Digital Camera Buyer's Guide Introduction - Comments

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  • #26
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To be honest, get nice glass over a nice body. A sharp lens can make an aging camera come back to life.
Why not put that to a test.

Suppose you own a Canon 350D with the too-cheap-for-words standard 18-55mm IS lens and you have something a bit short of a grand to spend. What would give you a better resolution (sharper pictures)?

Get the legendary super 17-55mm F2.8 lens for your 350D or get a new Canon 600D body (less expensive) with the same cheapo standard lens?

You can find the answer here.
 
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  • #27
turbo
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The too-cheap-for words 18-55 (no IS) lens on my 30D is remarkably sharp. I was initially turned off by the light-weight plastic body, etc, in comparison to my old Olympus lenses (OM system), but I was quite pleasantly surprised by the performance of the actual glass.
 
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  • #28
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so let's continue the test. this what you'd have, if you scroll roughly halfway you see that the 350D (8mp) with the 18-55 averages about 1850 lines per height.

Now you buy the super 17-55 to get this. See that the center is clearly better getting to 2100 lines per height. But the average is not increasing very clearly.

Now we know from DPreview that the image quality of the 600D with 18MP is practically identical to the 60D and 7D, since it's the same sensor. The 50D here is slightly inferior to that, so we know that the 600D is certainly not going to give worse results here. But as shown here, the cheapo 18-55mm on the 50D gets us average results around 2200 lines per height.

Consequently better glass is not dogmatic better than a better body. On the contrary, if you start comparing all the other nice improvements between the 350D and the 600D.
 
  • #29
Andy Resnick
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I think this discussion is a little too simple-minded. For example, my luminar lenses are 50 years old and I'm willing to bet they will outperform any contemporary macro lens, period- not just the optical quality but also the fact that they can be used on a 4" x 5" view camera (and possibly an 8 x 10). In terms of high-ISO/low light imaging, I'll put my EMCCD camera up against any DSLR. And it's not true that you are locked into a particular manufacturer, either.

From my perspective, I have never been disappointed when I get the best camera/lens that I can afford: not the most expensive, but the equipment that best meets my needs, regardless of who made it. Of course, getting high-end equipment also (initially) showcases my inability to take advantage of the full performance- all flaws are glaringly obvious.
 
  • #30
turbo
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You may be right about some of that. Over the years, I have owned a stable of Bronica Zenzanon primes, and Olympus Zuicko primes. I shopped carefully, and ended up with some superior lenses. Now, I can stroll around with a couple of Canon 30Ds and a few zoom lenses, to cover ranges from 18mm to 400mm. That's a whole lot handier than packing around two Bronicas and 4 primes, or 4-5 Olympus bodies and a corresponding number of primes. Another little wrinkle is that when you head out with bodies loaded with color negative film, color transparency film, Tech-Pan, etc, you can always end up wishing you had loaded films with different capabilities, different speeds, grain-size, etc. I can get a lot of flexibility on the fly with the DSLRs, and post-processing. I don't long for the days of film.
 
  • #31
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I For example, my luminar lenses are 50 years old and I'm willing to bet they will outperform any contemporary macro lens, period- not just the optical quality but also the fact that they can be used on a 4" x 5" view camera (and possibly an 8 x 10).
That's quite a statement. Would that imply that 50 years of innovations like aspherical, low dispersion elements and diffractive optics not could prevent that lens making deteriorated?
 
  • #32
Andy Resnick
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That's quite a statement. Would that imply that 50 years of innovations like aspherical, low dispersion elements and diffractive optics not could prevent that lens making deteriorated?
I stand by it. For whatever reason, Zeiss stopped making those lenses in the 1970's- none of those technologies (except possibly aspherical surfaces) which I agree could improve the optical performance of those lenses were ever incorporated. The fact that each lens has only three elements makes the optical performance even more astounding.

I'd be happy to put my claim to the test- all we need is a 'standard object' that we can all photograph using whatever tools we wish. My only constraint is that I need to work indoors. Normally I would suggest a coin or piece of newspaper, but given the international participation in this forum, it's not obvious what the best choice would be.
 
