SS 80mm XL vs. Nikon 75mm 4.5

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I'm trying to pick out lenses for my first LF outfit. I've decided (for now) on the Arca-Swiss F compact Field 4x5 (cf previous post a few weeks ago). Now I'm having one heck of a time trying to decide on lenses. Actually, I'm stuck deciding between the Schneider Super-Symmar 80mm XL & the Nikon 75mm f/4.5. Other lenses I have more-or-less settled on are the SS 110mm XL and the APO-Sironar S 150mm or 180mm.

I did go out and rent a Sinar F1 camera with 65mm, 90mm & 135mm Nikon lenses. I found the 65mm too wide for frequent use. The 90mm was good, but not wide enough in several situations (so I figured 110mm would be better in this range). So I thought a 75-80 might be just right for the extra-wide.

Anyway, I'd like to hear your comments on both the 80mm XL & the 75mm Nikon. My photo habits are about 60% landscape to 40% architecture/industrial, mostly in B+W, but about 20% color. The prices of both are about the same, so which will be better optically? As for coverage, the Nikon has 200mm image circle @ f/16ódoes anyone know what it is at f/22? The 80mm XL has advertised coverage of 212mm @ f/22. The max aperture on both is f/4.5. The Schneider weighs only about 60% as much as the Nikon. I've heard hints that the XL may not be the best optically, but have never seen any comparisons with other lenses or what the alleged optical problems might be (except maybe in light fall-off). Is the fall-off of the Nikon any less?

Thanks for the advice. You're the greatest!

-- Tom Westbrook (tom@twestbrook.com), February 21, 2002

Answers

Tom,

I am well aware of the dilemma you face but I have another point of confusion to toss in your direction:

Why not the72mm Super-Angulon XL

It is an absolute cracker of a lens and virtually replaced my 90mm in regular use when I got it. Oceans of image circle and all crisp and sharp.

Aren't I a bugger for suggesting that!

Walter Glover

-- Walter Glover (walterg@netaus.net.au), February 21, 2002.


Thank you ever so, Walter, for the added confusion!

Actually, the 72 SA-XL lens has been on and off my list intermittently from the start. It's pretty heavy (0.5kg) and the filter size is huge (95mm). But it does have a lot of coverage and its angle of view is just about right. I keep thinking I'll want to backpack all of this equipment, but the truth is that I take 90% of all my photos within a 1-2 hour walk from the car. So, the 72mm is back on the short list.

Thanks for the input!

-- Tom Westbrook (tom@twestbrook.com), February 22, 2002.


Regarding the optical performance of the SS 80-XL/4.5; The persistant reference to possible optical problems with this lens appears to me to arise from a single, early production lens reveiwed by the respected Kerry Thalmann. If I remember correctly, he returned that lens, reviewed another one and gave that one a good report.

My own experience is that my 80-XL is easy to focus wide open and painfully sharp at f22. It is significantly smaller and lighter than it's 110 and 150mm XL cousins and doesn't share their "Proud", harder to protect, front element. This one stays in the backpack, ready for action.

-- Dan Montgomery (soareyes@hotmail.com), February 22, 2002.


Here`s another vote for the 80mm. I sold a 75mm SA and a 90mm SA and replaced them both with the 80mm XL. No regrets! Steve

-- Steve Clark (agno3@eesc.com), February 23, 2002.

Dan,

I wish to make a correction. My assessment of the poor performance of the 80mm SS XL was far from the first, and it is also far from the only report of this problem. In fact, even though I noticed this problem immediately with my 80mm SS XL in January, 2001, I waited over 10 months (Nov. 26, 2001, to be exact) to comment publically on this issue. The 80mm SS XL I purchased in January of last year was one of the very first production lenses, and initially I just chalked up the poor performance (wide open) of my sample to a quality control problem with the first lenses to come off the line. The lens was returned and I was graciously given a full refund. It was not until I began reading other comments about this issue, both online and in print, that I decided to share my experience.

Specifically, I am referring to the thread on this forum titled:

"Problems w/ Super Symmar 80XL"

It can be found at:

http://hv.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00773A

Note: for those having difficulty finding this thread, it is in the "Uncategorized" section of this forum.

In that thread, reference was made to an article by Joe Cornish in the British magazine "Outdoor Photography". It was only AFTER I read his comments that I "went public" with my similar experience.

It was also mentioned in that thread, and elsewhere that the MTF curves for this lens (on the Schneider web site) also indicate less that spectacular performance at wide apertures.

There is a lot more evidence than my specific comments that at least some 80mm Super Symmar XL samples suffer from poor performance wide open. Of course, as in the previous thread, someone will point out that nobody actualy shoots wide open... But, believe me, the 80mm SS XL I had was SO soft wide open that it was impossible to focus accurately. In that respect, it really was the worst lens I've ever used (and that includes many very old lenses of dubious quality).

Also, as I mentioned in the previous thread, a second 80mm SS XL I tested did not suffer from this problem at all (at least not enough to be noticed when focusing on the gg at f4.5). So, based on my limited sampling of two lenses, and the experiences reported by others (both positive and negative), certainly not all lenses suffer from this problem (or at least if they do, to a varying degree). I do not consider my experience with this lens to be any more or less valid than anybody else's. I was just adding my two data points (one good, one bad) to the collective knowledge.

I am not trying to bad mouth this product. In fact, I practically begged Schneider to offer a lens of this type (lightweight, compact, modern, multicoated wide angle for field use). I also consider my 110mm Super Symmar XL to be the most outstanding lens I have ever used in any format. It truly is a wonderful optic. I hope to at some point in the future obtain another 80mm SS XL - one that doesn't suffer from this problem. Schneider is a great company capable of world class design and manufacturing. I wish them the best of luck working out the issues with this lens and hope to eventually be able to chalk up my original negative experience to teething pains with a new product.

Kerry

-- Kerry Thalmann (largeformat@thalmann.com), February 23, 2002.



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