Some might have been waiting eagerly for this comparison, others are still waiting for the bokeh comparison I bet. Unfortunately, there won’t be any colourful bubbles or flowers to gaze upon in this article, because the weather simply didn’t comply and you know how I like “scientific” tests.
Whenever reading a review for a Zeiss or Leica lens, you will at some point encounter the term “lens colours”. In previous articles, I mainly focused on the colour cast that each lens exhibits to a certain extent (See this article) or the lens tint derived from radioactive glass (here, here and here) and the one attempt at comparing actual colour rendition failed terribly (see this article). This time around, I really want to look at different colours and how a lens renders them.
What I can tell you right away is that there certainly are huge differences between the standard profile and the calibrated image.
How did I test?
As some might know, some time ago I’ve acquired an X-Rite Colorchecker Passport for the very purpose of being able to create colour profiles for my lenses.
I downloaded the software from the X-Rite homepage and installed it right away. The software adds a plugin to Lightroom, but for that to work, you’ll need your files in the DNG format instead of RAW.
I set up my Colorchecker on a table close to the window. The sky was homogenously overcast and it was pouring like so often this summer, so I had time to take pictures with each lens.
I’ve set the lenses to f/5.6, the camera to iso100 and 1/10s in Manual mode. This is what the final image looked like for my Summicron-R 90mm f/2.
Once I had all images imported to Lightroom, I exported them as DNG files, then created a Profile in the X-Rite software, using the Camera’s name and a tag to identify the lens. The software works very well, it automatically detects the passport and all the colour patches on it.
After creating all the Profiles, I started Lightroom again and started my usual routine. I cropped the images to only include the colour calibration part of the colorchecker, then adjusted the Exposure to an extent that the brightness was about right (to judge the colours).
A first image was exported using the Canon Standard colour profile and the White Balance was adjusted according to the grey patch next to the white one.
Then I applied the previously created camera profile for that specific lens. I had to readjust the White Balance after that step before I could export a second image.
In Paint I then added a small white star to all the images that had the lens/camera profile applied.
Lastly, I used this amazing site(really easy to use and free of charge!) to create animated Gifs for all the image pairs.
Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to tell by how much the X-Rite software had to change each colour to achieve the final colour profile. This would have come in handy to be able to present some charts or diagrams to show how much a lens deviates from the “standard” values.
My solution should at least provide you with a visual impression of how the use of a certain lens will give you divergent colours.
The Yongnuo is currently on Vacation, but instead I can show you the result for my Summicron-R 50mm f/2.
Keep in mind that this test already has the White Balance corrected, so the Color Cast of each lens shouldn’t have any impact on this test.
Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 (C/Y)
As you can see, the blues, greens and purples are affected quite a bit by the colour profile. In the Standard profile, these colours look somewhat flat and dull.
Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm f/1.8
The situation looks very similar to the Planar, although the lens doesn’t have as much contrast. The profile simply adds some saturation it seems. The massive colour cast induced by the tinted glass does not seem to have any influence on colours at all.
Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8
Again a very similar situation to before.
Fujinon 50mm f/1.4
The Fujinon (non-EBC) has more contrast for sure, but the colours look very much similar to before, again.
Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 EBC
It’s starting to get really boring…
Asahi S-M-C Takumar 50mm f/1.4
Only the blues needed heavy fixing for this lens. The rest of the colours were incredibly close.
Olympus 50mm f/1.4
Same situation for the Olympus. Some saturation added, that’s it.
Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 Ai
The Colour-Calibration seems to simply add saturation for the already very neutral Nikkor too.
Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-S
Voitgländer Color-Ultron 50mm f/1.8
This lens is well known for intense reds. The fact that the colour profile actually has to reduce the red and magenta channels just confirms that. So far the only example where I could make out a difference to other samples.
Ricoh Auto-Rikenon 55mm f/1.4
Practically every single colour patch changes for this lens, so here we got a real troublemaker.
Helios 44 58mm f/2 (zebra)
Same as for the Rikenon. Loads of blinkin colour patches here.
Last but not least, the Summicron-R 50mm f/2
Same old, same old.. The profile mainly boosts the saturation, but the colours don’t seem too far off.
I’m really having a hard time here..
I honestly expected to see some revelation with certain lenses displaying major changes in “warmth” or even completely off colours that need severe fixing. None of this happened though.
In general, the colour calibration seems to “purify” the colours and add saturation, nothing more. What’s even more confusing, is the fact that it makes no difference which of the created profiles I select for one specific image. If I apply the colour profile for the Pancolar (a lens heavily affected by its colour cast caused by radioactive glass) to the Planar (very neutral colour cast) it doesn’t look any different to the Planar profile on its own. Same goes for the other way around.
On the other hand, none of the available colour profiles (Neutral, Faithful, Landscape, Portrait) would even get close to the calibrated profile.
In conclusion, I can say that creating a colour profile certainly improves your final image results by a lot.
I cannot draw as optimistic a conclusion for my colour comparison, though. It seems that, once the white balance – and thereby the colour cast – has been dealt with, all the lenses render colours about the same way.