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View Full Version : Are Super Symmar XLs the end of the line?



Ed Richards
5-Oct-2010, 20:12
I wonder if the Super Symmar XLs are going to be the last mass market LF lens designs? There are lots of new Digitars of various kinds, but they are not LF lenses.

Jack Dahlgren
5-Oct-2010, 21:08
I think there are probably always going to be some smaller company making a go of it, but I think in general the LF lens market is saturated and lens companies are competing against their previous production. I see a downward trend for them, but who can guess which will be the last.

Daniel Stone
5-Oct-2010, 21:13
I don't have any s.s. xl's, but a friend of mine has both the 150xl and 210xl. After using them, i'm convinced: "why go any further"?

super duper lenses.

it'd be nice to see Schneider and Rodenstock bring out new LF lenses(especially ones that cover 8x10), but I kinda doubt it. Unfortunately..

-dan

Mark Stahlke
5-Oct-2010, 21:23
Schneider's Apo-Tele-Xenar 350mm f/11 post-dates the Super Symmar XL lenses so perhaps we haven't seen the end yet.

Bruce Watson
6-Oct-2010, 05:47
I don't have any s.s. xl's, but a friend of mine has both the 150xl and 210xl. After using them, I'm convinced: "why go any further"?

Which is exactly what people were saying *before* the SS-XLs came out. And the reason to go further is now and always has been the same: to get better. It's called progress.

Tobias Key
6-Oct-2010, 06:02
I think that these companies essentially had the same problem as Leica does. Their old products are so well made and so good that the second hand market is their main competitor. Considering the shrinkage of the commercial large format markets - pack shots and architecture, that means that there is a glut of cheap good quality lenses at prices even the Chinese couldn't make them for. I myself bought a 210 apo symmar this week for 255 which is a ridiculous price when you consider the quality of the lens on offer (not that I offered to pay more). I guess the question is when will this glut of lenses wear/run out, or is there in effect an endless supply of second hand glass given the state of the current market.

ic-racer
6-Oct-2010, 06:37
Look at all the 8x10 field cameras currently available. But few modern lenses. I'd think there would be a market for 8x10 field camera lenses rather than XXXXL lenses. For example, it would be great to see a re-issue of the Angulon 210mm or something similar.

Brian Ellis
6-Oct-2010, 06:40
Depends on the cost of bringing the new lenses to market and the projected profits from selling them. Who knows.

evan clarke
6-Oct-2010, 06:54
These companies all make many more products and lenses than view lenses and I doubt the view lenses are crucial to them. Somebody who knows told me that Nikon would make a run of lenses, shelved them for future sales and finally couldn't justify the long inventory times compared to the sales...EC

Lynn Jones
6-Oct-2010, 07:55
As some of you know, I was very heavily involved with LF optics, advertising, cataloging, and selling thousands of them for several companies. Further, I was intimately associated in design with Caltars (Ilex) and Computars (BBOI-B&J-Kowa), therefore since I'm no longer in that area (photo professor, last 20 years) I'll make a couple of guesses.

Surprisingly, LF has a pretty strong market in the field considering the digitization of photography. If some optics companies have enough business that they can afford to make one or two runs of low volume yearly, maybe especially Schneider, possibly Rodenstock then these lens designs will be around for quite awhile (partly because they have a lens brand name associated with them). Under those circumstances, making variations of these lenses, provided that major style changes don't take place, improvements could take place. If you are routinely making plasmats, double gaussians, super wides, or tessars then it is a fairly simple matter to run computer design changes that can be accomodated in manufacture reasonably. The question is this, is there enough business in optics to keep such a a company alive?

Interestingly, there are some optics companies that have little or no "brand name" associated with them, they design and create for companies and countries, they work on a cost plus profit basis. It is unlikely that such companies would make lenses for we LF devotees. Companies like Perkin & Elmer, CAI, Kowa and quite a few more that most of us don't really know about. P&E used to buy Caltars from me because while they were the largest and best known optics and telescope makers in the world, they certainly couldn't afford to make just a few camera lenses for their own use.

My answer is, Yes for awhile, and then later when new lenses of the type are no longer availabel, used lenses in a gradually shrinking market will fill the gap longer than I will be alive (of course I'm 79 so that's not too reassuring, I guess).

Best regards,

Lynn

Acheron Photography
9-Oct-2010, 09:19
Lynn (or anyone else)

Based on your experience, is something with close to the performance of the XLs but faster achievable? The one thing that would persuade me to open my wallet given I have a 110 XL f5.6 would be a 110 or 120 at f4 or f3.5 that performed nearly as well as the XL...

David.

Dan Fromm
9-Oct-2010, 09:49
If you have the money, honey, Rodenstock, Schneider, and Zeiss have the time.

Nothing personal, but I doubt you can afford a one-off.

