Roger Cicala and the team over at LensRentals recently disassembled a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 120-300mm f/2.8 FL ED SR VR to remove dust from within the lens. Here's a summary of what they found:
So, What Did We Learn Today?See the entire illustrated disassmbly here.
First, like every law, Roger’s Law that Zooms Are Never as Good as Primes has at least one very expensive exception. At one of its focal lengths. This zoom is ‘prime good’ at 300mm.
Second, we learned that the Nikkor AF-S 120-300mm f/2.8 lens is spectacularly good optically, particularly at the long end, which is probably the most important place to be spectacularly good optically.
Third, we learned that Nikon F lenses, at least at this point in time, are not incorporating the new electrical and mechanical designs of the Z lenses. This probably matters to Nikon F shooters not at all since this is the same technology their other lenses use. It matters a bit to us, who will work on them. At no time during this teardown were the words “Elegant Engineering” ever spoken.
What does it mean, though? That’s just speculation. Creating a lens takes several years, so this is a look at what Nikon was doing a few years ago. I don’t know, and neither do you (unless you’re reading this post from Nikon Corporate HQ, in which case feel free to leave a comment).
Perhaps Nikon will merge lens technologies in the future. Maybe they will maintain separate design and manufacturing teams for as long as they continue to make F-mount lenses.
Ready to be impressed?
As you can probably tell from our struggles doing this disassembly, the Nikon Z lenses are very different than their legacy lenses. They’re also different than what we’ve seen from other manufacturers. That suggests Nikon Z lenses, like Canon R lenses, are a completely new optomechanical design, probably done entirely in-house.Check out the full Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens Teardown.
The engineering itself is incredible in most ways. The neatly laid out and solidly adhered flexes reflect the careful design. The taping of every possible point that Loctite or anything else could get in the lens does, too. The design is logical and clean; the difficulties in the tear-down were ours. Now that we know our way around, disassembly won’t be bad at all.
Lensrentals recently used their custom-designed MTF machine (Olaf) to find the highest resolving lenses available. For those that like to geek out over optics, the blog post (linked above) will be interesting and – as usual for articles authored by Roger Cicala – entertaining. Here are a few snippets from the article:
A couple of years ago, a testing customer asked us to find which lenses could get maximum resolution from a 150-megapixel sensor. Many people assumed that the highest resolving lenses at standard resolutions would be the highest resolving lenses at higher resolutions. Assumptions are the dark matter of the internet; we can’t see them, but we know they account for most of the mass.See the entire article at the Lensrentals blog to see which lenses made the cut this time around, then read more about those lenses here.
There was no photo or video lens that could resolve 200 lp/mm wide-open. (Our standard for ‘resolve’ was an MTF 0f 0.3; an MTF of 0.2 was borderline. There’s some evidence to support those cut-offs, but someone could argue them. Wait, this is the internet. Someone WILL argue them; it’s what someone lives for.)
The best results were for the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 lens at f/4. A few other lenses (Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar; Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art; Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus) were acceptable at f/4 in the middle portion of the image.
Two years later, that customer asked us if we knew of any other lenses that they should consider. There’ve been a lot of lenses released since we did these tests, and some of those lenses fit the criteria for possible ‘ultra-high’ resolution; primes with focal lengths of 85mm or more. The manufacturers are obviously making these lenses with at least moderately higher resolution cameras in mind. So perhaps some of the newer lenses would resolve ‘ultra-high’ frequencies better than some of the older lenses we had tested.
So we checked some new lenses all the way up to 240 lp/mm, something sufficient to make a 200 megapixel FF camera worthwhile. To be clear, this is NOT coming to a camera near you anytime soon; it’s a research project. But if the researchers are making such a sensor, it makes sense they want to know which lenses would get the best results from the sensor.
This is a very well made lens. It IS built like a tank with robust magnesium alloy barrels, lots of long thick screws holding things together and nothing flimsy to be seen. The electromagnetic focusing motors, which were a weakness a few years ago, are now built like you could pull trucks out of ditches with them.LensRentals takes great care in ensuring your rental arrives in tip-top condition. Be sure to keep them in mind for your rental needs.
The more subtle stuff, things like the neatly laid out flexes and reassembly markers, indicate to me that a lot of care was taken in designing this lens. Nothing has that ‘we can stuff that in this nook over here’ look.
