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Archive 2013 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...
  
 
Alf Beharie
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p.1 #1 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


Hi all, after a lot of research I think I have finally nailed down who made what and I have also incorporated photos of the lenses into my diagram as well.







Mar 29, 2013 at 11:14 PM
freaklikeme
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p.1 #2 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


That's very cool, Alf. How many of them have you used?


Mar 29, 2013 at 11:19 PM
jcolwell
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p.1 #3 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


Hi Alf,

Excellent set of lens portraits and optical diagrams. Thanks for sharing.

As we've discussed before, I had the Sigmatel, but sold it long ago. Your posts showed that your copy produces much better IQ than mine did. Have you used the Soligor? That third element looks like one serious chunk of glass.

I think we're both looking for an "affordable" SMCP-A* 135/1.8 ED. At least, I am...

Cheers, Jim



Mar 29, 2013 at 11:33 PM
harvey steeves
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p.1 #4 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


I would like to see a performance comparison; I think it would be very interesting to see what has happened through time. Somebody should go out and buy them all.


Mar 29, 2013 at 11:34 PM
HauntedHat
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p.1 #5 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


Looking at the Soligor, makes me wonder if having such a complex array of elements on the Carl Zeiss one is even beneficial to the lens performance.

Is there really a reason for such a complicated design? This is a serious question, so if anyone can explain this to me, I'd be grateful.



Mar 29, 2013 at 11:35 PM
kwalsh
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p.1 #6 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


HauntedHat wrote:
Looking at the Soligor, makes me wonder if having such a complex array of elements on the Carl Zeiss one is even beneficial to the lens performance.

Is there really a reason for such a complicated design? This is a serious question, so if anyone can explain this to me, I'd be grateful.


I don't have direct experience with either lens, but my understanding was that the Soligor was a rather poor performer wide open. The Zeiss, of course, is an outstanding optic with excellent performance wide open.

Why so many elements? First thing to understand is - because they can. Older lenses often went with fewer elements because there weren't good optical coatings. Without coatings you lose contrast at every surface due to internal reflections. This is why older zoom lenses were so low contrast, you need lots of elements in a zoom and they had no good coatings. In a modern lens design the coatings are excellent and so you can use more elements. The difference in coatings is very significant, anywhere from a factor of 5 to 10 in reduced reflections. So you can build a modern lens with say 10 elements and it will still have more contrast than an older design with just 4.

Second thing to understand is that for wide aperture it is extremely difficult to deal with lens aberrations. Spherical aberration and coma are particularly difficult to deal with in wide aperture lenses. Astigmatism and longitudinal CA also get worse with larger aperture. So for a wide aperture lens you've got a lot of work to do correcting aberrations when doing the lens design.

As an extremely over simplified example of lens design consider how a given aberration is controlled or corrected. An easy example is a doublet - you replace a single lens element with two elements, typically one concave and one convex. By using different glass for the two elements you can make a lens that corrects for a particular aberration compared to the single element that was replaced. See here for a description of some doublets and how they correct an aberration:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achromatic_lens

Now what may be optimal for one aberration is not necessarily the best for another. As an example here is a graph from an optics book of a simple doublet in which the position of the aperture stop is moved and various aberrations plotted for the aperture position:



As you can see there isn't a "best answer" for such a simple lens. So you start to replace more elements with other combinations of elements to correct for more aberrations in an optimal way. Many lenses start from a particular simple design, things like:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooke_triplet

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-Gauss_lens

And then start substituting certain elements with groups of elements to control particular aberrations better.

Finally, in modern lens design software allows one to try out even more novel and complicated designs. The above "substitution" method of design I described is very good when you've got pencil and paper to work with - it keeps the interactions between design elements low so that the lens behavior can be more easily modeled and predicted with simpler equations. With a computer no such restriction exists. A designer will start with a coarse design and then can leave the computer to optimize specific element shapes and positions by trial and error to come up with an optimal solution. They can even include insensitivity to manufacturing errors as a parameter in the design. Add in newer glass materials to work with (low dispersion, high dispersion, high refractive index) and new element shapes (inexpensively produced aspheres) and you end up with some designs that are almost impossible to figure out how they even work without the aid of software.

