Jan 272015
 

Schidt Optics FF58 Lens on the Sony A6000

by Jeroen de Lang

What is this Schidt?

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Dog Schidt Optiks is a small British company that re-purposes salvaged Russian and East German lenses. Their FF58 is built around the Helios 44 that were made in the former USSR by the thousands (some claim millions) between the 1950’s and 1980’s. They were usually supplied as a kit lens with Zenit cameras and thus usable with other M42 lens mount cameras. The Helios-44 is a 58mm f2-f16 prime. At the end of WW2 the Russians acquired the Carl Zeiss Biotar optical formula and factory. The Helios-44 is basically a Biotar copy.

Each lens is completely dissembled, cleaned, relubed and rebuilt with uprated mechanical components, then individually configured to the clients’ specification. Dog Schidt Optiks (DSO) are able to apply a variety of optical degradations depending on your desired look. This, in combination with what they call their non-production line, craft based approach means each lens has its own nuances in character. It costs more than picking up a Helios-44 on eBay, but it is not the same lens!

Whether you want a subtle low contrast lens that absorbs and reacts with the natural ambient hues of your shooting location, a nearly unusable ultra-low contrast lens with wild tinted and almost light leak type reactivity to light sources, or a lens that simply imparts oval deformed bokeh to replicate the look from an anamorphic lens system, the FF58 can be configured to deliver these and many other qualities. You could even go for a restoration only, completely without degrading or tinting with the original contrast intact. This option is not on the site, but DSO will build whatever you specify. The FF58 is available in Canon EF, Nikon or Arri PL mount.

A lower contrast lens absorbs the natural light and creates a shadow lift. This shadow lift causes degradations in the shadow information, but using a typical lens the darker areas would simply be masked by more noise since the shadow lift would no longer be feeding the sensor with light. This makes for milky images or a distinctive lo-fi aesthetic if contrast is raised in post.

The FF38 is another beast entirely. Newly designed as a direct extension to the optical make-up of the FF58’s double gauss design, the FF38 Optical Attachment delivers a 38mm effective focal length without degrading the optical performance of the FF58, even when used wide open. The FF38’s primary goal is to deliver around a 1.5x wider field of view while maintaining the aesthetic and flare characteristics of the FF58 it is installed onto.

The FF38 Optical Attachment boasts an 80mm front diameter suitable for direct matte box attachment, and 77mm filter threads for filters. FF25 and FF88 Optical Attachments and an FF58 Non-optical Attachment are under development – each sharing the same external body design and 77mm filter thread. This strategy makes it possible to build up a shooting set where optical characteristics and aperture settings (dictated by the configuration of the FF58) are uniform across all four focal lengths (25mm, 38mm, 58mm and 88mm). Therefore it is possible to build up a set of various FF58’s of different optical configurations while only needing one of each front mounted Optical Attachments. With the supplied adapter ring the FF38 will also work with other 55mm thread lenses.

A FF58 will set you back between £140 ($225) for Canon EF mount to £260 ($420) for Arri PL mount. The FF38 is still on pre-order and is priced at £280 ($450).
The ordering process has been slow. Lead times have been between 4-6 weeks from the date when I placed my orders to the date where I get a confirmation of shipping. Email contact during the process is limited. DSO is essentially a one man operation and the process is fully bespoke, with each lens built one by one. This takes time. DSO will test your patience. Just so you know. But all good things come to those who wait, right?

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Is it the Schidt?

Digital photos have become too clean in my book. The FF58 adds a more lo-fi look with an analogue aesthetic that you cannot get elsewhere at this price, as far as I know. I am but an amateur so using old glass is beyond me. I would not even be able to perform even the simplest of repairs.

As for the tinted options, unlike typical front mounted filters, they only activate when exposed to large amounts of light pooling the lens barrel. The lens creates dynamic shifts in overall hue which are often unpredictable. Since this effect originates within the physical domain rather than software, the ‘baked in’ look and tactile nuances impart a beautifully analogue feel to digitally acquired and processed imagery. And you can see them real-time as they occur in your viewfinder or camera screen.

My first FF58 has a low contrast but no tinting or degrading. Flaring can be controlled, but when it flares, it flares! The FF38 opens more possibilities by changing the focal length of the FF58, but maintaining my selected optical characteristics. On my Sony Alpha 6000 I use it with a Roksen Focal Reducer Speed Booster Adapter Canon EOS EF mount lens to Sony NEX E A6000 converter. This applies a 0.7 times magnification so I can use it at the original 58mm focal length even on the APS-C sensor.

I liked shooting with the FF58 so much that I was one of the first to pre-order an FF38 attachment. Mine is number six. I also now own a second FF58. This is an amber / gold tinted one with a fixed F4 triangular aperture.

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My lenses are one of a kind and have clearly been lovingly crafted to my own spec. I only wish the bokeh would be smoother, but at this price I can live with it. It is also the price you pay for shooting with a lens based on a 70 year old design.

One more thing: the aperture is labelled wrong. F2 is actually f16 and vice versa. This does not bother me. I shoot with three aperture settings: f2 when I want a shallow depth of field, f16 when I want clarity and somewhere close to f2 when I shoot portraits and want more of the face to be in focus. But such a thing could drive some people up the wall.

