« New AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 | Main | What Your Clients Want »

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Comments

Why must the Canon lens be so big?

Wow.

I did not expect there to be that much of a size difference, even expecting the new Nikkor to be huge.

Since I'm not a physics professor, nor a lens designer, I have to ask: Why are those DSLR 35/1.4 so much bigger than the Summilux?

that picture of the minolta 35/2 sitting next to the canon 35/1.4 made me wince. i hope the camera companies will make updated versions of prime lenses that are fast but not too fast. aside from being smaller and lighter, they're generally sharper, more flare resistant, cheaper, etc. the rumors of a new canon 50/1.4 L give me hope, though. wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air? it's not 35mm, but still...

btw, the new version of the leica 35mm is being called the summilux asph fle (floating lens element).

I favor the Canon f2 for the same reason.

Though I have the 16-35 f2.8, I got the Canon 35mm f2 recently. Basically the same size as the nifty 50 1.8, it's a great walkaround lens on my 5D, light, small and sharp. Would have been interesting to see it here.

Just for the record, the Canon 35mm f2 is quite tiny, has a pretty small lens hood, and is a really great lens. I use it almost exclusively. And it's pretty cheap too. The lens motor is a little loud but not terrible.

A few more for you:

Pentax 35 f/2.8 macro: 215g
Pentax 40 f/2.8 pancake: 90g

That pancake is a small lens!

Shame we don't have that new Pentax 35mm to add to this comparison!

"Pentax 35 f/2.8 macro"

I actually took these pictures with the DA Macro, but I don't consider it a 35mm lens, because it's not 35mm-e. It's 52mm-e on the cameras it fits.

(Thus answering the question, "When is a 35mm lens not a 35mm lens?")

Mike

Not to be forgotten (neglected?): The Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2. Length: 0.9 inches/24.5 mm, diameter 2.5 inches/63 mm, weight 7 ounces/200 grams. And the lens hood is way smaller than the Canon's.

I have a Pentax 28mm f2 'A' lens that would come in at well less than half the size of the Canon. I can't see why one further stop - on a focal length that's easier to scale down than a 28mm - should result in this thyroid-challenged monster.

To the people asking why the Canon is so big in comparison to the Leica - it's all about the lensmount.

Remember that the brightness of light falls off at a square of the distance it has to go - I.E., the further you have to project it, the dimmer it gets.

The distance from the bayonet to the film plane is much further on the Canon than the Leica, as it must be deep enough to hold the mirror. As the light must travel much further, and hence get dimmer, the lens must collect more in the beginning (entrance pupil) in order to have f/1.4 hit the film/sensor. Also, wide angle lenses need extra elements to project their image through the mirror box, also stealing some light...

The Leica has a much shallower mount, and also the ability to have the rear element project through the bayonet (although I'm not sure a projecting element is necessary with a 35, but as you get wider, the rear element on M-mount lenses gets closer and closer to the shutter.)

It comes down to the fact that the M-mount does not need to collect a huge amount of light in order to project it as far.

A few 35's that are smaller than any pictured above:

Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35 2.8
Cosina-Voightlander 35/1.4
Leica Summaron 35/3.5 or 35/2.8
Leica Summicron pre-ASPH 35/2
Leica Summilux pre-ASPH 35/1.4
Leica Summarit 35/2.5.

...not to mention the Leica, Minolta, and C-V 40's for M-mount.

All are optically excellent (albeit to different degrees), and all fill a full-frame 35mm image circle.

I thought you also owned a Bronica 645?

Yes, the Pentax 35mmF2.8 Macro is on a APS-C a 52,5mm.
But, then you could have compared the 'fine' Pentax DA 21 mm limited (indeed not a real 35mm, it's a 31,5mm, but why worrying about 3,5mm?), with the rest, then sizes will be even more interesting, if not surprising...

The Olympus looks quite special here because it appears to be almost as small as the little Panasonic pancake, and yet it is a full frame lens. At f/2 it's pretty fast. That is a very nice size, weight & aperture combination.

Perhaps the smallest lens of these focal lengths is the Olympus 17 f/2.8 for m4/3. It weighs 71g.

Well Canon calls the EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L
"A handy, compact zoom lens for versatile and easy subject selection while travelling, etc." and it is 11 x 6 x 5 inches and weighs 3.7 pounds!

(that's Canon's spelling of traveling by the way.)

It would have been interesting to see a few of the various Cosina-Voigtlaender 35s and 40s thrown in.