So long story short, yes more lens elements does help - a lot. In the past you couldn't really do it because poor optical coatings meant contrast would suffer and design techniques meant you wouldn't know what to do with all those degrees of freedom to actually make the lens much better. These days coatings mean there is no penalty in performance to using lots of elements and computer aided design means you can actually get a lot of benefit from those extra degrees of freedom.

Finally - I am not an optical designer myself, so hopefully someone with more direct experience can provide a better answer and correct any misconceptions I have in the details.

Ken



Mar 30, 2013 at 12:37 AM
jcolwell
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p.1 #7 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


HauntedHat wrote:
Looking at the Soligor, makes me wonder if having such a complex array of elements on the Carl Zeiss one is even beneficial to the lens performance.

Is there really a reason for such a complicated design? This is a serious question, so if anyone can explain this to me, I'd be grateful.


[here's my two cents]

Lens design is very complex. I don't understand how to do it, but I do understand what it gives to me. The conflicting requirements to optimize for evenly distributed resolution, contrast, and illumination across the frame, as well as reducing geometric distortion, colour aberration (CA), and flare, for both near and far subjects introduces many challenges. In order to compensate for and to surpass at least some of those challenges, the design can get very complicated. Simple designs can provide great performance for one or two optical attributes, but inevitably have compromised performance in other areas.

Many 'classic' lenses with relatively simple designs have very desirable and unique characteristics, but if you want a telephoto with excellent IQ from centre to corner, with low CA, and low vignetting, you'll quickly find that all signs point to the expensive lenses with relatively complex designs. TANSTAAFL.

I'll bet you five cookies that the Zeiss is the best lens in that group, for all performance metrics, except maybe weight and cost. The Pentax is a special case. It's a true classic with legendary performance, and it's scarce. A used SMCP-A* 135/1.8 in [E] to [E+] condition will cost you about the same as a new Zeiss Sonnar 135/1.8. I expect the Zeiss has better IQ, but they're a dime a dozen. OTOH, the Pentax might have better bokeh, whatever that is. I'm confident that Alf will help us to figure this out.

Anyway, I've been using the Canon EF 135/2L for many years. It's widely regarded as one of the best 135mm lenses ever made. Its optical design is complex. I suspect that its excellent performance is because of, not in spite of, its complex design. I've included a copy of the EF 135/2L optical diagram below, from the Canon Camera Museum.

I've also included optical designs of the EF 200/1.8L and EF 70-200/2.8L IS II. Both are incredible lenses, and both have complex designs. I once saw my 200/1.8L in an airport scanner. It blew my mind. It looked just like the optical diagram, but 'full size', and much better colour! I asked if I could take a photo of the screen but I got no joy.

http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/camera/lens/ef/data/telephoto/ef_135_2l_usm.html?p=2
http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/camera/lens/ef/data/telephoto/ef_200_18l_usm.html?p=2
http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/camera/lens/ef/data/telephoto_zoom/ef_70~200_28lis_ii_usm.html?p=2






Canon EF 135/2L







Canon EF 200/1.8L







Canon EF 70-200/2.8L IS II




Mar 30, 2013 at 12:56 AM
philip_pj
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p.1 #8 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


It's always a welcome discussion, and goes to the nuts and bolts of the craft. It used to be a whole lot more of a craft - if not a black art - before the design software put what took Zeiss and Leica generations of designers in the hands of the Sigmas/Samyangs of the world.

More elements mean many things from my reading, but include greater correction of aberrations generally defined, and much better matching of differential refractive index glass types. The upcoming CZ 55/1.4 has 12 elements, twice the accepted number for a 50mm lens. I have not looked too closely into it but Leica always favoured fewer elements than Zeiss.

Ken, do you have any dates for when the design software became widely available? What is missing from your excellent post is a timeline. This kind of information is hard to come by in general. Dr Nasse, if you are reading please write us a white paper on the history and trends of optical design with critical milestones.

