Schneider Optics Cine-Digitar 1.33X
Anamorphic Lens

Evan Powell, February 5, 2007


We have not said much about anamorphic lenses on ProjectorCentral in the past. It isn't that we don't like the concept-the theory is great. They can transform a 4:3 projector into a 16:9, and they can stretch the image of a 16:9 projector into super-widescreen Cinemascope 2.35. So there isn't anything to object to in concept.

Unfortunately, the fact is we've never been happy with the optical performance of the anamorphic lenses we have tested. They can produce vignetting (severe dimming on the corners of the image). They can impart pin cushion, barrel, or concave geometric distortions. And even if they manage to avoid those flaws, they can still introduce a subtle oily texture to the image that makes it look like you are viewing the image through an optically impure window, which essentially you are. These are optical flaws that we'd never want to live with ourselves, so despite the growing enthusiasm for the widescreen Cinemascope 2.35 format, we've been hesitant to promote the use of anamorphic lenses for home theater.

However, last week we lit up a projector with the Schneider Optics Cine-Digitar 1.33X anamorphic lens, and the truth changed. Simply put, this is by far the best anamorphic lens we've yet seen and the first one we'd gladly install for use in our own home theater. There is no hint of vignette effects, and geometric distortion is for all practical purposes non-existent. But most importantly, this lens is optically perfect. There is not the slightest trace of oily effects. The image on screen is as natural, clear and precise as you'd ever want. The Cine-Digitar 1.33X enhances the performance of the projector without doing anything to get in its way.

I guess I should not be surprised. I've done a lot of large format photography over the last twenty years, and photographers who work in large format recognize Schneider Optics as one of the world's elite makers of precision optics for large format cameras. Their lenses are expensive, yes, but you get what you pay for. I use Schneider lenses exclusively on my Linhof camera for the simple reason that if I am going to get out of bed long before dawn and hike into the sand dunes of Death Valley to set up for an image at sunrise, the last thing I want is sub-optimal lenses in my pack.

Despite knowing Schneider's reputation, I still had some doubts that anyone could make an optically precise anamorphic lens that was within reach of the home theater consumer. This one surely delivers, but it is not cheap-list price is a bit over $6,000. So it is not the type of accessory you'd normally think about adding to your $2,000 projector. But it is definitely worth adding to one of the new 1080p projectors if you are serious about top quality widescreen Cinemascope 2.35 format in your home theater.

Keep in mind that in order for an anamorphic lens to work on a 16:9 projector, the projector needs to be able to horizontally squeeze a 2.35 movie into its native 16:9 display, so that the anamorphic lens can subsequently unsqueeze it and stretch it out to its proper aspect ratio. Not all projectors have this feature. If yours doesn't, you will need an external video processor to get it working.

Now I must cut this short, as I am suddenly quite motivated to go out shopping for a 2.35 format screen. To be honest, I didn't think I'd ever want one until now.


Reader Comments(18 comments)

Posted Apr 15, 2011 9:00:29 AM

By Александр

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See Google translation to English below: Такая оптика необходима,тк матриц формата 2.35 нет,и приходится подгонять,но в России купить это невозможно а если есть-то цены очень большие,а настоящее кино именно 2.35 без полос,на сайте Epson сказано,что проекторы эти могут растягивать картинку по вертикали.Про Sanyo не известно,может через сервисное меню можно...Почему никто не продает эту оптику- непонятно...

Such optics needed mk matrix format, 2.35 is not, and must be customized, but in Russia it is impossible to buy and if there is a very big price, but the present film is 2.35 without stripes on the Epson web site says that these projectors can stretch the image vertically . About Sanyo is not known, may, through the service menu you can ... Why is not anyone selling this optical-clear ...

Posted Apr 22, 2010 3:48:23 PM

By Michael Kok

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Would like to know if this lens is compatible to my JVc Dlia RS10 model? Thank you

Posted Feb 20, 2010 8:11:20 PM

By Narayana Murthy

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i want to buy anamorpic lence for my optoma hd-86 please advice me sutable lence and where to buy

Posted Mar 30, 2009 4:06:09 PM

By Michael Kok

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Can anyone out there help? i bought a panamorph anamorphic lens and i want to know if this lens is CIH or not? And has anyone here used this before? Thanks.