  • #33
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Sure you can compare with what we can and I would love to see results of that lens but it's not a game/match. I know that my 7D/100mm macro is not the best in the world, Borek beats it already with the 100mm L-version, but with a 5D mk2 body, results would even be better which would be topped by the A900, since the resolution is a function of both lens resolution and sensor resolution.

But we can compare pix maybe of a yardstick, or matches or playing cards, or a certain common brand of batteries.
 
  • #34
Borek
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Andre and I can take a picture of Canon's lens cap :smile:
 
  • #35
turbo
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Andre and I can take a picture of Canon's lens cap :smile:
From the inside? Your 100mm macros should deliver equivalent quality, I would think.
 
  • #36
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yes here is mine :biggrin:

[PLAIN]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/22026080/lenscap.jpg [Broken]

Anyway, I would also be interested to see results compared to the Canon MP-E 65mm
 
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  • #37
Andy Resnick
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Here's some preliminary results using two resolution targets. The first is from Edmund optics and is a chrome on glass variable bar target:

[PLAIN]http://img191.imageshack.us/img191/9345/targeto.jpg [Broken]

and the second for higher-magnifications is a Richardson Gen III test slide:

[PLAIN]http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/9681/targetda.jpg [Broken]

The images below are taken from that small region in the dead center.

There's a few things to keep in mind- first, although the targets are specified in terms of a length (for example, 5 line pairs per mm), the proper way to compare lenses is by the angular resolution: line pairs per radian. I didn't measure the object distance so I can't convert the units properly.

Second, the pixelated nature of the CCD results in imaging artifacts, especially aliasing:

[PLAIN]http://img638.imageshack.us/img638/7117/aliasing.jpg [Broken]

In this case, it shows the effect of angular misalignment between the bars and the pixels. A related issue is the Bayer filter, but from the point spread images I took earlier, that issue may not be a significant one.

Lastly, for whatever reason I set the camera to 6 MP instead of the full resolution. This is probably a fatal flaw. In any case... From top to bottom are images from the 100mm, 63mm, and 25mm at full aperture, at the two useful extremes of reproduction ratio. For the 100mm, this is 1x and 1.78x (45 lp/mm and 75 lp/mm), while the 63mm images are at 2.5x and 4.5x (105 lp/mm and 190 lp/mm) and the 25 mm is 10.5x and 28.5x- the largest bars are 2 microns wide (4 microns per light/dark pair):

[PLAIN]http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/3050/topdi.jpg [Broken]

What I should probably do is re-take these at full resolution...
 
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  • #38
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Impressive Andy and yes, resolution is a function of lens resolution and sensor resolution. But maybe this should go in another thread?
 
  • #39
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I ended up pulling the trigger on a Nikon d5100 w/kit lens and 55-300 DX VR lens last night. Amazon was having a killer deal where I got the stuff above and a camera bag for a little over $900 shipped. While I was leaning more towards getting the K-5, it just seemed like too good of a deal to pass up.
 
  • #40
Borek
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Can we find or prepare some kind of test that each one of us could print to take pictures of?
 
  • #41
turbo
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How available are bicycle-brand playing cards in Europe? When the cards are new, they are very flat, and the printing quality on the backs is generally excellent and consistent to foil cheats.
 
  • #42
Andy Resnick
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I ended up pulling the trigger on a Nikon d5100 w/kit lens and 55-300 DX VR lens last night. Amazon was having a killer deal where I got the stuff above and a camera bag for a little over $900 shipped. While I was leaning more towards getting the K-5, it just seemed like too good of a deal to pass up.
Excellent- I think you will be very happy with your decision!
 
  • #43
Andy Resnick
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Impressive Andy and yes, resolution is a function of lens resolution and sensor resolution. But maybe this should go in another thread?
Probably- I think some sort of "shoot out at the PF corral" thread makes sense for this.

Can we find or prepare some kind of test that each one of us could print to take pictures of?
All we need is a 'standard object' (or a few objects of different sizes if we want to go beyond macro shooting)

How available are bicycle-brand playing cards in Europe? When the cards are new, they are very flat, and the printing quality on the backs is generally excellent and consistent to foil cheats.
This is a good suggestion- there does not appear to be very much fine detail, but it's probably good enough. How about the hologram sticker on credit/debit cards? Just a suggestion for something commonly available....

