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Author Topic: Macro Lens Comparison (for Wildlife Photography)  (Read 39750 times)

Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2016, 01:00:40 pm »

Michael,

Highly corrected is not well defined, but chromatic aberration seems to be a major component. Some say CA is of little concern, since it can be corrected in post as claimed here. But that is not true as pointed out by Bart and others. What is your take?


There is no standard for APO (apochromatic) and many companies take advantage of it, which is foolish on their part, unless they donít know better. Companies like Voigtlander, Coastal Optics, Leica, Nikon industrials (some), and of course (recently) Zeiss have what I feel are actual APO lenses.

I had the Coastal Optics 60mm for years, but sold it because for a number of reason, like the horrible hot-spot. IMO, it had more like the flat s-log feel of some of my Sony video cameras. That, and the fact that it had a terribly small focus throw for a camera that needs just the opposite. I used to put it on a rail because of that. And lastly, for my work (in the forests with mottled light), I seemed to me to not do well in those conditions. It was not thought through well-enough when it was designed, IMO.

The Leica Emarit-R 100mm APO, which I converted to Nikon, is well corrected, as are a number of enlarger/industrial lenses from Nikon like the El Nikkor 105mm APO and the Printing Nikkors. I got rid of my Nikon macro lenses, except for the 60mm Micro and the PC-E 45mm long ago. They lacked correction.

Same with the earlier Zeiss 100mm and 50mm Makro-Planars. They are sharp enough, but just are not corrected well enough for my eyes. I believe some Zeiss have just been repackaged in a new wrapper, but are the same old uncorrected lens designs. Go figure.

The Zeiss Otus 55mm, 85mm, and 135mm (APO as far as I am concerned), and hopefully the new 28mm APO (on order) are the best I have ever used and they are not even macro or close up lenses. I have to put the tiniest extension on them (5.8mm) to get what I need sometimes.

Thatís my take. I figured out years ago that a sharp lens was considered sharp not just because of resolution or acutance, but also because of a high level of correction. Without it, except for specialty lenses, I seldom use anything but real APO lenses anymore.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 01:47:07 pm by Michael Erlewine »
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bjanes

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2016, 01:48:01 pm »

There is no standard for APO (apochromatic) and many companies take advantage of it, which is foolish on their part, unless they donít know better. Companies like Voigtlander, Coastal Optics, Leica, Nikon industrials (some), and of course (recently) Zeiss have what I feel are actual APO lenses.

Same with the earlier Zeiss 100mm and 50mm Makro-Planars. They are sharp enough, but just are not corrected well enough for my eyes. I believe some Zeiss have just been repackaged in a new wrapper, but are the same old uncorrected lens designs. Go figure.

The Zeiss Otus 55mm, 85mm, and 135mm (APO as far as I am concerned), and hopefully the new 28mm APO (on order) are the best I have ever used and they are not even macro or close up lenses. I have to put the tiniest extension on them (5.8mm) to get what I need sometimes.

Thatís my take. I figured out years ago that a sharp lens was considered sharp not just because of resolution or acutance, but also because of a high level of correction. Without it, except for specialty lenses, I seldom use anything but real APO lenses anymore.

Michael,

Thanks for sharing your vast experience. I have the Zeiss 135 apo and am very happy with it, but I don't see a marked difference from my Sigma 180. The Zeiss focuses to 1:4 and is useful for some flower shots. Your suggestion of 5.8 mm of extension sounds good. What rings to you use? I don't know if it corrected for short shooting distances. Sigma calls the 180 macro apochromatic, but I am doubtful as they use the term very loosely for their consumer grade zoom lenses. I don't think that I am as discriminating as you and if you get the chance to use the Sigma please post the findings on your web site.

Regards,

Bill
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2016, 01:53:55 pm »

I have the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 1:1 macro no-IS/VR manual focus lens, and I love it for what it is best at - relatively static shots at a medium distance - it is handholdable under certain circumstances at 1/125 or faster, I shoot in burst mode and usually one of the shots is free of motion artifact at 100%.

I remember when Michael's article first came out, both of us were interested in this lens :)

However, I went with the Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO, because it simply does so much more than the elder lens, with (I would wager, given its stats) equal-level optics.



It is a true APO and the resolution is very good. It is a very good lens for traveling light, a lens to take on a 5 or 10 mile wildflower hike (typical complement is the 6D,  125mm V macro, and for possible landscape the 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens, which is darn good stopped down and a decent lens to use for pano, plus my 3 pound tripod/head, polarizer, wired shutter releases, pop-up reflector, and hiking necessaries).