Or, if we're willing to delve into the obsolete, maybe the 18mm for Pentax 110: Equivalent to about 36mm, about the same image circle as 4/3, weighs 28g.

The Pentax "smc DA 21 mm / 3,2 AL Limited" (what a name!) might qualify for the focal range. It's a tad wide, quite slow, but tiny.

To Canon's credit the 35mm f2 is tiny.

A lot of people seem to love it but I hated it (as much as I loved its small size)and sold it.

Much happier with the Voigtlander 40mm f2 commented here a while ago, which is also very small.

One could also add Samsung's excellent 30f2 (pancake ~45mm equiv.) and soon to arrive 20f2.8 (also pancake, equiv. 30mm).

It looks like we are going to see quite a lot of small primes comming up in the following years on the mirrorless market: excellent!

It's hard to understand why lenses have become so large and heavy. If we just had image stabilized Nikon and Canon bodies we could use some of the older, excellent, smaller lenses.
My Nikon with a 24-70 weighs a ton. By contrast my Olympus 510 with a 14-54 feels more like using a Pentax S1a. I no longer need a tripod so much for it's traditional use, but more to keep the weight off my wrist when I spend a day working.

Bill

"It comes down to the fact that the M-mount does not need to collect a huge amount of light in order to project it as far."

This completely explains the length, but only partially accounts for the diameter of the bloated (D)SLR lens; The necessity for an auto-diaphragm mechanism adds more girth, and the requirement for an autofocus motor finishes the job.

"Perhaps the smallest lens of these focal lengths is the Olympus 17 f/2.8 for m4/3. It weighs 71g."

A fun lens, but slightly too wide for me - I traded it in for the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 after a few days, and am completely thrilled. I've been comparing the Lumix 20mm to the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for my Olympus e420 - just different enough focal lengths that I carry both cameras with me at times.

Here's one more entry for your freak show, Mike. Here's Voigtlander's 35mm F2.4 Color-Skopar (M mount) next to Canon's 35L.

The Voigtlander weighs 4.7oz and is approximately 1.25" long. Kinda like a before-and-after shot for the Canon after it was run over by a truck, eh?

"Remember that the brightness of light falls off at a square of the distance it has to go - I.E., the further you have to project it, the dimmer it gets.

The distance from the bayonet to the film plane is much further on the Canon than the Leica, as it must be deep enough to hold the mirror. As the light must travel much further, and hence get dimmer, the lens must collect more in the beginning (entrance pupil) in order to have f/1.4 hit the film/sensor."

That's some creative reasoning, and if the light reaching the film/sensor were coming from a bunch of tiny point sources at the back of the lens, it might even work out right. But the inverse square illumination rule only applies to non-projection systems, and a camera lens is certainly making a projection. So trying to explain the size difference this way just confuses things.

The f number (f/1.4) is always measured as f over the entrance pupil size (as seen from the front of the lens), and doesn't say how much light actually reaches the film -- there's a separate transmission measurement for that. So if you look at the Leica and Canon lenses from the front, the size of the pupil should appear to be about the same, even though there's a lot more glass on the face of the Canon lens.

The main reason the Canon lens is so much larger is that the mirror box forces it to be a retrofocus design, which requires both more elements to accomplish and more elements to correct. But the light collected for projection on the film is the same.

"In fact 'travelling' with two l's is the correct spelling. (and, while I'm about it, a 'check' is actually a 'cheque')."

Those are the correct British spellings. In American English the words are correctly spelled "traveling" and "check."

There are many differences between British and American spellings, terms, and idiomatic phrasing. If you enjoy this sort of thing, I highly recommend The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, an American writer who lived in England for several decades.

Mike (American speller)

My fave: the old Leica 35mm F2 Summicron. A tiny lens with a lot of horsepower--and a well-deserved reputation as one of the great lenses of all time....

Do all the lenses shown have ring motor autofocus installed like the 35mm f1.4 USM Canon ?
Are all the 35mm lenses shown designed for full frame coverage or are some crop format lenses ?

"rumors of a new canon 50/1.4 L", that would be great! If weather sealed, would go great on my EOS-1V. Despite everything this hunking (scratched) plastic coated mass, is probably my best camera for results.

One of the lessons here is that we're paying in more than just camera body size and weight for the SLR viewfinder and the fast contrast-detection auto-focus. We're also paying in lens size and presumably price, among the wideangles, because placing the lens that far out from the sensor greatly complicates design.

