Rodenstock digital lenses.

What lens should you use for professional digital photography? Can you use a regular (traditional) lens or do you need a special digital lens?

When I was on a photo assignment in Munich in 1996, and needed a special lens for a 70mm rollout camera, I turned to Rodenstock, since they were nearby. The Rodenstock person was immediately receptive and provided a lens on the spot to test. So the next year while I was in Germany again, when I had to chose a digital lens to feature in our reviews of large format equipment, the FLAAR. Photo Archive selected Rodenstock.

On this second visit to Munich, an equal hospitality to the last time was demonstrated, even though I came at the height of the Christmas season with little advance notice. Dr.-Ing. Rolf Rascher, Senior Manager, Photo Optics Division, showed me material on their entire product line for digital photography.

Rodenstock has taken a lead in the recognition of the special requirements of advanced digital systems. Linear digital systems scan red, blue, and green colors separately. If the lens focuses each color differently, the end result will be out of register. This failure was previously considered "corrected" if the error was small. But Mike Collette, Better Light, recognized quickly "that even the best lens designer is going to have a painful surprise when people start looking closely at enlargements of digital photographs." The slightest enlargement shows red, blue, and green lines clearly not overlapping, even with the highest regarded German lenses. I do not list the lens manufacturer by name since they had no way to know about the capability of digital resolution when these lenses were designed years ago. Besides, both of the top lens brands suffer the same optical situation.

If you select an APO lens you can correct considerable problems. Both Michael Collette, inventor of the Better Light digital system, and Steve Johnson, professional photographer specializing in digital panoramas, each suggested to me that I try APO lenses. My normal Macro lens was a Schneider 180mm Makro-Symmar which had faithfully served me for thousands of 4x5 photographs on film. The Rodenstock brochures I had in the USA did not list any APO lens in the macro range (most of my photography is of archaeological artifacts and I tend to use macro lenses for them). Thus it was a pleasant surprise when Dr. Rascher indicated that Rodenstock did indeed have an apochromatic macro lens, as well as a variety of lenses appropriate for digital needs.

Since virtual reality is a huge market for panorama photography, wide angle lenses are increasingly called for. Rodenstock offers a considerable variety in apochromatic format.

But be forwarned, do not trust cheap lenses from after-market companies in Asia. Many carry the apo-designation, but you get what you pay for, a cheap Asian knockoff.

The true apochromatic lenses for wide angle photography with high quality German optics would be the Apo-Grandagon series.

For the demanding requirements in other aspects of high resolution digital imagery, Rodenstock offers their Apo-Sironar-Digital, Apo-Macro-Sironar, Apo-Sironar-S, Apo-Rodagon-N, and Apo-Rodagon-D series of precision optics.

Since FLAAR. is oriented towards scientific photography, we might also mention the Rodenstock series of highly specialized macro lenses for CCD cameras. Rodenstock offers reproduction ratios from 1:7 to 8:1. These lenses would be great to detect forgery and falsification of Maya vases by spurious repainting under the guise of "restoration."

For more information, Contact Rodenstock: Photo Optics Division, phone (Munich, Germany) +49 (0)89 72 02-673, fax 72 02-164. Rodenstock also has suppliers in the USA and worldwide. All stores which supply equipment for large format photography sell Rodenstock lenses.


Last edited Aug. 5, 2001.