Posted Mar 29, 2009 2:13:11 AM

By Peter

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Having acquired the Schneider lens is the best thing that have happened to my homecinema for years! I can't recommend it highly enough. It is an entirely different experience viewing the movie in its right proportions compared to 2.35 on a 16:9 screen. My smile is as broad as my screen.

Posted Apr 10, 2007 8:10:39 AM

By techht

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Schneider is working on a compatibility list for the lens, but I'd like to know which projector and throw Evan used as well. I've tried my dealer demo lens with a IF777 at 1.8 throw and that just barely won't make it without vignetting. As soon as Schneider gets the compatibility list ready, I'll post it on my website (www.techht.com). There are a few photos of the current Schneider there, too. Schneider is making a "medium sized" 1.33 lens as well, they tell me it will be between tthe current Cine-Digitar and the Isco III. I really like my Isco III but a slightly smaller lens woudl be welcome.

Cheers, Scott

Posted Feb 21, 2007 5:04:52 PM

By BR928S4

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I own two Panamorph anamorphic lens and have been using them for years. I put my first one on an InFocus X1 and the second on a Philips BCool XG1. Both are 4:3 format projectors. I have been very happy with the results over the years. I learned of these lenes on Projector Central and followed a link there to their website. At $995.00 they are in the price range of more HT enthusiast. I would like to see a review of this lens compaired to the Schneider. How about it Evan? Does this lens exhbit the problems you refer to in your article? I would expect to see a difference at 1/6 the cost, but how much? Would the improvement outweigh the flaws? My next projector will be a 16:9 format and would love to use this lens to convert to 2.35:1 to utilize all those unused pixels when watching movies.

Posted Feb 13, 2007 2:57:35 PM

By Aussie Bob

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AV_Integrated makes some reasonable and interesting points, well worth discussing. So forgive this long post.

Setting up: ---------- True, "[t]he actual requirements necessary to properly implement CIH screens is not straightforward at all." But I'm not arguing that 2.35CH is appropriate for everyone, especially newbies to front projection. In choosing my projectors (Panasonic models) over the past few years I've made sure that they have suitable zoom functionality for 2.35. It's kinda the same as buying a car. If you want a car for a family of five, there's no point buying a Honda Civic. You have to do the research. Once done, that part of the exercise can be ruled off.

Light output: ------------ When watching a 2.35 movie through an anamorphic lens you actually achieve a comparative light *gain*. In considering comparative brightness you have to compare the anamorphic method against the alternative method. Pre-zooming the picture for anamorphic projection means you start off with a smaller height than with the "traditional" technique (as only the width will be expanded). This results in an immediate brightening of the (now smaller) image, by a theoretical factor of 78% (4/3-squared under the inverse square rule). The digital zoom you then need to do does not alter this (as it's digital, not optical). The subsequent optical anamorphic expansion loses some of this, of course (a theoretical 25% - see next paragraph), but not all of it, as the expansion is in only one dimension. The theoretical starting point is a 133% brighter picture compared to the traditional technique. A few per cent drop off for internal reflections inside the anamorphic lens, and some f/stop loss due to inefficient zoom lens design as you reduce the image dimensions (most projector zoom lenses are like this). The end result is about 120% brighter, using more pixels, hence less "granularity" in the image.

16:9 - Anamorphed or Direct?: ---------------------------- As you correctly point out a 16:9 image formed for 4/3 and then optically expanded to 16:9 through the anamorph is dimmer, but not by 33%. The actual difference is 25% (at least theoretically), as the new picture is 1.33 units wide compared to the old picture being 1 units wide (whatever the units are). That is a ratio of 1/1.33 (original/expanded),3/4, 75%, or a 25% drop. The image size is increased by one-third, but the *ratio between the areas* of original and new sizes is 3/4, and that is what determines brightness. Add in light loss through the anamorphic lens and you reach about -28%. Then add a light *increase* by using the high power light setting of +20% and you have my figure of "<25%" light loss.