However, image stabilization, in body or in the lens, doesn't enter into it -- none of the lenses pictured has active stabilization, so that's not accounting for any of the differences.

Mike, you wrote,
I recently shot an event with my little Panasonic GF1 and I have to say the camera let me down rather badly. I really needed a large DSLR for that job. Little cameras are great for walking around and taking visual notes, but for more concerted, difficult work you often need a more capable camera.

So, can you tell us how it let you down? I'm really baffled by "how big" and "how good" interact when making prints. Did it poop out at 8x10? Did it not quite make it to 16x20? Inquiring minds want to know!

Thanks for this post Mike. It cured my envy regarding all this new 35/1.4's and reminded me how much I love my Leica Summicron-R 35/2 on my 5D MkII.
It just has a perfect size and handling. With a good adapter and AF-confirm chip it's a joy to use:

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_Ypxzf7GN-dg/SwPk9eNH2SI/AAAAAAAAAmM/Ye8HcP4dQIg/s400/canon5D2%2BSummicron35_1.jpg

Will,
It didn't focus fast enough; focus sometimes "caught" on the wrong objects that I was trying to focus past; and the exposures were a bit inconsistent in fast-changing situations. Generally it was just too slow and clumsy for the speed at which I wanted to work.

Mike

I'd definitely think about getting a 65mm f/4 for the Mamiya, once you finish the darkroom. Definitely my favorite for the system.

A major reason why SLR lenses have to be bigger is that they must be of retrofocus (reverse telephoto) design so that the exit pupil of the lens can clear the mirror. Lenses for rangefinder and mirrorless cameras can be much closer to the sensor plane, so they can be of more conventional design. Add to that the motors and auto diaphragm mechanisms, and the necessity for a huge front element in most retrofocus designs, and you have the size difference.

IIRC, the Leica Summilux has a retrofocus design, but this is used to better correct the lens, not to shove it forwards to clear the mirror. The rear element goes past the bayonet and into the camera.

"It didn't focus fast enough; focus sometimes "caught" on the wrong objects that I was trying to focus past; and the exposures were a bit inconsistent in fast-changing situations. Generally it was just too slow and clumsy for the speed at which I wanted to work.

I don't think these are m4/3 problems; I think they're GF-1 problems. Try a G-1 or G-2 instead. Only millimeters bigger, and much more capable. The viewfinder is helpful as well, once you get used to it.

Big prints ARE an issue, but only if you go bigger than 11x14, which I generally don't.

Thank you Mike.
That was very helpful, and makes an enormous amount of sense.

Will

"It didn't focus fast enough; focus sometimes "caught" on the wrong objects that I was trying to focus past; and the exposures were a bit inconsistent in fast-changing situations. Generally it was just too slow and clumsy for the speed at which I wanted to work."

It is for this reason that I'm eyeing faster cameras right now (Sony A55?). For my artistic photography, my E-P1 works great, and its small size means that I'm happy to carry it. It also currently works great for taking picture of my kid, who is five months old, and thus, doesn't move very quickly. I've tried using it to photograph older kids, though, and found it trying. By the time my little guy is running around the playground like a crack-addled monkey healthy, vigorous kid, I'll be wanting something with phase detect AF pretty badly.

I'm surprised to see no mention of the 40mm Summicron (f/2), which is smaller than almost all the lenses mentioned so far. Length: 7/8", diameter: 2.25", weight 126g. The hood adds a bit to these dimensions, but comparing this with the base Panasonic 20mm, you can see it's a hair smaller. I'm using a 40mm Summicron on an Olympus E-PL1, and it is sharp from edge to edge, with the touch of softness and lower saturation at f/2 and a touch of softness at f/16, but very sharp at all other apertures.

That Pentax 40mm pancake is indeed tiny: length: .6", diameter: 2.5", weight: 90g

Oops, I should have mentioned that I use the 40mm Summicron on a Leica Cl mostly, but look forward to getting a 20mm Panasonic for the E-PL1, which will transfer my 35-year knowledge of that focal length straight across to my M4/3 shooting.

I just want to reinforce the previous point that the samely named John made in reply to Jim, with whom I share an address. Photographically speaking, the inverse square low applies to sunlight or flash sources, but not after light passes through a lens. Then, the rays are traveling more or less parallel (precisely parallel, Oly claims) towards the sensor.