I am not sure the Sigma is a "true APO" (whatever that means, if there's no standardized definition), but it is labeled as such ... and has rave reviews from all who have actually put their hands on it.

However, I cannot say I "travel light" with it, given its weight of 3.6 lb (although it feels like a toy compared to the Sigma 150-600, which weighs 6.3 lb :o).

But I don't mind, as it's clamped on my RRS tripod, and slung over my shoulder, and when it comes to shooting time the tripod is carrying the weight, so I just get to enjoy the reach, the excellent optics, plus the modern amenities.



Some insects can benefit from more distance, and the 180 is a great focal length.

Agreed. Some insects. The occasional, unafraid bird, etc.



180mm is sometimes inconvenient for plant and fungus photography due to the need to sweep intervening stems/leaves out of the way.

True ... or very low-to-the-ground, tiny flowers if you're trying to get an upward perspective.



The Voigtlander optics are so far superior to the old Canon 180 that my 180 leaves home mostly for snake and butterfly expeditions.

Sadly, if you look at the LenScore stats, every modern macro lens is "far superior" to the old Canon 180 :(



I slap the 1.4x teleconverter on the 180 for snakes when I expect to be finding timber rattlesnakes or (always grumpy) cottonmouths, distance is good when you are observing venomous snakes. I will take the slight optical degradation of a teleconverter over the possibility of upsetting the snake.

Bah, you don't need an extender on a 180mm to photograph snakes. I took this photo of a pygmy rattler with the 100mm f/2.8L, from about 18" away ;D



Snakes can only strike maybe 1/3rd their body length, and US pit vipers have to coil to strike.

From a coiled position, it is quite easy to stay well out of their striking range and take a photo of them.

Cheers,

Jack
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #23 on: January 08, 2016, 01:58:18 pm »

Michael,

Thanks for sharing your vast experience. I have the Zeiss 135 apo and am very happy with it, but I don't see a marked difference from my Sigma 180. The Zeiss focuses to 1:4 and is useful for some flower shots. Your suggestion of 5.8 mm of extension sounds good. What rings to you use? I don't know if it corrected for short shooting distances. Sigma calls the 180 macro apochromatic, but I am doubtful as they use the term very loosely for their consumer grade zoom lenses. I don't think that I am as discriminating as you and if you get the chance to use the Sigma please post the findings on your web site.

Regards,

Bill

I didn't choose to buy the Sigma 180, for some of the reason you mentioned. I would be surprised if that lens is comparable to the Zeiss 135mm APO. I might pick up one sometime, but not sure about that. I don't use extension on the Zeiss 135mm. It does not take it well. I use it on the Otus 55mm, the Nikon K-1 ring, which is 5.8mm.
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #24 on: January 08, 2016, 02:01:37 pm »

In my work, the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar is the single best all-round macro lens IMO, UNTIL the advent of the Zeiss Otus-type APO, lenses, which are not macro or close-up lenses, but they are so good that I make them work that way, as much as possible.
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2016, 02:12:43 pm »

From all tests I have seen , the Sigma macros are very good, among the best lenses.

Here is a list of the ten best lenses: http://www.objektivtest.se/nyheter/tio-av-varldens-skarpaste-objektiv/

What makes that list a bit interesting is that the lens tests were done at Hasselblad by the guy who is in charge of Hasselblad's lens design using Hasselblad's testing bench.

Best regards
Erik


Michael,

Thanks for sharing your vast experience. I have the Zeiss 135 apo and am very happy with it, but I don't see a marked difference from my Sigma 180. The Zeiss focuses to 1:4 and is useful for some flower shots. Your suggestion of 5.8 mm of extension sounds good. What rings to you use? I don't know if it corrected for short shooting distances. Sigma calls the 180 macro apochromatic, but I am doubtful as they use the term very loosely for their consumer grade zoom lenses. I don't think that I am as discriminating as you and if you get the chance to use the Sigma please post the findings on your web site.

Regards,

Bill
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2016, 02:25:56 pm »

I would be surprised if that lens is comparable to the Zeiss 135mm APO. I might pick up one sometime, but not sure about that.

