Tessar, Sonnar, Sumicron, Plannar?????

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by stradibarrius, May 26, 2009.

  1. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Where can I learn about the difference in all of these lens classifications? I have no idea what these classifications mean.
     
  2. jaimeb82

    jaimeb82 Member

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    Did you know there is a kind called Biogens? I will like to know those differences as well, does any one know a guide that explains the basics of those types of glasses, in the past I've found some tutorials but they were to advance and long for starters, kind of the history of camera lenses.

    Cheers,
     
  3. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    As I understand it, these terms are applied to different formulations of numbers of lens elements, the grouping of those elements, the types of different glass used in certain of the elements to give the maximum number of corrections for all the optical defects presented when a colored image is projected on to a flat surface like film.

    Any standard textbook on optical design will illustrate the layout of the various lenses and the combinations of postive and negative optical shapes and what the differnt types of glass do in combination to produce the highest possible image quality.

    I will not mentioned anything about the "bokeh" of various lenses; it is a topic which I find totally foreign to myself and my photographic sensibilities--or lack of them.
     
  4. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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  5. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    To make things even more complicated, they are currently used in somewhat different ways by different manufacturers.

    Zeiss still *tends* to use the name to denote a particular design, with Tessar being a 4 element design, Sonnar a fast 5 or 6 element design and Planar a nearly symmetrical 6 element design, though these names and design types aren't used strictly.

    In Leica lingo, Elmar, Summicron and Summilux also originally denoted particular lens designs, but now Elmarit, Summicron and Summilux denote 2.8, 2.0 and 1.4 aperture lenses irrespective of design.
     
  6. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    Zeiss: Biogons are symmetrical or nearly symmetrical wide-angle lens designs which cannot be used with SLRs (at least not without locking up the mirror). Distagons are retrofocus (= will clear a SLR mirror) wide angles.

    Tessar = Xenar (Schneider) = Skopar (Voigtländer)
     
  7. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I've read many rubbish answers in the past but this one takes the biscuit.

    Firstly - Tessar, Sonnar, Planar are all Zeiss designs, the Summicron is Leitz/Leica. Tessars are basic 4 element designs they are good but never excellent as performance is poor until stopped down to f16 or more.

    Sonnars & Planars are excellent designs but the real world performance depends on their age and model.

    You'd be hard pushed to find a bad Summicron.

    Ian
     
  8. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    The names are unique to each manufacturer, Leica uses theirs to identify a maximum aperture so, Noctilux=f1,1.2 Summilux=f1.4 Summicron=f2 Elmar=2.8 & 3.5. Those are the current lenses, LTM lenses also had a few others.
    Zeiss Biogon and Distogon=wide angle, Planar=normal & Sonnar=telephoto. Rol lei nut has a breakdown of some specifics above
     
  9. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    ??? Did anyone say that the Summicron wasn't Leica?

    BTW: I've had excellent results with Tessars at f/8.0 and even 5.6...
     
  10. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    & Sonnar=telephoto.

    Gosh, you mean the 5 cm F 2.0 Sonnar on my Contax is a telephoto!!??:tongue:
     
  11. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    Again, it's unfortunately not that simple.

    The Rollei 35S had a 40mm f/2.8 Sonnar which is neither a telephoto nor especially fast. Also the classic 50mm f/2.0 Sonnar was no telephoto.

    The 85mm f/1.4 Planar isn't exactly a normal.
     
  12. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    A Tessar is a triplet in which one lens has been replaced by a cemented doublet. Typically twice the standard lens focal lenght. An old and popular design, but really not the best.

    A Sonnar is a lens typically having a low number of rather thick elements. Makes very good lenses, from standard to (mostly) medium long focal length lenses.

    A Planar is a double-Gauss type lens. Very good all round performance. Made in the standard to long standard focal length range.

    A Biogon is a similar design, but with more glass and made for large angles of view.
    Performance is (almost) on par with the Planars.

    A Distagon is a reversed tele-photo, a.k.a. retrofocus construction.
    A Retrofocus (the name of a lens made by Angenieux, who first made such a thing) lens makes using short focal lengths on reflex cameras possible, yet are not quite as good as non-retrofocus lenses (the distortion in particular is not as good).
     
  13. Fred De Van

    Fred De Van Member

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    To get a correct answer find a book called Optics, the technique of definition, by Arthur Cox. Every answer so far are, at least in part, incorrect.
     
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  15. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    I found this on the Zeiss web site;
    The ‘C’ designation in the C Sonnar T* 1,5/50 ZM name means both ‘compact’ and ‘classic’. The lens design and aperture geometry reflect its predecessor from the 1930s, the Sonnar 1,5/50, which was the fastest standard lens of its time. The excellent flare control inherent of the Sonnar lens design is further optimized with the ZEISS T* anti-reflection coating.

    The Planar® lens is the most successful camera lens design ever created. This nearly symmetrical layout provides the lens designer with numerous means to correct aberrations extraordinarily well, even for wide open apertures. The ideal basis for high-performance lenses with great color correction, high speed, flat image plane (this is where the name comes from)
     
  16. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Now there's a challence: point out the incorrect bits and correct them.
     
  17. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    I really asked the question to try to distinguish between lenses that are great performers from those that are poor.
    Personally I am not interested in optical formulas and the math that goes into the design. I am more interested in when choosing between the lenses which is the first choice, second and so on.