It’s a great lens optically that is very well built.
After putting the Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM through LensRentals MTF tests, Roger Cicala immediately sent a note of congratulations to some of his Sony contacts. Why? As Roger puts it in the LensRentals Blog post:
In the center, that’s the highest MTF I’ve seen on a non-supertelephoto lens. The highest. Let’s put particular emphasis on the purple line, which is 50 lp/mm. That’s a higher frequency than any manufacturer tests (that we know of), appropriate for fine detail on the highest resolution cameras. We would consider an MTF of 0.5 at 50 lp/mm to be very acceptable. This is hugely better, nearly 0.8 in the center. We’ve never seen that kind of resolution before.The lens performed so well that Roger decided to test the lens at 100 lp/mm, something they don't usually do unless a lens is designed for 150+ MP sensors.
The MTF drops away from the center, of course, but even at the very edges, the readings are still quite high.
At 100 lp/mm the Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM has a higher MTF than most excellent primes do at 50 lp / mm. If you don’t speak MTF, basically that means this lens can resolve fine details that would be a blur on excellent lenses.Roger would go on to say:
...in a couple of years if you are shooting a 90-megapixel camera, this lens will be the one that wrings the most detail out of that sensor. Right now it looks at your 43 megapixels and goes, “that’s cute.”You can read the entire article on the LensRentals Blog.
From the LensRentals Blog:
You guys have watched us gut a lot of lenses and cameras over the years. So I thought it would be fun for you to see us put one together from scratch. Compared to many of the lenses we’ve taken apart, this is all mechanical lens is rather simple: no focus motors, image stabilizers, etc. But even a simple lens is a very complex structure. This post will probably give you a good idea of how much mechanical design is required to make even a very basic lens.See the entire illustrated assembly at the LensRentals Blog.
The lens is also unique; it’s a prototype C-4 Optics 4.9mm f/3.5 circular fisheye. It’s a massive lens giving a 270-degree field of view, meant for immersive video and specialty shots. To give you an idea of what 270 degrees means, the lens sees behind itself. An ultra-wide 15mm fisheye lens gives a 180-degree field of view while an 11mm rectilinear lens is less than 120 degrees.
The closest thing that’s existed to this is the 1970s classic Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 fisheye, which gave a 220-degree field of view, weighed 5 kg, and can be rarely found for $100,000 and up these days. The C-4 optics lens weighs every bit as much as the Nikkor, but should be far sharper, have less distortion and vignetting, and cost somewhat less than those do today. (‘Somewhat’ being defined as ‘less than half’.)
So let’s put stuff together!
From the LensRentals Blog:
So what did we learn today? Really, not a lot. The Sony 400mm f/2.8 G is exactly what we expected; a very solidly built lens that is everything construction-wise you would hope for in a big beast of a super telephoto that costs $12,000. It has excellent weather sealing, heavy-duty engineering between the barrel segments, a very solid chassis, and components that all appear up to the task.Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS Retailers - B&H | Adorama
This is a very well designed lens that features exceptional build quality.
Roger Cicala has posted the LensRentals teardown of the Nikon Z 7. Here's what they found:
This is not marketing department weather resistance. This is engineering department weather resistance. Anything that can be sealed has been sealed. I’m impressed, and I will say for future cut-and-paste blurbs: this is as robustly weather sealed a camera as we’ve ever disassembled.B&H carries the Nikon Z 7.
I don’t believe in weather resistance myself. I believe like life; water will find a way. I believe in plastic baggies and rubber bands. I am, however, a great believer in the idea that if you claim to do something, then [you'd better] do it right. This is done right.
I’m impressed by the very solid construction of the chassis and IBIS unit. I’m impressed with the neat, modern engineering of the electrical connections. Yes, I’m aware that soldered wires carry electricity just fine, but to me, there’s something reassuring about seeing neat, well thought out, 2018 level engineering.
I’m not here to tell you which camera is best to use or has the best performance. I’m just here to say this is a [very] well-built camera, the best built mirrorless full-frame camera we’ve taken apart. (For the record, I haven’t torn down a Leica SL.)
by Roger CicalaSee the LensRentals Canon EOS R Teardown for more information.
