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Old January 13th, 2011, 10:46 AM   #1
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LENSES FOR STILLS & VIDEO an alternative view

It has taken a long time for me to move from carrying seperate camcorder & stills camera systems on my expeditions around the world (mainly Canon XL2/XL-H1 & Nikon SLR systems).

I've now travelled to more than 65-different countries and have always hated the need to carry so much equipment with me, especially with the added problems with baggage limits on flights, and the need to walk with all this gear sometimes into remote locations.

For years I've managed to use my prized Nikkor telephotos such as the 300mm ED-IF & 600mm ED-IF for dual purposes bayoneted on the the Nikon body for stills, or via an adapter matched to the Canon XL camcorders. But this didn't take away the fact that I still needed to carry both systems.
When I first bought the Canon 5D Mark II I began to use it not only for stills but also for video, although this was mainly just for steadicam work or inside an underwater housing for underwater video. I also carried an extra bag filled with a Nikonos AF RS SLR system and special UW lenses for underwater stills.

The majority of photographers using the 5D Mk2 for video seem to be completely absorbed in using very fast lenses almost solely at their maximum apertures. Even though I have owned many of the fastest lenses from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Contax-Zeiss, Leica etc., I rarely used them wide open at f/1.2 or f/1.4 but almost always in the f/5.6-f/11 range. Yes, I would sometimes need to open up wide for a special shot, or close down to f/32 for a certain macro or landscape, but generally I would stick to the mid-apertures for most of my professional work. The main reason for liking the fast lenses was that they offered a very bright viewfinder.

During 2010 I began working more and more with the 5D Mk2 and less with the camcorders, until finally I moved completely to the 5D Mk2 system and stopped using the camcorders. The biggest problem with using a DSLR for video, apart from the need for extra stabilizers, is the lack of any 'all-in-one' wide-range zoom lenses with an inbuilt motor.

Apart from extreme telephoto work when I used the 300mm or 600mm with Canon XL camcorders (X7-X8 extra magnification with adapter) I did all my filming with just two lenses, the Canon 20X & 6X HD autofocus zooms. Being able to film fast-changing action without swapping lenses, such as when I needed to continue recording between a tightly framed telephoto subject and then zoom wide to take in the whole scene, was a major plus point for the camcorders.
How the heck could I do the same with a Canon 5D Mk2? The only two options I could think of that had professional build and image quality were the Canon EF 35-350mm f/3.5-f5.6 L and the Canon EF 28-300mm L IS zoom lenses.
I normally prefer to turn off the IS when I'm filming with the 5D, so the extra mm at the long end plus cheaper price meant that the 35-350mm would be the best option. It would also slot in nicely beside my Canon 17-35mm f/2.8 L lens to provide a decent range from 17mm-350mm in two lenses.

I must stress here that during my 30+ years as a professional photojournalist I have always given the wide-ranging all-in-one zoom lenses a very wide berth. They just didn't match the build quality and biting-edge performance of the fixed primes or short-range zooms. Despite these apprehensions, I felt that there were too many filming situations where I just didn't have time to change lenses during a vitally important wide-telephoto range shoot...so I bit the bullet and bought a 35-350mm lens to give it a try-out.

I must say that I'm quite surprised at the results. Not only was video footage filmed using the Canon 35-350mm L lens very good, with beautiful colours and sharp at all focal lengths, but is was surprisingly good for stills as well and easily sharp enough to use images captured with this lens for publication in magazines and books. The lens also has a decent minimum focus when set at 125mm, so also doubles up as a good lens for medium sized macro subjects. It is also an extremely robust lens with solid metal barrel – far better built than the cheaper options from Sigma/Tokina/Tamron.

I film and photograph a lot of varied landscapes in remote areas of the world, so it is vital that I use very good lenses to capture extreme detail across the frame. When stopped down to f/8-f/11 range for landscapes, the Canon 17-35mm f/2.8 L set at 17mm is extremely sharp in the centre of frame and right out to the four power-points, and only begins to show softer at the extreme corners. When set at around 25mm, the sharpness improves into the corners.
The 35-350mm set at 35mm and f/5.6-f22 range surprisingly turns in a very good sharp performance across the frame, and easily good enough for landscape video work and still images published double-page spread in magazines. The only negative aspect of the 35-350mm is the colour fringing at the corner of frame, although this is only really noticeable in very large prints.

So, happy enough with the 35-350mm for video, I needed to also look for another option for a different lens to be used mainly for landscape stills work (and some video) that would provide me with biting sharpness right into the corner of the frame, with superb micro-detail from foreground to background and no colour fringing at extreme corners.
Some of my best ever landscape photographs have been taken with Nikon, Pentax, and Canon lenses, and of these three, the Pentax professional-grade lenses always seem to me to provide the edge.

