This is a professional lens for serious large format and panoramic film photography. It's not a digital product-of-the-week and it doesn't have anything to do with Canon or Nikon cameras. To use it digitally you'll need a professional back that costs more than most cars or a $400 scanner for your film.
I use it on my Horseman SW-612P 6 x 12 cm panoramic camera.
This very modern lens was introduced in the mid 1990s. It covers an astounding 120 degrees, or an image circle of 166 mm. This means that this ultra-wide lens gives 9 mm of movement even on 4 x 5" film! With a 120º angle of view to the front and of course 120º to the rear that leaves only 30º to the front left and front right in which to hide your hands and the camera!
I particularly love this lens because it's so easy to use with screw-in filters, and even center filters, without vignetting. This is unusual for ultra-wide lenses and a blessing in the field. I'm using it on a 6 x 12 cm Horseman panoramic camera which has 18 mm of vertical shift. I'm not using it on my 4 x 5" camera.
The 6 x 12 cm format, along with the shifts of the SW612P, uses almost as much image circle as 4 x 5" film. The Horseman camera is easier to use and setup quickly for ultra wide work than my 4 x 5 cameras.
This German lens is most often seen with a Japanese Copal #0 shutter. Unlike many other Schneider lenses it's not available in other shutters because of its great sensitivity to the position of the iris plane.
The oldest 47 mm f/8 Super Angulon lens was introduced in the 1950s. It only covered 100 degrees which limited it to use on medium format rollfilm cameras. It had six elements in four groups, had a 40.5 mm filter thread and was single coated. It had no problems with flare or ghosting due to the clever and simple design. It was used on the Brooks Veriwide 100 camera. The Veriwide 100 used a 6 x 10 cm format to grab the lens' entire 100 degree angle of view. Later the Brooks Veriwide (not 100) used an ordinary Mamiya 6 x 9 cm back. Each of these gave an angle of view similar to a 20 mm lens on a 35 mm camera.
The first f/5.6 47 mm Super Angulon was announced at the 1966 Photokina along with the rest of the f/5.6 Super Angulons. They covered 105 degrees and had eight elements in four groups. They were single coated in the 1960s and became multicoated in the 1970s. The 47 mm f/5.6 was used on the later Brooks Veriwide camera with 6 x 9 cm Mamiya back, and later the Plaubel Proshift camera. The Proshift used a Mamiya 6 x 9 cm back and added some lens shift.
Neither of these earlier 47 mm lenses could cover 4 x 5" film. The new 47 mm XL can.
SPECIFICATIONS: 47 mm f/5.6 XL
Optics: Eight elements in four groups. Multicoated.
Mechanical Construction: As always, solid metal barrels with engraved markings.
Angle of View: 120 degrees at f/22. 98 degrees at f/5.6.
Image Circle: 166 mm at f/22. 110 mm at f/5.6. (Diagonal of 4 x 5" film is 153 mm)
Shutter: Copal #0: 1- 1/500, time and bulb. Other shutters are available if you insist.
Flange Focal Distance: 59.1 mm. This is how far the back of the mounting flange is from the film when focused at infinity. You need to know this when figuring out if this will mount on your 4 x 5" camera successfully.
Actual Focal Length: 48.0 mm. Don't worry. Most lenses have a few percent difference between their actual, optimum design focal length and standardized marked focal length. This is because the actual focal length is chosen as part of the design optimization using real-world glass and manufacturing techniques. The marked focal lengths are standardized (47, 90, 150, 180 mm, etc.) to simplify life. Honestly the only way I can see any angle-of-view difference between this lens and my 45 mm Rodenstock Grandagon is to look specifically for it. (The Rodenstock is also longer than marked.) Schneider is good enough to specify this for people using these in science and surveying.
Front Filter Thread: 67 mm
Center Filter: IIIc, part number 25637, two full stops. 67 mm mounting thread (to match the 47 XL) and 86mm front thread. I have a whole page about center filters.
Slip-over front lens cap size and maximum front section diameter: 70 mm
Rear Section Maximum Diameter: 63.5 mm
Length: 60.8 mm
Diaphragm: Seven blades, f/5.6 - 32. Infinitely variable. Marked in third stops.
Weight: 10.9 ounces or 310 grams. Tiny.
Schneider's Part Number: 25044 for the lens and Copal shutter, minus Horseman mount and center filter.
Comparative Angles of View
expressed as the equivalent lens on a 35 mm film camera:
6 x 7 cm: 24.7 mm horizontal, 17.1 mm vertical, 23.1 mm diagonal.
6 x 9 cm: 17.1 mm in every direction.
6 x 12 cm: 15.4 mm horizontal, 17.1 mm vertical, 16.6 mm diagonal.
4 x 5:" 12.1 mm vertical, 14.4 mm horizontal, 13.6 mm diagonal.
Excellent. It's hard to find fault or find much to say about a lens that simply does it's job flawlessly by making sharp, undistorted images.
The 47 XL stands out in real-world field use because it uses ordinary screw-in filters without vignetting and that its color rendition is uniform across the frame, with or without its center filter.