According to LenScore, you are correct, from the perspective of well-controlled evaluation:

  • Resolving Power:
    1. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2.0/135 - 1274
    2. Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro - 1078
  • Bokeh:
    1. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2.0/135 - 1359
    2. Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro - 1050
  • Color:
    1. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2.0/135 - 973
    2. Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro - 964
  • Contrast:
    1. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2.0/135 - 1207
    2. Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro - 1017
Keep in mind, that a score of 1,000 is exemplary.

Keep in mind, you're not talking about a macro lens anymore either.

That said, when hiking the mountains, fields, or desert for wildlife (which is the subject of the post, as a totally different animal from studio photography), the limited reach, exaggerated M-focus-rotation becomes a hindrance in many settings, would often render these extreme resolution figures quite a bit less IMO.

On stationary targets, however, (that don't require 1:1), the Zeiss looks like a wonderful tool.

But, here again, it is not a macro lens and doesn't go 1:1.

If you slap extension tubes on the Zeiss, to make it a "macro" (again, to qualify it for the the thread topic), my bet is its figures would drop below what the Sigma 180 APO is by itself.

And it doesn't have the reach, the IS, the AF, or the weather sealing either.

Jack
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2016, 02:45:06 pm »

LOL. The wonderful thing about the Internet is that you can find proof for whatever you want there. About the best we can do is say what works best for the particular work we do. Sigma is doing better recently with their lenses. That's for sure. I have their 24mm ART lens, and I like it pretty good. Of course, after I receive my Otus 28mm, I probably will sell it. I have, relatively speaking, a lot of lenses and I use them. There are all kinds of ways of testing lenses, but the one I like best is me testing a lens on the work I do. For that work, I find the Otus Series at the top of the list. I find that I can do something with almost any lens you hand me, but left to my own devices, which mostly I am, I end up using the ones I mentioned, the Otus lenses and an array of industrial and enlarger lenses. And that is just the lens. How about composition, and taste. Hmmm.

Right now I am exploring what I call "Painterly" lenses, and a genre that over on NikonGear.com has been called "Lens Painting" or "Painting with Lenses." We are looking at the old Biotars, Zenits, Helios, Trioplans, and things like that, none of which are APO.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 02:48:17 pm by Michael Erlewine »
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2016, 02:49:00 pm »

In my work, the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar is the single best all-round macro lens IMO, UNTIL the advent of the Zeiss Otus-type APO, lenses, which are not macro or close-up lenses, but they are so good that I make them work that way, as much as possible.

As my original, leading thread post said ... back in the beginning ... I am sure this is true.

You wrote a wonderful article, extolling its virtues. Same with the Otus. (Again, for studio photography and ideal/static conditions).

However, is the Voigtlander 125mm (or Otus) "the best" macro tool to track a flighty Pepsis wasp on the ground (moving/darting-in, flying-off again), with the ability to take advantage of AI servo mode? Does it have a focus-limiter switch? Is it as flexible a tool for the ever-changing realities (and sometimes very fleeting opportunities) of hiking in the woods?

Mmm, not so much I think ...

Which is why I created my own blog post, ranking macro lenses in terms of being well-rounded, versatile tools for hiking/nature photography. Which I still believe is quite a bit different from the perspective you wrote from (extreme, quality optics only ... for static, very well-controlled circumstances).

Realizing that we all have different styles/interests, I placed a table of factual statistics (resolution/bokeh ... reach, price, weight ... working distance, etc.) so that each reader would think and apply the statistics to best suit their own unique needs.

For example, if a person wants to do 1-5x:1 truly close macros, none of these lenses are "the best," the MPE-65mm is, etc.

Thanks again for all the wonderful information.
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #29 on: January 08, 2016, 02:51:23 pm »

About the best we can do is say what works best for the particular work we do.

And that is exactly the point of my article ... for those who actually waded through it ;D
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bjanes

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #30 on: January 08, 2016, 03:07:23 pm »

I didn't choose to buy the Sigma 180, for some of the reason you mentioned. I would be surprised if that lens is comparable to the Zeiss 135mm APO. I might pick up one sometime, but not sure about that. I don't use extension on the Zeiss 135mm. It does not take it well. I use it on the Otus 55mm, the Nikon K-1 ring, which is 5.8mm.

Michael.

The Lenscore results for chromatic aberration show that the Sigma 180 f/2.8 macro is not a true apochromat. The reference lens is the Nikon 85 mm f/1.4, which is well regarded but definitely not apochromatic.

