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Old December 16th, 2008, 07:52 PM   #1
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Is it worth buying an expensive prime for lens adapter use?

Hi folks,

I've made the purchase on my XH A1 and it stands here before me, so I've joined your club! Now I am buying all the accessories for it. My question here is about using the Letus35 Extreme lens adapter.

I was given some advice that if budget allows, investing in a high-quality 35mm prime lens to mount onto the adapter would be well worth it.

I have a choice. I can spend 400 on a Carl Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/50 or I can spend 90 on a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D.

However I find myself asking, will anyone notice the difference? Since the lens, no matter how good, will still need to find its way through the lens adapter and in through the XH's lens... Is spending that extra cash on a Carl Zeiss over a bog standard Nikon really worth the money for this type of application?

I can understand the worth on an SLR Camera where the image is projected immediately onto the sensors through the lens, but in our application where we have the image physically put through the camcorder lens also, do we in fact realise the quality of the 35mm lens?

Hope that isn't a stupid first question!
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Old December 17th, 2008, 02:15 AM   #2
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With any adapter, whatever you are capturing is based on the image of your ground glass. Capturing an image directly on the sensor, of course, gives you a cleaner image however if u follow this logic.. then whatever lens u put in front of the sensor determines the quality of the image captured. Hence, logically, the quality of the ground you are capturing is also dependent on what's in front of it. Crap outside, crappier inside. There is a reason why the 50 1.8 is cheap. Most lenses are very sharp and crisp at f8... however at its widest aperture, the divide is seen. The 1.8 is pretty unusable (for me) at wide open however my 50 1.4 CZ is beautifully sharp AND has a very soft smooth bokeh.. unlike the bokeh of the 50 1.8. At the end of the day, you get what you paid for and it will clearly translate to what you see on the sensor capturing the images transferred from the extreme's GG. And forget about using the 50 1.8 at f8.. the grain on the GG will show.

However, you are right at this.. if you cannot see the difference, then it will make no difference to you. If you do see the difference, your clients may not. End of the day, you only need to justify it to your R.O.I. on whether the difference in price is worth it.
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Old December 17th, 2008, 03:00 AM   #3
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Nikon didn't become famous for making crap lenses Christopher. They do admittedly have an 'affordable' range as do most of the other big boys, and this was produced to counteract the Tokinas and Sigmas of this world. Everybody's happy - they all sell well.

David's right of course, the better the front end the better the final result. But the whole idea of the Letus is that it's there to change the way your entire film looks. Any viewer wondering idly about the flatness of field of your Nikon prime hasn't really been caught up in your story-line, now has he? The very fact that differential focus has arrived means your MPEG2 encoder has less to do and 'softness' is something you're selling.

You're also right to remember that the 20x Canon zoom is a 'just good enough to sell' zoom. It barrel distorts, ramps and vignettes like the rest of them. Good at the price - excellent even, but in photographic terms (35 mm film I mean) the lens would be considered so-so, though its specification would be greatly admired.

I'd go for the Nikon and put the money not spent into training.

tom.
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Old December 17th, 2008, 07:24 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by David Cheok View Post
However, you are right at this.. if you cannot see the difference, then it will make no difference to you. If you do see the difference, your clients may not. End of the day, you only need to justify it to your R.O.I. on whether the difference in price is worth it.
First of all, thank you David & Tom for your valuable input, this was indeed a burning question I had.

As it happens, my intention is to shoot a feature short to be sent on to film festivals, so even if I did not see a difference, a keener eye than I undoubtedly would. Thus, it's very important for me to buy the correct equipment for the job. I don't mind spending the extra cash if, as David says, "CZ is beautifully sharp AND has a very soft smooth bokeh" ... I guess my core inner thought is, will I benefit visually with an extra 300 spent over the life of my ownership with the CZ?

I'm trying to be so careful to buy the correct equipment, I've held off buying the letus35 adapter until I'm positive about which one I need. Given my circumstances, I was advised on the extreme, but according to Philip Bloom of philipbloom.net, the back focus ring is "bloody absolutely essential" so that would mean I need the Elite at the very least. I wish there was footage out there so I could see the difference between fast shutter speed and lower than 5.6 f-stops on the Elite Vs the Ultimate. It's such a crucial decision to make between the two, you'd think Letus might help demonstrate it for us!