Acheron Photography
9-Oct-2010, 10:32
If you have the money, honey, Rodenstock, Schneider, and Zeiss have the time.

Nothing personal, but I doubt you can afford a one-off.

No offense taken - my question was 'is it possible?' I honestly don't know if it is. The Xenotars, after all, relied on very high refractive index glass which one wouldn't (and in most countries couldn't) use today. Perhaps you can fake the thorium glass effect with barium, perhaps you can't. I don't know, and - nothing personal - I suspect you don't either.

Drew Wiley
9-Oct-2010, 11:05
Don't forget Cooke, who is making short runs of specialized LF optics, or Schneider's
recent (albeit expensive) additions for ULF applications. These particular items serve
a specific niche and therefore have a realistic if limited market. Likewise, Schneider's recent 360 dialyte. But as long as the overall economic situation leads to
all kinds of dream and cult lenses suddenly appearing on the used market, and plenty of general-purpose lenses at cheap prices, what's the incentive?

Dan Fromm
9-Oct-2010, 11:28
No offense taken - my question was 'is it possible?' I honestly don't know if it is. The Xenotars, after all, relied on very high refractive index glass which one wouldn't (and in most countries couldn't) use today. Perhaps you can fake the thorium glass effect with barium, perhaps you can't. I don't know, and - nothing personal - I suspect you don't either.Of course I don't know. But I am aware of progess in mapping lenses that hasn't trickled down to plebeians like me. It gives me hope that you can realize your dream if you have the money to pay for it. I'm not sure you'll like the lens if you commission it; it will likely be large and heavy.

Re Xenotars, I have a relatively ancient 80/2.8 in hand and it doesn't have the mark of the devil, sorry, of thoriated glass. Xenotars aren't comparable at all to the XLs, different design family and quite narrow coverage. I also have an old 80/2.8 Planar whose glasses are water white too.

I don't believe that thoriated glass is needed to make a fast double Gauss type. You may be thinking of glass with a high lead content. Loss of those types because of changes in EU regulations forced a redesign of the 38/4.5 Biogon.

Cheers,

Dan

Drew Wiley
9-Oct-2010, 11:33
I don't think we have anything to worry about. Something analgous is going on in the
world of small format. When Nikon stopped virtually all production of classic manual
focus lenses, Cosina stepped in and started making better than ever lenses to fill this niche under the Zeiss label, which seem to be selling well even at high prices.
But the trend in LF is toward more compact and portable lenses with smaller max
apertures, not huge pieces of glass. At the moment, only Cooke seems interested in
the retro LF portrait market.

Bob Salomon
9-Oct-2010, 12:15
Maybe you do have something to worry about. At Photokina we were told by Rodenstock that Copal has raised the price of their shutters, to the lens manufacturers, 100%. This is similar to what Prontor did about 20 years ago to the price of Compur, Prontor Professional and Prontor Magnetic shutters just before they came off the market. As I mentioned in an earlier thread Rodenstock introduced their new E-shutter at the show, partially as an option for future shutter business. But this shutter is only available in 0 size and the Rollei shutter is only available in 01 and 1 sizes. So the larger lenses in a 3 shutter could have a problem in the future. Also, the supply times for raw optical glass has increased drastically.

But with all that Roodenstock did inroduce their new 32mm focal length lens at the show for digital work with view cameras as well as for roll film work on view cameras.

Acheron Photography
9-Oct-2010, 12:52
Maybe you do have something to worry about.

Thank you - interesting report.

Technology does not always move forwards. Sometimes, it moves backwards. The peak of steam engineering was what - 1920? 1930? I suspect that for all the progress in other areas they could build a higher performance steam engine in 1910 than in 1960. I have no idea if this happening in optics: but it might be.

As I hinted, part of the issue is safety standards. High refractive index glass gives you more options. But high refractive index, so far at least, requires nasty materials: talk to anyone who visited Jena (home of Zeiss) in the 80s if you don't believe me. You can do it safety and with good environmental protection, but it is really costly. So you try to fake it with more elements and higher order surfaces instead. That's fine, mostly, but the extra degree of freedom high RI gives you is I suspect useful at the limit. Could someone who really knows about this stuff comment and cure our ignorance?

David

Drew Wiley
10-Oct-2010, 09:35
Well, I was already thinking of shutters rather than glass as the weak link in design. If we're talking about big fast lenses in anything other than relatively short focal lengths, the necessary shutters are already gone, and I don't see why anyone would want to make barrel lenses for antique shutters, especially for a tiny potential market.

Lynn Jones
13-Oct-2010, 13:30
With plasmats it is pretty hard to make these lenses at a higher speed, shift of focus and field curvature is pretty hard to cure. With lenses like the Xenotars, higher speed works pretty well. As Bob says, however, shutter costs have gone completely out of sight and volume is getting lower and lower.

Lynn