80mm Mk II — First Impressions and Image Tests

The Schneider Kreuznach 80mm f/2.8 LS Blue Ring lens has been the best-selling Phase One XF lens since its release, and for good reason. With a natural angle of view, robust depth of field control, competitive pricing, and high image quality with a relatively simple optical formula, the 80mm found a home in nearly every Phase One photographer’s kit.

The lens was released in 2009 when 60MP backs in the Phase One P+ series were the top of the line, but as with all Phase One lenses, it was designed with higher resolution sensors in mind. When the IQ series of digital backs brought out 80MP, 100MP, and eventually 150MP sensors, the 80mm lens was still an able contender, but its decade-old design was beginning to show its age. It was time for an upgrade with the new 80mm Mk II lens!

First Impressions and Handling

The updated lens is slightly longer and about a pound heavier than the original, with roughly the same form factor as the 110mm lens. The extra length of the lens affords a more generous focus ring, but the AF/MF control remains on the same clockwise/counterclockwise twist ring, as opposed to the push/pull mechanism of the larger Blue Ring lenses. Balanced on the XF, there aren’t really any noticeable differences in system ergonomics and general handling between the two lenses. The front element is slightly larger, but the filter thread is still the same 72mm diameter, so you won’t need to purchase any new filters or step-up rings. 

Autofocus accuracy and speed are also identical, but thanks to Feature Update 8, the lag time between your shutter press and capture (particularly at speeds above 1/125th of a second) has been significantly reduced, which makes the XF feel like an all-new camera — this applies to all lenses. Let’s get to the good stuff though: image quality.

Points of Comparison

As I’ve mentioned several times already, the original 80mm lens is a well-proven design, with strong center sharpness and great performance when stopped down. However, the two areas where it struggled were corner sharpness and chromatic aberration control, particularly when shot wide open. These are the primary points I tested. Let’s take a look first at corner sharpness. First off, here’s the overall scene, shot on the IQ4 150MP:

 

Now let’s take a look at the 100% crop at f/2.8:

  • Before-Corner Comparison
    After-Corner Comparison
    Original 80mm Corner Comparison 80mm Mk II

The difference is immediately obvious. The 80mm Mk II lens is markedly sharper than the original 80mm lens wide open. By f/8, the corner sharpness is much closer:

  • Before-Corner Comparison
    After-Corner Comparison
    Mark I Corner Comparison Mark II

The 80mm Mk II has slightly better contrast, but the difference is relatively small. Chromatic aberration is also controlled much more effectively, though this is to be expected at smaller apertures.

Long story short, the classic 80mm Blue Ring lens is an excellent value and strong performer when stopped down, but the new 80mm Mk II far outperforms the old lens wide open, in both sharpness and CA control.

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