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Old December 27th, 2005, 12:10 AM   #1
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Leica lens on the HVX200

G'day all,

I see an overload of discussion about the tech specs of the HVX200 but I see very little discussion about the quality or specs of the built in Leica lens on the camera, which I think is the most critical link in the chain in producing high quality HD. I believe one of the main reasons the Canon XL series cameras perform so well is due to the high quality of the glass in front, not to mention the ability to mount any lens you want!

I mean, how good is the lens? Can it perform well enough to show how well the DVCPRO HD signal is? What is the focal length equivalent in terms of 35mm lenses? Are actual Leica elements used in the lens or 3rd party equivalents?

By the way, I think the HVX200 looks like a great camera & i'm considering buying one, i just wish they'd made HDV a feature on the mini DV tape transport.

Hopefully there's some answers out there!
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Old December 27th, 2005, 12:07 PM   #2
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* 13X zoom range: focal length = 4.2 to 55mm (35mm equivalent: 32.5 to 423) from http://catalog2.panasonic.com/webapp...odel=AG-HVX200

As far as the quality of the optics is concerned, I heard that Leica has a reputation for developing lenses with lower resolution but higher contrast when compared to Zeiss, which supposedly has higher resolution and lower contrast.

In the end, all system components will influence the final quality of the video, some of which include the lens, CCD block, DSP, and codec (DVCPRO-HD, etc). What *I want* to see are the MTF curves, would somebody please throw some HD charts in front of this camera and post some uncompressed frame grabs?? ;)

Ciao,
Bob
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Old December 28th, 2005, 12:21 PM   #3
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I was talking to Matt Speigel, a DP who's been advising Panasonic on the development of the HVX, and he was rather impressed with the lens. That said, I haven't seen any res tests and Panasonic hasn't released any info other than the general specs and brochure info, so time will tell.
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Old December 28th, 2005, 01:35 PM   #4
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"As far as the quality of the optics is concerned, I heard that Leica has a reputation for developing lenses with lower resolution but higher contrast when compared to Zeiss, which supposedly has higher resolution and lower contrast."

Although I'm relatively new to video production I've been shooting commercial print/fashion for over 20 years, and there's one thing that should be clarified about Leica glass: Quite simply, it's the best there is, beyond Zeiss.

Since 1952 the Leica 50mm f/2 Summicron (and it's variants) have been the used for MTF/MTB benchmark testing against everything else on the planet for 35mm photography. Just as there are subtle differences between Nikon and Canon glass, so too are the differences between Zeiss and Leica.

That said, Leica's sharpness, color transmission (via selected coatings and aspherical elements) have always come above Zeiss not only in lab testing but real world use.

Currently, my photog brethren who are using the Canon 1Ds MKII digital body are using a manual adapter and Leica lenses for the wide to ultra wide angles because the Canon wide angle glass is absolutely inferior and the 16MP chip easily shows the Canon glass weaknesses. For comparions, go to www.fredmiranda.com and look at posts from people who have shot test scenes with Canon wide angle "L" series glass and then Leica - the difference is night and day.

Not to destroy your faith in Canon James, the lenses used for the "XL" series cameras are actually a step down in quality from the normal still-camera lenses. Canon branded those lenses as "L" because they contain aspherical elements however, the actual image quality is quite poor.

When I owned an XL1 I did a test using a Canon EOS 1D-HS film body and an adapter I had made in Texas so I could mount the XL1 long-telephoto on the 1D body and shot some film with it. The transmitted image size matched the 35mm frame however, sharpness, color and contrast were horrible compared to even the general consumer line of Canon glass. I had always blamed the chips used in the XL body as the culprit for it's poor color performance, but after the lens test it was obvious the chips had more to offer than the lens was giving them.

I did a reverse test - I had a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L specially modified with an XL mount to see what a "real" lens would look like on the XL1 without using the Canon adapter which gave all EOS lenses a magnification factor of 7x. The EOS glass gave the XL tons of color and contrast never before seen. Of course, the lens operated only manually since there were no electrical connections between XL body and lens so there was no way to change aperture settings, but full open it looked amazing.

One more important thing to remember: HD resolution is nowhere close to that of 35mm film, and Leica lenses have resolving power well beyond that of any film available today. If for example, I were to buy the P+S Technik adapter to use film lenses on the HVX, I wouldn't invest in Leica simply because it would be overkill - no video camera today could ever take advantage of the resolution from Leica glass, but the color transmission would be fabulous, and I'm betting that's why Panny selected those Black Forest engineers at Leica to design a lens for the HVX!