So I turned to Pentax for a landscape lens to fit to the Canon. The Pentax 35mm SLR M & A range of manual lenses are sharp, but do have a major problem in that they often need to be adapted to fit the Canon EOS mount, even when a Pentax-EOS adapter is used.
The Pentax 645 and 6X7 Medium format lens range includes some of the finest optics in the world. The best in the 645 range is the 35mm wide lens and the 50-100mm. However, the Pentax 6X7 and 67 lenses can easily fit the 645D with an adapter and so it is a useful option to own 67 lenses because they can easily fit the Pentax 67II, Pentax 645D and canon 5D Mark II. The professional range of Pentax 67 lenses is world renowned, and matched to the smaller sensor of the Canon 5D the frame is inside the 'sweet' central section of the glass.

I had read some conflicting advice on the internet that medium format lenses were not as sharp as 35mm SLR/DSLR lenses and so not useful when mounted on the smaller format bodies; but this seemed to stem only from people who had never actually tried the combination. Almost all the professionals who used the Pentax 67 and 645 lenses on the Canon DSLR cameras told a of a completely different story and provided evidence that the lenses were extremely sharp right across the range and in fact even bettered the results with Canon L lenses.
Well, I must admit that I have to agree with them that a Pentax 67 or 645 lens matched to the Canon 5D Mark II produces still images of superb quality, with great colour and biting sharpness right to the very corners of the frame – better than any Canon L lens I've so far tried.

The main Pentax 67 MF lens that I'm using at the moment with the Canon 5D Mark II is the widest optic in the range, namely the Pentax 67 45mm 1:4 ultra-wide lens (around 21mm on MF format). This lens is very light at only 486gm and so balances nicely on the 5D. It is built to a very high standard and the manual focus ring is as smooth as butter, so not only is it a top-grade performer to take stills images, it also is a dream to use for video as well.
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Old January 14th, 2011, 11:41 AM   #2
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thanks for posting that, that was interesting and informative!
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Old January 14th, 2011, 12:31 PM   #3
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I had never considered medium format lenses. Very interesting.

In general, I like Zeiss lenses for video due to their smooth focus rings. And they're great for photos if you don't need autofocus. (For instance, the 21mm f/2.8 for landscapes and static objects.) Renting CP.2 lenses is the way to go if you want true cinema focus control.

Unless you're doing super-shallow focus and if you run lights, f/2.8 is usually more than adequate. That said, a cheap f/2.8 lens might have falloff when wide open, while an f/1.4 lens is probably flat as a table at f/2.8 or f/4.

One parameter that few people consider (though Tony did!) is minimum focus distance. I've got an EF 200/2.8L that delivers a fantastic image, but won't focus within five feet. For narrative work, I'd love to have the Zeiss 28/2, 50/2, and 100/2 as a set. They're all fantastic optically, have smooth focus rings (killer focus rings with the CP.2), have matched max apertures, and the 50/2 and 100/2 are 2:1 Macros. For straight-ahead story telling, these would be a fantastic foundation. Many TV dramas have been shot with only three (wide, medium, long) lenses.

But Tony's application is from the traveling-light perspective. Having two zooms, short and long, is about as efficient as you can get. And, with auto-focus, these beat manual focus lenses for "now" photos. Mount these two two bodies, and you're really able to do "now."

But for narrative work where you really want the eyes to "zing", you can't beat manual primes. Especially if you dial down the aperture a bit so the focus doesn't float. Then again, zooms are great if the goal is to shoot fast.

For art films, you might want f/1.2 lenses for the shallowest of focus as well as a fisheye, tilt-shift, and what-not, depending on the mood you're trying to set. There's no doing that with a couple of zooms, let alone three conservative (28, 50 100mm) primes.

The key is to know what and how you shoot before you choose a lens strategy. Fortunately, the healthy used lens market lets us try some things out while we find our voice.
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Old January 14th, 2011, 06:12 PM   #4
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Thank you Chris.

Yes, John, the latest Zeiss 21mm lens in Canon mount, and the earlier orginal Contax Zeiss 21mm are both superb optics (the Contax version is easily adapted to the 5D Mark II).

For those lusting after the wonderful Zeiss 21mm but are strapped for cash, should look very closely at the Yashica 21mm lens, which in overall performance is very, very clost to the Zeiss lens. To give you an example, a Yashica 21mm lens in mint condition sold today for only 150.

