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Andrew Ito
6-May-2006, 00:15
I've been doing a bit of research here and on the web about the Schneider Super Symmar 80XL. From what I've read, there have been reports of it being very soft wide open. Now, I'm not really planning on shooting it wide open, but I'd like to be able to focus with this lens wide open and I've heard reports of it being too soft to even focus wide open. The lens seems to be a great lightweight choice with decent coverage at a perfect focal length for me. Any people out there with this lens that can give me their opinions on it? Light weight is important to me as well as good coverage and sharpness.

I currently have a Nikkor 65SW and Fujinon 90SW f8 and would like to replace them both with the one 80XL to save weight. Anyone think I should just stick with my setup or go for the XL? Or is there another option that I should look at? Thanks for your replies!

Eric Leppanen
6-May-2006, 00:54
If the SS80XL is the lens that best meets your needs, go ahead and buy it. Just be sure to buy from a source that will allow you to return the lens if it does not focus to your satisfaction. All the major LF retailers (Midwest Photo, Badger Graphic, etc.) will allow you to do this, as will the majority of Ebay sellers (confirm with the seller that he will allow return of the lens if it does not focus properly wide-open).

To my knowledge, the wide-open focus issue is associated with the first batch of SS80XL's shipped by Schneider. I have not heard of more recent lenses having this problem.

The SS80XL is extremely sharp when stopped down to working aperture, and is the state-of-the-art among 4x5 wide-angles lenses. I have been extremely happy with mine. 80mm is plenty wide for most folks, and I recently sold my SA58XL because I never used it (the SS80XL was wide enough for me).

The only drawback to the SS80XL versus your 90mm Fuji is that you may need to use a center filter when using chrome film (depends on how much light falloff you consider acceptable). No center filter is needed when using color print or B&W film. Personally I consider the center filter a small price to pay given the performance, coverage and light weight of this lens. Compared to a 90mm, the 80mm focal length also makes for better focal length spacing if you ever decide to get the renowned SS110XL.

paulr
6-May-2006, 09:10
"The only drawback to the SS80XL versus your 90mm Fuji is that you may need to use a center filter when using chrome film (depends on how much light falloff you consider acceptable)."

I don't think you'll see any difference in need for a center filter between this lens and any other lens of the same focal length. Almost all of a lens's falloff is from the cosine-4 phenomenon, and is determined by simple physics, not by lens design or construction.

Not too many years ago a sales rep from a reputable lens company became the laughing stock of optics engineers everywhere when he claimed that his company's wide angle lenses don't require center filters. The schneider technicians still tell the story! Whether you need one or not depends, as Eric suggested, on how much falloff is ok with you when you're using chromes.

tim atherton
6-May-2006, 09:48
what about all this tilted iris/aperture stuff or whatever it is?

Eric Leppanen
6-May-2006, 10:02
My understanding is that lenses such as the Nikkor SW, Schneider Super Angulon, and presumably the Fuji SW use a so-called "tilted pupil" design to achieve approximately cosine to the third power illumination, meaning there is less light fall-off at the edge of the image circle. However, this design also increases the size and weight of the lens (particularly the rear element). Schneider did not use a "tilted pupil" in the SSXLs, making these lenses smaller and lighter while still providing outstanding coverage; however, they illuminate per cosine to the fourth power and are more likely to require a center filter. There are many recent threads on this (e.g., see Michael Briggs' comments here: largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/501267.html (http://largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/501267.html)).

To my knowledge virtually all SS80XL users find that a center filter is not needed when using color print or B&W film. Most (but not all) SS80XL users find a center filter necessary when using chrome film, especially when using significant movements.

Stephen Fritz
6-May-2006, 18:17
My SS80XL was purchased new about 4 months ago and is quite surprisingly sharp wide open. I do not hesitate to photograph with it that way when it's required. Mine came from B&H.

John C Murphy
6-May-2006, 21:17
According to Kerry Thalmann's article on Center Filters (View Camera, July/August 2005), the Symmars and Sironars at 80mm would have equivalent light falloff to a Super Angulon or Grandagon at 65mm!

