinions all over.

    Quantitative data is available from all the manufacturers in the form of MTF graphs, which are independent of body (and even sensor/film). Properly interpreted, comparisons can be made, provided you can get an apples to apples lens (ie same zoom range, aperature range, etc) charts.
    MTF only tells us the optical parameters like aberration but not the colour rendition and the dynamic transmission due to the coating.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rashkae View Post
    I don't think the japanese have caught up at all, actually. In the example of canon, lenses are not their only focus. The L lenses are not as sharp as a Zeiss or Leica.

    Plus, different lens manufactures use different techniques to make their lenses stand out; each lens has it's own attributes, special coating technology, quality of glass used, etc.

    In case of Sony, I have used Minolta G, CZ and Leica. The Leica/Leitz 70-210 f/4 was developed for Leica by Minolta and is the same lens as the minolta "beercan".

    This is what I can tell you:

    1. CZ goes for very very sharp images with a higher contrast, but slightly cooler tones. Flare reduction is fantastic.

    2. Minolta G is sharp, but the strength is bokeh and the skintones are fantastic! Nice warm colors, smoother skin.

    3. Leica: A balance between sharpness and bokeh, though the contrast and colors are lower. It's a cooler, more neutral image.


    This is what I can tell you from taking pictures with all 3 lenses at 85mm f/4 and on the same body, same settings, same subject, etc.
    Thanks! This is great information. So CZ lenses are still sharper in terms of optics and the T* probably makes a difference in the tones.

    So where do you think Nikon and Canon stands? Closer to which one or not even close to any of them?

    Keep more of these coming.. I'd like to hear from people who use Leica lenses on EOS bodies and ZF lenses on Nikon bodies. Better still if a side by side test is available. I am tempted to get CZ lenses but I can't seem to justify them... yet.. And whether I should get an alpha body just to use ZA and G lenses instead of ZF on Nikon. It's expensive to maintain 2 systems.
    Last edited by lsisaxon; 5th March 2008 at 11:24 AM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Digital bodies is the killer for many lenses. What flaws that could be hidden on film came out when you expose it with a digital sensor. That's why older Sigma and Tamron lenses are so bad as to not be usable on digital bodies. Even a few Canon L lenses had to be redesigned to match up to the quality brought by digital.

    However, Zeiss and Leica designs were never made for digital yet moved on with little or no problems. Even the russian lenses with optical formulas largely derived from CZ designs managed to stand the test. That to me is a testiment to the quality of CZ and Leica lenses. Take note that I am comparing primes, not zooms which I heard are also excellent.

    Samuel
    f/8 and be there.

  10. #10
    Senior Member giantcanopy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Are there any images to sustantiate the claims on the apparently one better than the other.
    How about a blinded study with images posted and let us try and see which one is supposedly (and subjectively ) better than the other.

    I got a Schneider which gives me slightly warmer tones and sharper at corners ( which i did a comparison with other nikkors previously). opps got no Leicas or CZ ( yet .. )

    Ryan

  11. #11

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by lsisaxon View Post
    So where do you think Nikon and Canon stands? Closer to which one or not even close to any of them?
    I think, if you break it up into 5 levels, it would be like this:

    1. Companies whose sole focus is optics - Leica, CZ
    2. Minolta G, Nikkor G, Canon L
    3. Regular Nikkor and Minolta, some Tamron/Sigma/Tokina
    4. Regular Canon lenses (face it, they're not that good), some Tamron/Sigma/Tokina
    5. Phoenix, Vivitar, etc
    Alpha

  12. #12

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by giantcanopy View Post
    Are there any images to sustantiate the claims on the apparently one better than the other.
    How about a blinded study with images posted and let us try and see which one is supposedly (and subjectively ) better than the other.

    I got a Schneider which gives me slightly warmer tones and sharper at corners ( which i did a comparison with other nikkors previously). opps got no Leicas or CZ ( yet .. )

    Ryan
    Is your Schneider the PC 28?

  13. #13

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rashkae View Post
    I think, if you break it up into 5 levels, it would be like this:

    1. Companies whose sole focus is optics - Leica, CZ
    2. Minolta G, Nikkor G, Canon L
    3. Regular Nikkor and Minolta, some Tamron/Sigma/Tokina
    4. Regular Canon lenses (face it, they're not that good), some Tamron/Sigma/Tokina
    5. Phoenix, Vivitar, etc
    Interesting thought.. If that's the case, then I should, in time to come, get myself some ZFs or ZA (plus an Alpha body) to play with huh?

  14. #14

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by lsisaxon View Post
    Interesting thought.. If that's the case, then I should, in time to come, get myself some ZFs or ZA (plus an Alpha body) to play with huh?
    Alpha body is up to you, but if you can get your hands on Leicas or ZF lenses, yu'll be darn happy.
    Alpha

  15. #15

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rashkae View Post
    Alpha body is up to you, but if you can get your hands on Leicas or ZF lenses, yu'll be darn happy.
    Hmmm.. it's really some food for though for me.. Anyone want to dispute that and say I should not get ZFs because my Nikkors are good enough?

