Problems w/ Super Symmar 80XL : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I saw an earlier post on this site about problems with the Schneider Super Symmar 80XL lens. I cannot get the publication the poster mentions, but I am still would like to know. Also I’ve seen that the Schneider Super Symmar 110XL is now selling for considerably less then two years ago? Is there a problem there too, or what gives? Thanks,


-- Gregory von Liebig (, November 21, 2001



I responded to your query off-line at the link beside your name. I received a response from your office saying you were on extended leave. Is there somewhere else I can forward the review to?

Cheers ... WG

-- Walter Glover (, November 21, 2001.


I am sure I am not the only one in the forum who would also like to see the review. Please post it. Thanks.

-- Phil Glass (, November 21, 2001.

Hi All,

Just didn't want to be filling the forum with material of esoteric interest to only the person who asked. Please accept my apologies.

The Joe Cornish review is published in the October 2001 edition of Outdoor Photographer‚ as a break-out at the end of a review of the Ebony RSW45. He says, following a lengthy appraisal of the 90mm Super Angulon XL 1:5.6:

"The 80mm Super Symmar XL 1:4.5 is a very different animal. Much more compact, with a tiny exit pupil, it is as handy and convenient as a standard lens. I found it allowed extensive movement for such a wide lens and produced a flat enough field to make any need of a centre-filter redundant. At normal taking apertures of f/16 and f/22 the on-film performance was superb, but wide open at f/4.5 I found the image soft enough to make focussing difficult. I was concerned enough about this to contact Ulrich Eilsberger at Schneider to ask if it was to be expected. He informed me that the f/4.5 aperture is really there for viewing only. Sharpness is improved considerably by stopping down to f/5.6 or a bit further, and this may be preferred when it comes to fine focussing with a loupe.

"In the field no landscape photographer would contemplate shooting with an aperture of wider than f/11, and my experience suggests this lens fulfills the high expectations that are attached to an XL lens when it is used at its mid-range apertures. As a fast, compact lens (equivalent of around 22mm on 35mm) which offers masses of movement it can be heartily recommended."

Examination of the MTF curves on the Schneider site seem to back up these allegations and, to my reckoning, the overall performance seemed inferior to the MTF curves for the Grandagon-N so that's what I went for.

Cheers ... WG

-- Walter Glover (, November 21, 2001.

I should add that I have owned and used the Super Symmar XL 110mm 1:5.6 for 15 months now and find it to be a truly extraordinary lens. Same goes for a chum who has the 150 and 210 Super Symmar XLs.


-- Walter Glover (, November 21, 2001.

Hey Walter,

I looked through the 10/01 edition of Outdoor Photographer and couldn't find the article you referenced. Can you confirm? Perhaps I looked right at it, but I browsed a few times.


-- Todd Caudle (, November 22, 2001.


I think Walter meant "Outdoor Photography" which is a British magazine along similar lines to the US "Outdoor Photographer". It's caused me a certain amount of confusion in the past!


-- Dave Glenn (, November 22, 2001.

Yes. it is the UK publication to which I referred. I am also familiar with the identically titles US magazine and should have been alert enought to cite the difference.

If you are able to acquire the UK magazine it should prove quite interesting since it is one of the few photo mags I've encountered that always give detils of where a site is, how to get there, where to seek accommodation and where to find a feed and a drink. Of course the British outdoors is of a totally different scale and nature to the US outdoors so there are considerable differences in the context of the articles. The Australian outdoors is different again, however we don't have the good fortune to have magazines like these here.

A recently introduced sibling publication to UK Outdoor Photography is Black & White Photography - it is shaping up as quite a worthwhile read also.


-- Walter Glover (, November 22, 2001.


I have been using the S. Super Symmar 80 XL for about a year and the S. Super Symmar 110 for almost 2 years. Performance has been excellent. sharpness superb, and my images IMHO are outstanding.

I really appreciate the f/4.5 aperture for focussing and the lightweight small compact size of the SS80XL for travelling.