Focus Mount (for the Horseman SW612 and SW612P)
I find the damping ideal. I can flick it with one finger if I choose. By comparison the Rodenstock helicoids for the SW612 are stiffly damped and need two fingers to focus. This Schneider focuses quickly.
The Schneider cones are slightly dull black. The Rodenstock cones are slightly glossy black.
Use with Filters
Unlike most large format wide angle lenses, I can use ordinary 67 mm screw-in filters and still have the full 120 degrees of coverage with no shadowing or vignetting from the filter ring! This makes the Schneider f/5.6 47 XL extraordinary. I love filters. I especially love screw-in filters. The brilliant design of the 47 XL's filter threads and far-forward positioning of the front nodal point makes it extraordinarily easy to use.
By comparison my 75 mm Super Angulon only covers 105º, and it vignettes if I use the same 67 mm screw in filters.
Schneider has an ingenious front filter thread design that keeps the lens' threads as far back as possible. Be careful with your filters, since the front element comes right up to the end of the threads. Some screw in filters have filter glass that recedes into the lens behind the filter's rear thread mating surface. You could accidentally mash the filter glass into the front element when attaching a filter like that. Pay attention and be careful. If you have filters that recede past the rear mating surface you can still use them: just don't screw them in all the way. You probably won't destroy anything if you do screw the wrong kind of filter in too far, just pay attention!
Use with Multiple Stacked Filters
Even though I know better, it works great with an ordinary 67 mm filter screwed on the front and then the IIIc center filter screwed on the front of the first filter. I get no vignetting, even with the Horseman SW612P's full 18 mm shift on 6 x 12 cm, and the image is still as even as I can see. I know I run the risk of vignetted corners and overcorrected falloff on the sides with this stacking. Ignoring this warning I get great results, complete with full shifts, on 6 x 12 cm.Try it yourself on 4 x 5; I haven't.
IIIc Center Filter
I use the IIIc two-stop center filter, part number 25637. It's unique to the 47 mm XL. If you're buying a filter for this lens get the IIIc. I use it anytime I shoot 6 x 12 cm since otherwise there is a lot of falloff. You can forget about it with 6 x 9 without shifts.
The Schneider IIIc center filter and 47 mm XL work remarkably well together. I get even exposures even with extreme shifts. I get even 6 x 12 cm images with no visible falloff, even with 17 mm of vertical shift.
Actually Schneider says that the Center Filter costs about 1 to 1.5 degrees of coverage, but I've never noticed it.
I also use the lens without a filter if I need the two stops at night, or if I want to emphasize the center of the image or counteract sides that are too bright. It's also not really needed for use on smaller formats like 6 x 7 cm, even with a lot of shift. The choice to use or ignore a center filter is artistic. I would always use it on 4 x 5." See my page on center filters.
Schneider also mentions the 1.5 stop IIIb filter, part number 10590, for partial correction. This is handy since the IIIb 1.5 stop filter is the same filter as used by the 58 mm, 80 mm and 110 mm XL lenses, as well as the classic 90 mm f/8 Super Angulon. If you already have the 10590 for your 90 mm f/8, or will be getting one for another lens, I'd just use it and not worry. I have not tried it myself. I suppose it would be almost impossible to see any difference between it and the two stop filter unless I was a blank wall photographer.
Mechanical vignetting is gone by f/16.
What also makes the 47 XL and IIIc combination so spectacular is that color rendition is uniform across the field. I get the same color rendition on Velvia 50 with and without the filter.
Other ultrawide view camera lenses have subtle changes in their color rendition at their sides and corners. This is caused by the coatings. Coatings are designed with specific thicknesses to work at specific wavelengths. That's great for most lenses where the light enters perpendicular to the glass surfaces. It gets tough with ultrawide lenses for view cameras because light enters and exits the lens at steep angles, so that light sees a thicker apparent coating. This alters the range of wavelengths over which the coating is effective. Some wavelengths may not be transmitted as effectively as they are at the center of the field. This translates to subtle color changes at the sides.
Retrofocus ultrawide lenses in digital, 35 mm and medium format have the light at the rear of the lens exiting mostly perpendicular to the glass surfaces, so users new to 4 x 5" may never have seen this effect. Heck, old timers may never have noticed it either, since it's subtle. It becomes more pronounced as you use lenses with 100 degree or more angles of view.
Schneider points out that 80% of this effect comes from the way the layers work in color film and it will be different with different films.
In any case I see no problem with the 47 XL and IIIc on Fuji Velvia 50, and most people won't appreciate how good this is since they never saw the problem anyway.
If you see distortion it's because of a lack of film flatness. The acute angles of incidence at the edges of the film turn any variation of film flatness into distortion. Think about it: with a long lens a lack of film flatness only causes defocus. On the other hand, if the light is at a steep angle, moving the film a little forward or back makes a big difference in where the light hits the film. This causes distortion. Digital, 35mm and medium format shooters aren't familiar with this effect due to the retrofocus design of lenses for those formats.
On the Horseman SW612P's 6 x 12 cm holder you'll see just a little variation at the last mm of the left and right sides. This is caused by the film going around the rollers and not being perfectly flat. This is only on the last millimeter on each side, and if you crop the 56 x 114 mm image down to 56 x 112 mm it goes away.