Regards,

Bill
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NancyP

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #31 on: January 08, 2016, 03:25:47 pm »

Macro lenses have always been high resolution designs. Even the oldest designs are relatively good - I have given my old AIS MicroNikkor  55 f/3.5 (1:2) and a Mamiya-Sekor 60mm f/2.8 (1:1, with preset aperture, for those who remember such stuff) a try and they are really rather decent aside from the bokeh (5 and 6 straight blade diaphragms - very odd), given that they are almost 50 years old relics from the manual film camera era. The latest computer-aided designs blow the older designs out of the water.

We are indeed fortunate to have such a choice. And I may get the Sigma sometime, as an insect/critter macro lens. Can you really get useful image stabilization at 1:3 to 1:2 range with the Sigma?
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #32 on: January 08, 2016, 03:36:55 pm »

It is all well and good. Recently I have been getting more into the special character of lenses, regardless of how apochromatic they are. A good example is the CRT-Nikkor-O lens, which technically has all kinds of things wrong with it, but it has a special character that is all its own. I use that because it is an easy example that anyone can see for themselves. Some of the best APO lenses (like the Printing Nikkors) are very corrected, but like some cooking, they don't have much spice in them. I don't want to insult these fine lenses (of which I have three), but they are a little "clinical." They do not have a wild hair up their butt.

Now the El Nikkor 105mm APO is very well corrected, but it has a certain kind of draw or character to it that is unmistakable, and delightful. And we could go right on down the line, lens by lens. Your favorites, and my own, may differ. These years I am no longer pursuing critters. I got tired of that and also am getting older. And what I call (to myself) "Gotcha!" photography, sneaking up on a bug is not so interesting to me as it once was. For that kind of close work, I would use a lens with auto-focus, like the Micro-Nikkor 105mm VR, for capturing honeybees in flight.

I am now building a technical camera based on the Rollei X-Act 2 Bellows systems, because I want to explore "swing." I have several tilt and shift cameras, but none of them "swing." The lenses for that rig will be enlarger-like lenses, a world I am learning about.

What I would like to see in a thread like this, one day, where people like ourselves show off the special character of a particular lens, so the rest of us can see and appreciate it. It can be done, but we really have to know a lens to do that.


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bjanes

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #33 on: January 08, 2016, 03:43:14 pm »

Macro lenses have always been high resolution designs. Even the oldest designs are relatively good - I have given my old AIS MicroNikkor  55 f/3.5 (1:2) and a Mamiya-Sekor 60mm f/2.8 (1:1, with preset aperture, for those who remember such stuff) a try and they are really rather decent aside from the bokeh (5 and 6 straight blade diaphragms - very odd), given that they are almost 50 years old relics from the manual film camera era. The latest computer-aided designs blow the older designs out of the water.

We are indeed fortunate to have such a choice. And I may get the Sigma sometime, as an insect/critter macro lens. Can you really get useful image stabilization at 1:3 to 1:2 range with the Sigma?

Nancy,

I always enjoy reading your posts. I like the Sigma 180 very much, but I don't think you would enjoy taking it on a backpacking expedition.
If you consider getting it, I would suggest that you try it out first.

Sincerely,

Bill (fellow pathologist, retired)
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #34 on: January 08, 2016, 03:50:50 pm »

Michael.
The Lenscore results for chromatic aberration show that the Sigma 180 f/2.8 macro is not a true apochromat. The reference lens is the Nikon 85 mm f/1.4, which is well regarded but definitely not apochromatic.
Regards,
Bill

As there is no solid, universally-accepted definition of an APO lens, how can any lens "definitely" be called APO? :o

It seems the general rule is they have "better correction of chromatic and spherical aberration," but this begs the question, how do we define "better?"

For example, the Canon EF 200mm f/2.0L IS USM blows the Zeiss 135 "APO" out of the water here:

  • LaCA:
    1. Canon EF 200mm f/2.0L IS USM - 1412
    2. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2.0/135 - 1179
  • LoCA:
    1. Canon EF 200mm f/2.0L IS USM - 1766
    2. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2.0/135 - 1389
But the Canon is not an APO, but the Zeiss is :-\

In the end, I agree with Michael.

It's not just all about the specs, it's about the sum total of the strengths/weaknesses of the lens ... and stacking them in favor of your style of photography.

For example, the absolute resolution of the finest lens is a meaningless term if you hand hold and have to MF quickly.
("Above average" resolution can bring a sharper image with impeccable technique, remote switch, etc.)

