An interesting sidelight to a Fujifilm product announcement

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An interesting sidelight to a Fujifilm product announcement
7 months ago

Fujifilm's recent announcement of the XF23 mm f/1.4 interchangeable lens for X-series bodies is more poignant for the Fujifilm X-System/SLR forum than this one, but it contains a tidbit that may (or may not) have relevance for the future of the rest of the Fujifilm cameras.

The coating of the surfaces of glass elements in camera lenses to decrease reflections from the surface and increase transmittance has been around since the 1930s, I think, and after the end of WWII, several lens makers quietly started multi-coating some surfaces to give a wider range of transmittance. In the late 1960s or early 1970s, Asahi Optical (the creator and maker of Pentax cameras at the time) launched a major advertising campaign touting its SMC ("super multi-coated") Takumar lenses, which featured a seven-layer surface coating process, and a multi-coating arms race was on, with every lens maker claiming that its version of multi-coating was the best. For instance, the Asahi Optical SMC coating was optimized for maximum light transmittance, so Asahi emphasized that parameter, while Canon tailored its coatings according the inherent caste of the glasses used in the lenses, sort of a subtle color filter, so that the Canon lenses would have a uniform look across the Canon line; Canon accordingly called its multic-coating process SSC, for "Super Spectra Coating."

Somewhere on the sidelines of that war was Fuji Photo Film, the predecessor of Fujifilm; Fuji did not advertise to consumers to the extent that Canon and Pentax did, and news of its Fujica cameras was all but drowned out by the noise of advertising from Canon, Pentax, and Nikon (all based in Kanto), Minolta (based in Kansai), and Konica (based in Nagoya), then known as the Big 5.

But Fuji had developed the Fujinon lenses that were used on the television cameras in the venues for the 1964 Olympics, and as part of that development, Fuji devised a newer and better way to apply coatings to lens surfaces. Instead of vapor deposition, where the lenses were placed in a chamber where the coating materials were heated to form a hot gas that got deposited onto the lens surfaces, Fuji applied the coatings with an electron beam in a manner similar to the way a picture is "painted" in a cathode-ray television screen.  Fuji called the process Electron Beam Coating, or EBC.

EBC provided two advantages over vapor deposition: it allowed materials that were unsuited to vapor deposition (difficult to transform to a gaseous state) to be applied to the lens surfaces, and it allowed the coatings to be applied in thinner layers than vapor deposition achieved. The practical limit for vapor deposited coatings had proved to be about seven layers, which is what the Asahi SMC process used, but even some of the earliest EBC Fujinon lenses had as many as eleven, thinner, layers on a single surface. Among the major lens makers, Fujinon lenses generally had the highest light transmittance (and lowest internal reflection rates) across the board.

Fuji protected its EBC process both with patents and trade secrets, and continued to improve on the process, and at some point Fuji determined that it had made a sufficient quantity of improvements that it called the process Super EBC. Most of the Fujinon lenses on current Fujifilm cameras are designated as Super EBC Fujinons.

Then, toward the end of 2012, about the same time that Fujifilm introduced a successor to the X10 camera in the X20, which has a Super EBC Fujinon lens, Fujifilm introduced the XF1, which, instead of a Super EBC Fujinon lens, has a High-Transmittance EBC (or HT-EBC) Fujinon lens. On the Fujifilm product page for the XF1, Fujifilm describes HT-EBC thus:

High Transmittance EBC (Electron Beam Coating) is FUJINON's unique wide-band technology developed for FUJINON broadcast-use lenses. The XF1 is the first compact camera to use the High Transmittance EBC for double sides of all glass lenses. Because highly refractive glass bends light rays more sharply than conventional optical glass, it creates greater potential for reflections which can cause ghosting and flare. HT-EBC technology effectively minimizes this stray light, assuring sharp, clear images under even the most demanding conditions.

http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/x/fujifilm_xf1/features/page_02.html

And now the XF23 mm f/1.4 lens announced for the interchangeable lens X-Series cameras has been announced to have, not a SuperEBC, but rather a HT-EBC, treatment.

Is this significant?

I invite comments.

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