I highly recommend investing in the center ND (CND) filter if you purchase the SSXL80. For one thing, the light falloff without is noticable on chromes. Secondly, it helps to cut down on mechanical vignetting because it increases the outer filter diameter to 86mm (or even 90mm if you use a push-on filter holder). Unfortunately, the bigger filters are expensive. Lastly, the CND does cause a 1.3 stop loss which may be a problem, depending upon what you're shooting.

Despite these inconveniences, the SSXL80 is a great lens, not only for its compact size, but also for its incredible sharpness.

Michael S. Briggs
6-May-2006, 22:06
The amount of falloff isn't the same in all lenses -- while optical physics is involved, design decisions can modify the evenness of the illumination: the tilted pupil method that Eric mentions can be used to reduce the off-axis falloff. As an example, a recent thread discussed the falloff of the 80 mm SS-XL and the 75 mm Rodenstock Grandagon-N: http://largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/505791.html. Even though the 75 mm Grandagon-N has a shorter focal length, at f22 it delivers more illumination to the corners of a 4x5 film than the 80 mm SS-XL.

Whether or not you "need" a center filter with a particular lens depends on your uses of the lens and your tastes. One photographer will find that they "need' a center filter with the 80 mm SS-XL on 4x5, while another will barely notice the falloff. It depends on how much movements you use, whether you use negative or transparency film and your taste.

paulr
9-May-2006, 14:31
Can someone point me to an article on "tilted pupils" ... google turns up nothing.

Eric Leppanen
9-May-2006, 15:26
paulr,

The "Center Filter" section here gives a brief synopsis, as well as a comprehensive but expensive reference source:

www.largeformatphotography.info/filters.html (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/filters.html)

I vaguely remember one or more articles in View Camera magazine (perhaps one of Kerry Thalmann's articles?) discussing this too.

paulr
10-May-2006, 09:34
Thanks Eric.

That's still not really an explanation. I'm going to write a note to an optics engineer and see if i can get it spelled out.

Michael S. Briggs
10-May-2006, 09:55
Paulr, the link that I gave, http://largeformatphotography.info/lfforum/topic/505791.html,
had links to some explanations. My most extensive one is at http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=005gK2.
The tilting pupil method keeps the pupil a circle off-axis, instead of the pupil becoming progressively a more elongated ellipse farther off-axis. This keeps the full area of the pupil and eliminates one factor of cosine theta in the reduction of the illumination.





Try stopping some of your lenses down to f16 and viewing the aperture straight on, then looking gradually at an angle to the axis. Try comparing lenses of several design types, e.g., a plasmat versus a Grandagon, Super-Angulon, Nikkor-SW or Fuji-SW.

paulr
12-May-2006, 00:24
Ok, so I contacted a rep at Schneider.

He said that there are theoretical ways to improve illumination, but they are not used in practice, at least by Schneider. Specifically he said:

...indeed there are options to have influence on the cos4 law but they have always negative effects if you try to improve illumination, for example:
- mechanical vignetting
- appearance of negative distortion (barrel shaped)
- appearance of pupil distortion
I found some literature about this in our files but only in German language, but maybe you will have somebody for translation or can get some information out of the formula and graphics. Your problem starts on page 6.
There are also some information in the ISO 13653:1996(E) - http://webstore.ansi.org/ansidocstore/product.asp?sku=ISO+13653%3A1996
Maybe you can find this literature in any Bibliotheca or internet free of charge.

Have a great weekend and best regards

Ulrich

Ulrich Eilsberger

Director Product Management Photo Optics

Michael S. Briggs
12-May-2006, 00:57
Ways to improve the uniformity of illumination to be better than cosine to the fourth are not used by Schneider??? Their Super-Angulon series has more uniform illumination than cosine to the fourth -- that's what the graphs on the PDF datasheets on their website say. I just checked the graph on the datasheet for the 72 mm Super-Angulon-XL, and the curve for f22 and infinity closely follows the cosine to the third behavior predicted for the tilting pupils technique. (Not all of the Super-Angulon lenses follow the prediction this closely.)