Having "a higher bokeh" rating is meaningless, if you can't get close enough to nail the shot, and angle the camera to isolate the best background point. Etc.

With that said, the reason why I rated the Sigma 180 the best wildlife macro lens was 1) for my style of photography, and 2) because for nature photography it is the only macro lens with no weaknesses (other than weight).

It ranks at, above, or very near the "impeccable" 1000 mark in just about everything.

And it has nothing missing, no modern convenience left out.

Jack
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 03:53:54 pm by John Koerner »
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #35 on: January 08, 2016, 03:58:32 pm »


And it has nothing missing, no modern convenience left out.



What is the focus throw of the lens?
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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #36 on: January 08, 2016, 04:58:21 pm »

What is the focus throw of the lens?

270į

All of this is on the chart in the blog post: it's the maximum any macro lens (with AF) has.

The Canon 100L only has 180į ... nice for AF exclusively, but horrible for MF.

270į of focus-turning, from 0-to-infinity is an ideal compromise between having good control of the manual focus, when you want to be precise, and yet allowing for Auto-Focus to take over when you really need to get the shot fast.
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #37 on: January 08, 2016, 05:24:28 pm »

On the Sigma 180 Macro, there are two versions, right? What is the difference between the two. As for the lens itself, is the old one as good as the newer one?
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 05:48:45 pm by Michael Erlewine »
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bjanes

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #38 on: January 08, 2016, 05:53:36 pm »

As there is no solid, universally-accepted definition of an APO lens, how can any lens "definitely" be called APO? :o

It seems the general rule is they have "better correction of chromatic and spherical aberration," but this begs the question, how do we define "better?"

For example, the Canon EF 200mm f/2.0L IS USM blows the Zeiss 135 "APO" out of the water here:

  • LaCA:
    1. Canon EF 200mm f/2.0L IS USM - 1412
    2. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2.0/135 - 1179
  • LoCA:
    1. Canon EF 200mm f/2.0L IS USM - 1766
    2. Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2.0/135 - 1389
But the Canon is not an APO, but the Zeiss is :-\

In the end, I agree with Michael.

It's not just all about the specs, it's about the sum total of the strengths/weaknesses of the lens ... and stacking them in favor of your style of photography.

The term apochromatic is not strictly defined as discussed here (article dealing mainly with telescope lenses). A starting point is Abbe's original defintion:

Abbe's definition of apochromatism was the following. Apochromat: an
objective corrected parfocally for three widely spaced wavelengths and
corrected for spherical aberration and coma for two widely separated
wavelengths.


In retrospect, I don't we can use the LoCA and LatCA values from LensScore to judge if a lens is apochromatic. They do not state how many wavelengths they have measured and the CA values do not take spherical aberration into account.

The original apochromats were microscopic objectives made by Carl Zeiss and these used fluorite (a very low dispersion medium) and Abbe worked for Zeiss. Many current camera lenses use fluorite or extra low dispersion glass to reduce chromatic aberration and spherical elements reduce spherical aberration. The Canon lens that you cite uses ultra low dispersion glass as disclosed here. Many current lens makers appear to use the term apochromatic for marketing purposes, knowing that they can get away with it due to the lack of a uniform definition of apochromatic.

I think Zeiss uses the term apochromatic in the more strict sense--after all they invented the term. Among the leading optical companies Nikon, Olympus, Zeiss and Leitz (the microscope division of Leitz is now separate from the camera division) make microscope lenses in three main quality designations: achromatic, fluorite (semi-apochromatic) and apochromatic and these categories are well accepted, and the apochromats are highly prized for critical work. Apo is not used for marketing and an apochromatic designation for a microscope lens indicates the highest correction. With Zeiss photographic lenses, an apo designation is also meaningful.

I agree with you and Michael that there are trade-offs among the desirable properties of the ideal lens, and one should choose the lens most suitable for the intended purpose.

Regards,

Bill

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John Koerner

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Re: Macro Lens Comparison
« Reply #39 on: January 08, 2016, 06:08:40 pm »

On the Sigma 180 Macro, there are two versions, right? What is the difference between the two. As for the lens itself, is the old one as good as the newer one?

There is an elder Sigma 150 mm which is a good, but not super lens.

It's the Sigma 180 f/2.8 APO which is getting across-the-board reviews as the superb lens.
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