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A word of warning

These are not modern lenses. Character means imperfections. Lots of them. If you want to pixel peep you will find all kinds of wackiness. They are fully manual as well. Definitely no auto-focus and such.

See the lens here at Dog Schidt Optics. 

Jul 222014
 

The new Hasselblad CFV-50c CMOS Digital Back. 

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The new CFV-50c from Hasselblad. A 50 MP CMOS digital back with ISO up to 6400 for the iconic V system. Hasselblad is promising amazing IQ and colors in any light, which is unheard of when it comes to Medium Format as they have always been very limited in this area. While not cheap, the new CFV-50c is not nearly as expensive as I expected it to be, coming in at $14,900 US. Now yes, that is insanely expensive but I expected Hasselblad to come in with this at $25,000. With their Stellar and Lunar Sony bodies coming in at such insane prices, the thought of a full on Hasselblad NEW CMOS 50MP digital back for such an Iconic camera line had me thinking $25-$35k. So $15k, that is about the cost of a Leica M and a 1-2 lenses. ;) Add in a used V series camera setup with lens and you will have a classic, iconic and gorgeous modern day masterpiece. Old with the new. Modern meets classic. I love it. So who makes this sensor? Well, the one company who keeps pushing the limits..SONY. There are even rumors that Sony will be releasing a Medium Format fixed lens MIRRORLESS camera soon. ;) 

You know, there was a time when Hasselblad stood for many things including quality, precision, build, design, soul, magic and originality. Their classic V series of medium format film cameras have always been the gold standard for MF shooting. I have lusted over a 501CM camera for many years, and have only shot with one for one day of my life. It was a very nice experience. The negatives that came back from that camera were gorgeous as there really is nothing quite like a medium format negative. Rich, full of texture, full of soul and life. Using the camera was an exercise in slow, steady and using my brain. Looking through the finder was a very cool experience that felt natural to me.

Sadly, over the years the Hasselblad system started to fade as digital came into play and soon, many of these classic systems started to appear on e-bay for peanuts. Many dropped the system as they no longer used film. Some tried out the digital back that was released a while back, the CFV 50 (minus the C) with good results, but it was limited to ISO 800 and CCD.

This week, Hasselblad has launched the new CMOS digital back for the V system…

Lately it seems Hasselblad has been focusing their energy and time on silliness such as the Lunar and Stellar cameras, which are rebranded high prices Sony bodies that are now out of date. Many have lost faith in the once mighty Hasselblad, writing  them off as a company who would soon be history, or become a spoof of its once former self. Now it seems they are giving something back to all of those who own and use the classic V system. Well, not GIVING, but making it available…at a price.

YEP, this week Hasselblad has announced the CFV-50, which is a new digital medium format back that can be used on all classic V system cameras. Yes, that 501 you have in your closet? You can now add a state of the art digital back to it and use it once again, just as you did in the glory days of film. :) OMG, I so want one. In fact, I would love to have the system just as shown below. This is a new CMOS sensor guys, so much more usable than the CCD sensors in previous digital backs.

The stock image of the new CFV-50 on a 501CM. What a combo!! 

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Unfortunately for me, I do not have a spare $20k or so lying around to create something like that but maybe..one day. For me, something like what you see above is sort of a “Holy Grail” setup. Modern Medium Format Digital connected to the most gorgeous and classic medium format FILM camera ever made. It is a thing of beauty and while not a camera for daily use, it would be one for SPECIAL use. I can not wait to see examples that come from this beauty. Hasselblad will NOT be recreating the camera body of course , so you must have a classic V model to use the back. I think this may just drive up prices on the used market for them. You can see a list of compatible models HERE.

From Hasselblad CEO Ian Rawcliffeon the new CFV-50 Back:

“We have experienced a substantial resurgence of interest in our iconic V cameras – users love the traditional ergonomics and the unique appearance. Our research has shown that although we no longer manufacture V models, there is a big demand from our dedicated V System users who want to be able to continue to use their classic cameras but also desire access to our latest technology.”

Research:

See more at the Hasselblad site HERE.  Compatibility page is HERE and Planet V page is HERE. 

Tech Specs:

Sensor type: CMOS
Sensor size: 50 Mpixels (8272 x 6200 pixels)
Sensor dimensions: 43.8 x 32.9 mm
Image size: RAW 3FR capture 65 MB on average. Tiff 8 bit 154 MB
Capture rate: 1.5 capture/sec. 35 captures/ minute (based on a SanDisk Extreme UDMA7 120 MB/s)
Single shot
16 bit colour
ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 & 6400
Longest shutter speed: 12 minutes
Image storage: CF card type II (write speed >20 MB/sec) or tethered to Mac or PC
Color management: Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution – One generic profile
Storage capacity: On average 60 images on a 4GB CF card

Battery type: Sony™ InfoLithium L NP-F series
Colour display: 3.0 inch TFT type, 24 bit colour
Histogram feedback: Yes
IR filter: Mounted on sensor
Feedback: IAA – Instant Approval Architecture: provides acoustic and visual feedback
File format: Lossless compressed Hasselblad 3F RAW
Software: Phocus for Mac and PC (included)
3FR files are also supported directly in Apple and Adobe environments
Macintosh: OSX version 10.5 or later. PC: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit), Windows 8
Camera support: Hasselblad V System cameras manufactured since 1957. 2000 series cameras and 201F with C lenses only. 202FA / 203FE and 205FCC camera models need a minor camera modification to use F/FE lenses. All other cameras with Hasselblad V interface.

