Well, the lens tests were not entirely successful as I discovered, to my great disappointment, that the aperture on my yongnuo 50mm lens is stuck at ƒ1.8. Frustrating since I have not used that lens very often and I’ve taken good care of it.
But you get what you pay for in life, it was a cheap lens. It does shoot at ƒ1.8 still. Not that I need that for this particular project.
However, the main point of shooting was to get the reference in terms of focus. From that perspective, I got that more or less.
But it turns out what I was most looking forward to when I looked at the results was determining what lens I should use. But given that I shot mostly everything at ƒ4, because the point of these tests was really to have a depth of field reference to simulate shooting at ƒ4, it really was not the right set of tests, anyway. But it gave me enough info to suggest some other tests should be done at some point.
If you are into the technical issues, read on, if not, forget it. Skip this post. It’s tedious.
Better depth of field – Leica wins over Canon kit lens
But what I did discover is that there appears to be better depth of field (or at least sharpness on the non-focused areas) in general between the Leica 35mm and my 24-105mm kit lens, which is probably not a surprise to gear heads given it’s a prime lens and a Leica at that. But it was a surprise to me because its an old lens. I just can’t help but think that with technology being what it is, modern lenses should be better.
This was most noticeable focusing at 15 ft and focusing at 2 ft (kit lens struggled at 1ft) in particular. Mid-range, say around 5 feet was harder to tell which was a winner. It doesn’t give me all the info I need to shoot a miniature set of course, for that I’d need to shoot at the higher ƒ-stops, and really know exactly what set of distances I am shooting at in order to duplicate the actual scenarios. But given that I need to shoot close, I am definitely leaning toward trying the Leicas now for the next set of shots.
The 50mm tests were really a throwaway since I was trying to choose between the Leica and the Yongnu, not the kit lens. The lit lens can’t shoot at ƒ4 at the 50mm focal length. The only shots I have with the kit lens were to try to troubleshoot the issues with the Yongnuo and unfortunately, the focus was soft on the target with the Leica so it’s not that useful.
More testing Needed
It’s worth doing another set of tests on the 50mm lenses because while the focus was soft with the Leica, the background was far more sharp compared to the kit lens. I’m assuming this is because the focus with the Leica was thrown more toward the back than it should have been, but the focus was not that soft. It seemed to have made that great of difference possibly especially given the Leica was at a lower ƒ-stop.
The real question: would it make a difference at the closer distances? As mentioned earlier, if i want to compare lens for actual shooting, I need to set up scenarios that are similar. I started with the 35mm lens to shoot the sets because it’s wider. But given that the 35mm near/far focus is pretty tight at closer distances, I’m wondering if I should consider shooting the sets with the 50mm lens instead of the 35 when it’s right for the shot and I have space. I am really not sure what the distances will be to get the same scale of shot between the two lenses and then what leeway I would have. I won’t let this hold up shooting the next set which is finally ready to go (yay), but I think I will try both focal lengths and maybe even both lenses since I’m there.
Manual vs Autofocus lens – Should it really be a factor?
Well, the purist in me says no, not if you know your craft. The realist in me says absolutely, are you kidding me?
I already have experience with shooting with a manual lens. I know that It can be tricky, especially once you get to the reading glasses stage. Personally, I can’t see whether something is in focus either looking through the viewfinder or on the little screen. I can use liveview and zoom in (have you done that trick yet – just make sure you switch it back before you go crazy trying to figure out why your flashes won’t fire).
But generally, you set focus on the barrel. I’m comfortable with this given that I’ve done some focuspulling way back when on some films (moving pictures that is).
But unlike film movie cameras of old, there is no place on my camera to hook my measuring tape to. When I was doing the test I faked it by tying it to a strap and accommodating the difference between the sensor and my tape in the measurement. But it’s so… arrgh, fiddly and too much room for error. Being the only person, I need to hook the tape up. Maybe I’m missing something – if so let me know. But using a metal measuring tape is ridiculous for the self-shots, although may be an option for the sets and model stand-ins.
distance and Time
Obviously, if you are careful and you know your lens and you have some leeway with your near and far focus ranges, then you’re probably good. Wide lens, high f-stop, distance that’s what you need to make manual lens shooting a breeze.
But if you don’t have very much leeway with your depth of field, as I don’t with shooting the sets themselves. The close shooting distances are unforgiving. So a manual lens adds yet another layer of complexity to it; one more thing to think about. I spend too long agonizing over the marks that aren’t on the barrel never mind actually trying to get it focused. There’s nothing definitive confirming it’s sharp – you can only wait to see how it looks on a bigger screen (more reasons to shoot tethered, but that’s a topic for another day).
In my case, because I want to leave room for experimentation, I am also shooting my model sets at a variety of different focus points. The models are small, I have to stick my hand in there. I can knock things over. I can forget. Time and energy start to be a factor here, too.
On the negative side for an autofocus lens, when shooting at a close distance, there is a greater chance your autofocus points may not land exactly where you want them requiring you to shift your camera as well which is not ideal for shooting inside a cramped model. In addition, the model is not always well lit inside to find something for t camera to focus on. At least with a manual lens, you don’t have to shift the camera; you probably don’t even need to shoot the model figure (although I’d advise it to know for sure if what you want is in focus).
All these elements to be taken into consideration. There is a reason why there are so many people on a film shoot. There’s a lot to think about. For me, I need to simplify and streamline as much as I can. But time is not the only factor, being a “one-man-band”, your cognitive energy starts to become a resource you need to factor in. Mistakes happen at the best of times but happen more frequently when that energy gets used up.