By Shane Hurlbut, ASC – Director of Photography
It’s always important to perform in depth lens tests before you shoot so you can find the right glass for your film. Sometimes lens tests can be very expensive, so we are going to share one with you. In this article, we are comparing Leica Summicron-C 21mm and 75mm lenses to Cooke S4 21mm and 75mm lenses.
Here are the specs of our lens test:
We are in my backyard, tilting down from the sky to test how the lenses flare. Starting with the Leica Summicron 21mm, we have our ungraded tilt down.
In the two tilt downs, it looks like both the lenses don’t really have a flare. With the Summicrons, they have more of a white out. When using the Summicron, it didn’t have unique flares like the Summilux or the Cooke. Being a less expensive lens, the Summicron isn’t going to do as well with flares.
The Cooke holds a little more detail with the flare out. Looking at the contrast here, you can also see that the Summilux lost some of that contrast. If you look at the tree leaves, they have less contrast with the Summicron, and they look more washed out.
Now let’s look at what the images when we have Monette in the picture. We are looking for the overall look of the lenses and how she separates from the background.
The Cooke S4s and Leica Summicrons both have a neutral look to them concerning the white. It’s apparent that with the Cooke S4, the background is further away from her, and she’s pulled from the background. She also looks skinnier with the Cooke S4. If you look at her body, it’s a lot thinner than it is with the Summicron.
Because the Summicron is a flatter lens, it widens her and pulls the background closer to the foreground. If you look at the roses on the camera right side, you can see that they are much closer to her with the Summicron than they are with the Cooke S4. In addition, if you look at the sidewalk on the lower left hand side, it is much further away with the Cooke S4.
Let’s take a look at the color graded versions.
The side-by-side comparison is great because you really can see the flatness of the Summicron and the three dimensional quality of the Cooke S4. Next, we move onto the close-ups, starting with ungraded.
Looking at these close-ups, we can see that the color remains pretty neutral. The Cooke S4 has a slightly more yellow cast to the skin, which is great.
With the color-graded versions, we can really analyze the detail that each lens is picking up.
The Cooke S4 is seeing a lot more detail, which justifies the difference in pricing. If you look at her face and chin, you see a lot more detail. The Summicron is much creamier and there’s less definition, making it look like a softer piece of glass.
The highlights are also being held better with the Cooke S4, and if you look at the background, you can see that the Cooke S4 has much more contrast. The black is deeper with the Cooke S4, than it is with the Summicron lens. In addition, the flowers in the background are still further away with the Cooke S4.
Now we take the lenses to another outdoor situation where the backlight is not as strong. By looking at the ungraded close-ups, we can really look at our colors.
By looking at these, you can see that the Cooke S4 has a little more yellow and isn’t as neutral. The Summicron is a more neutral piece of glass. With the graded version, we can look more at contrast and detail.
Looking at these, the Cooke S4 still has more detail in her face and more contrast than the Summicron.
Next, we take the lenses to the corral, where the lighting is less controlled. The deck is bouncing up light, and light is flying all over the place.
Looking at these, I’m noticing the same things as before. She looks skinnier with the Cooke, and the background seems further away with the Cooke lens. That’s the Cooke look; these lenses really give a three dimensional quality to the image.
These qualities show in the graded version.
With the Cooke S4, you really can see that the background is pulling away from Monette.
In the side-by-side comparison, it’s really apparent that she looks skinnier with the Cooke S4 lens.
Looking at the ungraded close-ups, you can really see the difference with the bokeh.
Notice the bokeh with the Summicron is more round, and there isn’t much stop signing when compared to the Cooke S4 lens. This is because the Summicron has more blades in the iris, and when you have more blades in your iris, you get less of that stop signing effect.
If you look at the bokeh of the Cooke S4, you really can see that it has more of a stop sign effect. The Cooke S4 has fewer blades in its iris, and this is what makes the bokeh less round.
In this side-by-side comparison, you can see that Monette looks younger with the Cooke S4. Her ears fall back and nose comes more toward us, but with the Summicron, her face looks less dimensional. This is similar to what the Summilux lens did; it made her look younger.
Monette looks older and much more sophisticated with the Summicron.
With the Cooke S4, she looks much younger.
It’s a subtle difference, but she does look younger with the Cooke S4.
To wrap it all up:
Leica Summicron-C Lenses:
Cooke S4 Lenses:
Model Monette Moio is represented by Melinda Jason.
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