Tag Archives: Sonnar

iLHP and Zeiss at PhotoPlus Expo 2015: Exclusive Interview

For the past year, iLHP has been collaborating with some of the industry’s best brands and manufacturers in order to bring you the newest and latest in photography. We’ve had early sneak previews and exclusive interviews. This past month, we attended the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City and met with ZEISS. We had the fortune of speaking with Nicole (Marketing Manager), Christoph (Brand and Product Communications), and Christophe (Senior Product Manager).

What is Zeiss Up To?

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They were very enthusiast in answering your and our questions. Many projects are being developed and as you can imagine the partnership with Sony is their main point of focus, so to speak. There are obviously some secrets that they have to keep as the industrial competition is always ongoing but they could let us know that we can expect about 5 new Full-Frame E-mount lenses, including 2 to 3 new ones in 2016.

The Full Frame system is now clearly what the engineering and R&D teams in Germany are asked to develop. The A5100 and the A6000 are amazing cameras but are not the primary targets they want to address. They admitted being surprised by how popular and successful the A7 series is.

Like the Canon's and Nikon's, Sony's booth was very active with a lot of conferences.
Like the Canon’s and Nikon’s, Sony’s booth was very active with a lot of conferences.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Camera Lens Design and Zeiss Nomenclature

The German optical systems manufacturer, Carl Zeiss, has had a 168 year legacy in creating some of the world’s best lenses. In 2011, H.H. Nasse wrote a series of technical papers for Carl Zeiss detailing their modern lens history and genealogy. In his three part series, he discussed 5 lens designed that changed the world. They are the Planar, the Tessar, the Biogon, the Distagon, and the Hologon (click on these links to download the original PDF files).

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Zeiss Planar 100mm f/2 (left); Zeiss Planar 85mm f/1.4 (center); Zeiss CP.2 25mm f/2.9 Cine Lens (right)

While very detailed and technical, it is a difficult read for your average Joe. That’s why, we have repackaged the information in a more reader friendly format and filled in some holes with our cited research (such as adding the missing Sonnar lens). That being said, I still recommend you read Nasse’s original papers after you read this article. They are filled with interesting tidbits about optics and engineering.


Zeiss Normal and Telephoto Designs

A normal/standard lens means its focal length is about the diagonal length of the image capturing area. For 35mm film and Full Frame cameras, that translates to 24x36mm with a diagonal of 43.3mm. This means, lenses with focal lengths near 43.3mm can be considered normal lenses. We usually consider lenses between 35mm – 60mm as normal lenses.

Planar (1896)
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The symmetrical design places the aperture (represented by the vertical line) between the two groups of elements, allowing for wider apertures than other designs. The 8 air-to-glass surfaces, unless effectively coated, reduce contrast and introduce flaring and ghosting.

This legendary Zeiss design trademarked Planar (also known as Biotar or Biometar in E. Germany’s Carl Zeiss Jena) is derived from, and suggests, a “plane/flat” field curvature. Most of the world’s fastest lenses today are derivatives of the Planar design, including:

  1. The $11,000 Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux
  2. The ultramodern Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4
  3. The fastest lens in the world, the Zeiss 50mm f/0.7 Stanley Kubrick used in the movie Barry Lyndon for its candlelit dinner table scene and NASA’s Apollo Program used to photograph the dark side of the moon.

In fact, every 50mm prime ever made by any manufacturer are essentially modified Planar designs.

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A cutaway of the Nikon F2 film SLR sporting a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 in classic Planar design.

Advantages

  1. The symmetrical grouping allows for large aperture designs (f/2 or larger).
  2. A very flat field curvature which leads to sharpness across the entire image plane.
  3. Well controlled chromatic aberrations

Disadvantages

  1. More expensive to produce and heavier than Tessar designs
  2. The many air-to-glass surfaces require effective lens coatings to reduce flaring, ghosting, and to improve contrast.
  3. Prone to astigmatisms.

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Amazing Locations: MIT

I took an early morning stroll today through the world famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It really needs no introduction. The best science and engineering university in the world. Ranked #1 university overall on the QS World University Rankings. Its alumni invented the radar, transistor radio, nuclear fission, condensed soup, Technicolor, GPS, the internet, and the list goes on. It is just across the Harvard Bridge, about a 30min walk from me, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I thought I’d give everyone a photo tour of its high-tech campus.

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Leica Summacron 35mm f/2.8 @ f/5.6, ISO 800, 1/100s

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