Anyhow, I digress from the original question. I'm not knocking Nikon, they make fabulous lenses but I've seen detailed comparisons on the Zeiss that didn't appear to make it an exceptional lens... Not that I'm trying to war on what is the best lens you understand!
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Old December 17th, 2008, 10:01 AM   #5
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Hello,

I think you should go with the Nikon because not only can you get the 50mm but also a used fast 28mm and a 85mm Nikon for probably cheaper than the cost of the single Zeiss. Nikon makes very good lenses and I've never had a problem with sharpest because usually I try not to use them wide open though some of them are perfectly fine wide open.

Carl Zeiss lens are great, but I think there is some hype woven in there as well. In your situation, I think you would benefit more from having a set of lenses to utilize on a shoot then one expensive lense.

Hope this helps,
Andy
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Old December 17th, 2008, 10:58 AM   #6
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There are some great lenses out there that I would apply that money too, than a single lens.

On EBay in the last year, I have bought 2 working Nikkor 50mm 1.4 for under $100.00 each. Just a month ago, I bought the second, in great conditions for $ 50.00. The Nikon series E 100mm is actually, despite its low end origin, a great little lense. I just replaced one that got dump into a pond for about $70 on ebay. I ve also gotten a 43-85mm zoom, a 24mm wide, a 28 mm wide, and a 35mm F 2.0, all for under $ 100.00 each. The trick is not to get too excited, and be willing to walk away from a lens.

They say the 105 F 2.5 Nikkor is a classic masterpiece, and it will go for much more . Also, there is an 85 that seems to go pretty high..
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Old December 17th, 2008, 11:32 AM   #7
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Actually, if you want the most versatility AND plan to shoot everything with bokeh.. get yourself the canon mount and a 2nd hand EF24-70L zoom (or its Nikonian counterpart). Its not quite as fast but the extra width and tele will give you a variety of looks. I guess the big question now is do you have enough light?

PS:
I use a variety of Canon L lenses coming from a professional photography background and my personal preference is still on the CZ lenses. There is a certain look quality that I like from them that is absent from Canon's Ls. I'm not dissing Nikon's and I would use them if my film were a wildlife documentary/flick nor am i dropping Canon's either. They both make very good high end lenses but their consumer versions are not quite to my requirements. I think before you do anything, I'd suggest you storyboard your film and decide with/without your DOP how each scene is to be framed/shot. I think it would be very difficult to shoot everything with just a 50. You can save yourself a lot by identifying what exactly you need and maybe save some money by renting a variety rather than buying a few and putting the savings for audio or talent.
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Old December 17th, 2008, 12:21 PM   #8
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An HD field monitor will make a bigger difference in your footage than the difference between Zeiss and Nikon lenses will.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 07:14 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
An HD field monitor will make a bigger difference in your footage than the difference between Zeiss and Nikon lenses will.

Ha ha, this is so true! Focussing the A1 with a 35mm adapter and that small LCD panel is a real challenge.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 07:18 PM   #10
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Ha ha, this is so true! Focussing the A1 with a 35mm adapter and that small LCD panel is a real challenge.
Agreed. The LCD is really unusable esp if working with really shallow DOF.
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Old December 20th, 2008, 05:48 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David W. Jones View Post
An HD field monitor will make a bigger difference in your footage than the difference between Zeiss and Nikon lenses will.
Slightly off topic I know, but can you recommend a good one?