I guess to each his own.


-- Bill Smithe (, November 22, 2001.

" Examination of the MTF curves on the Schneider site seem to back up these allegations and, to my reckoning, the overall performance seemed inferior to the MTF curves for the Grandagon-N so that's what I went for. " i came to the same conclusion, because i only shoot landscapes, i believe the ssXL to be better than the grandagon N for close work, this is only supposition !!!

-- dg (, November 23, 2001.

In response to several contributors in this thread, I have a few questions. I have read on this forum that Zeiss is the only lens manufacturer who actually tests lenses for its MTF graphs. Schneider and Rodenstock (and perhaps others) base their MTF graphs on the computer output of the lens design. First, is this information correct? Second, if it is correct, what limitations does this put in place when comparing an MTF lens-graph from one source with a lens-graph from another source? And last, since their are so many variables involved from the design stage to the actual completed lens, and since there is some variation in the quality of individual specimens of a given lens- type, what are we to make of MTF charts in general? I feel that I should add that I've heard encouraging reports about many modern lenses, and my limited experience with contemporary Schneider, Zeiss, and Rodenstock lenses (including the Super Symmar 110XL) has been positive.

-- Michael Alpert (, November 23, 2001.

"and my limited experience with contemporary Schneider, Zeiss, and Rodenstock lenses (including the Super Symmar 110XL) has been positive."

HP Marketing Corp. was founded as a photographic importer and distributor over 30 years ago by Herbert Peerschke.

Herbert Peerschke was the President of Zeiss Ikon Voigtlander USA and founded HP Marketing Corp after Zeiss Ikon Voigtlander (including Carl Zeiss) had decided to withdraw from the photographic industry.

At that time Peerschke purchased the inventory of the US office as well as the stock remaining in Germany and with the products distributed in the US by ZIV (Metz, Gepe, Bewi, etc.) he began HP Marketing Corp.

Zeiss has not produced general optics for large format since that time save for some special runs of certain lenses for the Japanese Linhof distributor who bought entire production runs occassionally.

Currently Zeiss is not a player in large format lenses and has not been for more then 30 years.

So finding MTF curves on Zeiss large format lenses would not be easy.

However we can guarantee you that every Rodenstock lens is tested at the factory prior to release. And, if sold by Linhof, the test is duplicated again at the Linhof factory and then the Linhof name is also added to the lens.

All Rodenstock lenses can be expected to perform to the performance curves current when the lens is made. If not it is covered by a warranty that will either make it meet thoses specs or be replaced (HP Lifetime Warranty on their lenses in the US). Other suppliers in other countrys will have different warranty lengths as will suppliers other then HP Marketing Corp.

-- Bob Salomon (, November 23, 2001.

"i believe the ssXL to be better than the grandagon N for close work, this is only supposition "

Wide angle lenses like the Grandagon and Apo Grandagon are not designed for close range work. The Apo Macro Sironar lenses are.

-- Bob Salomon (, November 23, 2001.

I find comments about the performance 80mm f4.5 being less than ideal wide open intriguing. When would you ever want to use this lens wide open? In my experience, the depth of field with LF lenses, even WAs, tends to be so narrow that some stopping down is essential. I, for one, certainly have no need of a lens with a max. apeture of f4.5 when it comes to exposing film. But when it comes to focussing... That's another story... (one slightly used grandmother available for exchange on 80mm F4.5. Contact me off-list if interested.)

-- Carey Bird (, November 23, 2001.

"but wide open at f/4.5 I found the image soft enough to make focussing difficult."

-- adam (, November 24, 2001.

"When would you ever want to use this lens wide open? " if you want to make an image with a little amount of deph of field, some photographer use LF just for it !

"Wide angle lenses like the Grandagon and Apo Grandagon are not designed for close range work. The Apo Macro Sironar lenses are. " yes but the 110xl is good at close distance (i didn't say macro) if you shoot architecture, and some time you shoot details you don't have to buy and carry two lens !!!

