Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100/4 + 5DS R Crops

If you were wondering what kind of performance the Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100mm f/4 lens is capable of with the Canon EOS 5DS R, here are two 100% (actual pixels) crops from my test shoots for your pixel peeping pleasure.

Click the image for 100% view on non-retina displays.

While the sRGB and JPG conversion kills some of the magic the files have, you can still see the stunning resolution and lovely rendering. Both files are straight out of Capture One 10. The lens is in the same league with my high-resolution Zeisses (28 and 55 Otuses, and 135 Apo Sonnar).

Click the image for 100% view on non-retina displays.

Aperture for both shots was somewhere between f/5.6 and f/7.1. The lens and the 5DS R were mounted to my Cambo Actus-G view camera. Focusing and capture was done in Kuuvik Capture.

These crops are from the 5-10mm vicinity of the image center, but you get the same quality to the edge of the 70mm advertised image circle.

The 70mm image circle allows for 15mm shift along the longer image side and 18mm along the shorter. There’s a 12mm-ish practical shifting limitation along the shorter image side with Canon DSLRs, however (more on this in a later post).

You can shift all the way to 22mm the Actus is capable of along the longer side – going well out of the advertised image circle. But you’ll start to lose edge/corner sharpness past 17-18mm. To put it in perspective: with 22mm horizontal shift the corners are comparable to what you get at 12mm shift with the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II. Impressive. Think about 150-180 megapixel stitches with this shifting potential.

The Digital View Camera Adventure Has Begun

I have been closely following the advancements of the technical camera marketplace for quite a few years. This is partly because of the connections I made in the industry thanks to my Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder app, and partly because of my personal interest in the topic. It’s easy to judge how much camera movements fascinate me from the sheer number of view camera books on my shelf.

Despite these, I only ventured into the world of perspective control as far as using tilt/shift lenses. Why? Cost, bulk and general immatureness of digital view camera solutions were the main factors. But recently a few products worth considering emerged, Cambo’s Actus family being my favorite.

Before anyone asks, “pancake” cameras are not my cup of tea. I prefer “monorail” cameras. My view camera must use the 5DS R as the recording device – I give medium format digital backs a few more years to evolve.

I have been thinking about buying an Actus for a while, but was hesitant because it lacked a few important features (geared shift for example). While the Actus-DB2 is spot-on, it’s digital back only (you know, the few more years to evolve).

Then I got a newsletter showing off the new Actus-GFX. It was almost perfect, so I immediately emailed Cambo asking if it’s possible to get the “almost” part out of the picture: build a customized Actus-GFX for me. The answer was a resounding yes, and within a week my camera began to took shape.

My one-lens wonder: custom Cambo Actus-G + Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100mm f/4 + Canon EOS 5DS R.

The camera shown above has an Actus-G base – a special version of the GFX without the Fuji G mount. The monorail is borrowed from the Actus-DB2 – because it’s 22mm longer than the G’s. The AC-78E bayonet holder holds a Canon EF bayonet. When the time of a digital back comes, I just have to add the rear standard and bellows from the DB2, other parts are exactly the same. I like future-proof systems.

One of my gripes with the original Actus was that back fall, portrait camera orientation and an L bracket attached to the camera didn’t play well together. In other words I would have to remove the L bracket or live with limited fall range. But the Actus-G, with its elevated standards, is a completely different story.

The L bracket and remote release fits even at maximum back fall.

The above quick iPhone grab shows the camera at maximum fall. Well, it’s 0.3mm shy of maximum, but practically that doesn’t matter. Even the cable release fits without issues. A right-angle USB cable is required for tethering, and of course you have to lift the camera to be able to rotate it.

Speaking of movements, the front standard has 10 degree down, 9 degree up tilt and full 360 degree swing. The rear standard’s horizontal shift is +/-21mm (the scale goes to 20). For some reason the rise/fall labels are reversed (maybe they refer to the equivalent front standard movements?), but that doesn’t change the fact that you can shift 15mm down and 12mm up.

