The Schneider Kreuznach 55LS – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

 In Brad Kaye, News, Phase One, Phase One Lenses, Phase One XF

If I’m shooting commercially, I shoot the 55LS basically every time for at least a portion of my shoot.

Phase One Schneider Kreuznach 55mm LS (shot on 55LS)

Love / Hate is a bit too strong of a term for my relationship with this lens… it’s more like love / ‘meh.’  Working with this lens requires you to know its strengths and its weaknesses so you don’t find yourself let down when you’re finally getting a good look at your images at 1:1 in Capture One. 

The Good:

  • I love that it has a small footprint, only slightly larger than the 80LS, which allows me to keep it in my kit whenever I’m shooting without it being a burden.  It’s just always there. 
  • With a full frame medium format sensor, the 55LS gives me 34mm of view in 35mm equivalent, which to me is a fantastic view of subjects.  Product images feel like you can hold it in your hand, room details make you feel like you’re standing in front of that object, humans feel like they’re standing just over from you in the room. 
Recently shot, no crop. Image Currently Embargoed until campaign release
Recently shot, no crop. Image Currently Embargoed until campaign release
  • The 55LS is nearly the closest focusing lens in the Schneider Kreuznach lineup short of the 120mm Macro and can work with subjects only 1.47′ away.  (The 28mm can actually focus shorter at 1.15ft, but optically that lens has had really limited use beyond 60 megapixel capture)  Very often, this lens is the primary lens in my shoot, anytime I want to shoot and create the feel that the observer is relatively close to the subject of the image. 
Box Hero shot on 55LS, pushed into minimum focus distance and stacked with 15 frames

• As with all LS lenses, the LS shutters provide a HUGE strength for controlling available light, allowing even your battery powered strobes to mitigate the power of the sun.

The Bad:

  • f-STOP! – I’ve never known why this lens opens to f2.8, because for the duration I’ve shot it, in any circumstance, the 55LS fails miserably to render well between f2.8 and f4.  Think Barbara Walters.  It’s not only lacking critical focus, but the effect is downright starry.  On 100 megapixel capture, moving to f4.5 resolved any issue, but on IQ4-150, I won’t shoot that lens short of f5.6.  

The Ugly (not so ugly):

  • Soft Around the Edges – The new designs of the 35LS and 45LS show perfect optical fidelity from the center of the frame out to the very corners.  Not so much with the 55LS.  Edge rendering is not so great, so I’d never want to shoot the lens architecturally as a primary optic, but I carry it to every architectural shoot, for vignettes on detail objects in the scene that I’ve already captured as a whole on my technical camera.  When the focus is on the center of the scene, the slight vignette of de-focus around the edges is actually quite nice.

This lens is sorta like the Little Engine that Could. Not terribly big, and if you don’t care about AFr (autofocus and recompose) non-Blue Ring versions of this lens can be found on the inexpensive side, right in Capture Integration’s inventory. I think this is a necessary optic in any Phase shooter’s kit. – BK

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