For more detailed info on Leica lenses and the technology behind them, check out this book, "The Leica Lens Compendium" by Erwin Puts. You can pick one up at Amazon.


That enough info? (laughs)
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Old December 28th, 2005, 08:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lane
HD resolution is nowhere close to that of 35mm film, and Leica lenses have resolving power well beyond that of any film available today. If for example, I were to buy the P+S Technik adapter to use film lenses on the HVX, I wouldn't invest in Leica simply because it would be overkill - no video camera today could ever take advantage of the resolution from Leica glass
Well, there's Leica and there's Leica; eg. $300 panasonic digital still camera has "Leica", but because of the price it just can't be nowhere near what R-series lenses are.

And let's do some calculations: assuming hvx200 has 1280x720 chips, the pixel size is 3.75 Ám per dimension.
Very small grain 35 mm film might resolve 100 lp/mm, so the "pixel size" would be 5 Ám.
Now which one of these would need better resolving power from the lens?
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Old December 28th, 2005, 09:07 PM   #6
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Great to finally see some discussion on the lens!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toke Lahti
Well, there's Leica and there's Leica; eg. $300 panasonic digital still camera has "Leica", but because of the price it just can't be nowhere near what R-series lenses are.
I think thats the point i'm trying to make... What i'm wondering is whether its high end Leica glass or low end & that panasonic are just trying to utilise Leica's great reputation........
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Old December 28th, 2005, 09:10 PM   #7
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I seriously doubt Leica would allow that to happen.
Remember, it's LEICA'S name at stake, not Panasonic when it comes to that glass.

- ShannonRawls.com
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Old December 28th, 2005, 09:15 PM   #8
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I hate getting involved in these type of debates, but I'll leave you with this these thoughts:

First, there would be no logic for either Leica or Panasonic to invest in the same type of elements that go into 35mm film bodies for the HVX or any digital video camera - there simply isn't enough resolving power in any video chipset to take advantage of the added resolution the lens would be capable of. However, there is an obvious advantage to having a lens that is color accurate and free from fringing, vingetting and other common lens issues. That's why Sony uses Zeiss glass for video and Panny uses Leica - excellent color transmission.

Lastly, there can't ever be a direct comparison in resolving power between an analog physical format such as film, where you somehow have to translate between light being transmitted through film, projected onto a surface such as a print (or being scanned on a drum scanner) and the purely digital medium of video. Assuming your calculations are correct, film grain may be larger than that of a digital imaging chip, however the actual amount of light information stored on one grain of film is far greater than a single pixel of any digital camera - still or video. There's a reason why pro's like myself still shoot chrome (slide) film and don't concern ourselves with grain - it's because there is a wealth of color data that digital still hasn't been able to replicate or capture with as much lattitude or accuracy as perfectly processed film.

Here' a simple real world test of "resolution": Take a single frame from any uncompressed HD source, import it into Photoshop and show it as "actual pixels" and see how big it isn't on your screen. Then take an image from any recent "high megapixel" camera such as the Nikon D2X, Canon 1Ds (non-MKII) import it into Photoshop and show it as "actual pixels". Compare the digital still cameras to the HD still - the results will surprise you.

Here's the last tidbit of knowledge - for those who wish to continue the debate:

There's a wealth of data (some of which can be found at www.kenrockwell.com) that suggests to match actual 35mm film resolution you'd need a digital still camera of at least 25-30 megapixels before you'd actually match the resolving power of film. Resolving power does not mean what size the grain is, but how much information is actually being captured - file sizes to be more exact. There are plenty of 5 to 6 megapixel bodies that are "grainless" at 100 ISO but lack the color depth and definition of good slide film.

So, is the Leica on the front of the HVX as good - or as pricey - as any R or M-type lens from Leica? Of course not, but as illustrated above, it doesn't need to be.
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Old December 28th, 2005, 09:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shannon Rawls
I seriously doubt Leica would allow that to happen.
Remember, it's LEICA'S name at stake, not Panasonic when it comes to that glass.