But there's a more salient point to be made about this. The anamorphed 16:9 picture is *just as bright* as the anamorphed 2.35:1 picture. So, if you're prepared to go with the brightness level of the 2.35 picture, what's wrong with the brightness level of the 16:9 picture (expanded from 4/3), which is *exactly the same* (and optically - not digitally - expanded)? Once again, it comes down to projector choice: getting set up properly.

I know these figures are sort of mind boggling. I've had to put them in text-based form. The equations for comparison are actually much neater, but less intuitive to go over for your average projector user. Suffice it to say that anamorphic lens manufacturers commonly claim that their 2.35 expanded image is brighter than a 2.35 zoomed image. They're absolutely correct in asserting this, though it's less due to their "brilliant" designs than it is to simple optical theory. Measurement with a light meter confirms these calculations.

Cropping: -------- I concede that cropping a 16:9 to 2.35:1 is a matter of taste. The director's input is finished after the premiere. If I buy a movie and like it cropped to 2.35:1 that's entirely my business, isn't it? After all, who owns a piece of art: the artist or the mug who buys it? It's a philosophical question that we're not going to solve here.

I often zoom to a compromise position, anyway. The Panasonic range have a middle zoom setting of "14:9", which preserves all subtitles and credits, in my experience. Seeing as many cinemas crop for this approximate aspect ratio (so they can run both 16:9 and Cinemascope without having to swap screen heights too radically), the directors must make their movies watchable in it. Therefore it's arguable about just exactly what the director intends. He has to make a living too and must make allowances for different crops between exhibition venues. If he "intends" to provide for his family, then he makes the adjustment.

HD: -- A vexed question. If I had my way, 2.35 HD movies - in fact ALL movies - would be recorded "squeezed", so as to occupy the full 16:9 frame size and height, and the player could crop, squeeze or letterbox as necessary, depending on display device. 2.35CH would get a terrific boost if this was done, but it's not, sadly (or if it is, they're not telling us).

Once again, the newer models in the Panasonic range (AX100 and AE1000) allow for height adjustment of HDMI signals, suitable for 2.35CH operation. No scalers required. I don't know about other units as I've made my choice of brand (so far, anyway!).

General: ------- I like 2.35CH because I can run my movies - standard DVD or HD - right out to their full widths and full heights without having to change screens or adjust the projector. It *is* a matter of getting set-up properly. All my screen size adjustments (except 4/3 classics) are done with my remote control, not by sliding lenses or refocusing and re-zooming the projector. True couch-potato stuff.

I enjoy the films more than the equipment, which is only there to enhance my appreciation of the films, after all. I guess you'd say I'm not a perfection junkie. The truly excellent quality pictures I see on my screen, in my own home (with all the convenience and savings that provides) far outweigh the relatively (sometimes outright) non-observeable departures from absolute perfection that my viewing preferences may entail. I use sub-$5,000 projectors because they're good enough for my purposes and provide all the zoom settings and offset adjustments necessary for my situation. If I wanted perfection I'd sell the kids and spend $50,000 on the new SIM 3-chip 1080i unit coming soon. But I'd probably be less than $45,000 happier.

Absolute image quality to me is unattainable, and unnecessary. It's a myth that the manufacturers have to promote so they can sell new gear and upgrades. Sure, there are improvements to be had, and some models are better than others, but as to whether they're worth all the expense, the envy, the worry and the angst involved is another question.

A Schneider lens for USD$6,000? You've got to be kidding! 30 seconds into a half-decent movie you couldn't tell the difference, and wouldn't care anyway.

Posted Feb 13, 2007 2:25:42 PM

By jzdupj

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"Yes, and simply zooming a 2.35:1 film in to fit a native 2.35:1 screen is going to look pretty darn good (but 33% less bright than possible)."

actually you probably won't notice the difference in brightness either, because when zooming in you are increasing the brightness as well.