  16. #16

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    I don't think we can make blanket statements for all the lenses within each stable... not every lens for say Zeiss is great, and not every lens from someone else is a lemon... which lens are you looking considering?

  17. #17

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    MTF is only one metric which reflects only a certain aspect of lens performance. Some others would be vignetting (image circle/uniformioty of illumination), distortion, bokeh (which can be quantified, though not in a single number), spectral transmission, reflection coefficients, dependence of all of the above on distance/magnification ratio, etc.

    To claim any difference of certain brand lenses over others, there would have to be a statistically significant difference in this multidimensional parameter space. The analysis would be pretty straightforward, but few people have the instrumentation available (and are qualified) to measure all of this. Manufacturers usually give you only the information that makes them look good.
    1. True MTF is one metric, but it is the most commonly provided one, so it makes comparison easy. Distortion figures (for centre and edge) is also typically given as well. Vignetting data, etc. are less commonly provided. Bokeh is subjective-- tell me how you could quantify it.

    What is important for the above is that in terms of the objective data, there's no need to argue. If A resolves 100 lpm and B resolves 90 lpm for the same contrast, then it's clear who's better. Ditto for distortion, etc. The diehards of Brand B may not believe the data, but unless they can conduct optical bench tests of their own, they can't disprove the manufacturer-provided figures.

    Subjective attributes, like colour rendition, bokeh, etc. are easy for people to argue over.

    2. There is nothing "statistically significant" in these comparisons. Statistics only come into play if you are trying to draw a conclusion about a population based on a sample. I don't see many lens reviewers taking 30 or more samples of lens A to calculate the mean and variance of its MTF to compare with that of lens B.

    Further, as you may know, some manufacturers actually provide the MTF's based on optical calculations, not on test of actual lenses. In other words, no actual measurements were made at all! Fortunately, optical design software has come to the stage where the actual and designed performance are very very close indeed, so the predicted MTF data can be relied on.

    Quote Originally Posted by lsisaxon View Post
    MTF only tells us the optical parameters like aberration but not the colour rendition and the dynamic transmission due to the coating.
    1. As I said, do you want to compare something objective and draw a conclusion, or do you prefer to argue that A is better than B because it has "smoother" bokeh, "warmer" colour rendition, etc. The former is a question of getting quantitative data accepted by both parties, but the latter reflects your tastes which may be totally different from someone else's. Hence any attempt to use the latter to say lens A is better than lens B is bound to generate some argument.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by lsisaxon View Post
    Hmmm.. it's really some food for though for me.. Anyone want to dispute that and say I should not get ZFs because my Nikkors are good enough?
    If your Nikkors are good enough for you and you're happy with the results, there's no need to get infected with the BBB virus.
    Alpha

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by waileong View Post
    1Bokeh is subjective-- tell me how you could quantify it.
    You can expand the blurred image components into a series, with the coefficients being objective parameters that specify the bokeh as precisely as you like it.

    What is important for the above is that in terms of the objective data, there's no need to argue. If A resolves 100 lpm and B resolves 90 lpm for the same contrast, then it's clear who's better.
    No, that's by no means clear. If A resolves 100 lpm in the center, but only 80 in the corner, whereas B resolves 90 lpm throughout the image circle, it depends on the application. A lens with 100 lpm that distorts like a fisheye is really bad at repro photography, compared to one with only 80 lpm but negligible distortion. The MTF function depends also on the distance the lens is focused at. Things are not that easy ...

    2. There is nothing "statistically significant" in these comparisons. Statistics only come into play if you are trying to draw a conclusion about a population based on a sample.
    Of course there is. If you compare e.g. "CZ lenses" to "Japanese lenses", you're comparing entire populations of lenses. Unless there are certain features that correlate with "CZ" or "Japanese" to a statistically significant extent, you cannot make blanket statements about certain brands.

    I don't see many lens reviewers taking 30 or more samples of lens A to calculate the mean and variance of its MTF to compare with that of lens B.
    Actually, this would be necessary, since consistency/quality control is also a performance metric when making blanket statements about lenses of certain origin.

    Further, as you may know, some manufacturers actually provide the MTF's based on optical calculations, not on test of actual lenses. In other words, no actual measurements were made at all!
    Which makes these numbers meaningless, since we photograph with real lenses, including their manufacturing tolerances, not with computer simulations.

    Fortunately, optical design software has come to the stage where the actual and designed performance are very very close indeed, so the predicted MTF data can be relied on.
    If you trust the manufacturer that they publish typical data (i.e. one based on statistical analysis of the influence of the manufacturing tolerances), not the "best case" data. Ideally, they should also publish the "worst case" data. You find this information in the data sheets of components that cost only pennies, but I have yet to see it for photographic lenses that cost thousands of dollars.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Any difference between Leica, CZ, Nikon, Canon lenses when used on the same body?