Looking at the Minolta-Canon comparison made me happy once more that I'm on the lightweight side of the equation! I'm planning a family vacation-with-photography-on-the-side in Quebec. I plan to carry not much more than a Minolta 50/1.7, a Minolta 35-70/4 (both tiny and sharp, like x-acto knives), plus a Minolta 100-400/4, another surprisingly small zoom. Those three total just 840 grams! More importantly, with any of them the camera & lens combo stays under 1000 grams and tucks neatly under a jacket or behind an elbow. My chunky Tamron 20-40 will uphold the wide side, and its 525 grams will remind me who's the pig on this pen. (I also plan to take my Minolta 7 and 7D, making it a Seven and Seven week, FWIW).)

Why are the biggest lenses the best sellers? Because people, especially Americans, think that way. Whether it parents>children or trucks>cars, some folks like to associate themselves with images of power and size. They wouldn't want to be asked, "you spent how much for that little thing?" either. When good zoom lenses first appeared, they justified their larger size by offering new capabilities, reinforcing the belief that bigger is better. Unless you're Leica, there's no commercial reason to struggle to make smaller lenses-- except for your EVIL cameras, which you can market as a whole new system, bodies and all. Now, as I see it, we mostly have the choice of cameras that are too big or cameras that are too small.

“Will,
It didn't focus fast enough; focus sometimes "caught" on the wrong objects that I was trying to focus past; and the exposures were a bit inconsistent in fast-changing situations. Generally it was just too slow and clumsy for the speed at which I wanted to work.

Mike“

I know what you mean. In your original comment on this situation you mentioned that the M4/3 was OK for visual notes. I would go a bit further - I find my GF1 very good at capturing enough detail, and doing so quickly, where I am in control of what I am shooting. I also find that I can print fairly large with it (I would be interested in your experience in this regard).

But in the spring I was shooting my daughter's school play. It was a complex, quickly evolving version of Midsummer Night's Dream. Lots of colour, variable light, shadows and speed. I didn't even think of my GF1 - this was a 5D job.

Stephen,
I'm a bit split in this regard. I've always liked the idea of having one camera that I use to do everything and get to know really well...but I've been writing for hobbyist magazines since 1988 and need to try out all kinds of cameras to write about. So I've always had that conflict going on. I've never really thought in terms of owning two cameras that complement each other, a small, light one to carry everywhere and a big one to do concerted shooting with. But maybe that kind of solution makes the best sense with digital.

My problem is always that if I use two cameras, I'll for sure have the wrong one with me when I want the other one....

Mike

This post was a great idea Mike. Really points-out how much choice we have. Life is Great!

The size of Ricardo's Leica 35/2 (on the 5D) took me by surprise. Bigger than I thought. Nice kit though.

A lot of folks mentioned the Canon EF 35/2.0 - but no pictures. So, I thought I would post an image of mine. There is a 52-58mm adapter on the front (for my polariser).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/toxonophile/4999251503/

It gets a lot of use on my 40D. I have no complaints at all about it. It was a "like new" refurb from Adorama @ $179.00. My best value-for-money lens - by far.

Cheers! Jay

A quick response to your featured post - a Mamiya 7 will let you make big prints too. You don't have to go dslr for that. It won't help with slow autofocus though - at least not my hands. dslrs are king of the hill for that game.

Mike

James McDermott:

Hey, I have a thyroid condition and I resent being compared to a Canon lens!

The size of these modern lenses mostly have to do with better correction and countering vignetting. The Sigma 50/1.4 for example is almost as large and heavy as the Canon 50/1.2L. I like to use manual focus lenses and their size is a relief compared to the bricks the manufacturers are trying to sell us nowadays, but vignetting is usually very pronounced.

There's a couple reasons why the L is so damned big.

The first is that it must clear the mirror which means the rear element is some 40mm from the film/sensor plane. This requires a Retrofocus design which places the entire lens group well in front of the nodal point (and the distance of the nodal point from the sensor plane at infinity focus is the definition of focal length). This forces a more complex lens design and is why SLR lenses grow in size as focal length gets shorter than the register, while RF lenses get shorter (there are a few retrofocus RF designs, but they're all ultrawides and the reason there is to get fast ultra-wides which require most of the lens to be in front of the mount, which is already much closer to the sensor than in an SLR).

The more complex designs that SLR's require for wides get even more complex (and thus larger) when the lenses get faster. This is partially due to the larger diameter required for speed and partially due to the more complex design required to produce a lens which is both well-corrected and sharp at wide apertures.

Note the 35L and Nikkor 35G are much larger than the older Nikkor 35/1.4 AI-S and Sony/Minolta 35G despite all being nominally the same speed. This is because of the more complex designs of the newer lenses and consequently much better large-aperture performance of the new lenses.