Posted Feb 13, 2007 10:18:41 AM

By AV_Integrated

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"Obviously you'd have to have a vertically re-sizeable projector. This isn't a real objection to someone who wants to use 2.35 CH. They have to make sure they have the right equipment."

While it may be obvious to you, it is not at all obvious to the average forum reader or to those first getting involved in front projection. The actual requirements necessary to properly implement CIH screens is not straightforward at all.

"Comment 3. I disagree that you need, as a practical measure, to slide the lens in and out of the optical path all the time.

I use an anamorphic lens of my own design, optimized for 1080 resolution, and most of the time I leave it in place. I run 16:9 movies in the projector's 4:3 mode and they optically expand out to 16:9 nicely. Often I run a 16:9 movie in 2.35 anyway (as many of them seem to be framed for that). The difference between the optical expansion and a digital expansion is very, very slight, if anything at all (depending on lens quality, of course). The image is only slightly dimmer (<25%). It's no big deal."

Disagree as you wish, but the numbers are a bit off. You have a 33% reduction in light output by running 16:9 in 4:3 mode through the anamorphic lens. Also, instead of running your NATIVE 16:9 content natively to your 16:9 projector, you are using 33% less of the pixel space allocated and rescaling everything to fit in a 4:3 box.

That is: Once again, if the setup allows for 16:9 HD material to be rescaled to a 4:3 box in the first place. Yes, I consider throwing away 33% of my HD image a very bad thing. So the lens MUST be shifted out of the way for optimal system performance.

"I can understand a purist wanting to go for absolute top quality image every time, but in practice, the image quality through a decent anamorphic adapter with good contrast is pretty transparent, even at 1080."

Yes, and simply zooming a 2.35:1 film in to fit a native 2.35:1 screen is going to look pretty darn good (but 33% less bright than possible).

"With standard resolution DVDs, even my old original prototype adapter (NOT suitable for 1080) is hard to distinguish from the 1080 version, due to DVD's inherent low resolution. You really only see the difference with test patterns (grids, etc.)"

But, is the future of video DVD or HDTV? I would daresay that someone spending thousands of dollars just to go 2.35:1 is likely to go with HD discs (HD DVD/Blu-ray) and with HD television broadcasts for the majority of their viewings. But, I'm sure there are several good products on the market that can accomplish this.

In the end, I would love a list of all the possible anamorphic lenses out there that would work with front projection setups. I have only heard of a few that have been spoken of and if I'm going to spend as much adding accessory lenses to my setup, I sure would like to know what my options are.

Posted Feb 13, 2007 7:46:07 AM

By jzdupj

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I really admire you guys going to such distance to get rid off the black (actually gray) bars on the screen. But frankly I don't understand the benefit of this excise since for 2.35 HD movies you are not going to get more than 1920x817 resolution out of the HD-DVD or BluRay no matter what you do. You are only getting a bigger picture.

Also dose the image shift on the screen when you move that monster out of way?

Posted Feb 12, 2007 6:56:30 PM

By Aussie Bob

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Frank, I have to disagree with you re. the Panatar. I own one (also from eBay) and at small throw ratios, even set as low as 1.33x, there is considerable pincushion distortion.

My throw ratio is 2.1:1, fairly normal, and the pincushion distortion is about 2.3% (drop from top corner to middle of screen, bottom and top edges combined = 2.3% of screen height), or about 6/10ths [twice] of an inch on a 120 inch wide screen.

And they're heavy! Mine weighs in at about 13 pounds and is nearly a foot long. Also, with my particular set-up (this wouldn't apply to everyone's setup), which is angled to the right and down to the center of the screen (the shape of the room determines this for me), I get ghost reflections if I'm not careful (I emphasise this is just in my peculiar setup. A straight-on projection angle would be OK).

Cinemas typically run out to throw ratios of 3.5:1 to 4:1. A couple of Coke bottles end on end in a toilet paper tube would give pretty good results, even at a 2x expansion.

Must say, though, that the Panatars are pretty sharp. About as sharp as you can get, if you don't mind the weight.

