I wasn’t happy with the tests I ran on the lens a few months ago, mainly due to the Lee resin filter I had on. This time I went and redid the same tests, and used a new Schneider 4X4 ND .9 EF81.
A few months ago I bought a .9 ND filter on ebay. I asked the seller if this was a glass filter and was told yes. I bought it. You of course can guess what came was in fact whats called a resin filter which is a better word then plastic. The seller said they made a mistake, and gave me a partial refund to even the deal out and I was ok with that.
I was just happy to have some decently strong ND for my lenses when shooting outside. I shot a bit with this lens, and I certainly had some concern about if it was really having some effect on the images I was shooting. Plenty of knowledge says a filter like this won’t perform as well as a glass one. After all, who’d pay 3X-5X more for glass when plastic would do ? Well one quick difference is that plastic filters are much easier to scratch. What the real concern is, how does it perform and is it worth the extra money.
Here are actual images side by side of how it worked out. The lens was a Tamron 70-200 2.8 which a very sharp and excellent performing lens. The lens chart was actually one I printed on my laser printer and taped up on the wall. Yes I know technically not correct, but I’m not looking to measure lpm’s here in a scientific way. I just wanted a contrasty target to see what happens.
The two filters tested were the Lee .9 ND resin filter and Schneider ND.9 EF81. the images are 1:1 pixel crop of 5K stills
The results clearly show the plastic filter softening the image out quite a bit. I have 2 other shots which are softer, this is the sharpest of 3. With the glass filter you can actually see the dot pattern of the gray areas. The detail and sharpness of the Tamron is amazing, and the glass filter isn’t hurting it one bit.
In actual shot images this effect is visible, especially at longer focal lengths. Here are some shots from 1080p from the camera. These images have been scaled down, but you can click on them for the 1:1 crops.
The video shots are more interesting to say the least. Can you tell them apart ? They look pretty close actually at this size. Even at 1:1 they look pretty close. Now at this point I think I am going to redo this video test because I think the plastic filter looks every so slightly sharper. I have 2 guesses right now – motion blur / shutter speed blur. I shot one at 40/th and one at 50/th. While I feel certain I’d let the camera settle for a few seconds, maybe not. I was also using a Flo light on the chart. Last I did color correct these a bit to match exposure values. If I upped the contrast a little too much on the second one, it could account for making it seem a little sharper. So I think next week I’ll go redo this part. However, even if I get the expected results, they’ll still be pretty close I’ll bet.
Conclusion : I suppose after shooting this quick little test you’d figure I’d be tossing this resin filter out, but I’m not. For video purposes, you may get away with using some resin / plastic filters, especially if you need a softer look or want to try to tame some aliasing / moire. While this may not be my prime ND filter to normally use, it may serve some special purposes. In a choice between sharpness and artifacts or softer and no artifacts, some subject will be ok being a little softer.
I’ve got an Intuos 2 tablet that I “restored” a few years ago by getting a new pen surface for it, and some replacement pen nibs. While all of that works fine, the button on the pen simply falls out every ten minutes making using it far less then ideal, but hey it works. I finally got curious and frustrated enough to find a really really simple fix that has made the pen perfectly usable again, and the button hasn’t fallen out since !
A few weeks ago [ in 2010 ! ] I got to spend some time in Stillwater MN on a shoot. I also spent a nite in Minneapolis. This was a chance to try out some vintage glass and filters again along with some modern glass. Many of the shots where taken with a Tiffen Black Softnet 3B filter. Placed in front of my Vivitar 28 1.9, it made for some interesting effects. With my tamron 70-200 2.8, I got some really great organic starbursts around car lights completely with some funky CA.
Right in the middle of this video is a shot illuminated by the full moon. Thats right, F1.9, ISO 1600, and there was an image there ! its truly amazing what these cameras can do. If I get the chance, I’ll put up a version with the lens / filter info on each shot.
Stillwater to Minneapolis from Steve Oakley on Vimeo.
Vivitar 35-105 3.5
This bargain lens looks impressive. Its got a big front element, solid metal construction, constant iris, and the perfect range for a lot of the work I do. Is it a little slow at 3.5 ? maybe, but thats really only a 1/2 stop from 2.8. I’m generally working with a light level of about F4 @ 200 for sit down interviews so this easily fits into the comfort range for me.
First Video Test WIth Lee ND Filter
Lets go further, this lens has an internal zoom ! Thats right, the length of the lens does not change when you zoom. Focus on the other hand does cause the front of the lens to turn, and it does move forwards, but only about a 1/4″. The front of the lens barrel is also a perfect fit for one of the doughnut rings on my matte box. It moves and rotates through it fine without worry its going to move too far forwards and hit a filter inside.
The markings in the lens barrel are larger then average which is great. The focus rotation is in the correct direction, and is around 180 deg. If you add on a large gear on the lens barrel and a small one on the follow focus, there is plenty of control here. It overall feels very smooth.
The lens I got is in pristine nearly new out of the box condition, and was really really cheap. So did I really get a bargain ?
Bokeh sample shots from Vivitar 35-105 3.5he upper shot shows its a bit different. Hey its vintage 35 year old glass !
Are there any downsides ?
Well the lens doesn’t focus that close, maybe 4 feet. It does have a macro function which works by going to 35mm, then pulling the zoom collar back to focus close. At the wide end, you can certainly rack from maybe 10 or 15 feet to close using just the macro ring. Using macro does make the lens extend itself, but nothing too far, maybe 1″.
click on the image for a full res video still. I was focused at about 30ft or so, Lee ND.9 in front, wide open, maybe shutter at 1/60th
Overall Image Quality : UPDATED
Now that I have your attention, the big question, how does it look. Well the answer is, it depends. I’ll be putting up a lens test video over the next few days so you can see for yourself. My conclusions are, at 5.6 or slower, it looks great. At 3.5, its a bit soft for stills, but ok for video. What happens wide open is that CA starts happening in the out of focus areas. This is typical of the look of lenses from this era. Its something like a diffusions filter, but different because there is some color spread. Its a very 60’s and 70’s look I like. There is also certain amount of CA going on in high contrast areas that goes away by 5.6. If you want to bump up your ISO a stop in lower light levels, no problem, or drop your shutter to 1/30th while adding a little more light. Outdoors of course its a great general shooting lens. Reasonably wide for general shots, and at 105 goes in close.
I know if I could have my ideal lens would be something like a 20-120, F2. There is a Olympus OM 35-105 2.8 out there. I’ve found only one, it was $1200, and in Hong Kong. I’m not saying that’s unreasonable as many folks have paid about as much for various canon L lenses. However, what I don’t know is if its any better then what I already have and paid, well $100 for ! This lens may well be the very best bargain lens out there is for shooting video if you can get over the fact its a 3.5 rather then 2.8 lens.
I’m just amazed at some of the overpriced stuff out there. Don’t get me wrong, the price of gear over the last few years has dropped dramatically. It wasn’t too long ago you needed $100K VTR to record HD video tape, now there are $1k-$3k solid state recorders with better quality. So here comes a 3.5mm to XLR adapter for $69.95. Lets get real, the XLR can be had for $1 in lots of 20, $3 in Radio Shack if you want to really be ripped off. The 3.5mm adapter can snipped off the end of a 3.5->3.5mm cable you can also pick up for a $1 or so as a shortie. Add in 10 minutes to solder it up… ya $3. Premade ones can be found for not too much more. You can even find ones with line level -> mic level padding, ok, that requires 2 resistors in the XLR to get the job done.
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They must think dslr owners will buy anything.