Fast lenses can be aberration-infested monsters and still cause problems in this day and age...my Contax 100/3.5 Sonnar is extremely well-behaved and is high performance by almost any standards yet is a 5/4 configuration, the 100MP is a little better but over twice the weight and complexity. The Contax 100-300/4.5-5.6 is a 12/7 pipe and betters the small 100mm f3.5 prime (just), but it probably shouldn't. HRI, ED/UD etc. was clearly of great importance as was the onward march of coating improvements, even in the 1980s and esp the 1990s.

The 28-85 CY zoom is 16/13. All are 20+ years old, but the zooms are later designs by far. The Contax 21/2.8 is a 15/13 config, and dates from 1993.

Apart from the forthcoming fast lineup for high Mp sensors, Zeiss appears to have settled (in general) on ever more complex f2 (prime) lenses which are now amazingly good wide open, the RX1 being a noteworthy example, the 135/2 APO another. They are getting into asph surfaces in a big way for wider lenses now, there are three in the 8/7 Sonnar in the RX1, and two in each of the very complex 25/2 (11/10) and 15/2.8 (15/12). I can find no reference for asph surfaces in Contax Yashica lenses, but do remember reading that early asph elements came from restricted glass formulas.

Nothing like blowing your own trumpet. I'll end with this quote from a Canon paper, which I doubt we will ever see from CZ literature:

'To date, Canon has produced literally hundreds of masterpiece lenses.' Way to go, guys! Thanks Alf.



Mar 30, 2013 at 03:56 AM
sebboh
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p.1 #9 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


philip_pj wrote:
They are getting into asph surfaces in a big way for wider lenses now, there are three in the 8/7 Sonnar in the RX1, and two in each of the very complex 25/2 (11/10) and 15/2.8 (15/12). I can find no reference for asph surfaces in Contax Yashica lenses, but do remember reading that early asph elements came from restricted glass formulas.


the c/y 35/1.4 data sheet specifies one aspherical surface and that design has been around since the 60's i believe. my understanding is that the major advantage of aspherical surfaces is that they allow multiple types of additional corrections to be included in the lens design without adding any extra elements. given zeiss's relaxed design strategy this probably wasn't as necessary for them as it would be for lens designers more interested in compact designs (or with less effective lens coatings). i suspect the recent increase in their use is probably due to a decrease in the cost of production coupled with nearing limits of what can be done without drastically increasing lens size or price (n.b. these last 2 sentences are just my uneducated guesses as i talk out my ass).



Mar 30, 2013 at 05:40 AM
carstenw
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p.1 #10 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


philip_pj wrote:
'To date, Canon has produced literally hundreds of masterpiece lenses.' Way to go, guys! Thanks Alf.


Haha, yes, but they were all of the type 200/1.8



Mar 30, 2013 at 09:12 AM
 

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Alf Beharie
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p.1 #11 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


Thanks guys. Firstly I should mention that I have only used the Sigmatel Scalematic version and not any of the others, so I cannot personally vouch for the performance of the others. However, anecdotal evidence gathered during my extensive research, which has involved scouring the web for anything pertaining to 135mm f1.8, for several months, has certainly given me the impression that the more elements used, the better the overall optical performance.
Just going on optical design alone this would logically lead you to believe that the Soligor must be the worst of the bunch and the Sony made Zeiss is the best.
Well, yes and no. I don't like to be so clear cut where lenses are concerned.
I think that sometimes a little abberation can actually be beneficial, say where personal taste in bokeh quality is concerned for instance.
Indeed abberation can give a lens a unique character which can be put to good use by an experienced owner.
Anyway, the Sigmatels design appears nearest to the classical sonnar design, and as you all know Sonnar designs are reknowned for their buttery smooth bokeh, whilst being razor sharp and indeed, from what I have seen, it certainly seems to be a better performer than both versions of Spiratone and the Soligor.
It would appear that Pentax must have caste an envious eye over cocky little upstart Sigma's supprisingly good optical design as they appear to have borrowed most of it when they designed the SMC-A.
The Soligor design looks ridiculously simplistic in comparison to the others, especially in comparison to the Zeiss!
Your right in thinking that the Soligor must have a huge chunk of glass inside, it actually has!:
http://www.pbase.com/pganzel/image/71179359
The two different Spiratone versions do not appear to be be purely Sonnar designs and this may or may not be a good thing.
(BTW, I invite those with more knowledge of optical designs than I to let me know exactly what type of design each Spiratone has, as it would be interesting info that I could perhaps add to the diagram at a later date.)
However, it is clear that both of the Spiratones and the Soligor require larger diameter elements in order to gather enough light to reach f1.8, resulting in an huge 82mm filter thread, and an enormous weight of between 1.1-1.2kg!
The Sigmatel, on the other hand, has a smaller 77mm filter thread and it only weighs 820g, so its considerably smaller and lighter than any of the latter lenses. This can only be a good thing for the owner who has to lug it around and get his or her hand around it to focus it.
And finally, Nikon have applied for a patent for their own 135mm f1.8 lens. It will have (assuming it is ever released) VR (vibration reduction) and as a consequence it has an even more complex design than the Sony made Zeiss!:







