It's a big lens! It's pricey! And it's beautiful!
Phase One has announced the Schneider Kreuznach 40-80mm f/4.0-5.6 leaf shutter zoom lens, the second zoom lens designed for the Phase One 645 camera platform, joining the Schneider Kreuznach 75-150mm f/4.0-5.6.
"Designing a zoom lens with excellent optical qualities throughout the zoom range is always a challenge," said Senior Product Manager Espen Beck, Phase One. "When the zoom range goes from a fairly wide-angle perspective to a normal perspective, as our new lens does, this only adds to the design complexity. This lens has 15 optical elements, two of which are aspherical, arranged in 11 groups. We have invested greater design and engineering resources into this lens than any of those before it and we are very proud of the results. I think that this lens will be a perfect companion for on-location photographers."
The idea of a zoom lens replacing two or three other lenses is appealing, but going on location usually carries with it some weight restrictions. The 40-80mm weighs 1860 g, so it's no lightweight, but then again, nothing is for medium format!
The prime lenses in the Phase One range that have comparable focal lengths are the 35mm at 480 g, the 45mm at 492 g, the 55mm at 660 g and the 80mm is 500 g, a total of 2132 g. So, yes, if you're replacing these four lenses with the new 40-80mm, your camera bag will indeed be lighter!
Of course, having a zoom lens means being able to reframe and respond to your subject without annoying lens changes. There are definite advantages in a zoom design.
The real question is how does the lens perform. I had the opportunity to give the f4 lens a trial and, like most lenses, best performance doesn't happen wide-open. However, you don't have to close the aperture down much before the image quality snaps from great into 'simply amazing' mode. At f5.6 and at both ends of the zoom range, the new 40-80mm delivers the superlative results you'd expect from a Schneider lens. This is one sharp puppy!
To read more about the Phase One 40-80mm zoom, visit the L&P Digital Photographic website at http://www.lapfoto.com.au/products_view.cfm?ProductID=410