Host connection type: FireWire 800 (IEEE1394b)
Battery capacity: Sony™ InfoLithium L, up to 8 hours of shooting capacity
Operating temperature: 0 – 45 °C / 32 – 113 °F
Dimensions: 90 x 92 x 57 mm [W x H x D]
Weight: 530 g (Excluding battery and CF card)
Package contents: Hasselblad CFV digital back with protective cover, adapter cables, rechargeable battery with charger, EL camera battery adapter, FireWire cable and 8 GB CF card. Focusing Screen (Split image / Micro Prism) with dual format markings.

Dec 232012
 

Going back in time with the Leica Digilux 2 by Dro Grigorian

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Hey Steve, I appreciate all the work you have put into this site. I have found it to be one of the most inspirational photography websites out there. I recently took a trip to New York City. Being an Angelino, New York is quite different. No one drives and metro and subway systems dominate the city. I’m still trying to decide if I like New York or Los Angeles more….Anyway, I decided to take my Digilux 2 with me. I usually have my M8/M9 with my 50 cron, which I find to be my favorite combination till this day. The Digilux 2 is a very under-rated camera. Especially when it comes to B/W photography. It’s got great contrast and rich colors. The fixed Summicron on this camera is still one of my favorites. All these were taken as ISO 200.

I feel that this camera has very film-like characteristics. I recently showed the photos to a friend, and she asked what kind of film I shoot with. Interesting! Anyway, I will leave it up to you and readers of this site to decide whether this is the case. All of these are processed in NIK Silver Efex. No other post-processing was applied. I still haven’t decided if the film-like characteristics are due to the low ISO performance, where the grain looks quite exposed, or if it’s the contrast that the lens provides. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos and hope this reaches the daily inspiration. –Dro Grigorian

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Mar 312010
 

Hello once again! I’m still out traveling and currently in Surprise, AZ at a friends house for a few days. The sun is shining, the temp is warm, and I just so happened to be driving around looking for some shots when I saw a big sign that said CLASSIC CAMERAS. After a quick U-Turn I was in the door!

The store was full of old classic cameras and it appeared there were hundreds of classics from Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax, Contax and yes, Leica.

I spotted a mint M2, a couple of M3’s and various lenses. When I asked if they had an M6 classic in chrome the salesman went to the back and came out with a white box that looked brand new. I opened it up and inside was an unused 10/10 condition chrome M6 classic. The box, manual, paperwork, and even the strap (still in box) all appeared as new/unused.

As soon as I held it I was hooked. The M6 classic is not as tall as the M6 TTL or M7 and it just fel so good in the hand. Small, sleek, thin and it was oozing Leica quality. It is a gorgeous camera and I have been looking for a nice used M6, M7 or MP and I knew that I would not be able to find one as nice as this, at this price. I also like the fact that the M6 is not full or electronics and can work fine without its batteries. The batteries inside the M6 are only there for the meter and it can be used without them if you know your stuff :)

After holding and inspecting this M6 I knew I wanted it. I had some extra cash from selling a few items lately and I was able to get a GREAT deal on this camera. Yes, now it is mine and it is loaded with some Portra 160 NC so I am excited to get out and shoot some film! I have the M7 here as well but I have to say I am preferring the M6. It just seems so pure.

I almost bought an M6TTL from Ken Hansen as he told me he had a few new in box (new old stock) from the last 500 produced. Due to the deal on this one I could not pass it up and I actually preferred the M6 classic to the TTL as it is the closest to the MP I have shot with or held.

Anyway, just wanted to share my excitement and say the M6 classic is a gorgeous camera and IMO, it looks and feels better than even a Leica M8 or M9. Of course with film you have the cost and expense of buying film, scanning, etc but in the end I think it is worth it. In the next few days I will be posting some scans from the M6 and M7 as well as my review of the super fun Olympus E-PL1.

I will not be home for another week so my posts may be minimal until then but the site will be updated every day this week and weekend.

I have had some people ask me why I would want an “old M6″ when I had an M9? Well, there are MANY reasons to add a nice film camera to your digital kit. My reasons were because film not only has a totally different look, but when you shoot film you also shoot with a different mentality. You forget about chimping, white balance, ISO and sharpness. Basically, no more headaches. I am not saying film will replace digital for me as that will not happen but it is nice  to shoot film every now and then to get away from the digital headaches for a while. For my personal shooting I may just shoot this m6 and 50 cron for a few months and see how it goes. I will be sure to post my experiences and results along the way.

Thanks for looking and if anyone out there has an M6 post a comment and let me know how you like it! BTW, just saw that B&H has a 9 condition M6 classic in stock right now.

Steve

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