Leicaness and The Leica Look

piggsy

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Gotta say I'm not at all sold on this! Is the subtitle supposed to be "a collection of received wisdom I will never actually document" ?

Also we see a return of our familiar friend :D

A magnitude of micro-contrast is inversely proportionate to the number of optical elements in the lens. The reason is that each optical element has two surfaces, and each surface is a source of internal reflections. Less reflections means more contrast, just that simple! That is why very complex optical systems (a.k.a zooms) almost never deliver high micro-contrast. Leica M lenses, on the other hand, are of relatively simple formulas. In fact, even compared to the best SLR primes, corresponding rangefinder lens formulas are simpler because they lack two extra elements that make the working distance longer.
 

ADemuth

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This was written tongue-in-cheek, right? I mean, it has to be.

Tell me this is tongue-in-cheek.


Ok - so I have a serious, not entirely Leica related question. One of their photos, the 4th one down with the model in the overcoat selling dolls - you see the bokeh of the string lights? See how the bokeh blobs are elliptical, but the orientation of the focal points of each ellipse is tangent to the image circle? I always see this and think "cheap lens", but the lens they took that with could be traded for a relatively new car, or at least one far nicer than either of my hoopties. It also is quite sharp and the image does look nice. While arguably overpriced, the lens isn't crap, so what gives? Is a super fast lens thing? The cheap lenses it reminds me of the most are the really fast CCTV toy lenses that get adapted for unique out of focus areas.
 

ralf-11

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old lens, not cheap lens

The Panny-Leicas look really nice to me, and I rarely shoot portraits these days, just landscapes. The do something special and good to clouds for example.

So what do they do? maybe some combo of microcontrast, bokeh, and color?
 

piggsy

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Ok - so I have a serious, not entirely Leica related question. One of their photos, the 4th one down with the model in the overcoat selling dolls - you see the bokeh of the string lights? See how the bokeh blobs are elliptical, but the orientation of the focal points of each ellipse is tangent to the image circle? I always see this and think "cheap lens", but the lens they took that with could be traded for a relatively new car, or at least one far nicer than either of my hoopties. It also is quite sharp and the image does look nice. While arguably overpriced, the lens isn't crap, so what gives? Is a super fast lens thing? The cheap lenses it reminds me of the most are the really fast CCTV toy lenses that get adapted for unique out of focus areas.
Lens design and a ratio of how fast the lens is to the focal length (eg without correcting for it it would be almost every lens), I think. There's a section on it (cat's eye bokeh) on a nice writeup here:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tips-and-solutions/understanding-bokeh

the mflenses forum people will be able to point you to 'classic' lenses that do it that are relatively cheap and not cctv adapted ones also.
 
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I've always been drawn to the 'Leica look' of 35mm transparencies (especially K64) show with Leica M glass. How much of that was down to the competence of the enthusiast/professional photographer (casual photographers don't buy Leica M) and how much was the coatings, who knows? 50/50 probably.

The blog seems to be more of a roundup of optical quirks - lacking in comparative images which would at least let me make a judgement. Am I seeing Leica 'look' or Leica 'LUT'?

Not bad though. I suppose it makes a change from scientific papers dedicated to wheel reinvention. I doubt if I could do any better myself.
 
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This was written tongue-in-cheek, right? I mean, it has to be.

Tell me this is tongue-in-cheek.


Ok - so I have a serious, not entirely Leica related question. One of their photos, the 4th one down with the model in the overcoat selling dolls - you see the bokeh of the string lights? See how the bokeh blobs are elliptical, but the orientation of the focal points of each ellipse is tangent to the image circle? I always see this and think "cheap lens", but the lens they took that with could be traded for a relatively new car, or at least one far nicer than either of my hoopties. It also is quite sharp and the image does look nice. While arguably overpriced, the lens isn't crap, so what gives? Is a super fast lens thing? The cheap lenses it reminds me of the most are the really fast CCTV toy lenses that get adapted for unique out of focus areas.
I didn't look that hard at that one. I just thought it was a bit crap. Love the look of the first one though.
 

piggsy

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I've always been drawn to the 'Leica look' of 35mm transparencies (especially K64) show with Leica M glass. How much of that was down to the competence of the enthusiast/professional photographer (casual photographers don't buy Leica M) and how much was the coatings, who knows? 50/50 probably.

The blog seems to be more of a roundup of optical quirks - lacking in comparative images which would at least let me make a judgement. Am I seeing Leica 'look' or Leica 'LUT'?

