Schneider Digitar Lenses
When Bob Shell asked me to
take a look at Schneider's new line of digital lenses, I said
"sure." After all, I'm a fully modern digital photographer,
and anything aimed at the digital professional is of great interest
to me. When I started to think about it a little bit I got curious--digital
lenses? What's digital about them? Are they made of glass, or
are we talking about some weird new digital technology...hey, maybe
they're sonar lenses, or some other new tech lens design. Well,
let me fill you in. These are good old-fashioned Schneider lenses.
The answer is both simple and
complicated. First of all, the 28mm lens is not some super-duper fisheye
optic for 4x5 sheet film. When Schneider says these are "digital"
lenses, they're talking about digital camera backs like the Leaf
DCBII, Volare and Kantare, the Megavision T2, S2, and S3, and the Dicomed
Big Shot cameras. These digital cameras use a very small 2048x2048 or
2048x3096 pixel area array sensor. While these backs are often purchased
in mounts for medium format cameras like Hasselblads, many studio photographers
need the wings and tilts of a view camera and purchase the backs for view
usage. The dilemma is easy to figure out. Mount a 11/4" square sensor
on the back of a 4x5 view camera and your super-wide 90mm lens becomes
a mild telephoto, your ultra-wide 47mm Super Angulon becomes a normal
lens, and your 210mm normal lens becomes a telephoto better suited for
shooting NFL games than tabletop product shots.
Once the Schneiders were bolted
to No. 0 recessed lensboards it became obvious to me that there was a
serious lack of planning here. The lenses shipped in No. 0 Copal press
shutters. A press shutter automatically opens the lens up when in the
"T" mode. This allows for wide open focusing. The problem
was this: Since we're shooting digital with a three-shot back, we're
using the software as the shutter. We want the lens open but stopped down.
The only way to do this was to insert a cable release, switch to "B,"
and fire the shutter to open it up, but leaving the lens stopped down.
Here's the problem--when mounted in a recessed lensboard, a cable
release won't fit. To get the shots down I stuck a small paper clip
into the shutter release to open the lens. Anyway, if you're in
the market for these lenses, buy the standard Copal shutter.
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