    As with many thing in photography sometimes the performance can be very slight but the price difference can be great.
     
  18. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    Well, what do you mean by "great" and "poor" performance?

    A lens ideally suited for one purpose or subject might be far less suited for another.

    Just basing it on the scheme name isn't very useful: Some of these designs have been around for over a century and their various characteristics have changed greatly over time.
     
  19. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Indeed.
    That's why there are different lens types, with different lens type names ... :wink:

    Yes and no.
    While there indeed is a large quality spread 'within' a particular lens type, i wouldn't, for instance, pick a Distagon to do close-up photography.
    Though limited for the reasons you mention, knowing what design family is behind a lens design family name does have its use.
     
  20. Fred De Van

    Fred De Van Member

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    In order to do that correctly, I would have to write the book which Arthur Cox has already written.
     
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  21. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I think the only way to answer *that* question is through your own experience. Quality is so thoroughly subjective, and our vocabulary for talking in lay terms about optical properties is so limited, that it's hard to see what could be said about lenses that would help you in these terms.

    For what it's worth, here's how my brain organises lenses: The most basic reasonably modern lens is a triplet, which occurs in a million different brand names with essentially the same design. Novar, Triotar, Cassar, Trinar, Vaskar...

    Triplets have the basic problem that away from the centre of the image, especially wide open, they tend to go soft and vignette. Hence the Tessar design and its close kin, which add a fourth glass element to reduce these problems. Again, in addition to the Tessar itself (which was a Zeiss trade name), there are a bunch of essentially similar designs; Xenar, Skopar, most or all of the Russian "Industar-nn" lenses, etc. Unfortunately many of the same names have also been used for lenses of different (often *very* different) designs, so the name per se isn't a reliable guide---you have to have some context in order to know what lenses the name was being used for in a particular time, place, and setting. (The Lens Collector's Vade Mecum is helpful for keeping track of these changes; it's imperfect but it's still a helluva reference.)

    I believe some of the Leitz Elmars are Tessar designs.

    You can, of course, keep adding elements and changing configurations in an effort to climb the diminishing-returns curve; Tessars are a lot better at the edges than triplets, but there's still room for improvement. The canonical "next step up" from the Tessar is the Planar, which adds some more glass, is sharper, vignettes less, and costs more. Schneider's Xenotar, mostly seen on Rolleiflexen, is similar. However, things get complicated here because the number of reasonable combinations grows as you add more elements; five or six elements is enough to create a lot of design flexibility, and except for a few well-known lenses (Planar, Heliar...), it becomes difficult to use the name as a guide.

    Also, it seems like the tendency to use the name as an indicator of the design went out of vogue sometime in the latter half of the last century, leading to things like the Olympus convention where a prefixed letter tells you how many elements there are ("D.Zuiko"==4 elements, "E.Zuiko"==5 elements, &c.).

    And then Leica lenses are a language unto themselves, with the name sometimes reflecting the design, sometimes the maximum aperture, sometimes apparently just a whim. I've never attempted to understand this part of the lens world, as I don't ever expect to be able to afford an actual Leitz lens.

    Finally, there are some outliers like the Zeiss Biogon (and its Ukrainian clone the Jupiter-12), which don't fit easily into any particular schema and just sort of have to be treated as individuals.

    But as far as what you *like*---that part you gotta take up with yourself. Some people really like lenses to be as close to technically perfect as possible and will happily spend the GDP of a small country for a 237-element monster made of unobtainium-tinged glass hand-polished by elves enslaved in the forges of Mordor, or whatever---others find the theoretically "best" lenses to have a sort of antiseptic look and actually prefer using ones that on paper are "inferior".

    -NT
     
  22. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    Nah...! You only need to point out the bits you think were wrong, and say what about them in particular is wrong and how it would be right.
    Not much more work than writing the wrong bits has been. :wink:
     
  23. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    It would be easier (though a lot of work) to discuss the various lens design families.

    Triplets, for instance, are early examples of a design idea that evolved into more complicated lens types. But not all lenses have triplets in their ancestry. Double-Gauss lenses, for instance, are a different, separate lineage. You would run into severe difficulties trying to explain a Planar as an 'evolved' Tessar.
    Do it like this, and an Biogon would not seem to be an 'outlier'. It does indeed fit a scheme.

    But i fear Fred is right: there's enough to say to fill entire books with.

    One more remark though, so there is no misunderstanding: the number of elements are an indicator for from what idea a lens design family started, and how it evolved.
    Progress is not just a matter of adding more elements. Better, newer lenses have been made by reducing the number of elements as well.
     
  24. elekm

    elekm Member

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    This page on the Carl Zeiss site explains the names:

    http://tinyurl.com/379mu5

    It's the third link in the middle section of the page ("Lens names").

    Some of the lenses are extremely complex and have a large number of elements, while others are simpler designs.

    I notice they don't list the Triotar (a triplet). I guess they've stopped production of that lens. I'm trying to think of the last camera to carry that lens, and I'm thinking that it might be the Rollei C35/35 LED.

    This is a very interesting thread, by the way.
     
  25. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    All of these lenses are excellent, and each produces a different look.

    The more wide open, the more distinctive the look. The more stopped down, the more they look alike. In my gallery I have examples of the different looks of the Sonnar, Tessar, and Summicron.
     
  26. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    A "telephoto" lens is a telephoto by design, not by focal length. In essence it moves the nodal points.