I can't see any from lights in the image. Go ahead and shoot into the light. Do shade the lens from the sun since you can get one minor ghost from light outside the image.
I cover this last because image sharpness depends more on your technique than your lens in large-format photography. If you're worried about sharpness I'll bet you're a newcomer to the format. Thankfully all the large format lenses I've used, even crummy 50-year-old lenses with visible scratches in the glass, are sharper than most people's technique when used correctly and certainly sharper than any of the newest smaller format offerings from Hasselblad, Zeiss, Leica, Canon or Nikon. Contrary to old wives' tales, the large format lenses I've used are the same or sharper than the 35mm lenses I've used, even when viewed with the same loupe. Since 4 x 5" film is four times as large in every direction you get four times the sharpness of 35 mm.
The 47 XL is sharp everywhere stopped down. You're not supposed to photograph with it wide open; f/5.6 is for focusing. The design is optimized for use at smaller apertures. Here are the specifics at each f/stop with an 8x loupe. The circle of perfect definition shrinks a little under my 22x loupe and grows with a 4x loupe, since you different amounts of finer details. An 8x loupe is about equivalent to an 18 x 36" print.
within about a 40 - 50 mm circle. Gets dreamily soft outside
It gets a little dreamy on the sides shot wide open. This is due to spherical aberration. Portrait lenses do this deliberately and you may or may not find this effect handy as a special effect. Try it first. It's subtle and for many people it will be sharp at f/5.6. F/5.6 is only intended for focus and composition. Stop it down a stop or two for best results if you're picky.
I'm impressed that it doesn't get blurred in the corners when stopped down like many hyper-wide lenses. Weird differential diffraction in other lenses can cause marked differences in saggital vs. tangential (radial vs. circumferential) sharpness. This gives a weird blur in the corners because an ultrawide lens' apparent aperture, as seen from a sharp angle, is no longer a circle. It turns into an oval. Because this oval is narrower in one direction than the other one gets more diffraction in one axis. You need a math degree to understand this. Thankfully Schneider figured out how to get around this and the 47 mm XL simply is sharp all over, even stopped down. Bravo!
SELECTING THE OPTIMUM APERTURE
Like all large format lenses it's limited by diffraction if you stop it down too far. You usually want to shoot around f/16 and stop down past f/22 only if strictly needed for depth of field.
I always ignore depth of field. tables and scales. They're calculated based on an arbitrary measure of acceptable fuzz, not the optimum aperture for the best sharpness.
Calculating the optimum aperture taking both diffraction and depth of field. into account is an advanced concept not understood in mainstream photography. I have an article here about it. I don't expect you to understand it. It is unrelated to the outdated concepts of circles of confusion; my suggestion actually gives you the aperture to get the best definition possible.
The good news is that all the math cancels out and this is very easy to apply in practice on the helical mount for the Horseman. Simply use the existing depth of field. scale and use the apertures in the table below:
This is the table I use with all my lenses on my Horseman SW-612P camera. Ignore the settings above f/32 since the 47 XL stops at f/32.
I love my 47 XL. It's far easier to use in real shooting than other ultrawide lenses and gives spectacular results.
A 47 mm lens is extremely wide on 6 x 12 cm. This means I usually use a 65 mm or 90 mm lens instead on 6 x 12 cm. Likewise on 4 x 5" my favorite lens is my 75 mm. Don't get the 47 as your first lens unless you mean it. The 47 mm is a good first choice for a wide angle for 6 x 7 cm, although you probably don't need the extreme coverage of the XL.
I bought it for my Horseman SW612P because the 45 mm Rodenstock that came with my camera 1.) doesn't let me make full use of the the 612P's movements on 6 x 12 cm (it's not a problem with 6 x 9 cm backs or on cameras without shift) and 2.) I want to use 67 mm screw in color filters along with the center filter and radical shifts, all at the same time.
If I had the non-shift Horseman SW612 then I wouldn't have worried about it. THe 45mm Rodenstock is a wonderful lens and does provide a little shict on 612.
WHAT YOU'RE BUYING WHERE
Most people buy the 47 XL lens alone and mount it on their own custom or 4 x 5" cameras. I'd get it from Adorama here.
I bought a special variant from Schneider which includes a special focusing mount to attach the 47 XL to my Horseman panoramic camera.
Horseman cameras are often packaged with Rodenstock lenses because Horseman is also the Rodenstock distributor for Japan. Obviously Horseman Japan would prefer to sell you a Rodenstock lens over a Schneider.
In the USA Schneider is the distributor for Horseman. You can order the Horseman camera with this Schneider lens, you'll just probably have to ask you camera store to special order it. Let's face it, I know of no store that stocks Horseman panoramic cameras anyway, so since all orders are special orders you should be able to get whatever you want.
By all means if you can find this lens, get it for the Horseman. I did. I suspect it costs more than the Rodenstock 45 mm. The Rodenstock is just fine for the non-shift Horseman SW612, but has only enough coverage for a few millimeters of shift on 6 x 12 cm. The Schneider lets you shift with reckless abandon, even with a filter screwed in the front.