I’ve wanted to look inside the new Canon and Nikon mirrorless cameras since the moment they were announced, so I’m probably more excited about this than you guys are. I’m really not sure what to expect. Early on, when we took apart a Sony A7R, we were struck by how clean and straightforward mirrorless cameras were compared to DSLRs. Later, we took apart an A7RIII and found that increased capabilities led to increased complexity, although still not as complex inside as a DSLR.
So we expected things not to be too complicated – no mirror box, optical prisms, off-sensor AF system, etc. We know Canon cameras to have clean, even elegant, engineering; like the 5D IV teardown shows. We haven’t done a Nikon SLR teardown in quite a while (the D7000 was the last one), but their camera engineering is pretty similar to Canon’s, although being Nikon they still like to leave some soldered-wire connections here and there. So we figured that the new Canon and Nikon mirrorless full-frame cameras would be more straightforward than their SLR cameras, and perhaps Nikon set down the soldering gun and slowly stepped away.
But really we had no idea how things would look inside, if we might see some cool new engineering, what the weather resistance would be like, etc. So we took apart both a Canon EOS-R and a Nikon Z7 just to have a look around. (The Z will get written up as soon as I can get to it.)
Want to give Canon’s new mirrorless system a try? Here's your chance!
LensRentals has the following gear available for rent:
From the LensRentals Blog:
Canon ‘refreshed’ the ever-so-popular 70-200mm f/2.8 lens from a ‘II’ to a ‘III’ with new optical coatings and paint, but no major changes. While the price is higher than the current II, it actually is the same price as the II was sold at for most of its life. A meh moment for almost everyone except those who scooped up the ‘II’ at reduced prices.See the entire article on the LensRentals Blog.
I did wonder if perhaps there might be a bit more under the hood than what Canon had announced. These are arguably the most popular lenses Lensrentals.com stocks; hundreds of copies with constant turnover. Since we do in-house repairs, over the years we’ve noticed some minor upgrades that have taken place; an internal ring and some gears have changed, etc. Internally, the 70-200mm f/2.8 is also one of the ugliest bits of engineering in the Canon fleet. We can understand why it had to be that way; it’s an incredibly complex lens. But we figure this bothered Canon’s optomechanical engineers as much as it did us, so maybe they snuck some changes in.
LensRentals has the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens for rent or you can pick up the lens at B&H with free expedited shipping. You can also snag the very similar Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens with a nice instant rebate right now.
In a recent blog post, the LensRentals team makes a simple request – "Please, don’t take our photography and video gear to Burning Man."
Just like Color Run marathons, photographing Burning Man is a great way to ruin [even weather sealed] photography gear. LensRentals warns that damage incurred while using their gear at the cultural event is not covered under the LensCap Protection offered (such damage is considered neglect, not accidental).
Want to see what gear looks like when it returns from Burning Man? Check out the blog post for some cringe-worthy pictures.
Rent the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM Lens via LensRentals.
Time and time again, we've stressed the importance of having a structured, reliable method for backing up your images and keeping them safe. In its latest blog post, LensRentals enumerates how videographers can protect themselves from data loss through reliable data transfer and backup techniques.
From the LensRentals Blog:
By Ryan HillSee the entire article on the LensRentals Blog.
Two or three times a week here at Lensrentals.com, we get one of two common support calls. Scenario number one is that someone thought they transferred all of their footage over, but later found that they missed a couple of clips and need us to send them their rental cards back. If we haven’t inspected those cards yet, we’re happy to do that, but if our techs have already inspected them, that’s a problem we can’t solve. We perform a full and secure format at inspection to make sure previous customers’ footage isn’t recoverable on subsequent rentals. Once the footage is gone, the footage is really and truly gone. No amount of file recovery software can bring it back. That’s never a fun phone to call to have.
The second scenario is that someone did manage to transfer over all of their footage, but one of the clips was corrupted in the transfer. Typically this realization comes during the edit, after we’ve already formatted the original media. That’s an equally tough phone call. True, sometimes file corruption happens in-camera, but nine times out of ten, the file was corrupted during the transfer from the card to the computer or hard drive. These kinds of problems aren’t something you can avoid entirely. There are inherent risks in working with digital media just like there are inherent risks in working with tape or film. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate that risk and to ensure that, if a problem arises, you’re prepared to work around it.