Chris
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Old December 20th, 2008, 07:55 AM   #12
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Christopher,
Here's my .02 after owning a letus extreme for 6 months. I wish i had more time to experiment with it, and I need to just put aside the time. Here's a summary of what lenses i'm using and what i've figured out so far.
1- I started out with a cheap nikon 50mm 1.8 that i had in my photography kit. I then did what Chris suggested-look for great deals on Nikon manual primes. I also had an 85mm f1.4 (autof and manual) which I use for dslr portraits. Here's the list of lenses and what I paid (ebay and craigslist).
a-24mm f 2.8, 35mm f2.0, 50mm f1.4, and 105mm f 1.8. believe it or not, I got all 4 from a guy on craigs list for $350. The 105mm is a beautifull lens, and i would highly reccomend looking for one of those.
b- I picked up a nice, clean 135mm f2.8 on ebay for $125, then found another locally on CL. I got the lens and the TC 14a teleconverter both for $100! So if there's enough light outdoors, I can use the 135 and tc and end up with 180mm.
c- I love my 85mm f1.4 when I shoot portraits, but on the letus, the 105 f 1.8 looks almost as good. The 85 does ,however, have an otherwordly bokeh when shooting wide open.

Changing lenses- whether it's laziness or rushing, i've resisted changing lenses on the last couple of shoots. These were "guerilla" type situations where I was trying to do some shooting on Miami beach, and didn't want to dawdle and attract attention. I was wondering about a couple of the fast zooms, like the 80-200 e nikor lens. has anyone had experience with these, and are there real drwabacks over the primes?

Viewfinder/ monitor- It's almost impossible to focus in a shallow dof situation using the A1 or h1 viewfinder. Half of what I shot the other day at the beach was either soft or out. I was shooting primarily with the 85mm wide, and the dof was extreme. I should have brought my monitor, and will next time.
At this beach shoot I had the Letus on my H1 and used the A1 without the Letus. Luckilly I doubled many of the shots on both cameras, and ended up with a lot more usable footage. But then we had to do a bit of post work to make them look more similar.
The last thing I can say about shooting with the 35mm adapters is that it takes a lot more time, thought and planning. I could have gotten a better selection of usable letus shots if I had taken more time, switched lenses for the different shots, and brought my monitor. But then I was trying to be inconspicuous and move quickly...
Bruce Yarock
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Old January 20th, 2009, 05:05 PM   #13
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Thanks Bruce, for that information. I have been looking on eBay and elsewhere for Nikon lenses...

I will say one thing, I see a lot of your lenses go down to 1.4 or 1.8 f-stop... However I've seen in another thread, ie. here http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/let-us-di...non-xh-a1.html that low f-stops on an Extreme/Elite won't work well because you will see the ground glass in the image.

This concerns me quite a bit. A user in that thread says, "I should also mention that, with the Extreme (and its vibrating ground glass) you run the risk of seeing GG grain when you stop down more than f/4 or f/5.6."

That makes any lens lower than than f/4 unnecessary for use with the Letus? How are you guys lighting your scenes with this adapter?

I guess I'm going to find out!
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Old January 20th, 2009, 05:41 PM   #14
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Christopher,
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you're confusing the lens terminology. When we say " stop down" we mean, close the lens, which gives a larger f stop, and less light. The most I've been able to stop down is to 5.6, but usually I saty at 2.8-4. If you stop down the iris too much (higher f stop number) you see smearing, or artifacts, from the ground glass.
You want fast prime lenses because they let in more light, and are usually sharper. Here's what I have in my arsenal:
Nikor- 24mm f 2.8, 35mm f2.0, 50mm f 1.4, 85mm f 1.4 ( other wordly bokeh, both with dslr and 35mm adaptor), 105mm f 1.8 ( I love this lens), 135mm f2.8, another 135 mm f2.8 with a 1.4 teleconverter, which gives me about 175mm, but loses a stop of light ( good for out doors).
I'm really still learning how to use this set up successfully. I'm finding that I have to use more light than I think, in the darker situations. Out side in daylight, especiaslly here in florida, we have the opposite problem. I usually use the nd filter all the way, jack up the shutter to 100, and stop down to f 4.0, if I have to.
If I missunderstood your lens confusion, please forgive me. Otherwise, I hope this info is helpfull.
Bruce Yarock
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Old January 21st, 2009, 01:59 AM   #15
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Sorry Bruce,

You're entirely correct. I wrote the post late when tired and got mixed up! Thanks so much for the information and for the correction.

Regards,
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