By the way, removing the prism assembly from the metal casing reduces the weight from 13 pounds to 11.5 pounds. Most of the weight is in the glass, not the casing. That lens is a real door stopper!

Still, they're a real bit of history to own. The pioneer of Cinemascope projection, back from the early 1950s.

Mine is now in honorable retirement (as a door-stopper!)

Posted Feb 12, 2007 2:59:45 PM

By CinemaDude

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I agree with Aussie Bob -- anamorphic lenses, although they are the new kid on the block with regard to home video projection, they have been used in film projection in theatres since the 50s. Consider -- every wide screen 2.39ar film (Panavision, CinemaScope, etc.) that you enjoy in the movie theatre today has been projected through an anamorphic lens. Any projectionist will tell you that Schneiders and ISCOs are the best lenses in the business, but even the cheaper Westars and the like are being used every day and produce images that are perfectly acceptable to movie goers. The defects mentioned can indeed be measured under test conditions, but with a Schneider or ISCO, they are so minimal that, for normal viewing enjoyment, they are simply undetectable. And the proof is, you have never seen a wide screen scope movie that hasn't been projected thru an anamorphic attachment. So why assume that passing the video image of that same film thru an anamorphic is somehow inherently problematic?

The strange thing is, that Schneider seems to be pricing this lens as some kind of specialty item; it's priced more than its theatrical 2x brother -- a lens which is much bigger with considerably larger elements. I believe the street price of the Schneider 2x stretch anamorphic is around $4000. That's a significant difference.

Perhaps the price is so high because Schneider is producing cinema anamorphics by the truck load and these new 1.3 stretch anamorphics are practically prototypes. Or perhaps Schneider figures they will introduce them at this inflated price so as to sell them to as many rich and/or crazy home video enthusiasts as will buy them at $6000 and then reduce the price later for the rest of the market (or so theorizes the cynical side of my brain). No matter what the reason, me thinks this price will eventually come down.

On the other hand, I am going to try an experiment with an old Panavision Panatar Variable anamorphic that I got for under $200 on ebay. This does was anamorphic uses prisms rather than cylindrical lenses to produce the stretch. The advantage over the original B&L cylindrical anamorphic which did have lots of pincushion distortion was that the prisms did not. Plus, it had the advantage of being variable, which was significant in the early days of CinemaScope when there were some competing processes that used different compression ratios; the variable anamorphic could be adjusted for say a CinemaScope picture for a 2.55:1ar or a SuperScope release for a 2:1ar. Or you could crank them down for no expansion at all and they would pass the image thru as-is. Panavison says the Panatars produce no distortion, no reduction of light (probably a marketing exaggeration) and are transparent to the image in terms of contrast and color saturation. We shall see; I'll report back.

Frank

Posted Feb 9, 2007 5:31:44 PM

By Aussie Bob

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I would have like to have seen some test conditions.

For example, what projector, throw length and ratio, format (DLP/LCD/1080/720). Just saying "Wow!" isn't all that helpful.

Of course a $6000 adapter will be good (it had better be!), but until we see some concrete specifications (I looked, couldn't find any) and test conditions how can any kind of proper evaluation be made?

Having said that, I find some of the objections in the last post a bit picky.

Comments 1/2. Obviously you'd have to have a vertically re-sizeable projector. This isn't a real objection to someone who wants to use 2.35 CH. They have to make sure they have the right equipment.

Comment 3. I disagree that you need, as a practical measure, to slide the lens in and out of the optical path all the time.

I use an anamorphic lens of my own design, optimized for 1080 resolution, and most of the time I leave it in place. I run 16:9 movies in the projector's 4:3 mode and they optically expand out to 16:9 nicely. Often I run a 16:9 movie in 2.35 anyway (as many of them seem to be framed for that). The difference between the optical expansion and a digital expansion is very, very slight, if anything at all (depending on lens quality, of course). The image is only slightly dimmer (<25%). It's no big deal.