And it leads us to one sorely missing feature on the Actus-G: a rise/fall indicator. There’s a scale, but there’s no position indicator. It’s easy to fix (by gluing a 0.5mm stainless steel lip to the up/down moving part – as I did), but Cambo seriously overlooked this. The Actus-DB2 has an indicator on the other hand. Hope it will be fixed with future revisions of the camera.

The rise/fall indicator modification up close.

Tilt/swing gears are self-locking, but rise/fall/shift/focus utilize rack-and-pinion gears and separate tension/lock screws (that you can see on the image above, for example).

Let’s briefly talk about the lens and that yellow cable, as I plan to dedicate entire posts to these topics.

I wanted to start out with just one lens, avoiding wasting a huge pile of money if the system turns out something I don’t like. I turned out to be love at first use – thanks to the camera itself as well as the stunning Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100mm f/4 lens. According to the MTF charts, this is the best of the HR Digaron range, and I expected it to approach my Zeiss Otuses and Apo Sonnar 2/135. But I wasn’t prepared for something that surpasses the 2/135 (with which I did a direct comparison). Slightly better resolution, free of vignetting, and a very flat field (unlike the 2/135), and a large enough image circle for shifting and thus high stitching potential. Absolutely stunning. Rendering is a bit different from the Zeiss-look I love so much, but quite like it.

Another reason I chose the HR-S 100 is that it has a large enough focal flange distance and short rear element to work well with the deep EF mount. Lens compatibility is a huge topic, best discussed in a later post.

I shoot tethered most of the time, and the Actus is no exception. I will have to replace my TetherPro USB cable with the right-angle connector version, though. Placing the plane of focus with Kuuvik Capture‘s multi-point live view feature is a piece of cake. The feature was designed to help the focusing process of tilt/shift lenses and view cameras taking advantage of the Scheimpflug principle. I’m putting together a demonstration of the Actus/5DS R/multi-point live view combination, so stay tuned!

My eBook on Kuuvik Capture is Available Now

My book Kuuvik Capture Inside Out was released alongside Kuuvik Capture 3 last week.

The goal of the book is twofold: first, I wanted to give a detailed and thorough guide and reference for existing users.

But informing people looking for a high-end tethering app for their Canon EOS DSLRs is equally important, so the book is available as a free download from the Kuuvik Capture web site.

It is distributed in a PDF file, optimized for viewing on iPads. Because it’s a PDF, you can read it on any device, be it a tablet, a Mac or a PC, and in numerous PDF reader applications.

I hope you’ll enjoy the book, and that Kuuvik Capture proves to be a useful companion in your photographic endeavors.

Kuuvik Capture 3.0 Supports Movie Recording

Version 3.0 of my Kuuvik Capture tethering app is now available on the Mac App Store. There are three major (and a bunch of smaller) features.

The first is movie recording support. All the app’s tools (display sharpening, focus peaking, guides, etc) are available in movie mode as well. Some of the guides (all expect grids and custom ones) are aspect-relative, meaning that for example 4:3 guides will be relocated to show the correct crop when recording 16:9 HD movies. Due to the multitude of ways Canons handle movie recording related stuff, we only support those that passed our validation (the list is available on the Kuuvik Capture Tech Specs page). Other cameras may work, but use them at your own risk.

Kuuvik Capture 3 in Movie Mode

The second feature is a brand-new multi-point live view implementation, which enables this killer feature on the 5D Mark II, 5D Mark IV and the 1D X Mark II. We’ll continue checking cameras for which the feature is not yet available and enable it if the camera passes the check.

Third is the Point of Operation indicator. Canon cameras use the Point of Operation for several things: this is the place that zooming/focusing/metering uses as the starting point. The app now indicates this point with a rectangle by default (can be turned off).

All other features, changes and fixes are listed in the release notes. One thing I should mention, though. The new W-E1 Wi-Fi adapter is supported with the 5DS/R, but not with the 7D Mark II. This is because the current 7D Mark II firmware is rather unstable with the W-E1, and locks up the camera here and there (it happens with Canon’s own software as well). The 5DS/R works fine.

Version 3.0 is a free update for existing Kuuvik Capture 2.x users. New users can purchase the app for 84.99 USD/EUR from the Mac App Store.