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When I first handled a single lens reflex camera in 1964 the effect of looking through the lens was stunning. It was an Asahi Spotmatic with f1.4 50mm auto/manual lens which had central resolving power 70 lines/mm at one stop down. I never regretted buying it.
However there were the negative attributes, some obvious, others less so...
(ii)Essential pentaprism increased size and weight of camera.
(iii) Wide angle lens design compromised by return mirror. Had to be retrofocus, lowering specs.
(iv)Image rectilinearity sacrificed to enhance lens definition.
(v) Diffraction limits aperture below f11
I think you would need to test a modern SLR to make a comparison. My EOS1v could only possibly have the second of your caveats put on it, and it doesn't bother me to lug it around. It's been bounced down a few hillsides in its long life and it barely has a scratch on it. Of course, budget SLRs don't enjoy the kind of build-quality that I like. As for your other points, all the Canon and Nikon SLRs that I have used (and sold some years ago) have been very capable performers with extreme lenses at both ends of the scale and are happy at f16 or even f22. You need good quality lenses of course, and that's not a given with bundled OEM lenses these days due to costs.
I have extensively tested an EOS1 DS Mk.2 - it was a match in every respect to my 1v. I have also tried a 350d much more recently and that was quite good, but simply not capable of persuading me into digital photography. I'll be buying a second-hand DS when I find one at the right price.
I'll come in again with asking why a shutter is needed in any digital camera. Cannot that operation be done by controlled strobing the light-sensitive pixels?
Do all digital cameras have mechanical shutters/blinds?
ade.h, interesting observations. I would love to see a fair comparison old versus new.
I'm not sure you should write off latest OEM lenses. All the elements in your Canon and Nikon lenses were glass; they were ground and polished and no two ended identical in performance. Even plastic elements in OEM lenses are precision formed, and have the design advantage of being asperical where required.
No, I wouldn't go so far as to write off modern OEM lenses, but they are of variable quality. The EOS 100 that I bought as a second body in 1994 came with an absolutely stunning 28-80mm with internal flare baffle, constant aperture, friction focus control and amazing optical quality even at extremes. I still have it and it compares well with my L-series lenses. The later EOS 50e was given an inferior (thought more compact) 28-80 that just didn't match up. The old chap who ran the photographic store where I worked when I was younger was still in business then; when I chatted to him about the "new" product, he wasn't at all happy with it. Change for change's sake, he called it!
ade.h; Zoom lenses had a dozen or so elements at the time SLR's came to power. Their performance was poor, so much so that photographers opted to cart along a set of lenses rather that an all-purpose zoom. Times may have changed...
I ask if your 1994ish 28-80mm zoom could have incorporated plastic element(s)?
In the back of my mind is the idea that an SLR with plastic lens components and solid state shutterless sensor could be marketed at a tenth the price we normally expect to pay, or less, and outperform all before it.
Properly manufactured plastic lenses are as equally good as glass and much lighter to boot - if your wear glasses you will appreciate the difference.
I have an Ashai Pentax Spotmatic with the 1.8 Super Takumar lens, which is a real humdinger of an optical product. I bought it about 20 minutes after England won the World Cup in 1966...:-)
Before that I used the S1 for sport and wedding photography.
No, the 28-80 that came with the 100 body was all-glass. It had something like 26 elements I think. And a constant aperture of f3.5.
Plastic is cheaper; same reason that the glass lenses in my glasses cost more than the frame. Does not make it better though.
With regard to zoom lenses, times did indeed change. I know that the early zooms were not very satisfactory; then again, nor were early digital cameras. That's the way things develop. I know a few pro photographers in a professional capacity; the all have some high-end zooms in addition to their fixed focal lengths.
I've yet to see a med-format lens that uses plastic elements, and that's not simply for manufacturing reasons - it gives ultimately higher quality in extremes when users expect the very best.
Stuatli, I'd go a step further. Glass can only be precisioned formed to a curved surface if spherical.
Lens corrections for optical aberrations can be made more effective by aspherical lens surfaces, and this is now possible using plastics.
The striking impact of plastics in optics has been the introduction of small, light zoom lenses.
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