Not bad though. I suppose it makes a change from scientific papers dedicated to wheel reinvention. I doubt if I could do any better myself.
I think there is probably a good article to write about it that isn't written as, well, horseshit :

Another important distinction of Leica and Zeiss lenses is that they are capable of preserving tonal values of objects in the bokeh, especially in the higher tones. Lenses of lower quality usually blow out-of-focus highlights much more easily. The reason for that is higher dynamic range of German optics resulted from use of special glass formulations
 

T N Args

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Gotta say I'm not at all sold on this! Is the subtitle supposed to be "a collection of received wisdom I will never actually document" ?

Also we see a return of our familiar friend :D
Familiar friend indeed. With a long history of pushing pseudo-science in the name of an agenda that says that complex lenses are incapable of 3D-like rendering compared to certain simpler, usually older, especially but not only Leica, lenses.

11 months after his 2017 Leica Look article, he was at it again with a Microcontrast Look article -- all the same stuff -- which was IMHO pretty thoroughly debunked in a thread in DPR. Even though that thread was started by a 'believer', fighting and denying to the last. That DPR thread contains a straightforward post by Roger Cicala aka LensRentals, of which he later lamented, "I went there and actually replied. I am now dumber for having done so. I award me no points, and may God have mercy on my soul." LOL -- but gives you a hint as to the technical merits of this agenda.

Lens microcontrast is MTF. The lenses with the highest MTFs are pretty complex lenses. Oops.

cheers
 

piggsy

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Yeah without really having ever gone deep into lens design as an interest, I gotta rely on my general judgement of bullshit on the internet, which boiled down is that generally that anyone who declares stuff is simple! with exclamation marks probably doesn't understand the thing they're talking about very well. Classic "mount stupid" on the Dunning-Kruger graph.
 
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Gotta say I'm not at all sold on this! Is the subtitle supposed to be "a collection of received wisdom I will never actually document" ?

Also we see a return of our familiar friend :D
Yeah. They talk about how number of elements matter. Then end by saying it doesn’t with Leica SLR lenses.

I think there is a Leica Look. Although it isn't exclusive to Leica lenses. I also think that it is nearly impossible to quantify it. This is mainly to do the fact that there is no measurement for the aspects that help make it. First, Leica makes lenses with a smooth focus fall off, through the entire image circle. You have the focal plane, then you have constant smooth OOF transitions through everything else not in the focal plane. It's been awhile, but I read somewhere about a Leica lens engineer, and they talked specifically that they design for smooth focus fall off as much as for focus sharpness. The second thing is detail rendering, which I think is confused with micro contrast. Leica lenses aren't critically sharp, like how modern lenses are designed, but they still retain excellent detail. Combine this with the smooth OOF transitions and you get detail that isn't tack sharp, but is rendered very lifelike. How Leica gets these aspects is a combination of things, I think. They make specific decisions for correcting aberrations, their coatings have specific properties and their manufacturing process.

Like I said, I don't think that the Leica Look is exclusive to Leica. Other manufacturers have made lenses that have it. I think the old Pentax Super Takumars at least have the ability to render detail that isn't necessarily critically sharp. I think some Olympus OM glass is close. I have seen images from some Nikon lenses that look similar. My two Agfa Ambi Silette lenses, I think, render very Leica-like.

Of, course, this is all my opinion. And as I said, is probably impossible to quantify.
 

Stanga

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I am from the opinion that many modern day lenses are not so critically designed, because of the use of lens correction software inside each lens, and in PP programs. But the likes of Leica, and no doubt those uber expensive Nikon and Canon specialized lenses, a lot more effort is put into making a good lens, instead of designing a good lens and then use computer power to correct any imperfections. That's why I think that so many of the great lenses of the past perform so well today on a m43 body. They don't have any corrections encoded in a chip somewhere inside the lens. That's because they were well made in the first place. And Leica attention for detail in manufacturing is the stuff of legends.
 

agentlossing

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I muddled through the article, and think it uses an awful lot of words to say very little. Here's the plain and simple truth: classic rangefinder lenses (of which Leica was the most prominent and used by the most photojournalists due to their reliability and availability) have a "look" which probably boils down to a combination of the quality of manufacturers like Zeiss and Leica, plus being older and often simpler optical formulas with less corrections, and being shot at larger apertures consistently since film speeds weren't that fast. Pretty simple, and calling it a "Leica look" is more likely due to Leica's association with photography from the era than any thought that it was specific to Leica glass (until the modern Leica-as-cachet movement).
 
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Isn't the Leica look how it looks sitting next to the other designer labels?
I always thought that it was the look on your face when you check your bank account after coming back from the camera store with a shiny new Leica camera and some lenses ;)

But in all seriousness, I do think Leica lenses are overall very very good (good optical design, very high-quality glass). I doubt (read: personally can not see the difference) that this gives a special look and there are many lenses that also have very good optical design and high-quality glass for all systems.
 
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