Edit: I think it's worth saying that this isn't a "mine's bigger than yours" competition. There's a lot of optics knowledge that goes into setting up and quantitatively evaluating images, and this should be treated as an educational resource.
 
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  • #44
turbo
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No, Andy, there is not a lot of really fine detail on the card backs, but they could make pretty decent long-distance targets. Just trying to think of something cheap and consistent. I long ago abandoned my wall-sized resolution chart (Edmunds, I think). When I was considering buying a zoom lens for my Olympus kit, I borrowed several from friends, including one who owns a camera shop, and used that chart to put the lenses through their paces. I gave up on the zoom idea right after developing and printing that film.

It was with a bit of trepidation that I jumped in with a Canon 30D and 100-400mm L, because of the expense, but I have a friend on another forum who shoots wildlife/birds from a blind with the 100-400, and the quality is scary-good. Zooms have come a LONG way in the last ~40 years.
 
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  • #45
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I ended up pulling the trigger on a Nikon d5100 w/kit lens and 55-300 DX VR lens last night. Amazon was having a killer deal where I got the stuff above and a camera bag for a little over $900 shipped. While I was leaning more towards getting the K-5, it just seemed like too good of a deal to pass up.
Congrats. I hope you enjoy it. Actually a few years ago I had a similar experience, I was charmed by the multigadget Sony A350 and I had already ordered it (tentatively), I thought that the Canon 450D, the other one of the shortlist, was way too simple and a bit expensive in comparison, then I saw the test results and I never looked at the Sony again.

But that was just a moment in time and Nikon really had no competative model at that time that made it to my shortlist.
 
  • #46
Andy Resnick
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No, Andy, there is not a lot of really fine detail on the card backs, but they could make pretty decent long-distance targets. Just trying to think of something cheap and consistent. <snip>
I was thinking more and realized that there doesn't have to be fine detail, as long as the pattern edges are sharp- it's still possible to extract the modulation transfer function.

Cards sound good to me- consider that a second. How about the overseas folks?
 
  • #47
turbo
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I was thinking more and realized that there doesn't have to be fine detail, as long as the pattern edges are sharp- it's still possible to extract the modulation transfer function.

Cards sound good to me- consider that a second. How about the overseas folks?
Well, I guess a pack of cards isn't that much of an investment, so we could spend a few bucks to split a deck and send one or two cards to others who want to use those as test targets.

I'll send you some money to buy a deck of cards and pay for postage if you want to supply targets to Andre, Borek, and others. I can't get out too much due to my sensitivity to fragrance chemicals, so if you can handle the logistics, I'll pay the cost. It might be better to use cards within a single pack, to keep printing-variables as even as possible.
 
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  • #48
Andy Resnick
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Well, I guess a pack of cards isn't that much of an investment, so we could spend a few bucks to split a deck and send one or two cards to others who want to use those as test targets.

I'll send you some money to buy a deck of cards and pay for postage if you want to supply targets to Andre, Borek, and others. I can't get out too much due to my sensitivity to fragrance chemicals, so if you can handle the logistics, I'll pay the cost. It might be better to use cards within a single pack, to keep printing-variables as even as possible.
I'm not sure I want to open "Andy Resnick's Playing Card Emporium" just yet :) Interested people can buy them directly online, anyways:

http://www.playingcardsandmore.com/bicycleplayingcards.aspx?gclid=CISzw92Py6sCFcjc4AodPgS63w

As it happens, I'm teaching the Advanced Optics Lab class next semester, and I've been trying to come up with a few labs to replace the (ahem) useless ones. For example, I'm thinking about a lab that centers on this:

http://www.skymall.com/shopping/detail.htm?pid=203769555&c=10323 [Broken]

and a "imaging performance" lab could also be a nice addition. I've come up with a preliminary procedure that I can debut here and see if it's worthwhile to fully develop for the course.

So, for anyone interested in quantitatively measuring the imaging properties of a lens, I'll work to get a rough draft started in a new thread. Details to follow, but all you need to start is a greyscale photo containing a light-to-dark transition.
 
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  • #49
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I know most people here shoot Canikon, but I cant say enough about how much I love my new Pentax. I finally got some time this morning to really try it out and while I'm still learning, I think the results are fantastic. Can't wait to get some nice lenses for it.

9vimwh.jpg


2itg4n5.jpg
 

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