Subject: Sinaron Digital Macro 120mm F/5,6
Nailing focus and lighting for every page of a hundred-image magazine. Doing it all in a day or two is sweaty work. Precision medium format technical cameras such as the Rollei X-ACT 2, Novoflex BALPRO T/S, and Linhof M679cs, speed up the process by eliminating converging lines, allowing for incredible levels of enlargement, and independently adjusting focal and image planes.
Generous camera movements require lenses with large image circles, reliable shutters, and stable support systems. Unfortunately, shutters are a dying breed. Press and leaf shutters are no longer made for traditional large format lenses, and electronic shutters cost a fortune, have uncertain futures, and are a bitch to power.
Typically, I use Rollei electronic shutters, which plug a #1 size shutter board. In order to maximise its life, I use it only for commercial stuff. Magazine and reviews imagery makes do with a semi-reliable oldie: an f/5,6 Copal Press shutter. Since my lens of choice, a 120mm Digital Macro Sinaron (supplied by Rodenstock), tops out at f/5,6, Bob’s my uncle.
The reason I chose this large format lens is that it has a ridiculously large 150mm image circle (1). It affords ridiculous movements, even on large, aberration-inducing, medium format backs. When shifted down by around 60mm, and with both standards tilted by 25, not to mention the front standard swung by a further 8º, slight aberrations are acceptable. I’ve yet to run into hardware vignetting. There’s no medium format lenses that could similar movements.
While it isn’t necessarily a downside, the Sinaron isn’t quite as sharp on small format sensors as the high-end digital enlarging lenses I previously used. When paired with large-chip backs, the differences more than zero out. With a Hasselblad CFV-50, for instance, the resultant images are bitinghly sharp.
A number of my suppliers say that medium format digital backs (MFDB) are a dying breed. And yet, it’s as innovative a space as exists. Hartblei’s HCam and Alpa’s FPS systems allow the combining of medium format backs with ultra-sharp tilt-shift lenses from Canon or Nikon; alternatively, they attach to technical cameras and work like large-sensor mirrorless cameras. And true works of art like the Linhof M679 are as solid and reliable in the digital world as they were in the film world. True gems among 4x5 lenses deliver excellent detail to sensors of 44x33 and larger. Finally, I can use the same back on an FPS system, a technical camera, enlargers, and on fully-automated systems such as Hasselblad’s H.
A niche MFDBs may be. But a god-damned convertible one.
Please note the following in the photos I shot to illustrate the Sinaron Digital Macro 120’s movement capabilities.
- my daughter was sick, so I didn’t spend time measuring distances to subject.
- I aligned the extreme tilted photo to the bottom of the subject, rather than the top - as a result, subject top sharpness suffers.
- I didn’t light the right edge as typically I would for a commercial or high-end magazine shoot.
- I chose an old and scarred aluminium table and didn’t clean the subject.
- These images are RAW files adjusted as typically I do for small magazine shoots: I made adjustments to WB, contrast, and printing sharpness.
The subject in question is the Cozoy Astrapi, a USB DAC/amp for smartphones and computers. I wrote about its audio performance here. It’s a nice idea, but lacks followthrough. It isn’t able to supply ample current to sensitive earphones. Consequently, the signal it feeds to high-end multi-armature earphones is worse than any iPhone in the last five years. But, Astrapi looks great, and its aluminium case catches both reflected and direct, diffused, light really well. It has since been superseded by Aegis, a 24/192 DAC/amp, which I can confirm, hisses less, and which is on my radar, especially with the looming possibility that Apple will remove the 3,5mm headphone jack in forthcoming iPhones.
Check out Cozoy’s homepage for more information.
Here’s the entire image:
Here is its bottom edge:
Here is its logo:
Here is its top edge:
Obviously the Sinaron was up against time constraints. Had I the time to configure the M679cs correctly, softness along the top edge wouldn't have been a concern. The Astrapi’s bottom edge is perfectly sharp for enlargements, but softness in its top edge would show even in half-page spreads. Typically, I reserve such extreme movements for personal experiments. And, again, for published work, I would focus the camera differently. Still, the output is publishable.
And, thanks to camera movements, an image that would have had a single stripe of sharpness (due to shallow depth of focus even at F/16), is, for the most part, sharp all over. Keep in mind that, had I added no movements at all, or made do with the smallest of them, the Sinaron would have been as sharp as any modern available 35mm macro lens. Because only a small portion of the image would have been in focus, that image would have been useless except when shot flat, on-plane, and/or with artistic blur in mind.
The Sinaron is sharpest at magnifications of 1:1 and just beyond it. Further magnification noticeably soften. At full bellows draw on the Linhof M679cs, the Sinaron captures an image of approximately 1,5cm long, significantly exceeding 1:1 magnification. (The above image - taken for this article - illustrates how close you can get.) Still, it retains good enough sharpness for enlargements. It is a great lens. And it is put to best use on precision cameras like the M679cs.
ohm image: RMAA: Cozoy Astrapi 16-bit & 24-bit loaded/unloaded — ohm image
ohm image: ohmage to the Master & Dynamic MH40
ohm image: The Hasselblad CFV-50c's good looks
ohm image: dSLR to mirrorless to SLR - one Man's Fujifilm conversion
Fuji Rumors: Novoflex BALPRO T/S adapter review: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3