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    You can expand the blurred image components into a series, with the coefficients being objective parameters that specify the bokeh as precisely as you like it.
    Really? That's like saying music can be digitised, which is entirely true (CD's, MP3's are all digital)-- but how does that help one to compare Beethoven's 5th symphony with Christina Aguilera and arrive at a determination of which is better?

    You need to understand that quantifying something does not make it an objective attribute which enables people to be able to agree on whether X is better than Y.

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    No, that's by no means clear. If A resolves 100 lpm in the center, but only 80 in the corner, whereas B resolves 90 lpm throughout the image circle, it depends on the application. A lens with 100 lpm that distorts like a fisheye is really bad at repro photography, compared to one with only 80 lpm but negligible distortion. The MTF function depends also on the distance the lens is focused at. Things are not that easy ...
    On the contrary, it's very clear. Your example doesn't change the point. The point is that there are numbers we can compare. If I produced a perfect lens which beats the competition on every criteria, there would be no one who can say that my lens is not the best.

    The fact that no perfect lens exists in the real world doesn't change the fact that numbers can be used to determine who is better at what, and to determine it in a way that is not based on someone's opinion, preferences or adjectives.

    The fact that you have to live with compromises doesn't change the fact that the numbers given help you determine who is better at what, so you can decide what you want to compromise for a given application.

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    Of course there is. If you compare e.g. "CZ lenses" to "Japanese lenses", you're comparing entire populations of lenses. Unless there are certain features that correlate with "CZ" or "Japanese" to a statistically significant extent, you cannot make blanket statements about certain brands.

    Actually, this would be necessary, since consistency/quality control is also a performance metric when making blanket statements about lenses of certain origin.
    I haven't made any blanket statements. I'm pointing out to you that most lens reviewers, even the guys who run optical bench tests, do not do so like statisticians. Even manufacturers do not run tests on hundreds of samples before they publish their data. As I said, some don't even run any tests, they just pull the figures from their optical design programs. Hence I repeat what I said: There is nothing statistically significant in the comparisons anyone has made-- not here, not in Popular Photo, not in Sean Reid reviews, and not even in the data from Zeiss, Leica, Nikon, etc.

    I know you're not happy with that, you want it to be statistically significant. But if you want things to be statistically significant-- you'll grow old waiting. I haven't seen anyone publish such data in any industry. I wouldn't sit around waiting for means and variances, not to mention confidence intervals, etc. Frankly, it's already a big deal if anyone provides "average" or "typical" data. Even car safety regulators-- when they award the safety ratings to the cars under test-- do you think they crash 30 or 50 or 100 of each car? Do you know how much that would cost in time and money, not to mention crash test dummies? With the no of new models released each year, do you think anyone can afford the time to do it in a statistically significant manner?

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleWolf View Post
    Which makes these numbers meaningless, since we photograph with real lenses, including their manufacturing tolerances, not with computer simulations.

    If you trust the manufacturer that they publish typical data (i.e. one based on statistical analysis of the influence of the manufacturing tolerances), not the "best case" data. Ideally, they should also publish the "worst case" data. You find this information in the data sheets of components that cost only pennies, but I have yet to see it for photographic lenses that cost thousands of dollars.
    I disagree. I understand statistics, but I also understand real-world limitations (time, money, etc. as stated above) and real-world manufacturing. In general, unless you have reason to distrust the manufacturing process (eg with FSU lenses), tolerances are generally quite good in world-class manufacturing companies.

    People are not stupid. They know that any performance figures published by manufacturers are usually best-case figures, and may never be achieved in real life (handheld with camera shake, less than ideal contrast, etc).

    Just because the numbers were not generated by statisticians does not make the numbers meaningless. The figures still provide a useful guide. A car that the manufacturer says can go 0-100 in 5 s must be faster than one that the manufacturer says does it in 10s. Maybe you can't do it in 5s, only Michael Schumacher can attain 5s, but you should be able to beat the other car. The same goes for lenses.

    If you understand modern optical design, you'll know why computed MTF graphs are good enough for comparison. Frankly, most optical depts today use more or less the same software, and once you enter a design into the software, it can tell you all the key attributes. In other words, the design determines the performance, and any design is a set of compromises-- size, cost, weight, distortion, manufacturing complexity, etc.

    I don't see how anyone can publish "worst" case data. The worst case is obviously unlimited. A car can take 1 hour to reach 100 if you set your mind to it. Even 10 hours if you want. Similarly, a lens can resolve nothing if there is zero contrast. How does one determine how bad a scenario is before it qualifies as a "worst" case?
    Last edited by waileong; 6th March 2008 at 12:57 PM.

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