Regarding close focussing lenses, the Pentax 67 MF 45mm lens focuses very close and is wonderful for use in a variety of situations. Decent minium focus is probably the one thing which the Canon 17-35mm L lacks against the closer focussing 16-35mm L lens.

The Canon 200mm f/2.8L is indeed a superb lens with beautiful performance, build quality and very sharp optics. It's bigger brother the 300mm f/4 L is also a fantastic lens, and I have been using the latest IS version a lot during the past year for both stills and video. I must admit though, that it doesn't quite match my older 300mm f/2.8 ED-IF Nikkor...but maybe it's just me being nostolgic and falling in love with lumps of metal & glass. :)
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Old January 14th, 2011, 08:11 PM   #5
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I had a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS lens and sold it to get the 200/2.8L II. There's no comparison between the lenses. While I got some nice shots with the 70-300, it had a rough, plasticky look on fine detail, like animal fur. Zooming into wildlife photos the feeling was both "soft" and "crunchy" at the same time. The 200L, on the other hand, is sublime. I've got the 2x Extender II and the combo is still much cleaner than the zoom was.

It's almost like the difference between a cheap, transistor amp vs. a very high-end tube amp. The transistor amp sounds fragile and dull, while the tube amp is creamy, yet crisp. With the 200L, the edges of flowers look like they were cut with a freshly sharpened knife.

Hopefully, the 35-350 L is closer in character to the 200L than the older 70-300 lens. Then again, I always tended to shoot photos at one end of the zoom or the other. Maybe the 70-300 had a great 135mm view. It sounds like the L zoom has a nice mid-range.

And, yes, the Zeiss 21/2.8 is sweet. We have one at work that has been a joy to shoot with. It's a tricky length for video, but absolutely fantastic for landscapes and architecture.
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Old January 14th, 2011, 08:31 PM   #6
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So... why is the 21mm tricky for video?

A 28mm lens is wide, but things look pretty normal when "getting it all in." A 16mm view is clearly distorted and makes a great effects shot. 21mm is somewhere between normal wide and distorted, so you need to take care with your framing, else the audience just senses that something isn't quite right.

If the actor is, say, ten feet from the lens, they will be fully in the frame and in focus. The far background will probably be in focus. But you will also capture the ground just in front of your feet, which is likely out of focus, unless you stopped way down. Especially the corners.

Now, let's say an actor walks into the scene from behind the camera a few feet to the side. As they walk in, they are stretched as they pass the corners of the frame. Same thing if you pan. The bottom corners pull as the camera scans the landscape.

If you're looking up (so you don't see the ground), or if you're filming down from a cliff edge, you will avoid the bottom of the view problem. Even better, if you angle the camera to the surroundings and have something really close in the foreground that is definitely out of focus, you can get a bigger than life shot that's dynamic and forces the perspective to your advantage.

Mastering the use of an super-wide lens for video is challenging. Use it poorly and it's amateur hour. Use it well and it can set you apart. It would be a heck of a challenge to shoot a film using only a 21mm lens!

But I digress... :)
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Old January 15th, 2011, 02:44 PM   #7
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Pentax 67 Lenses on EOS 5D Mk. II

Interesting stuff Tony. One question I had , what is the effective focal length of the Pentax 67 45mm 1:4 lens on the 5D Mk.II ? You mention that it is 21mm on MF but what would it be on the FF 35mm format ?

Tim
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Old January 15th, 2011, 04:43 PM   #8
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Tiim, when fitted to the normal Pentax 6X7, 67, 67ii MF film cameras it is around equivalent field of view of a 24mm lens (21-23.8mm depending how you measure the frame verticals). But when fitted to a Canon 5D or any other full frame DSLR camera it remains 45mm. So other 6X7 lenses such as the 35mm, 55mm, 75mm, 105mm, 135mm, 200mm, 300mm, 400mm, 600mm and 800mm all do not change in focal length when matched to the 5D Mark II.
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Old January 17th, 2011, 02:43 AM   #9
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Great post Tony,

Like you I was carrying two sets of kit and dumped the video camera over a year ago, but somehow I now seem to be traveling with more gear than ever. That's progress, I guess!

BTW, what adapter are you using to get that Pentax lens connected and how does it perform?

Cheers,

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Old January 17th, 2011, 04:14 PM   #10
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Liam, The adapter that I use is the PENTAX67-EOS. It allows you to convert Pentax 67 lenses to fit on most Canon EOS/EF Digital or film camera bodies.