- ShannonRawls.com
I currently work as a tech in a photographic store for the past 3 years & we are a Leica sales dealer. I'm not a huge fan of Leica bodies but love there lenses... I know from what my workmates tell me is there is excellent Leica glass & average Leica glass which is much cheaper & is made by third party companies in Canada & other places.... Now which type does the HVX use? That's what i'm trying to state....

I'll try to find out more regarding this from my workmates....
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Old December 28th, 2005, 09:30 PM   #10
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The CCD block is likely to have either 960x1080 or 1280x1080 resolution.
Panasonic claims 1080/60p CCD scanning:
http://catalog2.panasonic.com/webapp...odel=AG-HVX200

There are also some insightful calculations here:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=55325

I wish Panasonic's marketing department would just spill the beans and quit being secretive, but as I mentioned earlier, the real test will be to throw some charts in front of the camera and shoot some actual footage. There are going to be differences in published data anyway because of manufacturing tolerences. That said, I'm going to rent this camera for a couple days before I make a purchasing decision.
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Old December 28th, 2005, 09:44 PM   #11
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I've read that Panasonic just licenses the Leica name to put on their lenses, and Sony does the same with Zeiss. That doesn't mean the lenses aren't good, but I just wonder whether Leica has any direct involvement in their manufacture...
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Old December 28th, 2005, 09:45 PM   #12
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I think those of you who are concerned about the lens on the HVX are over-rating it's true value to image quality.

The 100/A has always had wonderful color information, I'd suspect from a good combination of lens selection and chipset being used. In fact from those I've talked to in the industry, Panasonic has always had a reputation for great video color response in all it's cameras. I certainly wouldn't think Panasonic would do any less for it's newest model.

Besides, what's really important to any image whether it's still or video is lighting - if you start with mud that's what you'll end up with. And the HVX will give you mud in a DVCPRO-HD flavor! (laughs)

I originally was going to shoot my production on the JVC HD100U, didn't like the color output (and wasn't crazy about the Fujinon lens either), changed to the Sony Z1U - much better color output and sharpness (believe it or not) but didn't like the interlaced format.

After previously using the DVX100A and seeing the color definition from that camera and the fact that I'll either be using the nice 4:2:2 color space of DVCPRO-50/HD I'm absolutely convinced that the lens Leica has designed for Panny on the HVX is going to outperform the Zeiss on the Sony. I'll prove it to myself - as soon as they start shipping the dang thing!!! (^_^)

My advice to anyone who is turning into a "measurebator" about the lens: Worry more about the quality of light you're throwing onto your subjects and keep away from mud.
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Old December 29th, 2005, 08:09 AM   #13
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Indeed, mud is mud, but we still need good clean glass for the non mud stuff!!

I can tell you that the dvx lens is lacking with un-compressed out. very lacking when it's wide open
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Old December 29th, 2005, 08:15 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
I've read that Panasonic just licenses the Leica name to put on their lenses, and Sony does the same with Zeiss. That doesn't mean the lenses aren't good, but I just wonder whether Leica has any direct involvement in their manufacture...

Actually Leica is involved with the design of the lens and they have to approve the final manufacture or we cannot use their name. There is a quality assurance on their part to protect their good name. From what I have seen it is one of the nicest lenses on a hand-held HD camcorder.

As some one said above, it is one of the critical parts of the imaging process, if you cheap out here, you will take the image down. A poor lens can subtaract from any meaningful gain acquired in offset spatial technology or the DSP behind the chip set. And you will all see for yourselves soon enough as I am sure they are plenty of folks wanting to do resolution tests against other cameras.

Best regards,

Jan
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Old December 29th, 2005, 08:42 AM   #15
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Robert, i'm not the "New Kid on the Block" I do know lighting is also one of the most critical parts of great images.... But one of the other most critical parts on the camera is the lens. Give me a magnificent lens on a SD camera over a average lens on a HD camera any day... Hence the reason why i hire a XL2 so often, it allows me to use Leica glass which i also borrow....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan Crittenden Livingston
There is a quality assurance on their part to protect their good name. From what I have seen it is one of the nicest lenses on a hand-held HD camcorder.

As some one said above, it is one of the critical parts of the imaging process, if you cheap out here, you will take the image down.
Great to hear Jan. The fixed lens feature on a camera isn't my favourite thing but if its a great fixed lens on the HVX then thats fine by me, esp if its a great Leica lens! (I've been to the Leica factory in Germany & after seeing them operate there's no question in my mind that they have extremely high manufacturing standards)
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