I can understand a purist wanting to go for absolute top quality image every time, but in practice, the image quality through a decent anamorphic adapter with good contrast is pretty transparent, even at 1080.

With standard resolution DVDs, even my old original prototype adapter (NOT suitable for 1080) is hard to distinguish from the 1080 version, due to DVD's inherent low resolution. You really only see the difference with test patterns (grids, etc.)

General comment: the real advantage of expensive lenses like the Schneider is their lack of distortion. To get this you need to either add elements, or (as Schneider do) add aspherical surface radii to one or more elements. These require machines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that perform all NC grinding and polishing with a diamond tipped tool, and the results are really hard to QC, hence the extra expense (plus, of course, anything German, you can double the price).

But is the difference between a spherical and an aspherical lens all that important? True, my lens adds about 12mm of pincushion over a 120 inch screen (less than half an inch). There is some distortion, 8mm, between the ideal and actual position of a pixel halfway between the centre and edges of the screen. But in reality this is a tiny amount on a 120 inch screen (< 0.6% of the width of the screen). Unless you have a fixed grid to compare it with it is unremarkable to the viewer.

I guess what I'm saying is that, at $6000 the advantages of a Schneider or an ISCO over a less ambitious, conventional design are there, but in the realm of hair-splitting - as long as the sharpness and aspect ratios of the cheaper lens are adequate. Getting the image sharp is easy, and is the rest of the problem worth paying so much more for, or agonising over when it's essentially invisible to the naked eye?

Posted Feb 6, 2007 2:59:21 PM

By AV_Integrated

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The article as posted, and in fact, most articles that discuss 2.35 CIH setups (constand image height) tend to not discuss the things that I consider most important.

1. Image processing. If you have DVD, then you are already killing image quality a fair bit, so it's a non issue, but HD discs including Blu-ray and HD DVD are encoded as 16:9 native material. To fill the full 16:9 frame of your projector additional processing is necessary to vertically expand (VE) the image to the full 16:9 frame. This is not horizontally compressed, but vertically expanded, which is different than what the article says.

2. How many projectors have this feature built in, and how good are they at doing the job necessary? I know the Panasonic line does it as well as many of the BenQ projectors.

3. THIS ONLY WORKS WITH 2.35 NATIVE MATERIAL! If you are watching HDTV, 1.85:1, 1.33:1 or anything other than a Cinemascope film you need to take the lens OUT of the way! Otherwise you will be losing light output and adding processing to what is on screen. This is a very bad thing to do!

4. This lens is not listed an HE or VC type, but I'm guessing it is HE. Horizontal expansion is, IMO, the only way to do 2.35:1 as you can remove the lens and maintain the CIH screen properly. VC lenses (vertical compression) do not allow you to remove the lens and maintain CIH with your screen. A very dumb idea IMO.

So, if you are prepared to manually setup the lens, and move it out of the way depending on what movie you are watching at that time, and all of the setup hassles that go along with this process - along with the very significant investment that is necessary, then I think it is a great way to go.

For the rest of us... Even with that excellent lens, I still think that 2.35 CIH is a pretty good way to gouge your wallet without delivering a hell of a lot in return.

Posted Feb 6, 2007 2:21:19 PM

By frankenberry

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Yea, but if you switch over from a 1:85 screen to a 2:35, all those 1:85 and 1;33 movies will be a lot smaller. I remember your article awhile back about how great it was to see a 1:33 on the bigger sized screen. Bigger is always better.

Posted Feb 6, 2007 12:12:35 PM

By lab

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Better yet, could you start by listing the HD projectors that currently support Aspect Ratio changing (Constant Image Height?) and testing the Schneider lens with one of them? Are there any HD projectors already equipped with anamorphic lenses and AR change or CIH capability other than Runco and Vidikron?

Posted Feb 6, 2007 4:21:10 AM

By dukerp

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So are saying if a projector a just feature as panasonic calls it no matter what the dvd orginal format 1.78 1.85 2.35 2.70 the schneider len will will make it 2.35 if i got that right cool. very cool now you guys need to list that feature in your reviews

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