They can be bought online or from many sellers on Ebay. Make sure that you buy the metal adapter, and that it also has a seperate pin at the side for the front bayonet catch, so that you can leave the adapter in place on the 5D body and quickly change lenses when needed without having to remove the adpater each time.

To use, simply attach the ring to your lens and then the lens to the camera. When you have finished, remove both together (There are front & rear bayonets on the Pentax67-EOS Adapter).

This adapter has a tripod mount. (This is a huge plus factor for me because it balances the 5D Mark II very nicely on a tripod, allows me to fit a Manfrotto Quick Release Plate directly to the lens; provides extra support for handholding, and prevents any extra strain on the Canon 5D bayonet mount).
It is made of high quality copper and aluminum - so is solid. It also comes with a pouch.

It allows full range of focus to infinity. Manual control of camera functions and camera will meter correctly in stop-down mode.

The Canon 5D Mark II meters through the Pentax lens. There is an Auto/Manual switch on the side of all Pentax 6x7 and 67 lenses. Obviously the aperture on the lens does not close down automatically, so you need to to do stop-down metering.

The first option is to leave the Lens switch at Auto, meter for the scene, focus with aperture wide-open for brightest viewfinder/screen then stop down to required aperture setting before firing shutter (or begining video sequence). This option is best when focussing in dim light conditions because it provides the brighter viewfinder or live-view.

The second option is to leave the lens switch set at Manual (it remains in a locking position), manually adjust aperture and then fire still shots or start recording video as normal. The aperture will automatically open and close to desired setting and the camera will meter correctly, but of course the viewfinder will darken as you move aperture ring to higher f-stops.

The manual focus ring on most of the Pentax 6X7 and 67 and 645 lenses is silky-smooth (something sadly missing in Canon EF lenses) and most of the MF lenes, like my Pentax 45mm, as well as full stop aperture settings, also has half-stop settings.

There are two type of Pentax67-EOS adapters - one is the basic model that I use, or the more expensive model (double the price) that has electronic contacts so that the Canon 5D Mark II camera shows "In-Focus" confirmation light inside viewfinder when a Pentax 67 lens is attached. I rarely ever use the In-Focus confirmation light, even when I'm using EOS EF lenses, so saved money on the fully manual model.
There are very similar adapters available for the Pentax 645 MF and Mamiya 645 MF and Contax 645 MF.
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Old January 17th, 2011, 04:26 PM   #11
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Here are photos of the Pentax67-EOS adapter with release pin for front bayonet lens mount showing on right side (the rear bayonet fits to the camera body). Second photo shows tripod foot, and the lower image shows the Pentax67-EOS 'Focus Confirmation' adapter with electronic strip on rim:
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Old January 17th, 2011, 06:43 PM   #12
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That's a monster adapter. I love it!
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Old January 18th, 2011, 02:37 AM   #13
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Excellent, thanks Tony. Infinity focus and electronic control certainly gets my attention...
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Old January 19th, 2011, 02:16 PM   #14
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After weeks of cold winter rain in UK, the sun finally shone for a few hours today, so I went out into the local woods to obtain some video footage. While I was there, I also used a few extra minutes to take some stills, mainly just for lens checks. I am uploading these via my phone dongle (cellphone) connection, so quite a lot of quality is lost in compression over the air waves, but hopefully you'll be able to see the quality of this MF Pentax 67 optic.

The first image is of a moss-covered tree (click on images to open, and then press '+' sign to enlarge image). Image 2 is a close up of the moss-covered roots. Image 3 is the Pentax SMC 67 45mm f/4 lens on the Canon 5D Mark II (photo taken on my iPhone).
Image 4 is my left hand on the bark of the tree. The last image is a 100% Crop of the same image of my hand (after opening image 5, click on '+' sign again to enlarge full size image - you need to click on the same image three times to open up full size. This is a magnified CROP of the previous image). It shows this is a sharp optic. I really like using this lens!
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LENSES FOR STILLS & VIDEO an alternative view-pentax-67-45mm-canon-5d-mk2-vinten-tripod.jpg   LENSES FOR STILLS & VIDEO an alternative view-pentax-67-45mm-canon-5d-mk2-hand.jpg  

LENSES FOR STILLS & VIDEO an alternative view-pentax-67-45mm-hand-finger-crop.jpg  
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Last edited by Tony Davies-Patrick; January 20th, 2011 at 05:03 AM.
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Old January 20th, 2011, 04:54 AM   #15
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Love the shot of your rig, Tony.

The viewfinder hood looks like one of those Hasselblad chimney finders you spoke of earlier. How do you have that mounted ?

I'm definitely thinking Pentax lenses now.

Thanks,

Tim
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