Mar 30, 2013 at 09:49 AM
roboticspro
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p.1 #12 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


Hi Alf,

I picked up one of the Spiratone early versions (monocoated) for around $15.00 USD in a Reno pawn shop a few years ago. It cleaned up well (glass/iris perfect) but needed a good bath in naptha to remove gunk/sand from the focus helical. I converted in a few hours over to EOS mount, and it does create some unique OOF rendering. It weighs quite a bit, plus the 82mm hood added to it makes for second-looks .

I would rather use my FD 135mm f2 or SMC Takumar 135mm f2.5 Version II over this one for any prolonged MF shooting, but it does produce...

Here are some shots of it and with it (at f1.8).

Regards,

Edd














Used with 25mm extension tube














Mar 30, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Alf Beharie
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p.1 #13 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


For $15, it was a real bargain!


Mar 30, 2013 at 08:08 PM
sebboh
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p.1 #14 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


dude that thing is huge! can you throw it on a mirrorless camera for a fun shot?


Mar 31, 2013 at 03:47 AM
roboticspro
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p.1 #15 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


Sure thing...

Edd




  Canon EOS 5D    55mm    f/1.2    1/250s    100 ISO    -0.3 EV  






  Canon EOS 5D    55mm    f/1.2    1/15s    100 ISO    0.0 EV  






  DMC-G2    0mm    f/0.0    1/250s    400 ISO    0.0 EV  




Mar 31, 2013 at 11:45 AM
sebboh
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p.1 #16 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


sweet thanks!


Mar 31, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Snopchenko
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p.1 #17 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


Very interesting read. The Soligor's block diagram sure looks weird!


Apr 01, 2013 at 10:04 AM
buggz2k
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p.1 #18 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


I need to try mine with my FujiFilm X-E1,though, the lens has no tripod collar, and weighs a ton.
From the FM ALT archive section, a post of mine:

My copy of this giant hunk of glass came in Minolta MC/MD mount.
I'm using an adapter from Fotodiox, it has glass in it.
I know this isn't the correct solution, but, I wanted to play as soon as I could.
I am uncertain if the adapter or the lens causes the vignetting I see in my pics.



From the brief play time I had, this photo suggests swirly bokeh:






The following series show the great close distance blur of this lens:

- f16 :


- f5.6 :


- f1.8 :


this ^^^ series of 3 is a pool railing, BTW...


This photo shows the great far distance blur of this lens:



Apr 02, 2013 at 01:23 AM
ZoneV
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p.1 #19 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


kwalsh wrote:
....
As an example here is a graph from an optics book of a simple doublet in which the position of the aperture stop is moved and various aberrations plotted for the aperture position:
...


Thank you very much for this graph, looks interessting. Could you tell me which book this is?

I have a Porst 135/1.8 (by Mitake), and event with its simple design it performs well enough for some images:





But I suppose that my Canon FD 135mm f/2.0 will be much better. Have to test these. I use the Porst only with a very big hood. My copy has a big scratch on the front element, and the coating and inner black surfaces seems not to work very well.



Apr 03, 2013 at 07:52 AM
nampramos
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p.1 #20 · 135mm f1.8 lenses...


Sorry for bringing this topic out of the grave but can anyone give an opinion on the Soligor 135mm F1.8?

I am thinking about buying a used one in mint condition in Nikon fit.

Thanks!



Apr 20, 2014 at 08:03 PM
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