"options ... have always negative effects ..... appearance of negative distortion (barrel shaped).....". Again using the 72 mm SA-XL as an example, the datasheet shows low distortion, just barely exceeding 1/2 percent at its worst.

paulr
12-May-2006, 09:35
i sent him another email for clarification.
I wrote:

"So do I understand correctly that because of the problems you
mentioned, Schneider does not use any of the design tricks to improve
illumination beyond cosine 4?"

He replied:

"that's right because Mrs. Ebbesmeier (she did design all the photo lenses) has optimized all different specs of the lens during construction, so any change after that will decrease performance/coverage."

If you're saying the math doesn't add up, then maybe you should contact Ulrich with more specific questions ... or even the mysterious, all-knowing Mrsl Ebbesmeier. my math skills are of no use to me in this situation, so i'm basically either taking your word for it or his!

Bruce Watson
13-May-2006, 14:32
I've been doing a bit of research here and on the web about the Schneider Super Symmar 80XL. From what I've read, there have been reports of it being very soft wide open. Now, I'm not really planning on shooting it wide open, but I'd like to be able to focus with this lens wide open and I've heard reports of it being too soft to even focus wide open.

I've got one. Bought it used and had it for about a year. I expected it to be soft wide open, and was very wrong. It's nicely sharp at f/5.6. The previous owner told me that it had been soft wide open and that he had sent it back to Schneider. Apparently it was a manufacturing problem - getting spacing right between elements? That Schneider has long since fixed.

In any case, the 80mm SS-XL is a fine lens for me. It's my shortest. Next up is a 110mm SS-XL, then a 150mm Sironar-S, the a 240 Fujinon-A. They give me angles of view about 15 degrees apart which I find ideal.

It's easy to focus, and I don't find any need to have a center filter when using it on 5x4, even with a fair amount of front rise (getting to the edge of the image circle). This image of sequoia trees (http://www.achromaticarts.com/big_image.php?path=sequoia&img_num=2) was made with the 80mm SS-XL. It doesn't show any light fall off at all, and the 150cm wide print I made for my wife is razor sharp.

So I highly recommend the lens. One of the best lens purchases I've made.

Michael S. Briggs
16-May-2006, 01:51
i sent him another email for clarification.
I wrote:

"So do I understand correctly that because of the problems you
mentioned, Schneider does not use any of the design tricks to improve
illumination beyond cosine 4?"

He replied:

"that's right because Mrs. Ebbesmeier (she did design all the photo lenses) has optimized all different specs of the lens during construction, so any change after that will decrease performance/coverage."

If you're saying the math doesn't add up, then maybe you should contact Ulrich with more specific questions ... or even the mysterious, all-knowing Mrsl Ebbesmeier. my math skills are of no use to me in this situation, so i'm basically either taking your word for it or his!


Paul, I'm not interested in debating Mr Eilsberger. The PDF attachment has two tables with my analyses of the illumination curves that Schneider has published in their datasheets for two of their lenses. The relative illumination curve for the 72 mm Super-Angulon XL clearly follows a cosine cubed curve and not the worse cosine to the fourth. Unless Schneider wants to disavow their datasheets, they are using techniques to improve the illumination beyond cosine to the fourth in some of their lenses.

Also, the cross-section diagrams of the lenses of the Super-Angulon series show the typical configuration of lenses using the tilting pupil technique, with large negative elements at both ends.

The details of the tables: The datasheets I used are at http://www.schneideroptics.com/photography/large_format_lenses/super-symmar_xl/ and http://www.schneideroptics.com/photography/large_format_lenses/super-angulon/. I analyzed the 80 mm Super-Symmar XL and the 72 mm Super-Angulon XL.

The first column in the table is the fraction of the radius of the coverage, from 0 to 100%. This is how the x-axis of the graph is labeled. The second column is the radius in mm, starting from 0 and going to the edge of the circle of coverage.

