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Do lenses for medium format give better images in 35 mm camera


Well-Known Member
As many of you know my experience in medium format is absolutely zero.

As we all know, you could use adaptors to connect lenses for medium format to 35mm cameras. Do you get a better image by using these big lenses ?

In theory, I believe you don't. The MTF performance of medium format lenses are often worse than lenses for 35mm negatives. Medium format produces better image quality, not because you have better lenses, but because you have bigger areas for negatives or sensors.

One of my friend connect his Hassy lens to his Nikon gear, but he said the result is a soft image. This is just one piece of evidence to support my view.

What is your view ? Is it a better or worse image than the ones produced by the 35mm equivalent ?


Active Member
I do not have a first hand experience with this, but common knowledge is that the lenses for medium format in the film days were designed to provide lower resolution than lenses for 35 mm. Medium format images needed to be enlarged less, so the requirements on the lens were lower. Lenses for large format provided even less resolution - that was a practical concern with medium format technical view cameras. You could mount large format lenses on these medium format cameras, but the results sometimes were not so great. The situation might be totally different with the new medium format 'digital' lenses that are produced for digital cameras/backs (by Rodenstock and Schneider for instance). These have resolution similar to the best 35 mm glass.

So in terms of resolution you definitely lose some quality. But you gain a lot in evenness of ilumination - light fall-off should be much better with medium format lenses on a 35 mm.

I am sure others will be able to contribute in better manner. There must be some N system shooters who have used their Contax 645 lenses on an N digital and have performed pixel peeping to report on the findings. I know that people have been very happy using their Contax 645 80mm lens on the Contax N as a portrait lens.

My final thought is that not all medium format lenses are created equal - lens destined for 645 should be designed to provide much better resolution than the one that is destined for 6x9. The need to enlarge is much higher with 645 image than 6x9 image, hence the lens should provide higher res.


Well-Known Member
I agree with Digzis.

I used to shoot my ND/N1 with my C645 a lot (before I invested heavily in Canon last yr.)

The primary reason is to share focal length, especially the C645 120mm APO 1:1 macro. It the best macro lens and I use it a great deal on table top product shoot with my N bodies. I have never tired the N100 macro. So no comparison report here.

I always though the resolution of larger format is less than the smaller format. But somebody proved me wrong for the C645 lenses vs the N lenses. I have not verified myself as I don’t look at MTF for my buying decision. When it comes to the C645 and N Zeiss lenses, there are not much choices like Canon vs Tamron or Sigma, etc. You either buy that focal length you need or you don’t.

I have never compared my N lens with the C645 lens and peep thru the pixel. I just use them as the necessary tool or just for pure fun. I really like to shoot with the 80mm planar. But it is too soft wide open @ f/2, I need to stop down to f/2.8 for closer shots. (ever since I got my Canon 85L, I don’t use this combo much anymore for portraits.) I also love to shoot with the C645 140mm. It is great wide open. I suppose I can compare the C645 140mm with my N70-300mm at the same focal length. But it is not a fair compare anyway (zoom vs prime). And the feel of the 140mm is better (shorter and better built). Sometime I wanted to try my C645 45-90 zoom on the ND. But it will be too nose heavy. And with f/4.5 being the widest stop, the N24-85 is a better tool.

In summary, I would not buy the C645 lens to use in my N system. But since I have them for my C645, I might as well use them with the N bodies.