When I have free time I head off in to town to grab some street shots with an itsy-bitsy 1ds mk lll and a teeny weenie 35mm F/1.4. That combo comes in at a shade under 4lbs (about 14000 calories or few trips to KFC) I'm just under 200lbs. It's a good job I've done manual work for most of my life or I'd struggle with that mighty weight. My pal's a good 30 lbs overweight and my combo's just too big for him. He's carrying around at least five of my combo's as a spare tyre and it goes everywhere with him, even in the shower.

I have a 50mm F/1.4 to and the 35mm F/1.4 just feels better balanced on the 1Ds mk lll. Yep, it sure is bigger than a Leica combo but it's a hell of a lot smaller than I am

Mike, for the reasons you have posted above, would you still consider the camera (GF1) to be the fabled DMD?

I have never considered it to be, without a real optical viewfinder and without a way to determine exact point of focus, or easy manual focusing like a Leica M.....

Mike replies: I hear what you're sayin'. Also...I recently shot an event with my little Panasonic GF1 and I have to say the camera let me down rather badly. I really needed a large DSLR for that job. Little cameras are great for walking around and taking visual notes, but for more concerted, difficult work you often need a more capable camera. Horses for coures, as the British say.

I find this funny. Ten years ago you could have shown up with a Leica or similar sized camera and would afterwards not have lodged that observation / complaint.

It is somewhat ironic how, despite all the miniaturisation of technology we are more or less forced to drag some big clunky equipment around to get the results we want.

That's one of the reasons why I predominantly shoot film again (though that is mostly fun) as I really don't need to worry too much about the "technical capabilities" of my camera body or the size of the sensor.

MS Optical Super Triplet Perar 3.5/35

Mine is smaller than yours :)

I too was saddened not to see the Pentax 40/2.8 in your group photo - then I realized it was there, but hidden behind the Panasonic :^)

""In fact 'travelling' with two l's is the correct spelling. (and, while I'm about it, a 'check' is actually a 'cheque')."

Those are the correct British spellings. In American English the words are correctly spelled "traveling" and "check."

There are many differences between British and American spellings, terms, and idiomatic phrasing. If you enjoy this sort of thing, I highly recommend The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, an American writer who lived in England for several decades."

And, boy-oh-boy, makes life so much harder for us foreigners to try to decipher and develop a consistant and coherent english.

[sorry for the tangent]...

Oh, yep, lenses... very nice and very cool and very up to the job. By the way, how tiny is a pinhole lens? [g]


Typo city

"...Horses for coures, as the British say."

That is perhaps what we British said in the fourteenth century when 'coures' might have been the French term for that patch of ground over which the horses would run.

Nowadays it is 'horses for courses'

"By the way, how tiny is a pinhole lens?"

A pinhole isn't a lens, it's a pinhole!

Mike

" "By the way, how tiny is a pinhole lens?"

A pinhole isn't a lens, it's a pinhole!

Mike"

There!
You nailed it! [g]

; )

There can not be something smaller than a hole.

A few more to add to your collection, I think these guys have been discussed, but I don't think anyone's posted actual pics yet:
_DSC2667_C
Left to right: Minolta AF 28/2, Minolta M-Rokkor 40/2, CV Ultron 35/1.7.

Yes, technically the 28mm is a bit odd, but I primarily use it on an APS-sized sensor so it still counts!

Mike,
I was tempted recently by a GF1 and by a EP-1 but the shops in question let me put my SD card in the cameras and try them out.

The GF1 was a 'maybe' - but not really a contender.

And the reason I was having this battle was because I have a Nikon D700 and a Nikon D60 and they kept staring at each other - and then at me - and both with their own case to plead.

So for a carry-around I wanted something that was fish or fowl, as opposed to neither-fish-nor-fowl.

I am selling the D60 and the 35mm lens to pay for the iPhone 4 that I have just bought.

And the D700 has a radiant smile.

What I am coming to is this. In what way, Mike. did the GF1 'let you down badly'?

Owning the Minolta AF 35/1.4, it's interesting to see how much larger the Canon version seems to be. It's about the same diameter as the 35/2, but a bit longer. I don't think I'd be interested in using anything larger or heavier for my uses.

I just bought one of Dirk's MS 35/3.5 to go along with my Voigtlander 35/1.4. Now THOSE are small 35mm lenses. :)

The comments to this entry are closed.