The third column, labeled "datasheet", is the y-axis value, the Relative Illumination. The relevant curve for the Relative Illumination graph is the highest solid one, which is for f22 and infinity. I read the values off visually, probably to an accuracy of about 0.01 to 0.02.

The fourth column is the angle theta to this radius, calculated with the inverse tangent: theta = inv tangent (R/f). From the datasheet, the 80 mm SS-XL actually has a target focal length of 81.0 mm.

The fifth and sixth columns are cosine cubed and cosine to the fourth.

The models, cosine to the third or fourth, are tested by comparing the model values to the datasheet values.
Do either column of model values match the datasheet values? Which of the two model columns best match the values in the datasheet column? The models are most different for large radii / large angles, so the last rows are best at distinguishing between the models.

For the 80 mm Super-Symmar XL, the datasheet values agree very well with the cosine to the fourth values. The small disagreements are within the range that might be from reading the curve on the graph. So the lens follows the simple illumination behavior.

For the 72 mm Super-Angulon Xl, the datahsheet values agree very well with the cosine to the third values. (There is a slight discrepancy at the 20% radius.) By the edge of the circle of coverage, the lens, according to the datasheet, provides TWICE as much light as the cosine to the fourth model: 16% of the central illumination instead of 8%. This fits exactly with the prediction of the cosine to the third curve.

Arne Croell
16-May-2006, 04:27
I have a feeling that there might be a slight miscommunication. I am aware that Mrs. Ebbesmeier has designed the Super-Symmar XL series (and the Super-Symmar HM) as well as some Cine lenses, but not all of their photographic lenses. The Apo-Symmar L lenses are attributed to a Mr. Udo Schauss in the patent claim, for instance. I think that while Schneider has certainly used the tilting entrance pupil to improve on the illumination (all of the Super-Angulons including the XL's) as pointed out by Michael, Mr. Eilsbergers answer seems to point out that this cannot be done without penalty for the Super-Symmar XL series - which is the one designed by Mrs Ebbesmeier. I would think it only applies to this series, and I have no reason to doubt that if they say so.

CXC
16-May-2006, 09:34
Let me chime in with an opposing point of view. Granted the 80SSXL is a fine lens; I owned one until recently. Top quality, but I found it slightly too wide, just like I found the 110SSXL slightly too narrow. For 4x5, I replaced the two with a 90mm lens. (I also have a 65mm). Now I am better served. There is a meaningful difference between 80 and 90, just as there is between 90 and 110. Don't buy the wrong lens for all the right reasons!

One of the wrong reasons I bought the 110 was because it covers 8x10. But I found the distortion unacceptable, and replaced it with a 159.

Brian Ellis
16-May-2006, 11:03
It's kind of amazing how this keeps coming up and up and up even though it's my understanding that it was an issue only with the first run of 80XLs years ago. It's also my understanding, gleaned from where I don't remember, that Schneider will exchange a new 80 XL for one with the "soft focus" problem. So between the fact that the problem hasn't existed with new 80 XLs for quite a while, and the right to exchange one with the problem which surely most owners have exercised by now, the likelihood of getting an 80 XL with a soft focus problem would seem to be pretty slim (if my understandings are correct). FWIW, I owned an 80 XL bought used around 2003 and it focused perfectly when wide open. And I didn't see the need for a center filter with any kind of film, though I used it with slide film only once or twice.

paulr
16-May-2006, 13:51
Michael, that's an impressive amount of work ... I'm suggesting you talk to the the Schneider folks not for a debate, but for some clarity on the situation. I certainly can't comment--I don't understand this aspect of lens design, and i don't understand the math, and there are some things I'd rather do than struggle to figure it out (including carving portraits of satan into my belly)!

Ulrich might be mistaken, or we might be misunderstanding each other. His grasp of optics is a bit beyond his grasp of english.

jim kitchen
16-May-2006, 21:25
Out of curiosity, does any one use this lens on a Linhof Technika, and if they do, does this lens require a recessed lens board to work properly?

I am considering one too...

Thank you in advance,

jim k