Photo Backup Information
Roger Cicala and the LensRentals team opened up Sony's latest high resolution MILC – the a7R III – to see what weather sealing design improvements have been implemented compared to its predecessor, the a7R II.
From the LensRentals Blog:
The Sony A7R III has been out for quite a while. Generally, it’s a superbly popular camera with excellent reviews. We were busy moving to a bigger office, and then catching up from moving when it was released, so doing a teardown wasn’t high on our list of things that needed doing. And the good folks at Kolarivision did an excellent teardown, so we didn’t feel any need to rush.See the entire article on the LensRentals Blog.
We’ve dealt with a number of water damaged A7 cameras in the past and have a bit more knowledge of where the leaks have occurred, so we wanted to look for ourselves. Plus, we wanted just see all the complicated goodness inside. Now that things have slowed down we decided to take a look.
This will end up being a useful post for those of you who need to venture out into the elements with your camera. Sony has, as they said, markedly improved the weather resistance on this camera. They also left a screaming ‘leak here’ gap in the sealing that you can probably address yourself.
Want to try out a new piece of gear? Give LensRentals a try.
Dear customers, Here at LensRentals, we are completely committed to delivering the absolute best rental experience for every customer, every time. In our opinion, there is only one other company in this industry that upholds the same type of standards that we hold so dear here at Lensrentals.
That’s why we’re so excited today to announce we’ve joined forces with our friends at LensProToGo. We’ve had a mutual respect and friendship with Paul and the entire LPTG crew since the days when Lensrentals operated out of my spare bedroom. We’re happy to have Paul join the Lensrentals ownership group and to have the rest of the LPTG team joining our family.
When Paul and I started in the equipment rental business over a decade ago, it was pretty scary, with each of us trying to figure out how to do this. We were respectful competitors but also helped each other, sharing what we each had learned with each other. This new partnership not only combines two great companies, it combines two great management teams.
For those of you who have used LensProToGo, you already know how fantastic the folks at LPTG are. Their entire team in Boston is made up of professional photographers & videographers with a passion for helping you achieve your goals.
LensProToGo customers will get access to the largest rental inventory in the country and the advantages that arise from a shipping location located just a few miles from the FedEx SuperHub in Memphis. Lensrentals customers will get access to an even larger staff of experts ready to offer unbiased advice and to help you craft solutions for whatever projects you have coming up.
Both brands will continue to exist and thrive. If you’re a LensProToGo customer, the only differences you’ll notice is a greater choice & availability of equipment, and that your shipment might ship from Lensrentals HQ in Memphis. If you’re a Lensrentals customer, you’ll soon have more options for pickup locations, and you might end up talking about your order with a staff member who has a wicked good New England accent instead of an adorable Southern drawl.
We’re committed to keeping what you love about each brand and only making each one better than ever. We look forward to telling you more about all the exciting things we have in store in the near future.
Thank you for your continued loyalty,
A rented Sony a7S II was dead on arrival when it was returned to LensRentals, so Roger Cicala and his crew (Aaron) disassembled the camera to find out why. Their disassembly demonstrates what can happen when even a "weather resistant" camera is subjected to corrosive sea water.
Check out the LensRentals Blog post for the complete teardown.
From the LensRentals Blog:
I posted an article about circular polarizing filters recently, letting you see some data I obtained for Lensrentals when they were reviewing which of the polarizing filters were among the best. I concluded that they all polarized light really well. I also said that none of the CPs I tested seemed to cause optical problems at 200mm and under, that some transmitted more light than others, and that you could tell that just by looking at them.
Which brings me to Roger’s First Rule of This Blog.
Rule #1: I am not responsible for what someone else says I said. If I say something wrong, I’ll correct it. If they say I said something I didn’t say to drive some click-bait, THEY said it. Not me.A bunch of people wanted hardness tests, scratch resistance tests, light scattering tests, torque tests, and a 5-year failure rate. I want a pony to ride on my yacht. Sadly, none of the above is happening.
A whole lot of other people asked me to test something out of the price range I was examining; mainly they wanted to see how inexpensive filters did. That was reasonable, so I bought a couple of inexpensive CP filters and repeated the tests on them. You will need to look at the last article on the $100-$200 range filters to get some perspective before looking at this.
See the entire blog post on the LensRentals Blog.
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