-- dg (, November 24, 2001.


Can you provide any contact information for the UK version of Outdoor Photographer magazine (web site, mailing address, publisher)? It would be nice to read about outdoor photography across the pond.


-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, November 25, 2001.

I have experience with two samples of the 80mm SS XL. The first mirrored the comments in the Joe Cornish review. In fact, the first one was so bad wide open I returned it for a refund. Not only was it VERY soft wide open (the worst of any lens I've ever used - and I've used a LOT of lenses), but the point of "best" focus seemed to vary from the center to the corners. I noticed this the very first time I usd this lens, and it became so frustrating that I started trying to focus at f8 (sort of defeats the whole purpose of having that f4.5 setting). Up until reading this thread, I thought this was just an isolated incident and that I just got a defective sample. It was one of the very first ones off the line. It was fine enough stopped down to f16 or f22, but I had so much trouble focusing it, I could never be sure if it was actually properly focused. So, I returned it (Schneider graciously accepted it and apologized for the problem).

The second lens, I used was loaned to me recently by a very trusting friend. I had that sample for two months and didn't notice any problems at all focusing at f4.5. In fact, it was a darn good lens overall. It was also from the same batch, purchased at the same time as my original sample with a very similar serial number. For whatever reason, I got a dud and my friend got a gem.

I shot the standard USAF resolution test chart with both lenses. Unfortunately, we limited our tests to f11, f16 and f22. The results can be viewed at:

The second 80mm SS XL listed in the table was the one with the focusing problem that I returned. As you can see, it's in the same ballpark as my friend's 80mm SS XL at f16 and f22, but a LOT worse at f11. And believe me, that trend continued as the size of the aperture increased, until it was total mush at f4.5. On the other hand, my friend's 80mm was plenty sharp enough to focus wide open. I had no difficulty focusing with it in the field under low light conditions. It was, in fact, one of the finest wide angle lenses I have ever had the pleasure top use. If my friend ever decides to sell it, I'll be first in line.

I have no idea why one was so bad and the other perfectly fine. I'm just sharing my experiences with two different samples of this lens.

My experience with the first lens was especially disappointing. Ever since I got my 110mm SS XL almost five years ago, I looked forward to a shorter focal length lens that would offer a similar combination of great coverage, incredible sharpness and relatively small size and light weight (and I sold both my 75mm f4.5 Nikkor SW and 90mm f8 Nikkor SW once I knew the 80mm SS XL I had ordered was on the way). My 110mm SS XL is still the most amazing lens I've ever used, and one of the first things I noticed about it was how the image just seemed to snap into focus on the ground glass. I had hoped for the same in the 80mm SS XL. After reading Joe Cornish's comments, I am now wondering if my friend's lens is the exception, and not the one I returned.

WRT to Gregory's question about the price of the 110 XL. I believe the lower prices you are seeing on this lens are the direct result of the global marketplace in action. When this lens first came out, it was selling for over $2200 in the US. I paid $2250 for mine - minus a $400 trade-in Schneider USA was running at the time. The much lower prices you are seeing on this lens from Badger Graphic and Robert White are for direct import lenses that are not sold or supported by Schneider USA. This does NOT have anything to do with a quality problem with the 110 XL. It is a wonderful lens, and at the current lower prices, I think it's a great bargain. Afterall, I paid nearly $1900 for mine and am perfectly happy with it.


-- Kerry Thalmann (, November 26, 2001.

Is it still a good time to buy the 80XL, or will the price lower to it's long term level soon, as it did for the 110?

-- Paul Schilliger (, November 26, 2001.

I've been playing with my new SS 80XL for about two months now. I must have got another good one. No problems focussing at 4.5 and painfully sharp at f22.

-- Dan Montgomery (, December 20, 2001.


Recently noticed minimum aperture for the SS 80XL has been extended to f/45 from f/32. Is this a new development/redesign or have I just not been paying attention?

-- Ben Collier (, April 29, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